Not long ago, I surprised myself. My family and I had gone to Publix to get subs shortly after moving into our new home. While we waited to order at the deli counter and then walked around searching for pita chips and potato salad, I noticed a slightly weary looking mom with two little boys pushing her buggy through the aisles as she picked up groceries.
The younger of the woman’s two sons, a toddler, had obviously hit a wall. He seemed over stimulated, over tired, and especially hangry–hungry and angry all at once. His wails and repeated pleas for cookies were heard by everybody within earshot. I kept wondering if I should, if I would, approach this mom with some encouraging words. Even though we seemed to be trailing these three through the store, I didn’t take the step to go speak to her.
But I considered it, particularly because I’d recently listened to a podcast in which a home-school mama talked about putting on her “brave pants.” You can find that podcast here. So what if this mom rejects what I might offer? I could risk rejection.
As we checked out with our purchases, both the cashier and the bagger commented on the sobbing little boy, who at this point was hanging limply off his mother’s buggy at a counter near us. “Aren’t you glad your two kids are better behaved?” the bag boy asked. Well, at the moment they are, I thought. Out loud I responded, “We all have our bad days. Adults just learn to hide it better.”
This mom ended up at the exit about the same time we did. So I reached out and touched her arm and told her that I knew parenting was hard–and that she was doing a good job. She answered back with how her older son had learned she doesn’t give in, and the younger one just needs to learn the same. I don’t know if the words I spoke connected with her, but I do know I filled out my own brave pants pretty well in that moment.
I find that, when I take a risk or step of faith and surprise myself, my whole world feels opened up to more. As if I’ve declared, “OK, God–this was an adventure! What’s next?”
In seventh grade, I surprised myself by riding in the St. Jude’s annual bike-a-thon. I raised only about $20 to support St.Jude’s children’s research hospital, which did earn me enough for a t-shirt. None of my friends participated, and nobody prompted me to try it. I just heard it publicized at school one day, I had a bicycle, and I thought, I can do this. I ended up completing 15 miles, which also surprised me. This event swerved so much from the normal path that I traveled–dance, church choir, piano lessons–and I felt exceedingly proud of myself for going for it.
On the day we closed on our new house, I got dressed in a dark, V-necked t-shirt. After I threw on a long necklace and looked in the mirror, I noticed I’d put the shirt on backwards. I took a second glance and realized I liked it that way. I decided to leave it, and I wore that shirt backwards the rest of the day. It annoyed my 6-year-old–who, by the way, DOESN’T LIKE SURPRISES–but it made me think of possibilities: A new house, a new way to wear this shirt, what else?
A beautiful surprise came my way a few days ago. Shopping for seedlings for my Cub Scout den, I found a flat of marigolds–a dozen for $10. I asked some questions of the woman working in that garden center and thought maybe these plants wouldn’t work for our project after all. Replying that I’d need to think about it before making the purchase, the employee stopped me and said, “I’ll give these to you for $3. That way, if it doesn’t work out, you won’t have lost much.” Of course, I bought those marigolds–and they worked out perfectly. She may have offered because I had my two adorable boys with me, but either way, she surprised me with a blessing. A God surprise…I love it when He surprises me with more than I expected–and when He lets me surprise myself.