The beauty of a store list

October 22, 2007 | 22 comments

I had a lovely little answered prayer today.

I’d been up with the newborn since 3:30am, and was finally drifting off to get a little catnap around 7:00. For the first time in hours I was comfortably nestled under the soft sheets, had a pillow flopped over my head, and was looking forward to a little bit of desperately needed sleep before I had to get up for the day…and then I heard my one-year-old start crying to get up. I don’t know about you, but I find that being unexpectedly woken up just as I’m starting to drift off to sleep, especially when I’m severely sleep deprived, is one of the worst feelings ever. I was so tired I felt physically sick. So as I trudged downstairs with my screaming one-year-old, I was in an extremely bad mood.

It occurred to me that perhaps this would be a good time to pray. As I prepared the morning bottle of apple juice (making sure to slam the refrigerator door shut and bang the apple juice container down on the counter because, you know, that’s just so effective and helpful — not to mention mature), the only “prayer” I could muster was something like this:

Hi, God, it’s me. I want to go back to sleep. I hate this. On a logical level, however, I am aware that I have a really good life and have much to be joyful about. I’m just NOT FEELING IT right now. But I apologize for being ungrateful. Please help me see how utterly ridiculous it is for someone with my life to be upset about something as trivial as missing sleep. Amen.

It was dry, it was said through gritted teeth, but it was sincere. And the act of simply pausing to say the prayer seemed to help. I got some coffee, turned on an interesting History Channel show to keep myself awake, and managed to improve my mood from “horrible” to “vaguely grouchy”.

Then, later in the morning, I got out a pen to add some things to the store list. I do this about five times every day. But this time, as I wrote “bread” and “black beans” on my little pad of paper, it hit me: I am doing something really, really amazing here. Out of the blue, I suddenly saw writing items on my grocery list in a completely different light: I realized what an incredibly — almost unimaginable — luxury it is to be able to simply write down what I want to feed my children, and be able to go get it. Quickly. Easily. Cheaply.

Can you imagine my great-great grandmother watching me do this? Or anyone who lives in a poverty-stricken part of the world today, or who lived more than 70 years ago? Imagine what their reaction would be to the concept that you can create your dream list of the food you’d like to put on your table, and have it there within the hour if necessary. I imagined such a person standing there, watching me write “swiss cheese, ” “cheddar cheese, ” “olives, ” and “milk” in disbelief, perhaps asking, “You can really just go get that?! Are you royalty?”, and probably not being able to fully comprehend how much abundance there really is at my local grocery store, asking, “What about butter? They don’t have that ready for you, do they? Surely they don’t also have things like fish, or juices, or candy?” To most people who have ever lived, the concept of regularly having enough food to feed themselves and their children would seem like a fantasy come true — but to always have more than enough of whatever you want would be just unimaginable.

Today, as I gazed in amazement upon my store list, seeing it as if for the first time, fully appreciating how amazing it is that I can write down a wish list of things I’d like to feed my children and presumptuously assume that they will be readily available to me, I realized that this is what God’s grace feels like. In my life I’ve occasionally been able to muster up some appreciation for my cushy American lifestyle, but to be caught off guard and just thunderstruck at the beauty of such a simple, mundane daily task…that didn’t come from within me.

I realize that to some I might seem like a bit of a lunatic for writing 700 words about a store list. And I can’t prove scientifically that my moment of awe this morning was anything other than the coffee finally kicking in. But I wanted to share my experience because I am certain that it was a direct answer to my prayer, and an example of how even the littlest things are beautiful when seen through the eyes of God.


  1. Ouiz

    That is so beautiful… and so true. I know I take so much for granted, and never stop to thank God for the abundant graces that He showers on us daily.

    I’ve been thankful for my dh’s job before that allows us to buy the food on our list, but it never occurred to me to thank God for the fact that I have access to basically whatever food I want at the grocery store.

    Thank you for this post!

  2. Rebecca

    I love it when the profound reveals itself in the mundane! You’ve expressed your epiphany so beautifully, and I feel inspiried just reading about it. Thank you for sharing!

  3. TwoSquareMeals

    Thanks for the reminder to be thankful about even the seemingly mundane aspects of homemaking. Great post!

  4. Melanie B

    What Ouiz said.

    Thank you for this little moment of grace. My day has been a series of slamming the apple juice on the counter moments. (And the gritted teeth as I read the same book for the tenth time in a row when all I want to do is throw it across the room and go take a nap.) Actually, my past week has been. Thanks for the beautiful reminder both of how God answers prayers (And how much I need to pray at those times) and how blessed I really am.

  5. Karie, the Regular Guy's Extraordinary Wife


    You have hit the proverbial nail on the head again. Yes, I can see that you realizing what that grocery list represents is an answer to your prayer. I did something similar, but a little more spooky. My husband was away overnight and I was alone. A couple of things happened that really scared me. None of them was a big deal, but it was enough for me to ask God to send Michael (the Archangel) to defend me from evil. Suddenly I realized that my fears were nothing, but that I had been watching a very dark program that basically had children following orders from a possessed doll (not the movie Chuckie). I was amazed by the insight granted to me, and I have never watched the program again. Lost all interest.

  6. Christine the Soccer Mom

    I love you, Jen. I wish I could give you a big hug right now. And watch the babies so you could nap. 😉

    I had a realization today when I was carping about the fact that my dishwasher was suddenly belching suds out the side of the door. (I think I might have put too much soap in it, or the gasket could be bad.)

    I was complaining that I might need a new dishwasher and I couldn’t afford it, and I realized that I don’t need a dishwasher. I’ve got water and soap and a sponge. I’ve got kids to dry things. I’ve even got a dish drainer.

    Good golly! What kind of spoiled brat am I that I nearly let a possibly busted dishwasher wreck my day??!!?? My mother didn’t even get one until I was in elementary school!

    Now I’ll never look at my grocery list the same way again. Bananas! Just piles of them in the store, every dang day! And I live in Virginia! My great-grandmother would have keeled over!

  7. Maria

    God is so good, that He hears and answers our prayers – and in such beautiful ways, like the one you described.

    I really enjoy your blog. Keep it up!

  8. Kelly and Kelly

    I just have to say thank you for your blog and posts. This morning I got really mad at myself and God over something incredibly stupid and trivial (spilling water everywhere). It was mostly because I was still have asleep, but there was no excuse for my attitude. Anyway, I started praying shortly after I got angry and I can say for sure that it has come from reading your blog. I love to read that you just start praying at random times. It’s been a goal of mine for ages but I’ve not been able to do it. This morning was the first time. I hope to do it more and more. Anyway, thank you.

  9. Abigail

    Really inspiring Jen! Thanks for sharing.

  10. Karen E.

    Beautiful, Jen, and worth all 700 words!

  11. Denise

    That—is exactly what I think of when I say that faith sustains me…it’s the littlest of things that can help to re-set my whole outlook.

    Grace…nothing but grace.

    Lovely post!

  12. Anne

    Thank you for writing this!

  13. Red Cardigan

    Wow, Jen! What a wonderful post.

    You’ve made me feel a little guilty, actually, for complaining about having to drive twenty whole minutes to get to a decent grocery store (alas, the store closest to me has a serious pantry moth problem and greenish meat, neither of which fosters confidence in their stock). But even *that* store could feed my family royally compared to past generations, and the fact that I can go a little further down the road and be at a warehouse club store is pretty darned wonderful.

    Thanks for the true perspective!!

  14. Jennifer

    holy COW is that a moment or is that a MOMENT? I found myself praying the other day just saying thank you for letting me have food to feed my little girl–as B starts taking solids and enjoying her food so much I feel so grateful for being able to not only feed her, but feed her well, to research nutrition and give her wholesome food. To think about women who cannot feed their children makes me ache.

    Abundance is a blessing and a curse–you just broke through the curse–for you and for everyone who passes their eyes across this. Amen, amen, I say to THAT.

    I’m reading about angels and demons right now–but what a demon spell it is that finds us knee deep in such awe-inspiring abundance but keeps us blind to it all?

    That’s a spell that needs to be broken over and over again because it infects this entire country.

    Thanks God for your answered prayer.

  15. April

    So very true! Thanks for the dose of perspective, I needed it.

  16. Kenj

    Thank you for this. I’m in the midst of the thick of it- expecting number eight when number seven is just seven months old. And yes, there are the other six to mother, too. Tired is my middle name.

    And then I look at the photos of the rest of the world, the majority of the world, and I think, “Wow. We have running water. Clean, potable, running water.” In reality, we have much, much more. All seven of my children have survived childbirth, as have I. Many still can’t revel in the miracle of such a blessing.

    And the shopping list. Yes, this is a blessing, too. In fact, not just the list but the choice of stores.

    Again, thanks.

  17. Terri

    This was a great post. And I can completely relate to the morning you had except that I don’t drink coffee so I’m a complete grouch all day or until I catch up on my sleep.

    Sometimes very deep and profound thoughts are prompted by simple acts like writing a grocery list. Beautifully expressed!

  18. Sarah

    What a great post, Jen. Thank you for that! I needed to read that this morning…

  19. Literacy-chic

    I can’t help thinking that your scenario of the imagined someone looking over your shoulder has the feel of the seed-of-a-novel–utopian, dystopian, historical fiction, there are so many possibilities! Clearly, I’ve been teaching too much lately…


  20. Amber

    I’ve been thinking a lot about all this too – especially since I’m living surrounded by so much, but we’re living in such primitive conditions (no running water, porta-potty for a toilet, one 12 V battery for lights, etc) right now. Now that I’ve lived in a tent during a heavy rain storm, I can be thankful for a real roof in a much more earnest and honest way – it isn’t a theoretical thing anymore for me!

    Even with this realization though, part of me resents not having what I’ve always had. I try to focus on being grateful for all the amazing comforts and conveniences that our middle class life in this country offers us as a matter of course, but without many of those little things right now, I can get a little grumpy. Even without so much, we still have so much – a car that works and can take us to a large variety of grocery stores where we can buy all the food we want, a library where we can check out books on an almost inconceivable range of subjects, a hospital with excellent emergency services should anything happen to my family, etc. It is amazing how much we have and have access to, isn’t it!

  21. november

    this post definitely convicted me! here i was complaining and whining (yes, shamefully) about yet another supposedly sour thing in my life, when i read this and the holy spirit gives me a gentle spanking through your thoughts and words, jen (yet again).

    forgive me god for my ungratefulness!

    blessings to you, jen!

  22. Kristen

    Dittos to all the comments – this was a post I desperately need to read tonight. A wonderful reminder, and a humbling one. Thanks!

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