The beauty of a store list

March 4, 2009 | 20 comments

While I’m on baby break I thought I’d re-run an old post on the topic of gratitude. This was originally published on October 22, 2007.

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, ” “mozzarella cheese, ” “olives, ” and “ice cream” 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. SursumCorda

    I’ll add the unbelievable privilege of walking into three of the rooms of my house and with a simple hand motion to set flowing a stream of pure, clean water.

    Congratulations on you new delight! I can’t wait to hear details.

  2. Jean

    Oh yes we are so blessed in this country! We are living like kings as compared to a lot of the world.

  3. A Borg

    Very good post, even if it is a re-run. And also very appropriate with today’s economy. There are certainly going to be times in the future when our grocery list will really be a wish list. A reminder to be grateful for what we have is needed right now. Thank you.

    My girlfriend directed me to your blog and so far I am very impressed. Thank you for sharing your life with us.

  4. Keri

    Oh I just love this! Thank you so much. I just prayed this morning for God to help me with my perspective! You were the answer to my prayer. congratulations on the new baby!

  5. Christine the Soccer Mom

    Jen, this was one of my favorite posts of yours. I remember my dad telling me that he worked with someone who had escaped Soviet Russia and how the man was floored – absolutely flabbergasted! – at grocery stores when he first arrived. The idea that we could walk into a building and pick out what we wanted – and it was there, with extras! – just amazed him.

    We have no idea how good we have it, even in these difficult financial times.

    Thanks for reposting this, and give that beautiful baby girl a kiss from me!

  6. tootie

    What a neat post! We are truly so lucky, in ways we don’t always realize. I will never look at my grocery store list the same way again. (In fact, my list happens to be right next to me.) Thanks for the dose of gratitude!

  7. Elizabeth

    I had a similar feeling this morning while working with my children on their schoolwork…
    I also find the US mail to be a miracle service…pretty cheap too, when you think about it!

    Congratulations on your new blessing! Can’t wait for photos!
    Pax Christi, EJT

  8. Michelle

    Excellent post. It was just what I needed this morning as I was up with my week old daughter most of the night and my one year old of course was up and ready to go on with his life even if I wasn’t. I have been very fortunate to have the help of my mother in law and husband. We are so very fortunate to have what we have in this world. I always make out the grocery list and end up feeling like grocery shopping is some kind of a burden. But really it is a privilege to be able to go and get what I need without worrying about whether I can pay for it or whether it will be there or not. We really are blessed.

  9. mary ellen

    My brother was a missionary in Ukraine before they gained their freedom from the Soviet Union. He had come with some supplies from home, including a bottle of green Prell shampoo. When he was unpacking in front of his Ukranian hostess (a woman in her 60’s or so) and removed the bottle of shampoo from his bag, she picked it up and “ooh’d” and “ahh’d” over it, turning it this way and that and watching the light reflect off of it. He told her she could have it, and she promptly took it and put it in the cabinet in her dining room with her best dishes.

    Whenever I am feeling sorry for myself and deprived of some material possession, I think of that woman and her wonderment over a $2.00 bottle of shampoo. This never fails to evoke a strong sense of gratitude to God for the many blessings He has showered down on me and my family.

    Congratulations on the newest blessing to your family. Looking forward to more posts; your take on the spiritual life gives me much food for thought. Thank you!

  10. Sarah (JOT)

    That was awesome!
    I feel more blessed now – thank you.

  11. kimberly

    How beautiful…what a lovely reminder!

    I remember standing in line at a grocery superstore, irritated that there were more than five people in line and only two lanes open…

    Then I remembered seeing a news report on the length of the lines in Russia as people awaited such simple things as bread and toilet paper. Before my eyes, in a small town of 8000, was a wall of Charmin.

    Truly a humbling moment…

    BTW: Congratulations on your latest bundle of baby-scented goodness! May your days be filled with peace, joy, wonder and delight!

  12. Anonymous

    Oh, I know just what you mean; the very first time I walked into a Costco my eyes actually filled with tears for the very same reasons. Dopey, I know, but I had been thinking along the same lines as you and all I could do was think about a short 60, 80 years ago.

    I have taken it one step further, though, and realize all those boring grammar school lessons on the industrial revolution is what made all of this possible. Think of it: all that stuff, all those cans, all that plastic, all that food, on shelves for our picking all because we are able to do this. We have the ability to make and supply in ways to make grocery stores possible. Just about every single thing on Unwrapped exists because of that.

    I’m glad I live now, for that reason and for anesthesia. I *always* thank God for anesthesia.


  13. Anonymous

    This could change.
    What will never ever change?
    The eternal soul you have accepted care for.
    To think, there are those who wish to deprive the poor of children.

  14. Emily

    With a newborn and a toddler myself, I think I’ve prayed that exact prayer almost word for word every day for the past month and a half! Thank you for such a beautiful reminder of what we have to be grateful for. I’m a new reader, but God has used your words from recent posts to really teach me and help bring me through this difficult season with a fussy, non-sleeping baby and a two year-old. I’ve been thinking about and praying for you with your new baby, I pray that breastfeeding hasn’t been so painful this time! Can’t wait to hear updates on how it’s been!

  15. Roxane B. Salonen

    Jennifer, thanks for the beautiful perspective, and I am so grateful your little bundle has arrived safely! Can’t wait to “meet” her through you. Blessings, Roxane in North Dakota

  16. Koala Bear Writer

    I can understand the tired grouchiness–sounds like me. But you’re so right about everything we take for granted. Congrats on baby’s arrival. 🙂

  17. Chelsea

    What a brilliant way to gain perspective! So often I find myself taking the life I have for granted without even stopping to consider how many people there are who could not even imagine the luxuries we have here! There are still many people throughout the world, and in our own communities, who lack shelter, let alone the ability to buy food. It really is the little things in life…

  18. Christina

    I’ll add the unbelievable privilege of walking into three of the rooms of my house and with a simple hand motion to set flowing a stream of pure, clean water.

    When I think about times past (usually after watching moving pictures beamed directly to a magic box) I my always grateful for fresh water, along with being able to remove the “not so clean” water with ease.

    Also that I’m now 100 miles from my parents and it’s not a days travel, but a little over an hour.

  19. Margaret

    I often get this same feeling while taking (and thoroughly enjoying) a hot shower. I realize what a blessing it is not only to have HOT water but to have clean water, or even ANY water. Thank you for the reminder to daily thank God for our abundance and to pray for those in need.

  20. Daniel Brenton

    This post was highlighted in the March 7 edition of Gratitude Watch.

    Thank you for promoting the value of gratitude.

Connect With Me On Social Media or Explore My Site



The "THIS IS JEN" podcast is on Facebook & all podcast apps


- Subscribe on iTunes or Google Play (audio)

- Get weekly bonus episodes on Patreon

- Sign up for my email list to be the first
to know about new tour dates