“Did you find everything you needed today?”

Yes, thank you, but it took all afternoon wandering through aisles and aisles of stuff that I don’t need now or ever, and getting stressed out that I was losing precious time I wanted to spend with my family.

This happens almost every time I go into Walmart or some other mega-store. Our local Walmart is big enough to be a village. Seriously. I’ve been around the world, and some ancient villages really and truly would have fit inside the Walmart, with room to spare.

Yesterday’s holdup: birthday candles. After getting misdirected a couple of times, I did find my way to the party section: FIVE aisles of cards, hats, dishes, decorations, and more party favors than you can imagine. I was feeling pretty good with myself because I’ll be throwing several kid birthday parties in the next couple of weeks (I have 3 kids and they all have February birthdays) and I was stocking up everything I needed for all of them. Forward thinking, right? The mom next to me in the party aisle was also thinking in advance – she was stockpiling stuff for next Halloween. I guess foresight is a matter of perspective.

Anyway, I eventually saw the candles and found myself sorting through all the sparklers, Spiderman candles, animal candles and trick candles to finally grab what I was looking for: regular, good, old-fashioned birthday candles.

So I always smirk a little when I arrive at the cashier and they ask “Did you find everything you needed today?” Yes, I did. I have sore feet. I wasted a lot of time. I have a chain of text messages back and forth with my husband explaining why things were taking so long. But yes, I did find everything.

Did you find everything you needed today-- Cashier
I suppose I could always try shopping in the smaller stores, but then I run the risk of NOT finding what I need and having to go to another, then another and another to piece together my shopping list. So I revert back to the stores that are basically guaranteed to “have it all”.

The problem here being, of course, that it’s an illusion, because you can’t really “have it all” in life, never mind in a single store. Maybe I can rest assured that I won’t have to store hop or change my menu for that week, but I always end up losing something else that’s equally, if not more precious to me because of the time it takes and the stress that sometimes ensues.

In seeking the security of a place that has everything, I wind up finding it very hard to find what I actually need and lose my peace of mind in the process.

Gee. That sounds familiar. Maybe because it’s not just a Walmart story. It’s the story of my life. And quite possibly the story of your life.

I don’t think I’m the only one who sometimes feels “empty”. I turn to life to look for what I need. And life has given me a lot – a wonderful husband and family, friends and relatives, cozy home and worthwhile job, for starters.

But then there’s so much other stuff life throws my way too – all the stuff that I don’t need now or ever: the temptation to feel like I’m not a good mom unless I have the perfect home and craft my kids to heaven; the desire to get more than I need in hopes that it will bring greater security; the pressure to get involved in too many activities.

When a child gets over stimulated or inundated with sensory overload, they break down and start crying, or throwing a tantrum. And no one gets surprised. We understand what’s happening. We try to help our child calm down, and we work to prevent over stimulation to begin with.

What we don’t always realize is that sometimes, the emptiness we feel that leads us to want more than what we have, is the result of adult sensory overload. There are too many choices, challenges, events, activities, causes… We’re left trying to process it all and juggle it all, and then wonder why we feel worn out. It’s not just a kid problem. It’s an adult problem too.

St. Augustine once said, “Our hearts are restless Lord, until they rest in you.” That’s more than a poetic statement or wistful thinking. It’s a simple truth. Our hearts are made for God. God is the only thing that can calm our inner fears and fill the emptiness we feel. It’s time to stop trying to fill the emptiness with everything but God and start filling it with him. He died for us. That’s how seriously he wants to be the one who fills our heart.

Life isn’t meant to give us everything. Expecting too much from life or getting involved in too many things can make it significantly more difficult to find what we really need.

The solution? We might not be able to get life around us to change its frenetic pace. But we can make a deliberate decision to let go of the many things we don’t need in favor of prioritizing the things we do need. My basic order of priorities is God, husband and kids, everything else. Needless to say, I often don’t get very far in the “everything else” category. But that’s OK. At the end of the day, I might not be able to have it all, but I do have what I really care about.

And I hope you do too.

One thought on ““Did you find everything you needed today?”

  1. wonderfully said… I think we all struggle to live in the world and yet detached from ALL the THINGS in it!

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