The time I went to a garage sale and wasn't a very good Christian.

8:54 AM

   Every year around this same time, it strikes me anew.  Garage sale Fever.  Much like spring fever, or cabin fever, and maybe even disco fever, except worse.  Some of the symptoms include: slight anxiety attacks, rapid heart rate, decreases in patience, raised blood pressure, and shallow breathing.  Can be known to cause bartering, haggling, and a general sense of distaste for one's fellow man.  It's not something you want to mess around with.

   And each year, like the year before it, I forget entirely about all of the heartache and disappointments of the previous year's sales, thinking that maybe, just maybe THIS year will be the year I find that West Elm coffee table for 15 dollars, or that Anthropologie dress for 50 cents.  Right.  As you can see, my realism/optimism ratio is askew, which is probably the same type of faulty reasoning that results in planning a home birth this time around, when minutes after William's delivery I gasped to my husband....."If, and I mean IF we have any more children, they are arriving via epidural, C-section or adoption.  PERIOD. Those are our options."  And yet somehow here we are, planning another natural birth, and this time at home.  All of which is my doing. What is this madness?!?

   I guess the point is, I tend to forget all about the trials and traumas that have beset me in the past, and plunge ahead with optimism and unrealistic hope into the fray.  And so it is with garage sales.

   Recently, I found myself loading up three small children into my car on an early Saturday morning, getting some cash out of the ATM and driving approximately 30 MILES for the sole purpose of hitting up one garage sale that I was just sure would be a good one.  I really didn't have much time to spare that day, but I was sure I could just s-q-u-e-e-z-e it in before I needed to be back home to, ironically, work on my OWN stuff that I'm preparing for our own garage sale.  Crazy, I know.

   So I arrived about 15 minutes earlier than opening time, thinking that surely they wouldn't mind one early bird.  Unfortunately, everything was still covered with tarps and there was no one in sight.  So I turned the car around, went and got the girls something to eat, and headed back.  Still no tables uncovered, but it was after opening time and there were some other customers there, looking confused as well.  So we all unloaded from the car and proceeded to look around, and the self-loathing began.  WHY do I have unrealistic optimism when it comes to these crazy sales?! WHY did I drive all this way for a sale that wasn't even ready on time?  Why, why, why.

   To save the long story, I'll just sum it up:  I proceeded to wait the next 45 minutes for someone to come and unlock the building that the clothes were in, as children's clothes were one of the main reasons I went in the first place.  After realizing that there was no chance of this happening soon enough to fit my schedule, I had to just count my losses and leave.  

   Everyone around me was highly frustrated and disgruntled as well, and we were all muttering and complaining and making comments under our breath to one another about this travesty of a sale.  And when the owner finally did arrive, I made a comment that revealed some of my frustration to her, too. And I saw by the look on her face that my subtle comment had left its mark.

Nice work, Christian warrior Shelley.

   So there I was, fingers fresh and hot off the keyboard of writing my post about Target bathroom policies and how we all just need to give grace and show love and treat other people like Jesus would and blahblahblah, and I proceed to go forth and do the opposite.  Not showing grace, not loving, not putting others before myself, not loving my neighbor as myself.  And the conviction set it hot and quick.

   I spent the next several days wrestling with this disappointment in myself, this feeling of dejection that I had been so hypocritical and probably ruined my testimony as a Christian.  I felt like such a fraud.

   Finally, I looked up the email address for the director of the preschool where it was held, and swallowed every last bit of my pride, and emailed an apology.  I told her how sorry I was for my behavior, and that I had placed the importance of my time and schedule above her, and I hadn't left a good testimony as a Christian, and would she please forgive me.

And the neatest thing happened.

   She emailed me back, saying how glad she was that I wrote, so that she was able to reach me too.  She too apologized for being so late and making us all wait, and the way she responded to us.  She said she was a Christian too, and was sorry for the testimony she too had left in the situation.  I heaved a HUGE sigh of relief that not only was I forgiven, but that other Christians make mistakes too and I'm not the only one, and that she understood.

   And I learned a very valuable lesson from it all.  It is much easier to write about giving grace and taking the high road and turning the other cheek and all that jazz, and it is a quite another thing to actually live it.  And this wasn't even a Big Deal! I mean, it was a garage sale for Pete's sake.  Imagine if it had really been something that truly mattered.  How would I have handled things then? I shudder to think.

   It revealed to me just how far I have yet to go in learning how to live like Christ.  In learning to lay myself down.  To die to myself.  And most of us might never find ourselves in a situation in which we would need to literally stand up for Christ and be killed, or remain sitting and refuse to acknowledge Him.  But it's not only about those Big Moments.  ALL of us, in one way or another, will encounter Small Moments, in which we have a choice to make: to leave a testimony that either brings glory to Him, or dishonors His name.

I left that morning without any killer deals under my belt, but with a whopper of a priceless lesson.

And I hope I don't forget it any time soon.

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