Her hair was pulled back in an unenthusiastic pony tail that was well matched with her faded jeans and partly wrinkled blue work vest.
She answered our questions about the flooring options in front of us but her eyes hardly ever left the baby. "... You know... you could leave her with me..." she smiled kindly as she looked at our littlest gift, barely two weeks fresh. "I never could have a baby. I'd have had ten, if I could."
Her employee name tag read "Jane".
The same middle name as our Newest, I said, and she brightened. "That's not a name you hear often, anymore..." And she told us all about her nieces and nephews who she lavished all her stored up mother-love on and the husband and I affirmed yes, undoubtedly yes, Aunts are so important, and such a gift, and that we could just tell that she was a huge blessing to her sisters and their children.
She walked away, enthusiastic from sharing about some little people she loved so dearly and her joy from what she could give to them.
Then about halfway down the aisle by the bathroom sinks and vanities a grandmother called out to us so we stopped and she glowed admiration of such a little one being out in the world and how brave we were to attempt it. "Well, she's our fourth," I smiled back "so it wasn't quite as intimidating this time."
That was all it took for her to pour out everything from details about when she took her own babies home - no car seats legally required at that time - to how it is with her grand babies now, in excellent daycares with all kinds of legalities, even signs that are hung on their cribs when they become old enough to turn over on their own to make sure those workers know to keep the babies always sleeping on their backs. "Enjoy her, every moment." she smiled in the remembering. "It all goes so fast."
And once the cashier saw her? Forget ringing up our items. Forget work and the line of customers. "Oh!" She exclaimed as the joy took over her face. "Forgive me... I'm so distracted now. I'm lost. I love babies..." And she was thrilled for the extra time to be near Ariyanna when the husband had to go exchange an item as she told me about her beloved adopted five-year-old child and her broken family of 13 siblings, and the mother she didn't even want to give that title to. The longing look on her face was clear and unmasked as she gazed at the baby's peaceful face and expressed her hope that maybe, someday, they could have a family reunion and move beyond all the hurt of the past. And she asked "Can I please touch her?" so humbly and with awe that I nodded immediately "of course!". She so gently touched the baby's jacket that it was like she was reaching out to touch Hope in this tiny person I held in my arms.
As we were leaving I told her I wished she really would be able to have that family reunion soon - and she looked like she could have hugged me.
I saw it from so many others. Similar looks I've seen since Ariyanna was born. Joy. Hope. Happiness. Thoughtfulness.
And that's when God comforted me in the exact way I've been desperately needing it. He comforted me about something I've been struggling with and praying about since the beginning of last year. This is what He directed my attention to:
The baby is oblivious. Absolutely oblivious to every interaction going on around her.
She doesn't "do anything" for others.
She sleeps. And eats. And poops. And cries. And looks around but can't focus on anything for more than the briefest moment. She needs and needs and needs.
She doesn't have patience. She doesn't speak encouraging words. She doesn't think about others needs and wants ahead of her own... or at all, even.
She is a helpless, chubby bundle of need. She isn't strong. And she isn't "useful" or "productive".
But God is still working through her life. In many powerful ways. She is opening up thoughts, hearts, conversations, relationships and unknowingly impacting generations - even though she is about as physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually dependent and not-yet-matured as is humanly possible.
She is loved and beautiful and irreplaceable just for being, just for existing, because she belongs and is a part of us and very God Himself. Her value has nothing to do with what she can offer or give.
It is the same for you and me.
I've got to remember this.
You've got to remember this.
He made you. His strength is what sustains you. You are never, ever separated from Him, even when you are oblivious to His presence.
And when you are weak? He is still strong.
When you feel useless, helpless, worthless? My friend... I understand.
But what you really are, what I really am, in those times when depressing feelings and thoughts are crushing what's left of an unenthusiastic desire to get up or try one more time... I suggest that what we really are is oblivious.
Your value has nothing to do with what you can offer or give.
You are loved just for being, just for existing, because you belong to, and are a part of God.
That's pretty awesome.
And what a beautiful, irreplaceable, treasured and cherished part you are. Even if you are a chubby, helpless bundle of need.
He is working wonders through you, friend.
And really? No matter how strong or productive we feel... all the good and perfect is always because of Him, anyway.
Sometimes I'm just more aware of this truth than at others.
Thank You, God, for unwaveringly loving us, for Your strong arms that always carry us, and the way You perfectly work out Your good will through us and for us, even when, especially when, we are in our weakest, most helpless states.