A little while back the Hubby and I loaded up the Mini and the Smurflet for a quick, painless, just under an hour car ride.
We were about 10 minutes into the trip when we heard a little voice from the backseat.
“Mommy? I think I need to go potty.”
After a quick assessment as to whether or not I had the travel potty seat in the car (I didn’t – major mom fail) it became clear that a stop at a nearby gas station was necessary.
I’ll be honest, stopping at a gas station restroom with my three (almost four) year old is probably up there with wanting a root canal or a sudden spider apocalypse.
Something about that weird smell and your feet sticking to the floor just doesn’t do it for me.
But our options were limited (try non-existent), so minutes later we found ourselves pulling into the gas station parking lot. And although every fiber of my being was now begging for that spider apocalypse, into the bathroom she and I went.
I’ll just summarize the next few minutes as smelly, sticky (ugh), and somewhat traumatic for all involved.
I was now grossed out, upset that we even needed to stop (yeah I know. But I don’t know that I would have described myself as “rational” at this point), and just overall in a bad mood.
As I finally (quite grumpily) ushered the Mini out of the gas station door, a woman with a beaming smile leaned out of a nearby car and motioned for my attention.
“She is just beautiful!”
And in an instant those four words brought me as much guilt as they did pride.
In the same minute I went from feeling very proud because of course my daughter is beautiful! To feeling very, very, very guilty about my attitude.
Here I was, treating my beautiful daughter like she was nothing more than an inconvenience because I was unhappy about doing something.
Here I was showing my daughter that my frustration and discomfort with this situation was more important than, well, her.
And whether or not this stranger noticed my attitude right off, she definitely noticed us. And I’m pretty sure she didn’t catch me with a smile on my face.
In that moment I was humbly reminded of two things.
One, I am continually modeling my attitude in front of my children.
And in this instance, I was definitely not showing my daughter how to handle a (really one of the easiest) “difficult” situation with grace.
Not even close.
And two, which is really just a continuation of the above point, there is ALWAYS someone watching you.
Whether it’s your kids or a perfect stranger, someone is watching you.
And that gives me (us) moment after moment to display either a grumpy attitude, or a happy one.
To show grace in an unfavorable situation or to show frustration with current circumstances, whatever they may be.
And it took a reminder from a perfect stranger to humble me, and cause me to seek forgiveness both from my beautiful daughter and my Heavenly Father.
Because my desire in raising my kids, and just “being” in general, is not to allow grumpiness, or unhappiness, to define who I am.
Especially in light of the road my family is currently walking down, my utmost desire is to is model an attitude reflective of where my ultimate hope is.
Don’t get me wrong, more often than not I am not putting my best foot forward.
Especially right now.
So consequently I am humbled, again and again.
I have to seek forgiveness again and again.
I have to pray for patience, for help, for grace, again and again.
And I confess the cycle gets wearisome sometimes.
But, my kids are watching me.
My Heavenly Father is watching me.
Perfect strangers are watching what I reflect from inside my heart.
So I pray that I would be given the grace and strength to smile when something is hard.
Whether it’s the loss of a parent or simply having to venture into a gas station bathroom.
I have been forgiven, and thus given, much.
No matter how bleak circumstances may seem, no matter how dirty that gas station bathroom is,
I have a reason to smile.