Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Awful Arugula and Failing Focus

Family Forte:  Awful Arugula and Failing Focus
by: Ashley Wiles – member of Central Church of Christ

                I love working with my husband, Topher.  While there are situations he doesn’t share with me due to minister confidentiality, often we find ourselves combining our hearts, minds, and skills to help other families heal from the wounds that cut deep.  Those scarring wounds are sometimes caused by spitefulness, self-centeredness, pride, neglect, or a combination of those hurtful situations.  I would love to help other couples avoid the negative influences that encroach upon a marriage.  I would be elated if I could give one piece of advice that can aid a couple in keeping that wedded bliss fresh and alive in the duration of their marriage.  I would be joyful if just one couple could find peace in their soul from the healing that can come after deep wounds.  Maybe you, dear readers, are that couple.  It is my prayer that this story about finding focus in your relationship will inspire you. 
                The other day I found myself alone in Kroger with a long list. My ravenous family of six really needed fresh produce, but, as is usual for moms of big families, there were quite a few other things I decided to pick up while I was there.  The store was crowded, but I was blessed on this occasion to be shopping solo (a treat sometimes for a mom).   In the clogged aisles I frequently had to park my cart to the side unattended and walk a good distance to retrieve my items.  An hour and a hundred dollars later, I had a cart full of items to unload in the checkout lane.
                Then, the weirdest thing happened.  From the very bottom of my cart I pulled a plastic clamshell of… arugula. I don’t like arugula.  I’ve never liked the green leafy waste of salad space.  I thought I had picked up spinach, our family’s go-to for vegetation.  Normally I would try to make the best of it, but I was pretty confident that my family would overthrow me in a child-led revolt if arugula was found on their plates, so I asked the clerk to put it back. I prepared to pay as he scanned my last few items, and I realized that he was scanning a bag of Red Delicious apples. “That’s weird,” I thought.  “I was sure I had picked up Topher’s favorites, Gala apples.”   My husband would have to suck it up this time and eat the Reds, because I was pressed on Mommy time.  I then handed over my coupons.  The  “40 cents off a bag of baby carrots” coupon beeped – “Did you buy carrots?” the cashier queried. “Yes, I bought two bags,” I replied, so he obediently pushed it through. I finished my payment and went home with bountiful bags of harvest from Kroger.
                At home I unpacked and quickly became more confused. No avocados. No garlic. No peppers. No carrots.  What in the world was going on here?  It’s like someone else did the shopping for me.  Was I suddenly possessed by some alter-arugula-eating-ego that swapped my list for someone else’s?
                Then it hit me.   Somewhere after the produce aisle, I had lost focus and swiped a stranger’s shopping cart instead of my own.  The cart had enough similar items (container of greens, bag of apples) that I didn’t even notice that it was missing the most important items on my shopping list.  My precious produce was lost and I paid over five Andrew Jackson’s for food I didn’t want.  On top of it all, not only was I guilty of theft but also lying (about carrots, of all things) and committing coupon fraud.
                How did this happen?   Distracted by the hustle and bustle of the store, I thought about all the other items I could buy and sales I could seek out.  My attention stayed on coupons and cream cheese, discounts and dairy, markdowns and meats so that I lost sight of the primary produce goal.   If I had been really focused on my main purpose of replenishing our produce, I think I would have realized that I had the wrong cart.
                Focus.  Let’s talk about that in the context of relationships.  What was the main focus of your marriage in the days, weeks, and months immediately following your wedding?  Hopefully it was your spouse. You worked together to create a new home with traditions and routines of your own. The two of you laid the foundation for a strong partnership and team that would be invincible when life’s challenges came. That time was nearly 15 years ago for us, and a lot has happened in those 15 years: four beautiful children, several job changes, five different homes, two out-of-state moves, and the death of a parent. Today we find ourselves working with a wonderful church, homeschooling our two oldest, developing relationships in our community, managing our kids’ athletics, and working on building projects around our home.  That’s a lot of hustle and bustle and a lot of distractions.
                If we’re not careful, we can easily walk away from our cart full of marriage building produce to chase items down other aisles that look appealing.  Maybe you’re being tempted by a job promotion requiring years of long hours in the office.  Perhaps you’re eyeballing that neighbor’s fancy new car that doesn’t fit your family’s budget or plans.  Maybe it’s seeing others’ Disney trips, fitness routines, or home décor that has you losing focus on the most important relationship in your cart – your marriage.
                Focus on what was originally in your cart, building and keeping your strong marriage.  Too many people realize late in life at checkout that they have a shopping cart full of items they didn’t intend to pick up.  Even worse, they’re missing what they started out with in the first place.  If you find yourself at this place in life, there is hope if together we return to our original focus.  God can redeem even the most challenging of relationships if we are willing to return to Him.  Contact me or my husband at Central Church of Christ in Sparta if we can help you get your cart back.  
“Let marriage be held in honor among all…” – Hebrews 13:4a
Now, I wonder what the other shopper thought of my spinach and carrots.

The word “forte” comes from the latin word “fortis” meaning strength.  Our weekly Family Forte article in The Expositor is the effort of family at CentralChurch of Christ to give your family the love, care, and attention it needs to become a stronger version of itself.  If we can help you in any way, please contact us at Central Church of Christ through email,, or through our website,