Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Love Letter to my Okemos and Jolly Starbucks

My last day in a store I've worked at for 14 years is over.  I am moving to a new store built just a mile down the road from my home.  It's an answer to prayers I've had for at least 10 years.  A store was built a half mile from where we live eight years ago, but Starbucks had to close 5000 stores that year and the store in my neighborhood turned into a pizza joint.  It never opened, but the outside looks like a Starbucks but the sign says "Happy's Pizza" with a dancing and smiling pepperoni pie on it.  Talk about hope deferred makes the heart sick. And it's not even good pizza.

I've been happy about the transfer.  As much as I love my partners and customers, I am ready for change.  It won't be easy--it would be a lot easier to stay in my current store.  Many new partners, some other transferred partners and possibly some re-hires who haven't been current with the changes in the corporation and new routines and practices.  I'm ready for the challenge.

Running a Starbucks is hard work.  We labor to bring our customers a nice relaxing place to read and sip a caramel macchiato in a porcelain mug or meet with friends over frappuccinos.   Don't mind me changing trash or sweeping the floor for the third time that morning.  I think I wiped fingerprints off that pastry case five times today.  And ignore those boxes, please.  We'll have it all put away by close tonight, we promise. 

But the tasks aren't the hardest thing about working at the Starbucks in your 'hood.  It's getting along with people, learning how to communicate and being a team.  We see the same people pretty much every day with minor changes both behind the bar and in front of it.  After a few years, we know each other pretty well.  I had the opportunity to tell a co-worker that I've seen her grow in her calmness because she is more confident now.  She was worried about chaos when she supervised a shift, but I told her that chaos comes and goes, it's our responses that makes or breaks the moment.  We talked about PTSD from previous experiences in our lives and how we have to control the panic attacks during a rush.  I spoke to her how I finally got to a point where I'm not just reacting to a situation but thinking it out. Mistakes happen.  I know I'm having a good day when I'm smiling amidst the confusion. It means I hit the highest level of crazy.  Crazy is good. 

It's also important when a fellow partner is losing her mind to accept her in the middle of it.  Or if he is grumpy and nothing is going right for him at that moment, to give him space to work himself out of it.  Or someone is yelling about who put that towel in the sanitizer and it was you.  You didn't know that it could cause a fire and burn down the store.  Sorry.  Won't happen again.  Even better, to laugh about it with him a few days later that you didn't want to be an arsonist and he acknowledges that you were creatively solving a problem. Or you forgot to tell the ovenator person that you got your customer's pastry for the fifth time that morning.  Or you told her and made eye contact even and she still didn't hear you, that you can be patient with each other.  Or the day everything has been running out and you don't ask out loud who did the roasting plant order because putting blame doesn't solve anything.  And in this store, a puppy meme on Facebook goes a long, long way.  Hurt someone's feelings?  Send her a meme with a dog driving a car.  Or a gif of a pup chasing its tail.  Thank God for canines.  I mean, really.  Take a moment to thank Him.

Some wounds aren't easily healed with a dog picture.  There might be misunderstandings or conflicts that can run pretty deep.  I was shocked to learn that I could grow a little more sensitive.  And surprised that someone learned from me about valuing diversity and respecting that people are different.  I could express more positive things more often--my leadership team needs to know that I respect and appreciate them all, and not just notice their mistakes and failings.  And my newer partners need to know that they're okay.  It's tough now with customer support role for them, but they'll get it.  We all were new once and had to figure out how not let the store run out of all the coffees during peak.  And ask me if you need help getting something done and you somehow ended up in the weeds.

And the partner who hasn't talked to you in weeks?  She is sad you are leaving because she really loves you.  I love you too Holly.  I love all of you guys--Jonathan, Nicole, Julie, Kaitlyn, Brenden, Alicia, Jason, new Jonathan, Kaila, Hakeem, Corey (see you at the new store), Tyler, Andrew, Daniel, Dee, Gabby, Sarah, Colleen, Erin, TJ---you mean more to me than you could ever know. And I will never forget working with you all. 

Monday, September 12, 2016

Loneliness in the Middle Kingdom

When I was young, single and a recent college graduate trying to figure out how to live in Seattle, I was blind to all the blessings I had.  I was preoccupied with blessings I wanted and didn't have.  I spent a lot of time praying for wisdom about being unmarried, doing well at my job and how to plan a budget.  It was a time of transitioning.  It was a short time of transitioning, because within a few years I was transitioning into being engaged and then into marriage. But I was transitioning into what I anticipated would be a lifelong of being single and pursuing a career.

I didn't see anything or anyone in my horizon that would be adjusting what I found to be my reality at the time.  And the reality was a lot of loneliness.  I had friends--dear, dear, wise and supportive friends.  However, it wasn't lost on me that I was on my own.   As much as I relished the independence, I wanted to share life with someone.  And I was surprised how loneliness can make a girl desperate for attention.  I got attention, more than I deserved.  Men approached me at the bus stop, the grocery store and the coffee shop.  Sometimes at work.  Most of the time, it was a nuisance. But after a year, it started to look like a source of possibility.  I had one business card in my coat pocket for a few days before I threw it away.  A few days longer than usual. 

After a day of fighting temptation to not accept attention from a guy at work, I pulled into my driveway and asked God why not.  The days were long and grimy, and I was getting tired of handling responsibility for myself and others all by myself.  The pressure finally sent me over the edge into a prayer of lamentation and tears.  "How long? How much longer before I find the godly man You approve of? What's wrong with just dating this guy?"  It didn't take long for me to see my selfishness.  I wanted what I wanted.  I was getting tired of being a Christian and giving up my desires and fighting temptation.  And I was tired of being tired.  I was tired of wanting to give up.

I had my bible in the car, and turned to Proverbs.  How did I sink this low?  Was I willing to be a fool, chasing after what I thought would bring happiness and end up worse than I am right now? 

Maybe loneliness isn't so bad after all. But I wanted something more than a resignation to do the right thing.  I wanted to be happy to do God's will.  When I got to Proverbs 3, it was as though my Father in Heaven was reaching out to me through verses 1-2.  "My son, forget not my teaching but let your heart keep my commandments, for length of days, and years of life and peace will be added unto you."  Furthermore, I was encouraged to write them on the tablet of my heart and bind them around my neck.  Keeping my Father's commandments was for my health, for my good. He cared about me, loved me and would help me keep going.  I wasn't as alone as I thought. 

It was not a small reassurance.  It was the right word for me at the right time. I would be and could be, by grace, the Father's treasured daughter willing to display a family resemblance in the choices I made.  I was not a slave of my own desires, but free to honor and fear the God who sacrificed His Son on our behalf.  When I got out of my car, I was more sure of His love and care than I ever was before.  Things did not get easier, but I felt stronger. 

And I didn't stop feeling lonely. Instead of dreading it or trying to avoid it, I accepted God's sovereignty over my life and consequentially, I found peace. God is good and in control. That attitude kept me from making decisions that would lead me to compromise out of desperation.  It helped me wait for love for the right man at the right time.  It did lead me to the kind of contented life Proverbs 3 pointed me towards.

The lessons and the testing about loneliness aren't over yet.  I think over time it has driven me to Scripture and to the Lord for deeper resources of peace every day and every year.  The process of aging pretty much promises that I will need it.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Life in the Middle Kingdom

I did not expect a fantasy world when I hit my mid-life years, not too long ago, but I did anticipate a different one.  All the things that were effortless in my youth, requiring no thought or discipline are now work.  This includes rolling out of bed. When I was young, I just got out of bed. These days, I have a method of swinging my legs out first and let gravity help me up.  When I was young, I just slept.  I don't just sleep anymore.  I have a routine, and phases throughout my evening to prepare me for sleep.  Every darn thing I used to take for granted now takes planning.

I was lucky as a twenty or thirty something, but I wasted a lot of time analyzing things I thought were obstacles to my happiness.  It took a few decades to realize that those weren't problems.  Despite it all, I did not think about taking care of my health as much as I should have.  Nowadays, all I think about is taking care of myself and Hubby.  As we creep up on our senior citizen years, I realize now that there are real problems.  Starting with health, finances, energy and having something meaningful to do.  Some things we can control, but others we won't be able to. We are slowly transitioning into another entirely different realm.  I am hoping that it is Hobbiton, not Mordor.

God speaks about old age in Scripture.  I've seen the verses, but have not taken the time to really think about them and see how they apply to my current stage of life.  I think that it is time now.

But it isn't time to hang back . I don't know what is in the future yet God has brought me through a lot already.  I know He'll help me continue on.  It's been awhile since I've been truly afraid, except when I think about how fast time has passed.  I guess that is why I mostly dwell in the present in my thoughts instead of the past or the future.  It's not that I am shallow, because I think about a lot of things in depth, but only about things in the immediate time to come or things just a few days ago.  It's a lot safer.  But that kind of thinking won't help me now.

And it isn't a time to think I know it all.  I know a lot, but there is more to learn. I am still curious, I still have questions, and I still read a lot.  Just today, I learned how to boil an egg perfectly.  I've been doing it wrong for years.

It is also a good time to reflect more about the next life rather than this one.  On this subject, I have more questions than answers.  But Scripture is clear about what I really need to know.  I am free in Christ because He redeemed and purchased me, and because of Him paying my debt for my sin out of the generosity of the Father's heart, I have confidence about eternal life with Him.  And I look forward to that future, which is certain because of His love and mercy.  I am redeemed, and that is what will get me through the rest of time I have in this world.

It won't be easy, and I'm sure that there will be suffering. I need the Gospel, it will be the only comfort available.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Hubert Laws - Scheherazade

I'm listening to Hubert Laws.  I discovered him, a wonderful jazz flutist, in the 1970's.  Back when I barely knew what jazz was, but was falling in love with it rather quickly.  I still have the album somewhere in the basement.  Some time ago, I acquired the CD after years of searching. Scheherazade my favorite track.  Its on my IPod now.

It was a fluke to find the album, I was just perusing albums at The Wherehouse while with my family in Seattle when I was still in high school.  Most kids my age were into disco, pop or metal.  Maybe it was the excitement of hearing a flute being played in something other than a concert band piece, but I put down my hard earned money from flipping burgers on weekends at A&W drive-in.  Fifteen whole dollars and some cents.  That was five hours of greasy spoon labor.  But years worth of musical formation and enjoyment.

And, I managed to save money for a car and college, too.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Hello Again

I've decided to blog again. 

I run across an article or read a book or talk with a friend, and think that maybe I have more to say or to explore than just a Facebook post.  Which takes five seconds, max.  I can do thousands of those in a month.  It's nice seeing quick feedback through likes or comments.  And so different than a lengthy blog that could take some time and work but never get much attention at all. 

But I'm thinking that obscurity might be a good thing.  And writing just for the pleasure of writing is also a good thing, if you can call blogging actually writing.  And Facebook, despite the sheer convenience of it, is failing to satisfy.  I don't know what I'm really looking for there.

For me, blogging is a way to process my thoughts in a different way than journaling.  My personal journals (real journals, with ink pen and paper)  hold a lot more of the feelings, but this blog is more about my mind. The journals hold a lot more meaning to me than this blog.  I re-read some of the old entries on this blog, and find that I no longer care so much about them.  Perhaps because they seem trivial compared to what I'm currently thinking about. Or I've overworked those thoughts that now I find them boring. But the journals I treasure. 

This time around, I would like to spend more time going in depth about things I'm learning about the Gospel and about ministry.  I will probably be theological, even.  I don't think I really had much depth in this blog for all the years I've posted entries here.  Which is why my journals, which are based on my devotional times and bible study and prayers, are much more meaningful to me. 

So long, superficiality.  We are getting real here.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014