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.