Monday, May 12, 2014

Hanging up the Green Apron

"It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are." - e.e. cummings

It's time for me to grow again. To have courage. It's scary, and I don't like it. But I'm gonna do it anyway.

I'll be honest. I hate change. I'd rather bathe in a tub of chewed gum than alter my life or routine. Once I get comfortable, I plant myself and don't intend to move from that spot. As you might imagine, this is not conducive to life, which is pretty much all about change. I once heard a pastor say that we should hold everything in life with an open hand so that when God has to take it away He doesn't have to break our fingers in the process. I have yet to get this.

Last Friday I worked my last shift at Starbucks. I took off the green apron I'd worn for a year and a half, looked at all of the Sharpie stains and then cried. I couldn't believe it was over. And I did NOT see such an emotional reaction coming.

But to me Starbucks was more than a job. When I was hired, I was in a pretty critical situation--fully engaged in an isolating eating disorder and almost completely cut off from the world. Too afraid to go out. Too imprisoned to live. Too stubborn to move. But God spoke clearly to me and nudged me to apply. He stirred in the heart of my store manager to hire me, and He began a restoration.

After being sedentary for so long (other than obsessive running), I was exhausted most days when I first started after being on my feet for hours. My arms ached from lugging around gallons of milk and mopping floors. I had coffee grounds under my nails, whipped cream smears on my sleeves and Frappuccino Roast splattered up my arms. I'd worked hard, and it showed.

Being on someone else's schedule rocked me into the reality. So accustomed to dictating my own agenda, I had to adjust to no longer having that power. The work schedule changed every week, and I had no way of controlling exactly what nights or hours I'd be listed. Before I'd taken the job I'd relied on a regimented calorie intake plan, but I now had to learn how to feed myself based on hunger cues and what my body needed to keep going.

Starbucks brought me under someone else's authority, too, which I needed. The only person other than my husband I'd listened to for months had been Ed himself, so it was a big deal that I had to follow the direction of a boss again. If she called and asked me to come in early, needed me to pick up an extra shift or asked me take a break before Ed was ready to eat, I had to roll with it. And slowly this relieved Ed of some of his power.

The part of working at Starbucks that brought the most transformation, though, was the relationships. The eating disorder lost its power when I started building friendships--good friendships--with my coworkers and customers. I shared laughs, tears, songs and secrets with many people in that store, and I felt a heartbeat again. There was conflict, love, anger and joy almost daily, and I learned to flex the relational muscles that had atrophied.

In the years I'd spent as a magazine editor I'd had a knack for leadership. I'd surrendered to Ed in return for his false perfection. After six months of working behind the Starbucks counter, those leadership characteristics started to peek through. My boss soon gave me a shot at being a shift supervisor, and that side of me got a wake-up call. I started running the store at night and managing staff, money, customer relations and other business-y things. I started making decisions again, using my wisdom and gaining confidence. And with a superior boss as a role model, my leadership (I think) only got better.

About a month and a half ago I started to sense that my time at Starbucks was almost up. My list of freelance clients was growing, and I was looking at more possibilities in the line of work I'd done for 10 years. I didn't have time anymore to complete the editing projects I felt I was gifted to do, and it seemed like doors were opening everywhere for me to return to that as my primary job. Just as God had whispered to me to go work at Starbucks, He whispered for me to leave during a church service on Easter Sunday.

I talked it over with the hubs, and we prayed about it. We both believed leaving was the right thing to do if for no other reason than to obey the Lord. (Isn't that the only reason you ever need anyway?) So I made the call and turned in my two weeks.

It was awful. It IS awful. I loved my job. I loved the people. I loved the atmosphere. I loved it so much, and now I have said good-bye. I've cried over this almost daily in the last week, and I know I will cry more. I never thought I would find such life when I went looking for a simple part-time job.

But that's what happens when you follow God. He leads you places you never expected and into situations that stir the most amazing changes inside you. Romans 8:28 says that God works on our behalf in all things, and verse 31 reiterates that He is FOR us.

God was FOR me when He put me at Starbucks. I must choose to believe that He is FOR me now in my new season. I have no idea what He has planned, but I didn't know then either. In fact, I've never really expected the most amazing things He's done in my life. He's just led me to them, carried me through and let me observe with thankfulness on the other side.

So, off I go, into the unknown future. Off to discover what is next. Off to embrace change like a big girl. Off to have my expectations surpassed yet again by God's better plans.

If you happen to see me at Starbucks in the future staring intently behind the bar, just know I'm probably having a flashback and longing briefly for the past. Don't worry. I'm sure it'll pass. Just make sure you stop me if I start to climb over the counter. Maybe remind me that God is faithful and that He has it all under control. Assure me that He has a purpose and a plan for all of His actions and that there's no better place to be than in His will. I'll try to respond gracefully and get back to my writing without making a scene.

- Jill

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