Saturday, August 15, 2015

On Anxiety, Part Three: Gratitude

Having addressed some of the sources of anxiety, it is only fitting to (finally, three months later) close these thoughts On Anxiety with the route to overcome. We are all too strangely familiar with the unknown, than we are with the One we know.  We are familiar with the loneliness and stress of "what ifs," and impossibilities, and denial, and worry.  It starts taxing on our minds and we can't even concentrate on the now, because all possible scenarios (and only the worst ones) play in our minds.  Even our spirit sinks a little, and physically, we want to crawl into a storm shelter and Netflix with a tub of ice cream.

And in our vulnerability, we open up to someone, who says with such cute naivety:
Do not be anxious about anything...

Philippians 4:6

Many of us have heard this verse countless times, shoved in our face like sidewalk flyers.  "Don't be anxious!" and it's laced with "Just pray!" or "Just believe!"  Real talk: instead of it cheering you up, doesn't it aggravate you a little more, doesn't it provoke you even more, doesn't it make you feel misunderstood and cheap, like your feelings aren't valid...? It's never that simple to "just" pray or "just" get better.  It's never that simple to, instantaneously, "not" have anxiety. The notion is summed up by this meme that a friend recently texted me:

But even if it isn't simple to rid ourselves of anxiety, it is still a command.  It is a hard command.  It is hard especially when everything else it your life persuades you that failure, abandonment, rejection, etc- that these things are inevitable.  The unknown is like a black hole that, often times, every happy/secure thought falls into and gets lost.  Why would we want to fall into a black hole.  Who would ask to be lost.

So I too have brushed off that verse.  It's exhausting and a little more lonely when you feel patronized by overused Scripture, cheapened by kitschy stationery and mugs and plaques.  Nonetheless, by the power of the Spirit, the remainder passage came back to life:

...but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:6-7

My friends, He has shown us the most excellent way.

There's something about gratitude that keeps us humble.  And the place of humility denotes someone greater than us; it recognizes someone else's strength.  Surely, to be humble before God denotes that He is greater and stronger, and in the case of anxiety, in control.

When our minds are flooded with anxiety and worry and worst-possible scenarios, gratitude reminds us that we are indebted to One who has been consistently faithful to our hearts.  Remembering His presence and provision calms our thoughts, brings rest to our bodies, and surrounds us with peace.  He has been in control.  He still is in control.

Do not be anxious, about anything.  And in gratitude, tell your requests to God.  This too is key - we aren't ignoring the situation, we aren't denying the unknown.  But we're bringing our concerns, our needs, our humanity before Him.  We confess our fears and recognize our doubts, we are honest with our inability to be satisfied apart from Him.  We point out the holes that still feel empty, the ache in our hearts to have something tangible, or some word of hope to hang onto.  And with that, we are grateful for what He has done, and confident in what He can do.  We remember His faithfulness, if not just to us, but to those we know, and those we've heard of.  We recount His goodness and His relentless love and His forgiving mercies.  We are grateful, and we are humbled, and we lean on His strength.  And He is faithful to bring peace to our hearts.

A pocket of gratitude is enough to keep us buoyant.  Maybe we won't be near the shore or even at arms reach to a vessel. We may still feel lost in a vast ocean. But at least we will be afloat.  At least we are where we can breathe.


And so this was the case for me, with that large decision I wrote about.  I was leaving everything I knew for 2.5 years, cutting ties, and severing a commitment- and the thoughts plagued my waking life.  I was afraid to leave, and a part of me would be tamped if I stayed.  And I had little courage to stand up for myself and walk away.  I questioned if I had to do this - did God really tell me to leave?  And what if I leave, and what if I'm wrong?

But it was the moment when I expressed my gratitude for this season (and there are many blessings still to count), that I was filled with an unexplainable joy: "Thank You, God, for this season, and what it was.  Thank You for the relationships I've gained, and the skills I've learned, and the unknown impacts I've made.  Thank You for choosing me and trusting me to carry out Your will, and thank You for those who will grow in my place.  Thank You for all the greater things You have planned, and for creating a space in my heart to trust You more..."

Remembering His goodness restored my hope.  He has never once left my heart alone.  And I am still walking into the unknown, but gratitude has kept be buoyant.  It's allowed me to breathe again.


currently reading: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
currently listening: Rules of Civility

Thursday, May 28, 2015

On Anxiety, Part Two: Getting it Wrong

To get you up to speed:
On Anxiety: Part One, Doubt


Peonies.  Or Cabbage.  Who knows.

To better understand this post, imagine you are in a situation where you need to make a life-altering decision.  I'm sure it won't be difficult to bring yourself back to that time and place.  Maybe you were leaving, maybe you were arriving, but you know that unsettled, in-between feeling.

I found myself in that place.  And then it became less of whether I should do this or that, I realized I should do that.  But then I questioned whether or not I've really heard from God.  What if I'm wrong?  What if I take this path and find out I should've never left?  What if I can't get back to where I started? 

For an unseen God, He is gracious enough to use the words in His Letters, or the words of a friend or a mentor.  I talked to someone about my anxieties and worries, and how hard it is for me to make this decision.

"I'm sorry, I can't tell you this won't hurt," she said.  Either way I choose, something, or someone, will get hurt.  If I leave, both parties will feel the loss of separation.  But if I stay, something inside of me will die from being stagnant.  "You just need to make this decision.  Pull the trigger.  And if you're wrong, then you just come back with humility, and say it simply, 'I was wrong.'"

I don't know what was so liberating about hearing that.  It must be my perfectionism - I get anxiety because I worry about not getting it right the first time.  But why get so caught up with getting it right?  What's so bad about getting it wrong?

I'll tell you what's wrong with getting it wrong (or at least, why our brains tell us so).  Because in the moment that we get something wrong, we can be met with criticism, judgments, a loss of reputation, a lack of trust.. do you see where this is going?  There's this fear that to get something wrong, I'll be loved a little less.

There's nothing more sore than when you feel that someone loves you a little less for getting it wrong.  The childhood of a perfectionist is drenched with these memories, needing to perform/achieve/attain/get it right - in order to be loved.  And years will teach us (if we let it) that it's okay to get it wrong, it's okay to buy the wrong ticket, our value doesn't depreciate, our worth won't change.

I realize that this isn't an easy move for anyone with anxiety.  It's a slow moving process to experience the freedom of making choices without fear of failure.  But the only solution is to make that decision.  Anxiety is often borne because we haven't decided, and haven't made a commitment to that decision.

I've learned that the Latin root of the word "decide" is caedere, to cut.  So to decide is to literally cut off the other possibilities.  When you decide what you'd like to eat or what to wear, you say, this is not an option, that is not an option, this is what I will do.  And it is the same with large, life-altering decisions - to decide is to cut off the "what ifs" and "possibilities with this plan."  To decide is to choose one thing, letting go, commit to what you have, and accept what you don't have - or accept who you are not.

And yes, sometimes the wrong choice comes with consequences.  One day we make a decision to forego eating a healthy meal at home, splurge on junk food, and we feel disgusting for 36 hours.  One day we choose that pair of shoes and realize quickly the blisters we'll feel for a week.  And one day we choose to begin something radical, or end something endearing, and we might feel pain or misunderstood sorrow.  But we become a bit wiser, we grow in our discernment.  We learn what not to do, what hurts us in the long run, and that we are not dead, in fact we are strong enough to stand up and move forward.  We know who we are, we know who we're not.

Recently, I have found out what I am not.  And I made a decision, even though it was coated with questions of whether God really did say.  I know I have to follow through with this, I can't hang on to the what ifs.  It's the what ifs that make me fearful, half-hearted, and anxious.

But it's time to commit to that decision, and be okay - even if I get it wrong.


currently reading: The Heart is a Lonely Hunter
currently watching: House of Cards

Saturday, April 25, 2015

On Anxiety, Part One: Doubt

I have dreaded the month of April.

In the same exact time frame, I lost five of my strongest baristas, and began training four absolutely new staff members (yes, half my staff).  Not to mention the Boss Lady in the Accounting Office is also out of the country. Add onto that three commission art projects that are due at the same time.

I tried not to panic, and I rolled my eyes at the attempt. I thought about all the things that need to be done, how much time I have, while completely aware that setting healthy boundaries and resting are my weaknesses.  Oh yes, I absolutely panicked.  I'd trail down worst-case scenarios.  I'd repetitively think about how much I dread all the micro-managing/quality control that comes with training.  I groan and I get unmotivated and I can't sleep and I want to binge-watch British time period miniseries while eating chips and then vent out my frustrations on gracious, innocent bystanders (read: Wes and my family).  And eat more chips.

I was the embodiment of anxiety: an unpleasant state of inner turmoil, a dread of anticipated events.

Worst of all, anxiety is so taxing, that by the time I reach said event, I am exhausted- physically, emotionally, mentally.  And it's straight-up annoying.


At the brink of April, I had a very big, life-changing decision to make.  And that was the pinnacle of my anxiety.  I was so worried about the confrontation, that it would become personal instead of logistical.  I feared the repercussions, the long-term effects, even the way people would perceive me.  I felt misunderstood before I had a chance to defend myself.

Basically, anxiety is brought about by the lack of control: not being able to monitor or know the outcome of certain events creates a shaking restlessness of "what ifs?" and acting as if the worst has already been carved in stone.  And this was me.

And the lack of control signifies a lack of trust in the One who does have control.  I'm not allowing myself to believe in His goodness or in His care for me.  Surely, a bulk of the Christian's anxiety is that "what if God didn't really say?" or "what if I heard Him wrong?" or "what if He didn't really speak, what if this is my flesh?"

The lack of trust is, at that point, borne by whether we know God and actually hear from Him.  And that's a hard matter to give replicate answers for.  Our relationship with God operates by faith, thus, for the rest of our lives, we'll be questioning just like Adam and Eve felt in the garden - did God really say?


The question of "Did God really say" is the underestimated root of what distances us from God, what shakes our trust and insists on fear.  Whether this may be theologically sound or not, I do think that the first temptation in the garden was not the apple to Eve, but was the moment when the serpent said, "Did God really say....?" because the temptation then lies in whether or not we can believe what God says, even if He hasn't explained His reasons (did God explain to Adam and Eve the full repercussions of their decisions?).  It's the seed of doubt; doubt, the exact opposite of faith.

And it wasn't just in the garden that this happened, this also happened with the Second Adam, Jesus Christ, when he had no repertoire of ministry, was baptized.
[Then] A voice from Heaven said, "This is my Son, whom I love, in Him, I am well-pleased."

Matthew 3:17

Following this glorious occurrence, Jesus went to the wilderness, where the enemy came to tempt Him with the whole notion of "Did God really say?"  The enemy asked Jesus "If you are the Son of God.." It's the temptation to doubt what was just spoken.  The temptation to doubt our worth. Was that not the struggle in Eden?  God gave a command, a Word, a truth, and immediately the enemy comes, tempting us to believe otherwise.

Similar to the struggle in the Garden and the Desert, we face the temptation of control, and to taste control makes us less apt to trust someone else with control.  We face the temptation of pride, and to reveal what we are capable of doing makes it hard to step back and admit "I am incapable."  We face the temptation of hunger, that is, the cravings of the flesh, and to satiate its desires makes us dull towards the counter simplicity.

As Jesus did come to earth to redeem all things, even the fall of man, His response to the temptation was neither argument nor offense, but rather "It is written." Jesus was presented with the temptation to doubt, and He points to the unchanging, infallible Holy Scriptures.  This too becomes our ammunition.

In the moment where we question the voice of God, we have His tangible Scriptures.  Will you find out what you're supposed to eat tomorrow?  No, but the Word says not to worry because we are provided for.  Will you find out what you're supposed to do for a career?  No, but the Word defines our identity in Christ (Epistles), and He also describes how to gain wisdom/discernment (Proverbs, James).  Will you know how people will react to your confrontations?  No, but the Word spells out how to react in adversity.

It's easy to doubt an unseen God, and this pulls us down in anxiety.  We may have been the First Adam, but we are redeemed by a Second Adam.  We can believe what He says.  We can let go of control.  We can trust in an unseen God.


From hesitation to action

currently reading: The Heart is a Lonely Hunter
currently watching: Death Comes to Pemberly
currently listening: Leon Bridges

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

the very belated birthday post.

So my birthday was last month, right at the beginning of the great month of feBREWary.  I do try to avoid it at all costs; I'm not much of a celebratory human, and the introvert that I am absolutely loves closing in, making it a meaningful and personal time, seeking and meditating and being quiet.  My birthday is usually when I do some earnest praying - what will You do in my life this year?  How can I expect to grow?  Where will I find You this year?

I knew a few things surely: I would take courage to pursue my dreams, find joy in contentment, and grow in resilience.

With that word barely escaping my mouth, I was suddenly hit with the definition of resilience:
able to recoil or spring back into shape after bending, stretching, or being compressed.

I wanted to cry at the revelation of how much I know I'll be crying this year.
And sure enough, it's the brink of springtime, and this year has been so hard.  I've cried more in the past two months than I have in five years.  I've experienced deep, irreplaceable losses, brokenness in myself, and brokenness in my relationships.  I've felt so absolutely discouraged about what I do, and I've been questioning who I am.  I've been doubting my strength, and I'm more aware of my weaknesses.  I've had a slew of physical infirmities from hives that coat me like red paint, to numbing sciatica, to the worsening of my chronic tendinitis.  There were three deaths/funerals last month, and I even faced the difficult decision of putting my sweet dog down.  I'm horribly terrified of the loss and pain yet to happen, and as much as it humbles me to admit, I've lost a lot of my heart and hope in the process.

And all the while, I am trying to press into God and understand His love in all of this.  I'm trying to pray more and read the Word more and declare His Truth more.  I'm trying to be honest with those around me, and even more so, honest with myself.

poignant, accurate, staged, but not far from how I was found.

My wise roommate and I were talking the other night about our attitudes, of the reality that happiness truly is a choice.  And the things that happen to us, regardless of how tragic or wrong or unjust they are, should not dictate our attitudes.  We know who we are.  We know who we were created to be.  We know the impact of a heart at peace and a soul at rest.  We recognize the power of a transformed mind.  And for these things, we can have joy.  We can choose joy.

To choose joy doesn't mean that the things that happened (or are happening) to us aren't wrong, nor does it justify the harsh situations we find ourselves in.  It does not mean we must become comfortable or content in our situation, or that we can't be honest with our hurts.  The act of choosing to be happy is not a conscious act of ignoring the tension, or the need for confrontation.  In fact, the life of joy is to know an inner freedom, and even crave it for even those around us.  So, living a life of freedom solicits the need for confrontation, and necessitates the courage to stand up for ourselves and/or move on.  To have joy is not disabling and careless, but rather, it is empowering and electrifying.  We can be Joseph who, through the prison bars, could still see stars, and dream and hope and minister to our adversaries while maintaining integrity.  We can have joy in "famine, persecution, and sword," we can be the caged bird that sings.

I see now why God told me those things at the beginning of my 29th year: courage to pursue my dreams, find joy in contentment, and grow in resilience.  And I know I will need this piece of writing as a map back to freedom.  Because I say all these things, and yet, tomorrow and the next day and the next, I will still be in the face of the very same issues that existed this morning.

But I am choosing not to be the same person tomorrow as I have been today.  I don't want to keep living as I always have, and being dismayed as I frequently have.  I'm choosing resilience.  I'm choosing joy.


currently reading: Erwin McManus, Artisan Soul
currently listening: The Brilliance, Lent

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Musings on the Modern Church. Pt 3.

My final thoughts on the Modern Church - well actually, the Church as a whole, but I might as well piggy-back on my previous two posts, paralleling with my experience in Specialty Coffee.

Happy feBREWary!


Everyone has their own reasons behind their church commitment preferences.  Sure, I don't have a history sampling numerous denominations.  And that being said, I've learned that I can't discredit what God is doing, simply because it's different than how He works in my life.  I'm not entitled to judge the worship of others, I have no right to declare that my way of connecting with God is better, more efficient, more loved - the Abel sacrifice.  I've come to terms that God has a way of working in my life, and I can celebrate that.  He has a way of working in other churches, and I can celebrate that.

Just as every human is made in God's image, and yet all of us are absolutely different, so churches (made up of humans) are all different and still aim to point to Christ, even if they have to use a different approach - because they are made of different people

Some specialty coffee shops are incredibly successful because they are nested in progressive cities.  And some modern churches are growing exponentially because they are surrounded by the ones who need this kind of bread. We at Surfers Coffee Bar know that we love specialty coffee, but we also know we need to reach our local demographic; we cannot survive on Direct Trade, Pourovers, and Extraction alone.  We've to terms with what we are, and what we aren't.  I'm sure many churches have had to make that same definition.  

Ultimately, whoever walks into the doors of Surfers, we are asked to serve.  Some things I won't compromise on (will not make an iced cappuccino, or any cappuccino over 8oz) (also will not ask my church to preach a prosperity gospel).  I can make sugary drinks, I can make traditional drinks, and I know the facts about coffee if I needed to discuss it.  My hope with the churches I agree less with, is that they'll keep traditional theology, and their leaders know God intimately enough to share His heart.

The conclusion to this entire elaboration is that it isn't my place to judge, or place my connection with God in a higher regard.  Snobby coffee shops shut people out.  And snobby churches shut people out.  Snobbery in general is a natural deterrent.  I am still allowed to disagree - gracefully.  I am still allowed to hold onto what I believe in.  I am still urged to be open to conviction, open to the voice of the Spirit.  And in the places I do not hear Him, even in a church, it's still my position to bless and not curse, to uplift in prayer and not to dismantle by criticism.

There's probably a good reason if you ever find me at a Modern Church.  It's not really my thing.  And yet, I know God is present there.  I also know that God has never expected me to look or be a certain way before I can approach Him; so as mercy has been given to me, so I shall extend to others.

But as it is, God arranged the members in His Body, each one of them, as He chose.... The eye cannot say to the hand, "I have no need of you," nor again the head to the feet, "I have no need of you.".. You are the body of Christ.
I Corinthians 12.

And Paul continues in the infamous chapter 13, to show us the most excellent way - to love.


Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Musings on the Modern Church. Pt 2

part one here.


Guys.  the United States Barista Championships have officially begun.
Because there is such a thing.

I absolutely love the specialty coffee world.  I recently subscribed to The Barista Hustle and can't get over the paradoxical depth and simplicity of the article on Coffee Extraction.  I enjoy cuppings, brewing with a sock pot, and drinking espresso on Tuesday, because it's at its prime post-roast date.  And at Surfers Coffee Bar, there's a good handful of staff who are equally enthralled at coffee nerdery.

But here's the hole: we're a shop in Wahiawa.  A former pineapple plantation town.  A military town.  A local's town, with Asian quick cuisine and "we like the way things are."  Nobody knows where to park, nobody wants to park where there IS free parking.  Shall I throw out more random facts?  Nearest specialty shop is 20 miles away.  Nearest busiest coffee shop is McDonald's.  Maybe Starbucks.  Or 7-11.  Whatever.

Surfers has come to this understanding that as much as we want to push specialty coffee, we cannot, because it will not fly.  If I start talking about the intricacies of growing and brewing coffee, I will lose my customers.  They don't care, 90% of them take their coffee with cream and sugar.  And that is absolutely okay.

So here is what we do: we provide specialty coffee.  It's on our menu, and we proudly display the numerous brewing methods they can choose from, and offer a selection of international coffees through Stumptown.  But we've accepted where we are, and we also offer syrups, and whipped cream, and seasonal drinks like Bacon Mocha or Black Widow.  We'll create our drinks to the best of our ability, and the customer can enjoy it with cream and sugar if they want.  And when we've made friends of our regulars, we have an easier time talking to them about the honesty of Stumptown's company, about tasting notes in our espresso, about a traditional coffee that they should try sometime.

I've thought about how the Modern Church parallels to my specialty coffee conundrum numerous times.  It's absolutely vital that those behind the modern church are solid in their theology, and are able to defend their faith as effortlessly as a barista swings out a beehouse and brews pourover-style.  I know people shy away from coffee when I throw out chemistry words.  I know people shy away from the church when we spill out our theology.

"My espresso parameters are 19.5 - 28 - 32" may not have the same weight to you, just as, the phrases of "soul-winning" or "accept Jesus as your personal savior" may not have relevance to the modern youth.

I would tell people that at Surfers Coffee Bar, "The well-crafted drinks might bring them here, but the kindness keeps them here."  Similarly, the church as a whole could use frou-frou smoke machines, or even their mile-long booklist of dead philosophers to reel people in.  But the kindness, the connections, the relationship between humankind and with the Godhead - these are the things that keep people coming back.

And sometimes our customers keep coming back, and we get them to try a latte sans-syrup.  Then a cappuccino.  Then a short americano.  Then espresso.
And sometimes they don't get to the espresso, but they leave knowing they have invested in a place where they were also invested into.

And sometimes people keep coming back to the church, and we get them to join a prayer session or small group.  Then they reveal their talents.  And we plug them in.  And we mentor them, and grow with them, and watch them turn from student to teacher.
And sometimes they take a lot longer to get there, maybe they leave, but they leave knowing they have made friends.

(And then friends go out and have bible studies in coffee shops like Surfers.  And the cycle continues.)


Weirdly enough, this post got reverted to a draft and I can't remember my closing statements.
I suppose we'll have to go for part three....


currently watching: "History Channel's Guide to the Presidents"
currently listening: Kwabs, Perfect Ruin

Musings on the Modern Church. Pt 1.


Three of my least favorite things: washing my car, styrofoam, and women's conferences.
And thanks to a SCB pop-up cafe, I could begin a hashtag called #heardatawomensconference.

It will be laced with feel-good quotes
You are special.
You are worth it.
You hold the key to your freedom.
You choose to be who you are today.

As well as estrogen-based Christian lifestyle advice
New season, new journal!
Don't forget to wear waterproof mascara and foundation!

And things that shock me as a barista
Why don't you have a $15k Espresso Machine here.  Make me an iced soy caramel latte extra caramel no ice, and find a microwave to heat it up for me.

Yes, I am a disgruntled human at these hype events.  I cannot stand flashy, colorful lures, smoke machines during praise/worship, and songs that ask me to Jump or Shout or other actions that require Obedience to Avoid Shunning.  In fact, in those situations, my human nature turns me to a judgmental, haughty prude.  It's a shame.

But here are the truths about these events, and about the modern popular church, and about worshiptainment:

  1. Based on a certain level of spiritual understanding, I'll find no meat to chew on.  But that doesn't discredit that milk/young food is necessary for those who are growing in their Christianity.  These events are geared to teenagers and/or teenagers in Christ, and a necessary tool to create a hunger for deeper things.  It is okay for me to say, this conference is not for me, and gracefully remove myself from the conversation.
  2. My heart was not prepared to receive anything from this event, to my own loss.  Even though I knew I would be there, I did not ask God to soften my heart to listen and receive His Word; His truth, even if it is covered in feathers that were half-dipped in gold glitter, is still His Truth.  He is always speaking, and it's my choice to listen, and not shoot the messenger.
  3. On that note, it is not my place to say that God is finally pleased with our worship when we turn off the smoke machine.  For all we know, even the one-guitar + bongo living room session can leave a bitter aftertaste in His mouth if these "intimate" worshippers house hearts no different than those hearts of the Pharisees or Sadducees.  We cannot box worship, and we cannot define what God will not receive as a pleasing offering.  He didn't hire us as the worship police.

Essentially, I cannot judge a person's level of spirituality.  Does it pain me that some people remain content at a certain level of spirituality?  Absolutely.  I think that's what makes me feel aggravated.  Some people like to be entertained; like to be amused, don't like to serve.  But again, until I have invested into the lives of each individual, find out where they are with God, and commit to walk with them through their journey, I cannot judge everyone based on an event.

In retrospect, I should've known those three points listed above, and keep my thoughts to myself, no matter how enjoyable the sarcasm became.  I'm sure I am not exempt from having been judged, and I am guilty of not listening to the Spirit, even when I know He's always present.

In the meanwhile, I drew.
Make the most of where you are.

part two here.


Currently listening: "Bridges" by Broods
Currently watching: Street Art Throwdown.

Friday, February 6, 2015

the economy of volunteerism

After the remodel one year ago

This July, Surfers Coffee Bar celebrates four years of service.  I am grateful that we've at least passed the one- and two-year marks, but until we climb over five years, I'm still holding my breath.  Studies have shown that many restaurants tank in their first two years, but those who survive five years usually make it to ten.  But I feel like SCB needs extra credit, and should take each year like "dog years," because we're not an average business.  We are wholly run by volunteers.  Vo.lun.teers.  Un-paid volunteers.

Humanity runs on economy - doing and earning and giving and receiving.  When studies talked about restaurants, they were talking about businesses that pay their workers with resources that practically and tangibly assist and complement their living condition.  So to have a staff of unpaid volunteers, I am asking them to work equally hard as they would in a paid position, offering only the reward of goodness in their hearts and a cup of coffee in their bloodstream.

And it is SO HARD.

First of all, it's hard because Management basically means quality control, and when the bulk of my job is quality control, that means it's laden with confrontation, and correction, and feedback, and education.  It isn't particularly a field I would naturally gravitate towards.  I'm an introvert.  I'm an independent.  I wish other people were independent.

But truthfully, that sentiment is probably why I ended up in management, I can't stand to watch people give their bare minimum and put on their "worker bee" vest without question.  I expect independence and free thinking.  I want them to put wheels and motors on their dreams, and set goals to make them happen, instead of being some unattainable idea they daydream about while stamping cups.  I want them to have the character and work ethic that will sustain their futures.  It's a push and pull - I both like and dislike the confrontation, because it then becomes my God-given responsibility to call out the greatness within each individual staff member, while calling out their rough edges.

Sounds over-the-top for cafe management's job description.  But that is my reality, especially with volunteers.  It's hard to convince them that every little thing they do is meaningful, from doing the dishes, to mopping the floor, to gingerly sweeping up dead roaches that died on its way indoors.  When my workers sign up to work for the non-profit humanitarian organization that mothers the cafe, they imagine the outreaches and the footstools to international welfare; they imagine the tangible joy of giving to people in need.  So to serve the demographic that is not in dire need of clothing or shelter or food, the able middle class, the humanitarian reward is not so obvious.

And when the reward is not obvious, the economy begins to collapse.

How do I convince my staff that their hours are making a difference?
I can be grateful that many of my staff walk in the same faith, and I am also grateful that the principles of Heaven are also understandable to those who haven't chosen this faith-- because it is by faith we receive this reward.  I believe those who have chosen to embrace the nature of our presence in the coffee bar have a sweeter understanding of what it means to serve selflessly, that the reward is not immediately gratifying, or even guaranteed to be tangible, but it is promised.

Of course, I am not trying to make a statement of "how do I make them listen," as much as I am also convincing my own heart that my management makes a difference.  As much as they get discouraged that they have one more closing shift on a slow Saturday night, I get discouraged that I'm not making this place more meaningful for them.  And I want my staff to feel like they have purpose, that their presence is individually meaningful.

Bondservants, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man, knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a bondservant or is free. 

Ephesians 6.5-8

This charge, similar to that in Colossians and 1 Timothy, is what I want for my staff.  I want them to feel the freedom in choosing to serve in this "hard economy" of volunteerism.  I want them to feel the gratitude that they get to be in the customer service business.  I want them to feel the approval and affirmation of God's heart.  And I want this for me too.  I am a volunteer too.  I want that encouragement from the Lord that reminds me that I am making a difference, however deep of an impact.  I want to be reminded that I have purpose, and my presence is meaningful.  I want to steward my staff well, I want to call out the greatness in them.  I want more patience, and grace, and deep love to do so.

Joy is the reward.  I enjoy my staff.  I love their quirky selves.  And as baristas, their personable nature is indispensable.  They are innately social, or at least curious about humanity, which makes them both amusing to converse with, and, endearingly, good listeners.  Their individual personalities range from sanguine to phlegmatic, and we all have different definitions of "common sense."  They make me laugh, and they stress me out, and I cannot express how grateful I am for them.

Whether they gain self-discipline, or understanding, or skills for the workforce, or the sense of ohana, I want them to be sure of their reward.  I don't want them to look back at the 3 months to two years they've committed and regret the work time spent (heaven forbid, "wasted").  I want them to look at this time and be thankful for the chance to learn, to grow, and to find joy in serving - all while brewing a darn good cup of coffee.


currently watching: The Kennedy's
currently listening: podcasts from Mosaic Church

Monday, January 5, 2015

On Sabbath, pt 3.

I suppose it's time to pick up where I left off.


After returning to my parents' home, I took time to pray and re-asses my life (as one does).  Praying about things like "life calling" or "God's will" or "purpose" requires a great deal of faith and trust. On one hand, God is really great about using His silence, prolonged response, or uncommon method of speaking as His way to build our trust in Him. On the other hand, God is also really great about being faithful to respond, and then, entrusting you with the grand responsibility of fulfilling His commands.  Everything He does communicates.  Everything He does solicits a response.

I am often nervous about asking God about what He'd like me to do with my life.  "Normal" life for me, is constant change, constant pushing and pulling and moving and falling and trusting.  For once, I'd like an abnormal life; I want something that's rather predictable and mellow and steady.  I was not ready for more change, I was ready for rest.  So to ask God, "What would You have me do" is asking for more shuffling, more controlled chaos. But I asked anyway.

And in the reassesment of my life at the time, I had discovered a new interest: the world of numbers. Now I've never really considered myself a business fiend, in fact, I was so against the thought of capitallism in my young, artist-hippie mind (there, I said it - I fit the bill even if I didn't like the label).  But in the time I've spent doing the work of the Business Manager in the Coffee Bar, I came to realize that I truly liked being in accounting. Looking back, I suppose I was set up for it, after all, the base of Accounting is the ability to be highly detailed, accurate, and organized.  My jobs and pastimes?  The Library. Jigsaw Puzzles. Things involving spreadsheets, organization, coordination. 

It came to the point that I began looking up online programs, or summer programs, or ways to be certified in Accounting.  My thoughts were, having some sort of certification could be really beneficial: whether I use it for the Coffee Bar, or maybe I can help STN in some ways; or if I used it for my own business, or what if I'm in transition and need some sort of transitional job, accounting would be a handy skillset to have, that I actually enjoy doing.  So I began to concoct a plan that involved re-financing my school loans and cutting my hours in the Coffee Bar and going to school.  I had applied, I had registered, I had a student number.

God in His sovereignty is so faithful to interrupt my life.  Looking back at this, I can say confidently that I know His goodness, and that He does will for us to enjoy the things He calls us to do.  You see, I was moments away from revealing this lovely plan to STN, ready to say that I was done and I am transitioning for the better.  Instead, STN beat me to the punch and revealed their plan to me:

They recognized the work I had been doing in the Coffee Bar to make it professional and proper.  And so, they wanted to take me on into the Accounting Department, as the Accountant's Assistant. I'd help the CFO with some of the accounting work, learn some tools of the trade on the side. So there you have it, my friends, I am (well, have been) in the Finance office a day or two each week, as well as focusing my time in the Coffee Bar on the business operations. And had I done it my way, it would've been more time consuming, more financially costly.  I am grateful that He interrupted me.

(Small confession: I didn't know how to tie this all in with "Sabbath," but I needed a part three to finish the story...)

You could say that this is about the work before the Sabbath. After the end of each day of Creation, God said "It is good." And after those six days of doing things He was pleased with, He rested.  I want to believe that His rest was made full because He was satisfied. Because each day, the work of His hands produced something that He was proud of.  He was pleased.  Can I say that about my work?  Can I say that I am satisfied?  I think that the jobs we detest the most, no matter how easy it is, will drain us more because we're unsatisfied.  And no amount of rest or vacation can cure us from the insatiable need to never go back to our job.  There is no joy to work, it's drudgery.  And so we feel no Sabbath, only escape. We feel no pleasure in our moments of rest, we are numb and zoned out.  We turn off our brain to save the energy for the drainage of work. We are unhappy.

Remember how I spoke so drearily in the other two posts, about how the Sabbath is a command that solicits obedience? Pair that thought with the fact that God designs us to do work that He and we delight in. I am not proposing some fantastical search for the perfect dream job.  No "job" can make you truly happy, and it's truly rare that we will always receive the exact replica of our imagination (not to mention, we don't actually know what we want or need as much as Abba).  But I also don't think God intends to place dreams, skills, and passions in our lives, only for us to drag them through mud for the purpose of "growing our character."  Our martyrical minds have led us to believe that surrender is all suffering.  The suffering is only the purification of our hearts and denial of flesh, not the dismissal of God-made characteristics.  We must find delight in the things we do.  It's this satisfaction that cultivates peace in our spirits.  And peace that has layered over the course of work is a soft bed for the moment of Sabbath. 

Things are still so incredibly hard for me, at least circumstantially.  Work is difficult.  It's stressful trying to balance all the demands spread on my plate.  I am often exhausted, often subdued. And yet, I am incredibly grateful that God has granted me with work that I can be proud of.  It is demanding work, it is not perfect, it is unprofessionally composed, but I can be proud of it.  And the realization that His delight is in me and that I can delight in my work, are plenty reasons for me to put my work down at the end of the day and say "It is good."  And then with that, I can be fully at rest.