Saturday, April 17, 2010

Awkward Moments and the Gratitude That Follows

Have you ever just had a moment that was so incredibly awkward that your insides churned and the corners of your mouth just kept creeping into a smile that silently communicated, "ahhhhh get me out of here!"? I haven't had many moments like this. I've had my own embarrassing moments. I've had moments where I have interacted with people that were awkward. But last night Ryan and I had a really interesting/awkward experience.

We went to Panera for dinner. Yum! We picked a booth and there were several people in the store given it was a Friday night. We were sitting diagonally across from a couple that I could easily tell from the get-go was on a first date. Let the awkwardness begin.

I'm going to name them for the purpose of the story but in actuality I don't know there names. Let's call the cute, little, mid-thirties blond lady Liz and let's call her late 20's, curly, dark haired date Dave. Begin scene...

Liz is talking about how when one is young, still in their late 20's there is so much to still find out about one's self and so much to learn and to do. She didn't truly know herself until recently. Dave asks her on a scale of 1-20 how much she'd want to date him again. "I don't really like numbers," Liz replies. Dave says that she knows what he is trying to say. How does she think the date is going. Liz sweetly replies that he is a little young for her but that they could be friends. "Best friends, then," says Dave. "haha, well, friends," replies Liz. Dave reiterates the "best". Liz lets him know that she doesn't want her best friend to get jealous. Dave brings up the fact that he only makes $700 a month. Liz says it has nothing to do with his income.

Poor guy is not getting the hint. At all. In the midst of this, they aren't quiet. I want you to know that we were not trying to ease drop. In fact, it was one of those moments where I was desperately searching for SOMETHING, ANYTHING to talk about and was wishing I hadn't wasted all that conversation on the car ride to dinner. With little to say, we resorted to just looking at our plates for fear that event one brief moment of eye contact would resort in either one of us completely losing it. So, silently we ate and we listened.

"Mediocre friends, then?" Dave said. Liz doesn't like the word mediocre. Just friends. Dave explained that friends are always there for one another. Somehow Dave brought up his parents and how cool they were. Sometimes his friends would rather hang out with his parents because they are so cool. At this point, I wanted to walk over and pull Dave aside. As a woman I wanted to give him some pointers as how to impress women and I wanted to gently, but truthfully tell him to never, ever, ever repeat that last comment until at least the 8th date.

Now the topic of authors and books comes up. Liz is an avid reader. "Do you want to join a book club?" Dave asks. Liz replies that she doesn't like book clubs because she doesn't like being told what to read. This seemed the perfect opportunity for Dave to suggest that they could just pick a book, read it, and then get together, just the two of them, to talk about it. Liz shoots Dave down.

There is more talk about authors. Liz suggests a book The Devil in the White City that I actually want to read. She gave a great description of this non-fiction book. Liz is a catch. I know that. Dave knows that. But Dave is not the right guy.

Then it was time for them to go to the movies. Dave got up and started rapping. Yes, I wrote that correctly. He started rapping from a DC talk song. And then they were gone. And I felt as if the other table, the one behind them and directly across from us had bonded. I looked over at the three women sitting there and I do believe we all had the same expressions on our faces. It was a shared bond of awkwardness. I wonder if Liz actually went to the movies or if she got in her car, and drove as far away as possible. I wonder if Dave still thinks that he had a chance. Ryan wondered what dating service they used and noted that it probably wasn't E-Harmony.

It was incredibly awkward. I wish Liz and Dave well as I am sure they will go their separate ways. I hope they each meet someone where on their first date the people around them will marvel at the ease of conversation. But after it was said and done I look across the table at my husband and I was so grateful for him. I am so grateful that he has never once asked me anything where the answer landed on a scale of 1-20. And while he can recite raps from several DC Talk songs, I find it amusing and I am grateful that he didn't bust that out on our first date. I am glad that even awkward moments like that can lead to gratitude.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

It Ain't About Retail!

I started a new job. I am always starting a new job. Actually, once a year it seems I leave the old job and start a new job. This remains true. I had a good job. It paid well. I had an office. A pretty big office, downtown. It even had a window. A big window that overlooked Delaware Ave. I had some plants (that I somehow managed not to kill). I'd go to work each morning and after settling in I would grab a cup of coffee from the high tech Keurig coffee machine and settle back down at my desk to listen to my voice mails and answer emails. Mornings were generally quiet with time to catch up and reflect and then the phone calls would start. Then there would be fires that needed to be put out and consumers that needed to be consoled and encouraged. There were events to plan, volunteers to recruit, interviews to conduct and trainings to lead. The hours were a lot- but it was, for the most part, cushy. Stressful, but cushy. Organized.

God doesn't keep me in cushy. He knows what cushy does to my spirit. So, in March, after months of his prompting, he led me to interview for On the Job Ministries, Inc. A ministry that works on the West side of Buffalo and employs young adults. The goal is to provide a needed resource for the community (a thrift store, bike shop and soap making business) and also provide life skills coaching and employment to young adults. I was hired as the Program Coordinator. God called me out of my cushy little boat. And, obediently I stepped out.

How come the stepping out part is usually easier than the follow-thru walk? Not equipped. That is how I have felt for the past month. What did I do? Lord, what did you call me to do? Not by my strength. I kept reminding myself. Well, the Holy Spirit kept reminding me.

My first day was Wednesday, April 7th. As the program coordinator I will eventually be in charge of running the thrift store and all that entails. More than I imagined when I was merely a patron of the shop. So, let me recap the past few days for you:

Day 1- waiting for the Executive Director, toting about three bags and a travel coffee mug, while seeking shelter under the overhang while a crazy hail storm blows into town. Hail. Hail. I thought to myself, this could be a bad sign. And I waited for the locusts. 6 hours into Day 1 and I experience my first irate customer threatening to call the police on us. ED handled it while my spirit sunk in the corner and I fought back the tears thinking, I left cushy. Cushy is gone. I'm in retail! Deep breath in.... hold.... and release. Day 1 is done.

Day 2- ED has to take care of some business and I get to handle the thrift store on my own. No problem. I've got a good staff that knows what needs to be done. Oh, what? Irate customer from yesterday is coming back today for her refund? Can I handle it? I left cushy for this. I left cushy for retail. But, can I handle it? Yes. When God calls one out of the boat He doesn't just leave one to their own devices. He calls, He leads and He desires that they tap into Him and His power. Ok, I can handle it. Irate lady returns and today she is all smiles, sunshine and sweetness (Praise. God.). Crisis averted and thanksgiving prayer declared!

Day 3- Merchandised some manikins, broke the pricing gun, ran out of receipt tape, couldn't get new receipt tape roll in, took 20 minutes and the help of JD (americorp/ delivery guy/ discipler/all around good guy) to get receipt tape to work the right way, priced some donations, organized kitchen section, got to know one of the employees, drove employee to the bank and to her house. She opened up about her life. A life I'm sure is somewhat the norm for those who have only ever lived where she has lived. And heard her declare that she loves God and she needs help. Prayed with her. Drove home and realized it ain't about retail.

I love that God's heart is not limited to geographic areas, income levels, a certain language, or status level. He loves the ones that get overlooked. He desires to reach even the young adults on the West side of Buffalo who have been given up on, or worse, never believed in in the first place. And my job, though retail is a piece of it, is about helping to equip, empower and believe in these young people and to help make the love of Christ real to them. It's not cushy. Notice that during my days I did not mention the time to relax, the checking email or the answering voice mails. That's because I don't have a desk (yet). I don't even have an office. I keep my things in the room where the soap is made. There is no Keurig coffee maker. Our coffee maker was a donation. And there is no down time. There is no window over looking downtown. There are no plants (but that's ok, because I don't have a window in my office and they'd die... more so because I would most likely forget to water them, but the lack of sunshine would be part of it). I left cushy. But I am not looking back.

Truth be told, I am not equipped to handle what I have been called in to. If I was, I wouldn't have to rely on God. But, He knows that I need Him. I can't do it without Him. And I am so incredibly grateful that while I am not qualified to be walking on the water, the One who called me out of the boat is, and He is the one who will keep me afloat. By His power, in His strength and for His glory. Praise be.