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.