Monday Motivation

No one can impact everyone. But everyone can impact someone. Every day is your chance to impact someone you cross paths with. A mere smile or ‘hello’ can make the difference in someone’s life.

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What are you eating for Christmas?

Overnight Cinnamon RollsThis morning I woke to the smell of cinnamon rolls baking in the downstairs oven. After a night of battling a violent cough I wasn’t feeling too great. But the aroma of food drew me downstairs.

Food has become a new concept to me. I’m beginning to realize that spiritual nourishment is just as vital to life as physical nourishment. Since August I have been studying the gospel of John through Bible Study Fellowship (BSF).

The story that I remember the most is from Chapter 3, the woman at the well. To this Samaritan woman, Jesus speaks of living water. A concept where someone thirsts no longer for material things, but instead is forever satisfied by something spiritual.

I really like this story, firstly because she is a woman, and women during the time of Jesus were not treated equally with men, but Jesus treats her as a daughter, or a beloved friend. Secondly because Jesus knows this woman’s greatest need and how to satisfy it.

While studying this chapter, my body was in a very bad condition. Chronic pain is part of my life from rising out of bed to lying down again. Some days are worse than others and I will tell you, pain medicine is never kind enough to me. Neither is the strict diet I’ve been on since February, nor the physical therapy I’ve kept up with.

So I was having a hard day with the pain in my body, and I read this story of Jesus with the woman at the well. When Jesus tells her about living water she asks how she can get this living water and thirst no more. Interestingly enough I had the same question.

“How Lord,” I asked, “How can I live without wanting freedom from chronic pain? How can I find full satisfaction apart from my earthly needs?”

Jesus tells her about the gift of eternal life, freedom from the law, a life of worship in spirit and truth. I remember feeling incompetent and confused. I asked how the Samaritan woman was able to grasp the gift of spiritual nourishment and release her want search for  love from her past five husbands.

The story goes one. Later in the chapter Jesus is with his friends and they encourage him to eat some food. But he says “no”, because his nourishment come from doing the will and work of God.

I began to see the truth in this concept of “living water.”  In my own life from my graduating high school, then college and on to my first job interview, I have always been seeking my own will, what I want to do with my life. But my pursuit of happiness apart from God’s will is always disappointing. Recently, with the revelation of this past Autumn and studying the book of John, I am now beginning to understand that there is greater satisfaction in doing the will of God, spending my life in service.

For me the will of God is accepting where he has placed me, the circumstances, the people  and the passions instilled within me: Social justice, immigration, refugees, racial reconciliation.

This morning I didn’t touch the soft cinnamon rolls, even though it is Christmas. Instead I sat and reflected on how God has given us all something better than tangible food. He’s given us the gift of eternal life through is Son, born a baby, died a savior and risen a King. He knows your greatest needs before you even do. And even more he knows how to satisfy them.

I choose to love my life

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Processed with VSCO with c9 preset

 I spend so much of my time planning ahead, and hardly ever stop and just think about where I am now.

Where am I now? Loving my job? Yes.

But in this case love is a decision. It’s sacrificing what I want and accepting what I’ve been given in order to enjoy life.

My life in a nutshell: I wake and dress. As the wide-eyed sun rises I glide in a rumbly Ford Focus through the dim lit highways.

Steam dampens my nose as I sip a hot tea at my work desk and straighten the crooked calendar that hangs above me.

Hours later I gulp a foamy latte in the lobby of a five star hotel waiting for my supervisor to look up from his phone, our coffee breaks last too long.

Before lunch I sit through meetings of which I know nothing and aimlessly take notes raking up something to research when I return to the office. I wave my badge in front of the locked door to my office and the red line beeps to green and unlocks–it’s thrilling.

During lunch I fast walk the canal, careless of how I look in a woman’s suit and sneakers. Music plays from my headphones as I pass people of every shape and size. Well, the ones with the bigger shape don’t usually walk. They just sit on the stairs, sucking cigarettes and stare into the distance.

The afternoon is a drag with my warm body pleading for a nap after that brisk walk. I peek to see the only person visible from my cubicle. She’s fixing her hair in a little mirror, now checking her cell, then answering the customer service phone.

Emails pop up at the bottom of my screen and I respond immediately. My supervisor beckons and we talk in his office about our agency’s bill ‘till quitting time. I’m lost in a crowd of government employees as we all race through the underground tunnels to our cars. We race in vain, for traffic is backed up around the block and our cars heave a sigh as we wait to exit the garage.

Home smells of cooking chicken and steaming rice. I slip upstairs and grab my gym bag, before tugging of my skirt and blouse to pull on my swimsuit. The pool is cold at first then warms as I move my body around. My goggles leak little droplets of chlorinated water which stings my eyes as I plunge through the vast space of blue expanse. They never seem to stay on right and after a few laps I remove and readjust them. The life guard dozes off, the aqua-yoga class poses on. After ten laps I climb out of the water and wait ‘till I’m in the locker room before peeling off my swim cap. My wet hair falls to my shoulders in sloppy chunks. I slip into a hot tup and allow the violent bubbles to drown out my thoughts and worries. 

I’m home just in time for dinner. My hair smells of strawberry conditioner, and drips on the floor as I spoon a ladle of chicken curry onto my plate. We eat, we sing, we pray. The routine is a welcome addition to this pleasant day. I clean the kitchen, brew some tea and retire to the living room to read my bible and watch the news.

Living in the moment is only hard when I worry about what will happen in the future. It’s always pleasant when I just worry about what will happen in the next six hours. 

Aprons

Its 6:45 a.m. and I pull a green apron over my head, fold it up once around my waist, and tie the long emerald strings into a tight knot at my hips.

“Welcome back to the food service industry,” I say to my reflection in the mirror. My reflection forces a smile that says ‘I love my job’, and I realize I look much too young for this. Just the other day someone mistook me for a high school grad and not a college grad.

Maybe I should get glasses to make me look older. Or fess up and actually start wearing makeup.

#unsure

I hide my dark, cropped hair under a black hat bearing the symbol of Starbucks Coffee and smooth down the wrinkles in my apron.f69721af9700edebe64315db0735e3df

Much to my dismay I do feel like I’m back in high school where I wore a white apron as I swept the dusty floors of a bakery. Evening light always beamed in from the West window during the end of my shift, causing a haze in the floury air and notifying me that I had been there much too long. Not only too long for my scheduled shift, but too long as a customer service rep. I couldn’t wait to be done working for the summer and finally leave my white crumb-covered apron behind as I set out for college.

But in college, an apron found me sooner than I expected, for by second semester I was working for a catering company, setting and bussing tables every weekend. As my friends planned Saturday night dates, I’d put on my freshly pressed apron and begin clothing tables with crimson cloths and setting out cups and polished silverware. Hours later I’d still be working, bussing tables with a tub and a rag and my apron smeared with every bit of food, drink and whatever else it could pick up.

When I got a job as a writing tutor I said goodbye to the aprons and only wore the pretty red one in my mom’s kitchen for holiday baking. But just weeks after I graduated from college, with a hard-earned diploma and a few thousand in debt, I was wearing an apron of blue and scooping dishes of ice cream at a frozen custard shop. I only wore this sapphire apron long enough to make a few hundred Turtle sundaes and learn how to blend three milkshakes in less than a minute.

That blue apron was worn thin; each time I pulled it off its silver hook from the back closet and tied it around my waste, I wondered how many dozens  had worn it before me, had wiped their sticky hands on it, and used its corners to clean the sides of freshly packed pints of ice cream.

My apron this morning is green and brand, spanking new, but still I feel my journey has taken me nowhere.

After college I imagined I would be wearing a white collar; instead I’m pulling a black collar over the halter of a green apron. Rather than counting words in a news article, I’m counting minutes before I should brew the next pot of coffee.

Is this not what high schoolers do during summer break or even college kids during those glorious warm months away from school? If so then what am I, a college graduate who’s spent hundreds of hours studying, writing, reading, and memorizing, doing here?

Instead of taking pictures at a news conference, I’m taking orders from a never-ending line of customers, mixing syrups, steamed milk and shots of espresso instead of making documentaries of interesting people.

My heart burns with frustration like the pastry I forgot to pull from the warmer, it simmers like the tin of milk screaming beneath the steamer.

Why am I here and not there?

Taking orders and not photos

Making iced lattes and not videos

Writing dates on creamers and not news articles

Inhale.

Exhale.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” God said to a people exiled from its country. A people like the refugees I’d like to be interviewing. He knows what he has for me and for them. He’s brought me to be a barista–for now– despite my college degree and my burning desire to be elsewhere.

In light of the plans I had for myself I suppose I am in the right place; for there is nowhere better  than where God has called me right now.

It’s 7:00 a.m. and I walk out of the break room with a fresh green apron on, ready to start my shift.

“Be still my soul, the Lord is on your side.”

 

 

Starbucks Across the Counter

After searching high and low and on LinkedIn for employment, I got a job at Starbucks. I am actually extremely thankful for this job though it doesn’t pertain to my college degree because they give benefits to even part-time employees. And as a partner at Starbucks I get to learn how to make all of the drinks and taste them all too.

#winning 😀

Prior to this I was scooping ice cream at Ritters Frozen Custard. From making cones to making coffee, I don’t know which direction I am going in but the pay for making coffee is higher so I suppose I’m stepping up.

In college, Starbucks was my default study location. But I only went there when I had a gift card or a generous friend. Why? Because the drinks are so ridiculously expensive. But I don’t have to tell you this. It’s common knowledge. But what I’m learning from my training is that customers don’t pay for just a drink at Starbucks, they pay for an experience: their name called from the counter, the smell of a clean delicious cafe, the comfort of leather couches and walls of shiny merchandise, and the gentle lull of music coming over the ceiling speakers. At this moment once Starbucks goers have their drink and are experiencing Starbucks with all five senses it’s time to take a #selfie.

I suppose if I begin blogging about Starbucks, I have come full circle with my blogging career. Before college I worked at Great Harvest Bread Co. and began a blog called “Baking with Julia.” I wrote about bread, crazy customers, and how I couldn’t wait for college. Here I am four years later composing a post about Starbucks, yet another food company. But at a place like Starbucks the fodder for writing inspiration is plenty.

Goodbye writers block.

When I was in England there were only two places that lit my face up every time I saw them: Starbucks and McDonalds. This was actually an early sign of homesickness. But that was a given. Starbucks in England was a magical experience as was most of my life in the UK. I remember walking into a store that could have been a ballroom it was so beautiful. A dome-like ceiling floated above me with an enormous Victorian clock hanging from the wall. The floors were a white, pink, and mint marble that swirled across the store beneath a collection of beautiful couches and chairs. Sipping a Carmel Frap in a place like this can only be magical, unless a group of noisy American girls loudly expressing how awesome this place is are ruining the moment.

#annoying

#cultureclash

Starbucks in Paris was romantic as everything in France is said to be, but also very crowded. A line of customers impatiently squeezed into the tiny cafe waiting for the chanc to order. I vividly remember almost dying with happiness when I came across a Starbucks one cold day in Paris. I’d been wondering the streets aimlessly looking for somewhere to have a cup of coffee and read my book. After ordering a chocolate-chip cookie and an ice water I squeezed my way out upstairs.  The first floor is just for ordering drinks and the second floor is where everyone enjoys there Starbucks experience. Not only was the Starbucks exactly the same as in the US, but there were more Americans in it than I’d seen in my whole time in Paris.

So what will my Starbucks experience be like from the other side of the counter? I suppose you’ll have to wait and see.

 

 

Can I just sleep for eternity?

Today I awoke with no desire to rise from my bed. I wanted to flip my pillow over so the cool side pressed against my face and to sleep for eternity to the humming sound of my window fan.

But alas I had to rise, even though there was nothing on the agenda today aside from applying for jobs.

#redundant

For the past few days I’ve been working at a frozen custard place. It’s part-time and a lot of fun, but on the days I don’t work I must face my laptop screen and the job opening for which I am not qualified.

I finally did rise from my bed and was munching on gluten-free cereal when I remembered a textbook I needed to mail to a recent buyer. If I could sell my four years worth of textbooks I’d probably make more than what I get selling ice cream. But unfortunately, no textbook website wants to buy a pile of writer’s handbooks.

Climbing into my hot car I realized I’d have to face yet another small battle: wrestling my stick shift as usual. Yet, today it was only for a short time. It’s learned to behave.

I stopped at the bank on the way to Starbucks and felt like an undercover adult. Depositing my own checks. Do I look old enough to do this?

The police officer eyed me from the moment I entered to the moment I rushed out.

“I know I’m black but I’m not going to pull a gun on you!” I wanted to say.

Minutes later I sat at a Starbucks table, my computer pulling juice from the wall, and my parched lips sucking in the sweet slush of a Carmel Frap.

Don’t worry I’m not wasting my hard earned money on Starbucks. But then again my gift card is almost out. What am I going to do? Soon I’ll have to sneak in, order an ice water and hide in the corner without paying for anything.

#dontjudge

I go to Starbucks not always for the coffee. Sometimes I just need to get out of the house and find a productive, clean, good-smelling environment to fill out more job applications.

I’d say my Starbucks trip was a success. Three emails popped into my inbox affirming my application acceptances and a forth notifying me of a recent job posting for a Reporter, a job posting I was again not qualified to apply for. So I did anyways.

It’s disheartening to think of where I am and where I want to be. Where I want to be seems years and years away.

Currently–I’m an unemployed, recent college graduate with minimal work experience, a car that runs like it may die any minute, living with my parents, and waiting to pay off my college dept. #losing

Where I want to be–Reporting the news through radio, film, photography and written word. Traveling the coast of East Africa, learning to speak Swahili and French, giving a voice to the voiceless, and holding the powerful accountable for what they’re doing.

#WINNING 😀

But before I can even report news from my hometown I must wake up everyday and choose to get out of bed, even if I don’t know what that day will bring.

Because eventually, maybe that day could place me where I want to be.

#fingerscrossed

 

 

My Life as a College Graduate

This week has been eventful to say the least. The job hunt continues despite almost being scammed by a fake company.

They found my resume on Indeed and sent me a job acceptance to a company I didn’t even apply for. After two sketchy emails, one promising a salary of $33 an hour, I decided to Google the contents of the company. I discovered that a host of complaints stand against the promises of this sham company.

I kind of took a hint when they asked for my bank information. But seriously the first email looked and sounded so professional that I almost believed it to be true. But a pay check like that for a girl with my degree is too good to be true.

It was very disheartening. Here I am, fresh out of college, a vulnerable journalist wanna-be and I get scammed. It makes me not want to apply anywhere ever again.

The shifting gear in my car has a mind of its own. It chooses if and when it wants to move and takes pleasure in watching my frail hands try to move it. According to my brother, the gear locks and you just have to mess with it until it moves. For him it takes a whole of five seconds, for me it seems like five hours as my hands are always red and tense by the time that little black stick slides into drive. A cloud of smoke soared from the tale pipe as a sped of to my Starbucks interview last week. The rickety engine that sounds like The Little Engine that could at age 100, jostled noisily as a set off to my destination.

What was the interview like? Well, let’s just say Starbucks knows how to sell itself.

I’m supposed to hear from them today and I really hope I get the job. The benefits they offer beat anything I’ve applied for. Plus, who doesn’t love Starbucks? At least I know they’re trustworthy. And don’t worry, I’ll keep applying for jobs despite the fake companies out there to steal my money. I just need to keep a sharp eye.

#determined

#unfazed

#hireme 🙂

When The Boy You Babysit Poops His Pants

dg-junior-boys-lion-head-bcak-print-jacket-for-summer-2011Hours of job applications consume my life lately, but yesterday involved a 7 a.m. car ride to take care of a feverish five-year-old neighbor.

My spirits have been rather low ever since I returned from a two week journalism program in Asheville, NC. Oh, and finished my college degree.

My suitcases hit the ground of my parent’s kitchen floor and I knew in that moment that this summer would be a long hassle of getting a job and finding my own place. Being gone, means more leg room for the rest of my family.

#graduated

I took a break from filling out applications on Tuesday evening and ventured to the park in my car. It’s a Ford Focus my sister left for me when she moved to Taiwan last month. My phone slipped out of my hand and the screen smashed on the hot concrete of the parking lot outside the park and I almost laughed at the irony. College loans to pay, a job to get, and my phone breaks.

#notideal

The fix will cost me $70. Not my ideal first purchase post-graduation. But the phone screen sort of represents my life at the moment—the cracks in the glass leading nowhere, the shattered reflection looking up at me through the black abyss.

The following morning I woke with my mom standing over my bed staring down at me with a phone pressed to her ear.

It’s 7:00. Why am I awake?

The little boy down the street had a fever and needed a sitter.

Steam from my coffee mug trailed behind me as I ran to my car, my hair still damp from the shower. I vowed last summer that I would never babysit again after college and here I was on my way to my first paycheck post-graduation, and what was I doing? Babysitting.

#neversaynever

At the boy’s home, I sifted through the pages of a war novel, then browsed a book written by a journalist who interviewed Harper Lee in ’93. A stiff pan of orange jello sat in the fridge and I wondered if the little boy would ever eat what I’d prepared for him.

The five-year-old lay motionless on the couch, rosy-cheeked and glossy-eyed as Kung Fu Panda played on the TV across from him. Lost in my book, I hardly noticed him run by me to the toilet. A minute later he emerged, sobbing that he’d pooped his pants. His bottom was soggy when I tried to pick him up, so I carried him like a newborn up to his room to change him.

We flew in my car, the engine rumbling so loud like a space ship soaring across the universe to his doctor’s visit.

“You look a little young to be his mother,” the doctor joked.

I never know if that’s an insult or a compliment.

#confused

His mother spoke to the doctor over speakerphone through the chards of broken glass on my iPhone. When the boy wouldn’t open his mouth, the doctor asked me to hold down the boy’s squirming arms as he peered into his howling throat.

As a result the boy’s fever had gone down and his throat was cleared up. The boy’s arms flapped by his sides as we zipped out of the office. 

His mother met us in the parking lot and I had to follow her home because I’d left my coffee mug in the kitchen. I sipped the lukewarm coffee as I drove home with a $70 check in my wallet, just enough to cover my broken screen.

I suppose post graduation, things might just turn out okay.

Befriending Americans

pexels-photo-largeDear College Students of 2K16

                                           Befriend your international classmates

It was a rainy day last week when I rushed into the shelter of our crowded Student Union. With a thirty minute gap for lunch and an exam following thereafter I had just come for a quick bite and a chance to dry off. Or so I thought.

Always self-conscious of my hair’s response to a cool drizzle, I quickly scanned the room for an empty spot. #selfconscious

I found a sophomore from Japan sitting alone sipping a warm beverage–probably a creamy late because our school coffee is not the greatest. She smiled as I approached her so I took the liberty of setting down my bag and engaging in small talk. When I learned she was not meeting anyone or leaving anytime soon, I left to order my food and returned to share some fries and carrots with her.

Food has a way of breaking the awkwardness of intentional conversation. #foodie

I asked how she was doing, inquired about her sister, who is studying abroad, and sliced my grilled chicken into bite-sized pieces. As she responded I took notice of the excitement in her face that we were talking. After sometime when there was a lull in the conversation and I found more interest in finishing my lemonade than engaging in conversation she turned from her computer and said,

“Julia, how do you think international students can make friends with Americans?”

I hesitated before answering because I needed to asses her inquiry. She was a bright student from Japan with a solid group of friends, a Major she enjoyed, and a comfortable English speaking ability. She had even previously said, “Do you notice that my English is improving a lot?” Then why was she asking me something she could most definitely figure out on her own?

The answer, I already knew for I have many international friends and most of them experience the same thing when it comes to befriending American students.

I told her it was important to first understand American culture and how it differs from her own. And after we’d talked some more she asked yet another difficult question.

“Julia, how did you make friends with international students in your dormitory?”

This question was difficult because as a senior I don’t really spend enough time with the girls I live with. #guilty

But then again I do spend every waking moment applying for jobs and submitting articles.

I stared blankly for a while reaching back into the pockets of my memory to recall my sophomore year, the leadership positions I held on campus,  the influence I had simply by being readily available to anyone no matter their age, race, national orientation, or gender.

So I told her about being a minority and how minorities notice one another and are sometimes drawn to each other. As I talked I began to realize that my skin color determines who I befriend and who will seek me out, before I do.

What I observed in talking with this girl from Japan is something I feel a lot of international students struggled with on University campuses in the United States. While in some cultures, newfound friends are friends for life, in American culture life-long friendships develop over a lifetime, and acquaintances are more commonly found in the moment.

So, my challenge is to get to know your international classmates not only because they are a long ways away from home but also because their country allowed them to come and our country allowed them to be received in hopes to better understand each other and bring peace.

To overcome cultural tensions and misunderstandings, is it not crucial to perceive the significance of differences? For is it not the differences that cause two cultures, societies or nations to collide?

#foodforthought

 

 

Helping Your Friends Through Grief

So much death has happened in the last few days. My roommate’s adopted grandmother, from the church she grew up in, passed away Sunday morning around 6:00 a.m. It’s difficult to grieve with someone when you don’t know the person who died.

Something even more tragic happened the same morning, minutes before the death of my roommate’s grandmother. Three students died in a car accident just miles up the road from Taylor. Sadly, these students were acquainted with my Taylor friends. They had just dropped my friends off before the accident occurred.

Everyone who knows about the accident is thinking one thing, “What a senseless thing to happen.”  My heart breaks though I am far removed from the situation. Three international students two from Ethiopia and one from Nigeria, who’s parents are oceans and mountains away, who’s families had all their hopes in sending their children to America, who’s friends will now bear the burden of loss for a life-time.

#tragic

I know I usually write about race, identity and social norms, but today none of that seems to have a place. Death is an issue of humanity, not felt more by one race than another, not experienced greater in one people group than the next. Death is universal, global, cultural. Twelve of us gathered last night to pray and weep for our friends, for the families who lost their children.

Where is hope in death? In racial reconciliation I have confidence. In equality and social justice I see a promising future. But death speaks when it wills. It sneaks up and strikes when you least expect. For every time there is a season, a time to live and a time to die.

#ThisIsRealLife

The chapel speaker this morning spoke about grieving. She said the best way to support your friends when they are grieving is to simply let them know you are there. To make your presence known to them, to comfort them in the truth that nothing can separate us from the love of God. Not life, not death, not anything now or to come.