“Honk all you want, old man!”

Today, I was blindsided.

In deli, we usually wait and let the chef handle all the dirty work. But when we got swamped today with $5 meal deals, I did what I had to. The chef had shredded the chicken and gotten everything ready. All I had to do was add the dressing. So, I rolled up my sleeves, grabbed the “napa chicken salad” dressing, and went to work.

I almost asked the chef if the napa dressing was used for the original chicken salad. But I felt déjà vu hardcore, and KNEW (or thought I did) that napa was the same as original when it came to the dressing. I remembered, supposedly, the chef telling me that exact thing. Confidently, I mixed it all up and set it in the deli.

About twenty minutes later, my boss comes out of the door and glares at me. And in a half-whisper, with a tone you can only find in horror films way past the kids’ bedtime, she said, “Why…?!” Then she said to come see her in the back. I was pretty sure she was going to eat my face, chew it up and season the ruined chicken salad with it. I was trying to remember the last time I’d updated my living will.

The meeting turned out to be not so scary, and the chicken salad was fine. Actually, the three customers I told about the screw up and let sample the salad to make sure it was okay with them told me it was better than usual. Thumbs up for me! But the day was just getting started.

Customers were rushing left and right to get their meal deal, normally $8.99, which any sane person would take advantage of. By the time I got off work, I was beyond tired. And I still had to go to Walmart.

There, I got some groceries and got the cart loaded up. When Gabriel said he was thirsty, and I was thinking how awesome a cinnamon pretzel sounded, we stopped at the inside Subway. Then having sticky hands, we stopped at the restroom to wash them. And in the midst of all of that, I somehow managed to attempt to walk out the door without having paying for anything. Wow.

This cute little door greeter asked for a receipt, reasonably concerned, as I had no bags. I tried in hysteria to tell her what had happened, and I literally almost walked out. I know she thought I was trying to steal. So when I actually did go back to pay for it, my debit card wasn’t working. Per usual. I ended up having to scrape the last of my cash up and putting half of it back. Let’s talk about embarrassment… At this point, they’re thoroughly convinced that I tried to steal, I’m sure. So I raced out with what I could afford in groceries with my measly cash and left.

At the first stop sign in the parking lot, I got honked at, and told I was “number one,” by a much older *ahem* gentleman. And being as how Christian girl was once a rebellious teenager, I went back to my roots. Yelling at the man who couldn’t hear me, I said, “You wanna rush me along? Fix my breaks and I’ll floor it out of here, ya old bat!” But I didn’t say bat… I did floor it out finally. I had to. And my breaks started grinding. Badly.

On the road, I started shaking. I was enraged. My whole day had been one frustration after another. I couldn’t handle it. I’ll take being sad over being angry any day, because I don’t get angry often enough to know how to handle it. I wanted this emotion to turn off. I was angry at myself. I was pissed off over chicken salad, and my exhaustion, and my Walmart trip, and my breaks, and the driver, and the stop sign, and… Then I stopped.

I felt the Holy Spirit fall over me like a blanket. Right there in my car, I heard him say, “Jessie? We got you, girl.” I knew it. I’d almost fallen into a trap; a vicious cycle of anger and depression that could’ve ruined the rest of my week. That’s what the enemy does, isn’t it? He seeks to kill, steal, and destroy. He sets up traps to trip us, and if we fall for the traps, we’ll end up knocked on the ground every time.

Jesus is a comforter; a healer; a provider; a conquerer. If we’re following him, who’s gonna be able to raise even a butter knife to us? No one! Not even an old man behind a horn. The chicken salad was awesome today, better than usual. And thanks to a shy little door greeter, I didn’t become a shoplifter today. Whew! My breaks didn’t fail, and we managed to park the car in one piece.

Whether you look to the left or to the right, you’ll hear a voice that says, “This is the way. Walk in it.” Today, I hear a voice telling me not to let the sun go down on my wrath, but to take heart! This world that I get so angry in has already been overcome. I hear a voice telling me today that I am surrounded with happy Jesus angels! I don’t even know what that means, but I KNOW I’m covered! And there’s not a minion on hell or earth that’s going to steal my joy.

Honk all you want to, old man. I got my Jesus on!

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It’s Always Too Soon…

Earth Fare… A place where healthy choices are easy, people have confidence in the food that they buy, and everyone feels welcome. It’s a pretty cool place. I’m proud to say I work there. Well… Worked…

…God has a way of giving us exactly what we need when we need it. And not a moment sooner. When I lost my house about six weeks ago, I had to take to a life I didn’t like, and never saw myself having to live. But for the first several nights afterwards, Gabriel did something he had never done before. He wanted me to sing him to sleep. I started off on a Larry original, singing “Pizza Angel.”

Gabriel interrupted me. “No, Mommy. Sing about Jesus.” And for a couple hours every night, that’s what we did. And despite having lost everything, everyone, I still had praise in my heart for God and His goodness. And even more surprising, my five-year-old did, too.

But how? How did Gabriel retain so much of our Christian walk to be able to lift me up when I needed him to? But for the grace of God. First time I sang Farther Along to him, I really heard the words of the song for the first time. “Farther along, we’ll know all about it. Farther along, we’ll understand why.” The day was coming when I would understand everything that had happened and know why. And by that heart, I pushed forward in full and bold confidence. In a time when I should have, by all worldly standards, tossed any remnants of joy aside, I held onto them so tightly that nothing thrown my way would knock the wind out of me. Better yet, nothing would even come close to shaking the foundation I had built on my praise. Nothing.

In moments when worry could have me physically ill, I just blared KLOVE with the car windows rolled down and sang at the top of my lungs. When the enemy began to whisper, “Give up and go back to Kentucky where you belong,” I had no problem going out to where the homeless gather to offer prayer. When any form of regret started to sink in, I still offered what was left of our groceries to a mom and dad with two kids who couldn’t even speak English and had nothing. I don’t say any of that to glorify myself. God forbid I let my right hand know what my left is up to. But I tell you that to let you know, if someone like me can have that joy, so can YOU.

I went into Earth Fare today to hand over my resignation letter. And of all times I’ve never cried when I should have, I did today.

Three weeks ago, I was offered a position I’ve wanted for a long time. When I got the call for an interview, I was on my way to my car on lunch break. I prayed on the walk, and just said, “God… I love You. But I’m tired.” It was probably more physical than mental. Then my phone rang with an unknown number, and I started to not even answer it. I’m glad I did. It was the supervisor for Knox Area Transit, and they wanted me for an interview. I got the call about an hour after the interview that I was hired. And it’s going to be what we need to survive and then some. I turned in my application ten months ago, and gave it to the wrong guy at the wrong place. So how godly is it that ten months later, when I really needed it, the application would suddenly turn up and I would get a call that changed our lives?

I wanted to move up at Earth Fare. Lord knows I tried. I had managers willing to help me meet that goal, and they were cheering me on. I’ve had many good talks with managers and department heads, learning a bit of this and a lot of that. I was the only deli girl who could run a register, wash dishes, clean the dining room, date check in wellness, pitch tofu to unwilling customers in deli, juice juice and smooth smoothies, mark produce, and halfway make a sandwich. Actually, when I worked the register, I did most of that stuff every day. One thing EF taught me was, you’re not a cashier, or a deli girl, or a sandwich guy, a bookkeeper, a manager, or a head chef. First and foremost, you’re an employee, and you do what needs to be done when it needs to be done. And you don’t wait for someone else to take cups to the dining room when you’re not doing anything, and the guy doing dishes is too swamped to leave his post and take them out there. When you see garbage overflowing, you don’t wait around for someone else to grab it. For that matter, you might see a manager do it, and it’s definitely not their job. One of the perks of NOT working for a union. Everyone worked together. Everything got done. My managers understand, with this opportunity given to me, I can’t pass it up. There’s a lot of opportunity there, and… Alright, I’ll just say it… The money is good. It’s too good to not jump at.

When you drive a bus, you meet people at the worst of their worst. Not always, but usually. And what better position could I ever possibly be in that pays well AND allows me to be a light in a dark place? Now’s definitely not the time to start shrinking back in fear. From air brakes to stop signs to professors to guys with guns, I’m tackling it all. And there’s nothing I want to do more, not more than drive a bus or run a register at a Earth Fare, than serve my Lord. I have done exactly that while working at Earth Fare, and nothing less. Now that my work there is done, it’s time to go, even if it breaks my heart.

I won’t forget the people I have worked with. One time as I was putting cookies away, I asked Ricky which one was his favorite. He pointed it out, then picked one up and slammed it on the table. Very sarcastically, he said, “Oh no! It’s shrink now. Broken cookies are sad.” And like good employees would do, we ate it, laughing at how silly we were. Ricky is the same guy who gave a recently divorced woman our military discount because, as he said, “Love’s a f****** battlefield.” Another guy, Gary, stood next to me at the register one day. When I picked up a customer’s smoothie to turn around and find the code for so I could ring it up, Gary said, “Why are you drinking the customer’s smoothie?!” The customer chimed in with him, knowing it was a joke and failing to tell me. “You drank my smoothie?!” I about had a heart attack before they both started laughing.

Kombucha is pretty good, when you don’t mix it with anything. In case you’ve never heard of it, it’s fermented tea, and it’s a lot more fun to mix with a drink than salt when it comes to a prank. I loaded up Kris’ tea with some, and the reaction was priceless. And then Shannon, the only person who can laugh at “cutting the cheese” with me. If you’ve ever worked in a deli, you know it’s not THAT kind of cheese. But when a customer asks you to cut it thick, you’re gonna laugh. (Speaking of deli, people… Maybe someone can tell me what “sandwich sliced” or “just for sandwiches” means when I ask you how thick you want your deli meat cut. I’m serious. I still don’t know what that means.)

There’s the time Tina hit Greg with a wet rag, and Greg didn’t flinch while Tina walked away laughing. Then Greg said quietly, “I didn’t want her to know how bad that hurt.” And then there’s Bonnie, who’s face is way too serious to be wearing a Disney princess crown on Halloween. You got “Pockets,” whose hands you’ll rarely see. And Rob, who’s got a sweater vest for every day of the year. He’s the one who comes running the first moment something breaks. I’d never in a million years forget Shoshanna, who superglues my wrist together when I slice it open while cutting turkey, and has been an uplifting force in my life on my tougher days. And dear God, don’t forget the Man of Steel! I’ll never forget the tears shed in his office, talking about the hurts and still sharing our praises to God. Sandy was tough, but she could do anything. She was the first to rush in when help was needed. And you have to be tough when you deal with the level of crazy she does. I know. I was some of the crazy.

All such simple, silly things that we never think about. But when you realize it’s about to all be gone, you take notice. You’ll notice EVERYTHING. And you’ll miss the things you once grumbled about. I wouldn’t mind closing the store on Monday night now. I used to hate that, with a passion. Now, I’d love to.

I love EF. I always will.

Ecclesiastes says there’s a time for joy, and a time for pain; a time to cry and a time to laugh; a time for life and a time for death. My time at Earth Fare seems so short-lived. I wish it could’ve been longer. So much longer… But it’s not time for that anymore. In fact, there’s not even time to cry about it. When Mary saw that Jesus was alive, he didn’t give her time to rejoice and sing because it wasn’t time for that. He actually told her to get back to work. “Go and tell my brothers what you’ve seen.” Mary didn’t get a break. And like Jesus went town to town, never resting and always about His Father’s business, so are we to do the same. Jesus even told those who wanted to follow him, don’t go back to your families. Take up your cross and come. There’s too much work to be done. So, God… You can use me more on a bus? Let’s do it. So long, Earth Fare.

It hurts. I’ll miss it. But one thing is certain, and I hold fast to it: His love never fails. No matter what I do or where I go, He’s got me. As for tomorrow, He’s already there. Our future is His memory. And I feel like what He wants to say to you, to me, to all of us, is simple: I’ve got you, daughter. I’ve got you, son. I’m not letting go.

My last day is August 2nd. If anyone in Knoxville wants to come see me before I leave, I’ll be at deli all week!

Thank you, Sandy, Rob, Greg, Tommy, Kenny, LexAnne… You’ve been wonderful. I’ll never forget what you’ve done. Thank you. And to all my friends at Earth Fare…? You rock. Thanks for putting up with my Spongebob-like work ethic. You guys up front keep the customers happy. Ryan, make sure that deli stays up to James standard. And to the customers who have subscribed to this website, insisted on coming through my line, and kept up with my crazy life and silly antics, thank you. Never thought I’d give Ricky competition! You guys are awesome.

I love you, Earth Fare! Catch me on the road sometime. I’ll see you soon.

Jesus is my BFF!

We never forget our first BFF, do we?

I met Shelby in first grade. And from day one, we were tight. You couldn’t pry us apart with a crowbar. When she moved to Michigan in fifth grade, we made plans to sneak me in the backseat underneath a blanket so we could stay together.

We were always wearing the “Best Friends” jewelry. One necklace or bracelet said one word, and the other piece the next word. You’ve seen those. In school, we weren’t just Jessica and Shelby. We were Jessica-AND-Shelby, always and forever. Amen. So when she gave me a ring for my birthday, I treasured it. It wasn’t anything fancy. It was, at best, made of iron. I couldn’t tell you now. It’s been years. But I distinctively remember how it came around my finger to form a heart. I wore it everywhere until it turned my little fingers green. I never took it off.

Going to the store? Poor cashiers. “Look at my ring! My best friend gave it to me!” Teachers? “It’s from Shelby!” Doctor? “Yeah. It turns my finger green. But it’s special!” Everyone, everywhere, knew I loved my ring, and it came from my very best friend.

One day in fourth grade, I took my ring off to wash my hands. When I dried my hands and threw my towel away, the ring got thrown out with it. When I got back to the classroom and realized it was gone, I was frantic. I begged my teacher to let me go look for it, but she said I would have to wait until recess.

When the bell rang, I ran to the bathroom. Shelby was right behind me. Knowing we were both going to miss recess to look for my ring, she still wanted to help. And for the next thirty minutes, we dig through trash and more trash trying to find it. But the most profound moment, which I’m sure God ordained all those years prior to this message, is when Shelby said the strangest thing. Word for word, I remember it very clearly. When I told her she would miss recess if she helped me, she said, “I’ll look with you forever.”

When baby Christians are first born, it’s so exciting to watch them, isn’t it? They wear their Jesus boldly and proudly, and you see them approach life like they could swing over hell on a wet noodle. Praise God for their joy! But then, the ins and outs of life take place… Whether you’ve walked with God for decades upon decades, or known Him for only a short time, most of us have, at some time or another, taken that beautiful thing that we once so cherished and tossed it aside. It’s part of our human, fleshy, and selfish side that chooses to miss “just one” Sunday, or “just one” devotional time. Suddenly, “just one” turns into so many that by the time you notice you’re on the wrong path, you don’t know where you are or how you managed to get so far.

Fortunately for our human selves, we have a loving, merciful, gracious Father who loves us enough to set us back on the right path; a Father who, in His perfect love and justness, is willing to dig through the trash of our lives, no matter how long it takes, to find the treasure we lost in our carelessness. He loves us so much that, even when we take our inheritance and spend it on worthless things, and then return with nothing and begging to be a servant because we aren’t worthy of the title of a son or daughter, He welcomes us home. He places the family ring on our finger, throws a party in heaven, and exclaims ecstatically, “My child is home.”

Shelby and I, sadly, haven’t seen each other in thirteen years. A piece of my heart still longs to see her again, and I hope someday I do. There’s always a very special place in your heart for your first best friend. Just recently, I was thinking, if we have friends willing to dig through the trash with us to find a silly iron ring, how much more is our Heavenly Father willing to do for us to bring us home?

Wherever you are in this life, whatever path you’re on, if you’re a wayward kid or if you’re Jesus’ sidekick, know this: God is willing to meet you wherever you are, in whatever situation, and He will dig through the remnants with you, even if it means digging through bathroom trash. He’s willing to go that far for you because He LOVES you. Yes, even you, you who is thinking, “You don’t understand, Jessie. I’ve gone way too far,” or “I’m too damaged.”

You want to know a secret? You’re right. You’re too damaged, and you’ve gone way too far. Praise God. When you’re damaged goods or a wretched sinner, you get to experience Jesus. Aren’t you glad you’re not perfect?

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PS. Where’s Waldo? Forget that! Where’s Jessie? First one to find me in this fourth grade picture of my class and comment with the right answer gets the first ever “Guitar Leg” giveaway! What’s the prize? You’ll just have to win to find out! (Family and friends, and everyone I went to elementary school with, is out of luck. Sorry! It just wouldn’t be fair.)

Holy Shock, Batman!

Apparently, there’s this new invention that’s making headlines and raising eyebrows. Brace yourselves.

Do you remember the shock collars for dogs? Now, they’re making one for humans in bracelet form. It’s supposed to train your mind to help break a habit. Like, if you were biting your nails, the bracelet would zap you, thereby creating a conditioned response. You’ll associate biting your nails with pain, and it won’t be appealing anymore. And don’t worry. Your friends can back you up, because there’s an app with the bracelet that enables your friends to help you stay on track. Right… If I found myself in such a position that I needed a shock bracelet, I would never trust my friends. Ever. I’d be shocked for blinking. Nothing about the idea of your friends having the ability to electrocute you sounds like a good idea. It sounds evil.

We’ve all got our habits and trademark moves that inhibit us in some form or another. I’m a nail biter and knuckle cracker, neither of those habits which I’ll be investing in a shock bracelet to kick. But on a deeper level, let’s get personal. I’m a runner. I don’t run from people when they need me. That’s not it. I run from painful situations. I run until I’m out of sight. I don’t want to deal with it. Running is easier than facing reality, easier than suffering. Its a simple solution; pretend it’s not happening, and run like hell. I probably deserve the title of cowardly.

I have faults upon faults, and bad habits to boot. You want to know a secret? My feet stink. No amount of baking soda has cured it yet. I’m lazy. I’d rather sit and watch television for five hours straight than take twenty minutes to clean house. I look freakin’ awful in every swimsuit available. Yesterday, I accidentally walked out of the store and paid for only one of two things I got, and when I realized the mistake, I didn’t go back in to pay for it. My tags are about to expire, and I have no way to get any for another month. I chug energy drinks like there’s no tomorrow. I could go on and on.

The beautiful thing to be found in all of our faults is this: Jesus didn’t come for the perfect people. He came for us, for our faults. And by the cross, our faults are reconciled. He bore our punishment for our shortcomings. He didn’t have to do it. He really didn’t. Scripture tells us that he could’ve called angels to come take him down from the cross, but he chose to die. And for what? Us. Yes, all of us, despite our bad habits and mistakes and bitterness. Despite your running, your anger, your hurts, your sins, your cruelty, your transgressions, he saved us. And the blood of Jesus is way, way more effective than a shock bracelet.