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.

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