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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Porch

Some of you may have heard about the shooting in Dyersburg a few weeks ago involving Todd and Susan Randolph and a precious girl they allowed to stay in their home for a few days while police investigated charges against her father. In a tragic series of events, the father went to the Randolph's home and shot and killed Todd and the girl (his own daughter). He also severely wounded Susan before leaving and killing himself in a nearby field. The story is beyond sad.

This past Sunday, Susan, now healing, came by Java Cafe along with a few members of her family. Honestly I didn't realize it was her until she approached the counter and said, "Hi I'm Susan Randolph." She proceeded to tell me that Todd and her, along with their five year old son, had spent an afternoon at Ja Ja's before the shooting. With tears in her eyes she continued to tell me how special that time was and, now, will always be. One of her last memories of Todd is of him holding her son's hand and coming around the back side of the porch after leading him around Green Frog Village. She simply said she wanted to thank me for that memory. I was speechless.

Yesterday we had a manager's meeting at my home here in Dyersburg and I asked my managers to share their high points of the last month. The manager's position is quite challenging and often involves hard conversations with employees, tedious details, long hours, and the wisdom of Solomon and the patience of Paul. I listened to them celebrate small but wonderful things like transformations in employees, supply sources working out, and new additions to the team. I then proceeded to tell them about Susan's visit and her experience at Ja Ja's. It took me awhile because I cried trying to tell it. I finished by reminding them to take time to look around the store when things feel a little crazy because there are often beautiful things happening in the middle of chaos. Watching a kid passionately tackle an ice cream cone or a couple have a conversation over a cup of coffee is worth taking note of. My dream has always been we would become an oasis from the harsh realities a life, a place to unwind, a place to think, and place to recharge.

I still remember last July when I bought Ja Ja's and the Green Frog Coffee Co. adventure began. I spent a lot of time on that porch thinking about my own future. The following fall I cooked quite a few pots of chili and stew out on that little porch. Payroll was small back then and so where my worries.

Although we still stir our stew and chili with a boat paddle, we now stir them in a commercial kitchen. We are growing but clinging to our roots. I've never thought about it before but one reason I love our menu so much is the recipes preserve a part of my own personal past. As much as I change, our food keeps me connected to my childhood. When I have a bowl of chili I think back to Saturday evenings watching Hee Haw after a long fall day of cutting firewood. When I have a bowl of stew I think back to cold, snowy days and wet clothes. Those were simple times,but good times.

I've thought a lot about the nightmare of events that happened to Susan's family and what she said to me about helping her preserve a part of her past. I used to believe Green Frog's success would be measured in dollars but now after talking to Susan I'd say she has reminded me my dreams have already come true.



Thursday, August 20, 2009

THIS TOO SHALL COME TO PASS

I remember often hearing my mother say these words during the trials of motherhood. Perhaps she was concerned, worried, or probably just tired and ready for bed. My father worked two jobs as a farmer and a firefighter to allow my mother the chance to plant herself at home in the lives of my two sisters and I. It was a phenomenal gift of sacrifice, from both of them.

Now, I know we lived closer to the edge than I was ever aware of as a child. I assumed our biggest problem was never running out of ketchup. I had no idea there were heart wrenching conversations and decisions always being made behind bedroom doors. But somehow, we survived, still precariously in love with one another. And by the way, we always had ketchup.

I realize that due to to the recession many families are currently in distress. I am sure the situation feels overwhelming, or even terrifying, and a rescue seems unlikely. Perhaps there is no immediate solution and thus the motivation to fight becomes a challenge to muster. Please keep in mind that all those things my parents couldn't afford that "guaranteed" I would fit in, now lay in ten cent piles at yard sales. What did survive, and will survive, the test of time is the fact that my mother was there when I got off the bus. No matter how much kids cry about wanting a cell phone or wanting a car, what they need is simply the presence of a loving parent. I cried about not having cool shoes and a new car too when I was younger. Now that I am older those precious memories of my childhood with a mother at home bring tears to my eyes.

I called my parents last night to discover Joan of Arc (my mother) had passed out and fallen. Timex (my father) found her crumpled on the floor with one eye open. It was scary. I had temporarily forgotten how fragile they have become, maybe even how fragile we all are. I went to bed thinking and when I woke up this morning I walked out on my front porch and looked westward at a dark gray sky as a storm approached. Stretching from north to south was the perfect prism of color. I stood transfixed with the words of my mother, "This too shall come to pass," running through my mind. It was a moment I'll never forget.

No matter how big our problems are, no matter how gray the sky may be, this too shall pass. As many of you know our Mennonites moved to Nova Scotia with an axe and plans to build a new community leaving us without a supply of ice cream mix. We literally ran out of ice cream in the middle of August. This is like a Chinese restaurant running out of rice on the noon buffet! We found a new supplier and we are making ice cream again. This too shall come to pass.

I've been in a spiritual funk lately and it hasn't been good. I thrive on discovery and get bored when there are no new challenges in Scripture. Of course, there are hundreds but I dodge these because they would push me out of my comfort zone. I want 3o minutes of fun challenge with a clear conclusion, like an episode of Andy Griffith. Yet life tends to be this epic struggle with vague instructions and few trophies. But occasionally we come clearly face to face with who we are and who He is, and we are astonished at two things: our pathetic love for God and his passionate love for his prodigal children. I've been reading books, searching the Internet, listening to Christian radio, etc and it was a rainbow that finally brought me to my senses. I should have known- I eat a lot of Skittles.

This doesn't have a whole lot to do with Green Frog Coffee Co other than the fact that we are cranking our ice cream production back up. But I thought you might want to know the owner is human like you, scared at times like you, desperately searching like you. And you also might want to know the woman who created that stew you love is recovering in her lift chair with a diet coke and ginger snaps. Remember: this too shall come to pass. Until then, eat more ice cream, and if you get cold grab a bowl of Joan of Arc's stew!

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