Jesus Follower | Word Stringer | Avocado Eater

Back to Work, Back to Reality

 

His calm voice sounded kind, but his words surprised me. 

“We’re spending too much and not bringing in enough. I think we need you to start working.”

My husband was right, mostly, but the hardest part of his comment was that I already feel like I work. I wish my writing provided a full-time, regular income, but while keeping up a blog and writing a book pushes me forward, neither are helping our bottom line at the moment.

I countered with logic. “I’m happy to work a conventional job, but don’t you think we could just cut some corners and spend less?”

“Maybe a little, but I want to go out to lunch with friends after church. And go to family camp in the summers. And go to a concert here and there. And… and… and.…”

I hid my rolling eyes. “I do too, but we sound like spoiled rich gringos trying to live the American dream. How’s this going to look? We’re fresh off the mission field!”

He stared at me so I stopped whining and started brainstorming.

“Should I work at Trader Joe’s? Might get a food discount. Or I could be a writer for Trader Joe’s! Ooo, that would be rad. Have you read their Fearless Flyer? It’s hilarious. Their snark and double-entendres are right up my alley.”

He shifted gears, unamused. “You should start a decluttering and organizational business.”

“Yeah, I’ve thought about that, but the amount of jet fuel I need to start feels daunting. I don’t love asking friends and family for help, and if I’m giving them discounts in exchange for recommendations and endorsements, I wouldn’t be making much money for a while. Plus, I don’t want to fly solo—I want a business partner.”

Excuses piled so I shifted gears too and continued to mull. A couple months later I contacted an acquaintance who owns a catering company.

Fall is her busiest wedding season and December brings a crazy amount of corporate Christmas parties, sometimes seven days in a row, so she gladly took me on.

My husband looked skeptical.

“Sure you want to do this with your back? On your feet all day?”

“I waitressed for six years and I go for lots of walks—I’ll be fine.”

“This isn’t exactly a career. Don’t you want to do the decluttering and organizational thing?”

“You asked me to get a job. I’m just trying this out for a few months during her busy season.”

We discussed the pros and cons and finally agreed catering would bring faster money at the moment.

Off I went in search of black shoes, a white dress shirt, and black pants. 

My first event sat on the calendar, mocking me. Nerves jiggled while I anticipated how the night might go. Confidence rose and fell while I self-talked my way through the day.

It’s not biochem, Carrie. Offer them an appetizer, hand them a napkin, hold still and smile. 

Yes, but I haven’t worked a conventional job for almost two decades. 

You’ve organized people’s closets and pantries, taught seminars, written articles, and edited websites. 

I mean jobs where I put on a uniform, clock in, keep strangers happy and clock out. What if I forget I don’t know the bride or groom and start chatting with the guests?

 

Event #1 – Small Wedding in Wine Country

I donned my new penguin look, left our empty house, and drove away alone. 

The urge to text a couple people at stoplights crossed my mind, but I felt foolish. What would I say?

“Nervous! Going back to work for the first time in 17 years….”

“Pray for me! First regular job since 2001….”

“Cali is pricey, so off to work I go….”

I resisted for fear of sounding wimpy, looking for attention. What if they text back, “You’re gonna be great!” but are actually thinking, 

“Welcome to my life.”

Or, “It’s about time.”

Or, “Good luck, rookie.”

 

1st Assignment: clean the kitchen counters at the venue.

Easy peasy. Do it every day. No sweat. 

 

2nd Assignment: help prep the appetizers.

 

I can do that. I don’t serve bruschetta or meatball sliders at home, but I totally could. 

 

3rd Assignment: organize rolls.

Bring it on, Dough Boy. 

And then it was time. I balanced a serving board with slippery crusty bread, fanned a pile of black cocktail napkins, and walked toward the crowd of hungry guests.

“Bruschetta?”

“Bruschetta on a toasted baguette?”

“Would you like some bruschetta?” 

Everyone seemed happy to see me food. Most thanked me. Until I passed one guy and all I heard was, “Hey!”

And another guy who yelled, “Bruschetta!”

Humility comes in super handy when you’re working in customer service. 

Is your job thankless? 

  • If you’re feeding, burping and changing a baby, yes. 
  • If you’re raising teens, probably.
  • If you’re helping ailing parents, maybe.

Why do you think humans like to be thanked? It sounds fabulous in our ears, but is that why we work hard?

 

Event #2 – Large Wedding w/Drizzle & Mud

The mother of the bride asked female servers to wear black flats—no tennis shoes. 

I’m not sure if that’s an illegal request, but clearly, she doesn’t work on her feet. 

I donned my same penguin look and left the house at 1:15 with lipstick, black boots, fresh hair and a pep in my step, ready to bring home the pesos.

Eight hours later my feet hated me. Like, passionately.

Though I couldn’t remember the verse, much less where it was found, I caught myself silently repeating parts of Colossians 3 while tipped over a trash can, scraping 180 plates of wasted food and saliva. 

“… as unto the Lord.”

“… working for God, not man.”

“… do your best.”

 

Spin the clock to 11:15. I walked back through our door with flat hair, no lipstick, and foot bones that seemed to smack the concrete with every painful step. 

Minus drive time, that’s nine hours of setting, prepping, serving, smiling, pouring, scooping, wiping, hustling, gathering, walking, tossing, lifting, scraping, washing and drying.

Not exactly like sitting in a chair, sipping tea and typing.

I climbed on our bathroom counter, soaked my piggies in salted hot water and fell into bed, feeling 92 and slightly discouraged.

How come nobody else’s feet ached?

Should I keep doing this?

Maybe a pedometer would at least give me a sense of accomplishment. 

 

Who Do You Work For?

I’ve read other versions of these verses so much I barely pause to absorb the meaning. The Message version hits me with a different perspective:

“Servants, do what you’re told by your earthly masters. And don’t just do the minimum that will get you by. Do your best. Work from the heart for your real Master, for God, confident you’ll get paid in full when you come into your inheritance. Keep in mind always that the ultimate Master you’re serving is Christ. The sullen servant who does shoddy work will be held responsible. Being a follower of Jesus doesn’t cover up bad work.”

Colossians 3:23-25 (MSG)

 

Gut Check

I feel fortunate to have stayed home while my kids were little. And though I’m grateful to have a flexible job, humility stares me down, for my new reality includes the following:

  • I am a servant. 
  • My new boss is 17 years younger than I. 
  • Most people don’t acknowledge hired help. 

 

Is someone asking you to try something new?

Are you stuck in a challenging job?

If you’re a Christian, are you working from the heart for your real Boss? I’m trying! If you are too, tell me in the comments. 

 

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20 Responses to Back to Work, Back to Reality

  1. Carrie! I love reading your blog. It’s charming, witty and entirely relatable yet challenging at the same time. I can’t wait to read your book, and buy it and send you money to support this dream–the dream God has given you to use the gift of writing so evident in your blog.

  2. What a great encouragement & challenge Carrie!! & congrats on the job, been there done that. It is TOUGH physically and emotionally, being “on” for that many hours can be exhausting! I’ve been in a season of heart shift with my business and {trying to} surrender it to Him daily, asking Him to cross my path with the right people and giving me eyes to see them as His children first and foremost. It’s been really beautiful and I’m finding that I love what I’m doing even more the more I invite Him into it. Thanks for sharing about your new endeavors ❤️

    • Great reminder, Kelly–inviting God into what I’m doing instead of just going through the motions. Amazing how He can bring a peace and satisfaction (and even joy!) to the mundane when we make the work about Him and not us. SO much easier said than done, but at least I’m aware of it. Thanks for reading!

  3. I lived this as well! About 10 years ago my husband uttered similar words and I found a catering job. I was blessed to be able to bring a dear friend along with me and oh boy did that help! The de-briefs after some of those events were epic. But it is such hard physical work! The only thing harder was a short seasonal stint in the bakery at Costco! Take that one off your bucket list right now and thank me later. What a blessing you will be to those you work with and those you serve – just a new mission field. Be kind to yourself after your long nights and invest in good shoes for those precious feet! Can’t wait to cross paths again (hopefully at MH) and compare war, I mean catering stories. And BTW the friend continued with her own twist on a catering business where she offers her services to help hostesses in their own home put their parties together, serve during the party & clean up afterward – no catering per se, just lots of help which might include takeout pick up, finishing food the hostess gets started, etc. The company is aptly called “Enjoy Your Own Party”. Enjoy the experience, and the tips! And please don’t let the writing slip away!!!

    • Catering twins! Thanks for the Costco bakery tip. I don’t have a bucket list, but I really feel like you just saved me from some bad muffin stories. Yep–definitely a new mission field. I love what your friend is doing with “Enjoy Your Own Party.” Brilliant! The tips are few and far between, but that’s ok. I don’t think the writing will slip away as long as I’m catering. Too much random stuff to write about! 🙂 Thanks for chiming in, Robin. I always love your insights.

  4. Ive worked retail but not food apart from one day at a camp. Sounds fun and daunting. For a while i did serve as an amature wedding coordinator….wedding are hard. Here’s hoping the party crowd is more fun. Just think of all the book fodder. 😂

    • Retail can be rough too ’cause it’s still customer service. An amateur wedding coordinator–love it! Yes, weddings are hard work but can also be fun. We had a live band right outside our kitchen this weekend (check my Insta video) so that was cool. The party crowd is more fun compared to a boring crowd, but the gallons of alcohol they bring is what causes the issues. I have zero need to be hit on by old guys or drunk guys ever again. Eww.

  5. Amen and right on! Its not a popular parenting idea but I have often wanted to make it mandatory that my kids work in fast food or some such job. It’s good for the soul I tell them; and often repeat my great-grandmother’s words quote “idle time is the devil’s workshop”. You chose well, bring in money right away. The business will not pay off immediately and requires you to work unending hours in the beginning.

    • Right? I wouldn’t necessarily want my kids at McDonald’s, but Chick-Fil-A would be fine. 🙂
      Thanks for the nod about choosing to bring in $ right away. I still want to do the decluttering and organizing, but there are definitely more obstacles. God’s timing!

  6. Thanks for sharing this step in your journey! Getting started on a business or something like it is SO hard and really messy and moments like these, doing jobs you don’t really care for can feel isolating and frustrating. I love hearing how even in the struggle you are practicing to serve Jesus and not just wedding guests. A wise woman once told me, practice makes permanent. I used to tell that to clients when I ran a shelter about attitude, lifestyle changes and healthy habits. I feel like it applies here too! Praying for you in this season!

    • Yes! Practice makes permanent! So proud you remembered. 🙂 Now that you know how it feels to start a business, you have a totally different perspective than when you worked for someone else. But it’s all customer service, and it can all be challenging. And rewarding too! I’m grateful to work with fun people. Thanks for your kind words and for praying, Liz!

  7. For exactly three months, I worked at McDonald’s with my siblings when summer in between college and grad school. I definitely appreciated fast food Associates after that. And it was a learning experience that I’m thankful for because I empathize with the person behind the counter if they get my order wrong, and I know that they didn’t deliberately get my order wrong, they just couldn’t hear above the din behind them.

    • Great points, Tisha. Sometimes humility brings empathy or sympathy we never would have had. Ever since I waitressed as a teen I’ve thought everyone should be a server in some capacity. You just don’t know how it feels to be on the other side of that counter, pitcher, tray, etc. unless you’ve been there. Thanks for stopping by!

        • Richer indeed. I’m guessing this would apply to any blue collar-type work. SO needed but rarely appreciated or celebrated. I hope my kids work in some sort of challenging job just for the character-building aspect. 🙂 Thanks, Tisha!

  8. My one and only watressing job was the the Herm. I remember Saturday night buffet and allllllll the dishes and mess. I don’t think we got finished until way after 11. Long LONG evening. It helped build comradery. And the next weekend was better and eventually we got into the swing of things. Because of my disability, I’m unable to work, so to make it financially, we are cutting the corners off with our budget. You’d be surprised what you actually need and can get away with less of. It’s humbling as well. Hang in there. Hugs and love to you!

    • Yeah, after six years in the MH Dining Room I was done. D-U-N. Getting up in the dark during the winter to serve breakfast was a great character-builder, but I can’t say I miss it. You’re right about the comradery though–fun to bond behind the scenes at the events. I’m sorry you’re still unable to work. My idea was to cut corners too, but then I realize my husband is right–I would miss going on vacation, eating out on Sundays, etc. Then I flip back to our 12 years in a poor Mexican town and I feel like such an entitled American. Sheesh. My brain. Thanks for your insights, friend!

  9. I nannied, worked in a picture framing shop, and a clothing store, and even ran a tea and coffee shop in Vancouver, then I had 4 kids. Therefore, I do my best to DRIP gratitude toward those who serve me, because while the vast majority of people are polite, some take rudeness and entitlement to Olympic levels. And nobody can comprehend being on their feet all day unless they’ve worked a job on their feet all day. I try to be gracious and kind at conferences or weddings or big events because the people working there are quite aware that they are the help. I’m impressed that you’re woman enough to do this job.

    • Dripping gratitude… I like it. 🙂 Your jobs sound interesting and kinda fun–especially the tea and coffee shop–but since they all revolve around customer service and being on your feet, I know they’re hard work. I find the kindest people are usually ones who have worked in the industry… or who are just kind to everyone always. Thanks for chiming in, Jennifer!

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