Mall Tears

If you’re not in it you won’t quite understand. Maybe surface level you do but when your dreams and livelihood are on the line it hits differently.

Starting a business is an often overwhelming, frightening, and lonely experience. It doesn’t matter how many family members and friends you have supporting you. Or how many mentors from different areas of expertise to guide you. It’s a lot. So when people ask me how it’s going and are all excited to hear the progress it can be really hard to explain where I’m at and why it’s taking so long to get to the “next step”.

Yesterday I had a day off so I planned to devote a large amount of time working on pruning my business plan and continuing to get into the nitty-gritty of the financials. I started off fine and productive but slowly morphed into being completely unmotivated and annoyed with myself. Even with all the ways I was distracting myself, I was avoiding leaving the house and getting to Mass. Finally, I convinced myself to head to the mall to try and use a Bath & Body Works gift card I was given for Christmas. I figured if I could get myself to do that then I’d get myself to the 6:15 Mass too. Well, on my drive there my mind started spiraling down a rabbit hole of all the ways my various desires could never line up and how I was just going to be lonely, working all the time, and perpetually in a state of physical and mental exhaustion. As I pulled into a parking space there were tears streaming down my face. Annoyed with myself as this seems to be a more regular occurrence for me these days I let the song finish playing, wiped my tears, and walked into the mall.

As soon as I walked in I passed two women and the only thing I heard them exclaim was, “It’s God!” as one of them exited the store. I almost went up to the other woman to ask why she had said that because I wanted some confirmation of God working in people’s lives. But I didn’t and I kept walking.

Not sure where the store was, I took a right out of Macy’s to try and find it. About halfway down the hall out of the corner of my eye I see the word “Charismata” on a storefront. I do a double take and notice the dove paired with it. I immediately thought of the Holy Spirit but with a woman on my heels I just kept walking. As I reached the end I realized the Bath & Body Works wasn’t there so I turned around. This time I went into the Charismata store and quickly realized it was a Christian based clothing company.

A man emerged from the back and greeted me. I asked if he owned the store to which he replied that he did. With a smile on my face I praised him for it. He thanked me and began sharing a bit of his story and how they’d been there since July. Again, I praised him and acknowledged that it is not easy to follow the promptings of the Spirit and open a business like his. To this he asked if I was doing something similar which I responded by sharing the dream of the Catholic café. Now the tables turned and he began encouraging me. My eyes started to water a little as I received what he was saying. Then he went on to say that the devil is going to try to stop me and that I can’t let him get a foothold in my thinking. And now the waterworks just started free flowing. I explained to him that I had been having a really tough day with it all and was feeling so discouraged. His encouragement continued but then he paused and said I needed to focus on the Bible verse, “I believe, help my unbelief.” (Mark 9:24) At this my jaw dropped and my hand went up as I exclaimed that that’s my favorite Bible verse! (You can even see I have it listed on the About page of this blog)

I asked if we could hug and he said he was going to ask the same thing. So we hugged and I asked for his name. Carlos. Carlos then offered to pray over me. In the middle of a mall with tears streaming down my face, a complete stranger put his arm around me and prayed for my strength and that the Holy Spirit would come upon me with His wisdom and protection. That I may be armed with the shield of faith, helmet of salvation, and sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. (Ephesians 6:16-17) I wish I could share the peace with you that I felt after this encounter.

Carlos shared that he had almost closed the store early that day because it had been so slow but he decided against it. It hasn’t been the easiest road for him either but he knows that the Lord is guiding him and will provide. Last night the Lord did that for the both of us I think.

 

    1. After going to the mall for a distraction and some lotion I instead left with a smile on my face, happy tears in my eyes, a new t-shirt proclaiming God’s mercy for a 1000 generations, and the beautiful witness of Carlos’ trust in the movements of the Spirit fueling my soul.

I’ve known this journey wouldn’t be an easy one but to be honest when God told me to quit my job and go for this there really wasn’t any hesitation or doubt at all. I thought there was no way my fire for following His will would wane. I failed to consider my own shortcomings and the circumstances of life that we can’t control. Thankfully, I’m serving a God who understands me, foresees it all, and already has His fingerprint on every single detail including the many divine meetings like this one that He has and will continue to provide along the way.

So if you’re wondering how it’s going, know that it’s really challenging and draining to figure out this puzzle but that I’m not stopping. Whether it takes 6 months or 10 years, if God’s still asking me to journey down this path then I’m going to keep fighting for it and fighting off the lies of the devil until it comes to fruition. I’ve been made aware of the desires of my heart that the evil one has found it easier to manipulate and discourage me through. Those tactics are only going to ramp up the deeper I get into this which means I need to fortify myself even deeper in prayer. Carlos’ prayer reminded me of an Armor Prayer that a friend sent me back in 2020. I found it in the notes on my phone and will be praying this consistently now. I’ll share it below.

If you’re struggling to get out of the same cycle or find yourself making minimal progress, I encourage you to first, be kind and patient with yourself. God often makes us wait in order to show us areas in our lives where we need to depend on Him more than we depend on ourselves before we can fully receive that gift He is so desperately waiting to give us. Second, is to put on the armor of God which comes from investing in a relationship with Him. This armor is not out of fear but rather for strength. We are battling evil in this world and it is only prideful to think we can defeat it (him) by our own will and strength. God’s plan is much more thorough and successful than our own even if sometimes it looks like retreating, taking a “wrong” turn, or letting go of something good in order to have open hands for something better.

This is a long post so bless you if you’ve made it to the end but on the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul I’m grateful for Paul’s witness of constant conversion and an openness to the Lord even when it goes against everything he thought he knew. May St. Paul and his letters (such as Ephesians) be a guiding force in your own life and give you the courage of the Spirit to follow whichever path your Father in Heaven is asking you to follow Him along each day.

“Put on the armor of God so that you may be able to stand firm against the tactics of the devil…So stand fast with your loins girded in truth, clothed with righteousness as a breastplate, and your feet shod in readiness for the gospel of peace. In all circumstances, hold faith as a shield, to quench all [the] flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” Ephesians 6:11, 14-17

P.S. Go follow Carlos’ business @charismata.apparel on Instagram for encouragement and all his awesome apparel or stop in the Auburn Mall to pick up something for yourself or someone you love!

This is me no makeup and puffy eyes from crying but full of joy because of how God spoke to me through Carlos!

 

  1. To Put On the Armor of God
    In the name of Jesus, We put on the whole armor of God, that We may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil; for We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, powers, the rulers of the darkness of this world, and spiritual wickedness in high places.
    Therefore, We take unto Ourselves the whole armor of God, that We may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. We stand, therefore, having Our loins girt about with truth. Your Word, Lord, which is truth, contains all the weapons of Our warfare, which are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds.
    We have on the breastplate of righteousness, which is faith and love. Our feet are shod with the preparation of the Gospel of peace. In Christ Jesus We have peace and pursue peace with all men. We Are Ministers of reconciliation, proclaiming the good news of the Gospel.
    We take the shield of faith, wherewith We Are able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked; the helmet of salvation (holding the thoughts, feelings, and purpose of God’s heart); and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. In the face of all trials, tests, temptations, and tribulation, We cut to pieces the snare of the enemy by speaking the Word of God. Greater is He that is in Us than he that is in the world.
    Thank You, Father, for the armor. We will pray at all times — on every occasion, in every season — in the Spirit, with all [manner of] prayer and entreaty. To that end We will keep alert and watch with strong purpose and perseverance, interceding on behalf of all the saints. Our power and ability and sufficiency are from God Who has qualified Us as Ministers and Dispensers of a new covenant [of salvation through Christ]. Amen.
Barista

 

What I’ve Learned So Far

A little over two months in VA and the question is usually…

What have you learned so far?

Well… a lot. This is just going to skim the surface but here’s a bit of an overview.

Bar / Barista

From what a café dos leches is to how to make a double shot cappuccino with extra foam to how to determine the right coarseness of the grinds for an espresso shot, my knowledge base of all things coffee has grown exponentially. Words like portafilter and tamper no longer make my head spin and steaming milk to the right temperature and consistency no longer gives me anxiety. I’ve “successfully” made a painfully weak chai latte for my boss and so now I will never make that mistake again. While all that is not saying much since my knowledge was prettyyyy limited, I’m impressed with myself nonetheless. If I can learn these things- anyone can! (Cue casual hint to anyone who may want to join me in this endeavor 😉).

Kitchen / Cook

If we head into the kitchen, I’ve learned what’s easy to make, what’s a pain in the butt to make, the intricacies of the cooking, heating, and cooling health code requirements for foods, and have gotten into a rhythm of determining when things need to be defrosted and cooked based on when certain items are going out and how much time is left until closing (circle back to health code requirements). Inventory is another delicate dance that keeps you on your toes but I have yet to tackle that one.

Market / Shop

In the market/shop, I’ve learned how important that form of supplemental income is, a general idea of which products sell well, and how much work it takes to know when to order items, how many to order, and where to order them from. This is another area I’m looking to dive a little deeper into.

Employee Relationships

Something else that I’ve witnessed throughout my 2 months is employee relationships with each other, with customers, and with management. Even in different fields, much of it has been very similar. It’s been really great to see how certain needs, crazy scenarios, and let’s call them opinionated customers have been handled across the board by the staff. From fridges breaking down to a light switch catching on fire to staff not feeling well during their shift, there’s never a shortage of thinking and problem solving on your feet. It calls you to a new level of selflessness and self-giving. But there’s also been the less stressful, more life-giving moments as well. Such as, the invention of fun new drink flavors to seeing the absolute glee on a customer’s face as they rave about the curried chicken salad or the encouragement amongst staff when sales are way up that day and praising how well everyone handled the influx of customers.

As an employee who is new to the café, new to the industry, and only staying for a limited time, I’m trying to do my best to soak up everything everyone is showing me. Interestingly, sometimes that leads to me asking questions about things that haven’t been thought about, done, or explained in a long time. This has led to some great conversations and learning experiences for me and other staff members. I’m recognizing how easy it is to fall into a routine that isn’t quite meeting the standards we’d originally set for ourselves at the start or even how some of those standards may prove unnecessary after all. In such a fast-paced environment when there’s always something to think about, this makes sense. Doing those extra tasks or rethinking how to better address XYZ rightfully get pushed to the back burner. I’m seeing how having fresh eyes that require you to slow down and talk through or explain things is such a good thing.

Deeper Reflection

Beyond these practicalities, I had another experience that actually helped me reflect on God’s mercy a little bit more. Back when I was first given this opportunity to work at Trinity House for the summer it was discussed that a month or so in I would be given a promotion to Shift Supervisor. This was something they assumed I could handle (based on my age) and would enhance my experience and reason for coming for the whole summer (based on my desire to run my own café). When I received this promotion, one of my coworkers, who has been working there a long time, was a little frustrated by this.

Now, I understood where they were coming from because I hadn’t earned this promotion in the way most employees would be required to. While reflecting on this scenario, I realized a connection to God’s mercy. His mercy is never anything that we can earn. It’s a gift that is freely given based on His generosity AND on our specific needs for that time, place, situation, etc. In addition to that, His being merciful towards one person does not negate His ability nor His desire to be merciful or generous in anyone else’s life. In all reality, my promotion did not take away from this specific employee’s chances at being promoted. It will, however, have a big effect on me and my own specific and separate mission.

This is the same with God’s grace. Someone else’s grace-filled gift, that I may not agree with based on my limited vision, really shouldn’t any negative bearing on my own life if I’m focused on my mission rather than theirs. I don’t have to understand all the intricacies behind the gift, but I do have to accept that God is the most generous giver and will give His gifts often to those who are open to receiving them (He gives even to those who aren’t- they just won’t receive them because of their full hands).

All this is to say that we waste so much time looking at other people’s lives, wanting what they have or complaining that they don’t deserve what they have, rather than actually living our own. I am not immune to this in any way. In fact, these last few weeks I’ve found myself weighed down by similar sentiments towards others who “don’t deserve” or haven’t rightly earned certain gifts they’ve been given or who may have even squandered those great gifts.

As I continue on this journey to opening a Catholic café, just know I’m figuring out this life just as imperfectly as the next person. I haven’t found my “holy grail” because I’m going after a dream, have seemingly less responsibilities (for the moment), or get to be in new places this summer, etc. My holy grail is not here. It is in Heaven. So, I will be continuing this journey with the goal of keeping my eyes set on the true end- which is not a café, a family, financial freedom, or traveling around the world- but rather on the one place where there is no need for mercy and yet mercy is the only means to arrive there.

How will you focus on the gifts God is giving YOU and how will you go a step further and thank Him for the gifts He’s given OTHERS?

P.S. Check out this fun little reel I made showing some of the  “behind-the-scenes” of  a day in the life of Melissa at Trinity House!

 

June 7th

Have you ever had something so significant happen in your life that the date is forever engraved into your mind? That date is June 7th for me.

It’s the day that changed my life forever with one phone call and two words. Those two words, “I am”, shattered my heart to pieces, but more importantly set me on a path of making decisions that would alter my life’s direction forever. Decisions to leave a ministry that I loved, decisions to painfully offer my will and desires to the Lord in place of following and wanting His, decisions to invest in myself financially, emotionally, physically, and spiritually, and decisions to follow a dream that is just crazy enough that following it only makes sense once those blind steps of faith have already been made.

June 7th, 2020 wrecked my world.
And I couldn’t be more grateful.

It loosened and revealed so many of the negative ties, attachments, and prideful ways I’d chained myself to over the years. It introduced me to what following the Lord actually means and looks like. It taught me how to pray through the immense suffering and torrential tears blocking any vision of life up ahead.

But what’s an added bonus to seeing the goodness unfold in my life since that awful day? Having God so beautifully redeem that exact date that was so painfully seared into my mind…

A little more back story- The only ounce of joy I had felt in a week following June 7th, 2020 was when I providentially came across Trinity House Café/Community on Instagram the following Saturday. It’s what re-sparked the Catholic café dream. (I’ll share more about this story in another post).

That brings us to June 7th, 2021- I was down in Maryland/Virginia visiting friends and family as I got ready to attend the GIVEN Institute Forum. Without planning it, of all the days I was there, I found myself in VA visiting Trinity House Café for the second time ever on June 7th. I took these photos and captioned them with these words- already feeling the redemption of that date one year later.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


  1. I was blown away by this gift as the pains of that day a year earlier were still reverberating within me.

  2.  

Today, June 7th, 2022, I sit in further awe of God’s goodness, vision, and generosity. I find myself in Virginia again, having quit my job, moved down here for the summer, investing in my dream, and ready to take on my first shift as a barista at Trinity House Café tomorrow and incredibly gung-ho about learning all that goes into running a Catholic café! Once again- this was completely unplanned because if you knew my schedule (leave job on 3rd, do a Tough Mudder on 4th, drive to VA on 6th, drive back up to MA on 16th and back to VA on 19th) it’s quite clear this was not the most convenient of times to get down here! Despite all that, my jaw dropped when I realized the coincidence (God-incidence) with this date once again.

The worst day of my life is being redeemed two times over with an incredible dream I never would have dared fathom would actually come true. And to be honest, even with all the unknowns still surrounding this dream, I’ve never felt more at peace than I do now. (Ok, I definitely have nerves about tomorrow and all of it because I’m HUMAN but overwhelmingly it’s peace and excitement 🤪).

All of this is to say, I don’t know what you’re going through or have gone through but if you have a June 7th in your life (whether that’s an actual date or a person, place, memory, phrase, song, etc.)- ask God to redeem it. He 100% will and He’ll blow your mind with how He does it!

View from my last trip to Virginia

I Did a Thing…

I did a thing…

I quit my job and I’m moving.

That sounds pretty dramatic and well, it is and it isn’t.

I wondered if the time would ever truly come for me to share this with the world. Now the day is here, so grab a cup of coffee (or tea) and settle in!

No, quitting my job and moving is not that dramatic because I’m not actually leaving until the end of this month. This wasn’t some “peace out, watch me jaunt away” kind of scenario. I thought and prayed long and hard about when I would leave my job and God led me to this timing. I tried to leave at other times, hence the “Be Still” verses being a favorite of His for me haha. When I finally acquiesced to His timing it seemed like the end of this academic year was where His “ready, set, GO” was culminating. My original plan was to give my notice after Easter so I could tell the students in person but to stay until the end of June. In an ironic twist, God’s call to “be still” in this situation was apparently no more and He actually moved up my departure date even sooner. I sure love His irony 😊 It’s His irony that brings me to the moving part…

Again, not as dramatic as it sounds because while I will be moving 8 hours away, it’s only for the summer and then I’ll be back up here. (That is unless God has something else in store but that’s NOT my plan. And yet, I have to be ready for anything because I’ve seen where clinging to “my” plan gets me 😉).

So now that I’ve knocked down the drama level a bit, there actually is quite a bit of drama behind all of this too.

I’m not just leaving my job and moving for the sake of something new. Far from it. Every bit of this is God-ordained and dates back nearly 2 years (really more but we’ll start there).

 

  1. To cut to the chase, I am pursing the call and personal desire to open a Catholic café in MA!

 

What’s a Catholic café? I’m glad you asked 😉 My tagline is this: A place of beauty that provides community, nourishment, and simple encounters with God.

Building community, especially faith communities, has always been a passion of mine. I’ve also always loved the café vibe and the space it can provide for friendship, reflection, innovation, and joy. That mixed with the absolute beauty of the Catholic faith and its ability to introduce you to God in such unique ways feels like the perfect fit. And come to find out, God agrees!

When I tell you that I never would have actually gone for this dream if it were just mine, I’m not kidding. It would’ve remained a pipe dream that I brought up in starry eyed conversations until the day I died (and then it would’ve disappeared completely!). It wasn’t until God elevated it to a dream He had for me that things shifted and I began intentionally and deeply pursing this.

That all began nearly 2 years ago with a random thought about this old dream and then providentially coming across Trinity House Café on Instagram. And that’s where we come to the moving part…

I’ll explain more of the Trinity House backstory in another post but it’s a Catholic café in Virginia where I’ll be working this summer! I’ve been in contact with the owners, Soren and Ever Johnson, since Summer 2020 and they beyond graciously offered me a job with them as a barista and the chance to learn all I possibly can about running a café. I’d also like to point out that this was offered to me after I had already decided to leave my current job and live off savings for a bit. God is so good and when we surrender to Him, He always provides in ways above and beyond what we could have ever imagined.

So, that’s my big dramatic news- 2 years in the making. Now you know the dream I’ve been elusively mentioning 😊 I cannot wait to share more about the 2-year process in getting here and how it is all going to continue to unfold!

I invite you to follow along through this blog and IG page and to pleaseeee pray for me as I transition out of one dream and take a big step into the next one- into my own Jordan River, trusting God will fight for me and part the sea after my obediently being still these last 2 years.

Exodus 14:14

*The picture is from my last trip to Virginia at a winery my aunt and uncle brought me too. Cannot wait for more of that this summer too 😉