Asiago and Hazelnut

About 4 1/2 years ago, three friends of mine and I started meeting at a Panera for breakfast once a week. For awhile I only ate the Dutch Apple & Raisin bagel and lowfat plain cream cheese and Hazelnut coffee in a mug – now I vary my choices. We talked about everything and experienced a lot…met one’s husband before she did, helped coordinate her wedding, and now look to her for marriage advice and pray that she and her husband will have their first child…now we are preparing for the wedding of another and the changes that life tends to offer.

This Panera, over the past year especially, has offered more to my life than I ever gave it credit for. I now have two scheduled breakfasts there every week and frequent the same location more times than I need to or like to admit.

Some interesting things have happened at this particular location, but nothing could have prepared me for a Sunday morning two weeks ago.

I was there for a coffee and bagel before I headed to church, just journaling and reading. I saw Asiago Ben when I walked in. He greeted me with his adorably sheepish grin and routine shuffling of the feet. I headed to a booth towards the back of the restaurant, put in my headphones and began listening to Leeland.

At the table next to me was an adorable couple in their 70s who looked like they’d been married for 50 years and enjoyed just sitting with each other. They were reading the paper and drinking their coffee. On the other side of the fireplace sat a family of four. A husband and wife and their two daughters, one older and one quite a bit younger. They were laughing and telling funny stories and seriously enjoying being together as a family. It was a joyous and peaceful Sunday morning.

I notice a group of…okay, I’ll just say it – senior citizens – that frequent Panera about as much as I do. They usually offer me a smile and are always telling incredible stories and checking in on everyone. Sometimes the group takes up the entire front section of the restaurant, other times it’s just a few of them. They’ve known each other a long time.

I always tell my friends that’s what I want us to be like someday.

I head over to the coffee pots for my third cup of Hazelnut. It’s delicious!!! A splash of skim milk and two Splendas – certainly a pattern to follow – my friends even remember. Two of the older men from the large group are filling their cups as well. One gentleman – who I believe was married at one point, but has lost his wife over the last few years…I sense that because he just looks like he’s missing something and someone – asks the other sweet, plump, gentleman, “How’s your lady?”

I loved how he asked it. So innocent and right.

What happened next made me put my coffee mug down. The jollier man said to the sweet and lonesome man, “She passed away.”

Immediately the man who asked the question put his arm around his friend. He told him he was sorry and that he had no idea. The recently widowed man looked down at his coffee, nodded, and told his friend (and me…) she died on January 31st and that it was a vicious bout of cancer. Both men walked to the table, one supporting the other, as I stood there all-of-a-sudden very much aware of life.

You see, I saw his wife probably a week before she died. The two of them would bring their own cereal in each week, read the paper over by the front door, and share a bagel. I noticed his love for her and her devotion to him. They usually wore matching jogging suits. At no point did I think she’s sick or something’s wrong. But a month later, he sits at the same table with the newspaper, a cup of coffee, and a bagel. No shared cereal.

I walked back to the booth torn apart. Tears spilling from my eyes and my coffee not seeming so enjoyable at the moment. I looked over at the couple in their 70s. The wife just brought her husband a fresh cup of coffee, something wasn’t right about it. She fussed over him, he told her “It’s fine!”, and she mumbled something under her breath. 

The sweet family was in the midst of a misunderstanding. The husband said something that the wife didn’t agree with and the oldest daughter was uncomfortable. The wife raises her voice and points her finger at the older daughter and the husband tries to explain, but she wouldn’t listen. She says, “It’s time to go to church.”

Suddenly, the joyous and peaceful Sunday morning was slammed in the face by the reality of human conflict. I wanted everything to go in reverse. I didn’t know what to think or how to react. Asiago Ben walked by, paused, and I couldn’t even look up. I put my headphones back on and David Crowder’s Deliver Me  was playing on my iPod.

Deliver me out of the sadness
Deliver me from all the madness
Deliver me courage to guide me
Deliver me Your strength inside me

That’s exactly what I wanted from the Lord at that moment. But, I wanted to be very much aware of what He WAS doing. And I realized every single part of the experience at Panera had to do with love. We are ALL created to love. Yes, sometimes we fail at showing this. Even some of us believe we aren’t capable of falling into this love. In those moments,we limit what we were created with. Each of us – every single one of us – was created out of love. Each of us have friendships and relationships because we want to feel loved and, hopefully, express that love, because it’s a default setting in every human being.

The husband and wife married 50+ years were with each other on that Sunday, despite their bickering, because they commited to love each other half-a-century ago. They have to make that same commitment every single day. The family of four, despite the misunderstandings and hurt feelings, were at Panera enjoying a Sunday breakfast because they felt like spending time together was important and a way for them to show love for each other. And finally, the recently widowed gentleman just lost the love of his life. Their love was expressed for each other through sharing cereal, matching jogging suits, and acting in such a way that I admired their relationship.

We were created, as was pointed out by two Compassion Bloggers – thanks Shaun and LV – by God’s own hands. Everything else was spoken into being, but we were masterfully sculpted  – with sweat and tears – out of the love that pours from the Creator of the Universe’s heart. God is love and I pray that He – Love – remains in us.


9 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Susan
    Mar 10, 2010 @ 11:18:06

    Love, love, love the blog. Jourdan, it’s teeeerriffic. Keep WRITING.


  2. Dad
    Mar 10, 2010 @ 14:02:20

    Well done. Seemed to capture the range of emotions witnessed that day very well. Good message. Without love, as Paul wrote, we truly are “noisy gongs & clanging cymbals.” May the Lord bless those who are capable of maintaining long-term love for one another. You give hands and feet to the Spirit of Christ.


  3. Hollie
    Mar 10, 2010 @ 15:39:10

    Jourdan- I feel I have known you all my life and that we are the best of friends when I read your blog or are in your presence, however that is not how it is. Your spirit, your being is something that is amazing( especially at your age) and you make people feel like they have walked beside you all along. Jobe for instance has been in your presence once or twice and still talks about you and longs to have you at our family gatherings. You are truly gifted! Keep it up you are doing great!


  4. Mom/Madre/Mamasitto
    Mar 10, 2010 @ 16:23:57

    You truly are a gifted writer. You have a way of capturing the hearts and emotions of those around you with your words. I am proud of your thoughts and expressions. Keep it up.


  5. Becky
    Mar 10, 2010 @ 18:32:29

    Loved this post…so sweet! Your blog is so much better than mine!!! 😉 Glad I got to see you this weekend, friend!


  6. Jourdan
    Mar 10, 2010 @ 22:15:18

    Wow – thank you so much everyone. I’m so glad you all enjoy reading! Your words are so encouraging!


  7. Ali
    Mar 11, 2010 @ 00:54:36

    Yeah, ditto to everything everyone else said. You have quite the knack for this and I’m just glad I’m subscribed to it so I know when new posts come up! Sheesh, this one was a tear-jerker. Way to use your words – haha.


  8. Katie
    Mar 11, 2010 @ 20:33:05

    Gah Jourdan! Unbelievable! You are such a gorgeous writer and have such good perspective. I had goosebumps while I read this.


  9. Leigh
    Mar 19, 2010 @ 13:17:49

    This is a fantastic entry. You are so observant and thoughtful; thank you for bringing your experience to life and inviting us to join you.
    Love you!


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