An Uncomfortable Process

So, I don’t drink coffee. I never have really. I like the smell of it but I’ve never been a fan of the taste. With a few altered exceptions. I’m kind of addicted to Starbucks Java Chip Frappes. Only I get them to add the vanilla syrup as well so that I don’t actually taste the coffee. I know you’re probably thinking “why don’t you just ask them to take the java out?” The answer? Because it alters the entire drink and I don’t like the taste of it when they do that. So, in short, I like the Java in the java chip but I don’t like to taste the java in the java chip so I add the vanilla syrup in the java chip so I don’t taste the java…in the java chip. Makes sense? 

I had tried plain Espresso once as well a really long time ago and it was repulsive. At the time it tasted like ground up dirt so it turned me off of coffee completely. So last year when I was visiting my bestie and she offered to make me an Espresso from her fancy Espresso machine my immediate reaction was a hard no. But, as she often does, she described the way that she makes it in such a way that peaked my curiosity. She’s absolutely dynamite in the kitchen. She can make the most magnificent mouthwatering meals out of the most simplest of ingredients. I figured at the very least, I didn’t have to finish it if it still made me wanna hurl. She makes herself an Espresso every morning and I thought it would be a nice thing to be able to sit and have one together. So I obliged. 

I stood beside her as she explained the entire process to me in grave detail. When I visited her at Thanksgiving I was able to start making Espresso’s for the other guests that were over at the house. I enjoyed my little Barista moment, making and serving everyone their fancy Espresso. Complete with frothed milk and a dollop of…you guessed it…vanilla. That was the trick. That’s what did it for me and made me appreciate a nice cup of Espresso. I never thought I’d see the day when those words would ever come out of my mouth. Yet, here we are. I’m just as shocked as you are. 

Just before I left her house for the drive home, she had made me a cup. About half way home I could start to physically feel the espresso making it’s way through my bloodstream. As a none coffee drinker, who is now all of a sudden beginning to drink Espresso you can imagine that it is a sudden shock to my system. To the point where I could even feel my hands shake. Now I know why people traditionally drink Espresso first thing in the morning and not late in the afternoon. I didn’t get much sleep that night. Lesson learned. 

I recently went up to visit her again just after Christmas. We had each bought each other Christmas gifts. One of the gifts I got her was a book she had been eyeing for quite a long time. The look on her face when she realized what it was, was priceless. She was so happy, which made me happy. In return, she went and got me my very own Espresso machine! Complete with a milk frothier! I don’t think I’d ever had something so fancy for my kitchen before. I was so excited to make my own Espresso at home when I wanted a little treat. (Strictly in the mornings though to avoid staring at the ceiling all night!) 

Through the entire process of when she was explaining to me how to make an Espresso and even now knowing how to make it myself I realized something. Part of being a writer is being observant. To everything. Anything can be an inspiration or a life lesson. I started to see the process of Espresso making as something quite profound. At least to me anyway. Let me explain what I saw. 

The journey those little Espresso beans go through just to end up as something delicious is amazing actually. First of all, those little guys get crushed. Not just filleted or chopped but actually crushed and ground to an absolute pulp until it resembles nothing but dirt. Not the most appealing thing. Then they get scooped up and pressed down until it’s super compact. That can’t be comfortable. 

After that, once the machine is all heated up and ready to go, the water runs through the ground up, pressed little beans but only the tiniest bit actually get through the one little hole that eventually leads into the cup below. Unlike a regular cup of coffee where there are numerous holes that the coffee pours through the machine, espresso only has one opening that pours into the cup. That means that all those little beans are being pressed and compacted so tightly so that only the very best make it through and eventually gets enjoyed as the final result. A hot, delicious cup of pure Espresso. And in the end, after all of that compacted grinding and pressing, it’s up to each person how they enjoy it. We can choose what we add to it. In my case, it’s something sweet…frothed milk, a little bit of vanilla and a sprinkle of cocoa on top to sweeten the deal. 

As a writer I have learned that it’s all in how you choose to see things. In learning how to make Espresso I see the pressing and the grinding. I see being so compacted and squeezed through until only the good stuff is ultimately used for the end result. I can see that in my own life. Perhaps you can see it in yours as well. All of the uncomfortable moments that I’ve gone through. The times where I have felt so crushed, pressed and squeezed that it felt like life itself was being drained from me until I didn’t think I had any more to give. Like I had nothing good to offer anymore. I felt all used up and of no use to anyone or anything. Even today I still have moments where I can let worry or anxiety about the same things get the better of me if I’m not careful. (A byproduct of the last few years.) 

This same process and lesson is all around if we pay attention. Anything of any value has gone through an uncomfortable process but has eventually turned into something great. 

A pearl starts out as an irritation. Literally. It could be something as seemingly small as a piece of dirt. This irritates the oyster (clam or mussel) and as a defence mechanism it puts out a fluid to coat the irritant. It continues to add layer after layer of this until a pearl is formed. 

A diamond starts out as nothing but a lump of coal. Buried deep in the ground. Not too many people are willing to take the risk to go get it and bring it to the surface. And even once it’s brought to the surface it still has to go through the process of being cut, shaped and polished. Another uncomfortable process. A lot of people want to be diamonds but not everyone is willing to be cut and shaped. 

Gold is another example. A substance that is formed in and around volcanos. And even then it can take, on average ten to twenty years before a gold mine is ready to produce enough material that can even go through the refining process. As if that wasn’t unpleasant enough, the refining process itself consists of heating it up to a bazillion degrees until the impurities separate into a layer on the surface of the purified gold. 

All of this is to simply say, the discomfort, irritations, the pressing and squeezing that made you feel like you had nothing left and that your life was over? It was simply separating the good stuff from everything else that was useless. In order for God to be able to use anyone for anything, first we have to be willing. NOT perfect. Just willing. At that point He can use the unpleasant things that we go through as a refining process to separate what He can ultimately use from the things that no longer serve or benefit us or our future and the plans that He has for us. 

Making it through to the other side of what I recently have gone through, I can look back now with hindsight and start to see some of the good that came from something so ugly and painful. Getting stripped from absolutely everything that was important to me and leaving me with nothing but the basics. Getting back to my roots and learning what is important verses what isn’t. It’s also fuelled my creativity like never before and so much healing has come from that as well. It’s given me something that I have talked about many times before. The gift of having nothing left to lose. When you’ve been down to nothing, you’re left with no excuses not to try. Which can be terrifying all on it’s own. But I’ve learned that going through life scared to even try and go all in is no way to live and I lived my life that way for far too long. I’ve had to be willing to take the risks and go for it. 

There’s a saying, “When you’re starting over, you’re not starting from scratch. You’re starting from experience.” That experience only comes from going through the pressing and the cutting. The irritations and the painful stripping away of the refining process. You can’t get it any other way. It has to be earned. But after the dust settles and we can start to rebuild and to see more clearly, there’s a sweetness to it. Finally putting the past behind us, and looking forward to what’s ahead. Finding our place again. Somewhere new. New places, new people, new opportunities. A new vision and a purpose for a new life that’s waiting. A new hope. All of which are absolutely terrifying. Anything new usually is. The fear of being pressed and crushed all over again sometimes still lingers in the back of my mind. It can be overwhelming. But I know, as well as you do that have experienced something similar that we have come this far. We have survived the worst. Now it’s time to not just survive, but to thrive! Taking everything we have endured and seeing the beauty that it has created. The sweetness of second chances. 

Some of the most beautiful people I have met have the most painful pasts. Those are the people that I am most drawn too. Because I see myself in them. And because it has created a unique and beautiful story for them to tell. I love people who have stories where life has given beauty for ashes. And I mean the really ugly stuff. Those are my people. Those are the ones who really have something to say. Something to offer to a world in so much pain, because they have felt it themselves. 

If you’ve gone through a similar painful process, or you are continuing to go through one, don’t let it scare you. Don’t let it take you out. It will feel like it just might. It’s powerful, to an extent. But so are you! Even more so! And that thing that is on the inside of you, that pure gold that is aching to get out is doing exactly that. That’s why it hurts so much. Separation usually does. But from that comes something spectacular. That’s the sweet stuff right there! 

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