July 02, 2014

A Waitress Named Holly

We had been driving for over 6 hours.  It was about 7:30.  We hadn't had an actual meal since the night before, and that was Disney Land food - soup in a bread bowl for me and a box of chinese for hubby.
We pulled off at the only exit with food that we'd seen in miles and our choices were Logan's Steakhouse (too $$), Mimi's Cafe (not good dinner food and $$) and Olive Garden.  So we went with Olive Garden.  We sat down and started trying to finagle the menu to feed the three of us for $25 or less.  It was grueling.  Honestly.  We went back and forth over several different combinations of options, remarking under our breaths at how the prices had gone up since our last visit over a year ago.
After (what seemed like) an hour Owen & Bill went for a walk to get O's energy out (riding in a carseat for 6 hours, remember?) and the waitress walks over.  She'd been extremely patient with my "one more minute..."  "um... just a couple more minutes" requests and this time she says, "Wow, you were taking so long they left, huh?!" with a little laugh.
"No," I replied with a smile, "We've been in the car for the past 6 hours and the little one needed to run around a bit."
She asked where we were headed/coming from and I told her we'd just been to Disney and were heading back to Phoenix.
She asked if we were from there and I told her that no, we were from North Carolina.
She asked, "Oh, you were born in North Carolina?! What brings you to Phoenix?"
"It's kind of a long story," I replied, having no idea how to condense what our lives were into a few short sentences.

She looked around her section, said, "Well, you're the only ones here right now, go for it."
I went on to tell her we were born in Michigan, lived in North Carolina for several years, but now live in Tanzania, Africa and were in Phoenix visiting my mom.  Our friend from Tanzania happened to live near Disney and had a brother that was able to get us in for free so we made the trip to take O to Disney for the first time.
Her eyes grew bigger with every slice of the story I was telling her.  She looked as if she didn't know what to say when I ended.  "Wow! How fun!" she exclaimed.  {short pause}
"You guys LIVE in Africa?  What are you doing there?"  I told her we were missionaries volunteering as teachers at a school there.  She went on to tell me that she'd been to Thailand and Korea and had helped smuggle Bibles, and that she was in school right now to become a teacher.
I asked what year she was and told her all about Hope and the generosity they afford their volunteer teachers and her eyes lit up.  She told me that her brother had just moved to Greece with her nieces and she was thinking about taking a year off school to do online classes, then go over to Greece to do a year abroad maybe.  And that some friends of hers just started a school in Guatemala (I think) and she was thinking about maybe going there to teach and how she wasn't sure where God wanted her but she was just listening to him and waiting for his cue to go.
I told her it was no coincidence we were brought to her section, at this restaurant, in this remote town in the middle of the desert.   She agreed and we talked for a minute about how it's amazing that God gives us all these options and how we get to listen for his voice on the one that's just right.  I tell her I'll give her our info and the school's info before we leave.
I give her our order and she offers to bring out extra salad and breadsticks, even though only Bill's meal came with it, so we could all share.  We go about eating our dinner and I tell Bill about the conversation we had and he's blown away.  We finish up and after she packs up the remains of Owen's pizza she says, "I want you guys to pick out a dessert, on me.  I'd love to treat you to something special and sweet."  At this point I'm (quite literally) about to burst at the seams from my dinner, but agree because it's such a sweet gesture of her.  So refreshing to meet a sophomore in college, working her way through school, obviously in love with God and with a calling to serve in missions in some way - and she's offering to spend her hard-earned money on a dessert for us.  I pick out the smallest one I can find on the menu (I still am clinging to the whole I-will-not-let-America-make-me-fat mantra) and thank her profusely for her generosity.  Bill gets back (he was at the restroom during the whole dessert discussion) and I told him she offered to buy dessert and his eyes get big (although, to be honest I don't know if it was because of the generosity of Holly or the thought of dessert (-; )  We finish the shot-glass sized dessert (which was ahhhmazing) and Bill takes the restless and re-energized boy outside to run around again while I wait for the bill.
She drops the little black book on the table and it's propped open slightly.  I'd completely forgotten they give Ande's mints - YUM.  Those things are one of my favorites.  I open it up, excited to see there are 4 instead of only 2 or 3 mints and see a little card inside as well.  No little white receipt with a place to sign my name.  Only a card that says, "This one's on me, be blessed! - Holly"
Almost cried right then and there in that Olive Garden booth.  I look around and she's busy with another table, so I write on the back a little note and toss some money inside - "Put this toward your next mission trip!"
I catch her on the way out and give her a hug and thank her again.
Never thought a trip to Olive Garden would be so... inspired... or encouraging.

Thanks for that, God.  We needed that.  Right in that very moment.  That's exactly what we needed.

And thank you Holly, for not being afraid to chase after God and be such a servant - you were such an encouragement and blessing to us that night and we won't forget it!