A fly balances on the edge of an empty mocha latte glass. Traces of beige frothed milk line its walls, as the insect that still survives New Zealand’s autumn buzzes around the room, constantly landing back to salivate on the leftover glass. Why am I starting a blog post with a fly? That’s kinda gross, wait, not even kinda gross– disgusting. Well, I realize now– for ten years, I had the same reaction to a mocha. 

I come from a coffee family. As a child, early morning was the sound of a grinder buzzing and the squeal of an espresso machine. Mum was mostly a herbal tea drinker, but Dad passed down the java gene to all three of my older brothers– and so it was known that if you wanted a good cup of coffee, you went to the Norris household. I was well on my way to joining in, despite our other somewhat contradicting family value that caffeine stunted growth. Strong, hot coffee in Dad’s stainless-steel mug grossed me out, but Mum’s iced decaf latte was alright in those days, before what I dubbed “my bad experience with coffee”.

For those of you that have been to the University of the Nations base in Kona, it’s hard to imagine living without the Banyan Tree Cafe. Yet I remember when the “Aloha Cafe” first opened– I was nine years old– in the small room next to what will soon be the old cafeteria (yes, that’s me below, working on Tuesday nights). Mrs. Heres, my teacher and friend of ours, was working in one of the first-ever shifts and offered a free hot chocolate to one of her favorite students (wait, teachers don’t have favorites, what am I talking about). As I said an eager yes, horror of horrors, they didn’t have hot chocolate powder yet! So she wondered if I wanted a hot coffee instead. “Free” was still in my radar, so I said yes, thinking lots of milk and sugar would soften the overall blow. 

I still can visualize driving down the road below the then-new Ohana Court, free coffee in our Subaru’s cupholders. I made it through, though by the end of that 12-oz. cup, I was thoroughly grossed out. I was cured of any java-gene, and “hated” coffee for the rest of childhood and on through adolescence. With the advent of chai tea, my brother Jordan soon dubbed it “Kayla’s coffee” and when he worked at Starbucks he’d bring home 20oz chai frappes for me. And come on, there are so many interesting non-coffee drinks on cafe menus! So I avoided any caffeine growth-stunting or late-night/early-morning addictions to get me through English essays.

By the time I got to university, I still had an aversion to anything remotely coffee (yes, even flavored ice cream). However, as friends and family were connoisseurs, and I their host when they came to my house, I started to have the thought, Well, I want to at least learn to make a good cup coffee. I needed to carry on the family tradition of hospitality, you see. Then the thought turned into, I want to learn to like a cup of good coffee. I wanted to know what everybody was talking about it, you see…

I was highly advised against it by many, as well as myself, as I have been with various foods and beverages. But it only takes a few advocates. Therefore, 2014 comes around, and coffee joined wine, black tea, 70% cocoa chocolate on the “List of Grown-Up Tastes Little Kayla Despised But is Now Trying in University”. Wine and I haven’t made the best acquaintance, but we tolerate each other. It was Jordan’s joke that I was going to go off to New Zealand (where the drinking age is 18, for better or for worse) and become a wine connoisseur. English Breakfast Tea I stumbled upon quite by accident at a marae, with a similar absence of hot chocolate. Due to my Jane-Austen-heritage tendencies, cups of tea became a happy regular, which was very convenient in New Zealand culture. 70% Dark was only a matter of time, I suppose. With my tastes gradually getting stronger, and well, come on let’s be honest, more bitter, chocolate was bound to take suit. So coffee follows. 

As I remarked this afternoon to my uncle, my mocha-maker extraordinaire, I still take a sip and my knee-jerk reaction is: WHAT ARE YOU DOING?! It currently takes about two or three sips until I realize, Oh, I really do actually like this. Wait, this is good. Oh, lame, it’s gone! I’ll scoop out the dregs of frothed milk at the bottom of the glass…mmm. Then all there is left is a thin haze only fit for a fly. He enjoyed it, I’m sure. Unless that insect is not a fan of bitter beverage experiences.

Waiting is a pretty bitter experience. I probably make more contorted faces while I’m complaining to Jesus about delays than the expressions I pull out as I’m taking a sip of wine. (Those are pretty hilarious, I warn you, just wait until you sit across from me with a glass of it– get your camera ready!). More specifically, waiting for direction of what I’m going to do with my life next year. At the end of November, I will be a qualified New Zealand school teacher with a student loan to pay off and a degree that is waiting to be put into practice. There are various options of what I can do next, some more logical than others, but Jesus has this inconvenient way of asking me, “What do you want?”. Therefore, I’m not in the season of following orders. I’m in the difficult process of knowing he’s directing me, but not seeing any direct “answers”.

Most of my conversations with him go like this:

Me: I want this.
Him: I know. It’s coming.
Me: I want that.
Him: Of course, you will.
Me: I want these.
Him: Sure, wait.

It’s in this place that I realize that the seasons I always viewed so bitter as a child– like not knowing what the next year will look like– are actually pretty delectable. Since Jesus showed me pretty early on where I would be going to university, I never really lived through a “what should I do next” process. Sure, on a small scale, with nanny jobs and in-between holiday travels, but nothing like this. So no one could explain to me the depth, the richness, and full flavor of this not-knowing about my future combined with a new confidence stemming from a “hope not seen”.

Looking back at the past few months, I’m surprised to find waiting has not been a bitter experience. Along with my “List of Grown-Up Tastes Little Kayla Despised But is Now Trying in University”, patience has somehow slotted in snuggly. Not always easy at first– but I have always found myself staring down at the empty cup of each life-season and remarking, “That was SO good”.

James (1:2-5, The Message) mentioned it like this:

Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.

I guess that fly knew what he was up to.

Photo credits: Aloha Cafe- Liz Norris, August 2003; Sister & Brother- Kendra Norris, October 2010.