IS GOD SOVEREIGN OVER MISTAKES AND FAILURES?
Heather Osborne’s past consisted of partying, drugs, and thriving on the attention of men… until her cycle of pain and rejection brought her to the feet of Jesus. For four years, she has been struggling to shake off her demons, and when her business fails, she returns home to start a marketing internship. But Heather gets more than she bargained for when she is assigned to work with the handsome son of the CEO.
Emmanuel Madu, the managing director of Madu Health, is not sold on his father’s plan for him to take over the family business. When he is coerced to supervise the new marketing intern, he accepts it for fear of disappointing his father. But when the red-haired, green-eyed intern walks into his life and challenges his cowardice, their budding friendship forces Emmanuel to reassess his values and convictions.
When Heather starts developing feelings for Emmanuel, she finds herself torn between returning to her old habits and fighting to embrace her new life of faith in God. And with time running out for Emmanuel, he must decide whether to continue living in his father’s shadow or break up his family by walking away.
The One Who Sees Me, book three in the Sovereign Love series, is an uplifting standalone novel about forgiveness and learning to take comfort in the sovereign goodness of a loving God who sees all our struggles.
Chapter 1: Heather
Would it be so bad if I slap a rude customer? Well, I’m about to do that in the next ten seconds if God doesn’t help me. My thoughts run wild as I clench my fists and jaw at the rambling brunette standing across the counter from me. I’ve been listening to her endless complaints for the last ten minutes and I don’t know if it’s her squeaky voice or her barking dog that’s making my head throb with pain.
Ten. Practice relaxation techniques.
“I already told you I can’t drink this.” The blue-eyed brunette pushes the cup of tea toward me and almost spills it on the counter—the same tea that took me ten minutes to make and the same tea she has now left to go cold.
“I’m lactose intolerant,” she continues. “Are you trying to make me sick?” She holds her white Chihuahua close to her chest as the animal growls at me. I bet only the dog can see the steam coming out of my ears right now.
Nine. Think before you speak.
I open my mouth to say something, but bite down the curse words and sarcastic comments threatening to fly out. Instead, I force a smile and, with the last bit of strength in me, I speak. “Ma’am, you asked for a honey chamomile tea latte with hazelnuts and that is exactly what I gave you. It comes with milk.”
“Yeah, but I said non-dairy milk,” she interjects, her high-pitched voice turning the heads of the dozen seated customers toward us. Even the music playing from the overhead speakers isn’t loud enough to disguise the scene this woman is trying to create.
I let out a heavy sigh, my frustration at its peak now. “Ma’am, I don’t remember you mentioning non-dairy milk when I took your order.” I raise my notepad to show her where I scribbled her order fifteen minutes ago.
At this, the woman scoffs and takes a step back. “Are you calling me a liar?” She shakes her head and then paces the length of the counter. “I want to speak to your manager.”
Seriously? There are five people behind her waiting to be served, and she holds the line like this? Heat flashes through my body as I gather my thoughts, but I can barely hear myself think over her barking dog.
“Heather, do you want me to get Eddie?” Abdul, my co-worker, whispers next to me.
“No, I can handle this. Please, keep serving the others.” I point to the couple waiting directly behind my unsatisfied customer. It’s not fair that the pressure is now on Abdul to serve the others while I deal with this issue, but I have no choice. I’ll be disappointed if I don’t sort this out quick enough and we lose our customers.
Eight. Identify potential solutions.
After exhaling a sharp breath, I turn to the woman again. “Ma’am, I’m happy to make you another cup of tea with non-dairy milk.” I grab the warm cup of tea from the counter, but before I can turn around, the woman holds her hand up.
“No, you’ve already done enough damage. I’m done talking to you. Get me your manager,” she says as her dog’s barks intensify.
In situations like this, I always hope that people would be more appreciative of my efforts to rectify the situation. But I’ve learnt that some people feel entitled, and this makes them come across as insensitive.
You can’t choose how people act, but you can choose how you react to their actions. Meredith, my therapist, would say if she was standing next to me right now. But these things are always easier said than done–even Meredith knows that.
My gaze sweeps through the small coffee shop as a dozen pairs of eyes stare at me. Some customers look away while others keep staring as they sip on their hot drinks and bite into their pastries, watching the scene play out as if it’s a movie.
A tingle creeps up the back of my neck and across my face as embarrassment takes over my anger. I should be able to handle this like others would, but I’ve tried my best and sometimes, you just have to give up.
Seven. Take time out.
“Okay. Suit yourself.” I throw the cup of tea in the trash can behind me before heading out back toward the staff office. It’s my last day on this job and I don’t have to stand here and take any more insults.
“Heather, is everything okay out front?” Eddie’s heavy steps rumble across the corridor as he walks out of his office. Like me, he’s also wearing a burgundy t-shirt with the Café Express logo printed on the front pocket, except his t-shirt also has the word ‘manager’ printed across the back.
Apart from Eddie’s tall, broad frame, which gives him a commanding presence, he has a frown which can put anyone in their place and also a friendly personality which always pacifies volatile situations. After one year of working here, I thought I would know how to deal with difficult situations too, but it always ends up the same way–Eddie coming to my rescue.
Six. Know when to seek help.
I shake my head at Eddie’s question, giving myself some time to find the right words. “It’s the same woman from the other day. She’s back and…” My throat closes up and I bite my bottom lip to fight back the tears.
“Say no more.” Eddie raises his hand. “Take a quick break. I’ll sort this out.”
“Are you sure?” I ask, as if I have a better solution.
“I’m serious. Go on now. I’ll come and get you when she’s gone.”
“Thanks, Eddie,” I respond as the middle-aged man walks past me and heads out front. Without waiting to hear how their conversation goes, I take off my apron, grab my coat, and take a left down the hallway to get away from the noise.
When I push open the double doors leading to the backyard, a black stray cat scurries away from the pile of trash bags in the corner before leaping over the wooden fence and disappearing from my sight. It reminds me of Phoebe, my dad’s cat who would do the same thing whenever she’s caught in the middle of her shenanigans. But no matter how mischievous Phoebe gets, she would never make a mess outside. I’ve taught her better than that.
It’s Stacy’s turn to put away the trash bags today, but she had a family emergency and left early. That’s why Eddie asked me to come in this morning to fill in for her. If I had known my day would turn out like this, I would have declined and stayed at home.
The cold Brooklyn air envelopes me as I tie the trash bags and place them in the garbage can. That will stop the cats from scavenging in it for food. When I straighten my back, my eyes catch a glimpse of a used cigarette in the corner with a steady stream of smoke floating away from it. It’s the source of the pungent smell in the backyard—the smell that refuses to go away, and the smell that used to be home for me.
Eddie is the only smoker here, so it must belong to him. This is where he spends all his smoke breaks and that’s why I never come out here. Flee away from temptation is what the Bible says and for four years, I’ve done exactly that. It’s a lot easier to run than to stare at your demons face to face, like I’m doing right now.
I have so many reasons to walk across the yard, light that cigarette and have a quick smoke. It won’t take long before it finds its home again between my fingers. It’ll help take the stress away and it’ll help calm me down. No one will ever know and it’ll be a secret I’ll carry with me to my grave. But at what cost?
I’ve been at this junction too many times, and I know how it ends. It only takes one moment of weakness before I start waking up at five a.m, roaming the streets of Brooklyn, trying to find a lighter and a cigarette because the cravings are so strong I can’t sleep. It only takes one moment of weakness before I can brand myself a failure.
Five. Get some exercise.
I let out another heavy sigh and peel my gaze away from the cigarette before shaking my hands and legs to distract myself. Since no one is out here with me, I can focus on the sirens going off in the distance and the gray clouds hovering above my head.
It’s the second week of March and with spring being only a week away, I hope the chances of rain are low because the thought of sunshine and flowers is already slowing down my heart rate, relaxing my jaw muscles and taking away the tightness in my chest.
Four. Once you’re calm, express your anger.
One bitter truth I’ve learnt over the past year is that the world—not just New York City— will still go on without me no matter what challenge I’m facing. When I started my social media marketing business a year ago, I never imagined I’d end up here.
Things weren’t supposed to turn out like this. I only meant for this job to help me out temporarily, so I could pay my bills until I had enough clients to become fully self-employed. I never expected my life to turn into this big mess.
“Heather?” Eddie’s voice shakes me out of my thoughts, and I turn around to find him at the door. How long has he been standing there? “You can come back inside. She’s gone now.” He rubs his palms together and blows into them before taking a few steps toward me.
Three. Stick with ‘I’ statements.
“Eddie, I’m so sorry about that. I could have handled the situation better and I…”
“Nah, don’t worry about it, kiddo.” He waves his hand dismissively. “That’s what we get for choosing to work with people.” His hearty laugh brings a smile out of me. I don’t know how I would have survived this last year if I didn’t have a manager as understanding as him.
Two. Use humor to release tension.
“You’re right. I’m sure these customers will be relieved to know that this green-eyed, red-haired trouble maker will no longer be working here.” I chuckle, but Eddie doesn’t laugh with me. Instead, the expression on his face turns serious.
“Don’t be hard on yourself, Heather. You know we’ve all loved having you here.” He turns around. “Come on, I need to show you something.”
I follow him inside as he leads me to the staff office, where Abdul is waiting. The seventeen-year-old boy runs his fingers through his silky dark hair before handing me a white sealed envelope and Eddie ushers me to sit down.
I stare at the envelope in my hands and I don’t have to look twice to recognize Stacey’s cursive writing spelling out my name across the back. Stacey has always been the innovative one who remembers birthdays and organizes staff social events. I know this was her idea, too.
“Go on. Open it,” Eddie says, and Abdul nods before flashing me a bright smile.
“Okay.” I tear open the envelope to reveal a beautiful card with the words “We will miss you” at the front. When I open the card, the stack of cash is the first thing that catches my attention before the hand-drawn social media logos at the center and the kind messages from my colleagues written all across the card.
“Please accept this little token of our appreciation,” Eddie says as a tear slides down my cheek. “I’m sorry not everyone could be here today, but as you can see from the messages, we’re sad you’re leaving us.”
“Yeah,” Abdul chips in, and I turn to look at him. “I’ve only worked with you for three months, but I’ve learnt a lot from you. Please don’t forget about us when you become a six-figure business owner.”
We all laugh as I swipe my tears away. “This is so sweet, guys. Thank you so much.” I stand up and hug Eddie and then Abdul. “Don’t forget to thank your mom for sharing her Gulab Jamun recipe with me. It’s quickly becoming one of my favorite desserts.”
“I sure will, and she’ll be happy to hear that,” Abdul says before leaving the room.
“Thanks for your help today. I think Abdul and I can take it from here,” Eddie says.
“Are you sure?”
“Absolutely. Jane will start her shift in half an hour. We can hold the fort until she gets here. Please go home and get some rest. I’m sure you have a lot of packing to do.” He smiles before walking out of the office.
I spend five minutes reading all the messages on the card and counting all the cash before placing it safely inside the envelope. Now I can finally buy those vacuum storage bags I need to pack my clothes. After grabbing my backpack from my locker and returning the key to the staff office, I pop my head into the shop to wave Eddie and Abdul goodbye.
“Don’t forget to call me if you need any help moving your stuff,” Eddie says and I nod at him before taking one last glance at the small coffee shop. After one year of calling this place my second home, I’ll definitely miss its brown walls, the sound of crockery, fingers tapping on laptop keys, and all the interesting conversations I’ve eavesdropped on from the counter. As sad and scary as it feels to leave this all behind, Eddie is right. It’s time to go.
Stepping out through the back door and taking the path around to the front of the building, I turn around to look at the bold Café Express sign shining in white lights above the front door. Abdul waves at me from inside, and I wave back before walking to the parking lot.
One. Don’t hold a grudge.
This has always been easier said than done and this is the reason for all my problems. If I can go away from this scene, forget about the rambling brunette and her barking dog and embrace the winds of change taking over my life, then maybe I’ll feel better about this whole situation.
But as soon as I shut my car door and turn on the ignition, a surge of despair washes over me and I burst into tears, my head falling into my palms. Sometimes I wonder whether things will ever change because every time I try to fight, I always end up back here—feeling sorry for myself and remembering how much of a failure I am.