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The Day God Hugged Me In the Starbucks Drive Through Line

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In December 2015, I had a realization in the Starbucks drive through line that made me want to cry. It was a typical Monday. I was running errands, wrapping up projects at work and needing just one more cup of coffee. Completely normal, completely typical. And the coffee struggle was very, very real. I remember debating whether I should run home to brew a fresh pot of coffee or swing through the closest Starbucks drive through for a refreshing iced coffee with caramel sweetener and soy milk.

In the moment, the choice seemed obvious. Starbucks it was.

As I drove to Starbucks I dove headfirst into a nostalgic moment. My mind was running through the series of checklists I needed to conquer before hopping on an airplane to head home for Christmas. And suddenly it hit me like a ton of bricks: I was about to get on an airplane to go home for Christmas. This may seem trivial, but that was the first time I had ever done this—the first time I hadn’t been home for all of the pre-holiday festivities like baking cookies, decorating the house, attending parties and Christmas productions. In January of 2014 I moved to Las Vegas from Florida, moving away from my home for the first time. I was on the opposite side of the country from my family jamming to “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” suddenly realizing those mere lyrics were the tune of my life.

And that realization made me want to cry.

My tears weren’t tears of sadness or depression, just tears of realization. And tears of feeling by myself far away from those closest to me. Tears of realization, tears of joy, tears of excitement. Tears of wrapping up a year of many firsts, new adventures, lots of growth, and lots of becoming more of the Emily God made me to be.

In that moment, I just wanted a hug. I wanted to feel that someone was with me and that the 2,000 miles separating me from my family wasn’t that big. The excitement of the family I had established in Nevada and how soon I would be reunited with my family in Florida were colliding and my heart was bursting at the seems. I felt the immensity of the love and community I experienced, but wanted to not be holding that alone.

I ordered my venti iced coffee in the drive through line and turned up my radio while I waited for my turn to pay and be on my way. As I pulled up to the cashier’s window, I grabbed my phone ready to whip out my Starbucks app and grab my coffee. The barista looked at me with a sparkle in her eyes and said, “The car in front of you bought your coffee today. Merry Christmas!” Stunned, I thanked her profusely, accepted the caffeinated goodness and drove away before she could see me burst into tears.

God reached down and hugged me in the Starbucks line through a complete stranger that day. He reminded me that I’m not alone through a simple cup of coffee.

As I drove away, I knew I had accepted a divine appointment when I made the decision to swing through Starbucks rather than rush home. And I was so thankful that the person in front of me listened to a simple nudging to pay for coffee for the person behind them. That simple gesture of kindness from someone I don’t know spoke into the depths of my heart so deeply, so profoundly, so intimately.

In that drive through line with that cup of coffee, Jesus reminded me, “Emily, you’re not alone here. Distance doesn’t separate family. Family is around you. Family is in you. I am here. I am with you. You are not alone here.”

I am not alone here.

And like a tidal wave, instances, moments and memories began rushing to the forefront of my mind of how so many people—people who at one point were complete strangers to me—embraced me, adopting me as their own. In those moments and places when I feel alone, the reality is, I’m not. I’m surrounded by people who love me—people in Nevada and people 2,000 miles away in Florida. It doesn’t matter where you’re located geographically for you to show love to someone. Love is something we express, something we say, something we feel, something we live. Love is who we choose to be. And there’s no room for isolation in love.

In the moments I feel alone, I’m going to remind myself of a stranger who bought me a cup of coffee and the sweet whisper from my Savior reminding the depths of my soul, “You’re not alone here.”

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