Closing time and turning the other cheek


We were closed. Winter hours, you know. We close at 7. And there were two women in the store. One in the fitting room, one on the floor. Both were informed that we were closed, but they had a few minutes.

The best-case scenario response is that the client immediately takes all her items to the desk, buys everything that was in her hands (and has no intention of returning it), and asks if she can start a store credit card while she’s at it. This makes it worth the while. Also, it’s fast. Then we can wave her out of the store with genuine happiness. “Goodbye, dear! Have a lovely evening!”

The decent response is to take two minutes to sort through the things she wants and to put the things she doesn’t want on the go-back rack. Nothing should be inside out on the hanger. (why do I even have to say this?) Then she apologizes, asking if we always close this early? Still makes a purchase, still leaves fairly quickly without making a big mess.

What happened last night:

“Just so you know, we are closed. You can have a few more minutes though.” This, after they didn’t take the hint when we locked the doors and turned off the music.

“Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t know you were closed! I wondered why the music turned off!” Has already tried on many items but goes back into the dressing room for a second round where the other lady is taking her time. Leaves a pile of sweaters behind. To her credit, she was trying to put them back. That’s a nice thought, but it’s actually better if I, who know where they go and how to fold them, do it. I’m trained. And faster.

Oh, sigh.

I’ve probably done that to someone before.

It’s hard to know the proper conduct when you haven’t worked in retail. Sort of. Sort of hard. Sort of easy. Sort of just common courtesy.

As I checked out the woman who went back to the fitting room for a second round last night, twenty minutes after close, she looked a little frantic. And I remembered that these are the moments that make or break customer service. How did the associate respond when you stayed past your welcome and made a mess?

Calm, smiles, would-you-like-an-email-receipt?

It’s not always that way because my passive aggressive inner monster wants to take over. Be really quiet, remind them that we close at 7, sigh a little (but in a controlled way so they think it’s really bothering me but that I’m trying to control it. It’s just too much!).

Sometimes working with customers is an opportunity to just keep turning the other cheek. It’s not like these women are trying to wound me.

Well, sometimes they are. There are catty people in the world. Sometimes they’re really unbelievable.

But most of the time it’s just that they aren’t thinking. They aren’t remembering that my sole job isn’t to clean up after them. No, it actually involves a little bit more than that. They aren’t remembering that I’m not a drone without feelings. Sometimes I wonder if they think I don’t want to go home after work, if they think I’d like to just stay at the store all night. They just aren’t realizing that when they turn up their nose at something I bring them that it’s a little hard not to take their disdain personally. They don’t remember that we’re two people having an interaction.

I hate that the customer is always right. I mean, when it comes to company policy they aren’t always. At the same time, it’s a challenge to meet. If the customer is always right and they are not acting well, I must treat them with as much kindness as I would a nice client who actually is in the right.

Turn the other freakin cheek.

It’s a lesson in patience and a test of kindness that I don’t always pass. But at least I know there’ll be another chance to try again.

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Noses and little people


I have two little cuties in my life. This 2 1/2 -year-old and 4-year-old go to my church, and my mom and I often spend some time with them when their mom goes to appointments or just needs an hour to herself. Most of the time they’re pretty adorable. Sometimes they’re stinkers.

Things they’ve said recently:

4-year-old girl, E, saw my nose piercing for the first time just before Christmas.

“Ooh, what’s that?” she says in hushed tones, pointing to the spot on her own nose that mirrors the stud on mine.

“I got my nose pierced, E,” I said. She looked confused, so I continued. “You know, like an ear piercing but on your nose.”

Her face cleared, and she grinned. “That’s silly,” she said. “Noses can’t hear anything.”

A, 2 1/2-year-old boy, likes to read books, as does E. So last week we all sat on the sofa and read books together. I’ve realized as I read them aloud again that the books I read when I was young were sometimes the sweet or cute stories but most often a little sarcastic. Most of this goes right over their heads.

A likes to stop me at random points and point to someone on the page with something he’s decided about them. “That guy is mad because the bunny wouldn’t give him his toys. And he’s going to run away.”

It doesn’t usually have anything to do with the story. It must have some connection, but I’ll never know what it is. I’m not sure he actually listens to the words, but he sits still and listens. Other than when he got up in the middle of a story to take off his sweatshirt because he got “schweaty.”

My mom saw A and E at church this morning while she was helping out. They came in with their mom. E showed my mom the contents of her purse: a teacup being one of the things in there. You just never know what you’ll need.

My mom asked A what he was doing today. He looked around and said, “I’m going to church.”

Here and now. When you’re 2 1/2, here and now is important.

So we don’t know what he’s doing later. He’s not worried about it, obviously. He knows what’s obvious. “Well, I’m at church right now. I don’t really plan ahead much, if ever, and I’m pretty wrapped up in what’s going on around me, so I’m at church. That’s all you need to know. That’s all I know.”

It was a pertinent reminder. Sure, he’s not planning any big life moves, won’t be leaving his parents house for a while, doesn’t need to start making real money to support himself, and isn’t worried about maintaining friendships, but he’s focused on what he does know.

I’m here. I might do something else later, and I might need to get ready for that, but I’m here right now. This is what’s taking up my attention, my focus, my energy.

So the kiddos are giving me good reminders. Sometimes it matters more where you are than there you’re going, at least to some extent.

Also, noses can’t hear anything.

On road rage and being out of control


The other day, my mom told me that I like to be in control of conversations, that I like to be the one steering them.

“No, I don’t!”

Well, maybe I do. I tried to refute her point by saying I’m perfectly comfortable in letting the conversation go wherever it wants, but I’m actually not. That’s what I rehearse answering interview questions while I’m alone in my car. And why I skirt questions I don’t want to answer and get anxious when there’s silence because WHO KNOWS WHAT THAT OTHER PERSON WHO IS SO UNPREDICTABLE AND WHOLLY A PERSON WILL SAY NEXT?

There’s some anxiety wrapped up in it and this idea that I’m capable of controlling things. Some of the things I’d like to control but can’t:

  • the unexpected
  • the price of an avocado
  • the timing of getting sick
  • whether or not other people like you
  • whether or not people email you back
  • other people in general
  • my cravings for pizza
  • the weather
  • traffic

Can I get an amen for the last one? I know my sister would do it if she was here right now. I’m a perfectly calm person, happy driver, right up until the point that someone merges without using their blinker. Then I, the ever perfect blinker user, do a 180 and yell something that they’ll never hear.

“OH REALLY? NO SIGNAL? YOU’RE TOO GOOD FOR THAT?”

It’s become a point of concern for me in the past few months, that this sudden change can happen, all this rage bursting forth from me over quite trivial things. I wonder if I’m actually a really angry person and don’t have any other outlets.

That’s probably not it. It might have something to do with my impatience and desire to keep moving on the road.

I was stuck at a traffic light on Hennepin Ave, right where Hennepin and Lyndale meet in Minneapolis, heading north to 94. It was a Saturday midday, and there were so many cars, it took at least four light cycles to get me through the light. I’ve been trying to be patient in circumstances like this since my friend shared David Foster Wallace’s talk from Kenyon College, “This Is Water” with me, so I was in a pretty good state of mind.

Still, four light cycles. It might have been more. I lost count. I was trying to sing along with the music and keep calm. I will not get through this light faster if I’m irritated. 

That area is always pretty busy, sometimes rather congested, and there’s a lot of merging around since it’s close to multiple major thoroughfares, and people don’t always know where they’re going or how to get there or what lane they needed to be in like, two blocks ago so they could take that on-ramp. And it didn’t help that Hennepin’s right side is under construction. We joke that summer is construction season, but helloooo, it’s snowy, and it’s still here. It’s the ever-present, unwelcome guest.

I was taking deep breaths, and when I finally got to point where I knew I’d get to go through the next time the light turned green, I saw that the sign in front of the church there said something to the effect of, “We’re all under construction.”

I wonder how many days that’s saved. How many people have been brought back from the edge of irritation with a simple thought. I wonder how many people have just nodded to themselves like I did, thinking, touché, Church Sign, touché. 

It was another reminder about not being in control. Not in control of the traffic, not in control of the construction, not in control of how other people are under construction, not in control of how I’m under construction. It was a reminder that the unexpected and irritating is coming, and I need the grace to just walk through it.

Or drive through it. My turn finally came, and I got to the light, but I’ve thought about that sign a few times since I drove past it.

Anything that helps with road rage is worth remembering.

Grace abounds


My friend Rachel and I keep each other accountable for reading our Bibles everyday. Sometimes it still doesn’t happen, but there’s tomorrow to try again. That means that I have an app that sends her a text everyday at the same time, and she responds with what she read that day. Then I tell her what I read. She’s in 1 Corinthians, and I’m in 2 Kings.

Today I read the passage where some boys make fun of Elisha, and a bear comes and mauls them.

“What am I supposed to do with that?” I texted her.

This was her response.

Rachel text short

She also concluded that she should have been mauled thousands of times by now. “Grace abounds.” Me too, Rachel, me too.

And if that actually was the meaning of including that story about Elisha in the Bible–that bear mauling is the penalty for making fun of someone–then grace certainly does abound.

So, in a way, 2 Kings 2 does connect to my life today, because grace has been abounding over the past few weeks. Remember when I told you that I was ready to tell the story of how God was going to provide a job for me? I have an installment to that story today.

I expected to be waiting a while for any developments in this story, because that’s realistic. You graduate, there are no jobs available. Okay, maybe there are a few. You apply, no one gets back to you. You follow up, no one gets back to you. Two months later they’re ready to interview. This is the story of hiring in many places these days.

I was ready for that. I was ready to wait. Not necessarily excited about it, but I know that the right job will come at the right time because it always has.

It’s easy to get discouraged while you’re waiting. Because you aren’t really actively doing the waiting, you’re waiting for the action. There’s not much to waiting, except being ready for something to come along. So you wait, and the next day you get up and do your laundry and wait again.

So the days are long, and when you look back and see it’s only been three weeks of waiting, you wonder how much longer you can take it.

I’ve been amazed at the little things God has sent along to encourage me, in the truest sense of the word, ‘amaze.’

Here’s a snapshot of why:

Week 1: There was Christmas and a couple editing projects to work on, for which I would be paid.

Week 2: Followed up with an application and got an auto-response that said the person was out of office and had been for a while but would be back in two weeks. Hope rose. My computer started freaking out for real, but my friend Adam said he could help me fix it, and actually it’d be better than before. I got paid for one of those editing projects. I got another to work on.

Week 3: Adam got my computer into shipshape and for way less than the fancy Apple people would have charged me. I got a shift at my retail job, a friend asked if she could pray for me before I left her house, the next day a former supervisor from an internship emailed to say positions were opening but not posted yet and someone had asked if I would submit my resumé. Was scheduled for more hours the following week.

Then this week. I heard from my former supervisor that the hiring process was really slow, but she was hopeful for me. I’d been thinking this weekend, What if I’m still waiting in a month? Can I be okay with that? Sure. I can be okay with that. Some things are worth the wait. It’s always been worth waiting.

Last night I got to work, and my boss asked me if I would accept a temporary lead position. She thinks I’m capable. It’s a pay raise. It’s a challenge, and I didn’t even have to ask.

I didn’t even have to ask. Grace does abound. This time it’s not me not getting mauled by a bear. Maybe that’s more mercy. Maybe this is more kindness, generosity. Even though God could just make me wait for the right job in the right time without all this hand-holding and back-patting, he’s reminding me every few days that something is coming, and until then, he’ll keep providing and encouraging.

I don’t think we expect that out of God, that he’s going to be generous, maybe even coddle us a little bit. I often think of God as the tough love parent. Sometimes, he is that, letting us endure the consequences of our actions. That can be the most effective teacher. But sometimes God is the one who holds our hands when he could let us flounder a bit.

So today, I’m encouraged. God has encouraged me, knowing that in a few weeks I might be back to discouragement in spite of these incredible reasons to trust. Grace and generosity abound.

Banana pancakes bring us together


I went to bed last night with the firm assurance that when I woke up, I would make banana pancakes. I’d been thinking about it for hours. I almost made them for dinner, but my mom had made fried rice. It was easier to eat the fried rice, and there would be fewer dishes to wash. Banana pancakes would wait for the morning.

I know it’s not everyone’s practice to plan breakfast quite that early. It’s not usually mine.

Well, sometimes it is. I really love breakfast. These past few weeks have been all about finding a reason to get up before 8 in the morning. When the sun is barely out and I have nowhere to be and the cold room outside my bed doesn’t welcome me to spring up into action, a plan for breakfast gets me up.

Thankfully, my mom doesn’t work a traditional 9-to-5 job. I don’t know what I’d do if I woke up knowing I’d be alone all day and didn’t have anything to do outside the house. That’d be nice for a vacation. Not for a daily life. So when I wake up, my mom’s on the couch in the living room, usually.

She hasn’t started her day yet either. She’s usually in her pajamas. I have matching ones, just in a different color. And we just take our time in getting the day going. We drink our coffee, read our Bibles, and talk about the day to come. And I’m not alone in my non-student-status or in not going to work that day or in staying in my pajamas for a long time. She’s there, too.

And she’s not hounding me about how many jobs I’m going to apply to that day or making me feel small for not having a job lined up right after college. The very idea of doing that would make her shrug and say, “Why would I do that?” because she knows God will provide the right job at the right time. She’s not worried.  And she knows I’m looking.

Sometimes she asks me if I have any plans to leave the house that day. If I don’t, we make some. She took me out for a pizza lunch once during my first week so I’d have something to do. You can only run so many errands and take so many walks (especially when the cold wind literally freezes your face). Church is only twice a week. And hours at work haven’t been plentiful in this slow time for retail.

This morning, I came into the kitchen, feeling a little guilty for sleeping until 8:45 again. My goal this week had been to get up progressively earlier every day. But it keeps being 8:45 when I get up. My mom had a bowl with flour in it and cinnamon, and there was another bowl beside it.

Somehow, I just knew what was going on.

“What are you making?”

“Banana pancakes.”

We had a moment of wonder as we discovered that we both had been wanting to make banana pancakes since last night, and that without communicating about it, we’d both had that plan for this morning, even though banana pancake aren’t some tried and true family recipe. I’m not sure we’ve ever even made them as a family.

I’m still a little astounded at the way that happened. A small thing, but eating them with my mom this morning and talking about whether or not the gun control laws would help the problem of violence (not what you expect to talk about over banana pancakes, but sometimes these things happen) was another moment to be together.

I’m not alone in my mornings where I wake up without the immediate need to start the daily grind, and this morning I wasn’t even alone in my plan for banana pancakes.

Somehow, that’s encouraging.

2015’s Testimony


I’m quickly realizing that 2015 was one of my most documented years (other than my months of study abroad, where every meal was documented). So in looking back at what happened, the pictures say much of it best.

A picture is worth a thousand words, and there are over 100 in here, so I’ll let them speak for the most part. They convey the spirit of 2015 well, but there’s a lot that wasn’t documented because it couldn’t be.

Like the month I didn’t have a phone. I was off the grid for a while. And you won’t see pictures of the classes I took or meetings I had. You won’t see pictures of hours and hours spent at a study carrel in the library or sitting on my favorite couch homeworking. Or when I was trying to do homework and getting distracted.

You won’t see pictures of heartfelt conversations or prayers said or sermons heard  or books read or tasks completed. Those may have been the most significant moments.

Life is not lived on camera, even if you’re on reality tv. At least, not the best life. The flies on the walls of our lives have a better view. They see discouragement before it turns into hope and fear before it resolves to courage and happiness before disillusionment.

The pictures do help though. It’s pieces of a year. Here’s the abridged version of my 2015!

February: Liesel helped me dye my hair bright red. Did I know it would be that bright? No.

I took my first business trips to St. Louis for a sales conference (where I realized I’m not really a sales person) and for a fashion revolution celebration.

Spent a lot of time with these cuties, eating ice cream, playing in the sunshine, being silly.

Watched some of the coolest people play music: Switchfoot, Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors, Needtobreathe, Ben Rector, Judah & the Lion. Brooke passed out on me at one of those concerts, and it was super scary but we learned an important lesson about hydration on super hot days when you’ve been standing outside for 6 hours.

Two of my friends married each other! And some high school friends and I got to witness the blessed event.

And there were friends. So many, doing so many things. Eating (often), holding the Genovian flag, seeing Broadway shows, painting, asking Siri if she has a personal relationship with Jesus, making soup, walking a long way in the snow to get to church, holding a stuffed platypus.

There were holidays; we celebrated them together.

I lived in a house in the fall. You already know about that.

I hung out with my parents more than before. Dad and I went to a food truck fair, Mom and I worked at Art2Heart together, there was mini golf, there were car trips.

There were some personal accomplishments, like working full-time (represented by the branded cookies), writing a memoir, finishing that darn to-do list, helping change my own car battery (let’s be real, I didn’t do much of it, but I watched), and graduated.

There were Twins games! I saw them win like once, and Tori Hunter got real mad at one of them. A sight to behold.

I got to spend quality time with my sissy. She visited me twice in Chicago (once when I was phoneless), and once we rode the Megabus together… not something we’re going to do again. There’s nothing like sisterhood.

I visited family, and they visited me! It was a year of reconnecting and discovering that I am master of my own time as an adult and am capable of purchasing plane tickets.

And there we have it. A year for the books, 12 months of life wrapped up.

And that’s not all of it, because there’s always more than what we see. Probably more happened than I could even remember.

You could apply most adjectives to this year and find they stick in some way or another.

Now, onward to 2016, where the path in unknown, but the Partner is certain.