Starting with What I Know
It’s been a while since I’ve sent you an email. I’ve spent the summer delving into the good stuff of life (the H, E, and A of HEART), and I have much to share. But first, I’d like to start with a story.
It was the summer I was nineteen. I was working in a stationery store.
A woman, obviously annoyed, glared at me from the other side of the checkout counter. She was my height, with salt and pepper hair, small glasses, and she carried an aura of entitlement. This was before the advent of athleisure, but if it were now, she would have been dressed head to toe in Lululemon, sporting some kind of designer bag. Her irritation was confirmed when she responded to my sigh with a snappy, “Oh, great. You don’t know how to count back change.” Then she rolled her eyes.
I put my hands on the sides of the cash register drawer and sighed. My mind was scrambling, digging through dusty files, looking in cobweb-infested corners for instructions on how to count back change. I knew they were up there, somewhere. It was just a rusty practice, and not my favorite. Thanks to the new-fangled technology of an electric adding machine, I usually didn’t have to count change manually. If I entered the dollar amount before hitting the big square button on the bottom right, the machine would do it for me. But for whatever thoughtless reason, I had hit the big square button before entering the bill amount, and now faced the task I feared most: math.
I felt the slow burn of shame in my chest as I looked down at the open cash register drawer. How dare she speak to me that way? The condescension in her tone, coupled with the scathing language, was an obvious attempt to humiliate. In terms of sheer malice, it ranks as the nastiest thing anyone has ever said to me.
I may be an Enneagram 7 (the Enthusiast and stereotypical peddler of fun), but as my friend Kate once told me, sevens have a justice streak, and my soul wouldn’t feel satisfied until I had expressed my thoughts on this woman’s behavior. There was one problem, though—my job. If the customer is always right, you’re not supposed to snap back at them, no matter how justified. You’re just supposed to take it. The silent option, however, did not sit well with me.
By this point my brain had located the instructions for counting back change. I was confident I would succeed in the accounting challenge. However, now just as annoyed with this woman as she was with me, I was not in any rush to complete the calculation. She could wait.
Hands still resting on the cash register drawer, I looked up slowly and, making direct eye contact, and said calmly, “Ma’am. I may not be great at math, but I’m the most creative person you’ll ever meet. If you’ll give me a moment to collect my thoughts, I’ll count back your change.” My tone was cool and collected, but I could tell by the look on her face that my response caught her off guard. I wasn’t trying to be rude or unkind, but I was trying to be firm, to let her know that I didn’t think belittling store clerks was necessary, and to let her know that I knew I was good at something, even if it wasn’t math.
She didn’t say anything. She couldn’t. Tension hung in the air, her offensive behavior exposed. It was evident I would not be intimidated or employed as a tool to make her feel better about herself. I didn’t feel any need to say more. To the total purchase amount, I added cents until I got to the nearest dollar, dollars until I got to fives, and fives and tens, delightedly reaching one hundred. I handed her the change. “Thank you!” I said brightly and turned away from the counter to head back to the store floor.
The story doesn’t end there. It was a small shop, and my boss was pretty demanding at times. I knew he wouldn’t fire me, but when the customer reported what I had said to her, he asked me to write an apology note. I don’t remember her name. I wasn’t upset about writing the apology note, either. I was good at apologizing, as my science teacher, Mr. Noel, pointed out after class one day. Between my boss and Mr. Noel, I learned that apologizing is a magical superpower you discover when you learn not to let your pride get in the way.
But the apology isn’t the point of this story. It was saying out loud who I was, asserting owning my creativity, that changed everything for me. I’ve told this story to friends a million times since that summer. It’s my essence: knowing who I am, determining to be confident about it, and trusting that God will work the rest of it out.
This summer has provided a crossroads—a bit of space for me to determine how to use my creative gift. Ultimately, God gave me that gift to use for His glory. This is the purpose, the cornerstone, that underpins the foundation of my life.
My friend Bob once said, “Love God, love people, do stuff.” I could add to that: be creative. Create. Emulate what the Great Creator did when He formed this universe. Be in awe of the beauty around you. Be in the business of finding it, sharing it, with the hopes of pointing people towards all the other good things He gave us: hope, faith, love, and ultimately, truth and goodness.
It’s easy to lose sight of my gifts in the business world. Historically, beauty and creativity aren’t valued as highly as math and science or the ability to argue a court case or analyze data. But I choose to value my gift, quietly taking hold of it with gratitude, confident that God will use it and guide me where He wants me to go.
It’s easy to get lost in numbers and to-do lists when you run a small business. This summer, I made the choice to take a step back, to take some time off to reassess and rejuvenate. My husband, David and I, spent time in the mountains and instead of worrying about checking tasks off a list, we spent time dreaming of how we want to redefine our lifestyle and our business. Heading into the fall, I know that I want to spend more time being creative and less time worrying about things that so quickly suck away our time, like social media.
That means you might see a few changes around here. I’m going to be spending much less time on Instagram, and much more time cultivating a newsletter full of creativity and beauty for you. We closed the shop for part of the summer, but it’s open now. Our best-selling Brain Dump Notepad is back in stock, and our Mid-Year Week on One Page Planner and creativity-inspiring Academic Agendas have just been marked down in anticipation of our 2023 planners releasing August 31. Click over to YouTube for a cover reveal!
We’re still working out the details of our new newsletter, but you can expect more storytelling, more beauty, and more of me proudly claiming: I am creative.
Great work sister….so proud of you. Way to take care of yourself. Can’t wait to see what your beautiful creative mind and God has planned for you!!
What a great letter! You have been missed. Thank You for sharing this story and the plans ahead. So appreciate all the creativity you care to share. Cheers to a new start!!
Love this for you!