365 Days Later
Today marks the one-year anniversary of Life Lived Beautifully opening. Just writing the words "one -year" brings tears to my eyes and an abundance of joy to my heart! Three-hundred and sixty-five days have gone into this. Looking back, I can see the hand of God as I created, worked and trusted. But, to be honest, there were many times of doubt and wanting to give up. I am here to write to you, struggling business owners, big-dreamers, entrepreneurs with large ideas and small funds, that owning a business isn't about success, followers or money. It is about the glory of God and becoming a woman after His heart. It is not about building self-esteem and accomplishing great things to put on your resume. If this is your purpose, you will quit a month or two later when the business doesn't grow exponentially and you feel extremely vulnerable after putting your heart out for the whole world to examine. It is about greater things than mere resumes, it is about the kingdom of God. It is about being usable and useful to spread the Gospel in a unique way. It is about doing all things to make much of the name of Jesus. God doesn't give us a platform to share trivial, fleeting things. He wants you to use a megaphone to proclaim His excellencies to a world that doesn't know Him or value His worth (whether you have five followers or five-thousand.) Before I begin sharing what God has done, I want to share with you the raw, untouched, redeemed story of Life Lived Beautifully. In February 2013, my husband, Greg, and I moved to Knoxville, Tennessee only knowing a few people. We had only been married three months at that point and hadn't even lived in our own place (it's a long, adventurous story including a houseboat, Hawaii, power outages and sleeping on an air mattress). The fresh start in a brand new place was the perfect way to begin our marriage. Greg was called to work at Shoreline Church as the Creative Director and God impressed on my heart to start my own business. As newylweds, we didn't have extra money, nor did we have extra baggage. In our eyes, beginning Life Lived Beautifully from the start of our new life was the perfect timing.
I took a few months to dream, pray and prepare our new home. Part of the process of beginning this creative business was tapping back into my creative spirit. It had been years since I had created anything. As a little girl, I loved making crafts and dressing up, but it had been so long since I'd allowed my imagination to run-free that I felt a little rusty. I needed some oil to get the juices flowing again! The first thing I did was bring out my sewing machine and inventory the things I had (since we didn't have much money to invest in new materials). In the survey, I found thousands of old stamps collected from my grandmother's travels, vintage buttons, various materials and a box of keys I had gotten for fifty cents at a garage sale. My beginning inventory would be key necklaces, vintage hair bands and infinity scarves. I worked tirelessly for a few months creating, practicing and getting prepared.
The first day I opened Life Lived Beautifully, on May 20th, 2013, I was certain I would sell out. I had put my heart into the creations and countless hours into the products and store. By the grace of God I sold a few items that first day, but definitely not a sell out. From this point on I embarked on a roller coaster journey of the highs and lows of owning a small business. I entered my first craft show in June 2013, and needless to say, it wasn't a huge success. I mainly sat in the blazing sun for three days watching customers walk by without giving my booth a second glance. (Read more of the story here) And yet, God, and close family friends, kept telling me to keep on keeping on.
That is what I did. The rest of 2013 would cycle around craft shows, home shows, preparing to travel half-way across the world to visit a friend in India and serving at our church. It was a deep, powerful time of pruning. I camped in John 15 for months as I felt God cutting back the branches and excess that didn't need to be in my heart. He taught me that in order for me to be bear fruit for the Kingdom of God that He must cut away all that is self-centered and of this world. The cutting hurt. There were many times I wanted to give up because owning a small business is hard and vulnerable. However, through my heart being plain for all to see, God was strengthening me to find my identity in Christ alone. I needed to be raw and open for God to reveal to me the weak spots in my life. Through weakness, I realized that I can do nothing apart from Jesus.
2014 brought with it change for the glory of God. I began speaking at different churches and sharing a message on fashion that God has laid on my heart for years. I also began painting again. I picked up the brush and put away the sewing machine. It felt like I had gone back to my first love. As I painted, I worshipped. The business was changing to be worship-centered instead of success-driven. The more I worshipped through what I did, the more God was able to take control as the Leader and Owner. God led me to begin the "Pen & Ink Project" through creating stationery for women to use to encourage each other in the Lord. I also began selling artwork called "Writing on the Wall" to serve as reminders to women in their homes that we live for God. And then, more recently, God led me to create the "Give Me Jesus" journal for women to use as they study the Word.
With tears rolling down my cheeks right now, I can say with all confidence that the pruning was worth it. The fruit that God is bearing now is for His glory alone. I take absolutely no credit. It has been a full 365 days, and I praise the Lord that I did not give up. For those of you who are just now starting, I want to encourage you with this: keep on keeping on for the glory of God and sake of the Gospel. As God prunes you and weeds out worldly motives and misconceptions, accept the cutting back. He does it for your good, knowing the fruit and beauty that will come from the breaking.
I sit here one year later with a newspaper article in my hands. It is funny how God does things like that. I never would have imagined that Life Lived Beautifully would be in the paper. God keeps drawing my eyes back to the title: "A beautiful life." Living life beautifully is not about making much of ourselves, owning the most clothing, selling the most products or having the most instagram followers. It is about living with purpose for the glory of God. Just as 1 Peter 2:4-10 talked about in our #LLB1Peter readings today, the purpose of our life is to be a living stone that is being built by God for God. Life Lived Beautifully is just another stone in the masterpiece of God's creation. It is one stone in the midst of millions. I pray that as a "living stone", that my life would brilliantly point to my Maker, my Savior and my Redeemer.
There's no better way to celebrate the one-year anniversary of Life Lived Beautifully other than to give. My friend, Rebecca Kuntz, needs to raise over $1,000 to fully fund a sweet boy named Bright in Ghana. Bright needed to have a life-saving surgery and Rebecca had to pay for it out of pocket. Any purchases made through Life Lived Beautifully today will go to support Bright and fund his recovery! You can also give straight to Rebecca here and read Bright's story. Let's be a part of something bigger than ourselves.
Here's to another year. In Christ alone, for God alone.