Friday, November 19, 2010

The Difficult Act of Stepping Out

I have a very clear memory from about four and a half years ago of rocking my newborn Mattie when she was about eight or nine weeks old. My maternity leave was nearing an end, my anxiety about returning to work was setting in, and I was in tears at the thought of having to take my teeny tiny newborn to a baby-sitter. This emotion wasn't something I bargained for. I had my plan in place the whole time I was pregnant that I would be off work for eight weeks, then go back to work full time, and that would be that. But, like so many things with motherhood and parenting in general, you don't have any idea just how hard that will be until that baby is actually here. So I rocked and cried, and I remember praying and pleading with God to somehow make a way for me to be able to eventually stay home with her. At the time Matthew was not in a stable job position, having finished his degree, but having not passed all his certification testing that would make him eligible to be employed as a teacher, so I knew there was just no way at that time. I knew my prayer was big, but I prayed it anyway, and from then on, that has been the prayer of my heart.

Flash forward to exactly one year ago, and I was back in the same position; nearing the end of my maternity leave with my second baby, and wanting with every fiber in my being not to go back to work. I can't explain why, but my heart broke even more the second time I had to do it. I don't love my children differently, but going back to work after having Presley was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do. Many, many, many tears I cried, and looking back on it, I was probably depressed for sometime in the months after. Things at my job were not good, I was not being treated well, my maternity leave had been mis-handled in a way that was very unfair to me, and to go back into all of that while at the same time leaving my baby just broke me. Yet, quitting was not an option. We needed my paycheck, and no matter how we turned our budget inside out and upside down, we could not make it work without it.

I began to pray even more earnestly "God, make a way for me to come home". To be honest, when I prayed that prayer, I thought that maybe I could find a part time job, and continue to work some, but be home with my babies too. I looked for part time jobs with morning hours, so that I could work while Mattie was in preschool, and maybe be home in the afternoons. Just anything to have a little more time at home with my babies. But, nothing. I put the word out to everyone I knew that I was looking for a job change, and yet nothing ever panned out for me.

And then back in the early spring of this year, I got my sewing machine out. The one that had been collecting dust for quite sometime. The extent of my sewing to that point had been to make burp cloths, and a few other easy things. I wanted to make a simple dress for Mattie, just to see if I could. And I did. So I bought another pattern and made another dress, and it was so cute! I made her a dress for her birthday party, and got rave reviews on it. Then I got the crazy idea that I would make my girl's Easter dresses this year, and I did. And they were great. I was hooked.

I became addicted to fabric, became obsessed with cute patterns, and my mind was (is) buzzing with tons of ideas.

And then people started asking me if I'd make their little girl something. So I did.

Then I thought "I wonder if I could sell anything on Etsy?".

So, step by step, I got a shop up and going.

And slowly but surely people started finding my shop.

And I made my first sale (thanks, Melissa!). And then my second. And my third. And so forth. And today, just four short months after opening it, my shop hit 100 (quickly followed by 101 and 102) sales. I don't think words can even explain how unbelievable that is to me.

I have worked harder at my little business venture than I ever thought possible, and I have seen the hand of God upon everything I have done. I have sewed and sewed and sewed, and then sewed some more. I have stayed up way too late way too often, used every lunch hour, every nap time, every extra minute to sew, all the while working a full time job. I have become a master of time management and making the most of every spare minute. And I can say it has been worth every minute...I love what I'm doing. There is something so fulfilling about taking a pile of fabric, and turning it into something lovely.

This has been an eventful week for me at work. It started out horribly, as I got news I wasn't expecting about some pretty big changes that were being made that were not going to be good for me. It was definitely a "just when you thought it couldn't get any worse..." situation. So all the sudden, out of nowhere, I was being faced with some tough decisions. Do I stay and continue to take it? Or do I go, with no new job waiting, no job prospects, and not a lot of job opportunities in this wonderful economy? Of course, I prayed. And Matthew and I had a very long and thorough, open and honest discussion. And I prayed some more. And then we talked some more. And then we prayed some more. And then we finally decided that it was time for me to quit. So, Wednesday morning I gave my two week notice, and after Dec. 1, I will no longer be part of Corporate America. I have not been able to wipe the grin off my face all week.

As my sewing business has grown, I have felt for sometime that I was getting close to being able to leave my job, but I have been too scared to make that leap. At one moment I would think "this could actually work", and the next I would be filled with doubt and insecurites. My Etsy business is not "guaranteed" money like my paycheck is. You can't predict how well it will do, and one week may be great, and the next may be a flop. It is a HUGE step of faith for me to step away from a job I've had for eight years and say goodbye to a paycheck that we have depended on. We are counting on God to show up for us.

This fall in my women's bible study, we did the "Faithful, Abundant, True" series. There were two weeks where Priscilla Shirer taught on the following scripture, and although I have loved this verse for sometime - it's one of the ones I held tightly to when I was waiting on Presley - it became fresh to me as I related it to my job situation:
"Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly more than all we could ever
ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to Him be all
the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus forever and ever" Ephesians

God has done more than all I could ever ask or imagine. He has moved mountains, entirely on my behalf. He has taken the impossible and made it possible. He has taken a dusty old sewing machine and made the prayer of my heart a reality. To Him be all the glory forever and ever.

The next few months will be an adventure in budget cutting for us as we attempt to really make this work. We will be losing daycare expenses, which is huge (!), but we'll also be doing things like cancelling gym memberships, downgrading cell plans, cancelling our home phone (since we never use it), and so forth. I would love to hear any money saving tips anyone might have! And I would covet prayers for us as we make this huge transition from two stable incomes to one. And I would encourage you that if you have a mountain in your life that needs moving, cry out to the One who can move it for you.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Seasons Greetings

One of my favorite things about the Christmas season is getting Christmas cards. I love seeing the pictures, seeing how families change over the years and how children grow. Our Christmas card from last year was probably my favorite ever, and will be hard to top this year. I did a Christmas card/birth announcement combo, and I just loved everything about it. I'm already worrying about the picture for our card this year. With two little wiggle worms who don't care to stop for the camera these days, it's going to be hard to capture. I really don't have a good plan yet about the when and the how of exactly how I'm going to get this picture.

But one thing I do know is where I'm getting my cards from. I'm in love with Shutterfly's designs this year. One thing I really love about Shutterfly is that they have a "Religious" section, which a lot of other card sites don't. Here are some of my favorites:

I think this one is very classy in black and white:

I love the whimsical look of this one:

This is so modern, I love it:

Shutterfly also has great options for gift ideas. These photo mugs are so great, and I know they've been a hit with my kid's grandparents. And who wouldn't love a photo calendar full of precious pictures.
If you haven't yet, check out'll find exactly what you're looking for:

So, I'm all set to do my cards, just as soon as I get that elusive picture!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Tis Almost the Season

With Christmas fast approaching (six weeks from tomorrow!), I have been making my list and checking it twice. Typically, I am not an early shopper, but I'm trying to do that some this year. I feel like waiting until the last minute stresses me out more, makes me spend more, and makes my gifts less meaningful, and more the type of thing that I buy just to have something to give.

This year, I am making a real effort to me more intentional with my spending and purposeful with my giving. With regards to my girls, we will be having a little less under the tree this year, not necessarily because of finances or budget concerns, but because I'm trying to acknowledge that we already have too much "stuff". Closets overflow, rooms are crowded, every corner has some accumulation, and yet my instinct when it comes to thinking about what to get my girls for Christmas is to think we need more, more, more. Or that they need "x" amount of gifts each. Or that I need to spend "x" amount of dollars on each of them. I am really trying to examine who's idea of a perfect Christmas am I conforming to? I have a lot more to say about all that, but for now don't worry about my girls; I think they'll be thrilled on Christmas morning, but lets just say there will be less "junk" for them to unwrap.

With all that said, I wanted to share one of the things that will be under the tree for my girls. I haven't gotten them in yet, but have them ordered, and I am so excited about them. You may have heard of Baby Be Blessed Dolls, like I have, but I was sad to see that they were not accepting Christmas orders this year. So, my next thougt was to check Etsy, the place of all wonderful handmade things, for a similar product. I found this great shop, with the cutest dolls, and I cannot wait to get them. The shop is called "Hidden in My Heart Dolls", and what they are is a personalized doll, with a heart pocket, and within that pocket is a tag. You can personalize the tag with anything (scripture, names, birthdates, quotes, etc.), but I chose to have each of my girl's name, along with each girl's personal scripture that I claim and pray for them daily. I will share more of them when I get them in, but how perfect of a gift is this? You can choose haircolor, hair style (curly or straight pigtails, straight or wispy bangs, etc), dress fabric, and skin color to make the doll "match" your girl. Or boy....she can make a boy doll with overalls too.

Here's a few samples:

Boy dolls:

I don't know the shop owner personally, but she was extemely helpful to me and very accomodating. These will most likely be more of a keepsake type thing for my girls, instead of a doll that gets wagged all over the house, but I'm hoping it's something that's cherished for a long time.

One other thing I wanted to share. I recently came across a blog that has quickly become one of my favorites. You'll see the link over on my sidebar, and I would encourage you to check it out. I hate to decompress something so profound to just a few sentences, but the short version of the long story is that Kristen, the writer, was able to travel to Kenya earlier this year as a Compassion Blogger, and her heart has been forever changed, or "wrecked" as she puts it. God is using her (and her family) to do something amazing in Africa. They are currently working to open a maternity house in Kenya called The Mercy House. You can find some startling statistics on The Mercy House website that expose exactly why a house like this is so desperately needed. I am so struck by how "normal" of a family they are, yet they are taking such an "unnormal", huge leap of faith. They are trusting God so fully and completely to be their providence, and he has been so faithful to do that. One of the ways they are raising funds to open The Mercy House is through an Etsy shop that is run entirely on donated goods. I have donated a dress to the shop, and am hoping it sells for them. One hundred percent of the proceeds from any sale go directly to benefiting the opening of The Mercy House. I donated this dress:

This has been a best seller out of my own shop, I think I have sold around 30 of them in just the couple of weeks that I have had it listed, and I'm hoping it will sell for them. If you've considered buying it, would you consider buying it through this shop:

Or just go check out some of the other things they have listed. Lots of neat things, and you can buy with the knowledge that you are funding a very worthy effort.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Hallowing and Hostumes

From the time Mattie could really talk, she has always called Halloween "Hallowing" with a "G" at the end. And costume has always been "hostume" with an "h". But this year, she had outgrown those mispronunciations, and she would gently correct me when I would say one or the other; "Mom! It's not HalloWING, it's HalloWEEN!". My baby has been replaced with a know-it-all.

We had the best Halloween this year. I looooove Halloween, and although I know that there is a bit of stigma attached to it, for Christians anyway, my personal feeling, for our family, is that it's harmless fun. We dress up, we indulge in candy, we decorate with pumpkins and jack-o-lanterns, and that's it. I really look forward to it every year, and this year was great!

I reaaaaally wanted my girls to wear matching costumes this year. I wanted them to be ladybugs, or bumble bees, or cats, or anything that matched. But, strangely, I could not get Mattie on board with it. She usually loves matching outfits with her sister, but not for Hallowing. I gave up on the matchy costumes, and we ended up with a Southern Belle and a baby zebra, and I personally don't think they could have looked any cuter.

We had so many people gush and comment on Mattie's costume, but the truth is it came off the Halloween aisle at Wal-mart and was less than $20. She LOVED the costume, although she really had no idea what a "Southern Belle" was, and even had trouble remembering that title when people would ask her what she was going to be for Halloween. She finally resorted to telling people she was going as a "Pretty Lady".

And my little zebra did not want to wear her hat at first. It is all I can do to get her to leave a bow in her hair these days, so I knew the hat was going to be a long shot, but I did not expect this protest:

She hated it, but once we got going, she forgot about it and left it on all night, which was good because it turned pretty cool outside for trick-or-treating.
Before I go any further with pictures, let me point out that Matthew is "in costume" in these. He LOVES Halloween, loves dressing up, and would actually never consider not dressing up. He had these "old school" coaching shorts that someone had given him years ago, that are from the days when coaches dressed in such a way...short shorts, tube socks,, that's what he went as. And old-school Coach Nash. Please forgive me if you're offended by the amount of skin shown in the remaining pictures.
We pulled the girls in the wagon for trick-or-treating, which was the best idea we ever had. The neighborhood was swamped so heavily with trick-or-treaters, I don't think you could have maneuvered a car through. Plus we had a place to carry all the loot.
My cuties:

Zebra Presley...I added the bow to the zebra hair b/c I wanted to distinguish her as a girl zebra...but she still got called a "he" a few times:

Mattie as a Southern Belle...this costume seemed to fit her personality perfectly. She got called "Scarlett O'hara" several times, which was a reference that was completely lost on her:
The Family, including the "Mommy Witch", which is the scariest kind of witch of all.

Mattie needing a little coaching on the trick-or-treating the first couple of houses we hit. How lucky for her that we had a coach with us:
This is how we rolled:
Presley has not had a lot of candy in her short life, but she very quickly discovered it and decided she loved it. We let her have a few smarties and later even let her work on a sucker. She got to where she was frantically demanding candy like she was a baby crackhead and HAD to have it. We may have accidentally created a monster, I think.
Here she is when Mimi showed her the candy she was about to give her...all smiles:


Our town did trick-or-treating on Saturday, so Sunday, the "REAL Halloween" as Mattie called it, we went to our church's "Harvest Fest", which is always such a fun time. We had a blast, got some more candy, played and played, jumped on the bounce houses, and came home exhausted. I did take my camera, but this was one of the only pictures I got...Presley playing in the duck pool, which she loved:

And that was Halloween 2010 for us! I kept looking at Presley in her zebra costume that weekend, and thinking how much it reminded me of Mattie in her cow costume her first Halloween. Mattie was just 8 months old, but I think they really favor here. It seems the older Presley gets, the more she is looking like me anyway.