The Reluctant Entrepreneurs

It was summer in the early 90’s. My dad did not want us sitting around, frittering our summer away watching mindless tv while waiting for our friends to come out and play. So he sat us down and presented us with an opportunity.

“I want you two to start a business. I will give you start-up money and it can be whatever you want.”

Now, there is a motto my dad had for us kids that you need to know: “You are free to make your own choices, but if you make the wrong choice, I will make it for you.” It was our safety net growing up. I see that now. At the time, we saw it as cruel mockery.

In other words, if Dad said to start a business, we were starting a business whether we wanted to or not.

My sister and I did not want to start a business.

Nevertheless, we dragged our feet and hemmed and hawed over what to do. Our “Shark” investor, aka Dad (Who will be known for the rest of this story as “Daddy Shark”. Just kidding.) pressed us until we finally committed to starting up a business making the most 90’s accessory out there- scrunchies.

The Proprietors years later…

Mom took us material shopping and got out the ol’ Kenmore sewing machine. Dad made scrunchie holders to present our wares. We even had a deal with our hair stylist to sell our product… it was a venture primed for success.

We were only missing a name. This was still extremely unexciting to us, but we had to come up with something. Anything. We both liked the hymn “Face to Face.” There is a line in the song that says, “Far beyond the starry skies…” Or was it because of the famous artwork of the notorious Vincent Van Gogh? I don’t exactly recall, but Starry Sky Scrunchies would forever be emblazoned in our memories.

So our days went like this: Wake up. Eat. Cut out and sew scrunchies while watching Matlock or Andy Griffith or Beverly Hillbillies. Eat lunch. Play with friends. Repeat.

The part of the day called “cut out and sew scrunchies” was not relished. Cutting material and elastic. Sewing and figuring out how to close the end. It was something we did because we had to- we had an investor and distributor to think of, after all. But we did it with the gusto of a toothless man trying to eat corn nuts.

I think I can safely say we hated it. We were so unenthusiastic about it that our production rate was maybe, MAYBE, 5 scrunchies a day. With my expanded knowledge of sewing, I know now we could have easily pumped out 4 to 5 times that amount in a morning.

Lack of motivation is all it takes to make a successful business model a complete failure. Our hearts weren’t in it. I don’t know how long that hairstylist left our scrunchies in her shop, but we didn’t sell many. They were really ugly.

Eventually my Dad let up on us. We should have been embarrassed or disappointed in ourselves, but we were only relieved. We were not entrepreneurs.

So let’s fast forward about 7ish years. My dad decided to start his own business- a sign company. We learned how to look at signs from an early age and were glad to help him get started.

We drove around picking up neon, looking for broken signage in need of repairs, mastering fear of heights in a bucket truck. I was once handed a book bigger than any college textbook I ever had, and told me to learn graphic design. Ha. Ha.

But I watched and learned as he worked so hard to provide for us and build this dream with God’s leading. He made it work when it looked like failure because he wanted it to succeed. He cared.

Dad always knows how to make us laugh.

My sister would eventually get married and move away, but I stayed. I remember telling my Dad before I got married, “I am done working for the family business.” I am no entrepreneur, remember? I’m pretty sure I even brought up Starry Sky Scrunchies.

But my husband caught the bug. He had the drive. He had the willingness to learn. So my Dad took a chance on a bike mechanic with a college degree in Health and Fitness.

This will be their 17th year together. It has had its ups and downs, but God has been so unbelievably good to us. And yes, I still play a part in this 20 year old venture, albeit small.

Those epic fails as a kid helped me for this life I live now. I now know if motivation wanes, business will fail. I now know that putting all of yourself into a project is a rewarding experience. I now know when an opportunity is handed to you, you owe it to the giver and yourself to give it your all.

This is just one lesson of many Dad has taught me over the years. Some lessons I had to learn over and over and some took right away. And right now, I am watching my Dad- our business partner, the Scrunchie Shark- fight for his life as cancer is trying incorporate his body. I am still learning from him.

While I am still no entrepreneur, I am willing to take what he has given to our family and give it my all. I may not be able to weld, or wire, or even operate a crane, but I can cheer and motivate and send invoices.

Who knows? Maybe I will start making scrunchies again… I hear they are back on trend.

Why My Kids Aren’t “My Whole World”

I love kids. You don’t have seven of them if you hate children. For as much as they can drive you up the wall and challenge everything you ever believed about humanity, they are amazing!

We love their sense of humor and their imaginations and the funny things they say. We adore the snuggles and kisses and “I love yous”. We breathe deep each stage, enjoying their milestones and cherishing the memories of their better moments.

Seeing as these little sweeties need so much of our time and attention- especially at the beginning of their lives- it is so easy to let their little lives consume us. They can become our whole world.

My kids have been my whole world many times. The most obvious time was after the twins were born. It seemed for at least a year that there was time for nothing else but them! Feeding two, changing two, bathing two, cherishing two… and then add the other five that still needed a mom as well.

There are seasons where we must spend a majority of our time wearing the hat of Mom. It is a worthy and God-blessed position to hold. But there does come a line where motherhood and family becomes idolatry.

Idolatry is when we put any person or thing or idea above the Creator. The basic commandment is Exodus 20:3- “You shall have no other gods before me.” The sentence presupposes that something or someone else can be put before God.

Sure, there are obvious examples. Wooden or metal sculptures representing lesser deities being bowed to and venerated. In Luke 16:14-15, Jesus calls out the Pharisees for making money an idol. Verse 13 points out that money can be served instead of God.

Matthew 6:21 tells us that what we place the most value in is where our heart is. Now, don’t mistake me here- our kids are precious. More precious than possessions and fame. Worth the investment of our time and energy and prayers…. but should they be our entire heart? Our whole world?

It really comes down to this: who do we love most and how is that apparent in our lives? In one of the harshest portions of Scripture, Jesus seemingly puts off his flesh and blood and declares that whoever follows God wholeheartedly is His family. (Luke 8:38-39) Never mind the countless times He talks about leaving family to take His cross.

So let’s set this straight. Your kids are an eternal work. They are precious souls you have been loaned to bring up in the ways of their Creator. You are a steward of souls-just as your parents were for you. You teach them the ways of God through your lifestyle, speech, and behavior towards them.

This is a vital calling. It is crucial to civilization and the eternal purposes of God. But parenthood is not the only calling you have. And I think, amidst the pouring of ourselves into these little ones, we need to remember God comes first.

When God comes before kids, we are going to make time to learn more about Him. We will make corporate worship a priority for every member of our family instead of making our kids the excuse for sitting out. We will say yes to the non kid tasks God has for us: whether it is discipling that new believer, or singing in the choir, or cleaning the church. Even if it takes time away from our babies.

This is all part of your training of their souls too- they need God first to be patterned in your life so they know what it looks like for their lives. They need to know that they are not the center of anyone’s world, and if they want to be great in God’s Kingdom, they must become a servant.

We have raised a generation that is, by and large, convinced that they are the center of the universe. They believe their parents are there for them alone. When diminished in any way- which will happen- their self worth crumbles. And the rest of the world is held hostage to maintaining their fragile egos.

You see, this idea of family idolatry isn’t an either/or situation. You can and should love your family. They ought to have your time and attention and affection in ways that no other earthly thing should. But not above God. And your utter devotion to God is not to the detriment of you family, but to their ultimate benefit.

I say that as someone who has been there. I have made my kids the excuse. I have not modeled a servant of Christ for them perfectly. And God gives grace… so much grace. But I fooled myself into thinking that my only job on earth was to be their mom… nothing else. And, eventually, the prospect is maddening because I knew that I was created to be their mom- and other things as well.

I’m a wife. I’m a very part-time accounts receivable person. I’m a writer. I’m a Sunday school teacher. I’m a comedian (in my head). I’m an Uber driver (for the kids). I’m a sewer and baker and historian and counselor and…. I’ve got other callings. They help me to be a better mom to my kids, but ultimately they help me to be a better servant for my Lord.

But guilt. Guilt will do a number on you. Make you do things that make no sense. Create a martyr instead of a mentor. I have thought that it is selfish of me to need a break from the kids. I have thought that getting together for a Bible study or coffee with friends was not something I needed. That my kids needed me more.

Truth reveals. It reveals that, in my case, I have plenty of time with my kids. I’m a stay at home parent. The few hours they are out of my sight are not likely to undo the countless hours I have poured into them. They need a mom who has her cup filled with Jesus more than they need her to watch another movie or play another game with them.

Another truth revealed: I am not raising children to stay children forever. They will become adults before you know it. And yeah, we can share lessons and formally teach them things about being an adult. The most they will learn is from the patterns you show in your own life. So what kind of adult do you want your kids to be? Model that, as best you can. You want them to make no time for individual pursuits? You want them not to be a faithful church member? You want them to be a taker and not a giver?

And since we must raise kids to be adults someday, we do have to teach them independence from us, painful though it is. Why? I, personally, want to be able to sleep when my kids leave the house. If I don’t start giving them independence at appropriate intervals, I will always doubt that they are able to handle the real world. Brief separation is healthy. Most seasoned parents never share this difficult but real part of raising children.

So, yes, I’m going to say it: Your kids shouldn’t be your whole world. It isn’t healthy for them and it isn’t healthy for you. Point your kids to the One we should be doing all things for- let Him be everything to you.

The simple and hard answer to having a different life

How is it possible to have your heart so full and yet so broken all at the same time? I don’t quite understand it, but I am there.

I am honed in on the gifts around me: my beautiful, unique kids. My handsome, loving husband and our wonderful marriage. My home. My family. My church family. My relationship with God. And so much more.

Reading that, the temptation is to think “Wow! Leah’s life is so together. Pinterest perfect, really…”

But that is far from the truth. Every soul has its’ cross to bear. Mine is not yours.

And at the same time that I count my blessings, I am also so broken for the needs of others, as well as the needs I still have.

Anxiety. Abuse. Broken homes. Depression. Eating disorders. Guilt. Hidden addiction. Phobias. Poverty. And so much more.

So, what is it? Did I win the genetic/universal lottery, that my life is the way it is? I can count major personal crises on one hand (though I expect them everyday). We have normal problems. Are my struggles just lame, or is my perspective just too sunny? What makes the difference?

My answer will make many cringe. It seems too simple, too self-righteous and too blasé. I can tell you- the answer is neither simple nor difficult. The answer is entirely based not on my own goodness, but is in every way a part of me.

Jesus.

I acknowledged my reality many years ago. I am a sinner. I am not enough. I don’t measure up. Seeing the dark reality for what it is gives one a desire for resolution, because nothing is settled- it’s all upset.

Only God gives us that resolution we long for. The dark sin that is our upsetting reality was taken care of by Jesus Christ. He took care of our sin problem by not only taking our punishment, but defeating our punishment.

When I depended on Christ’s sacrifice- not my ability to believe, or being moral, or even being churchy- His life became mine. His goodness, His enoughness, His perfection all became mine to claim. I stand forgiven.

But this is not just a moment in time- it is a lifestyle. Choosing Christ has to happen daily, hourly, minutely, secondly (and firstly too!). Putting aside my own reasoning and ways and putting on Christ’s ways is a lifelong pursuit and commitment.

This choosing Jesus changed my life trajectory. It morphed my future. Instead of choosing a career that built me up, I committed to one that built up others. Instead of marrying the guy who said all the things I wanted to hear and did all the things I wanted him to do, I picked the man who encouraged me to be more like Jesus.

It goes even deeper. The thoughts that I want to think about others, thoughts based entirely on feeling with no fact, I must choose not to dwell on. The fear and pain that I want hold tight to, I must let go. The real life problems that I want to freak out over and fix any way I can’t, I must give over to God and follow His commands for handling them.

It is that simple and that difficult. It is entirely based not on my own goodness, but is in every way a part of me.

Jesus.

And lest you think that I think I have arrived, nothing could be farther from the truth. Sometimes, too often, I fail to choose Jesus.

The unkind word spoken in anger. The hand wringing over the small and big problems. The priorities out of whack. The times I think my way will work better than God’s way.

I know who I am. I also know who God is. And even when I don’t choose Jesus, at any given time, a course correct is available and God will always help and accept me in that turn.

So I am spilling my heart to say this- there is always a way to course correct and choose Jesus. It’s a simple choice that may be difficult to execute. It is a choice based not on you and your abilities or lack thereof.

When choosing Jesus, I find no guilt or regret or shame. I find no need to overthink or have absolute control. There is peace. There is joy. There is an abundance in spirit that is hard to explain. Even when life gets really rough. The benefits to my soul far outweigh the difficulty in choosing Jesus.

Thoughts on a Thursday IV

When I was a young girl, I loved to talk… probably too much. My Grandpa is not a big talker. One of my all-time favorite memories is when my Grandpa H. took me with him to pick up some furniture half an hour away. I chattered on the entire drive to Fond du Lac and back. Grandpa just listened, with the occasional “Ach!” thrown in for good measure.

That’s how I think about sharing thoughts- expression is good, but may need to be tempered. Hopefully, I’ve matured some over the last 30 years to weigh my words before I say my words. This little blurb helps me practice that.

1. My neighbors are long-suffering folk.

I mean, I am almost the old woman who lives in the shoe. I live in a small house with lots of kids, which means lots of loud, lots of mayhem, lots of runaway toddlers. For the past 11 years, my neighbors have patiently put up with all the nonsense. They don’t even chide me for the number of little ones around.

Good neighbors are a blessing. Some of them are family. Some of them are almost family. No one tells you when you grow up that being a neighbor is an important relationship to maintain, but it really is. I guess Jesus did tell us to love our neighbor. That’s a good place to start.

2. Another childhood memory…

The first time I watched Anne of Green Gables was at my Grandma J’s house as a girl no more than 8. (Hi Grandma!!) We got dressed up. She had the best dress up clothes, partly due to all my aunts and their formal events, but also my Grandma’s penchant for delighting her grandkids. We even had tea and a special guest- my Grandma’s friend, Mrs. S., whose attire for the event matched my own albeit we are generations apart. It was a delightful time.

Mrs. S. is a special part of my life. We have shared many precious memories together. Have you ever met someone whose entire lifestyle so perfectly matched their personality? She is that lady- exquisitely charming with a side of humor. I want to be her when I grow up. I’m pretty sure I’ll never get there…

And today, my own kids get the privilege of spending the afternoon with her and her grandson. I am excited and a little sentimental- who knew that a tea party would turn into a life long friendship? God did.

It is so important that we get out of our generational bubbles and get into the lives of those who are older and younger. The perspective and understanding you gain is beyond measure. I could definitely use more of that.

3. The times are achanging…

There is some upheaval in our little sphere as of late. Friends moving on, childhood homes being sold, children reaching bittersweet milestones. These events always chafe, but they also bless.

Change means growth. Change means life is being lived, and lived well. And these changes show a life filled with love, lessons, and good memories. Christ promised us abundant life not just in heaven but on earth as well. And honestly, the situations for each of these changes came about from following the Lord.

So I can look change in the face, unsure of the future, but thankful for the past and it’s lessons. Then I can move forward looking at the next thing the Lord has for me and those I love.

4. Realistic expectations.

Ugh! This is such a struggle! I want my kids to behave perfectly, a clean house, a cohesive meal plan, a doting husband and no mama pooch.

All these things are unrealistic. I mean, they would be if our primary focus in life is outward appearances. I’ve find that outward focus breeds resentment and only temporary change. Building relationships, or even restoring them, is messy and imperfect and hard work. But if you want a real life with eternal results, not focused on you but on Christ? It’s worth it.

So that may mean turning down the expectation dial… lower… lower… juuuusst a little more… there. Expectations are great- it’s good to have goals. I believe we need to push ourselves into uncomfortable places and get things accomplished. But setting goals for others and believing we’ve “arrived”? That has relationship destruction written all over it.

And no one fully shares their struggles. Nor should they feel the need to divulge every detail. But the reality is no one has a perfect life. Each person has their cross to bear- just be thankful yours is not theirs.

Water your own garden. Stop believing tv=truth. Throw comparison in the trash. Stop putting sinners on pedestals.

5. Mystery markers.

We don’t keep markers in the house. They find us, so we don’t go looking for them. And for good reason- my son looks like a smurf right now. Except, I didn’t really notice until church last night when a deacon asked me how much did Owen’s tats cost. 🤦🏼‍♀️ Where did this blue pen of humiliation come from? I still am unsure….

Have a colorful weekend everyone!

Enough is enough.

This is a scenario that happens often in my home. A child does something- a concert, a game, a project, a test- and they do well at it. Or maybe they don’t. Being the mom I am, I either acknowledge their achievement or cheer them on in their progress.

For some reason, the response is the same:

“I messed up. This part didn’t go right and I didn’t understand that.”

“Yeah, but it isn’t a A.”

Photo by twinsfisch on Unsplash

Weird, huh? We don’t expect perfection in our children, but they sure do expect it from themselves!

I think it is just in our human nature to want to be good at everything we try. That life should go our way. And when it doesn’t we think that we are a complete and total failure.

And why wouldn’t we feel this way when we are inundated with the pictures of a perfect life on a daily basis. Not only that, but when we do put a little of ourselves out for people to see and they immediately give their $.02 on our smidgen of life we share with them. Because they know better. Obviously.

It is so easy to believe we are useless, rejected, a failure in the world and not worth the air we breathe. Just look at the current rates for depression and anxiety… it’s becoming the norm instead of the exception.

The truth of the matter is we are not enough.

I am not enough.

Oh, I am fully aware of the mantra, and I am calling it out. Because enough is enough, and I in myself am not enough no matter how much I repeat it.

In and of myself, this is true. I am not perfect. I will never be perfect on earth. I am incomplete. The person in the mirror looking at me is not my whole self, no matter where I search, what I do, or how I define myself.

Photo by Taylor Smith on Unsplash

And in this moment of rawness, it is not where we turn to, but who we turn to that matters. We look to Christ. He is enough. He is perfect. And the best part? He can complete us. (Col. 2:10)

It is Christ who takes us where we are and makes us more than we ever thought possible. He alone takes our imperfections and uses them for a purpose! He takes the branches of our lives that are not growing and prunes us into something productive. (John 15:1-8)

When we look to self for solutions and success, we will eventually run dry of satisfaction and contentment. But when we walk with our Completer- He fills us with joy and peace and satisfaction that lasts.

Remember the woman at the well? She felt not enough. Going out in the heat of the day possibly to avoid the chattering of ladies who deemed her not enough as well.We often avoid the truth when it is presented in a hurtful way. It’s understandable.

Jesus gets into a conversation with her and reveals that, yes, she is indeed incomplete- looking for fulfillment in a series of broken relationships. We need more people who are willing to share truth in love and without the bitter venom of a condemnation we are powerless to carry out.

But Jesus didn’t leave her sitting in a puddle of guilt. That woman discovered a water that would satisfy eternally. That water was Christ, the promised Messiah. And when she found Him? She was eager to share the Living Water with all in her community- even her enemies.

Photo by John Wilson on Unsplash

Because, when we find the secret to completeness- to enoughness- we can’t keep it to ourselves. Nor are we meant to. The focus becomes, not on us and our lack, but on Christ and His mission. We forget about ourselves and whether we are enough because we remember who Jesus is and that without Him we can do nothing.

Dear Sister, there is so much more to the walk of faith than navel gazing, placing false expectations on ourselves and eventually bemoaning our existence. We were never meant to be complete without a relationship with our Creator- that separation that happened at the fall did more than just make us aware- it made us ashamed. But thanks be to God for His unspeakable Gift! He sent His Son to make a way for true fellowship again. He made a path for completeness that is found in trusting in what He did on the cross.

We want to make it more complex. There’s got to be a secret Scripture or 12 step process…. but there isn’t. Realizing Christ not only is our enough, but that He defines enough, and that He declares us to be enough needs to be enough for us. Repeat it daily. Remind the despairing. Reconcile the lost. Christ makes us enough.

Read it yourself: Samaritan Woman’s account is in John 4:1-42.

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