Day 3068 – My Journey Into Full-time Business Ownership – or – Portions Of The Last Chapter In My First Book

My journey into fulltime business ownership was something like the changing of seasons. It all started in fall, my absolute favorite time of year. The colors burst forth from all sides. The air is crisp and wonderful. There are warm mugs of cider, tea, or hot chocolate shared around the campfire. When I started into fulltime business ownership, it was much the same. The colors were brighter; this was something I had dreamed about for years. Ever since my early weddings, I knew this is what I wanted to do.

Those first few months were wonderful. We photographed amazing couples, I attended one of the biggest wedding conferences in the world, I slept in (after I got over the belief that I had to get up when “everyone else did”), I saw friends during the day that I never could have seen otherwise. I even went to the daytime Bible study at my church. Bright oranges and yellows and reds, everywhere.

As with the seasons of the year, it slowly crept into winter, so that when I sat up and noticed it, I couldn’t believe where I was. By January, I realized that while I had gotten inquiries and had consults, I hadn’t booked anything substantial. I was under this assumption that now that I was fulltime, I could merely increase my prices to reflect that it was my fulltime job and people would pay. It wasn’t until I stopped to think over the past months that I knew I had priced too high, too fast, and way above what we were worth at the time. My pride took a big hit.

Isn’t that how most winters of our souls go? We are so caught up in other things that we don’t see the change in ourselves, how far we’ve fallen, and how much we need God. Isn’t it a time of God showing us a way we need to grow? Moving us away from our sinful nature and more into the nature of His Son? The winters show us how utterly desperate we are. This one was no different for me.

Around this time is when we started praying before each consult. This change softened our hearts and made it easier to hold each opportunity with hands held open to God. He gives and takes away, after all. Everything we have is God’s, whether we admit it or not. I think the sooner that we realize this and live our lives like this, the sooner we’ll see success. I’m not talking about monetary success, even though it’s sometimes part of it. I’m talking about seeing success as how God is working in you.

Through this winter, the biggest thing we came away with, the thing that made me realize I needed to write this book was this fact: God defines success differently than we do. In the context of our relationship with Him, our success was a closer walk with Him and a deeper prayer life with each other. This was a very tough financial time for us, but God always provided just what we needed when we needed it. God made such a big change in us that friends of ours now reference us when giving advice to someone about a tough financial time. “Go talk to Jen and Bret about finances. They have a lot of experience and good advice.”

While it’s nice to be seen as an “expert” in something, and there is a part of me that takes pride in it, I can’t. There is no way I could have navigated that dark winter on my own. There is no way that I could have orchestrated my life to fit as well as it did in all those circumstances. Every success goes back to God; He is so wise to let us go through winters in life. If it weren’t for the winters, how on earth could we appreciate the spring?

Spring bloomed gently around us until there was overflowing joy and rapturous beauty. We started booking weddings again, with wonderful people. Things were clicking. The machine was working. The floodgates were open with blessing.

When summer rolled around, we were ready for the hot and sticky situation that met us. Bret was fired. His part-time job had been the main source of income we had over the summers. His military college benefits and monthly stipends only occurred in the nine months he went to college. On the bright side, there was only one day that we really freaked out. It was bad. You would think that after all that we went through in the months leading up to this point, we would have responded differently.

The next thing I knew (only four days after he lost his job), I was attending a life-changing conference for women and Bret had found a job that would provide enough money to cover expenses until he went back to school.

This excerpt is from pages 73-77 in Buy my book, Trusting God With 2 Cents: 22 Days To Becoming A Successful Christian Business Owner (this is an affiliate link to my book. This means we’ll get a small percentage of what you order, if you choose to order something on Amazon).


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Day 2732 – My Book In Person!! – or – Reading Goals

Last night, or very early this morning, we arrived home around 2 a.m., driven by an awesome Uber driver, I might add. While we were away, I ordered a few things from Amazon, including the softback version of my book. I purposefully waited until we were close to the end of the trip so we wouldn’t miss the packages. Amazon is a great service, unfortunately for me, too good! Thankfully, we know some of our neighbors well, and one of them grabbed the first package. When I got notification about my book, we texted the neighbor but he said nothing was there. I was sad because I realllllly wanted to see my book as soon as we got home. Even though I stopped the mail, on a lark, I check our box…..there it was! The first thing I did was rip into that package!

Oh friends, I sat on the floor and cried….I’m sure some of that was from traveling for 10 hours, not eating a ton, and enduring another crying baby for the duration of our flight…..but what joy it was to see something I created. I realized while we were away that it has taken me well over 5 years to write this book. It has given me courage to write more and write like crazy. It has also given me reason to read more. I find I am a much better writer and creator when I’m reading a lot. I’m signed up for the Modern Mrs. Darcy’s 2017 reading challenge and I’m excited to see what books that will bring my way…it’s a bit of a choose your own adventure reading challenge. I’m doing both of the challenges: Read for Fun (book you chose for the cover or a book you don’t want to admit you’re dying to read) and the Reading for Growth (book more than 600 pages, a Newbery Award winner). I like having some direction to my reading but I also like freedom to choose. If you have any challenges or books to recommend, throw them my way! You can check out my to be read list on Goodreads and get a feel for what I like.

Now for the geek out portion of the post….

I’m a Goodreads author!!!! Eeeep! I mean, it wasn’t that hard to get my account set up that way and add my book….but still….as a Goodreads nerd, I’m excited. 🙂

Are you interested in the printed version of my book? Check it out!



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Day 2208 – Guest Post “When Friends Despise You, Or The Day I Posted About Letting Things Go I Lost Someone I Loved” – Bret

Recently, I posted about not holding on to material things too tightly. Some day we will lose everything and everyone we love. The day of that post, someone I loved, who I had a falling out with, passed away.

One time while traveling, I wanted to visit a friend I didn’t see often. I called him multiple times but no one answered. I went to his house and knocked for maybe 10 minutes, seeing the car outside and hearing the TV on. Still no answer. What would you have thought?

I tried to assume the best, “Maybe they were busy. Hopefully I’ll see them next time.”

When I got home, I received a message, saying they were hurt that I didn’t visit them, asking why I turned my back on them and chose sides regarding some family dispute. I was stunned, but didn’t give up. I replied, explaining I had called them, went to their house, still wanted to see them again, and that I loved them. I had reached out, then waited for their response. It never came. Whatever the reason, they never tried to contact me. I never talked to them again. So I forgave them and left them in God’s hands.

Recently, I also had a falling out with a friend who asked me for accountability with a situation he was in. I read, I prayed, I sought advice. I wanted to be so gentle. Eventually he actually claimed I waited too long to ask him about it, but then later that I was too overbearing. What? In Romans, Paul talks about people’s conflicting thoughts first accusing them, then defending them. This friend eventually said he felt he knew what God was telling him to do, continued pursuing what he had previously asked for accountability with, and said he didn’t feel love from me.

1 Peter 3:17 says, “For it is better, if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing what is right, rather than for doing what is wrong.

Those situations hurt, but were some of the best things to happen to me. They made me read and pray daily, crying out, “God what do I do now?” Again, I forgave, let him go, and turned to God.

In Acts 7, Stephen was trying to convince some Jews to repent from crucifying Jesus, and instead see that Jesus was who He claimed to be. (They expected Him to come on the scene with pomp and glory, instead He came humbly. Eventually, he would be abandoned by even his disciples, and killed by those he came for. Can you imagine? If anyone knows betrayal or understands your pain, it is Jesus.) Then Stephen actually saw a vision of Jesus, just before they took him out of the city and stoned him. Before he died, he cried out, “Lord, do not charge them with this sin.”

In Luke 23:24, Jesus similarly said, “Father forgive them for they know not what they are doing.”

My mother in law reminded me of a verse, “He was… forsaken of men… and like one from whom men hide their face He was despised, and we did not esteem him.” Have you had someone you love, seem to avoid or even despise you?

It goes on to say, “But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities.” C.S. Lewis said Jesus was either a liar, a lunatic, or He was who He said He was. He could not have been anything else. He claimed to be God. That is either a lie, crazy, or true. And if it wasn’t true, then He wasn’t even just some good guy, since he was lying. If you believe He was who he said He was, then you can be forgiven for anything, and have a relationship with God who will never leave you. That should completely change your life.

I’m not being treated as bad as Stephen, but as he was able to see a vision of Jesus, I have never known God as deeply, as when those I love reject me. It is so very bittersweet and humbling.

No matter what someone has done, we should look forward to God working in them and bringing reconciliation, as he forgives us when we admit our sin. Even in the story of the prodigal son, the dad let the son go. But when the son returned, the dad ran to hug him. God is waiting to do that with each of us, if we turn to him, and we should be having faith that it is possible to do that with those we love.

People say the most important thing in life is family. I don’t believe that. I’m not saying they aren’t important. I want to talk with and encourage, and be encouraged by people I love, all the time. But there are times when even those we love don’t want us. Still, even if we go through life without any relationship problems, we will lose them some day.

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth,” applies also to people we love. I love Jen, but even we will not be married after death. That is why we try to ensure that our relationships with God are not built around our relationship with each other.

I hope that I and people reading this will see that nothing is more valuable than our relationship with God. Can you seriously say that you have joy in all circumstances? What do you value? Where does your joy come from? How long will that last? Value a relationship with God above all else. That will give you so much joy. People will not understand how you are able to have joy even in difficult circumstances, then you can share that joy and love with others.

Bret Against The Wall

Day 1717 – What Back Seat Driving With Bret Taught Me About God

This post has been brewing for a few days. I’m constantly striving to trust God in my business and life. I look at my past, see the countless times God provided for us, gave us our daily bread…which includes times when I had NO idea how we would pay the bills…and yet we could pay, even if only the minimums, and had the exact amount…or a few cents to spare. I see how God used circumstances in my life to grow me into His character. Times when it was exceedingly difficult, crying myself to sleep, feeling utterly hopeless. I can look back and see God’s hand. I can see exactly what He wanted to grow or change in me in that circumstance.

When I look at my life I see a beautiful picture of a God who loves me very much…even if how He showed His love wasn’t what I thought was love.

I know these things. I can read my journals/blog posts/Facebook posts and think, “yep, I am very loved!”

But….oh you knew one was coming, right?

When I am in the midst of these times, I don’t see it. I have anxiety. I can’t sleep at night. Being a business owner leads to a lot of reasons to doubt opportunities to trust God.

What struck me this week is how much this whole situation is like me when I drive with Bret. Bret is a great driver. He truly is. Yet, when I am sitting in that passenger seat….he apparently becomes THE WORST driver! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said things like, “Babe! Turn here, do this, do that!” Or actually gripped the side of the car because it felt like he stopped too fast/almost hit the car in front of us. lol, this is another opportunity I have to grow in trust of my husband!

But then it hit me….when we’re driving cross country and I curl up in the back seat to sleep….I have full faith in my husband and his driving abilities. I don’t back seat drive…unless it’s giving directions to the hotel or somewhere else. I can sleep without a worry, because Bret’s got this. How much more true is this in my walk with my Lord?! When I sit back, relax and trust He knows where we’re going, it’s a much more pleasant trip….we also drive quite a bit further without incident.

During my devotions this morning, I flipped to Psalm 23 and the first verse hit me in a way I don’t think it ever has before.

“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.” Psalm 23:1

A shepherd cares for His sheep. He makes sure they have food, water and shelter. That’s the bottom line that they need. Almost immediately after reading it, I had this picture of a sheep saying, “um, excuse me sir, but don’t you think the water is better over there?” or “Hmmmm, that sky looks pretty dark, shouldn’t we get to shelter?” The idea is almost laughable…a sheep talking back to the shepherd.

What about you? Are you back seat driving to God’s plan? Are you a sheep thinking he knows what’s up?