August 18th, 2014
West Village, Manhattan
My AC window unit kicked in and blasted into my tiny bedroom. I pulled my comforter over my head. My AC was no match for the August heat of NYC.
I closed my eyes and took a deep breath, feeling trapped in my hot air and restlessness. I wanted to hide from the world. I couldn’t breathe.
Why did I stay out so late?
Buzz, buzz. I looked over at my phone lighting up on the edge of the bed. I reached over to see the text message coming in.
“We are meeting up in LES, come out!”
I tossed the phone aside, along with the other 5 other missed messages.
There is NO way. I am staying home tonight.
The spiral began. What am I doing with my life? I feel terrible. I just need to sleep.
I grabbed the phone to reply.
“Staying in tonight and getting my beauty rest. Heart emoji”, I replied.
“BOO!” my friend replied.
I needed more than beauty rest. I needed an escape from my life. It had become a fast-paced, fun-fueled sprint after moving to New York six years ago. I had worked my way up to senior sales director at a successful ad tech company in NYC. My day-to-day was overflowing with work, friends, my boyfriend, and lots and lots of celebrations. The pressure to hit my sales goals at work was the major focus, and my overbooked social calendar helped take the edge off the pressure to succeed.
I began to count on my fingers how many times I had gone out in the past two weeks. When was my last break? Ok, it was the engagement party, then the bachelorette party, then my belated birthday drinks with Sarah, the 212- beach party, and taking clients out again on Thursday.
It’s easy to overindulge in the city that never sleeps. But tonight, I really needed some sleep.
My eyes searched the room for a solution to help me fall asleep.
I spotted a book on my dresser.
Ah, yes! Let’s read and fall asleep.
I picked up The Artisan Soul, by Erwin McManus. A few weeks prior, Pastor Erwin spoke at my church. I remember sitting in my seat and feeling an overwhelming connection with him. He reminded me that I was, at my core, an artist.
To create is to be human.To create is to fulfill our divine intention.To create is to reflect the image of God.To create is an act of worship.So, who is an artist?Anyone who has a soul.“You are an artist. You were created with an artisan soul. The question is: what kind of art will you leave behind?” - The Artisan Soul, Erwin Mcmanus.
My heart leapt as I read the words I so desperately needed to hear. He spoke directly to the tiny flame still flickering in my heart, which I had forgotten was there. It was my dream to create something, to make a difference, and to pursue a greater purpose. I began to feel the embers of hope growing within.
“Humanity is our most important canvas, our most important medium.”“The artisan soul understands that if our lives are to be our masterpieces and if life itself is our most creative act, then we must embrace life as a canvas and recognize the medium we have chosen (or haven't chosen) comes with boundaries and limitations and that these boundaries are not to be despised but to be embraced.“ - The Artisan Soul, Erwin McManus
I began to reflect on my life...my canvas. Who am I becoming? Have I set any boundaries for myself? Am I truly happy with this life I have been building and creating?
My life, my canvas, was full of impulsive invitations, events, sales goals, shows, happy hours, work friendships, my boyfriend, and trying to fit in God. I believed my life was successful, exciting, and fun, but it was oddly empty. My canvas was whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted.
So, what was the problem?
My life, my canvas, contained pretty colors, but there was so much disorder the colors began to mix into a yucky brown mess that resembled a kindergarten art project. My life had little margin, no whitespace, no intention, and zero space for dreams.
I continued reading until I finished the book at 1 AM. In the back of the book Erwin listed a checklist of actions to take. He called it the anvil and the hammer… A space to harness your inner Michelangelo and begin chiseling away at your life.
Who doesn’t love a good checklist!?
I pulled out a blank journal and began to take action on Erwin's directions.
“Make a list of everything you are doing that you need to stop doing. Create an exit plan and execute it.“ – The Artisan Soul, Erwin McManus.
I drew a circle on my page and inside the circle. I wrote, “my life.” I started to draw out my distractions and everything that I spent my time on as a bubble chart.
One by one I wrote. "work, social media, Facebook, boyfriend, going out, schmoozing clients, working out, traveling."
I stared at the page and felt a nudge in my spirit. I looked at the words “schmoozing clients.”
FROM NOW ON I am going to turn this talent I gave you and turn it into a ministry.
I stared at the words and had this visual revelation of the words flipping over and becoming the word “ministry.” In this moment, I saw the truth that my talent for working with people and connecting with people was HIS design all along.
My heart began to swell, as a rush of love and confirmation filled my body. Tears of disbelief and shame poured out.
What could this mean? How could you work with me? How could you choose me? I am such a mess! I am unqualified.
He confirmed that this gifting was ALWAYS designed to serve HIS kingdom, HIS sheep and HIS purposes. He also confirmed that He was willing to partner with ME. I wept on my bed feeling the sweet relief of God’s love, acceptance, and mercy.
I smiled with excitement in my chest as the tears dried up. The flame in my heart burned brighter as I realized this was the start of my new chapter.
I was ready to redesign my life and I needed a planner.
The lightbulb went off. That’s it! I am going to do it! I am going to make a planner!
I flipped the page in my journal and began to draw large rectangles to sketch out my idea.
My planner will be excellent, it will have amazingly thick paper, it will be minimalist and clean. It will reflect the love, acceptance, and encouragement, of Christ. It will provide a blank canvas to create a week with Jesus in the center and provide lots of whitespace and margin to reflect and intentionally carve out time to pursue your dreams.
My ideas began to flood my sketchbook. Page by page, I listed out the things I wanted inside my Christian planner.
I finally put away my sketchbook at 3 AM and turned off the lights. I smiled with excitement laying in the darkness, listening to the sound of my AC unit. So much had changed in the last eight hours. I tried to fall asleep, but another idea popped in my head, and I feared if I don’t write this down now, I will forget. I got out of bed, turned the light back on and kept sketching. I finally curled back into bed at 4 AM and slept like a baby.
Saying YES to this dream was one of the best “YES’s” of my life. On the other side of my YES has been breakthrough, hardship, transformation, impact, fulfillment, overwhelm, and so much fruit.
Saying YES led me to create ONE product that was unapologetically Christian and from this my business expanded into bible studies, journals, accessories, subscription boxes, a Dreamers Summit, and Dream Planning parties around the world.
I also found my greatest professional joy which is helping other dreamers create and print their product through my Print School program. It is an honor to empower and lead other dreamers in creating their planners, devotionals, or journals to share with the world.
My entrepreneurial journey has not been all rainbows and sunshine. There have been moments where I have wanted to give up, moments of doubt, moments of despair, but God has always proven to be faithful.
Do you believe that God also wants to use YOU as his vessel? God, your creator, and heavenly Father wants all of you. He wants your love life, your spiritual life, your physical life, your financial life, and your professional life. He is in all things, and He will lead you well in all things. Your business is His business.
Are you ready to partner with God and surrender your dreams at His feet?
Yes. But what does this even look like?
Before you light all the candles and throw on a church robe, let’s simplify this. I think sometimes we believe the only way to approach God is with stoic seriousness. God created you as an emotional being. You don’t have to hide your emotions from Him. Jesus didn’t stuff His emotions away. He wept, He celebrated, He loved, He encouraged, He felt, and He expressed tremendous joy. You can enjoy your time with God and come into His presence just as you are in this very moment.
Did you know that God loves it when you play, when you create, and when you use your God-given imagination? You are allowed to have fun in your relationship with God. Ultimately God is the dream GIVER, and He is your creator and greatest lover.
I also love Bruce Wilkinson’s book, The Dream Giver. He lays it out so clearly in his modern-day parable.
“God has put a driving passion in you to do something special. Why wouldn’t He? You are created in His image - the only person exactly like you in the universe. No one else can do your dream.” - The Dream Giver, Bruce Wilkinson
Bruce also warns us that we must surrender our big dream back to the Dream Giver. This is key.
“If you don’t surrender your Dream, you will be placing it higher on your priority list than God. You will go forward from this moment with a break in your relationship with your Dream Giver. Your dream will become your idol.”“A God-given Dream brings you together with what God wants to do in His world THROUGH YOU. You are meant to be a river of blessing, not a puddle drying in the sun.” - The Dream Giver, Bruce Wilkinson
When we surrender and create and lead, God’s way, we will experience the fulfillment our heart is desiring. When we trust God, we will have the peace and rest to sustain the calling.
Creating a new life, a new path, a new business, a new calling, a new product is messy! I encourage you to embrace the mess. Embrace the journey because it’s going to be worth the risk.
From now on… I hope you can work, build, and create, knowing the truth: You. Are. Loved.
And you were created to create!