The Accidental Entrepreneur or The time I tried to buy an ink cartridge and ended up starting a business.

img_6381A week and a half ago, after setting the intention to be more budget-conscious I found myself needing a black ink cartridge.  Those things are expensive and I didn’t have enough left in my weekly home management budget to buy one.  I could’ve used money from another account or my savings and it would’ve been fine but I tend to do that a lot so I decided to stick to my budget and get creative.  I printed everything in blue ink instead of black for a while but as the week wore on this strategy got increasingly frustrating and I found myself with a list of “things to print when I get an ink cartridge.”  I needed a black ink cartridge to live efficiently.  I decided I could try to earn one.  Now I’m a little rusty when it comes to earning money since I’ve been staying home with Jessica (and preparing for Jessica and trying to conceive Jessica) for the past 11 years and I’m particular about the time I commit outside our home.  So I decided to post a message on my community Facebook group offering to cut back the myriad brown and crunchy frozen plants in people’s front yards.  I listed my qualifications (Master Gardener Training, Landscape Design practice/consulting) as well as my availability (3 spots on Thursday) and price ($20).  I hoped 3 people would want to take me up on my offer so I could buy my ink cartridge and get on with my life.  In less than 3 minutes I had 3 customers and I was elated.  Within 8 minutes I had 5 customers so I said I could do 2 front yards on Friday too (Hey, I thought, I can also buy the essential oil I’ve been needing to replenish).  By the end of the night I had about 20 messages and by the next morning I was up to 30.  The following week saw an additional 10 people added to my list, each wanting a different service (tree pruning, lawn consultation, landscape design, winter clean-up).  As I met with different neighbors I realized that I inadvertently stumbled into a ready market for my landscape love.  I’ve worked hard, I’ve made some mistakes, I’ve learned a lot, I’ve gotten dirty, I bought a hedge-trimmer and wielded it with pride (because I spent 60 hand-cramping minutes cutting back ornamental grass with hand pruners and that hedge trimmer gets the job done in less than a minute!).  So this past week I filed papers with the Texas State Comptroller to officially establish Beautiful Village Landscaping LLC.  Now proudly (and humbly) operating in Bulverde Village.

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“His Hand is Stretched Out Still”

Yesterday I had the chance to go ice skating with Jessica.  Having only been a few times in her 7 years she’s still a bit unsteady on the ice.  She enthusiastically donned her skates and  I watched her stumble through the door to the rink and wait with anxious anticipation for the Zamboni to finish it’s job so she could begin skating.  Her initial enthusiasm quickly channeled itself into focused determination as she gripped the wall and unsteadily made her way slowly around the rink.  After a few minutes, I followed her out onto the ice, watching her strong little legs jerkily move along as she tried to master the feel of balancing her entire body on two very narrow blades and gliding on a very unforgiving surface.  When she was ready to leave the wall she took my hand and held tight, scooting one leg and then the other shuffling herself around the rink again and again.  After a while she began to let go at intervals.  Feeling increasing confidence in her steadiness, she would move a few feet from me, sometimes falling, sometimes skating and inevitably looking back to see if I was watching.  After a few laps of back and forth hand-holding, I began skating close to her holding my arm out.  I opened my hand and flexed my arm muscles so that my arm was strong and available to her.  I imagine watching me skate was pretty comical, partly stooped with one arm bent at the elbow.  It didn’t matter though, I wanted to serve as firm support for her when she needed it.  She grabbed on quite a bit but increasingly she could balance on her own.  A few times she skated farther from me and someone would come between us.  Other times she’d fall and look up at me with the tears that come from pain (knees+ice=hurt) and question why I wasn’t right next to her, why I’d left when she needed me.  I told her it was because she had skated on her own, she’d quickened her pace.  I thought about God, as I always do in my contemplative parenting moments, and how his support for us is the same.  He tells us his arm is extended, and that for all our faltering moments, His hand is stretched out still.  Just like I held my arm firm and steady, He offers his strength, support and solidarity as we learn new things, as we stumble, as we venture out and gain confidence in this thing called living.  And when we stumble and fall and look up blaming Him for His absence, he simply holds out His arm, helps us up and reminds us He’s never been far and that He’ll skate with us as long as we want Him there.  I love that about Him.

Take Action: Nourish your soul with a prayer today, gratefully acknowledge one blessing and ask to have the eyes to see His hand in your life.

Google, Google on my screen

Do you ever take a minute to look at the sidebar ads google suggests for you?  Every once in a while it’s really insightful to look at them because they’re populated based on your searches, purchases, emails, etc.  It’s kind of like looking in the mirror, the ads become a reflection of what you’ve been looking for and what you’re interested in.  When you look at them, are you surprised?  What kind of person do they reflect?  Is that the person you are?  The person you’d like to be?  The good news is that google changes as you change and as the things you seek become more refined, the ads and content you see are elevated too.

Look for the seeds

A few weeks ago I was volunteering in Jessica’s classroom.  After reading with the kids, I mentioned to her teacher that I was going to go tidy up the plants in the patio garden.  Her wise Montessori guide kindly cautioned me to be mindful in my “cleanup efforts” because some of the flowers were going to seed.

As Jessica and I worked outside in the backyard yesterday afternoon, I recalled her teacher’s words and I delighted in collecting the bountiful harvest of seeds that my plants were generating so effortlessly.  Usually when plants are going to seed something beautiful and intentional is happening.  Though they look dried up and done-for they’re just in the process of offering up next year’s colors.  This principle has wide application, especially in a world where we put so much emphasis on the way things appear.  Sometimes appearances are deceiving.  

Experience Joy

Each day we breathe we’re invited to increase our capacity for experiencing life, for really living.  We can choose to use our experiences to support this goal of being vibrantly and fully alive.  Many times we notice this invitation when we feel sadness, grief, guilt or sorrow.  We may shy away from these experiences or cover the emotions and avoid processing them because they are uncomfortable.   In the thick of a challenging moment it can be soothing to remember that you are simultaneously deepinging your channels for feeling joy and peace.   So navigate your way through struggle with as much grace and support as you can access and then look for the deeper joy and peace that are now inherently yours as well.

Learn by living

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Our “plancha” ride

When Ritchie, Jessica and I set out for Guatemala last year we knew that we were undertaking some things we’d never done before and there was a good chance we were going to make mistakes as we immersed ourselves in experiences with new places, cultures and people.  We committed that instead of getting frustrated when something didn’t quite go the way we planned we’d remind each other to “Live and Learn.”  The strategy worked well for us and sometimes the mistakes were funny like when I told our local guide I needed to take a griddle (plancha) instead of a boat (barco).  Other times they were more serious like when a flight got cancelled and we didn’t know that the large-group-tour-guide was running to the reservation counter because when you’re near the end of the line you wait for the shuttle for an additional hour AND get the last available hotel room on the outskirts of the city AND eat your “free” dinner with your six year old asleep in your lap around 10:30 pm.  Nevertheless the practice of saying “live and learn” at each misstep helped us to laugh and enjoy our adventure.  Over the past year we’ve continued to use this mantra in our home, work and travels and it’s lightened things up nearly every time. So next time you goof something up, just be curious about what you could learn from the experience.  It makes a world of difference.

Optimum Capacity

It is my nature to regularly stretch myself to max capacity, to test limits, to fill my life with beautiful and meaningful endeavors.  Today I am thinking about how moments of operating at full creative strength are insightful and invigorating.  They can also be exhausting.  It’s a fun challenge to find the comfortable yet still-edgy ground of optimum capacity, where we’re growing and evolving in strong, steady and sustainable ways.

Intentional Sacrifice

The Lord has always asked His people to sacrifice.  It’s looked different throughout Judeo-Christian history but the principle has been constant. Regardless of the sacrifice, Israel of old and the Savior’s followers now are asked to give something to the Lord that puts them in a vulnerable position.  That’s the nature of sacrifice right?  It hurts a little, or sometimes a lot.  We give something we want or love or maybe even need.  When the Lord asked Israel to offer up the firstlings of her flocks and her beautiful, unblemished rams, she was handing over very useful, perhaps even vital elements of her livelihood in order to be obedient.

In this day, one of the sacrifices that the Lord asks for is a broken heart and a contrite spirit.  A lot of times that feels like willingness to me and I find myself struggling to find clarity in what the Lord is asking me to do.  In an effort to wade through the overwhelming number of ways to humbly obey and give of myself, I grapple with words like ‘needful’ and ‘expedient’ and ‘requisite.’  I seek to understand whether a situation is calling for specific talents or time or energy that I can lay on the altar.  This intricate dance is one that I get wrong often, either withholding too much or diving in with gusto that I actually can’t sustain.  It’s in those moments though, where I have the opportunity to see Him, to have Him teach me where I crossed the “needful” line or what about my offering was just below requisite.  I think it’s important to be willing to experiment because the process of learning to sacrifice can have sweet blessings.

Keep your balance

Proportioned growth is a natural practice.  Grass seeks to keep a balance between root and blade. The roots pull nourishment from the earth and the blade absorbs energy from the sun and both elements combine to support growth. (This is why keeping grass at a consistent height helps it to flourish.  It can grow and thicken without spending it’s energy trying to constantly re-calibrate the root and blade balance).  Life is like that.  It is wise to balance our external outward endeavors with our nourishing self-care and vice versa.  In a time when it’s relatively easy to grow outward at extraordinary rates, it’s important to focus on our own root systems, the things that nourish and sustain our bodies, minds and spirits.   This type of balanced growth is rich and sustainable.

The Nature of Growth

You wouldn’t know it by looking at cotton, but like any fruitful creation, it’s seeds are carefully housed inside it.  With the fluff peeled back you can see the seed just waiting for the protective seasonal covering to fade away so it can grow.  Sometimes our personal protective coverings are hard to give up but it’s essential to the process of growth.  The decay of one gives rise to the other.  So the next time one of your protective walls comes down (in mind, experience or emotion) look for what is uncovered and thus able to grow.  Then nurture that thing by your thoughts and actions with a curiosity toward what fruit will come of it.