Wednesday, June 1, 2016

An Apron, Q&A, and a New Shop

Last week, I pressed "open store" on a new online shop adventure.

And it all started with an apron--Susanna Wesley's apron.

Instead of writing out a long backstory, here's a little Q&A to keep me on track ;)

Q: You already have an online shop, why would you start another one?

A: Late last summer, I knew I needed to make some decisions about the Nicole Joelle Print Shop. I was in a rut, and I was envious of other shops that seemed to be so successful. Even though I was spending a lot of time creating for it, my sales weren't reflective of that time. Not only that, but I wasn't excited or passionate about what I was doing. I felt like I was just doing it to keep doing it--not because it was life-giving or providing for our family. Many days, I felt discouraged by lack of "success" or frustrated when I saw other shops doing so well. Especially since I was pregnant with Sam, I knew something had to change. So, I began to pray. I prayed for wisdom and direction. I prayed for clarity.

A few days after I began praying about it, I reheard the story of Susanna Wesley and her prayer apron (the only other time I had heard it before was probably 10 years ago). And then later that week, I heard it again.

All of a sudden, sitting there on my bed praying/thinking, I had an "aha" moment about aprons.

Q: Um, what do you mean you had a moment about aprons?

A: Even though I had heard the story of her prayer apron years and years ago, it always stuck with me. Susanna Wesley had a lot of children, and she would cover her head with her apron to pray when she needed to stop and spend some time with Jesus. Her children knew that she was praying and not to bother her. The reason the story always resonated with me was because I thought it was a perfect example of seeking Jesus in the everyday and showing your kids that you were seeking and talking with Him. That's what I want in my life and want my children to see.

Then I had a thought:
What if I created aprons to be a visual reminder to moms and women that Jesus is with them in the everyday?

What other everyday products could I create that are visual reminders to seek Jesus?

Suddenly, my creativity was no longer dried up. Instead, everyday I felt like my ideas were multiplying. I felt renewed, excited, and passionate--it was a sweet gift from God after a season of discouragement.

Since September, I've kept a notebook filled with lots of ideas (some good, some not so much, and some way too-big-for-my britches right now).

Q: But there are no aprons in your shop. Why not?

A: First of all, my vision for the aprons is unique and I want to do it right. Since I don't sew more than a straight line, I'll need help (and money!) to launch the aprons. So, I began with what I knew: paper goods to be a starting point for the shop. My hope is to launch aprons this fall.

Q: Why did you name the shop Cultivate Co?

A: I spent weeks brainstorming for a name because I wanted it to represent the purpose of the shop: to remind you that God is with always present with you and working in you. When I looked into the word Cultivate--I loved that it meant to prepare, to grow, and to develop. Faith is not stagnant--it is growing and being cultivated. The motto for Cultivate Co is to plant encouragement in the everyday because I really do desire that each product encourages you in your faith.

Q: What is your favorite product in the shop?

A: Well, I really love them all--but my favorite are these scripture seeds (little verse cards to help you plant scripture in your heart and home). The Comfort + Care set all have verses that were so dear to me after Sam was born and I needed encouragement and nearness from God and His Word.

Q: What's happening with the Nicole Joelle Print Shop?

A: It's currently still open and stocked with just a few products. It's on auto-pilot right now, and I plan to officially close the doors at the end of summer. However, I am thinking about transitioning it a lightly-stocked Cultivate Co Etsy shop in addition to my official shop. We'll see :)

Q: What are most excited about with Cultivate Co?

A: Goodness. So much! I think it's so easy to fall into the trap that following Jesus means following the rules. I have often felt guilty about not having twenty minutes of daily quiet time or that I'm not doing enough (or that God can't work in me if I'm not crossing all my t's). You know what? That's a big lie. God is in me. He works in me. He is there when I need grace after being harsh with my toddler or disrespecting my husband. He gives me wisdom about how to teach my kids about Him. He is there to praise and thank as I do those thankless and praise-less household duties. He is there. This is the heartbeat of my little shop: to encourage others as they walk day in and day out with Jesus. It's about growing where you are planted--and trusting your Creator to work in you.

Q: What's your big vision for Cultivate Co?

A: Well, I certainly have ideas, but my biggest vision is to follow God's vision. I want to keep my hands open to His plans. I look forward to seeing what happens!

Q: Where can I find out more about the shop?

A: Over here on Instagram, here on Facebook, and here is the storefront.

Q: Are there any discounts available?

A: Well, you made it to the end of the story--grab 15% off with the code STORY15


Of course, there are a lot of tiny little details that are tucked away in my mind--but hopefully this gives you a little glimpse of the story behind Cultivate Co :) 
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Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Dear Samuel: Four Months

Dear sweet Sam,

You're chubbing up, kiddo. Last I heard, you were over 17 pounds. However, your brother was almost twenty pound at the same age, so you still have to gain some rolls if you want to compete in his weight category ;)

Goodness, how do I start? Well, you are most definitely a momma's boy. You don't mind other people, but you tend to get a little grumpy if you don't see mom for a while. Now, I don't really hate that you love me so much ;), but I do wish you'd be your cute, smiley self for the those sweet nursery workers at church. If you could do that, that would so wonderful.

Yesterday, when I dropped you off in the nursery, you gave me a little pouty lip. Kid--you're too young for that. Right? Isn't that supposed to start when you two or something?

You are definitely our social guy--you love to smile and love when people smile at you. Being the social guy that you are, you also like to be held most of the time. All.the.time.

Laying on the floor. Not your favorite. Bouncing in your exersaucer, you like that for a bit but not too long. Laying in your rock 'n' play when it's not nap time--definitely not your favorite. Laying on your belly--you also have some strong opinions about doing that for too long.

You have rolled from your belly to your back a few times. But, I guess you decided it was over-rated and prefer to entertain us with giggles and smiles instead of rolling tricks.

Thankfully, your brother has decided that you a little more fun now that he can entertain you more. He likes to grab your cheeks and say, "chubby cheeks" and run in to see you when he hears you wake up from nap and inform me that you are awake. He thinks its the best when you lay with him in his bed before nap. He still loves to bonk you every once in a while--but I guess you should always expect that from a brother ;)

Kiddo--I do have to talk with you about your sleeping habits. You seem to have forgotten how to sleep for a long time. You used to sleep for some long stretches, and I really liked that. Now, you wake up at least twice to eat a snack in the middle of the night and generally between 5-6 in the morning.

So, if you could go back to sleeping longer, that'd be great.

Samuel, we love you and your weird tuff of newborn baby hair on your head. We adore your bright eyes and big, happy smile. We love calling you Sammy, and smook-ums, Sam the Ham, Rootin-tootin' Sam, and little marshmallow. We love the way you add such a joy to our family and sweetness to our day. We are so glad it was you.

Could you stay this little forever? Well, stay little but sleep through the night ;)

I love you,
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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

To all Non-Disney Princess Moms

Today I woke up to the little grunts of Sam restlessly waking up and Luke crawling onto the bed and gluing his body as closely to mine as he could. I felt a little disoriented because a strange dream had just been interrupted and it left me feeling off and weird. 

I wanted space, but I turned on mothering.

I tried to steal a few inches of space from Luke and wished him a happy morning. I gathered a tiny bit of energy and pulled fussy Sam onto the bed with us. It had been a night of many interruptions, and I felt every bit of it. Josh came in and gave Sam his medicine and then I nursed him while Luke played next me. The best word to describe him was squirrelly: Except, this squirrel wasn't collecting nuts--he was driving his momma nuts. Toddler legs everywhere, his face pressed up against his brother's head, his hands grabbing things, and his little blue airplane zooming into restricted airspace.

I grumbled at him and made a half-hearted disciplinary effort after his airplane made a sharp landing on Sam. I was annoyed, and I had only been awake for ten minutes. Thankfully, he hopped out of bed to grab some cereal with Josh, and I had a few moments of just me and the little guy.

Josh brought in our morning coffee, and we had our new normal morning coffee routine--some sipping, some chatting, some baby soothing, some toddler corralling, and a lot of wondering what happened to those quiet mornings.

The morning continued to include a lot of toddler whining, a baby who seemed a little less chummy than usual, and a lot of me feeling like I was scraping the bottom of my "nice mom" barrel.

I knew before having kids that my kids wouldn't be perfect or behave perfectly. But I think I always imagined that I would be a "Disney Princess" version of a mom.

My day would start with singing birds and routine--not smelly, morning diapers and trying to negotiate a breakfast menu with a dissatisfied, but unpaying, customer.

I would always meet my kids at eye-level, and they would melt into big puddle of obedience because they couldn't help it after seeing the kindness of my eyes--not find myself with hands on the hips and eyes simmering with frustration and annoyance. Or, heaven help me, that my child would still disobey me after I spoke to him with such sweet words and kindness.

Of course, my patience would be an abounding, and even if I did lose my cool, well, my kiddos would certainly never know.

I really believed this--not really that it would always be so, but that it mostly would be.

And then I became a mom. And I learned that motherhood for me is certainly not singing birds, and fairy godmothers, or sleeping for any extended period of time. Ha!

Especially with two kids (one being that magical age of 3), I often feel a little like I'm always catching up and trying to keep up. I sometimes just want to find a tiny corner of space and just be untouched for five minutes. I want to find the magical bean that gives toddlers their persistence and eat it myself. I hope to make it to the end of the day without feeling like a grumpy, frazzled momma, but I hardly do.

But here's the thing--this gig, this motherhood thing, this role of daily giving up self and teaching, and washing, and feeding, and loving--it's better than singing birds, and quiet mornings, and fairy godmothers and sleeping until your love wakes you up with a kiss (and a cup of coffee).

It's hard to beat that toddler voice saying, "mommy, sit with me and rub my back"--and even when you wish for five minutes of alone time, you grab your nursing baby and sit there. And you see it--you see that tiny person relax and wind down because you are there.


And when the baby who has just finished milking you for all you're worth sports a smile that says, "hey mom, I like you," you forget that it's two in the morning.

As Mother's Day approaches, I can't help but feel the enormity of this role. I can't tell you that I always find it easy. Because, honestly, it's the hardest thing I've ever done.

But I can tell you that even on the worst days, even on the days that I wonder who decided I was cut out for this, you couldn't convince me it's not worth it.

Because baby smiles, and toddler snuggles, and listening to the word "disobedience" come out of your toddlers mouth sounding like "dibedence," and tiny hands grabbing your shirt while you nurse, and joyful "roars," and crumbs on the floors--it's the stuff of this season and it's fleeting. It's downright hard, but it's worth it.

It's worth it because it's gospel-living. It teaches me selflessness in its rawest form and love in its deepest. It reminds me daily of of my need for Jesus--and my need to share Jesus.

My kids might not always have a mom who is singing with the birds or blissfully happy at all hours of the day, but they do have a mom who loves Jesus. And at the end of the day, that's what I want them to know and remember.

Or maybe they'll just remember me as a crazy mom who would pray out loud about spilled cocoa powder and patience ;)

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