As we turn the corner into July, we are reminded of the mix bag of emotions this month can be for so many. In our home, July is notorious for mulberry stained feet, popsicle mustaches, and wonky tan lines. But in between late summer nights and lazy summer mornings marks not only birthdates but also dates we said our goodbyes as loved ones passed. Finding balance in between the yo-yo of happy days and waves of grief can be difficult to say the least.
I know there are many of you who are walking this path right along with us. You have your own invisible dates marked on the calendar that hold memories of hard conversations, diagnosis, accidents, or funerals. Invisible dates hidden behind the upbeat events of the current day but still weighing heavy on your heart.
One of our goals here at The Norway Center Store and Gritty Faith Magazine is to hold that space for you. Hold that space to just be present in the moment, whether it is a flood of happiness or a downpour of grief-stricken memories.
We see you. Allow the wave to wash over you. Take the time you need. And step by step keep moving forward. We are here for you.
Faith Over Fear.
Today, my daughter informed me that she is just going to start telling people I am Barbie.
Aleigha is my oldest and at 14, she has a front row seat to everything that I am working to build. She sees the late nights and early mornings. She is the first to help out, picking up my slack when I cannot dig myself out of the to-dos. She switches out laundry, helps her siblings, starts supper, and keeps an eye on the calendar for details I often forget. She knows without a doubt the blood, sweat and tears that have gone into everything built over the last 2+ years.
And today she told me, “I don’t really know how to answer people when they ask what you do. So, I’m just going to start telling them that you are Barbie… because she does everything too.”
From the outside, it has to look messy. I’m sure my life appears to be a ping-pong ball that just can’t quite settle. And some days it feels like that, but mostly it just feels right.
I’ve always been the type that prefers movement over standstill, project over predictability. I am figure-it-out-er in every definition of the word. And I happen to be drawn to a lot of different things—very, very passionately.
For a long time, this bothered me. I thought, if I could just figure out what I was meant to be then I could run full force ahead and be the best at it. But every time I got a little momentum, something shiny would cross my path and I would go full squirrel, chasing after something new. It didn’t sit right with me for a long time. I questioned what was wrong with me. Why wasn’t I content? Why couldn’t I just be ordinary, clock-in, clock-out and be happy?
A few months ago, I read Marie Forleo’s book, Everything is Figureoutable. Within the book, Marie shares a story so familiar to mine, where she was jumping from one thing to the next, unsettled because she always felt like she never quite fit in. She shares how she struggled to answer the question of what she did for a living, until one day a little voice whispered in her head, “You are a Multipassionate Entrepreneur.” The day I read that line, I was like, “YES! I have a title!”
Nowadays, I throw my blood, sweat and tears into claiming the titles that I always knew where there. I am an artist. I am a writer. I am a business woman who works dang hard to make sure others are seen and heard.
This morning, I was listening to a podcast with Arlan Hamilton as a guest and this exact same topic was brought up… mind you the same day my daughter decided my new title was Barbie. The way Arlan described it was, “…to me it is all the same color, just a different hue.” And that basically sums it up.
You see what I have come to realize is that every little sidetracked-squirrel moment in my life had purpose. During the phase where I bounced around in many art mediums, I learned the time and value and effort it took to learn the craft of quilting, and collage, and restoration. This helps me now to understand the value of the makers we work alongside. The hours upon hours of business research I did and my former career prepared me to take care of my own business and find resources to take the next step. The journaling throughout my life lead me to writing, co-authoring a book, and founding Gritty Faith Magazine. And the abstract painting at my workshop bench whenever I was falling apart at the seams, prepared me to take my place as a Prayer Artist. All of it, as messy and disconnected as it once seemed, lead me here - to building the foundation of The Norway Center Store.
My birthday is coming up next week. It is always a joy-fueled yet difficult day. It is a reminder of my grandpa’s funeral the day I turned 31. It is a reminder of the hardest conversation that happened the night before I turned 32, when we found out Ang’s chemo treatments were not working. And it is a reminder that I am living well beyond a point that my sister was ever able to.
Every year, I remind myself that I have a choice. I can be sucked into the grief and allow the devil to steal my peace or I can celebrate everything that I have been given and the privilege of becoming another year older.
This year I am celebrating.
This year I am looking into my daughter’s eyes and remembering who I was at 14—full of ambition and curiosity of who I would one day become. This year I am going to celebrate the 20+ years it has taken for me to grow into the woman I am today and all the little squirrel-tangents it took to get here.
This year I am celebrating being alive, even if my life is messy and imperfect and doesn’t quite make sense to anyone else.
This year I am celebrating all the ways God has woven my path together and everything He has planned for me next because it is not my title that qualifies me for His calling.
So today, I invite you to share, what squirrel-tangent lead to you where you are today? I would love to know.
I used to sit in the back pew at church distracted and defiant.
I believed in God but had a hard time connecting with Him.
Nothing there resonated with me.
The rules. The outdated stories. The lengthy verses. The songs that made we want to doze off.
Sitting in that back pew, I didn’t feel alive with the Holy Spirit. I didn’t even feel connected to God.
And I felt like a bad Christian.
Have you ever felt this way?
Where the relationship feels one sided?
Where the Bible doesn’t make sense?
When you feel completely disconnected from His promises and vision for your life?
For me, I went on like this for a long time… a lukewarm Christian. Doing my part in showing up but struggling to really connect with God. To really know Him.
And then my world began unraveling. Stress from my job, tension in my marriage, sickness in my children, death of my loved ones… bit by bit the chaos consumed me.
I wanted nothing more than to connect with my Maker, to truly feel like I could lean on Him to get me through. To feel that peace and presence that they preached about. Yet, every time I looked for it in that back pew, it was nowhere to be found.
Slowly God started answering my unspoken prayers, drawing me closer through my own unique language - storytelling and paint.
When I was struggling, I’d find myself in my workshop, pouring out the pain on canvas. It was later I would discover why I finally felt heard here. I was praying through art.
When I needed direction, He would send me real people that would look me in the eyes and share their story of how He got them through their battles. Their testimony was relatable and tangible and provided the proof I needed of the ways He was working today – in their life and in mine.
He planted bold women and men of faith into my life who prayed over me, and gave me tools, and lead me out of the trenches one step at a time.
Every story led me one step closer to Him. Every interaction and quick “praying about you” text showed me evidence of the ways He was moving on my behalf, even when I was too tired to do the work.
Turns out, He didn’t save me a timeslot each Sunday morning to connect over the shhh’ing of my children and the crunching of goldfish in the back pew. He had been trying to connect with me through the people, the conversations, the music, and the quiet He weaved into my life every single day. Church was a piece of that puzzle but not the place where we really got to know each other.
If this resonates with you, I invite you to subscribe to Gritty Faith Magazine where we share authentic stories of faith.
Our Gritty Faith community is real people sharing real stories of how God has gotten them through the hard stuff.
Because we know that sometimes it just takes someone who has been there to hold your hand and lead you out of the trenches.
Come on. Let’s dig into our gritty faith together.
Last week I was scrambling.
Typically by this point in the 8 week publishing cycle, I already have all the content planned for the upcoming issue of Gritty Faith.
But this time I had holes.
I didn’t understand why. You see every single time it just falls into place. I don’t go looking hard for contributors, rather I trust that the right person with the right story will be ready to share it… and God will prompt the connection.
So last Tuesday, I was sharing my reservations with my mom. Trying to sort out how to best fill this next issue.
Add on top of this I was really nervous as I was gearing up to release my very first art collection for sale on our website. And between the combination of the two, I just wasn’t sure I had it in me. I began questioning if God was still providing.
And then, less than two hours after that worry-filled chat with my mom, I got a text.
Someone close to the project had been working on my behalf during the very moment I was fretting… and I had no idea. She had a contributor for the magazine that was ready to share was it a good time? (Ummm, yeah!)
And then in her next text she out of the blue mentioned she adored the painting I posted on Instagram that morning.
What?! She adored the art that I was planning on offering for sale the very next day that I had not yet told anyone about? Talk about an affirmation.
Now, just one week after stressing out, I am working on the Issue 5 layout with overflowing content and have sold a healthy number of paintings from my first collection.
Often, when it feels like we are doing it all alone is actually when God is working the hardest on our behalf. The way He moves mountains usually involves a lot of moving pieces and people that we do not always see. He is not only softening our hearts for the work He is prompting us to do, but He is working on the hearts of others to help us with our work.
Hanging by my bed is a version of this quote from Susie Larson,
"May you find a moment of peace and quiet tonight to thank God for all that is right in your world. May you have the presence of mind to release your cares and worries to Him. May you have the gritty faith to grab a firmer grip on His promises to you. And may you wake up in the morning knowing that you’ve gained ground even during your sleeping hours because God is always moving on your behalf. As you entrust your whole self to Him today, He’ll get you where you need to go tomorrow. Sleep well tonight.”
I could go on and on about this quote but this phrase right here is the gold today: Knowing you’ve gained ground even during your sleeping hours because God is always moving on your behalf... the weight that phrase takes off my shoulders gets me every time.
It’s a reminder that this big audacious dream is not all up to me. I can take a break. I can rest when needed. I am not working alone.
He is working on my behalf.
So whatever it is that you are struggling through today, that problem that you just cannot see the light on, know He is working on your behalf too.
Assign it, delegate it, and quite micromanaging it. God’s taken on the task.
And if you feel him working on your heart, prompting you to help another, share your story, or open up in a new way, listen to it. Chances are He is trying to use you to fulfill someone else’s need.
Faith Over Fear.
When will this be over?
How many times have you asked yourself this lately? When will life go back to normal? When will this be over?
When Angie was fighting her abrupt battle of cancer, I cannot even tell you how many times I asked myself that same question. When will life go back to normal?
When will I no longer have to triple check that no one in my house is sick before swinging in for a quick visit?
When will we no longer have to time our outings based on the best days of health in between chemo rounds?
When will we no longer have to have lengthy conversations at bedtime to calm our kids fears and anxieties?
When will we be able to just be normal again?
When will all of this be over? And the reality is, it still isn’t over.
Even when it was over. Even after the last chemo treatment, and her last breath, and the last prayers as she entered the gates of heaven, it still was not over.
It just transitioned. It morphed from one strange feeling to another. Life has never been quite the same as it used to be.
It will never be over. Because the old normal no longer exists. It was rewritten by a new normal.
In life there are so many times where we transition into something different. A new job, a new baby, graduation, marriage, even divorce. And often all of those changes bring a shift with them that comes with a sense of hope and excitement for potential.
But not when you had no control over the circumstances. Not when your change was brought on by something you never in a million years wanted to happen.
This time right now is odd. Everything feels uncomfortable. We are trying to abruptly fit ourselves into boxes that we never expected to be in. Trying to express our love and empathy over phone calls and video chats instead of with a hug. Trying to do business in unconventional ways instead of face to face. Trying to teach our children remotely from a kitchen table with their siblings instead of in a classroom with their peers. It all feels forced and awkward and we ache for things to just be normal once again.
But it is in this space of hard things where we really find out what we are made of. It is in this space where we develop gratitude for the things we once took for granted. Here we actively seek out joy and hope instead of expecting it to show up in front of us.
Things will likely never go back to the old “normal” because by the time we are through, we will no longer fit into that normal. The old routines will no longer be a comfort for we will have outgrown that space as we enter into our new normal.
Nothing will ever be exactly as it once was, but there are ways to seek joy as we grow into our new surroundings.
Hi! I'm Jessy, one of the co-owners of The Norway Center Store and co-authors of the book Faith Over Fear: Walking Angie Home. My husband Kyle and I live in an old general store, converted to residence, with our three kids, Ally, Charley and Rad and our German Shephard, Roxy. You will usually find me with paint on my clothes creating my next artwork piece.