Last week I promised that I’d start telling you some stories. These are personal stories. They are stories of victory and stories of failure. They don’t always paint me in a positive light, but I’m determined to be transparent, because the overarching story isn’t about me, or about Ty, or about The Happy Envelope. The overarching story is about Jehovah-Jireh, “The Lord Will Provide” and what it’s like to walk with him.
Friday night I attended a formal event. Perhaps it’s a bit silly: everyone all dressed up and dancing at a Country Club—like an adult prom. But it’s fun to get dressed to the nines once a year. I stood chatting with a buddy about recent business decisions (he also owns a small business) when he asked me why I’ve started writing a blog that feels so personal. What is my end game with it in terms of business?
It’s a great question. Why was I writing this blog? Do I think the blog would attract new customers, or increase my bottom line through connection to the creative force behind the products, or that a blog is essential for increasing search engine optimization and would lead more people to our site through google searches. But that’s not it.
I recently read a review on the Gospel Coalition that answers the question for me. Here is the Link. Author Jen Oshman thoughtfully critiques Girl, Stop Apologizing: A Shame-Free Plan for Embracing and Achieving Your Goals, Rachel Hollis’s latest book on self-promotion, pulling yourself up by your bootstraps, working harder, and achieving your dreams.
“It’s exhausting to believe in ourselves, because that belief is only as good as we are. It will only suffice for as long as we have ample energy and good behavior and right thinking. And we already know that we get tired, we mess up, we fall short. We need more for this life than we’re able to conjure up within. Ironically, believing in yourself will not lead to freedom or wholeness or to the pinnacle of your dreams, but rather to enslavement. Enslavement to self.”
There’s my answer. The story of The Happy Envelope is the story of a long, slow burn where Ty and I are fumbling around like a group of rag tag ex-slaves trying to take over a fortified city without training, or like a widow with no oil to make her last cake for the survival of her son, or like wedding hosts embarrassingly without any wine or provisions for guests. I have no ‘faith in myself’ because God has proven to me over many years that no matter how hard I try, I’m perpetually empty-handed. I must come to him for what I want and need.
We are bombarded with this message: if you just try harder, if you just set your goals and you’re intentional, you’ll succeed. That is not the gospel. It is the anti-gospel. I want to tell you my story—to be honest and transparent—I want to hold a real life out to you and see you sigh with relief when you finally decide to set down that burden of self.
In the fall, I went to Atlanta to visit my parents. My dad was unexpectedly hospitalized with E. Coli, and because my mom had just had a hip replacement surgery, she wasn’t allowed to visit him in the hospital due to the risk of infection. After visiting with my dad (he’s fully recovered, by the way), I picked up my mom, who just wanted to get out of the house. So of course, we went to Nordstrom Rack. When you’re stir crazy and you’re near a Rack, you just go.
Right before heading to the fitting room I decided to take a breeze through their formal wear, knowing that I’d have that formal event I attended last Friday. There was one dress that was a possibility. Can I remind you what a post baby bod is like? At 40? Super good times. The dress was a bit snug in places, but with alterations… possible. The tag told me it was originally ‘expensive’ but my Rack price was ‘less expensive’. I hemmed and hawed in front of the mirror. It was more than I should spend. I hate spending money on something I’m only going to wear once. But I also wanted to check it off my list, so into the cart it went, with a pair of booties and jeans.
Pushing my cart up to the counter, I start doing mental math. I got panicky. I should pull something. Lose those booties. Get rid of the jeans. Toss the dress. Something… it’s out of my budget. But then I throw caution to the wind and Just. Do. It.
I hand everything over to the associate behind the counter. He scans each item and gives me the total.
“Wait. Wait. That’s not right.” I think to myself. My mental math was way high.
I look down at the register…
“Sir, I hate that I have to tell you this, but I do. That dress rang up for a penny.”
“WHAT? It’s mine for a penny? But how? Why?!”
“It’s yours. Would you like it on the hanger or in a bag?”
I was spending too much money on stuff I didn’t need. I was going well outside of my budget with no plan. No lightning bolt came out of the sky to judge me. Instead, a sweet outpouring of grace that I simply don’t deserve. An unexpected gift for no good reason.
So, I stood in that penny dress on Friday night and answered my friend: I’m writing because God provides and I want people to know it. Sometimes in the little things, like a dress, and sometimes in much bigger ways… (more to come on that in the next weeks). I just want people to see the gospel in our story and believe that it’s possible… No bootstraps required.
PS The Spurgeon print above is one of my favorites. I have it hanging in our entryway as a constant reminder. Use code PENNYDRESS for 40% off this print through next Thursday! Click Here for the link