My intent for this post would be words flowing seamlessly and effortlessly (this is when I need my Katie or Kristen with the gift of words who blessed my life while they were in the college study I was leading) but instead it is what flows from my heart. As I am finalizing this post my thoughts go to the Life Study Class l taught at church today about the Patriarchs in the Old Testament and how they followed God with great faith many times not knowing where they were going but being obedient to His call. My hope is you will be encouraged.
Knowing many of you have joined the shoppe community along the way I am going to take you back to where God planted the seed for the shoppe in my heart.
In July 2012 the entire purpose of my two-week vacation to Ireland was to be quiet and listen to what God was saying as it related to what was next as it had been 9 months since I had received my Masters in Pastoral Counseling. I had felt a strong urging in my soul to get away believing God had something to tell me. I really had no idea what I was going to do with my masters other than have it as a tool in my tool kit to speak life and wisdom to the college women God had entrusted into my care as their bible study leader.
Traveling through Ireland God made it clear I was to open my own shoppe and shine a light on human trafficking. I came back and started working on the concept still working at Gap, Inc. Two months later, my new leader showed me an organization chart with me in a new role requiring me to move back to Kentucky as my current position would be eliminated. I never saw that one coming. Ultimately I would get 9 months’ severance pay which would “pay me" while I worked on launching the shoppe. There was no doubt in my mind what I heard God tell me in Ireland was to happen.
Right before we moved into our current location 2 ½ years ago I decided to get a tattoo. We had just finished a Bible Study on the names of God so I chose two Hebrew names of God. In the Old Testament Moses was always telling the people to "remember" and to talk about what God was doing so I felt this would be my way to help me remember. I wanted arrows to go around the names of God to remind me to keep moving forward. Little did I know I would need the constant reminder of God as my portion and shepherd 2 months later as we began my dad’s 9-month battle with pancreas cancer.
Yahweh Chelqui – The Lord is my portion. It is a reminder of God’s sufficiency in my life. He is my light, counselor, hope, helper, refuge, strength, comfort, peace, healer, keeper, deliverer, confidence and my life. He gives me everything I need (not want) because He is sufficient.
Yahweh Raah – The Lord is my shepherd. It reminds me I am under His care. As a shepherd He provides for every one of my needs and in Him I find rest and can rest.
I love change so trying new ideas, crunching numbers, and gleaning best practices any way I could get them was a big focus as we headed into year two in our current space. Year one in the space was a blur with dad’s cancer, death and resettling mom to Florida. January 2018, I spent much time in prayer asking for wisdom and believed I was doing what was best for the shoppe to put us on a trajectory of the exponential growth we needed. Whatever I implemented we would see improvement but only for a short period of time. When I say I have done my diligence to find a way to keep the shoppe going know I have done above and beyond.
In my Bible study we are currently working through Experiencing God and one week the focus was “stepping out in faith and obedience can be costly”. It reinforced for me sometimes doing what God is asking me to do does not bring success as the world defines it. It also means at times we are called to sacrifice. Many of you would be surprised to know I have not taken a salary since we opened and we have never had a profitable year in our 5 ½ years of business. My 401k and excellent management by my financial planner have kept me going and filled in the gaps as needed for the shoppe. It has been costly but I remind myself all the time of the women I observed in Rwanda; they don’t have a 401k or an emergency fund. Stepping out in faith and obedience has been costly but it has been worth it because I have seen time and time again God's provision.
These past 5 ½ years have been some of the most challenging and rewarding years of my life. I have had to wrestle with my pride (a lot) and have had to work at improving my self talk. I will be honest, full embracing that my worth is not tied up in the Shoppe’s financial status has been really hard. I have to constantly remind myself my true worth is in who God says I am. Comparison truly is the thief of joy.
My desire from day one in addition to shining a light on human trafficking is the shoppe would be a place where you could sense community and belonging. A place where you could experience peace and a sense of hope when you walked through the doors. I am so thankful for all of the amazing people who have walked through our door. It has been an honor to be a part of your lives and celebrations. For those of you with children it has been such a delight to watch them grow up and see them love the shoppe as much as you. Some of your kids I need to make play dates with because I have grown to love them so much.
I am reminded there is no way to measure in financial terms community, giving hope, providing a place of belonging or educating people on human trafficking. There is no way to measure school children seeing their artwork hanging in a public space building up their self-esteem and confidence.
During my dad’s cancer battle he was in the hospital 5 times in 9 months with average stays of 18-22 days. Every morning I arrived early to catch the doctor and would tell myself as I walked up the steps of Good Samaritan “today I choose Joy and my job today is to shine light to all the staff I come in contact no matter how hard it is, I have been placed here today for a reason”. Trust me throughout the day I needed to remind myself often but when I was intentional in choosing and speaking joy it was amazing the transformation that occurred in me and those supporting my dad.
Removing all emotion, making the decision to close the shoppe is the right thing to do. I am at peace. Every day God continues to show me more and more validation this was the right decision. Until I lock the doors for the final time, my goal is to choose joy every single day and be thankful and grateful for the wonderful people in our shoppe 561 community and for all the opportunities we have to give hope to those around us. My hope is you can help me choose joy and celebrate all we have accomplished.
I hope you will make time in your schedule to come to the event on May 22nd; nothing would make me happier than to have a blow-out event packing the hygiene kits and have a shoppe filled with so much joy, light and celebration for all that we have accomplished together. What a blessing we have to give these women hope and let them know they are not forgotten. We might be the reason they will step out some day and take the help that is continually offered. Thank you for inspiring me, encouraging me and supporting the Shoppe’s mission to shine a light on human trafficking.
What is next for me - I have absolutely no idea but God does. If I have learned anything over the past 6 years I do not need to worry as He will make the path clear. For those who don't know me well, I am a control freak so to be able to say I have no idea and really be at peace it is God.
The one thing I do know is I am taking a vacation mid-July once everything is fully ticked and tied. I honestly need to take time to finally release all the grief I have not processed from my dad’s death and getting away with no worries or cares for a week. I am thankful for a best friend who has put up with a very unbalanced friendship these past 2 years who will go with me to Iceland or Scotland (currently the top 2 considerations). If you have a vote for either or places to see I would love to hear from you.
It has been such a blessing to shine light on Human Trafficking and cultivate an amazing community who chooses to make a difference. Together we have raised over $27,000 and my hope is when all is said and done we will have raised $30,000. I hope to have the opportunity to connect with as many of you as possible over this next month to celebrate all that God has done in and through the shoppe in shining light against human trafficking.