Rock bottom. Sounds about as pleasant as it feels.
We had removed everything on my plate that we could when it finally came to the elephant in the room. My position as visual manager. We were not quite ready to make the leap in losing our largest stream of income at the moment, but it’s kind of like doing an appendectomy without removing the appendix. The issue was still there and festering despite the load that we had already removed from my plate.
What I have come to know is that there is only one way to do life when you have an entrepreneurial heart. Trying to do it any other way will always feel like agony. Like a shoe that is two sizes too small. You can go through the motions, but it will never feel comfortable. I had lost sight of that and I had given up long-term goals for short-term conveniences. But you do what you need to do for your family.
We decided that I would quit with the promise that I would never work for someone else again. (By the way, if you want the backstory, be sure and start with Part One).
It felt like the light at the end of a very dark tunnel and I remember coming home crying tears of joy on my last day. It was like coming up for air after you dive into the deep end. But there was work to be done to get back to where I truly needed and wanted to be. Because, as relieved as I was to have closed that chapter, it felt like I was standing there with broken pieces that needed to be put back together.
I needed to put myself back together.
The goal? To focus on my health first and foremost. I was facing anxiety, mind-gut health issues, adrenal fatigue, and more – quite the receipt handed to me after putting myself and my health last on the list over the past few years.
Through the health and wellness space, I was introduced to some incredible resources and experts where I would spend hours soaking in all of the research and education they had to offer. For myself, I knew that I wanted to heal the issues I had created at the root, not just put a Band-Aid on them. It was during this time that I learned so much on the subject of toxins and the load they create on our bodies and overall health. I learned about hormones and what happens when they are disrupted and so much more. I became a literal sponge. We would find ourselves jumping into making our own laundry soap, throwing out all of the plastic in our kitchen, and I even started making changes to my skincare and beauty products. A match had been lit.
The second thing I needed to focus on? My own brand and business going forward. I had everything I needed to make big things happen once again for myself and our family. I started taking on branding and design projects again while continuing to share my life and things that inspired me through my blog. It allowed me to move at a slower pace and, most importantly, to be home. And home, after all I had gone through and my newly developed anxiety, felt like a sanctuary. A place to recover and nurse my wounds. The kids would all be in school the next year and now and I felt ready to find my stride once again.
But it’s funny. Just when we thought we were getting our feet underneath us…
Don’t get me wrong. Motherhood will forever be my greatest accomplishment in life. And being blessed with these cubs is my highest honor. But at that moment? I felt blindsided.
My health was nowhere near where I would have wanted it to be for pregnancy. Not to mention, the kids were all going to be in school! I was going to have days to myself to work and accomplish what I needed to. I was going to gain the balance that I so desperately craved. I was terrified at the thought of going through a fifth pregnancy, especially not feeling like myself. Not even close. But a baby is always a blessing.
While I worried about my overall health, my body found rest and sleep. While I worried about my physical weight on top of pregnancy, the pounds melted off during those nine months. I know, I know, but don’t come at me about this one. And while I worried about finances, we were immensely blessed during this time. There were some hiccups that were hard, like gestational diabetes in the third trimester, but I can now see it as the biggest blessing that would pay off big in the future.
And while Brooks’ arrival was nothing that we expected (and actually compounded some of my ongoing health issues), my time with him during his first year was my favorite. I can truly say that I soaked every bit of it in. There is something amazingly wonderful that happens when you are pregnant and experiencing life with a newborn. Time moves at a quieter and more gentle pace. All of the energy within you and around you is focused on this fresh new life and it is a time where the regular hustle seems to ease up a bit.
And it was exactly what my heart needed. That first year with him earthside hold some of the most simple yet profound moments of my life. A time when I was able to reconnect with my why – as a woman, as a wife, as a mother, and as an entrepreneur.
Goodness gracious, the Lord always knows what he’s doing.
During my pregnancy, I kept my client and project load light while I enjoyed learning more about the world of brand collaborations and partnerships. I had many opportunities to work with a handful of brands I already loved and create content that allowed me to put to work all of the skills and talents I had been curating over the years.
It was the first time that I really saw the possibility that lay within this avenue of creating. It brought together everything I was passionate about – artistic direction, photography, styling, creating – while simultaneously allowing me to be immersed in motherhood. No client meetings. No invoice chasing. Just getting to create and make things beautiful. My heart was lifted.
One year later after Brooks’ arrival, in the fall of 2018, we became quite aware of the deterioration of the quality in our kids’ public school education. Maybe some of it was there all along, maybe a lot of it was happening for the first time. Whatever it was, it left the Bearded Gent and I feeling very protective and instinctually resistant to our kids having anything to do with it.
So what’s a mama bear to do when feeling like her cubs are threatened? She ushers them back to the den. And that is precisely what we did. There was no game plan. There weren’t months of contemplating the idea of home education. We simply saw things that did not align with what we wanted for our kids and acted immediately. We didn’t overthink it. Home education was never on my radar, but it didn’t matter. I brought my cubs back home and didn’t look back. We figured things out along the way and it was the most glorious act of breaking chains from what we thought was the only way to do life as a family.
This was a season that would open our eyes and hearts to changing our way of thinking about practically everything. It may have begun with education, but it was truly seeing for the first time just how far we have become disconnected in our society. How home-cooked meals around the dinner table have been replaced with cheap take-out in the car. How hard work and effort have been replaced with instant gratification and convenience. How true health has been replaced with a pill for every ill. How respecting and honoring the role of the homemaker has been replaced with the promise of more. How conversations and connections have been hijacked by technology. How whole and honest food has been replaced with cheap chemicals.
The list went on and we found ourselves down a rabbit hole that we never expected. We became completely disenchanted by what we once thought to be normal and started stripping away the excess.
We wanted our focus to return to what matters most, how things used to be done, and how things should have always been. What started as small things like unsubscribing to streaming services to rid our home of mindless media to suddenly talking of land and space to garden, have chickens, and more. I’m sure there is a humorous meme floating around the internet about the family who begins home educating their kids only to slip right into living off the grid as real crunchy folk.
What can I say, it was that unraveling that was happening. We now saw a life for our family that wasn’t necessarily there before, but somehow one we always wanted.
This life we were now envisioning didn’t really fit city life in the desert. And just like that, the conversations about moving were re-ignited. We knew that if we didn’t take the opportunity now that it would never happen. Suddenly being unchained from public school helped. We had flexibility and freedom that we didn’t have before.
Hours upon hours went into researching different places, pros and cons lists were made daily, and priorities were listed. At the top of that list? A place where we could have land, a place that would give us access to local-grown foods, and a place that honored things like God, small business, local community, and love of country.
On the outside, I’m sure it seemed like we threw a dart at a map. Behind closed doors? It was so much deeper than that. Hours were spent on bent knees praying over this one place that we had never been, but yet kept coming up in our searches and in conversations with others.
And just like that we were moving to Nashville, Tennessee.
For the next several months we lived life in the gray area between doubt and faith. We closed down the Bearded Gent’s business, said goodbye to all of our family and friends, packed up everything we could in our two SUVs and that UHaul trailer, and traveled 1600 miles to this vision we had for our family.
You would think that having lived my entire life in Arizona, I would feel displaced coming to a brand new city so far from anything that felt familiar. And it was the exact opposite.
And in Tennessee? I was finally home. It was the smiles and hellos from strangers you pass on the street and the talk of God in daily conversations. It was the handshakes with farmers who grew our food to the rich history that took place where our feet now stood. It was the wide open spaces and country backroads. It was the twang of guitars and the sound of boots on the pavement. It was the praise and compliments in the store with five kids instead of shock and sarcasm. It was the slow pace and old-fashioned way of life. It was everything my heart had yearned for all of these years. I was suddenly in a place to build the life that my six-year-old self only dreamed of.
But what continued to be so evident was God’s timing and the lessons he needed us to learn in the waiting. Over the next three years, we would experience more than we ever saw coming. Manufactured crises, the world shutting down, the crumbling of systems that we once relied on, our daughter’s diagnosis, and all the in-between.
What is most important becomes so absolutely crystal clear that there is no going back. Once you see, you can’t unsee. The fog had truly been lifted.
Despite the struggles and the trials, every decision we had been making over the past few years had literally prepared us for all that we were facing. It was reducing the space between ourselves and where our food comes from. It was being introduced to better options. It was learning primitive approaches to daily ailments and sick care that empowered me as a mother more than I had ever experienced before. It was seeing firsthand how important it is that self-sufficiency is at the forefront of everything we do.
Our personal revolution has continued to be built through trials and the blessings that come from them. We may not understand them at the moment, but we have never ceased to be amazed and how those pieces continue to come together.
The other day in church a man spoke of God’s timing. And he said that He is never early and He is never late – He is always right on time. Tears welled in my eyes.
Through all of it – through every baby we brought home, through finding my footing in entrepreneurship, through hitting rock bottom, through living on faith alone and moving our family, through all that is happening in our country and throughout the world. And yes, even through almost losing Blair and now living with Type 1 diabetes. It all has been significant in our story.
While at times it is easy to look back and wince at the stumbles and the inconsistency, they have served a purpose far greater than what anyone sees on the outside. Every time our family has grown or needed to shift, I have been able to mold my career around our needs. I know what a unique blessing this has been in my life, epecially as a mother.
I have spent this past year serving our family as we navigated our new normal and the changes we were experiencing. Long nights, advocating for a child – it has required every bit of me and then some. I have had to truly learn to move at a slower pace and continue to fixate on what is most important.
But it also turned out to be a year that gifted me the time to reflect, to get crystal clear on where my focus should be, and to help me remove that last bit of excess that still remained. The excess that still had me saying yes when I should have been saying no. The excess that pulled me in too many directions creatively and stunted my growth professionally. And I found myself exactly where I wanted to be all along.
It was right in front of me from the very start. This little blog that allowed me to document our family’s journey over the years – from that pitiful little scrapbooking website to shooting national ad campaigns. So many seasons of raising babes while building dreams.
A place where I get to bring all of my passions together. Where I get to be immersed in motherhood, relishing in my role as a homemaker, and scratching the itch as a creator. I am ridiculously grateful to have been brought right back to where my heart was at all along.
And while I may not be singing in a field donning a patchwork skirt that would make Jane Powell proud (yet? Wink!), I have the Bearded Gent by my side and we will continue in the work of cultivating the simple and old-fashioned life we crave for our brood. And getting to spend my days alongside these cubs while also getting to make things beautiful? Sounds pretty damn good to me.
There may not be land to tend to yet or the homestead to make my own, but it’s so close I can taste it. And if there is one thing I am certain of, even in the waiting for the next chapter that I so anxiously want to share with you, the timing of when it finally arrives? That will be just right. It always is.
From the bottom of my heart, thank you so much for being a part of this journey.
And however it looks to you, here’s to living simple and making it beautiful.