I'm sure your scroll through social media is the same as mine... words such as "#2020" and "what a year" and "hasn't looked like I thought it would" fill my timeline. This has certainly been a year to remember, and I would go as far as to say ALL of us can declare this year hasn't lived up to our expectations.
Yes, what a year. I have those exact same sentiments. I left my nursing career exactly one year ago to pursue this pillow shop full-time. Of course, if I had known what would happen just a few short months later, I might have reconsidered. But that's the beauty of it. God often leads us to places without telling us what's next. Would we go if we knew what was headed towards us on that path? Maybe… but probably not.
If you’ve been following me since late last year, these words might seem familiar. I wrote a blog post in December 2019 about my decision to make Mississippi Stitches my full-time gig, and I hope you’ll go back and read (or re-read) if you can. In the post, I talked about a book I had read entitled “All the Places to Go: How Will You Know?” by John Ortberg. This book was an inspiration to my leap of faith, and it just might be for yours too.
Last year, my heart was weary. I loved my job and my patients. I loved my co-workers. But something was not quite right. I couldn't shake this feeling I had, and as much as I tried to suppress it, my emotions kept coming to the surface. Do you ever feel as though you just want to run as fast as you can to some other place? To leave everything behind… and I mean everything to start anew? That was the burden I had been carrying. Deep down I felt so unsettled.
There are a few details I intentionally left out of last year’s post, so I want to now put a few things into perspective for you.
Most rational people will tell you never to quit your day job until your side hustle is at least providing consistent income. I casually mentioned in that first blog post that my pillow shop had grown in 2019… this is a factual statement, but my shop had not grown enough for me to survive off the profits. In fact, my business was not even profitable until very late in the year.
I vividly remember being out fishing one late summer afternoon with my dad and telling him I was thinking about making the pillow shop my full-time gig. He grinned and said something like “your shop is doing that well?” At the time, I had only brought in about $10K in gross sales and was in the red about $2,500… so when I admitted that to my dad, who happens to be a very smart CPA and financial guru, I’m pretty sure he was dying on the inside. My dad also happens to be an expert in liquidations, so he was also probably adding “liquidate Mississippi Stitches” to his to-do list for 2020.
All kidding aside, my family has been my biggest supporters through all of my major life events, and I’m so grateful for them. Never did they question my motives. Never did they discourage me. Instead, they have uplifted me through every hurdle 2020 has brought. They continue to support me no matter my irrational decisions, and I’m incredibly fortunate to be surrounded and loved by such incredible people.
At the start of 2020, I felt such a relief… a burden lifted. I knew this “leap of faith” was the right decision, and I was looking forward to what God had in store for me and Mississippi Stitches. Knowing my 2019 profits would not pay my house note, I took a job as a part-time school nurse to ensure I would still have a roof over my head and food on the table. All was going well. I was meeting my sales goals in January and February, and I was starting to see more growth in early March.
During the week of Spring Break I noticed a little slump. I originally attributed this to people being on vacation, but when I got the phone call that school was going virtual for a couple of weeks, it finally hit me. COVID-19 was here, and people were buying toilet paper instead of pillows.
Two weeks later, I experienced the meaning of “furloughed” and “unemployment benefits” and “non-essential.”
Late March and early April were difficult weeks. Lots of tears. Lots of anxiety. Lots of irrational thoughts. But also lots of prayer. I felt compelled to do something, and my heart strings were being tugged towards other Mississippi small businesses that were struggling as well. I launched a campaign along with two of my friends to help encourage others to shop small and #keepMSopen. This campaign didn’t last as long as I had hoped, but as life has taught me, God closes doors for sometimes unknown reasons. During this period, I met some of the kindest people, and I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunity to network with other businesses and learn the struggles others were facing.
(I’ve witnessed such an outreach for small businesses this season, and I sincerely hope that sentiment continues into 2021. As you shop for yourself or for friends into the new year, please consider your local Main Street and restaurants and shop small as you are able!)
By late April, I began to have consistent sales again, and I started to feel like the shop would survive. In fact, I had stayed busy enough that I realized I could survive on the pillow shop alone. So, I took another leap. In May I requested to work PRN as a school nurse instead of part-time which would mean instead of working consistently at one school, I would fill in for others when needed.
This leap was a much easier decision than the first. It was a little more impulsive, but I had much more confidence in the pillow shop at this point than I did in the previous year. I also, to be honest, was enjoying my flexibility at home. Thankfully, this leap turned out to be a very smart decision. By July, the pillow shop reached a sales milestone I didn’t think was attainable this year, and I was spending almost all day every day in my sewing room! This milestone turned out to not be a fluke, and I reached or exceeded this milestone for every month following through November. My cup runneth over, and I am still incredibly humbled by the amount of people supporting this shop!
I feel very fortunate to have survived this first year in business as I am very aware many others are still struggling or have closed their doors already. I certainly do not take your support and your kind words for granted.
I’ll refer to John Ortberg’s book again here… I often struggle with decisions – which one does God want me to choose? What if I choose the wrong one? Why can’t He make the choice clearer? Ortberg writes that God’s will is not necessarily which open door we choose – be it a career choice, moving to a new city, marriage, etc. His will is that we are His image no matter which way we go – “somebody with the character of Jesus.”
With one decision, I went from being a highly respected “essential” pediatric nurse to a lowly “non-essential” pillow maker. If there is one thing I want you to take away from this, it is that you are essential no matter what career path you choose. We all have mouths to feed and bills to pay, and more importantly, we were not created to walk the same path as another. We are each unique and created with different gifts and talents to share.
Each day we have the opportunity to fellowship with others, to be a light for God, and to be a source of goodwill. Those opportunities do not exist in only certain careers. Those opportunities exist no matter which path you choose and no matter which career is deemed “essential” or “non-essential.”
Fortunately and unfortunately, we do not know what next year holds. As hopeful as I am for 2021, there is still so much uncertainty regarding COVID-19 and lockdowns. My prayer for both you and for me is simply that God will provide… that He will send blessings our way and reveal His purpose for our struggles this year.
I cannot say enough how appreciative I am for your support this year. Your kind words, your orders, your sharing of my shop – I am so grateful for this community, for the friends I’ve met along the way, and for the opportunity to help make your homes a little brighter and a place where you want to gather.
May your Christmas and holiday celebrations be merry. May your cup runneth over. And may you experience God’s mercies this season.