Seemingly ages ago, I began a series of posts titled “That Time I Went to Lourdes and…” They chronicled the events following on our trip to Lourdes (as you might have guessed, which involved hitting rock bottom and finding my Simon of Cyrene.) The last post ended with me applying for a job, and broadly hinting that that was my Simon of Cyrene. However, the Lord works in mysterious and unexpected ways. When I wrote those posts, I had no idea how very much life was about to change.
The quick version of the end of that story is: I got the job. I [mostly] loved the job. Everybody suffered. I quit the job.
There’s a beginning to a new story that I want to share too: I started something pretty amazing. Oh, wait. I didn’t start something amazing.
Confused? Here’s all of that in more detail:
I got the job.
I was pretty confident after the first interview that I would, so this was no surprise, to be honest. I cried for weeks, but I knew it was what I was meant to do.
I [mostly] loved the job.
In so many ways, it was my dream job. If I was going to leave my family every day and go to work, about the only way I could imagine doing it was in a Catholic environment. This position allowed me to write about matters of faith – and get paid to do it! I got to market Catholic organizations I believed in, promote pilgrimage as a way to grow closer to Christ, and be a part of a ministry I believed in. Best of all, I was blessed to work with a group of devout Catholics. Office “gossip” centered around Theology of the Body, the saint of the day, and the best local homilists and confessors. Our days started with prayer, our phone conversations ended with “God bless,” and the acceptable response when faced with a decision was, “Let’s pray about it.”
I confess to having always wondered how working moms could be away from their kids so much, and I knew this would be a struggle for me. What I didn’t know or understand was the value of “finding myself” as a successful, goal-driven woman again. I had failed to appreciate the value of adult conversation on a daily basis – especially for the wife of a brain injury survivor who has very little to contribute to most conversations! It was a pleasant surprise to discover an “upside” to being a working mom.
However, loving a job and loving certain aspects of working didn’t quite overcome the many challenges.
There’s a reason why most mothers with large-ish families don’t work outside of the home. Every kid has needs, and the more the kids, the greater the demands on a mother’s time and energy. No matter how wonderfully helpful your kids are (and mine are pretty great), there are certain things they can’t do. Like scheduling and attending doctors’ appointments, helping with homework, communicating with teachers, and spending one-on-one quality time showing maternal love. And this doesn’t take into account the myriad of things a wife is called to do for her husband, which were compounded in our situation by a brain injury that prevents Ray from driving or managing a myriad of responsibilities that he would have otherwise overseen.
The kids’ grades and health went into a rather steep decline – at least for a few of them. I saw scores on report cards that caused my jaw to drop and my blood to boil, and it felt as though I had a different sick kid everyday. My oldest, who had never missed more than two days of school in previous years, missed a whopping 22 days last year! We had pink eye, sinus infections, flu viruses, and – for the love of all that’s good – LICE!
(Okay, lice had nothing to do with me working, but still… it was one more day added to a year filled with way too many absences.)
Ray’s general wellbeing suffered as well. Left to his own devices from 8 to 5 every day, he stayed in bed until three most afternoons, and spent exorbitant amounts of time absorbed in online materials that were bringing him down rather than building him up… in a big way.
Last but not least (and my spiritual director would gently chastise me for putting this last), my spiritual, mental and physical health suffered too. I was up until midnight most nights, and the alarm sounded at 5:30 each morning. I didn’t work out, I didn’t socialize, I no longer attended my mom’s group at church or my book club meetings. The idea of writing another novel became a pie in the sky dream that I would never have the time to achieve. Promoting the novel I had already written was impossible, and my preparation for speaking engagements was frightfully haphazard. Worst of all, no matter how much I enjoyed aspects of being in the office, I agonized over the time I was losing with my family – time I could never get back.
And the truth of the matter is, there were challenges in the work environment as well – ones that I won’t go into but – honestly – it was those office challenges that had me in a state of absolute heartache one night. It wasn’t the first time I’d felt this way, but this was the night that I finally pleaded just before I went to bed: “Lord, I know this isn’t what you want for me. Please show me how you want me to provide for my family.”
Not surprisingly, He did, and He wasted no time in doing so.
I quit the job.
I woke at 4:00AM with a concept buzzing through my head. I didn’t yet have a name for it, but it wouldn’t leave me alone or let me go back to sleep. I got up, did a little research, and knew that this was something I would enjoy doing, and something that would be incredibly meaningful for families. It would give me the flexibility I needed, and – with a lot of hard work – would provide a good income for my family.
That was in early March. In May, life events made it extremely evident that I could no longer work full-time, so I went part-time. My employer was amazing, but I knew it couldn’t last. Working part-time didn’t provide enough income, and I felt that I was losing money by not focusing efforts on my new business. In June, one day after I would have celebrated my one year anniversary with the company, I handed in my resignation.
I won’t lie. Quitting my job was going out on a limb in a big, big way. It didn’t help when the air conditioner broke and we discovered a rather large hole in the roof the very same day I handed in my notice. The very same day. But God had shown me what He wanted me to do, and I had to step out in faith.
I accepted the broken A/C and dilapidated roof as God’s way of saying, “Failure is not an option.” If this was His will, he would be my rock in making it happen.
I started something pretty amazing.
By this time, it was mid-June. I had given that 4:00AM inspiration a name – Inkwell Personal Histories. I had formulated a plan, found a graphic designer, created a website and the requisite social media accounts. I had pitched the idea to my first potential client – and he loved it. I told a few other people and they loved it too, so much so that several of them had joined an already growing list of clients.
So what was that idea? In a nutshell, we write people’s life histories, taking their most treasured memories and weaving them into well-written and enjoyable stories. We compile each person’s stories into a beautiful hard-bound book that will be cherished for generations to come.
Inkwell’s vision is “To positively impact the future by chronicling the past.” We aim to celebrate the seemingly ordinary people who are extraordinary to those who love them – everyday heroes who have quietly made an impact on family, friends, and communities.
I didn’t start something amazing.
God did. Without Him, none of this would have happened. He’s already blessed the effort in amazing ways, and continues to reveal new and exciting opportunities. Not only can I help families connect through their understanding of loved ones’ histories, I can also give peace to the dying when they are able to leave behind a tangible piece of themselves. This can help those who have impaired memories to regain some of what they’ve lost, and help those who have lost loved ones to compile memories posthumously. Parents can gift their graduating senior with memories of their lives so far, with encouragement to continue to pursue their dreams. With the guided autobiography classes I’ll soon start teaching, individuals can begin to write their own histories, and enjoy the cathartic benefits of examining the past through a fresh lens. Best of all, I’ve already started ghost-writing a novel of faith for an amazing Christian woman, and plan to make “Journeys of Faith” a cornerstone of the business.
God may have started it, but He’s shown me again and again that it’s success is dependent on His grace and my hard work. I’m incredibly excited – and slightly awed – to move forward in this journey. God only knows where it will lead!
If you’re interested in learning more about Inkwell Personal Histories, you can do so at www.iwpersonalhistories.com. And please (please, please!) follow Inkwell on social media: Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Of course, feel free to reach out via email as well! (stephanie @ inkwell writes.com, without the spaces)