December 14, 2011

Beautiful Grace

When people ask me the story behind my name of my business this is the story I always share with them:

I was born up north, yet given a fairly southern name at birth. As the doctors came to check on me, they each pronounced my name incorrectly. My sweet mother (bless her heart) did not want me to go through life being called the wrong name so when I was 11 days ago, she legally changed my name to….

Caroline Grace.

It means; beautiful grace.

I’d like to think my business found me, more than I found it. It came at time when I needed it the most. I was struggling, and it was my saving grace. It was something I was able to invest my whole heart and soul into. It gave me joy, peace, and healing, and it allowed me to create beautiful things. And the word beautiful stuck with me. When I thought about naming my hobby at the time, I had no idea where it would take me, or how it would change over time. So I gave it the name that was given to me 11 days into life. A name that I never use, never get called. While, I would have named it caroline grace in full, that business name was already taken. So I decided to shorten it to g with a period. When I look at it, my soul whispers grace back to me. Grace. Period. It reminds me that grace is all I need. Period.

As my business started to change, develop, grow….it led me to the world of blogs. And through that God began to open my eyes and show me beautiful grace in the little things. The little gifts that I have been given to me as a result of owning a business.

When the first blogger befriended me; God whispered beautiful grace.

To those who teach me it’s okay to ask for help when taking risks. Beautiful grace comforts my soul.

To my blog friends who have opened their homes up to me and welcomed me with gracious arms. Beautiful grace is on display.

To those who pick me up when I fall. Beautiful grace holds my hand and wipes my tears.

In seeing amazing women create conferences where my soul can breathe. Beautiful grace is alive in their spirits.

To the emails that reach way deep into my soul and speak truth back to me. Beautiful grace shines through their gentle, kind words.

To the fearless ones who share their stories unashamed, I am reminded about giving them beautiful grace.

To the dreamers who inspire, encourage, believe. My heart is moved by beautiful grace.

To those who challenge me, speak truth in love, and spur me on. Beautiful grace refines me.

In the brokenness and despair, beautiful grace dwells within a loving community.

In the coffee dates where I am comforted to be who God called me to be. God reminds me to live beautiful grace.

To the storytellers, the risk-takers, the believers in second chances and big dreams. My eyes see words of beautiful grace.

To the friends who remind me that my worth is not found in my possessions. Beautiful grace awaits me.

To those who point me back to where my hope lies. I redeemed by beautiful grace.

To the reminder that I am never alone. Beautiful grace walks alongside me.

Beautiful grace is with me always.


December 13, 2011

Sometimes you have to go back in order to go forward

As 2012 seems to be just around the corner, I've been doing a lot of thinking, reflecting, planning, and goal making. I am both grateful and humbled with how much my life has changed in just a matter of months. This time last year I was teaching and blissfully unaware of how much would change in a year. I stumbled across this picture from the end of last year and was smiling knowing that at that time year a ago year I couldn't have predicted any of 2011.

dress: ross
belt: forever21
cardigan: gap

The question that I get asks most often is do I regret ever becoming a teacher if I always had the craftiness and business side in me all along. And the answer is always no. I think it was extremely important for me to work for a boss, have coworkers, make work friends, learn, and grow. Every experience I had teaching was valuable, and I have been able to transfer what I learned there into my business.

The other day I ran into a former parent from my first year of year teaching, and she was able to speak some encouragement back to me. She told me how much happier I looked, that she saw a peace dwelling within me, and that quite frankly she thought I made the right choice to take a leap of faith with my business. Sometimes, its nice to have those concrete reminders, to keep walking in faith, keep trusting, and keep moving forward. 

This year has taken me on a journey that I never really expected to go on. It has challenged me, strengthened me, grown me, matured me, and blessed me immensely. It has taken me on trips I never dreamed on going. And I've met some of the most amazing people along the way, who have taught me some incredible lessons about life.

I found this picture as I was reflecting back on the year. The frame hangs in my office and its often something I have to say back to myself over and over. It reminds me that today is a gift, something that I should rejoice and celebrate over.

I am excited for 2012 and all the goals, plans, and hopes I have for myself. However, I am thankful for the little time I have at the end of this year to celebrate both my successes and my failures. Even in all my mistakes and downfalls this year has taught me more than I could ever imagine, which I will be eternally grateful for.


December 10, 2011

Warm Hands, Warm Hearts

On Wednesday, the weather finally started to get cold, and it seemed to feel like winter around here, which I was thankful for. I have this image of this girl who stands at the bus stop each morning near my house with bare hands, and my heart goes out to her every time I drive past. So I headed over to target and bought some gloves, which I placed on a bench near the bus stop.

There is something about being warm that makes us feel safe and comforted. While the gloves were inexpensive and it was a small gesture of love; it puts a smile on my face knowing that perhaps this little girl's hands are now all warm and toasty in this cold weather.


December 6, 2011

WIWW: Giving Thanks for Clothing

This past week wasn't the easiest to say the least. During the day on Friday, my heater was repaired. However, by friday night it had malfunctioned and filled up my house with smoke. While, it was overwhelming at the time, I can look back at it now and see the lessons learned. After making some phone calls Friday night, I ended up having to pack up one bag and leave my house in hopes of finding it in one piece the following morning.

Luckily, my house is still standing and I've been able to spend a good deal of the weekend and this week doing some damage control. Since our house smelled like smoke, it became a necessity to wash just about everything. As my washing machine was constantly going, I was reminded to give thanks. This holiday season I've been giving gifts away as a reminder how of blessed I am, and how I need to be a blessing to others. The smoke came out of most of my clothes, so I decided to pack up the clothes I don't wear and donate them to the Goodwill. As I dropped the clothes off, my heart was filled with gratitude for all that I have.

coat: target
top and jeans: ann taylor loft
shoes: rack room


Day 5: Creativity

I grew in Chapel Hill, and while I no longer live there anymore, it still remains my favorite place. Even though I'm only a town over now, I don't find myself venturing back there as often as I'd like. However, I had an appointment there yesterday, so it gave me a nice excuse to visit. One of the gifts I had picked to give away this holiday season was an art pack that had pencils, crayons, paints, etc. I've always been creative, and love little sets that include different mediums. I wanted to leave it at a park in order to bless a child with that gift to be creative.

After my appointment, I drove to one of my favorite parks. I could hear the laughter of children as I pulled into a parking spot. There were little ones running about, climbing the play structures,  swinging on the swings. I placed the art pack on the table with a sign that said, "be creative" in hopes of spreading the joy of creating and making onto someone younger.

As I drove away, I watched a sweet little girl with pigtails pick it up and show her mother. I can only hope that it will bring her great joy in this season!


December 5, 2011

Day 4: Confessions of a Shopaholic, Part 1

So I have a little secret to confess: I used to be a shopaholic.

I used to spend hours and hours per week bargain shopping, splurging on unnecessary items, and shopping endless hours at the mall and target. I don't think there is anything wrong with owning items, beautiful things, or spending money on clothing. However, I do think its important to spend wisely, buy within your means, and not own excessive amounts of things. I've worn the same size for about the past 10 years; crazy, I know. So as a result, more often than not, its easy for my clothes to pile up in my closet as more things come in than go out. There was a point in my life was I became a slave to the culture of needing to owning every new item and follow every new fad and trend. It was extremely addicting and equally hard to break.

my shoe collection

However over time and with the help of some supportive friends, I was able to realize how truly blessed I am. And through the acknowledgement of blessing, it provided me with the ability to bless others. While, the desire to buy excessively is gone, its still a battle to give things away freely. But its a lesson I work at daily.

I wrote about leaving coins on a redbox machine a few days ago. My heart behind doing that was because there was often a homeless lady who sat on a milk crate and the image of her face stays with me; always. I stopped by redbox yesterday in order to return a dvd, and found her sitting on the crate like usual. The weather here is finally acting like fall/winter, so the air was cold and crisp, and I could see her shivering. I dug through my purse and handed her the little change I could find. But then I felt like God was tucking on my heart to do more, so I did. I took off my sweater and handed it to her.

While I love the sweater I gave her, she needed it more than me. I wanted to keep it, she needed to own it.


December 4, 2011

Day 3: Eat More Chicken

It is NO secret that I love Chickfila. I used to go there every once and awhile and then someone introduced me to their polynesian sauce, and I was officially hooked. Since, I work for myself, I occasionally treat myself to a meal out in order to take a break from sitting in my house all day long.

It had been a rough couple of days, so I decided that some comfort food was in order. As I got in the long drive-thru line, I peeked in my rearview mirror, and saw an older lady in the car behind me. I ordered my food and continued to look back at her. I don't know her story, her hurts, her dreams, or her heart. But I did know that I could buy her lunch and pass on the simple gift of love from a total stranger. As I've gone through each gift, I've had this mindset that I would be helping people. But in reality, its been changing and shaping my heart for the better.

My favorite part of this gift, was not actually paying for her meal, but more the experience. I love chickfila, not only for their food, but for their heart behind their service. They are about serving people, and about serving people well. This sweet cashier asked for my credit card, so I asked if I could pay for the lady behind me. Her response was an immediate yes. I want you to stop and think about this for a minute. When I gave a panera gift card, that woman's response was slightly shocked that I would give her something for free with no strings attached. However, the cashier at Chickfila, was not at all phased in the least bit by someone buying a stranger food. It gave me great comfort knowing that its so normed for people to buy other people's meals, and that the motto behind Chickfila is lived out by their customers that much.


December 3, 2011

Day 2: Paying it Forward

Yesterday didn't go as planned. It was one of those days where no matter how focused I tried to say, something else kept coming up. Things that needed to be dealt with, phone calls to be answered, etc. I was frustrated over being unproductive. And then I felt like God whisper into my soul to stop worrying so much about myself. It was a humbling reminder and absolutely necessary.

I was stuck in my house until about 4pm waiting on repairs, but as soon as the last repairman left, I got on my coat and boots and ventured out for my second day of gifting. It was good for me to step out of my house, and away from all the things that were keeping me inwardly focused.

I decided for one of my gifts that I would leave a some coins on a redbox machine down the street from me. It's so close to my house that I can walk to it when I want to rent a movie. In the last few months, there was often a woman sitting on a milk crate begging for money. If you take the time to look at her closely; you can her lifeless eyes, her desperate plea, and her dwindling hope. Even if she wasn't there when I went to rent movies, I would see the empty milk crate and think of her. Her presences is always there. Always.

I left a sign with the coins that said, "pay it forward". As I got back in my car, I watched a father and a young daughter approach the machine. I saw him take the index card down and hand it to his daughter who happily held it. While, I was in my car and couldn't make out their words, I knew that God would use it to pass the message on as I watched the father explain what it meant to his young daughter.


December 2, 2011

Day 1: Sharing Warmth and Thanks

It's no secret that I love Panera. There is something about hardy soup, salads, and endless breads that just does good for the soul. If we had a lunch date at Panera, I'd probably share my secrets with you as we scarfed down some warm yummy food.

I'd tell you I wear my heart on my sleeve. Always.

You'd know that I worry. A lot. I worry about the past and how it affects me. I worry about the future and what it holds. And sometimes I even worry about today.

I'd warn you that I talk fast because I'm a city girl at heart, even though I was raised in the south.

I might even tell you that I don't pronounce the second r in my name, but everybody else seems to do, so I answer to it anyways.

You learned that I'm stubborn and strong-willed. 

You'd realize that I hardly cry, but that my heart is continually burdening for the hurting and the broken.

You'd see that I try to find beauty and hope in difficult circumstances.

I'd let you in on the secret that I used to be a wallflower who was painfully shy and somehow grew up to be a wildflower who loves talking to complete strangers.

Today, I had the great blessing of sharing my dreams, hopes, and fears with my sweet friend Heather. She gave me the encouragement I needed to begin my 25 days of giving. She blessed me with more fun creative gift ideas. I had bought a gift card at Panera when we got our food that I planned to gift it on my way out as my first gift of 25. I found it fitting knowing that so much love and joy can be shared over a warm meal; which was a gift I wanted to pass along to a stranger.

However, as we were leaving, I couldn't seem to make up my mind or gather enough courage to give it to someone. Heather kept encouraging me as random people passed by. But then I heard that small voice of doubt in my mind saying, "you can't do it." I finally started to muster up some courage as a security guard walked by. But that courage came and went as he passed on by.

Then I looked up and saw this:

The hair salon was directly across from Panera, and I figured I could find someone in there to bless. As I walked in, I saw a few stylists with customers and a women at the front desk on the phone. I stood there patiently waiting for her to get off the phone, still trying to muster up the courage to hand over the card. She got off the phone, and looked me, and asked how she could help me. I stumbled over my words as I explained that I wanted to give her a gift. I wish you could of seen her first reaction to me. I could seriously feel my heart sinking out of my body. She looked at me confused and bewildered. And I seriously thought she was going to reject it.

I attempted to re-explain that I was giving her a gift, no strings attached, no reason. Just simply out of love. Her face softened and she got a huge smile. Then she asked if I would come around the counter and give her a hug. As she hugged me I could feel her love, gratitude, and thanksgiving, which was a beautiful gift back to me. She also gave me the gift of seeing her joy, which I carried the image of her smile with me the rest of the day.


December 1, 2011

Giving Christmas Away

I love this time of year. I love soaking up all the christmas music and enjoying all the smells of the holidays. However, as this time of year approaches, I feel like I often get so busy with commitments, parties, shopping, celebrating, etc. I often wonder if I get too swept up in the season that I simple forget the reason behind all the celebration.

So I few months ago, I asked God to open my eyes to the needs of others around me, and boy did He answer. In fact, it started to weigh heavy on my heart. And then I realized that I would need to live this holiday season far differently than I've ever done before in the past. As I processed what it would look like, I realized that I needed to give Christmas away to others this year. There are so many people struggling due to the to economy, with life, with burdens, with heartache. And this time of year is nothing less than hard and painful for them. So I came up with a plan: I decided that I would give one gift away to one stranger for 25 days in December. As I started writing down ideas of gifts to give strangers, I began to see faces of people that I has seen in passing:

The woman who sits on a milk crate next to the redbox machine at my local gas station.

The sweet pregnant lady who somehow always seems to be my cashier at Target.

The homeless man without a coat who holds a sign with a desperate plea for help.

The man who sits on the bench (that I pass on my run) resting his weary body after a long day of work.

The small little girl with no mittens who waits for the school bus to arrive. 

I see their faces, their pain, their desperation. I know I can't change their lives. I can't fulfill them in ways that I wish I could. But I can give them love, encouragement, and hope.

On December 25th, I will be tucked in a warm house. I will have a full stomach. There will be a decorated tree with beautiful wrapped presents underneath. I can't tell you how many years I've taken all that for granted. This year, I want to soak every minute of it up and be overwhelmed with gratitude and thanksgivings.

So here goes nothing: 25 gifts, 25 days, 25 strangers.