Like a Life and Death Decision

 

Monet Japanese bridge at giverny
Japanese Bridge at Giverny by Monet

 

Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.  Galatians 5:1 (NIV)

To receive salvation granted by grace is our greatest opportunity in this life.  In accepting this invitation, we will know Who holds our future in highest regard and security.  We will then enjoy the freedom to live our lives as God designed, as God intended.  Our lives will be meaningful!  He gave us so much goodness to enjoy in our lifetimes:  enough to encourage us when things are not so good or down right evil.  Through it all, with Him, we can live without fear and are never truly alone.  We can live life with abandon!  We can love fully and receive the fullness of love from others especially from our Creator.  Indeed His gracious gifts mean even more than “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness!”

I believe in saving grace and it came despite horrific trials.  Many trials.  Years of trials.  A lifetime of trials.  Hey, while my life has not been easy it has not been all bad either.  I am grateful for much blessing and my eternal security in Christ Jesus.  It is because of the trials that I no longer fear the worst possible outcome:  death itself.  I have faced death many times.  For example, on my own could I ever be free in my spirit after witnessing attempted murder?  Abandonment?  Poverty?  Abuse?  Physical pain?  Agonizing seizure attacks for years?  The answer to all of these is YES I CAN.  I can be free and yes I am free in Christ Jesus.  With His amazing grace I am also free of the fear of death.  With that out of the way, I have a new sense of LIFE and I am exceedingly grateful for it!

Lately I have considered launching a new business.   As I pondered the best and worst-case scenarios of starting my own company, a question arose about life and death that is stirring my soul.

What if a customer someday dies because of a flaw in my product or services?

O.k. so you might not be the type who “starts with the end in mind” yet this is where my mind goes more often than I care to admit.  In other words, what if either the products of my company or something related to my design or advice are to blame for the loss of life of another human being?  That person would be someone’s son or daughter; someone’s mother or father, sister or brother could be gone forever!  Someone dying because of me directly or indirectly would be tragic.  I would be devastated!  Surely my family and employees would be affected too.  We might lose the business that we worked so hard to create.  Our grief could make it difficult to recover emotionally in the years thereafter.  How could our lives go on with the guilt, the pain, the horror, the shame?

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There is another, hidden layer to my character that relates to this subject of life and death.  It’s a part of me that I have never really understood until now.  A handwriting analyst in the 1960’s nailed it down for me when I was a girl struggling to find my way through childhood.  Everything in my life at that time had to be just so and if it was not, I was very vocal about it!  Imagine a 6-year old kid criticizing the way her teacher was reading a book to her first grade class!  After all, Mrs. C was not doing it the way that Mrs. B read books in my kindergarten class and that was not right.  I understand that I was sent to the coat closet for such offenses more than once!

I have come to understand that the ability to be flexible, spontaneous, open to new things including CHANGE, comes from an inner sense of security.  If at an early age we are 1) affirmed in ourselves, our abilities, 2) believe that the world around us is relatively safe, and 3) there is love and affection to comfort us (from a parent or heavenly Father), then we can deal with the imperfections of life.  If any of those three elements are missing then our ability to live outside our comfort zone flounders.  We will strive for things to be “black and white” when much of life is simply “gray.”  Letting go of control and dealing with the ambiguities of life is easier with the character qualities also known as gifts of the Holy Spirit:  patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control.  Further, the gifts of peace, love, and joy will follow for the mature believer in Jesus Christ who can live in the world just as it is.  A controlling person is told to somehow, “grow up and smell the roses.”  I have found that this is impossible without the work of the Holy Spirit dwelling within me.  Who knows what growing up means anyways?

At one time, deep in my character I did not care about the things that I should.  For me in the past, having a severely controlling nature went beyond my birth order as the oldest in both of my parent’s families!  (Bossy sister?  Yeah, I heard that one more than I care to admit.)  There was a disconnect that went deeper.  At the core of my character I knew that I could harbor hate, malice, distrust, anger, jealousy, and much more ugliness than I care to disclose.  Somewhere in my unrepentant gut was a self -centeredness that put myself above all others in such a sick way that I might not care if another human being got harmed around me.  This is a horrible quality to have.  This is the consequence of woundedness.  This is the result of growing up without the safety and security needed to fully bond to the human race.  This also made me feel profoundly alone.

At it’s core, I believe that my disconnectedness ultimately did not come from me.  I believe that this kind of strife comes from our sin nature that is part of the human condition; I just got a boost in the wrong direction in the form of a largely unhappy childhood.  What I would do with all of that was up to me when I was introduced to the plan of salvation through our redeemer Jesus Christ.  We are all born with the propensity to sin until truly loved and trained away from it.  Just watch a 2-year old rip a toy out of the hand of a younger sibling!  Yes, even a darling 2-year old has a sin nature!

Jesus came to earth to re-connect us to our heavenly Father by washing away our sins with His grace.  Those who believe in His work on the cross receive forgiveness, a new nature, and the spiritual gifts noted above.  Unshakeable peace, love, joy and more come into our lives.  Jesus came and through our walk with the Holy Spirit we become freed from the character flaws of our sin nature.  This process continues until the day of our death.  And deep within our character we can heal and deal with all that is not quite right with our world, growing to become the man or woman He intended for us to be.  We can be whole.  As we do so, we can fully love one another, forgive those who trespass against us and live victoriously beyond our temptations.  We can be free to receive much goodness, do many good things.

When someone passes away, a person with a right heart grieves the loss.  Jesus showed us this tender quality when His friend Lazarus died and at the cross.  I know that my heart is more full now than ever before as evidenced by my ability to recognize and feel grief when someone dear leaves this life.  I feel very sad.  I also feel more compassion now than ever before as a result of healing from the losses in my own life.  So while I am aware of the character flaw I once carried of depersonalization, I know that the Lord is filling the ugliness of my sin nature with His perfect love.  I know that He loves me more than anyone else can ever love me.  I feel His love directly and through the people His has placed in my life today.  I feel more connected to the other wonderful sojourners in my life than ever before and it is good.

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If I start a new company and there is a tragic loss of life or injury for any reason, I trust that the Lord will go before me to guide my thoughts, my heart, my actions, my speech.  I pray that between now and that day, should it ever come, that He will grow me in His character so that I may fully love that grieving family or person.  Lord help me to do what I can to make things right should a tragedy come to pass.  Thank you for breaking the bondage of my past.  Most importantly today, help me to design products, services, and educational materials that preserve long and happy lives for others I may serve.  May my future customers and employees see Your touch of grace upon my life as it shines through the company I believe you are entrusting to me.  May I hold everything gratefully, responsibly, and lightly:  ready to carry it or let it go as You desire.  You are most important to me, my dear Jesus.  You saved me from sin and death for such a time as this . . .

Gentle Reader:  shall we start a two step solution together that makes life easier for everyone?  Hmmmm.  My mother was a gifted writer and my father was an amazing inventor.  I have learned much from their skills and abilities.  Ah yes, I see a Business Plan coming together.

Step 1:  Make a decision.

Step 2:  Do it!

Alright.  I’m in!  Witness the birth of Two Step Solutions.  Now let’s go!  :J

Julie Horney MS, OTR/L

How NOT to start an online business!

Click on image for details!
Click on image for details!

Trinity Jewelry by Design has become a labor of love for me but it was not always that way!  I started it six months after I was no longer able to work in my professional job due to illness.  While I did all the planning recommended in starting a traditional business including writing a Business Plan, there were a couple of key elements missing for my success.  I would not realize this until almost 2 years later!  My “home business” is actually a hobby that has provided “occupational therapy,” not profitable income per se.  This is still a good thing, good enough to continue for now.

Much of this blog will focus on Etsy since that is the venue with which I am most familiar.  Sellers on Etsy, the largest homemade and vintage goods website on the internet, have valuable online training available for free via newsletters, tutorials, and a deep how-to directory all in one place.  The cost is $.20 to list your first item and your sweat equity is free.  Anyone can learn how to take a product from your living room to the world even if he or she had very little computer training like I did two years ago.  Applying oneself to the process brings a better shop presentation, increased traffic, and sales.  Most small business bloggers will tell you the elements for success.  I’ll approach it a little differently here based upon my personal experience and observations:   success in an online business requires knowing what not to do as well!

Be clear what you are doing.  Is it a hobby or a business?  If it is a hobby, the details might not need to be as polished in the beginning as you learn.  If you want to pay your bills as you learn, get a professional business mindset, plan, and presentation together before you launch.  For example, in my business plan I calculated how many macramé bracelets I needed to sell per week to pay my medical bills and set this as my projected income goal.  Two problems stopped me right away:  1)  I only knew how to make the most basic jewelry from plain materials and 2) I didn’t know how to take great pictures to “sell” my jewelry in this extremely competitive market.  Sizzle and shine move the shopper to “add to (their) cart.”  Identify your purpose and plan accordingly.

Start when you are not distracted by personal and financial stress.  Rushing to get something going, skimping on materials (such as packaging to save money that really should go towards gas in your car), not taking the time to check the endless details (e.g. typos in item descriptions), and a tense mindset can kill the excitement of a new venture for you and your customers.  Also the creative process needed to make handmade items will be altered by a chaotic home office when burdened by illness of a family member or 24/7 caregiving responsibilities.  Going through a significant life change?  I offer that it might be a great time to brainstorm about the new venture but might not give you the grounding you need to present yourself to the world with confidence.

Starting when you have not done your homework will waste time and money.  Every business requires some level of market research.  This might include something as simple as systematically “Googling” your product or service on Etsy, Google and Bing, to see what else is available out there.  I was delighted to discover that the search process can lead to identifying trends in my business sector, spur new design ideas, and even help begin networking with other business owners.  I also realized that my simplistic designs in the beginning were priced way too high for the value presented.  The joy of discovery and creativity go nicely together in the beginning; they are needed periodically to keep things fresh and pertinent as the business goes forward.

Use a limit of funding as a challenge to identify new resources.  It can be fun to spend money on a new venture.  Whether we have secured a business loan, siphoned-off some income from our 9-to-5 job, or withdrawn money from our savings it just might be the limits of our funding that will help us to be the best stewards of our resources.  One area many home based business fail to budget for is marketing.  Yet with just a little reading on Etsy, LinkedIn, and various social media avenues, we can find lots of FREE advertising.  Hello Facebook and Twitter!  Search ads on Etsy are great for a launch of your business or a new product and worth a few bucks until traffic increases.  The same goes with supplies, print services, and so on.  On a smaller scale, I remember discovering lovely new color combinations when my variety of beads and income dwindled!

Dig into social media and link them together.  Those entrepreneurs who are already savvy with social media have a huge advantage over casual users.  Many of us who use social media to chat might not realize its potential to impact our businesses.  For example, I know an Etsy seller who never posts her products on Facebook despite her huge Friends List; she is content to have sporadic sales that barely cover the listing costs.  She owns a hobby business.  I know another wildly successful online fitness trainer who has paid for training to make daily, seamless pitches to her key customers at the right time with the right message.  Others simply hire a marketing company (aka SEO services).  You decide.

Forgetting your baby will make your baby go away.   Even a hobby business will eventually fade away if there are no new listings, website  updates, or other activity going on.  How fun is that?

Remember the power of the personal connection.  I’ll end with this:  when I wanted to explore an online business and couldn’t handle the hassle or expense of developing my own website, I called my Aunt Patty.  She sold patchwork purses and vintage fabrics on Etsy.  I had never heard of Etsy!  She taught me some basics and then I was off and running.  This personal connection that got me started continues with my customers, neighbors who “Like” my listings in our homeowner association Facebook page, international sellers in a jewelry forum on LinkedIn, and so on.  Networking with others who share our passions softens the 2-dimensional stiffness of the internet.   It’s good for business and good for our humanity too.

“How NOT to start an online business with Etsy” goes beyond checking your level of inspiration and available perspiration!  I offer that if you begin with where you are and what you have, clarifying where you would like to go, and developing a love for the learning process then lots of fun possibilities await including success.  I am grateful for this part of my journey while recovering from a serious illness.  The future is brighter now and I’m just getting started!  How about you?