The One Who Leads

outrigger canoe, tandem canoe, padding with your spouse, OC-2, tandem outrigger canoe, Hawaiin boat, HUKI, learning to paddle, learning to lead, learning to submit, follow the leader
Steve and Julie, the 4th of July on Blue Lake

Sometimes the person out front is the leader of the pack, charting a course for others to follow.

Other times, the one in back of you controls the rudder of your life and you have no other choice than to give into his lead.

The paddler beyond the stern of your boat may be drafting off your lead, riding your wake, resting to overtake the lead at any moment thus determining your fate.

But when matched up together in the same tandem kayak or outrigger canoe, it’s tough to see who is really steering the craft.  Is it the gal in front?  The guy in the back?  The force of the wind shifting them about?  The unseen forces of nature?

I submit to you that on the water, the average bloke cannot really tell what is going on unless you know a bit about the sport of paddling, the features of the watercraft, the paddlers therein, and the goal of the voyage.

Here we have dual controls on our tandem outrigger (OC-2), controlled by the pair of foot pedals in either the cockpit of the front or the back of the hull.  We decided a long time ago that Steve would be situated in the back of the boat and control the rudder to steer us from there.  My role would be to alert him to hidden rocks or logs and only change the arrangement in the event of an imminent crash!  Even if he took a different line down a river or around a lake than I would, it would be his responsibility to guide the boat.  And so it was for our first outing in the OC-2 since last year  . . .

Blue Lake is one of the cleaner yet smaller lakes in Northeastern Indiana:  about the same distance from our home as the 3 rivers that intersect downtown and south of us.  It’s about a mile long and a few miles to paddle around, inside the shoreline.  We decided that this would be the best place to go for a brief outing on Saturday.  The water was cool, the air was warm, and the sun was setting a fiery glow in the distance.  Fireworks spouted off all around us with smoke from these and summer cookouts that characterize the celebration of Independence Day in America.  The haze reminded us of the battles fought for the freedom of our nation in 1776!  This time the declaration on shore included everything cooked on the BBQ; the boaters under power and paddle on the water were friendly too.  Even the dad of the family that lived across the street from the boat launch who has befriended my hubby during prior outings, stopped by to say “hello.”  The best of our freedoms was all around us.  No one cared who was out front, in control, or taking charge of anything.  Everyone seemed out to have some good summer fun and that was all, including us!

I really enjoyed our 60 minutes canoeing yesterday.  Both Steve and I prayed in thanksgiving for the chance we had to be together sharing an activity that has characterized much of our marriage these past 7 1/2 years.  I joke that every summer I become a “kayaking widow” as Steve practices then races his surf ski in the northern Indiana circuit of the United States Canoe Association competitions.  But I didn’t use to be so alone.  Until the Fall of 2011, I usually went out with him in my own kayak and the Fort Wayne kayaking group on Tuesday nights.  On the weekends I loved cheering for Steve from the side of the river for as many Saturday events as I could get out myself out of bed in wee hours of the morning to attend.  He has continued to race all of our married life together, and race well.  I wouldn’t have it any other way.  And yesterday we were together again; last month I got to attend one of his races.  Lord willing both will happen again next weekend at a new event-with-festival.  Lord willing indeed.

The price to pay for participating in these events is very high.  I go to them when there is a break in the convulsive episodes and usually pay my dues with bed rest and intermittent episodes the following day.  This has been my routine for over 3 years.  This past weekend was no different.  And yet we still praised the Lord.  Jesus Christ was the One who once walked on water, carried the apostles to safety in raging seas from shore to shore, preached from the beach to the multitudes, and created the beauty we all enjoy.  He also led the two of us to a wonderful moment of recreation:  just me and my beloved River Bear.  I am grateful for this gift.  Period.

I am also grateful for the man the Lord has designed in Steve.  My Stevers waited all day long until I could leave the house after 6:00 p.m. to pack up the boat on the car racks and load up all of our supplies.  He had cleaned his car for me earlier, “just in case” I would be able to make it.  He changed up his usual workout once we were on the water to make the day meaningful for both of us.  And he led us through the entire experience as if the day was just like any other:  a warm summer afternoon on the water together in July.  Oh how I love you my River Bear!  I really don’t mind letting you steer us from behind.  It really doesn’t matter who is in the lead all as long as we can be together again like this.

Place me like a seal over your heart,
    like a seal on your arm;
for love is as strong as death,
    its jealousy unyielding as the grave.
It burns like blazing fire,
    like a mighty flame.
Many waters cannot quench love;
    rivers cannot sweep it away.
If one were to give
    all the wealth of one’s house for love,
    it would be utterly scorned.  [Song of Songs 8:6-7]

So whether you are waiting for inspiration, the man in your life to make a decision, the Lord to whisper His voice into your darkness, or for the rushing waves of illness to calm down in your tender vessel:  take heart.  The one, the One who leads will take you through the right waters at just the right time in just the right way to get you exactly where you know you really want to be anyways.  I don’t know if there will be fireworks to celebrate that moment in time like there was for me?  I do know that there will be a celebration in heaven for the faithful who have waited upon the Lord who loves you more than you know.

And He will bring you to that special place, Gentle Reader, where the sailing will be Divine.  Just look at how cool it can be!  JJ

Moving on with gratitude

Having just posted in every social media venue I can find, my Etsy shop online, and chatted with my Aunt Patty recently, the decision is final:  I am letting go of my hobby business, Trinity Jewelry by Design.

Sometimes when we are drawn forward to an exciting new opportunity, we simply cannot hold onto the things of the past.  I discovered this past week that the creative and entrepreneurial energy needed to make my new company, Two Step Solutions (TSS), a success will require my full attention.  Lord willing I will participate in one final public event (my fifth) this coming weekend:  a Fiber Arts Fest at a local farm and educational center.  How perfect.  Hemp, leather, and especially the friendship jewelry made from the Threads of Hope ministry will fit in nicely.  Perhaps I will find my niche at last?  So sweet.  Me and the farm animals, with Border Collies chasing the sheep around too.  Since it’s an outdoor venue, I should be fine with the adrenaline rush that usually comes with participating in an event.  I am looking forward to it actually!

fiber arts, fiber festival, Salomon Farm, Salomon Farm Park, Spring Craft Show, Farm Animals, Border Collies, sheep herding, sheep shearing, art in the barn

So humor me if you will with some pictures and a little reminiscing that captures the creative journey of these past 3 years.  I began making jewelry to have a low-cost, portable hobby I could pursue in our home office.  The first product was an adjustable 3-beaded macramé bracelet designed to represent the Holy Trinity.  These were born out of an activity I introduced to a missionary family who was visiting our home for dinner with their three daughters.  The bracelets were very basic yet also rekindled my experience with macramé over 30 years prior as a new graduate from occupational therapy school.  A macrame lamp shade and a couple of plant hangers were my own “occupational therapy” after moving away from home for my first job out of State.  Funny how things come back into vogue, eh?

macrame bracelets, adjustable bracelets, simple macrame, slider knot, 3-beaded bracelet, learn to macrame, Trinity Jewelry by Design
My first display in a professional office!

Eventually in my TJ by D journey, I discovered the world of YouTube videos.  Amazing!  You can learn just about everything including better knotting techniques, the value of better materials, how to take better pictures, branding, and so more right from your home computer.  Etsy furthered my training with it’s excellent resources, support teams, and a relatively user-friendly ecommerce site to get you online before the world.  But none of it would have ever happened if my Aunt Patty wasn’t already on Etsy with her own shop, Patches and Pockets.  Her initial instruction gave me the courage to start a steep learning curve that would de-mystify much of what I did not know about the internet.  I am so grateful for her willingness to show me the way!

double macrame, macrame bracelets, Trinity Jewelry by Design, toggle clasp, hemp, hemp bracelet, natural hemp, handmade jewelry
One of my first favorite designs as I transitioned to better materials.

And so there I was in the middle of the night when I felt the best and was most productive, making hemp jewelry.  I tried selling the precious stone jewelry of an acquaintance but it turned out that my shop wasn’t right venue for either of us.  My own skills got better; I learned to take better pictures which is critical to success online.  It would be two years before I started experimenting with leather lacing then leather wrist bands.  As time went on I sensed that I needed more of a niche product or at least one that would have more utility in daily life than jewelry.  I wondered if I might expand into leather tooling or perhaps making leather holsters for women?  Etsy had allowed commercial manufacturers into their marketplace and the competition from cheaper overseas companies diluted the quality of work in my media and vastly increased competition.  Handmade items made in America seemed to be valued less just as I was developing my own style, my own branding.  I joined “handmade” sales teams and implemented the strategies that they suggested but it didn’t seem to make much of an impact on my business.  Then my sleeping patterns changed and I lost my creative groove.  My personal health situation had become more complicated as well.

macrame bracelets, wrap bracelet, handmade bracelet, hemp, macrame, triple wrap bracelet, Trinity Jewelry by Design
Mixing all my favorite knotting techniques became my niche for a time.
chevron weave, macrame bracelet, charm bracelet, simple macrame, learning to simplify the design, Trinity Jewelry by Desing
Learning to simplify a design is harder than it looks!

I believe it was the Lord who inspired me to start Two Step Solutions.  I was praying for direction with my jewelry business, consulting close friends, and checked in with my Aunt Patty over those few months too.  My Aunt had already let her Etsy business expire as she pursued other volunteer opportunities with her local gardening group and hospital auxillary.  Hmmm.  Maybe it was time for me to pursue a venue that would look more like my former profession of occupational therapy yet incorporate all of the skills that I had learned over these past 3 years?  Indeed.  As it turns out, the vision that the Lord gave me for TSS will bank on most everything I have ever done including enduring a serious illness.  Wow Lord!

Threads of Hope, ministry jewelry, jewelry fundraiser, Trinity Jewelry by Design, Phillippines
Threads of Hope Friendship Bracelets get a T J by D touch.

A couple of weeks ago I had an unusual conversation with a jewelry customer who claimed that the bracelet that she had purchased from me had broken in two places.  By the time I received it in a plain business envelope in the mail, it was completely destroyed.  I was so hurt that I almost gave up TJ by D that week.  I had already launched the TSS website and begun working on my Business Plan, eBook, and Trademark.  I knew in my heart that I would be leaving the jewelry business yet I wasn’t sure how to go about it.  After several unusual “Conversations” as they call it on Etsy with my customer, I decided to act decisively and resolve the situation with confidence instead of acquiescence.  I refunded her money in full.  Then I saw a sign in front of a local venue called Salomon Farm Park for their Fiber Arts Fest.  Very quickly an “exit strategy” came into view.  I even had a few creative nights around this time simply enjoying my craft again.  I would participate in one final event, network the heck out of it, and letter go.  What a great way to wrap things up!

leather wrap bracelet, chevron amethyst, leather beading, leather lacing, purple leather lacing, purple leather bracelet, Trinity Jewelry by Design
My most popular bracelet on Etsy was sadly put to rest after it could not be repaired.

Some of the details of this transition are a bit vague yet so I’ll just put Trinity Jewelry by Design up for sale and see what happens.  Lord willing I am hoping that about $225 will come in this weekend to pay for my filing fee at the U.S. Trademark and Patent Office for TSS.  I found a Law School who is ready to file the application via their free clinic.  Alright.  I know what that means.  Better get hustling Just Julie!  It’s time to sell some jewelry and get my studio in order.  Sometime soon I may be moving on with gratitude and perhaps a few colorful sparklies will linger to adorn my own wrist, my own neckline too.

beachy necklace, beach necklace, summer necklace, handmade necklace, Threads of Hope, adjustable necklace, Trinity Jewelry by Design
Another fav purchased by a friend that combined a Threads of Hope Friendship Bracelet with pink hemp cord.

Of course I’ll be keeping a few of my favorite creations just for me you know.  I love this stuff!  JJ