By Leah Clouse
I told Paul last night that I feel like I’m finally coming into my own. I’ve found a nice rhythm and balance of being an awesome nanny, an art instructor, a baker, a daughter, a sister, a wife, a friend, a healthier individual, and a child of God. I thrive on the chaos of a busy life and am feeling genuinely accomplished for the first time in quite a while. A year ago I took a huge leap and quit my cushy office job to pursue a dream. For the first few months I really believed it would work too. I found my first nannying job nearly immediately and was chomping at the bit with excitement to attend my first Farmers’ Market as a bona fide baker. I had BIG dreams and even bigger expectations of what it would look like to bake my heart out for days at a time and have a line wrapped around the corner each Saturday morning. Unfortunately that first nannying job didn’t pan out, and when we made our Farmers’ Market debut we had been surviving on one paycheck (with the added expense of a commercial kitchen rental) for nearly a month. We convinced ourselves that if we just baked and baked and baked that the people would buy and buy and buy. It was a little Field of Dreams, admittedly, but it worked for them right? We made the
stupid ambitious decision to pay our kitchen rent before our apartment rent thinking we would make the money that Saturday. Around 11 that morning I had to actively remind myself that it wasn’t good for business to be weeping while making change for a customer. Needless to say, we were a tad too ambitious. We went home that day with almost everything we started with and less than $50 profit (-$584, if we’re being honest; but who’s counting?). It was soul crushing. I spent the entirety of the next 4 days crying before starting the whole process over again on Wednesday. Lather, rinse, repeat.
The rest of the season was an ebb and flow. We got more efficient and wasted less but still never really hit our stride. Our brand new cooler sat full of Jar Cakes and beautifully packaged cookies from that first day for six solid months. I couldn’t bring myself to throw them away and admit defeat. Embarrassment kept me hidden and my flourishing church attendance dwindled. I couldn’t face anyone. I slipped into a depression that summer that I never knew myself capable of. I slept and cried and begged God (and everyone, really) to just leave me alone. We reached a place where our bills were so behind that I was pleading with bill collectors and making promises I couldn’t keep. We couldn’t afford ingredients and no one was buying anyway. We finally had to give up our perfect kitchen rental and the jig was up. Tail between my legs, I found a nice big rock and crawled under it.
I share this with you for two reasons. One, I’ve not actually shared it with anyone yet and I think talking about our pain is a catalyst for healing in and of itself. And two, things got better. I took a step back and stopped baking for a while. I found a different nannying position that I positively adore and one paycheck at a time we pulled ourselves out of the pit. 2011 was the hardest year of my life. It was painful and humbling and terrifying all at once. Everyone we know and love encouraged us tirelessly, but the shame of failing drowned out their kind words. It took us so long to crawl our way back up to rock bottom that I nearly forgot what it felt like to believe in myself… But we made it. I learned some valuable lessons that I look forward to remembering when Creme Hurray feels like something I can pursue again. The dream is still alive, but I’ve learned to keep it under lock and key. There are some big steps we need to take to really be ready in the way we thought we were then. I still believe in my bakery, but I have new eyes about the realities of owning a business.
Taking stock of my life now, I can see where God moved and where He stood still to help me grow. I needed to fail because it was the thing I feared most. I needed to feel the terror of not having enough money to pay our bills to really learn that we will still be okay and that God is still good. I needed to lose control of my life to fully grasp that I shouldn’t have ever had it in the first place. I understand myself and God better and have learned to trust Him more. My marriage is stronger too. We learned to lean on each other and laugh through our tears.
Now I spend my weeks playing with two amazing kids that I’ve absolutely fallen in love with, teaching people to paint, and baking when I want to. Truly, I’ve never been happier. My life is full to the brim with things and people I love, a God I know more intimately, and a real belief that no matter what we’ll be okay… and that, my friends, was worth the struggle.