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Hello. Anybody there?

all of me for all of you

Longest break ever.
It has been so good and so needed.

When we moved home to Georgia, life cranked up a notch or twelve. We’re at a church we love serving with friends we adore, we’re here with family and old friends that we want to invest our time and hearts into, our sign business grew and grew and grew, and our kids are all in school now. You know how that story goes….their academic lives, social lives, and sports agendas dictate our calendar! I feel like the time span between school starting last August and finishing this May lasted two minutes.
These years are so short.

By the time Lent rolled around this year, I had so many things jostling around in my head and heart that I couldn’t think straight. At one point, I am certain I was twitching.

*The kids were crazy busy in school, and I was crazy busy managing their work and their sports.
Hats off to all you mamas who’ve had all of your kids in school for forever. Homeschooling might seem daunting to you, but let me just tell you, for us it was quiet and uninterrupted. We were almost always home together living a much more slow-paced life. I had no idea how C to the R to the A to the Z to the Y {CRAZY} our life would become having all three in school! NO REGRETS. They love it. I couldn’t pay them to come back home, and guess what? They couldn’t pay me to bring them back. It is exactly what our family needed…I desperately wanted partners in their education and in their spiritual formation. There is nothing sweeter than having people who love your kids and who are willing to provide echoing voices in their lives. But hear me say…It added CRAZY to our lives.

*Andy led a college team from our church on a spring break mission trip to Haiti, which is awesome, but when he knew he was going to be gone for about ten days, he suggested that it was officially time that I take over the communications side of our sign business.
SAY WHAT WILLIS? That’s basically what I said to him. No joke. Up until this past Spring, I have been responsible for the marketing and creative design with our signs. This meant I gave Andy the ideas and he made them happen, and then I networked through blogging and Pinterest and Instagram the finished product. It worked great for us for the first three years because I’m definitely the “people oriented” person and he’s absolutely the “task oriented” person in our relationship. However, when the kids went to school this past year, we knew that somewhere along the way it would benefit Andy’s sanity to remove a few things from his ever-growing to-do list, especially since he has a full time job. He had to work HOURS each night after he got home from work in order to get everything done for our sign business. He sat me down right before he left and showed me the administrative ropes, which honestly made me cringe. {and twitch.} I think I mentioned that earlier. Anywho, he left for his mission trip, and I dove into the deep end and figured it out.

BUT. The added administrative tasks on me started to drown out my creativity. Blog posts felt as much like work as the laundry does for me, and you know how I loathe laundry! I felt behind. Late. Lost. Out of touch. I started comparing myself and my blog and our business to others, and that pretty quote floating around on Pinterest is true…Comparison really is the thief of joy. It’s not a pretty site when my flesh gets involved, which is why it was time for a break.

Sometimes you have to stop looking around at everyone else’s creativity so you can uncover your own.
When you notice yourself not celebrating other people and their gifts and successes, it’s a red flag that you need to step back and let your heart be searched by God.
His heart dissection allows soul-searching questions to interrupt your ego’s agenda, and transformation occurs when you face the hard truth to some of his questions.

He wants all of us for all of Him.

It has been almost 4 months since that last post. I feel refreshed and rejuvenated. My heart feels, uuummmmmm, dissected. It feels amazing to be in a place where my heart doesn’t have a will of it’s own. I don’t feel like the weight of my world is all on my shoulders. Any fear I had about a blog break hindering our sign business has been squished. God has a great sense of humor like that. I needed to be humbled and reminded that this business is from him and for his glory. We’ve sold more signs in the past 4 months than any previous year during those same months. He is our provider. Everything we have is from him. I don’t know why I ever lose sight of that truth.

On top of some major heart-work, God also made clear to me what’s next, which is a beautiful answer to years of prayers. I’ve always wanted to pursue my master’s degree in counseling. I was in the middle of choosing a graduate school when I met Andy, fell in love, got married and moved off to Seminary. As he finished his degree, we started our family, and I’ve been at home with our kids for the past 13 years. When we sent them to school this year, I decided to spend the year praying and processing if now might possibly be the time for me to pursue my degree. I am so happy to say that he has confirmed it over and over to me that this is absolutely what he made me to do. It’s not even something I feel like I’ll be doing..it’s more just who I am.

I actually start classes this coming Monday. {Insert SCREAM!}
Who knows what in the world that means for writing blog posts?
I know that I love the process of writing. I feel like my soul comes alive when I write, but I’m going to be getting my fair share of writing done in extra long papers over the next two years!! Maybe I’ll share with you all what I’m learning as I dive into classes!

I’m a ball of nerves about balancing marriage, parenting, our business, life, and school, but I know it’s what’s next for me. I’M SO EXCITED!!!!!!

Thanks to those of you who have sent texts and emails over the past few months…just checking in. They always came at just the right time.:)

I’ll be back soon {I HOPE} with pictures from our New York City vacation!! Best ever. I think I say that after every vacation, though. #littlemissdramatic

Alely - Life is full! Happy for your new chapter as you pursue your masters degree in counseling!

michele m fry - So glad you are back blogging!!! I am so excited for you to start school, this is your calling!!!
Love ya!! :)

Jackie - Excited for you as you venture onto this new path…God has some great things in store for you through this! Can’t wait to see what they are, how He grows you and leads you to bless many. You will be a fantastic counselor! xoxo

Lori H - So excited for you! And so excited when this post showed up in my reader today :)
You will be an awesome counselor – you are a natural! I know that just from following your blog and emailing. Good luck with your first day of school :) xo

Debbie w - I mussed you. Most every day ( after lent! ) I checked your blog to see if you were back. I am excited for you…you’ll be fine!

Christy - I just LOVED seeing your post pop up in my inbox. Wow! You have a lot on your plate. Glad you found peace on your blogging break. Blessings for the days ahead.

Becky - Oh girl. He’s in the mind blowing business. So happy for the boom in your business and for you pursuing your gift of counseling. Thrilled for you!! It’s gonna be good and I wouldn’t worry about blogging at all. It’ll all take care of itself :-)

paige - so excited for your TOMORROW!!!!!!
can’t wait to hear all about it my friend…and life over the last four months
xoxo

giosmama2626 - Going back to get your degree? You go girl! I’m so happy for you and super proud. So very wonderful. I’m rooting for ya. No fear- you can accomplish all of this without a problem. Moms just ROCK like that.

XOXO

laura@top this top that - good for you with school and with the sign business. will still be cheering you on as you journey through this next chapter.
Happy summer. Let me know if you are around my area and we can get together for coffee…tea.

Lynn Richards - Good for you!!!! I so appreciate your honesty. Both my husband and I are going through a time of being quiet in the sense that all plans we make are put on hold and we wait to see what God will do.
Maybe a blog break is in need for me as well. Something else to consider.
xo

Shar - Missed your blog posts. Glad you were blessed with answers in your quiet time.

Lemonade Makin Mama - I loved every single word of this post and the truth within it. He truly DOES know what we need and how to make it happen in ways that blow our minds. Cant wait to see what’s in store for you girly!!

Kristi - Love you and miss you too!

Katie R. - Isn’t it neat how Gid speaks to us so clearly when we are obedient in the hard things?? I can’t wait to hear how diving into counseling stretches and blessed you :) It’s kind of funny, because I feel like I’m doing things opposite you. As soon as Jistin and I got married, I went to grad school for social work and have been loving counseling and meeting people where they’re at. But now we have our first baby and I feel such a tug to not return to work. But it’s hard decision for me, transitioning from one season to another. Social work isn’t a job to me, it really is an extension of who I am. So while I’m sort of grieving (that sounds dramatic, I know) taking a step back from social work, I am really excited (and nervous) to see what being a full time mom means for me. All that to say, I’m praying for you as you move from one season of life into another, equally as important one!

Linsey @ Bravehearted Beauty - If you’re writing, heck YEAH I’m here! I missed you and I bless you whether you write here or not. Flipping out about your pursuit of counseling! Yes, God! This is SO GOOD! Love you, girl!

Laura @ Finding Home - Beautifully said – and just know that we will be here whenever it works for you! Take care sweet lady, Laura

Donna - Good for you! Glad you are going back to school. I know how busy life gets when you have a big family .Just so you know , it doesn’t change too much when they are older, as we remain busy with them and grandchildren. But it is such a joy. Life goes by in a wink honestly. The older you get the faster it goes. I’m sure you will be a wonderful blessing to many as a counselor. I hope you have a little time left for blogging as I love your blog and seeing pictures of your home.enjoy the rest of your summer. I will look for that prayer book. I need that.

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Breaking for Lent.

breaking for lent-between you and me

I’ve started and stopped this post so many times because I’m not quite sure how to put into words all the reasons I’m taking a break from my blog during Lent.

First and foremost, I’m feeling it as deep down as you can feel something…I know it’s what I need to do.
I could just end it there, but that wouldn’t be the least bit fun, so here goes…

People start blogs for all sorts of reasons. Mine is a super simple {somewhat ridiculous} reason.

When our family moved to Florida back in 2008, I left behind a sweet community and my precious family.
I felt lost.
My boys went to public school about a month after we moved, and I was at home all day with our brand new daughter who came to us from China just 6 months before the big move.
I was lonely and all out of sorts.

Lost and Lonely. Those seem like perfect reasons to start a blog, right?!
The good news is that God uses all things, even ridiculous things. Thankfully, in God’s economy, nothing is wasted.

Somewhere along the way, my love for design and my love for words collided, and our sign business was born.
The life lessons that developing and running an on-line business are teaching us are endless.
Blogging has also introduced me to some people I’d like to think would be genuine friends, if we lived closer.
So many of you have emailed me after a post and shared some of your story with me and asked me to join you in prayer for things going on in your life. What an honor. At the risk of sounding dramatic, it is sacred ground.

After just a few years in Florida, our family moved home to North Georgia.
We’re able to do life with my family again, we’re serving in a church with dear friends, we’re at a school with parents and teachers who are partnering beautifully with us for our kids’ education and spiritual formation, and we’re in a small group with people who are opening their stories up to us and letting us do the same.
Life is full. People are in the arena with us.

It’s been about a year or so that I’ve struggled with blogging. It’s been a struggle to become willing to just lay it down. Apparently, I hold tight to the things that bring me the least amount of comfort. I guess we all do.

It’s time to reevaluate what place blogging needs to have in my life.

I’m not lonely and lost and all out of sorts anymore.
All of those people that make life full are right here in front of me. I want to be fully engaged and present.

Also, God has been stirring something in me all year. I knew when the kids went back to school in the fall that He would use this year to make some things clear to me.

Here’s why it’s been hard to just lay it down and take the needed time to process and pray:: I’m afraid.
Fear often finds a way to step in front of faith.

One fear is that taking a break from blogging might somehow hurt our sign business.
We’re not closing our shop, and I’ll still be reaching out on Instagram and offering discounts through other bloggers, so there’s absolutely no relevance to my fear.
I want to surrender to the truth…the business is from God. He is our provider, and whatever he brings to us is exactly what we need.

Another fear is trusting him to lead me in the desire that he’s been stirring this year…to trust that everything will fall into place. I want so badly to operate in my old ways…taking the bull by it’s horn and making a way for myself. We so often make his will about our plans, and it’s just not where his peace resides.
I want to surrender to the truth…he knows the plans he has for me, and they are good. His timing is perfect. His will is that I know him and make him known. His peace is found in knowing him.

Lent is the perfect opportunity to be disciplined and sharpened by Jesus and to refocus my mind’s attention and my heart’s affection to him. I’m breathing lighter just taking the step of obedience away from myself and my fears and towards him.

Rose D. Frenchtown, NJ - Release your fears and go with where HE leads you.

Lori H - Speaking as one of the people who would love to be friends in person if we lived closer (smile), I will miss your posting during Lent, but it sounds like the right thing for you. I hope that you will return after Easter, but know that you only make big decisions with prayer and thought so I would understand. I hope your Lent season is God-drenched and that you can continue to breathe lighter! Hugs!

BARBARA N - Good for you it will be a nice break to be all in in this special time. xoxo

Bethanie - I will miss you, my friend. I always feel like I’ve done a devotion after I’ve read your words…. I understand the need to follow His will. Don’t stay gone too long :) xoxo

Starr - Goodness how I love you.

paige - you are brave my friend, not only to step away but to share your heart!!
not brave like…ohmygah what if? but just brave in its pure form.
i love that about you

will miss “hearing” from you over here but glad that you’re doing what you think is best!!

xoxo

Amy Avery - Tara, again your words have touched my hear in a deep and profound way. I will pray with you as you make this leap of faith onto the path God is guiding you. What I hear in your words is not fear. What I hear is that your ready. This is your time and he’s waiting for you. Enjoy this time as he draws you nearer and whispers his love into your heart. Let it fill you with his peace and strength as you prepare for the transformation that you are now ready for. God bless you, my friend!

Glenda Childers - Enjoy your rest and time to hear from the Lord. I put in my tiny vote for you coming back … your voice would be missed. But sometimes there is something even better ahead.

Fondly,
Glenda

Christy - I will miss you.

Jackie - I’m proud of you and inspired by you, Tara. I know this is hard; your step of obedience will make the path before you clearer. And I’m thankful that I’m in the arena with you here, so I don’t have to miss you during Lent. Love you much, my dear one.

Regena Fickes - I too struggle to let God do the very thing I have asked Him to do…. Take my life and make it into a reflection of Him. Bless you for following Him. If you are to return, we will be here. If your life takes a different path, our prayers will follow. Take care, dear spiritual sister. God’s love shines through your words.

Sandy - You are an amazing inspiration to me! We must always listen to God, follow His direction. I’m so proud of you & your dedication.
You have so many blessings … They need your touch & nurturing. God bless you & your beautiful family! xo

Lemonade Makin Mama - Alright, I get this. Lately I keep thinking maybe I should quit blogging altogether. There are so few people reading them anymore yet I adore my loyal little commenters and readers and I don’t want to ever let them down… I didn’t give anything up for Lent… I just purposed to change some things and in the process some of my blogging energy and drive up and left. I don’t know what the future holds but I could quit it ALL and just do Instagram in a heartbeat. One of these days I may just do that… still considering things but man, my plate is full these days. Especially blogging for that radio station once a week. It just took it all right out of me. So we’ll see… I have shop fears too though and feel like I have to keep my blog open. Ugh hate feeling that way. Apparently, like always, we’re chewing on similar thoughts. Huh. Go figure. :)

jj - Good bye~
Will miss your insites <3

Becky - Hey sweet girl. Just seeing this. So proud of you for being obedient. He always honors that. Love youuuuuuu and I know we would be that kind of friend in real life. I have no doubt. You’re my blog family.

Kelly Cach - Tara!!! I don’t even have a blog, but feel I’m being nudged to quit it….hahaha!! Seriously, I have thought about starting one for 3 years now (I even have a name), but I honestly don’t know how I could fit it in with the few social media things I’m already involved in (instagram and reading blogs). I understand whole-heartedly wanting to go back to the way it used to be. You are so wise to listen to the Lord’s whispers.

Glad you have an arena! And I know we could be in the same one if not for the miles between us.

Bless you! And I support you!

Trudy Haynes - Hi Tara,
I just found your blog today by way of Edie at Life in Grace. You have so much to offer in so many areas. I found it hard to stay within my allotted time frame for blogging, ok, I went a little over, but I could have easily spent the whole day there. I actually live in Tucker which is fairly close to Athens. Will your blog stay up while you are not blogging? I wasn’t quiet sure if you had decided not to blog any longer or just through Lent. Would love a reply!
Thanks so much, Trudy

amber@grace.to.be - oh, you just speak my language!
i got every single word of this post~

“All of those people that make life full are right here in front of me. I want to be fully engaged and present.”

yes.yes.and yes!!
amen & hallelujah. :)

wishing you a blessed & peaceful lent season.

Lemonade Makin Mama - Just popping in to say that I miss you…

Rachel Santana - I so enjoy your blog, though I don’t get the time I’d like to read it, and I just want it encourage you. God has given you the gift is words. You were always such an inspiration when we were in Georgia. I loved our small groups. Keep sharing! You are reaching and encouraging with your wonderful talent. Love you and your beautiful family. Hug those Marks for us! I miss the old gang!

Hello. Anybody there? » Between You & Me - […] the time Lent rolled around this year, I had so many things jostling around in my head and heart that I couldn’t think […]

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Growing Kids with a Growing Business.

Growing Kids with a Growing Business

My kids will be my greatest work here on earth, but they aren’t my only work.
Talking today over at Courtney’s blog about a big life lesson I’m learning while growing my kids and our business.

I’d love for you to go join the conversation with me.:)

Lori H - I tried to comment over on your post but had some trouble with the comment form (usually those kind give you the option of signing in as a guest). Anyway, here is the comment I couldn’t leave:
Such good points, as always, Tara. I am older than you and still wondering what plans God has for me…Edie from lifeingrace has written some good posts that made me realize that sitting on the sidelines waiting for God’s plan isn’t what I should be doing. I need to jump in the pool and figure it out as I go! Your signs are awesome and if we could figure out what we want it to say, we are going to order one to switch out with the wonderful Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.

Donna - You are so inspiring !

Juli Elgin - I totally understand your need to step away for a bit but I do hope it is only a bit. I just found your wonderful blog last fall and instantly fell in love. First with your beautiful home decor, then your signs and that drew me in and I started reading. I have even found several new blogs to read from your posts. Some of it was very inspiring and some was like talking to a sweet friend. I now look forward to a new post so while you feel a need to step back and move your focus to the front and center I do hope you will pop in every now and again to share some of the things that speak to you or touch your heart. So until then…

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The Church.

The church-between you and me blog

It is a beautiful thing to experience God’s love through his people. It’s life changing.
Not everyone can bear the weight of our stories, but there are those friends in our lives who allow us in and offer to come into the most sacred places with us.

They see the beauty of our brokenness…they remind us that God is able to bring beauty from the ashes.
When our eyes get fixed on our brokenness, they are the people who turn our eyes back to Jesus, our true help.
They allow us to expose ourselves, our hearts, our souls.

They appreciate the beauty of who God has made us to be.
They’re not threatened by or afraid of our weaknesses. They can handle our imperfections.

When we don’t feel “enough” in motherhood or marriage or in our careers, they remind us that we’re not enough. And, they carry us to the one who is more than enough.

When we forget how to dream for ourselves, they dream for us until the fire in us is ignited again.
They call out those things that God put in us that shine bright.
They aren’t threatened by our gifts..our gifts inspire them. They celebrate who he has made us to be.

These dear friends refuse to let us wear masks to protect ourselves.
They aren’t afraid to have scary conversations, and they’re willing to help us let down our guard.
They urge us to let ourselves be seen.

Brene Brown reminds us that the people who love us aren’t cheering for our freedom from the stands.
No. They’re inside the arena with us battling for our freedom. They won’t stop until Jesus has set us free.

In Luke 5, there was a man who was paralyzed, and he needed Jesus to touch and heal him. The crowds were surrounding Jesus, and the man’s friends couldn’t find a way to get the man in front of Jesus, so they carried him to the roof and dug their way through it until they could lower their friend down. They carried him to Jesus, and he was healed.

Do you have people that are in the arena battling beside you and with you for your freedom?
Are you doing that for someone in your life?

I’d love to hear your stories…

* The beautiful church painting was painted by my sweet & talented friend Jackie.
She is a friend who has stepped into the arena with me and has allowed me to step into the arena with her.

Corinne - such beautiful words..thank you for this post…
is was just what I needed and so very encouraging!
I’m new to your blog, but I can tell I’ll be at home here!
God bless,
Corinne

Janie Fox - You made me cry. I am so blessed to say I have these people. God knew who I needed and he sent them. Love this post. And her painting…fab!

ashley - Does your friend sell the church paintings? Would she? I love it!

Jackie - I’m so thankful you’re in my arena; I’m honored to be in yours. I love you, my dear friend!

Amy Avery - This is such a beautiful post Tara and one I really needed today. It always amazes me how your posts speak to my soul, not because I don’t truly believe you are a fabulous writer, but that the timing for my feelings and the way God uses your gifts and talents through writing and sharing here is so in sync. I am so blessed by you Tara and I hope one day I will meet you in person to be able to express my gratitude. Thank you for sharing this today!

Kelly Cach - HOLY CUTENESS!!! The sweetest reminder of His love in a little framed church.

Sandy - Tara, you are so inspirational. I love your blog, and I love your spirit. Your family is beautiful and such a blessing! xoxo

Barbara - Love this we all need to friend and be friend this wsy. That painting is so beautiful.

Lynn Richards - What a wonderful post.
I have to say I am immensely blessed in this arena. We have been in Bible Study off and on for ages with a group of four families and have been in each other’s arena for over 20 years.
Whether we are in study together or not, we have all come back together to fight for each other in the different arenas of child rearing, aging, moving, life transitions, illness, brokeness, you name it.
We spend holidays together, plan our children’s weddings together and are now welcoming grandchildren into the arena.
Thanks for this blessed reminder!
xo
lynn

Starr - Oh goodness. Grateful to TEARS for good friends in my life for the last 10 years or so. My heart is tender toward women who are struggling and lonely – such a hard thing when you SO want friends, but for whatever reason relationships aren’t coming easily. As a newlywed when my husband was in Bible School and I was in graduate school I felt like such a fish out of water. I wasn’t connecting with his Bible school classmates but also pretty far removed from my graduate school peers. God did some great things in me and in our marriage during that time…but it was still so tough! To anyone struggling to make those connections – keep trying!! Keep loving people and investing and eventually those sweet, natural connections WILL come!

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