$366 + $120 = everything.

IMG_0990

I run this really cool company called Dot. It’s named after my grandmother (that’s the first thing people usually ask), and we sell school supplies and fund education for kids around the world. I came up with the concept in college, developed it during an internship at my college church in my first year after graduation, and launched it late last summer, just in time for the “back to school” rush. It’s been a whirlwind and a learning experience; each day I know a little more about business and giving and loving people than I did the day before, and I really love it a lot.

In entrepreneurship, there’s a lot of hurry up and wait. A lot of times when you don’t see the fruit of your labor for a while. Where you work really hard and wonder if any of it actually matters, and then you wait six months and you know somehow exactly why that happened–and then sometimes you never know. I think that’s probably true about a lot more than just entrepreneurship, but I’ve been learning about entrepreneurship lately so that’s what it’s about to me.

The past few weeks, as the year has wound down and I’ve gotten more convinced of my need to have everything straightened out business-wise before the end of the year (and more anxious about my lack of business skills), I’ve been buying things that we needed and paying other things off, trying to get everything settled before New Years, and one thing that was certainly settling was our Dot bank account. It wasn’t super concerning because Christmas sales would make things up (and really I’m still a little excited every time we get an order), but my desire is to make Dot my full-time gig in February/March, and as our bank account kept going down, I was starting to get a little worried about that potential. Questioning if some opportunities coming up in the next year that would require me to quit my job were really the right thing to be chasing or if I needed to stay in the safe zone of getting a for-sure-bi-weekly paycheck for a little while longer.

Tonight, I went back to the church where I spent so much time developing Dot last year and shared our vision with the middle school ministry. It was rewarding and ridiculously fun (and it made me feel like middle schoolers today are a heck of a lot cuter than I ever was in middle school. What happened to poofy hair, glasses, and braces? But anyway…). It costs $365 for a child to go to school with our partners in Mexico and Tanzania, and the kids were generous with their purchases and donations, so I knew we would be able to send at least one child to school from tonight. All this, and the back-of-the-mind nagging about finances, was in my mind as I got home and began to count the money in the donations jar.

$20, $40, $60, $80, $100. I did this three times. And then another $60. And then a spare $5. And then a $1. $366 donated. Which is $1 more than $365, the amount it costs to send a kid to school. And for some reason, I don’t think in any way that was a coincidence. Because with that $1, He somehow showed my anxious mind that He would provide. Not just enough for the things I wanted to do–sending one kid in Matamoros to school–but just even more than that. Which is what my heart needed. And then I moved my computer (which was sitting on a disorganized pile that is my room/Dot HQ) and saw the envelope that had been handed to my sister as she stood at the table with product tonight by a middle school girl that wanted a journal and to give a donation, please. And when I saw that, I laughed. Because the money in the envelope had not been included in my calculations. And that little girl had given $120. By. Herself. Enough for three months of school. And God reminded me that He doesn’t just give us $1. He gives us $1 in the exact moment we need it and then pours down $120 when we recognize the blessing we had in the $1.

And this may not make sense to anyone else. It may seem like a silly over exaggeration of a coincidence, but it was enough for me tonight. It was enough to remind me that He cares, because tonight, a group of 200+ middle school kids got together and their donations and purchases will be enough to send two kids to school in Mexico, and the words that I told them about “making a difference in their little decisions” ring true. Because two kids will don uniforms and have a bookbag full of school supplies they might not otherwise have, because of that group of kids. And that’s cool. So freaking cool.

So thanks Pinelake Middle School Ministry and Jesus, for reminding this little girl that He is generous and able to provide when we walk in the things He’s calling us to. Thanks for being the “hands and feet” (clap, clap. stomp, stomp.) of Jesus tonight.

Go do those things. You won’t regret it.

–Hallie.

The first year.

community1

Almost six months into the second year, and I needed to write this. Before I could write anything else, to get this one out. I’ve been trying for a while, but today it happened and it could be better but I’m good with it just being. –H.

Saying “your first year out of college is really hard” to a person in their senior year is like telling a senior in high school that “freshman year will be so much fun”. They get it. They hear it over and over, in fact. But they still find themselves completely unsure of what to do when mom and dad pull away from campus and they’re really left all alone. They eventually figure it out, and probably have a little too much fun in the meantime, but they walk away, typically, without better words to explain the phenomena they’ve just experienced. You’ll hear them say to new high school grads “freshman year is so much fun.”

Being a college grad is the opposite of fun, at first anyway. You realize you know absolutely nothing, and this time mom and dad drive away it’s a little less exciting and a little more terrifying. Over the course of the year, you figure it out, typically with a few more tears than the years previous, and at the end of the year, you chalk it up to the first year out of college and celebrate the beginning of a new season, one in which you actually might know a little bit of what you’re doing.

My first year out of college came and went just like that. It was messy and hard and overwhelming, and I look back and realize it was 75% all up in my head. I worked for a wonderful church that was going through a lot of transition, and sometimes I got stuck in the cracks of transition. And it was just what I needed. It was the first time in my life that I wasn’t a superstar. The first time that I didn’t own the world and feel competent to run it with my bare hands.

I learned a lot about who I was and who I wasn’t. I began to understand my desire for autonomy as a personal need–the way in which I was created to fill my place in the world–instead of an inability to submit to authority, something I haven’t quite figured all the way out yet. I learned about submission and seasons and what it looks like to be fully alive in a situation you don’t like. (I learned from failure on that last one.)

Actually, I learned from failure a lot that year. I learned what it was to be just alright at something and that be enough. To depend on God and for God not to come through in the way you thought He would–with miracles and lightning bolts–but to see His movement just the same. I learned that, in some seasons, my fingers can’t type in this space because my brain can’t process in a way that would work itself out onto a screen without phone calls from a worried mom and questioning hearts from those on the edges.

I learned to embrace, however, that I am a writer. That it’s a part of me. Not just something I choose because I enjoy it, but the way in which I best process. I learned even more that I’m a planner. Of events and situations and businesses. That I thrive on it all. Because Dot was created in that first year. Really created. She went from a developed idea in a classroom to a line of products I could hold in my hand in that year. She became tangible and overwhelmingly good in that year.

I don’t have answers for you first-years. Other than to say it does kind of suck, and it will get better. I don’t have answers other than to say that you aren’t crazy, and then sometimes you really are, and that’s okay too. That there’s a plan in it all, and you’ve got to walk it out, and even the really scary parts that you’re not sure could end up good, ever, they’ll be good somehow too. Somehow, you’ll be thankful. So that’s the first year. And the blocks that stacked together to make the second one that much sweeter.

’til next time.
–Hallie