Saturday, July 30, 2016

When Life Hands you Lemons

It's been 4 months since I have written a blog post. I have only sat down a couple times to try to write but no words were formed. Sometimes you go through times in your life that challenge you, that punch you in the gut, but you catch your breath and keep moving. Other times there are things that happen that knock you down and change your life. The kind where you feel like you've been stepped on and left at the side of the road, alone. I think the latter is a good way to describe the last few months for me.

Kyle wrote a blog post a few weeks ago, announcing his departure from a company he started almost 7 years ago. The process of letting this go has been heart-wrenching for us. 

Rewind to over a year ago, and Kyle was approached by someone from Zipp, inquiring if he would be  interested in taking over the company because the owner was looking to retire. Little did we know, this would change pretty much our whole world a year later. 

When Kyle started J2, we were just beginning to figure out how deep we were in school debt and how we needed to change our family tree. But shortly after, I got pregnant with Abigail and at the height of a growing personal training business, began to stay home on the call to raise our kids. For the next 2 years we struggled. From financially to our marriage, we had it. Kyle was working his tail off from sunrise to well after sunset; I was raising our daughter at home. Even though he worked like crazy, we didn't make enough money. We went into more student loan debt because we couldn't pay the bills, and many months I worked with a very tight grocery budget; one month I only spent $70. When you grow a business, there's so much work and expenses that don't get paid for at the beginning. This is your investment, your sacrifice, so that one day your investment pays off. That is business ownership. Our marriage went through a really tough phase for a while and we sought counseling for help because Kyle was so immersed in having to work and I was lonely and frazzled. 

We told ourselves the climb would be worth it. This is what entrepeneurs do in the beginning. 

We sold Kyle's truck, went down to one car so we could manage him to work on the business and not go into more debt. I rode around on a bike with Abby for a while to go places or just stayed home while Kyle went to work, could drive to networking lunches, and have meetings with potential clients. 

My parents graciously loaned us their car for a while, so I could have something, while we worked to save money for another car. Then we felt called to sell our house and my parents again, graciously let us live at their house for a year and a half. We did all this to continue on our debt free journey and continue growing J2, so Kyle could focus on that and not find other work. 

During this time, God has grown our hearts to see that we need to love him and love others more. He has shown us the areas that need refined. Almost everyday I see how inadequate I am for this life. I see my demons and how He gives me grace and strength to overcome them for me. Over a year ago He called me to fast often, so I did. He has taught me new disciplines such as practicing silence (SO hard, amen?!). He called me to have a prayer partner to help grow my faith, seek wisdom, and challenge my dependency upon Him. He told me that the road was about to get bumpy and that I needed to cling to Him more than ever. I have

Fast forward to now. After making the climb these last 6-7 years, we walked away. Around this time in a growing business, it's typical to finally start reaping benefits from all the blood, sweat and tears. Not us. We had to walk away and leave that dream behind. We left with no payout and a lot of hurt. We stand with broken relationships and wounds that run so deep I can barely breathe at times. 

Some days I'm ok and some I'm just not. Some are filled with hope, and some are filled with tears. Some are filled with expectation of the future and some are filled with pain of the past. Perceptions I want so badly to change, miscommunication I want to clear up, good intentions I want to be made more clear, and it goes on, but it's too late. We have to move on.

In addition to all of this, I have been diagnosed with Hashimoto's autoimmune disease. Now I start a year long journey with a doctor on Monday to help me figure out how to navigate this disease. My best friend's mom was hit by a car and almost died. Close friends of ours who discipled us our whole marriage moved across the country. Lemons

Even though the journey has been rough, I know God has not abandoned us. I know that He has given us nuggets of grace and peace. I know He is shielding us from things we can't even see. I know that He is putting people in our lives who are willing to step into our mess and just be with us, to grieve with us. I'm so thankful for that. 

Redemption and wholeness. That is the business God is about. It truly is His mission. I'm figuring out that this is the goal. I know He wants to redeem, restore, and make whole the things that are wrong. I'm not sure how long that will take, but I'll cling to Him. Being passionate and vulnerable is crazy hard because the fall is hard and the wounds drive deep. 

There are so many good things to praise God about. I praise Him that I'm writing this while sitting at my own house again; a house we love. A house that needs some TLC like me. A house that represents new chances and the potential to be even more beautiful. I thank Him that through each tough time, we have managed to pay down more student loan debt. I praise Him for Zipp. God provides, and we thought taking over this business wasn't going to happen, and we were ok with that. After continuing to pray and fast for a long time, God literally opened the door and made all the pieces fall into place within a very short time after that. We have amazing people who work there and so much potential for growth. Blackwood Creative is another praise. That's the new business we have started that is going to allow Kyle to continue pursuing his dreams. He is a serial entrepreneur who is passionate and talented in design, web, marketing, and leading projects. We are excited to see where it takes us, figuratively and hopefully geographically. I thank God for my parents. They continue to give to us and be there for us in profound ways. They truly love us and I'm beyond grateful for them. 

And I praise God for my husband. He is being stretched and growing more than we thought possible. We are continuing to learn how to balance our personalities together and grow more as husband and wife. I think God is refining things in him to raise him up as a stronger leader. A good friend said that it may be time to change the mentality of 'small business, pull-up your bootstraps and work from the basement,' to building a team surrounded by advisors who can lead him beyond that. Where you make more calculated and intentional decisions without just figuring things out as you go. A legal, spiritual, and godly business team of people who can advise and advocate for us the best decisions to set us up for success when growing a business. 

I thank God for my friends and my girls. They are sunshine on my cloudy days. I have amazing friends who are here for me and I can't describe the joy of raising my daughters. It is incredible and deeply meaningful. Friends who call me, pray with me, fast with me, let us use their lake house for a week. These people have helped hold me up and turn my face to Jesus. 

With all the lemons that have been handed to us, I know God's purpose was for us to make lemonade with them. To break through the tough skins, releasing the juice, and turning the tart flavor into something sweet. Each day that passes now, the more hopeful I am of the future once again. While we think we have taken some steps back in our minds, I do truly think God is saying, "Let's keep going together and I can't wait to surprise you around the corner, this is a new beginning." Stay tuned 😃


  1. Awesome site. Great pics and story. Congratulations. Did I ever send you the pain relief samples? If I didn't I'll make sure to do that on Monday morning. I'm sorry if I hadn't, going thru some things but I do want to send that out to you and Kyle.

    1. No, we got it. Thanks! Been using the samples 😃

  2. Hi Stephanie: Dave Miller here. I occasionally work with Kyle and Erik. Kyle stopped by my office a couple weeks ago to tell me he bought Zipp but in a very classy fashion did not mention he left J2. Does it now become J1? I did not think to ask.
    Having started and run a similar business graphics business with a partner for 19 years, I fully appreciate the challenges your family endured, and will continue to face now in a retail business. For what it's worth, for some there is greater satisfaction and reward in running one's own business than in working for someone else. As you know, there are different costs.
    Having raised three daughters who my wife home-schooled, if I would have said no more often to demanding clients so as to work fewer evenings and weekends. A business owner can't get back time he loses from spending with his family. Kyle will have to be ruthless about that. In the end, he will not say, "I wish I had spent more time at the office."
    God will guide you through these challenges as you lean into Him.
    Thanks for sharing. I'm proud to know your husband his family and pray this new venture turns out to be exactly what you all can benefit from.
    Dave Miller - Elkhart

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