By Sarah Keeling
Heart Work Tees Founder
Have you ever had a big dream? Ever been thinking about doing something for a long time before really diving in? Ever had a vision that kept you awake at night with ideas and excitement? Ever felt the gentle whisper of God encouraging you to make your dream a reality?
That is exactly how I felt, and how Heart Work Tees originated. I had a dream that I could make silly shirts to encourage women when they feel like they cannot possibly fold one more sock or scrub one more peanut butter covered spoon (that stuff does not come off).
I created the “Laundry Slayer”in my mind to help me conquer my laundry. It made me laugh, and it made my service a little more fun. I told my friends about it, and they thought it was funny too. I had the desire to make it into a t-shirt, but never could quite make it happen.
Then life got crazy and we moved, and the t-shirt idea was put on the back burner. Later, I was invited to a Bible study on the book “One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are”by Ann Voskamp. I know that it sounds cheesy, but that study really changed my life. Could I really have joy just from counting my blessings? I was doubtful, but tried it anyway. Wow. I was surprised that my heart opened and changed into something more beautiful and more content. I felt happy. Like really happy. And the happiness lasted. Hallelujah!
Like a joy-crazed addict, I wanted more. There is a chapter in the book about “being the gift.”Paying it forward, in a sense. Ann quoted Rabindranath Tagore,
“I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy.”
I had a deep desire to do something BIG to serve other women. I thought, “But what can I do? I’m JUST a mom, and one with an autoimmune disease who still has to take naps.” This desire did not go away though, and after a few weeks, I remember that Ann posted an article about “The Seed Company: The Esther Initiative.”They were training women in South Asia to tell Bible stories to women who cannot read and have never heard Scripture. My heart went out for those women who have never had God’s truth in their life. His Word has been my lifeline, and they never heard it at all? I wanted to do something to support this ministry ASAP.
That’s when I heard the gentle whisper, “You can sell t-shirts.”Have you ever felt God’s prompting but dismissed it as your own rambling thoughts? I did that. Then, I went to my husband and shared what I’d been thinking, the whole lot of it. This is what he said, “I really think you should do it Sarah. You are supposed to sell t-shirts.”
After that I kind of dove in, because that’s how I roll: I listened to marketing podcasts, researched t-shirt printers, scoured the internet for ideas and dug into the Bible for verses. The verse that kept standing out to me was Colossians 3:23,
“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.”
This became my theme verse. Whatever we do (dishes, laundry, mopping, etc.), it all matters to God, and we can do it with excellence.
I had big plans for my shirts. I decided that I wanted to donate all the proceeds to The Esther Initiative. After talking with The Seed Company, we were able to create my own Heart Work Initiative, which is a branch off the Esther Initiative.
At this point, I was pumped. Ideas were flowing and I had some seriously big plans. I was going to raise $5,000 in one year and meet Ann Voskamp and maybe someday travel to South Asia to meet these amazing women. (I know; I’m a dreamer.)
Then something happened. I got pregnant. This was pretty monumental for me, having health issues and a very active 4-year-old boy. I wanted our baby so bad. The major issue was that I was so very sick. Morning sickness all day plus zero energy. My big plans came to a major halt/crawl. I kept working on the shirts, but at a much slower pace. I did not like this slower pace one iota. I remember thinking, “Um God, I really thought I was supposed to do this t-shirt thing, but I’m barely functioning.”You know what I got back?
“My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways,”
– Isaiah 55:8
“Ok,” I thought, “I can roll with that.” I want God’s plans over my own. We say that, right? But do we really feel it deep down in our heart of hearts? I thought for sure I would just do what I could until the first trimester ended, and then I could pick up the pace again.
Ugh, then came the hard part. God’s plans were not mine once again.
I went into my eleven week pregnancy check up, and learned that our baby had at some point stopped developing and died. I just stared at that awful black screen, knowing there should be a baby in there. How could my body be deceived? I had already seen the baby at 7 weeks, and it looked good with a heartbeat. I could not process what was happening to me.
A few days later, I went through a difficult miscarriage, which ended with a trip to the ER due to complications. On that same day, my elderly grandmother died. I felt broken. My dreams for our family had literally gone down the toilet, and I was unable to say goodbye at my grandmother’s funeral due to my health issues.
I did not, however, feel hopeless. I felt God’s presence like never before in that difficult time. I dove into God’s Word and read so many Scriptures and poured my broken heart out to God. I felt His comfort, even though it still hurt like nobody’s business. This quote from Ann Voskamp in One Thousand Gifts perfectly explains how I felt:
“I feel Him hold me – a flailing child tired in Father’s arms. And I can hear Him soothe soft, ‘Are your ways My ways, child? Can you eat My manna, sustain on My mystery? Can you believe that I tenderly, tirelessly work all for the best good of the whole world – because My flame of love for you can never, ever be quenched?’”
I won’t lie to you and tell you that I’m fine now. Nope. I’m still feeling a little broken. But I’m OK with that, and I know that God is OK with that too. “Blessed are the poor in Spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3) God meets me where I am, and He will carry the burden for me and give me rest (Matthew 11:28).
I’ve definitely gotten off my overly ambitious train and I am taking things much slower. (Although I’ll probably try to jump back on at some point and then I’ll have to slow down again). I look at my 4-year-old son and every day I praise God for him. Even if I am never able to have another child, I have been so blessed with this precious boy.
And I really do want God’s plan for my life. I want God’s plan for Heart Work Tees. What exactly that looks like, I’m not sure. So for now, I take it one day at a time and trust God with the details, and that is enough for me.