Thursday, August 2, 2018

A Miracle for Me

Several years have passed since "Baby Booty Bump" and I've often reflected on why I got to have the particular life experience of viral Internet popularity. It's weird to have a short video like that one forever attached to my identity (ie. A friend introducing me to another friend for the first time: Remember that hilarious video I sent you a few years ago of my friend knocking her daughter over with her butt? This is her. Me: hm, hi?). Whether I like it or not, the clip will always be connected to me via a simple Google search of my name and I've just accepted it as one of those random facts about myself to inevitably include in introduction games. 

But here's what I didn't expect from my experience with the video: a fortifying, faith-building miracle. Let me explain. 

I believe in and practice the law of tithing. I have freely and willingly given 10% of my earnings back to God through our Church since I was a young girl; paying tithing is a practice I learned from my parents and one I recognize and revere as an eternal principle. It is not always easy to "give up" that much. It feels limiting and occasionally I struggle pushing the "submit" button on the donation page. But even when funds were tight and the extra money could've really benefited our family, JD and I have always paid a full and honest tithe. This habit will continue, as it is a non-negotiable pattern of living in our marriage.

"Of all that thou shalt give me I will surely give the tenth unto thee." Genesis 28:22 KJV

In the spring of 2017, I had become lax about our method of managing tithing. Our normal routine is to pay tithing as soon as our paychecks are deposited, before any other expenses or bills accrue.  I normally log-in to our bank account on Fridays, calculate 10%, and immediately fill out an online donation form. For some reason, I just fell out of the habit. A few months went by. In reviewing our finances, I determined we needed to pay several hundred dollars in tithing. Eek. I discussed the situation with JD, explaining how strongly I felt about paying the sum in full (a decision that would essentially drain our account). Though hesitant, he agreed. We paid it and I went to bed that night in a panicky state, unsure if our decision was totally prudent. 

I woke in the morning, mindlessly checking my email. To my complete surprise and delight, a message was waiting in my inbox from Storyful (the company I chose to manage everything related to "Baby Booty Bump"), notifying me of an upcoming deposit to my PayPal account. It'd been a few years since the video was posted and many months since I'd received any money for it. I was not awaiting payments of any kind. . . but the expected deposit amount matched our tithing payment, almost to the dollar. 

I could hardly believe it! It was a miracle. Truly, a carefully-constructed miracle from heaven just for me. A blaring reminder of the dependability of our God, of His faithfulness in keeping His promises. I cannot chalk this experience up to coincidence. No way. It was a huge building block for my faith- an undeniable witness that my heavenly parents are aware of me, know my struggles, and are reaching out to me, always. I know God doesn't need my money as much as He wants my obedience, my integrity, and my faith.

Also, I want to note- this was clearly a direct monetary blessing, but I know & can witness that not all tithing blessings deal with finances directly. Carl Pratt once explained it like this:
Money and bank accounts are not His richest blessings. He blesses us with wisdom to manage our limited material resources, wisdom that enables us to live better with 90 percent of our income than with 100 percent. Thus, faithful tithe payers understand provident living and tend to be more self-reliant. 
I have come to understand that the Lord’s richest blessings are spiritual, and they often have to do with family, friends, and the gospel. He often seems to give the blessing of a special sensitivity to the influence and guidance of the Holy Spirit, especially in marriage and family matters like raising children. Such spiritual sensitivity can help us enjoy the blessings of harmony and peace in the home. . . 
The payment of tithing helps us develop a submissive and humble heart. . . Tithe-paying fosters in us a generous and forgiving heart and a charitable heart full of the pure love of Christ. We become eager to serve and bless others with an obedient heart, submissive to the Lord’s will. Regular tithe payers find their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ strengthened, and they develop a firm, abiding testimony of His gospel and of His Church. None of these blessings are monetary or material in any way, but surely they are the Lord’s richest blessings.
I love his words! I believe them. 

I am so grateful for "Baby Booty Bump" and the part it played in my personal tithing miracle.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Love and Light

Years ago, when I was choosing a name for my business, I was drawn to the alliteration of "The Sunshine Space" and the catchy association my name had to that title. It felt right. I was aiming to create joyful, playful home decor pieces and the word "sunshine" seemed to fit my vibe. I kept the name when I started screen-printing because my goal with clothing design was the same as my aim with decor design: make stuff that's uplifting & "feel-goody." I re-branded this blog with the intention of creating a s u n s h i n e space on the internet-  a bright site with beautiful pictures, happy moments, inspiring DIY and craft projects, and messages orienting readers to the Ultimate Source of light, our Savior. 

. . . But it fizzled. For the past few years, I've carried a certain level of guilt regarding my "business" and my "blog." My brain rattled with all kinds of thoughts in connection to The Sunshine Space. 

What's the point? I haven't been actively engaged in building my brand, sharing my message, or creating anything for months and months on end. It's too hard. Too time-consuming. Too stressful. Too much. I don't feel like the reward in the creation process outweighs the stress of making perfect items to sell. There is no joy in this. I don't know what to say on the blog. I haven't been taking enough pictures. I don't know how to brand my items. How should my shop be connected to my blog? Does it make sense to do it all under the umbrella of "The Sunshine Space"? I don't like the style of the shirts I ordered. Dang it. I've made so many mistakes. I should cut my losses, sell my equipment, stop. But what about the parts I do love? Designing, drawing, composing. Sharing messages of hope. Creating good and beautiful things- physical items, words and sentences, feelings. Why did I have such a pull towards "The Sunshine Space" in the first place? How can I add light to the world? What is my purpose? What fuels me? What's the point?

And on and on. Then, one day earlier this year, I was sitting in a downstairs room of my basement- the room I go to ponder, to read, to make things, to display my scrapbooks, to journal- and a thought came. "This is The Sunshine Space," uttered the Spirit. This? This room? The window of the room faces the south side of my home and is an awesome source of light. There are no window treatments on that particular window, so the sunlight just spills in. It is a sunshine space. But The Sunshine Space? What does that mean? And all of a sudden, peace and understanding split open across my heart.

It was time to register Tenley for kindergarten and I just hadn't been able to bring myself to do it. I'd been considering the possibility of homeschooling. Starting to pray about whether that could be a viable option for my children, for me. Intimidated by the thought of it, but intrigued. Almost too timid to openly discuss it, to say the words aloud. Unaware of all the options, but open-minded. Interested. Searching. "This is The Sunshine Space," again.

Oh! A place of love and light. This is The Sunshine Space, the school. The haven for learning, the safe space I want to cultivate for my children.  A place to develop creativity, gratitude, critical thinking, curiosity, a love of learning, optimism, perseverance, kindness. A place to seek further light and knowledge. A place for sharing, loving, and learning. Together. The Sunshine Space. 

And that is how I came to feel such a renewed zeal for building The Sunshine Space. All these years of working and creating and seeking meaning and planning. . . they were preparing me for the path I can see unfolding before me now: homeschooling. I want to create channels of love and light- of hope, joy, testimony. I want to share goodness, to make beautiful things, to find understanding. But the place I start is home. The most essential sphere of influence I have is with my children. I can start here. I can do this.

I am excited (and terrified!) to share my homeschool journey here and I hope to support and encourage other Mommas on the way.

Love and light,

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Do what you know

This blog has sat dormant for more months than I'd like to admit. There are multiple reasons, I suspect. Having young children. Buying my first home. Accepting a job promotion. Running a (very) small business. My husband applying for graduate programs and eventually deciding to start nursing school. But probably the biggest reason, I'd say, is because I've been depressed.
It's weird for me to type that. It's weird for me to experience it, really. I've had an optimistic, cheerful outlook for most of my life. I've been an advocate for happiness. For sunshine. For positivity and joy. To feel the darkness of reality creeping in and settling in my heart has been and continues to be disturbing for me. I don't have full-blown Major Depressive Disorder, as far as I can self-diagnose from studying the DSM-5. But I do have some marked symptoms: feelings of emptiness and hopelessness, unexplained tearfulness, diminished interest in activities that used to bring fulfillment (ie. blogging, scrapbooking, journaling), restlessness at bedtime, energy loss, and excessive, irrational guilt. I am anxious a lot about things I have no control over. It is difficult and I've been putting off addressing it because the idea of addressing it makes me even more anxious. But, then. . . I went skiing.

Saturday, November 28, 2015


I've got loads of things to be grateful for this time of year (and always!)... but I'm especially thankful for a supportive husband who "gets" me and is always willing to put in the emotional and physical work to back me up. He's the one who really pushed for me to start getting my designs onto tees and I wouldn't be able to run this basement operation without him! Help support The Sunshine Space on this #smallbusinesssaturday. Use code SHOPSMALL for 20% off all orders today!!

Monday, November 2, 2015

It's a Jolly Holiday!

A few weeks ago, we rented Mary Poppins from the library and watched it together as a family (holy long movie!) During the "jolly holiday" scene, JD got up and started dancing like Bert and Tenley and I giggled at his silly moves. It was such a fun moment!! That night I decided we HAD to be Mary Poppins and Bert for Halloween. Our kids would be such cute little penguins! Thus began the search for costumes... 

Monday, September 14, 2015

"The stuff dreams are made of."

I've been feeling all kinds of mom guilt that I haven't given our new baby a proper introduction on the blog. How has he already been around for a whole month?!

Rhett Austin Knowlden was born on August 13, 2015 (7 lbs, 11 oz; 18 inches long). His entrance into the world didn't go anything like we had planned or hoped, but he made it here safely in the wee morning hours via C-section. We are grateful. 

I love this shot of us from our stay at the hospital. I look tired, but happy. Isn't that motherhood? It's draining work- changing, nursing, cuddling, crying, bathing, pacing, lifting, packing, folding, cleaning, loving. There have definitely been hard postpartum days where the tasks of parenthood seem overwhelming and annoying, but I'm trying so hard to cultivate a spirit of thankfulness and peace in my heart. Babies don't keep, you know? He's already so much more plump and squishy than he was when he got here!

The other night JD was able to get both sleeping kids out of their car seats and carried them inside (one on each shoulder) without waking them. I complimented him on his impressive Dad skills and he responded, "this is the stuff dreams are made of." He didn't want to lay them down and just soaked in their quiet goodness.

I've been thinking a lot about that phrase lately: "the stuff dreams are made of." I dreamed and planned and hoped for this stage in my life. . . my goal is to be present, grounded and grateful rather than frazzled, hurried, and resentful. 

Thank you, my little Tenley Mae and sweet baby Rhett, for refining me. You two, in so many ways, are making my dreams come true. 

Monday, July 13, 2015

Life right now

We took a spontaneous trip to California last weekend to visit friends. Two days of driving + three days of vacation. Grateful for a husband who encourages me to move a little outside my comfort zone. I'm not sure I would've chosen to road-trip at 34 weeks pregnant, but the sunshine and ocean were good for me. One day, JD dug a deep hole in the sand for my belly and I was able to nap on my stomach (oh, what a luxury!).

Life right now:

JD // Just finished his Organic Chemistry class. Pulled off a C+ (he needed at least a C).  So thankful it's over! Teaching tennis lessons two days/week. Loving the change of pace of working on a new floor at the hospital. Preparing to submit PA school applications (third time's the charm, right?!) Reminding Summer to take pre-natal vitamins and rub Bio-Oil on her belly. Cleaning all the screens for The Sunshine Space. Doing most of the kitchen chores (dishes, sweeping, mopping).

Summer// Trying to figure out how to manage t-shirt orders and inventory for the shop. Complaining about back pain on a regular basis. Making to-do lists for the next month before baby #2 arrives. Stressing about not being at brother's wedding in August. Preparing Sunday lesson to teach to women's group at church. Folding laundry. Trying to manage normal work schedule with an oversized, tired body. Feeling bittersweet about Tenley growing up.