It wasn’t an email I agonized over, but one I wrote with care, aiming for an artful balance of friendliness and professionalism. I hit “send” before I could overthink it and beat the fluid, heartfelt email into a stilted, overdrawn one. A Friday afternoon email, sent almost on a whim to a recent acquaintance I deeply admired, concluded with the gentle offer:
“Last month, I started to officially offer virtual assistant services for bloggers. If there’s anything I can help you with virtually or in person, let me know.”
Since that October 2013 email, I’ve had the privilege of working with Jess at Naptime Diaries as customers, ministry partners, employees, and products multiplied beyond what we could have imagined. When I started, we were handwriting every address from the Connolly’s home, a reality I hardly remember as I sit in our dreamy office space in downtown Charleston. And now it’s time to count the fruit, praise the Lord, and say goodbye.
I came to my January meeting with Nick and Jess prepared to talk growth strategies, new product ideas and course corrections. You know those moments that catch you by surprise so suddenly that your involuntary reaction escapes before you have time to decide how to respond? That’s what happened when Jess kindly, gently gave me the news. My face crumpled and eyes filled with tears before I could remind myself to be professional.
Then again, tears aren’t exactly unusual or unwelcome in our office; we cry (and laugh) often, because at the heart of Naptime Diaries are the hearts of our team, loving the Lord and showing up as we are. We are four women that love God, love each other and stand in awe of what He’s done here.
I wrote a sprawling history detailing the many events between the first day I showed up with my notebook and a smile in Jess’ living room while she juggled a laptop and a baby. Here’s what stood out when I corralled it on the page:
Humility looks like holding things loosely, asking for help, and being willing to change
Anyone who knows Jess knows that making action plans is a capital “S” strength of hers. What you might not know is how willing she is to change her plans. She walks an inspiring balance between confidence and flexibility; she’s decisive yet always open to new ideas. Nick and Jess have never clutched Naptime Diaries, squeezing every dollar they could from it in a fearful posture. They’ve run the business with an open hand, willing to change course or walk away at any moment. I would have said that was true two months ago, but it’s not a hypothetical scenario anymore, and it’s absolutely true.
People and purpose come before profit
Our mission at Naptime Diaries is to write God’s Word on the walls of your home, and in your heart. If ever we were on the fence about a new product, partnership or marketing idea, we came back to that: does it help us get God’s Word into more homes and hearts? The customer hanging a print on her wall or reading a devotional has always remained at the forefront of our minds.
Jess also led the way in loving other artists and “competition” well. She embraces the idea of turning competitors into collaborators and genuinely cares more about the kingdom of God than building a Naptime Diaries or Jess Connolly empire. When we saw opportunities for gain that would encroach on other businesses, we steered clear and promoted those other businesses. I don’t mean to paint the picture that these were always easy decisions or that we always made the right ones, but the huge lesson I walk away with is that people come before profit. Always, and even when the cost is high. At the risk of sounding preachy or hyper spiritual, the truth is that Jesus paid the highest price – for people. What price could be too high for us to love our neighbor, the one Jesus died for?
Do the best you can, with what you have, right now
Before working here, I would stop in my tracks two thoughts into any new idea. If I couldn’t see how to implement it exactly as I envisioned, or guarantee I’d be successful, I’d shelve the idea. If Jess thought like me, there’d be no Naptime Diaries. At every step in the business, we’ve done what we can, where we are. In 2011, Jess’ choice wasn’t to make a beautiful website with dozens of scripture prints, or to make nothing. She started with a handful of digital prints that she hadn’t even figured out how to print yet, and day by day it grew, improved and flourished with God’s help.
An identity firmly rooted in Christ gives way to true obedience
I didn’t see the end of Naptime Diaries coming, but I was prepared for the end of my time at Naptime Diaries. For a variety of reasons, all of which had everything to do with me and nothing to do with the company, I’d begun to feel the nudge that I might need to move on. I didn’t yearn to do something different, and as the idea needled at me I kept asking, “but what will I do? How will I earn money? What will I tell people at dinner parties when they ask what I do?”
So I kept pushing the idea back, and decided to wait to see what Nick and Jess said in our meeting. They took the pressure of the decision off of me and told me it wasn’t just time for me to go; it was time for Naptime Diaries to go. While on paper, the company was doing well, they knew it was time and they listened. I knew that it was time, at least for me to go, but I resisted from fear of change, fear of losing this piece of my identity.
Their obedience to God inspired and bolstered me, because how much greater would their temptation be to see Naptime Diaries as intertwined with their family’s identity and provision? I can’t overstate what it’s meant to me, watching them trust and obey God in a multitude of ways, but especially now as they’ve traded the respected title of “business owner” and the comfort of a stable income for an unknown future. Their peace in this decision is only possible because they don’t care about titles other than “child of God” and they trust Him not to take away a good thing only to abandon them.
Circumstances have driven me to remember the basics, that God is my provider, that my identity is in Christ alone, but never have such circumstances been of my own making. Most of the time, I’m saying the right “Christian” thing while simultaneously finding my security and building my identity on lesser things. Nick and Jess are proactively making a decision that makes them less comfortable, less secure by worldly standards, but they’re peaceful about it because they know their security is in their Father.
A God glorifying, personally fulfilling, beautiful thing is ending, but only to make way for what He wants to do next. It’s sad, beautiful, exhilarating and frightening.
In the meantime, you can order prints, canvases, posters and devotionals until April 15th! It’s our honor to keep filling hearts and homes with God’s Word until our very last day.