Nine days ago I mentioned on Instagram that we’re working on a new project at Botanical Brouhaha. It came to fruition this week and I’ve been struggling all week to find the words to accurately explain the scope of what we’re doing because it’s not really a project. It’s mostly just life. Or at least, I feel like it should be.
The short version: My husband, Joel, and I opened a tiny retail space in Downtown Bryan (Texas) called Botanical Brouhaha – Garden Style. The space is located inside a great shop called Market 1023 which is owned by our friends Robby Lozano and Gabe Miller.
So that’s the news in a nutshell, but I hope you’ll keep reading for the rest of the story. We officially opened last night. Now it’s Saturday morning and I’m sitting in a coffee shop trying desperately to figure out a way to tell you how and why the little shop came to be. The story really began 3 years ago.
The backstory is a bit personal, but it’s critical to understanding the story as a whole. Three years ago, I was struggling with a severe case of depression and disillusionment following a year of witnessing the cruelty and corruption that had unfolded in our church. I had been living mostly in a conservative evangelical church bubble for over 40 years – without even realizing to what extent it was preventing me from really knowing those on the outside – those usually referred to as “unchurched”. Following that painful year, I was reeling and trying to figure out how to rebuild my faith – and, quite frankly, wondering if it was even worth rethinking. Ironically, I became one of the unchurched.
I was grasping at anything I felt would help me find my way back to normalcy. On one particularly hard day, I got in my car and started driving away from the neighborhood where I lived and the church steeple that was a constant reminder of the pain associated with the building it marked. I was going nowhere in particular. Just trying to get away from the pain and anger. I ended up in a part of town I wasn’t familiar with and pulled the car over and sobbed. I knew my family needed to stay in town for the time being because of our jobs, but I couldn’t imagine living with the daily reminders of the pain I’d seen inflicted on so many families by those I’d gone to church with for decades. In that moment, I realized the best shot I had at emotional survival and healing would likely be moving to a different part of town and starting over in a neighborhood where no one knew me and I was free to be me. Not the Amy who had questioned church policies and “caused divisiveness” in the eyes of church leadership by attempting to force transparency. Not the Amy who had fallen into being “unchurched” and was likely to “let the devil get a foothold” on my heart because I couldn’t bring myself to step foot back into the church building without experiencing a panic attack. Seriously, these are things church members said to me.
Not too long after that drive and realization, we found a house to buy in a different part of town and got settled in. I didn’t know anyone in the neighborhood. I retired my dental hygiene license and began working from home full-time in the floral industry. We only told a few people where we’d landed and I began a year of just existing and breathing. I worked on flowers, worked on me, and spent time with my family. I slowly allowed myself to let go of the church guilt that had weighed on me. The guilt of being “unchurched”.
And, then, the day that changed everything happened.
A knock on the door in the heat of our Texas summer. A group of middle school boys asking for a donation toward the travel expenses to a basketball tournament they were scheduled to play in the next weekend. When I opened that door, I had no idea my life was about to change.
That was 3 years ago and those boys will all be in high school this fall. I often say that knock saved my life. As the days turned into weeks and then months, the boys introduced me to sisters, brothers, parents, cousins, grandparents, and friends. I was simply Ms Amy to them. No expectations. No history. And slowly my world opened up again and my ability to trust and love returned. All the while, the families who were becoming part of our world had no idea how they were healing my heart and returning me to myself. The person God made me.
This brings me to the word “project”. In business, we often say we’re working on a new project. The new retail space is a project in that sense, I guess. But, I hesitate to use the word because this is not a project in any other sense. The shop is a way for me to return the gift I was given in my new neighborhood. I owe a tremendous debt to those who have stepped in to show me love, acceptance, and encouragement. And, most importantly, they helped me laugh again and provided a sense of JOY I’d lost in the shuffle of crap I was trying to figure out how to deal with.
Now comes the hardest part for me to articulate. The last 3 years have been pretty normal in a lot of respects. Lots of basketball games, school programs, car rides, and time spent talking. But, something has happened to me over the three years. My eyes have been opened to some hard realities. And let’s just say the realities of how the world really works is a hard pill to swallow when we begin to love one another in a way that goes deeper than simply being polite and going on about our business.
I didn’t intend to do anything other than quietly write a blog and be a wife and mom. And I felt privileged at the chance to rebuild a life I love after a particularly rough patch. But, slowly it became apparent to me that I have been given opportunities that I didn’t deserve any more than the next person. Some of those are related to the color of my skin. I may not have believed that years ago, but now I’ve seen it and I can’t deny it. I’ve also seen the struggles that come when families can’t find a way out of the circumstances they find themselves in – sometimes over several generations. The scarcity of opportunity and help to change circumstances is mind blowing. The more I see, the more frustrated I become.
And the most life-changing part for me has been this… in the midst of the toughest situations, I’ve realized my own weaknesses by simply being present and watching – the tenacity, the strength, the persistence, the loyalty, the ability to laugh, the joy, and the transparency – of those I’ve come to love.
So, here I sit on a Saturday morning hoping to adequately share a vision I have for what we can do to return the love I’ve been shown over the last 3 years by people who had absolutely no reason to embrace me and ultimately set me back on my feet.
Although we’ve had glimpses of a vision for returning the favor, the Botanical Brouhaha – Garden Style retail space came to fruition rather quickly as opportunities were presented to us and the immediate needs we were aware of became increasingly urgent.
Our goal is for the retail space to be equal parts:
- confidence building
- skill training
- opportunity giving
If you’d like to be involved, here are a few ways you can help. Please send me an email if one of the following speaks to you:
- Merchandise: If you’re a maker of botanical merchandise and would like to make a straight donation or be considered to sell your merchandise in the shop on consignment
- Skill: If you have a particular skill and would be willing to share it by teaching or mentoring
- Monetary donation: If you’d prefer to contribute toward paying wages, operating costs, training opportunities
- Buy: If you see merchandise featured on the BB Instagram feed that you’d like to purchase, let me know. We’ll try to ship it to you!
- Miscellaneous: We’re all ears! Let us know what’s on your mind.
Please feel free to email me with questions about how you can be involved (firstname.lastname@example.org). I would love nothing more than to see the Botanical Brouhaha community join me to open the door to new opportunities for the community that opened so many doors for me.
I want to say a special thank you to a couple of people who have observed the changes happening in me, listened to my growing uneasiness with doing nothing, and ultimately stepped up and run with me in pursuit of the unknown.
Thank you, Joel, for not discounting what I felt I needed to do and for coming alongside me 100%.
And thank you:
Gabe & Robby (Market 1023) for nudging me to jump in
Maggie & Mick (Bramble & Bee) for going above and beyond to propel us forward
Holly (Holly Chapple Flowers) for your supportive giving spirit – and courage to act on a feeling
Jenn (Modern Day Creative) for being transparent about your own struggles as a young single mom and constantly looking for ways to encourage women to reach their God-given potential
A special friend in the industry who asked to remain anonymous while sending encouragement and a gift that allowed us to start with the confidence of knowing the need is real and addressing it is justified
Images courtesy of Ten 23 Photography