Are You Sure, God?

I sold eleven greeting cards last week.

I realize this isn’t exactly earth-shattering news, but it was a significant milestone for me. You see, last week was the “grand opening” of my new business, Mountain Plover.

I am offering my services as a writer and speaker, and am working hard as a photographer of God’s fingerprints in nature. I finally have some pictures I’m pretty pleased with, and I had a dozen of them made into 5 x 7 photo greeting cards, blank inside, with blurbs about the subject and about me on the back. Paired with an envelope and stuffed into a plastic sleeve, these are for sale at $4 each. (See my “Card Store” page above.)

Last week a friend and I presented a program on native plants to the Colorado Springs Garden Club. I took the photos and put together the PowerPoint while she researched the plants and did most of the talking. The Garden Club graciously allowed me to offer my cards—pictures of flowers and birds—neatly arranged on a table in the back of the room, with my logo (thanks, Teri!) and pricing displayed on some stand-up signs. Twelve people attended the meeting. And I actually sold eleven cards!

Hopefully, this is just the beginning. I intend to offer matted prints in varying sizes, as well as other products with my photos on them, or just license the photos themselves. Initially setting my sights on craft fairs and bazaars, eventually I hope to place my products in stores around town, or even elsewhere. Who knows? Selling isn’t my strong suit, but I’m trying.

The amazing thing about all this? It was all God’s idea. I never set out to be a professional photographer. If asked, I would have explained how saturated the market is, how unlikely anyone is to make money at it, and how it uses skills that I lack. Yes, I love taking pictures. I’ve been doing that since I was five. I love nature, and I know quite a bit about it. But….

God has been nudging me in this direction for years. I just never noticed until now. My parents were enthusiastic and skilled amateur photographers, and they passed along both their expertise and their passion. They loved exploring national parks; riding along in the back seat, I think I’ve been to every park in the western states (except Alaska). In fact, I was so taken with nature that I majored in it in college (OK, it’s a degree in Human Biology, but most of my units were ecology-related).

After graduating with a bachelor’s degree and discovering that most science jobs require a Ph.D., I went back to school and became a high school science teacher. Those teaching skills still serve me well today, even though I haven’t worked fulltime in a classroom in years.

When I was asking God what to do after our kids grew up, a friend dragged me down to the county extension office and shoved a master gardener application into my hands. “Fill it out!” she insisted. “You’ll be great at this!” And she was right. God knew exactly where I belonged. It was our extension agent who asked if anyone would be willing to take a bunch of flower photographs for our educational programs. I volunteered. Some of those first photos aren’t very good, but a few turned out better than I’d dreamed. I received compliments. A few ended up in the local newspaper! I was hooked.

And finally, if the extension program hadn’t folded after running out of funds last year, I never would have left my comfortable master gardener nest and ventured out to try my hand at making this a career.

Many times I wake up in the middle of the night, convinced I’m making the biggest mistake of my life. I’m actually pretty terrified. Can I do this? What if no one likes my pictures? What if I can’t sell enough of them? We can’t afford for this to fail—how will I ever recoup my costs (camera equipment, start-up fees, supplies, etc.)? The market is saturated. I’m an introvert who sometimes struggles to make a simple phone call. I know absolutely nothing about marketing, or business plans, or accounting. (I was shocked yesterday to learn that simple bar codes for my cards will cost me hundreds of dollars.) Am I crazy?

Pete is incredibly supportive. He has confidence in me that I lack, and he steadfastly urges me to keep going. He provides tons of technical assistance, researching everything from camera lenses to sales tax licenses. But more importantly, he keeps pointing out how God has led me in this direction. And he’s right. With 20:20 hindsight, I can see how my entire life makes sense in light of this opportunity.

Most of all, I feel called. I can’t not take pictures. I have to share them. The money is really secondary, although we have to take it into consideration. But when I see God in a flower, a songbird, a beautiful sunrise, I am compelled to point Him out. To do otherwise would be denying the gifts He’s given me.

Anyone want to buy some greeting cards?

_____

What gifts have you been given? What does God want you to do with them? What is holding you back?

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