He used painting so beautifully to show me that He can restore ANYTHING, and now it’s time that I tell the story.”Abbe Doll
I can still see the estate sale sign across the street. I had been contemplating a dresser for the boys, as I had recently moved them into the same room. Our little girl was getting older and we desperately needed more space. “I wonder if they have any cheap dressers?” I thought as I looked out the window and bounced a fussy baby on my hip. Life had been anything but easy that spring. It felt like I was barely able to breathe some days. Most moms of little ones understand this greatly. So I loaded all three of them in the wagon and pulled them across the street. There was a chipped, well loved mid-century modern dresser in the garage. $40 taped on the top. I threatened the boys to stay in that wagon and strapped the baby across my chest. “Excuse me sir, I see tomorrow is half off day, would you consider $20 on this dresser now?” He looks annoyed that I have the kids. Scans the wagon and scans me fumbling my loose change in my hands. “Uhhh. Well, Only if you take it now. If you need to get it tomorrow, it’s full price. Twenty bucks and it’s yours. Oh. And you got to provide your own help. We don’t load for you.” He scans back at the 5 and 3 year old in the wagon and the baby in the carrier and pompously chuckles as he extends his hand for payment.
What he didn’t know about me was that day: I was in need of much more than a dresser.
I was yearning for a purpose and an outlet. This idea of refinishing furniture excited me. I had weathered one of the hardest seasons my young adult life had ever faced. A project to channel all that energy was exactly what I needed. So I told the kids to hold on. I slid the baby in the carrier, pulled the cord tightly on my waist, and I pushed that dresser out of the garage, and pulled the wagon behind.
Pusssssshhhhhhhed. Screeched. Pulled. Pussssssshhhhheeeedddddd. Screeeeeeched. Pulled. The older men working the estate sale just stood there watching. In disbelief. I pushed that dresser all the way back to my house, with 2 little boys cheering the whole way.
Later that night my husband handed me an orbital sander to start taking off the old beat up finish. The kids were in bed and I had the garage to myself. The more I sanded the more release I felt. All the frustration and fear I had been holding came out in tears into the saw dust. The next day I couldn’t wait for nap time so I could get back out to that dresser. I rolled on the first coat of primer in bright white. My heart stopped in the way one’s heart does when it beholds something marvelous. The dresser was far from finished or even beautiful. But the transformation was breath-taking. I heard the scripture recite in my spirit, “Behold, I am making all things new” (Revelation 21:5).
I knew this phase of my life was in the stripping down, the sanding raw, so the Lord could restore in me a new purpose. And so my furniture refinishing business began. It grew into a little corner of a store, then my own store, then soon a studio and a store only open once a month as the demand was high. As life continued to change and trials continued to come, I would grasp for that paint brush again, hoping that the makeover of furniture would remind me yet again that God was able to turn whatever difficult situation I had around.
Different struggles, and opportunities have come and gone the last 11 years since that estate sale dresser. A business has grown, failed, rebuilt, and struggled over the years. Each time I attempt something new, it either isn’t the right fit, or something falls apart. I go back to that paint brush. My body over the years has also felt the effects of sanding, painting, sealing, and hauling. With every job, I would work a week and be in bed for two. But I couldn’t let it go, because it was connected to this purpose and visual of what God spoke to me that day I broke in the garage.
This February, I was in the basement finishing a room full of cabinet doors. My joints ached, and I felt my spirit slip back into old bondage. My husband Adam, came home, and sat on the stairs and quietly said “it’s not working any more, you can’t keep doing this. It’s not worth it.” He said what I knew was true but the fear of what was next crippled me. We sat on the floor together, and I felt this pride I had carried with me since that day I had to prove to the estate sale man “I COULD DO IT,” melt into the Father’s hands. It was never me who could do it. It was always God. And when I made it ABOUT ME, the work was work. It was a work/suffer cycle. When it was about Him, and his heart for the people I could talk to, love on, or use their furniture as an example of his redeeming power: The work flourished.
When I opened my little boutique store, it wasn’t just about the cute local wares made by women, or the painted furniture or curated antiques. It was about the women. The women who would sell and the women who would gather. We at one event the fire marshal even had to limit who could come in at one time. So we had a literal revolving door.
I was floored looking out over the parking lot, as not a one was angry. They just laughed and chatted. We began having bands come out and play worship songs in the breeze way as we sensed God was creating a community in the middle of our city. It was what most folks in retail would call a miracle crowd. I knew it was just a longing for community. Pretty displays and collected vignettes were no longer awe worthy to me, it was the large group of girls standing in front of them, face to face, reconnecting since high school or moms day out. The laughter of remembering a familiar face. The tears as someone lost a loved one and found an item that reminded them of her, and a fellow shopper would comfort. Two strangers embracing and connecting in grief.
It was the husbands who would come and share how cool it was to see their wives love thrifted or repurposed wares, and how she started delighting in her things at home.
It didn’t have to be new. It just needed purpose. And God repurposed my heart in many ways at that store. When I sat on the basement floor crying 11 years later, grieving that store, the painting, and design business, I felt incredible release. The painting and retail business had served such a powerful roll in my life and in the ministry God had been calling me to since my teen years. It’s roll in the whole picture was accomplished, and accomplished well, but it was finished. I was trying to revive a dead thing every time I picked it back up hoping it would come alive again.
There was constantly a struggle when I would attempt to do this the last few years. From projects mysteriously going VERY WRONG (like wood warping so bad it bent a 5 in wood screw!) to paint peeling off in sheets on cabinets that had been properly primed, to jobs taking months longer than anticipated. I was working countless hours yet we struggled to keep up. Not to mention horrible autoimmune flares and joints that would swell double their size. I couldn’t hold my toothbrush at the end of the day without pain. Our kids would struggle. Their was contention during every project. My marriage seemed rocky and old wounds felt bumped every time I did a big project. Have you wanted to do something really good like having friends over for dinner but then your family is hiding from you as you become the dictator of cleaning house world war 3? Or those times when you are skipping along happily in your day and ram your toe into the door and “BLEEEEP!” comes flying out of your mouth.? Yeah- kind of like that. It was always with the intent to provide but some how ended with someone cursing. 🙂
There WAS NO FRUIT. But I kept trying to drag this dead thing around with me and wondered why everything was STINKING.
Every job had a common goal: Restoration.
Earlier this year, while I was finishing the above mentioned cabinet job, we were also preparing for a little class on parenting in the digital age. At the time, we believed it to be something to serve the folks in our church and share some ideas on how to do screens in the home. As we prepared, we quickly realized that this was a little bigger than we envisioned. But God’s plan for it was way cooler than we had thought. Our Church caught the vision and promoted and helped us put on a full blown morning conference for parents. Parent’s came from all over the area. Grandparents and teachers came. As Adam and I prepared, we felt such a sense of renewal. Even though he was pulling long days on construction sights and I was clawing my way out of a long painting job, we would prepare for this conference as a new fresh energy would flow.
Our family would sit around the table and share ideas. Our kids pulled their friends into it asking them to share how they struggle with screens. One conversation even started with “what advice would you give parents on how to decrease gaming time?’ Their answers blew us away.
“Wow, we have to share this with parents. ” We thought.
The night before the conference one of our Pastors dropped off 800 pages they graciously printed to be 3 hole punched and attached in folders. I had made a 10 page resource packet to share with those in attendance. There was no way I could get them done and sleep and rehearse. My youngest two said “we got you mom” and got to work. In 1 hour the two of them had hole punched and bound 80 resource packets. With no arguing or complaining. You parents out there know what a miracle this is.
My oldest teen son was willing to sit on a teen panel and share his struggle with cell phones when we foolishly handed it over in 7th grade, The intent was him needing to get ahold of us after practice. The mistake was handing over the entire internet to his back pocket. We know parents need tech. We can’t do much without it. We also know many families are just like us: great kids, great friends, and then find themselves in a dark world we didn’t know was out there. We made a lot of mistakes, but with time, and God’s grace, are now seeing the benefit of hitting the brakes and restarting with tech in our home.
It was a humbling and at times terrifying message to present. But when it was done. WE SAW FRUIT. Our family was behind it. Our kids were on board and serving the mission. Our church was willing to hand over the mic and promote it. They prayed and poured out vision over us. Our friends cheered and showed up. Teachers and school counselors flooded our phones afterwards saying “every parent needs to hear this message.” The feedback was blowing us away.
As I have been wrestling with what it is the Lord has next for me, especially as a job and in desperate need of work, I know one thing to be so true. I cannot pick back up a dead thing, and that every job I have ever loved- from painting, to retail, to selling clothes online, to doing events at a school, to designing or decorating, has had one thing in common: It was always about the people. My heart was created to gather people, to give them hope and a purpose, and to use my story to thwart the attack of the enemy AGAINST FAMILIES. We have seen the freeing power of screens in our home, how could we keep this good news to ourselves? Our kids knew it, we knew it. This was God’s plan. Share hope for families.
Furniture was always a visual aide. Retail was always a visual aid. Decorating was always a visual aid. God has faithfully used every phase of my adult life to point me back to his heart for us. God is speaking so powerfully to me that now my life, my story telling- is my job. I am the visual aid. He used painting so beautifully to show me that he can restore ANYTHING, and now it’s time that I tell the story.
I want to reflect the good news and hope He has for families, for women, and for kids who are longing for purpose. The artist is ready to get to restoring the canvases of our hearts, we just need to lay them down.
We are so excited to announce 21:5 Ministries! The vision of 21:5 Ministries is encouraging families to live faithfully redeemed lives online and off. It will be the non-profit that houses many presentations, and our stories of redemption.
-Parenting presentations: “Heads Up!” -helping parents of all ages navigate the digital age.
-Marriage ministry: Sharing our story of hope and redemption.
-Women’s ministry: Sharing the hope of restoration through the lens of 11 years in furniture repurposing.
As we develop this ministry, we need your support. Creating curriculum and programs for secular and Christian groups will take time. Spending time in counsel and finding professional partners to aid families coming out of screen addiction also is priority for our time. This will launch as a 100% support based ministry. We would love to talk to your churches and ministries as this grows.
I also want to say thank you to every person who has supported our small business along the way. We know that the community we have had for the last 11 years is a true gift of God, that He will use to launch this ministry.
Would you be willing to give to this ministry by a financial donation? We are trusting God for full provision for Abbe to be in ministry full time. Adam intends to speak at our parenting conferences, and keep his full time job as Abbe navigates the bookings, writing, and discipling part of the ministry. In the recent weeks, we have also sensed a call to homeschool our daughter. God is so perfect in his timing with this as well.
If you would like more information on Heads Up Parenting ministry- or to inquire about speaking engagements- contact me at email@example.com
To Him be all the glory and may we see a new generation of families who glorify God in our homes over screens!
@215ministries on IG and Facebook.
One thought on “It Was Always About Family”
Beautiful. I love your story and I know our Savior does too. I love you Abbe. Praying God blesses this new ministry with financial provision, direction and overwhelming realization in the community at how much this is needed. So proud of your heart, your obedience and your walk in faith. 💗