JULIE TREVOR-ROBERTS didn't set out to be part of a national trend when she started her own business nearly two years ago. She was just looking for a way to supplement her husband's income and still stay home with their kids.
But when she launched Julie Art Studios in 2003, Julie became one of an increasing number of American "mompreneurs"—stay-at-home mothers who have turned personal interest into profession. The allure of such work is understandable: a flexible schedule, a sense of fulfillment beyond the family circle, and sometimes a tidy profit.
For Julie, the profit part was really key. "Our family definitely needed more money just to pay the monthly bills," she explains. "But I didn't know where it was going to come from."
Then Julie found herself at a Christian Science lecture. The topic? Supply. Julie was particularly struck by the speaker's notion of writing a "spiritual resume"—making a list of the qualities you express and recognizing the spiritual source behind each one of them. So that's what she did as soon as she got home.
"I wrote down a million things that night," Julie explains. "And the exercise really opened up my perspective. When I was finished, I realized I had a business plan in my hands—I wanted to be a photographer."
Julie knew she loved taking photographs. In fact, her mother-in-law had often encouraged her to offer her talent publicly. But how could she do it professionally? She had no formal training, not to mention the equipment, contacts, or seed money to get her venture started. And, as Julie knew, it can often take years to get a small business off the ground.
Julie took her questions to God, who answered with the reassurance that He had given her both the necessary talents and this idea about how to put them to use. She thought about a statement in Science and Health: "Spiritual sense, contradicting the material senses, involves intuition, hope, faith, understanding, fruition, reality." Science and Health, p. 298. To Julie, that meant God would help make this intuition a reality.
She also knew that, even more than income, the real purpose of her new business would be to glorify God. With that as her guiding principle, Julie says, "everything started to fall into place. I was led to purchase the right camera equipment, the lighting, film, even which training courses to take." She also felt impelled to call a few local photographers, who allowed her to accompany them on wedding assignments. From there, she found reasonable advertising on the Internet and soon she was getting calls for jobs.
Any concerns that it might take a while for the business to grow were put to rest by a phone call on the very first day that Julie's ad appeared on the Internet. It was a bride, who immediately booked Julie for her wedding—over the phone. Since then, she says, "I actually haven't met with a person who hasn't decided to hire me." Her original estimate of shooting three or four weddings during her first year in the business expanded to twenty. And now, in her second year as a professional photographer, Julie says "I'm so busy that I have to turn people down. In fact, I'm booking weddings almost every weekend."
How does she account for her success? Listening.
Although she admits she wasn't always so great at listening for God's direction and following through on His guidance, Julie says that Christian Science class instruction—a 12-session course on healing—improved those skills immeasurably. Now, she prays often with Mary Baker Eddy's descriptions of angels from Science and Health. "With white fingers," one description reads, "they point upward to a new and glorified trust, to higher ideals of life and its joys." Ibid., p. 299. This, Julie explains, is how she tries to listen—by trusting God, letting go of any doubts and fears, and embracing the divine ideas, or angel thoughts, that point to greater joy and purpose in life.
Julie knew that, even more than income, the real purpose of her new business would be to glorify God. With that as her guiding principle, everything fell into place.
No detail is too small for this kind of listening, Julie adds. From lighting to placement to props—every aspect of her business. Once, Julie felt inspired to photograph a toddler in a bowl with a mirror behind it, but with only 45 minutes until the shoot, she had no idea where to get the props. She didn't panic, though. Julie knew that God would give her what she needed. Right then, she drove past a garage sale, where she found the perfect bowl and mirror. The resulting portrait was stunning.
Julie has also listened for inspiration when praying about self-doubt. When tempted to feel that she wasn't talented or experienced enough to succeed, she felt led to focus on her oneness with God. She acknowledged that it was God who gave her the inspiration and creativity to express His love through her pictures. And steadily, she gained confidence.
"Mary Baker Eddy wrote, 'Man is the expression of God's being.' Ibid., p. 470. If man—every one of us—is the expression of God's being," Julie says, "then I am the expression of God being artistic. It's not something I have to search for, or one day become. I am already that expression."
How has this thriving business affected her demands as mother? Running a busy business has certainly meant juggling family time with four-year-old Eric and two-year-old Karen. But Julie's photos have helped provide inspiration. Because they are often intended to evoke peace—through the beauty of a child or the joy of marriage—Julie encourages herself to experience this God-derived peace in the midst of the working-mom balancing act. She has also trusted the promise of this passage from Isaiah: "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee." Isa. 26:3.
Praying about balance has led Julie to realize that what she has to offer—both to her clients and to her family—and what others need her to give can blend in perfect harmony. She doesn't have to force anything into place. And recently it came to her that enrolling her kids in part-time daycare—where they can benefit from interactions with other children—is the right solution for her family. With her business thriving, she now has the income to cover it.
Clearly, what started as an inspiration has developed into a successful venture that's blessing Julie, her family, and the clients who make use of her services—many of whom leave her office in tears over the beauty of their final product. And that brings great satisfaction.
"Just knowing that they'll be looking at that picture and smiling day after day brings tremendous joy to my life," says Julie. "To me, each portrait I take is an expression of God's love. And I'm just so excited to be a part of it."
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