That Time Brooke and I Almost Moved to Nashville

In July of 2015, Brooke and I went on a "vacation" to Nashville, TN.  It was in reality more of a trip to look at houses than an actual vacation. But first, let me back track a few months...

"I think God is calling us to move" is something that I never thought I would say.  I love the house we live in.  I love the town we live in.  I get to walk to work at the walk in love. studio everyday.  Brooke's parents live a mile down the road and my parent's live eight miles away.  One of Brooke's best friends lives across the street and they have a little girl only a few months younger than June. We honestly couldn't ask for a better living situation. (Unless maybe someone was handing out free hot tubs, then we'd totally add one of those to our deck to make everything better.)

So, when I approached Brooke with that statement above, I was a little shocked that I was even saying it.  I had been feeling like I needed to bring it up with her for a few months.  I kept getting this word from God in my quiet and prayer time - "move."

Like most things we think are coming from God, we tend to ignore them at first because "we're probably making it up...." And that is exactly what I did.  I thought I was just putting the thought it my own head, so I ignored it at first.   Then when I realized it wasn't going anywhere, I thought maybe the call was to "move on" from some of the other things we were doing at that time, which both Brooke and I had been feeling anyway. That's when we decided to say goodbye to our wedding photography business and focus solely on walk in love.

Once we made that decision, I really thought this word "move" would go away.  A few days later while I was spending time with God - boom - "MOVE!"  I couldn't shake it! And after a few months of wrestling with the idea on my own, I finally decided to approach Brooke and tell her, "I think God is calling us to move."

Brooke is everything I say she is in my posts.  I am not just a husband lifting up my wife on an unrealistic pedestal.  She really is the most patient, understanding woman in the history of time.

She simply replied, "Where?"

She didn't freak out or start panicking about "how will we pack up the cats" or "move thousands of t-shirts", which is what was going through my mind!

I told her that I had no idea where.  I just felt like God was calling us to move.  That's honestly as far as the conversation had gone between the Big Guy and I.

Over the next few days we would blurt out random locations at random times.

"Hawaii!" I would say, and Brooke would be like, "Nope, I don't think that's the place."

"Texas" she would say. And I'd reply, "I do like Texas, but that doesn't feel right."

We named every location, all over the country and kept coming back with, "That doesn't seem like it..."

Then one day, just before I headed up the stairs to grab something, I turned and said, "What about Nashville?"

"Yes. That's it." she replied.

At that point I had never been to Nashville in my life.  Brooke had visited once while she was in college with some friends, but didn't have very many memories of it. (Like most things Brooke does. Ha ha!)

We have friends who live in Nashville, so we started e-mailing them and asking questions about the area.  Everyone who lives in Nashville, loves Nashville, so it wasn't hard to get excited about the idea.

Over the next week we had mustered up the courage to tell our parents we were thinking about it, purchased plane tickets to visit and set up friends to stay with.  Thank you Scott and Suzy! (#sherlockholmes #ascap)

Visiting the coolest co-working space I have ever seen - WELD.

Visiting the coolest co-working space I have ever seen - WELD.

We spent a few days in early July driving around every neighborhood in Nashville trying to get an idea of what areas we liked and didn't like.  Nashvill-ites are really into the names of their neighborhoods, so for those of you who want to know, we drove around 12 South, East Nashville, EdgeHill, The Nations, West End, Sylvan Park, Germantown and even took a trip down to Franklin, TN.  I just say I live in Manheim, so the intense neighborhood naming thing was a new experience for me.

We'd spent a week driving around neighborhoods, looking at homes and schools and were both on the same page. At the end of our visit Brooke and I both looked at each other and said with confidence, "I think we are moving to Nashville."

Taking a car break at a park in Nashville

Taking a car break at a park in Nashville

It was honestly something I never thought I would say, but it was July, and since our little Junie was born in February, I felt God pushing me to lean into His plan for me more and more as those months went on. Brooke and I, with a lot of confidence, started to lean into this calling we were now both seeing in an intense way, and left Nashville feeling like we would be back for good in the next year or so.

A few days after we returned home from our trip, I left on a mission trip to Boston, Massachusetts, with the small group I lead from church.  The trip wasn't great.  I had a fun time with my small group of guys, but as a whole I felt like the trip was kind of pointless.  Each place we went to serve had little or nothing for us to do and we felt more like an annoyance then an actual help. So naturally, I spent a lot of time that week really thinking about all that we had to do to actually move and these were just a few of the questions racing through my head...

  • How do you move a business?  I am guessing it's not easy.
  • How will our parents actually take the move?  I mean, I am my mom's favorite after all.
  • Will we be able to sell our house, and buy a new one?
  • Will we be able to find a place for walk in love?
  • Will we make any new friends?
  • How much money will it cost?
  • What if we can never find a babysitter?
  • How we will tell Kim and Jon?
  • How will I tell my small group of guys?
  • What if our car blows up on the way down there?
  • What if an EMP hits while we are on our way and we are stuck in the middle of a highway and have to fight off bands of raiders?
  • What if I am wrong about the feeling and this is a giant mistake?

I could go on and on, and on, with all the fears I had about the decision. I decided though that I was going to lean into what God had for me and trust that He is guiding my heart at all times.

In Boston with Chase, Madelyn and Tyler

Something that I have never experienced before in my life started to happen while I was in Boston.  I felt the exact opposite call than the one I had been so clearly decided upon just a few days earlier.  Over that week in Boston, I strongly started to hear the word, "stay."

I honestly started to think I was losing my mind.

Instead of ignoring the feeling like I did the first time when He was saying, "move" I leaned into it.  I spent that week in Boston praying and crying out to God for direction and for His will to be done in my life.

By the end of the week I had this overwhelming peace about staying in our little town of Manheim, Pennsylvania. On the drive home I started to think about how I was going to tell Brooke.  Would she feel the same way?  Would she think I had lost my mind? After all, she'd spent her week at home with June, meeting with a realtor and working on projects to sell our house!

A few hours after I was home from Boston, I mustered up the courage and said to my wife, who was so on board to move, and so willing to trust what God was telling her husband, "I think we should stay in Manheim."

And she said something I never expected her to say, "I do too."

- - -

To a far less degree of intensity, Brooke and I felt like Abraham must have, being called by God to sacrifice His son Isaac. Obviously moving and sacrificing your son aren't even on the same planet in terms of steps of faith, but we didn't really want to move when it came down to it.  We honestly thought we would always live in this area.  I mean, I had spent months ignoring the idea and thinking it was just about other things.

But like Abraham on the mountain, Brooke and I had taken the steps to go through with the difficult calling on our lives. And like God did with Abraham, because He is a good Father, He had other plans for us.

Instead of last summer being like every other summer, what we had instead was a summer where our faith was tested more than it had ever been before. After a the initial fear, we leaned into the perfect love that casts out all fear and pursued the move God was calling us to take. We took steps to make it happen only to have what we thought was the direction we were headed be completely reversed.

Faith is really odd sometimes.  And after going back on the idea of moving, I started to really wonder, "Why?"  

What was the point of all that?

I believe God wants to push us out out of our comfort zone at times, so He can be our comforter.  And while I was freaked out about all the logistics of moving, I also felt comforted by a good God who loves me and would comfort me even with all the stress that moving would bring.

I never want to live so complacently that I ignore what God is calling me to do.  Even after almost moving to Nashville, I want to be ready to say "Yes!" even if later in life my path might totally do a one-eighty.  That doesn't make God bi-polar or mean or rude.  It just means that Nashville wasn't His plan all along and He wanted to mold my heart in a way to trust Him like I never had before, which is exactly what happened.

Because after Brooke and I came to separate realizations that we were staying, it opened up our heart to something that was hiding away - our heart for our small town of Manheim.

We want to be a part of something great in Manheim.  We want to spend all our time here to revitalize the area.  We want to bring jobs to this area by growing our company.  We want to open up new businesses in this area.  And guess what? That will be way more difficult and challenging than up and moving to Nashville ever would have been. 

God is constantly calling His followers towards the outrageous and unrealistic, because it's only during callings like that that can we fully rely on Him and His goodness.  My call wasn't to move 750 miles, it's to stay and be a part of moving my small town forward.  To bring restoration and revitalization.  And when we do that, and people ask why we have such a heart toward Manheim, we will be able to tell them that it isn't us, but God working through us.

When you follow Jesus you will be asked to do hard things.  Take it from someone who ignored one of those hard things for too long. I'd encourage you to simply lean into it, because when you do your heart will be opened up to new depths and maybe, just maybe, somewhere in those depths is where your true purpose will shine brighter than ever before.

We are here to stay Manheim!

We are here to stay Manheim!

So here I am. Staying in little Manheim, Pennsylvania. Because, I didn't move, but I am ready to see my God do just that in my town.

Join Me Every Thursday! LIVE!

This year I started a YouTube show and set a goal of creating one video a week.  Well, it looks like that isn't going to happen.  I quickly learned that creating YouTube videos doesn't really fit well into my workflow and life right now so I am pivoting, re-adjusting and changing the medium.  I love interacting with video and I really wanted to focus on creating videos this year.  

Turns out I have created more videos then ever this year... in the form of Snapchats.  From what I can gather my Snapchat story viewers are really enjoying my Snapchats, which is awesome!  I believe that it shows who I am in a more authentic way, which is why you have enjoyed watching.

But...a Snapchat video is only 10 seconds long and let's be real, if someone is going on and on we just skip through to the end.  So, I have decided on a way to create longer videos, with more content but at the same time being as authentic as possible.  

INSERT - A LIVE SHOW STREAMING ON PERISCOPE EVERY WEEK!!!!

YEP!  That's right!  I will be sitting in front of my iPhone every Thursday at 9pm EST on the Periscope app to bring you The T.J. Mousetis Show - LIVE!  There is just something about being live and interactive that I love.  It's probably why I love speaking on stage.  I love hearing the reaction of the crowd and seeing people take in what I am saying. Now, I know I won't be able to hear you through the app but, I will be able to see your comments, questions and little agreements in the form of hearts in the bottom right corner of my screen!  I can't wait!

So, download the periscope app and follow @tjmousetis.  You will get an alert when I am LIVE!  Come with your questions about business, social media and anything else you might want to talk about!  I am so excited and can't wait to answer all your amazing questions!

You can also follow me on Twitter and get a notification on when I am live in your Twitter Feed - @tjmousetis!

Sometimes You Just Need to Reset

Last week I sat down at my computer with the idea that I was going to dominate the day -get a ton of stuff done and leave the studio feeling accomplished and amazing. And maybe even a few inches taller.

Fast forward to not even an hour later and I was frustrated, annoyed and ready to throw my computer through the window (hopefully avoiding the baby ducks swimming in the creek outside my window). It seemed like everything I was working on just wasn't working.  It was so frustrating, to say the least.  After restarting my computer, quitting out of apps and trying different ones, and still nothing was working, I'd had enough. I threw up my hands, stood up, and left. I went down the four flights of studio stairs, walked out the building, got in the van and drove home. 

When I got home I decided I would work-out, because I just needed to do something that was the opposite of what I had just been frustrated with.  I changed into my workout clothes, turned on the Black Fire program that I do and worked out. Hard. I actually worked out harder than I had in a while.  I was a hot, sweaty mess by the time I was done and it felt awesome!

As I was sitting on my mat, eating my post workout yogurt, I really started to think about how this, this little shift in my day, totally changed the outcome of my entire day.  If I had stayed at my computer I would have probably continued to be frustrated because it was just one of those days. Even if I had been able to finish the project I was working on I probably wouldn't have loved it because frustrated work usually isn't my best work.

But, I reset. I didn't do anything glamorous or fancy.  I just worked out.  It was simple, but it worked.

How many times in life do we ignore the chance to simply reset?  We are so focused on our frustration that we let it define our outcome, when, in reality, we could pivot, reboot and change the outcome of our days, weeks, months or even lives.  I have talked extensively about how June was a huge reset in my life.  Brooke continues to tell me that I am so much happier since June came into our lives.

In the past, I have worn some of my frustration like a badge of honor, like it somehow made me noble or humble.  Really, it just makes me annoying. I ignored chances to reset because of pride and it only led to more frustration. But I've learned that I have too much to live for to walk around with frustration weighing heavy on my heart and soul.  I follow a God who gave up His Son for the ultimate reset on our souls and to spend my time leading a life of frustration, what is that?

I believe that if God can reset my sin, and make me right with Him, then anything can be reset.

Maybe it's your marriage.

Maybe it's a relationship with an old friend.

Maybe it's the way you treat your body.

Maybe it's the way you treat your kids.

Maybe it's something smaller, like you're work day.

Whatever it is, you can reset, refocus and live more fully. And the choice you make to do that will be the catalyst.  I had to stand up from my computer and leave to come home.  I had to put on my workout clothes and push myself through my work out.  But in the end, my entire day turned around.  I ended up having a really productive and joyful day.  Also, because I worked out earlier in the day, I was able to watch June in the evening, which gave Brooke time to work in her garden, which she loves to do.

Resetting my day lead to productivity, time with my daughter and the ability for my wife to do what she loves.  If I had wanted to wear my frustration like a badge of honor the outcome of that entire day would have been... wasted.

So, maybe you are reading this and you need a reset.  Do it!  Start with a conversation or action.  Listen to God as He directs you to reset your heart, pivot back toward Him and lead a life of joy instead of frustration.  Take that first step and you never know what will happen.

Snapchat Story On The News!

Brooke and I had the pleasure of being interviewed on our local news about how we use Snapchat for our business!  See the segment below!

 

 

Steps (Another Lesson From My Daughter)

For the past two months, I have walked to the end of our block and back hundreds of times.  Multiple times a day I help June's put her socks, shoes and coat on, and we walk out the front door. I help her down our porch stairs and onto the sidewalk, where she reaches up to grab the end of my pointer finger, and off we go.

We usually walk to the end of the block, sometimes a little further, turn around and walk back.  June will point with her free hand and say, "Oooooo!" to cars, lights, rocks, sticks, dandelions and the three garden lamps she has to touch every time in front of our neighbors house.

There are times when June picks up the pace and starts grunting as she hustles down the street, causing me to smile from ear to ear because it's the funniest thing ever.  There are times when we stop and look at the ground while she points at what looks like nothing.  There are times when she looses her grip on my finger and falls to her knees.  And there was the one time she lost her balance and grip and fell on her face (let's not tell mom about that one 😬 ).  My bad, June!

June has taken a steps on her own quite a few times, but when we are on our sidewalk strolls she HAS to hold onto my finger.  The second I try to slide it out from her grip she sumo squats down slowly to the ground and sits.

I am fully confident in her ability to walk on her own, but she needs to hold onto the end of my finger as we explore the great unknowns of Penn Street.  My hand is safety and security for her and I am happy to oblige, because I love the walks and I love our time together.  I love seeing her engage with life and if she needs the safety of her father's grip to do that, then I am more than happy to give it t

But here is what I know.  Eventually, I will have to let go and let her figure out how to walk without me.  I will do so with a little fear because I know that she will tumble, fall, cry and scrape her cute little legs.  When she no longer needs my help I will play the role of cheerleader, doctor and safety net if a fall looks like it will be more than just a scraped knee. But, I will let her fall from time to time as she works through what it means to balance, take steps, walk, stop, sit down, get up, find balance again, and so on.

As I navigate fatherhood, I find that God is constantly revealing more truths to me through my relationship with June.  I care and love June more than I ever thought I would and it is nothing compared to God's love for me.  And as I let go of June's little, very sweaty, hand and let her brave the unknown, I know that I will be right there.  I will be one step behind her, ready to catch her, care for her and love her when the falls hurt.  I will be one step in front of her when she breaks her record of 15 steps to catch her, pick her up and twirl her around.  I will be one step behind her when she goes from a walk to a run and a run to a fall.  I will be there even when my grip is not.

My love and care does not go away when the end of my finger isn't in her grasp.

Yet at times, in my life, I find that I am angry with God because I can't "feel" His presence and don't totally understand why something is happening to me.  I find it very challenging at times to feel like I am walking with Jesus, yet when I reach my hand up for support, I don't see His.  It's at those moments that I want to sumo squat to the ground and throw a fit and cry, because I am frustrated He isn't just helping me take the steps I want to take.  When June sumo squats down to the sidewalk during our walks they become pretty uneventful pretty quickly.  We go from moving and exploring to sitting and doing nothing.  Are we doing the same thing in our walk with God?  Have we sat down in the middle of it because we are scared He has lost His grip?  Instead of realizing that maybe we are just a few steps of faith away from breakthrough.  Instead of sitting on the ground out of fear maybe we should keep moving forward because He is right behind us, ready to catch us.  Or, even better, maybe He is right in front of us ready to celebrate a new victory or breakthrough!

I know that when my daughter finally starts to walk on her own she is going to take off.  She can already really move while holding my hand and when she finally conquers the fear she needs to in order to let go there won't be anything holding her back.  I am excited to watch it happen, eager to experience it and thrilled to be able to share in the joy of all it brings!

And here is the crazy part - I am a bad father compared to God, so if I am this excited about my daughter having a little faith to let go and believe she can do it, how much more will God be thrilled to watch you do the same?

Taking those first steps of faith is terrifying.  Maybe it's taking steps in a job, or steps towards how you should manage your money, or the steps needed to talk to someone about something intense. Whatever it is, I know that it can be scary, because I have my own steps of faith I need to take.  I know I might need to take them even when it feels like God isn't holding my hand through them.  But as I live my life, here is what I have realized over and over again -  He is either right behind you, ready to catch you and care for you, or right in front of you ready to pick you up and celebrate with you.  Either way the steps of faith you take will end the same way, in your Father's arms, surrounded by His love and with a deeper understanding and knowledge of who He is and how much He loves you!

Would you want to pay the government $48,000?

Today is tax day.  A day where small business owners, like myself, cringe when they realize just how much the United States government is taking from them.  Small business owners all across the US today will certainly spend time thinking, "Even if I just had half of that money back, I could have..."  In 2015, my wife and I paid more taxes then we ever have.  After I write the last few checks today, we will have paid a total of $48,641 to federal, state and local government on a gross profit of $151,191.  That means that 32% of the money that we made selling t-shirts this year went to the government.

32%!!!!!

More than 3 out of every 10 shirts we sold, were sold to pay the United States Government.

Now, before you give me the "government helps people..." speech, let me ask you a question -

Do you want to pay the government $48,000?

Do you think they are using that money more efficiently and wisely than I would?  Do you think they will do a better job with that money than I will?

Let's imagine for one second that my tax rate is 15%, which it could be if Ted Cruz is elected president. I am not against paying some taxes, I'm just totally in favor of paying LESS taxes - for paying a flat rate no matter how much you make.

So, that means I would have $24,320.50 out of that $48k still in my pocket.

Now, let's imagine if I was the most selfish individual in the history of time and only wanted to spend that extra money on myself. I would take that money and do one of two things - buy a newer car or fix our back deck, which is slowly sinking into the ground.

If I bought a car, I would be putting that $24k back into the economy and helping the business of a local dealership, insurance, gas stations, etc.  Maybe an extra car sale is all a dealership in our area needs to hire another salesman... 

If I fixed our deck, I would hire a local contractor, Josh Strayer of Home Improvement Services. Imagine what the job could do for him and his family.  He would also have to buy supplies from a local lumber mill.  Maybe he would have to hire someone to help him with the job. After the deck was finished, Brooke and I would want to paint it, so we would either buy paint or hire a painter to do the job.  We then would probably want to get some new furniture and we would go out and buy some.  While we were out furniture shopping we would probably get coffee or stop for lunch and so on.

The possibilities are endless when you let the American people keep the money they've earned and spend it how they see fit.

Now, I am not the most selfish person in the world, so let's imagine another scenario.

Imagine if I was able to keep that extra 24k and use it in my business.  I could give my employee, Alexa, a raise that she could use on her house, car and in her life.  She and her husband could go on vacation or have an extra date night every week.  Again, the possibilities are endless.  After giving Alexa a raise, I could buy more inventory which results in paying our printer, manufacturer, and so on.  I would have more to sell and some extra money, so maybe I could spend more money on Facebook advertising. Then Facebook has to hire more people to manage their advertising branch.  Again, the possibilities are endless when the money we make is circulating in the economy.

I run just one of the millions of small businesses across the United States.  Imagine if we could all just keep half of what we work to make day in and day out. Do you think we would spend it better than the US government does?  I think we would.

Now, I know that some will argue with this post by saying, "What about the less fortunate?"  "T.J., you are so selfish.." "Don't you care for the poor?"  And I would say this, in 2015, Brooke and I also personally gave away more money than we ever have, totaling $20,473.25.  I don't share the number for praise, but to prove a point because the "Don't you care about the poor?" argument is terrible.  Does the government care about the poor?  Should they care about the poor? Shouldn't that be the job of the people? Of friends? Of family? Of the CHURCH!?!  Has the welfare system ever given someone a good paying job to provide for their family?  Or is it small business owners, like me, providing jobs?

Even if I didn't want to give away my money, again, do you think the government is going to use it more efficiently than I will? Imagine if I used that 24k to hire someone in my area and gave them a well paying job?  Do you think that would help more than a government handout?

I am sure that some of you are still caught up on the fact that my business made $151k and that in some way makes me "the man" or an evil white guy....

To that I would say this, Brooke and I are both employed by our business and are currently paying ourselves a salary of $58k.... combined. That means we each make a salary of 29k because we want the rest of the money we make to go back into growing our business.  I could easily make more money working for someone else than I currently do working for myself.  But I want to grow my business and I LOVE IT, so I am willing to sacrifice while walk in love. grows.

So you can call me selfish, and tell me that the money we make should go to the government, but again I ask this question - DO YOU WANT TO PAY THE GOVERNMENT $48,000 OF YOUR MONEY?

In 2016, we will have the opportunity to elect a new president.  Three out of the four candidates want make government bigger and give it a greater reach into our personal freedoms and liberties.  A bigger government will mean higher taxes and less money in the pockets of the US citizens.  Only one candidate, Ted Cruz, is campaigning on the idea of a limited government with less power, which is the way the constitution laid it out.

If our government is smaller, we will simply have less to disagree with.  If our government is smaller, we will keep more of our money to do whatever the heck we want to with.  If our government is smaller, it is the people who have the power.  If our government is smaller, I could probably fix my deck, which is sinking into the ground. 😂  If our government is smaller I could probably stop driving a 2006 Chrysler Town + Country Mini-van, where the wheels might fall off at anytime. 😂  If our government is smaller, I would have more jobs to give and more money to give away.

I am not an extravagant guy.  One of my main goals in business is to give away a million dollars. It is hard to do that when 3 out of every 10 shirts I sell are sold for a government overrun with waste, corruption and greed.  We the people, need to raise our voices and shrink the ever growing, overreaching government that is invading our personal lives more and more.

I started my business with $300 almost 11 years ago.  I don't come from wealth.  My mom is a flight attendant and my dad is a missionary.  I want to grow my business to be as large as it can be, so I can help as many people as possible.  I completely understand I have to pay some taxes, and I am not advocating that I don't.  I am simply stating that I am paying too much to an inefficient, over-sized government.

It doesn't take long to realize that people are fed up with the government, so why would we ever want to make it bigger?  Why would we ever want to give it more control over our lives?  I can only imagine what would happen if small business owners, like myself, were able to keep the money we work so hard for.