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To start off this year, we are focusing on a fitting theme - Renew.

We’re going to take a wild guess that many of the drastically new things you have experienced in the last year have shaped you in new, unexpected ways. Yeah? Us, too.

As we look ahead, we are simultaneously looking back on the things we’ve learned to help guide us through the coming days. Today, a few of our Uncommon Creatives are sharing the big things and little things that have shaped us, pushed us, and surprised us most in our lives. We hope that these stories encourage you to dream big, or just that they give you enough motivation to get up for the day. Wherever you are is totally fine by us :)

You’ll notice that we don’t have a super solid structure for this post. You’ll find a number of stories that are fun, some that are serious, and many that are honest and messy, because that’s what we can offer you today. Does that sound okay to you?

Then let’s do this!

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Jordan and I entered this past fall with excited and expectant hearts for another baby. Our plan was to have two kiddos, close in age. On October 6th, we went to what we believed was an 8 week ultrasound appointment. We both went in with an instinct that this pregnancy was different, and within ten minutes, the tech would confirm just that. Lo and behold, we were having TWINS! It also turned out that I was only 6 weeks along, and there wasn't the important membrane evident in the ultrasound. My head was spinning, and in the chaos, my honest first thought was, "We have to buy 2 new car seats?!" If you know us well, you know that Jordan is the steady to my storm. He started asking logical and necessary questions, while wrangling our little Riley, who was munching on Cheerios and wanting to run wild.

It felt like a whirlwind! We met with a doctor that day, who explained that I was potentially carrying mono-mono twins (high risk) and that I would need to be seen by Maternal Fetal Medicine. There were still so many unknowns when we left, and I was bending - I mean BENDING - God's ear about the news! I actually burst into tears once I reached the car. It was so much to process - the miracle, the unknown, the scary....

The following weeks brought multiple appointments in order to determine exactly what kind of twins I was carrying. Thankfully, the magical membrane became apparent around 10 weeks in an ultrasound; and therefore, doctors determined I was carrying mono-di twins (mid risk). We pray continuously that our little dudes - yes, they are identical BOYS - can share the placenta well! Honestly, we don't know what the rest of this pregnancy will entail, but I am learning to let go of control to the one who wrote all of our stories, including the two little guys squirming in my tummy as I type this. I've relearned (again and again!) that the BIGGEST blessings have been when my plan gets shaken and a better one emerges.

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It's no secret that I have struggled with dietary issues in the past. For most of my life, I've been extremely healthy so when I got sick back in 2011, my perspective really shifted. I never knew life with an illness that seemed to have no answers. I never knew what it was like to be set apart from the crowd in a way that was a detriment to my social experiences. And I never knew that people's needs exist beyond what I see every day. Through the years of doctor’s visits, tests, diet changes, stress management, and so much more, God used my illness to show me a group of people that need me. They need my voice, my planning, and my care. I didn't realize that back when I got sick, God was using my biggest misery to set up my biggest ministry. It was a chance to bring the needs of people to the forefront of an event planner's mind so that people with mental, emotional, physical, dietary, and generational needs can still experience social events like those without those needs.

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Before I went shopping for my wedding dress, I had this clear picture in my mind (and on my Pinterest board!) of what I wanted it to look like - a flowing bottom, a slit in the leg for extra movement on the dance floor, and an embellished fitted top. I remember going to the first store with my mom, my sister, and Katie, and I found exactly what I had described. But when I tried it on, it was ... just okay. I just didn’t feel much of anything. So we ventured onto the next store and pulled out a variety of different things, including one that caught my eye but that was the exact opposite of what I set out to find. It had a flowing top, fitted bottom, and it was super simple - no embellishments at all. I got into the dressing room, stepped into it, zipped it up, and I came dancing out! I was twirling on the stand, making goofy faces, and already having so much fun with it - it was the one! I keep this story in mind because it is such a fun and humbling example of having a strong conviction in what I thought I wanted, then literally stepping inside of something different and having fun surprising myself.

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There was definitely a conventional, understood expectation of me when I graduated college - start a full time career in residential or commercial interior design. Instead, I decided to forge my own path. I incorporated my own business, moved home to live with my parents, picked up a part time job at Starbucks to pay bills, called/texted/emailed/begged any and every creative to introduce myself and ask for a chance. I was NUTS... I'm fully aware of that but as one of my favorite authors once said, "Sometimes you gotta look a little foolish to live out your faith." I am so thankful for that time and that God has worked through me ever since to make Uncommon what it is today.

While living at home and getting Uncommon (then KatieRae Interiors) up and running, my dad would always save me the Monday "Business" section from the Star Tribune and encouraged me to read Harvey Mackay's articles. I always enjoyed his wisdom but there was one piece that I'll never forget. Harvey was talking about entrepreneurship, but I knew it could apply to many of life's challenges: "Entrepreneurship is living a couple years of your life like most people won't so that you can live the rest of your life like most people can't." I think that when we start something new or we go through changes, giving up seems easier than pushing through. This was a great reminder to keep going.

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As shared by Katie: This past summer, I did something I NEVER would have thought to do before. It surprised many people around me that I did do it and it even surprised me a little! This past July, Jane and I got tattoos in celebration of our baptism! We got crosses on our wrists, marking an end of the old and symbolizing that the new has come (2 Cor. 5:17). I always wondered what it felt like, and I can honestly say that I am so thankful we did it! My tattoo is a daily reminder of who I am in Christ and what Jesus did for me and everyone else on that cross.

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I had a really difficult time in my career a few years ago. I had gotten what I considered to be my dream job. On paper, it was everything that I had wanted - creative freedom, purpose-driven work, an open work culture, travel, corporate perks. But once I was living it, it was, in fact, not at all the life I wanted to live. It came with a price, and I was completely burned out and lost. As with just about anything, I turned to writing in order to process what I was going through. I wrote something I come back to often - “I must grieve the loss of who I thought I was supposed to be.” I know that I can acknowledge my struggle now, and I can move forward into something new.

It took a very long time, but I moved through a lot of scary, real-time experiments to forge a new path. I took creative classes, modified my work schedule, searched in all of the traditional ways for a new position, and eventually built up the courage and created a (kind of rickety!) plan to leave what I knew wasn’t right for me. I am thankful that many people were outwardly supportive, but I was well aware that it didn’t make any sense for me to leave a stable job in my field of expertise to work part time for my best friend’s business/part time at The Container Store. It still sounds crazy, but I am so grateful for that decision for many reasons. I stand here today with a new position (with its own wild story!), in a new city across the country. But I share all of that messiness and struggle as a simple reminder that I can start exactly where I am, even if that just means deciding to leave behind things that aren’t serving me.

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A teacher by day, I left the classroom after the 2018-2019 school year to be at home with my daughter Riley. However, if you know me well, you know that I could never leave the teaching/educational world completely. It's definitely a part of my heartbeat. So, I've sought out and been blessed with opportunities to work AND be a stay-at-home mama. This past fall, as only God had planned because His plans are WAY better than my own, I was presented with the opportunity to teach a reading methods course at the University of Minnesota. It was challenging, fulfilling, soul giving, and something I 'thought' I may do later down the road. I keep finding that this forged path that I am on has new, exciting, and 'wait, what?!' opportunities that go beyond what may be expected of me in the here and now.

Here are the girls on the first day of school!

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Just the other day a 24" balloon popped right in my face ... lesson learned, again! Don't over fill latex balloons and carry them near your face! Any type of static (aka hair) can pop that balloon instantly causing latex shrapnel to go everywhere :)

My definition of success: To use my God-given gifts & talents every day to serve others and to make them feel loved!

The importance of rest, paying attention to what my body needs

To look at my whole life, not just one part of it, to measure its quality

I don’t have to have all of the answers, especially right now

One more thing! Inky Johnson - y'all should check out his incredible story - said something to the effect of "What do you do when God says yes but not in the way you had planned?" I feel like I am living that right now. It's a wild, beautiful ride. I can only give credit to the Lord while showing up with a willingness, open heart, and some serious GRIT.

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So friends, just put one foot in front of the other, and see what that new vantage point shows you. You don’t have to arrive somewhere magical. Just keep going :)

That’s what we can offer you today, as we step into this year and renew ourselves every step of the way. What have YOU learned in the past year, and how do you think you will apply it in the days ahead? We’d love to hear about it!

Just keep swimming,

The Uncommon Team


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