This post is part of an on-going Everyday Disciple series. We're celebrating here what it looks like to follow Christ faithfully in the day-to-day. I am thankful to share the stories of gracious friends and readers, and I have sought to preserve and honor their voice in the post below. I invite you to join me as we listen to their experience as an "everyday disciple."
It’s always a delight to come upon Joel and Katy at a local farmer’s market or festival. They’re quick to smile and eager to chat, tucked away behind a colorful array of soaps and candles. The creativity and care they pour into each aspect of their business is a beautiful testament to the creative and caring God they worship.
They are the entrepreneurial owners of Joy Lane Farm, a small business specializing in handcrafted goat milk soaps, soy candles, lotions, and lip balms. It's a joy to share their thoughts with you.
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We were working at a Ukrainian orphanage when we decided to become business owners. I had recently completed my Master of Divinity, and our other choice, which made far more sense, was pursuing pastoral ministry.
We spent months agonizing over this decision. I had felt called to ministry since I was 13, and one of my professors had charged Katy with making sure I never gave up preaching. Harder still, I’m not sure there was ever a clear moment when God said to do Joy Lane Farm, nor one where He said not to. Katy didn’t think we’d do it longer than six months, but here we are five years later.
Since orphanage and church work were our other alternatives, we were determined that—if we were going to build a company—we would build one that was worth building. We thought often about how we would view Joy Lane Farm at the end of our lives and whether the work would matter in eternity. To that end, our priority was distilling a simple set of values we could pour into every ounce of the company as we built it. These became our mantra: Live joyfully. Do great things. Celebrate family.
It’s easy to talk about Joy Lane Farm without talking about goat milk soap, lotion, or lip balm, because Joy Lane Farm isn’t about those things; it’s about cultivating meaningful lives. The reason we like making consumable, everyday products is that they touch lots of people. Making soaps that are good for your skin and pleasant to use gives credibility, and credibility is a sacred trust. We hope we use that trust well when we encourage people to rest instead of being busy and to care for the poor instead of pursuing the American dream.
Owning a business as followers of Jesus Christ has unique challenges. Often, our instincts tell us one thing, and the Holy Spirit tells us something different.
This week we’re finishing up our first t-shirt designs. At first, we considered putting our name and logo on the front. It would have been inexpensive, simple, and effective branding, but we felt God nudging us with the words, “Message first.” This meant investing a lot more time and money into our shirts, eventually landing on a design that downplayed our name and highlighted our mantra, the words that communicate how God has called us to live and follow Him.
Another hard decision was giving away 1% of our sales to Mercy Ships, an organization that serves the international poor. Except that wasn’t the hard part. The stomach churning moment came later when God told us to give the 1% based on our projected sales and to trust Him that the sales would happen. We live simply and frugally. We rarely do small things, like going out for breakfast, because we can’t afford them. Even though we remind ourselves often that we are rich, not poor, giving away a percentage of sales we hadn’t made took a degree of trust I wasn’t used to. God was asking us to give the first fruits of our labor as a sacrifice to him. Looking back, I’m not sure anything has so powerfully changed our hearts. Now, we firmly believe Joy Lane Farm belongs to God. He is the Provider for our family, and we are stewards who are tasked with loving the poor as He loved them.
My Dad did this well. He served on Mercy Ships for the last few years of his life before passing away last summer. His death was sudden, left our hearts in anguish, and made writing about joy difficult. It brought death very close to us. Now, as we grieve, we live in a tension of knowing our toil is in some ways meaningless (Ecclesiastes 2), but also that we have been entrusted with talents that God expects us to use well on His behalf (Matthew 25:14-30). As we manage Joy Lane Farm, we think often about the missionary, Eric Liddel, running in the Olympics and saying, “I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast! And when I run I feel his pleasure.” The cry of our hearts is that Joy Lane Farm would bring pleasure to our Lord.
If you would like to be a part of this project, I would love to hear your story. Contact me for more information.