Emily Ley is the author of Grace Not Perfection (October 4th, HarperCollins Christian Publishing) and creator of the Simplified Planner®, a tool that helps busy women everywhere simplify their lives, organize their days, and prioritize what’s truly important to them in life.
A Dream Built From Humble Beginnings
Hi! I’m Emily. I’m a businesswoman, wife, and mama to three who loves Friday night pizza parties on the floor, strong cappuccinos with my husband, and making memories to savor with my twin toddlers and brand-new kindergartner (*sniff*). The season I find myself in is a busy one, to say the least. And in the midst of my circus, I’m so thankful for my foundation, my faith in Jesus. The more I stop and intentionally seek Him, the more I see His threads in my life, the ones He’s woven together bit by bit, year by year. Come on, I’ll show you.
I grew up in Pensacola, Florida, with the prettiest beaches you ever did see. Always a word-loving girl, I graduated from the University of West Florida with degrees in English, creative writing, and public administration, and I started working in nonprofit management. Day after day, I found myself surrounded by women making enormous impacts in our community, and I deeply desired to get out from behind the desk and become my own impactful woman. At the same time, I wanted to have a flexible schedule that would help me better fulfill one of my life-long dreams: to become a mama.
So with a penchant for creativity and design, in 2008 I launched a side business, Emily Ley Paper & Gifts, having no idea how to bring my ideas to life but with a little gumption and a lot of hard work. I started slowly—making mistakes, dusting myself off and trying again. I spent hours upon hours learning how to design my own website (I even spelled stationery wrong on my first site; I fixed it and kept going). I sold monogrammed cards on Etsy for $5, and little by little I saved those dollars, working two full-time jobs into the wee hours of the morning, until I built my small side business into a full-fledged company. It was slow and fast and exhausting and exhilarating all at once.
Accepting An Invitation To Grace
The day I handed in my two weeks notice to my corporate job, I found out my husband and I were expecting our first child (see any Jesus threads yet?).
Shortly after the most transformational day of my life—the day I became a mama—I found myself pacing circles around my house cradling my crying newborn baby boy in one arm, and trying to take client calls with the other, wedging my phone between my cheek and my shoulder. My steps were heavy after another sleepless night, but my heart was heavier. As a creative, driven and passionate woman, I wanted to do it all. Surely I could have a made-from-scratch dinner on the table at six while running my company and rocking my sweet baby at the same time—and do it ALL in six inch heels with perfectly curled hair.
I mean, everyone else was doing it . . . right?
Perfection was what I chased, but frustration, disappointment and heartache was what it got me. That day, I tearfully spilled my heart to a friend and decided enough was enough—and I committed to holding myself to a standard of grace not perfection. It’s a decision that’s served me well in every area of my life (another big thread!).
Last year, I sat in the preschool parking lot waiting for my son Brady (i.e. see fussy baby from above) to come out, and I casually checked my email and saw I had a new one—it was from my now-publisher, asking me to write this book (cue ridiculous tears from me and confused looks from my then-four-year-old climbing into the car). As an English major, writing has always been my first love, but the opportunity to write a book was a dream I dared not dream. It was too big, too impossible, too rare an opportunity. But, God, He knew better. He met me in the busiest, messiest, most circus-filled season of my life with blank pages and an incredible opportunity to fill them with heartfelt words from a girl who gets it, who’s fiercely fighting for what matters for herself, her people and her calling. And thanks to God’s plans and faithfulness, my new book Grace, Not Perfection, comes out in October.
Reflecting On God’s Many Blessings
I’m so thankful I get to share how God’s grace has shaped me. One of my strongest beliefs is that I need to spend time on what matters most, and that’s why I sit down to plan each week and intentionally set aside times to be with my people: my kids, my husband, and Jesus. And one of my favorite ways to spend time with Jesus is sitting down with my dog-eared copy of Jesus Calling.
My first copy of Jesus Calling was a gift from my grandmother, who had an abundant and overflowing faith—as if she knew God in a deeply personal way, like a dear friend. My grandmother greatly influenced my faith, and I’ve always wanted to have that kind of personal relationship with Jesus. And for me, that’s the beauty of Jesus Calling: it helps me understand God’s love and plan for me in a deeper way, and it’s really helped shape the way I pray and talk with God; it helps me stop and take in everything He’s done for me, all the threads He’s woven together.
And I treasure the copy of Jesus Calling my grandmother gave me, because through it, she’s still impacting my faith in an ongoing, profound way.
See how many threads He’s placed in my life? No telling how many He’s put in yours. Sweet friend, take time out today to figure out what God’s been up to in your life, what kinds of blessings and gifts He’s given to you. When you pick up and follow those threads, there’s no telling where He’ll lead you.
And don’t forget to give yourself a little break now and then, eat some good chocolate, and spend some time with Jesus and your people. You’ll all be a little better off for it.
Thanks for spending some time with me today!