BY TARA BURKE
Freely Clothing’s Giving Chain video is finally done! Thank you to all the supporters who have been patiently waiting for the video. To everyone who donated, shared, bought a tee, came to an event, or was just present throughout the whole process, I’m so grateful. I love you all, and seriously, you don’t even know what your support meant to me during what was a challenging season both personally and professionally. So, without further ado…here it is!
I hope you liked the video and that it inspires you to give freely! Your generosity changes the lives of generations and you can make a difference. There is no telling the impact a generous spirit in action can have in the hands of God! Go out there and pursue your calling despite the circumstances, hardships and perseverance it may take. If there is anything I learned looking back on this video is that there is a story behind every “success” and that God is faithful to complete the good work He started in you.
In turn, I wanted to share a short version of the BTS of my story to encourage all the dreamers out there who feel like God gave them a specific vision or talent to pursue. When anyone asks me if I’ve ever heard God’s voice audibly, I always say that God spoke the most clearly to me about my business. I randomly opened an email my senior year of college about the NY State Business Plan Competition and one of the categories was social entrepreneurship. I’ve always wanted to start a business with social good at its heart, so that night when I was laying in bed, I just asked God to give me an idea for the competition. Two seconds later the whole idea behind my clothing line popped into my head. I was supposed to create something that didn’t just allow my company to give, but gave others an opportunity to be generous. I felt prompted to open my bible and I read Proverbs 11:24-25 and then Matthew 10:8 (…”freely you have received; freely give.”) We are called to give … freely … and there was the name. I ended up winning regionals and put the idea on a shelf while I finished my last semester of college.
I was working my first job out of school in the city (which was boringgggg) when I decided to quit and just go for the calling God put in my heart. Since God gave me the idea, I was pretty certain things would pan out exactly how I envisioned them to happen (silly me, lol). I had all that fired up faith that you feel when you know you’re living in your purpose, so I picked the most ambitious project for my first Giving Chain Contest. Freely Clothing would help fund a young girl’s idea to build a new playground for her community. My initial concept was to fund ideas that could be accomplished with $1,000 or less…this project required $9,000, but I was like woohooo BIG GOD, BIG DREAMS, LESSS GO! I had absolutely no clue what I was doing. I had never raised that type of money before…but I’m always up for a challenge and just trusted God would provide. I thought the playground would be up in 6 months tops.
It ended up taking 2 years! It was non-stop hard work that most of the time felt like it was going no where. I tried SO many different ideas to raise funds, applied for an endless amount of grants, researched and contacted countless commercial playground manufacturers for deals and had to coordinate everything with city officials…all while bumbling around running a business for the first time. Everything I attempted was only marginally successful and ultimately wasn’t enough to get the playground built. I felt so much pressure from myself to not let all those involved in the project down. Sometimes I’d just cry and ask God why He told me to go after this dream in the first place.
At the same time, my family was going through a heartbreaking season, which made holding myself together and not giving up even harder. I look back and think to myself, why didn’t I pick an easier project to do first? Maybe I wouldn’t have been so burnt out afterward if I had, but God knew exactly what He was doing in my heart, while simultaneously providing for the playground in His timing. I ended up getting a grant from a local organization, so we were able to get to know each other face-to-face, which was a much more meaningful experience than just getting a check (Albany & Troy Lions Club, you all rock). The playground company I worked with (Pettinelli and Associates Inc.) saved a half-off summer playground discount for us for 2 years! They also donated the cost of the build, which the amazing owner said he hadn’t done in 20 years. In the end, I just started being vulnerable with people. I straight up asked for help and in that surrender God made His final moves. Generous donors showed up and made up the difference and what seemed impossible for so long became a reality!
Here are some things I learned from it all:
1. Let go of your expectations for comfort and ease. He is the God of the impossible! When you are going after something big, a lot of days will look like you’re not accomplishing much. It’s okay to feel discouraged and vent to God. I leaned on people who believed in me and not only encouraged me, but helped me in any way they could. Find those people, pray and then pray some more, and don’t forget to have quiet time with God. Remember that tiny victories lead to big results and setbacks are not failures, but chances to re-route.
2. Faith in who God is and not what He provides can sustain you. Throughout the whole process I had this underlying peace in the promise that God finishes the work He starts, and He did!
3. Keep going after “crazy” big ideas and walk confidently in your calling…the devil will try to intimidate your thinking, but don’t shrink God’s vision just because it’ll take time to get there.
4. Your purpose isn’t the dream…your purpose is hidden inside the dream. When your dream doesn’t appear to be working…your purpose may be shifting the atmosphere around you in ways you can’t see. My truest passion is to help people fall in love with giving and God worked through that and was able to give others way more opportunities for generosity than if the whole project was wrapped up in 6 months!
5. God cares about your purpose. He’ll use every gift, talent and dream you have to achieve His plans for your life, and they are much better than your own. If your dream seems like it’s failing, it isn’t taking your purpose down with it –> bc this right here is some truth, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” – Romans 8:28. God provides new dreams and new seasons, and if your greatest desire is to serve the Lord, you’ll find success looks a lot more like Kingdom building and is a lot more fulfilling than money/accolade getting.
6. God cares about your heart/character. I always want less of me and more of Him, but sometimes God is patient with how long we want to hold onto ourselves. I’ve always been an achiever. I like to win and be recognized for my accomplishments, but the more time I had with this project the more my heart started to let go of any personal achievement pride I had. I didn’t need praise on earth, I just wanted to be a part of what God was doing. Know that in His beautiful grace, God is always molding you into His likeness. When you’re waiting; God is still working.
7. Don’t give up! However, recognize when God is trying to renew your soul. After hustling like that for years, I needed a re-charge and God provided teaching. A lot of my time now is dedicated to my students, but being around kids all day only ignites my purpose behind Freely Clothing even more. I’ve been able to rest and reset my focus on the roots of what God called me to do, and when I do start to work more on Freely again, it’ll be from a place of health, balance and even greater passion.
Again, a huge thank you to everyone involved in making mine and Sophia’s dream a reality. Your generosity has touched my heart immensely. Keep changing the world!