Randi Swenson and I began our friendship almost exactly a year ago this month! She's just one of those people that you're drawn to first by their beauty and then once she starts talking, you realize that she's just as beautiful on the inside. We had so much in common when it came to having young kids, our agricultural and rodeo backgrounds and we both had husbands that we loved and respected that worked super hard to where we could stay home with our kids. Over the course of the year I've really enjoyed getting to know Randi better and seeing her grow in her faith and in her business, Charlee Gene Boutique (You can find her online store at www.charleegeneboutique.com).
I have always thought, "Who would want to hear my journey with Christ?" There isn't anything exciting about it. But as I sit here thinking about what God has done in my life and what He wants me to share, I realize that it is important and may touch just one person's heart and that's worth it.
I grew up just outside of Greeley, Colorado. My two sisters and I were involved in 4-H and lots of sports. My family was also involved in the Grover Pro Rodeo that they put on as a memorial to my great-grandpa Earl Anderson. My faith journey started at a very young age; I grew up in a Baptist church that my grandparents had helped start, it just felt like home. I loved learning the Bible stories, singing in the Sunset Company Choir, and then being involved in youth group as I got older. I also enjoyed inviting my good friends to come learn with me. If I can remember right, I was 8 years old when I accepted Jesus in my heart. I was then baptized and knew one day I would meet Jesus in heaven. It's what everyone in my family had done, so it was completely normal for me to take the step of faith as well to ask Jesus to live in my heart.
Things began to change as I started high school. During my sophomore year, I began to stray away from God as I let peer pressure consume me and take charge over God. I never lost faith in Him, but I didn't always choose the right path. So many times the kids that I wanted to hang out with were the kids who confessed to be a "Christian" but their actions showed anything but. Being the kid who went to church was acceptable but acting and talking like Jesus outside of church was not "cool!" This continued into my college years, where I told myself, "I am a Christian" following in His footsteps, but I really wasn't being a disciple to Him. I kept Him to myself and the outer appearance didn't show a Christ-like woman.
Fast forward to being married for 5 years with 2 kids. I finally felt God nudging me, telling me if I didn't start living like Christ, my world would be taken away from me. It's not like I was going out and partying, running around on my husband or doing anything like that, it was that I was out of order in what I truly needed to put my time, worship and heart into. I never believed that I had to put God first, my spouse second and my children third. I was doing it all backwards, children first, myself second, my husband and God fit in whenever it was convenient. I was taking everything that I truly wanted so bad...for granted. When I became a mom my whole world revolved around this little person who relied and needed me for everything. There's definitely a season that every mom will go through when their child is young that you have to put all of your time and energy into, but it takes a conscious decision to put your husband first after God once your child is a little older. I feared I would no longer be married to my best friend and my children wouldn't grow up knowing Christ and living in His purpose for them if I didn't get my priorities straight. I wasn't setting an example for them. I was trying to have that Facebook perfect life instead of what God wanted for me. It has taken a lot of work and I'm still working to be what God has for me to be, but my focus has shifted to having God first, then my spouse, children and last, my career.. God has forgiven me, my husband has forgiven me and it's just getting better each day. The best advice I ever received was make a decision to set up date night twice a month if not, weekly to spend time alone with my spouse. It's so important!
After that life-altering decision to put God first in everything, I really started to realize where God was leading me in what I was to do alongside being a wife and mother. I began a passion for fashion early in my childhood and it grew more when I entered high school as I wanted to be different. This drove me to get a degree in design and production from Colorado State University. I loved putting my creations on paper and then seeing them come alive. It allowed me the opportunity to head off to the big city across the country knowing only my roommate. We lived in a small one bedroom apartment right in the middle of Manhattan, NY. I loved getting to be right in the center of fashion, work with a designer and see parts of the country I hadn't seen before. But having this opportunity made me realize what I truly wanted and that was a family of my own. I knew the lifestyle I was currently in wasn't what I saw for my future family. I decided to go back to Colorado and be close to family. I searched hard to find a job in the industry here in Colorado but there are few and far between. I knew it would always be a passion and goal to get back into and I knew God would place those opportunities in front of me when it was time. Not long after I left NY I met my amazing husband and we began our lives together and building our family. After years of being present at home I prayed for an opportunity to present itself for me to begin stepping into my dream of becoming an entrepreneur and opening my own boutique. Almost exactly a year ago that dream came true and Charlee Gene Boutique opened. It was and always will start with my children and husband, which is where the name stems from. My passion is to show women what Charlee Gene is; that it is to be different, unique, affordable, fashion forward for women of all shapes and sizes. My goal when I started was to make Charlee Gene shine to the world, show my children that they can do anything they are passionate about and stay true to who they are and allowing your priorities always to be God, spouse, children and then career.
Looking back at my journey now, it proves to me that I do have a story to share. It isn't perfect, but it's special to me and has made me who I am even with my trials and tribulations happening in between my journey of knowing Christ. Just because I knew God my whole life doesn't mean I didn't choose the wrong path. But being able to learn and grow from my mistakes and knowing God can help me live out my purpose is worth sharing.
With Gods love,