Today, I’m joined by wreath artist Nancy Alexander. Before we begin our interview, I’d like to share the special story of how Nancy and I became connected.
In December 2012, my short story The Value of a Penny was published in the romance anthology "I Choose You" by OakTara. To help promote the book, I hosted a giveaway on this blog and offered a copy to anyone who signed up, where I drew a winner’s name from a hat. The winner was Nancy Alexander.
God knew I needed her.
Shortly after, I began plotting Bright Copper Kettles for Pelican Book Group’s Christmas Extravaganza. I had a clear view of my hero, Dean Whitfield, and the fictional town of Christmastown, Vermont, but I struggled with who the heroine should be. Nancy emailed me with her address so I could send her the book, and I noticed she owned a business called “Ladybug Wreaths.” Not long after checking out her wonderful website, ll heroine, Darcy Carr, came to life. What better occupation to have in a town where it’s Christmas 365 days a year than a wreath maker?
Long story short, Nancy and her gorgeous wreaths inspired part of Bright Copper Kettles. But it wasn’t until last month that I realized how God connected the dots. I sent Nancy an email telling her about my new book and thanking her for being my inspiration, even though she didn’t know it. She was thrilled to hear that her talent had inspired a book. Then she told me how author Laura Hodges Pool was currently working on writing Nancy’s life story. Laura used to be one of my critique partners, and I had no idea she even knew Nancy!
God’s ways are truly amazing…
Now that you know the story, I’d like to introduce you to wreath artist Nancy Alexander.
Thank you for visiting with us today, Nancy. I’m so blessed to have you here.
Thank you so much Candice… I am thrilled that you invited me to join you today!
How long have you been making wreaths?
I started teaching myself to make wreaths around 1987. That was close to 2 years before purchasing “The Straw Basket” in Anderson, SC. I owned The Straw Basket for around 15 years and made it “the place” to shop in my hometown.
Please tell us how Ladybug Wreaths began.
Well, Candace, that’s sort of a long story. My husband Steve and I were married in 1972 when I was 21 years of age. It was exciting as we talked and planned on having children, and what our life would be like together. I had always been “artsy”, and our small home become a showcase. Our friends couldn’t believe how I could make that small rental so beautiful.
Our 2 sons, Matt and Andy were born in 1975 and 1977. Everything was great – we were so happy as we were involved in our church. We had many friends – and enjoyed doing fun things with our boys.
Suddenly, at age 29, a mysterious illness struck me with a vengeance.
It put me flat on my back. I thought it was a virus, and would soon go away, but it didn’t. The days turned into weeks; weeks into months; and then months into years.
The first 3 or 4 years, I spent most of my time in bed, the coach, or a recliner. I couldn’t even drive a car for over 5 years. My weak muscles made it SO hard for me to sit or stand up for any length of time at all.
We went from doctor to doctor to doctor, who ran test after test after test. NO ONE REALLY BELIEVED I WAS SICK – not even my family. One doctor (the best in town) called it Housewife Syndrome. That made me so VERY, VERY ANGRY!
I finally realized if I was going to improve at all, I had to help myself – no one else was. So, I did! I researched through books, and then the Internet when it became available. I found which supplements which my research showed might help and began experimenting with them.
Even though I prayed every day, I thought God didn’t hear my prayers; I thought He had deserted me. Where was He? I asked myself over and over… But, I still kept on fighting. After a while, I was starting to notice a slight improvement which led me to believe I was on the right track.
By the time, I was starting to improve some, and gain back some energy, my self-image was plummeting. I put on a lot of weight at the same time I started back doing my crafts again. After a while, I was able to purchase the Straw Basket. It was a highlight in my life. I loved being artsy, and I was good at it. Customers began to take notice… my creative self was beginning to shine through again!
After thirteen years of pushing my body as much as it could be pushed, the time finally came that my health forced me to close the Straw Basket. As I locked the door for the last time, I felt like such a failure – I had to give up the one thing I KNEW I could really excel in.
It wasn’t until fours later in 2006, after fighting a chronic illness, with no name, for 35 years, I finally received a diagnosis of Fibromyalgia, and 3 years later of Celiac Disease.
As my husband and I were sitting in a doctor’s office in Atlanta, GA, we heard these words: “You really shouldn’t be sitting here in my office today – you should be dead. But it is YOUR research and all the supplements you brought in that bag today which saved your life.”
Although I was devastated by having to close the Straw Basket, I was determined not to give up! So, I turned to the Internet thinking I could learn to sell my wreaths.
I knew nothing… I mean really NOTHING! I read and studied, and worked very hard to begin selling wreaths on eBay. After a lot of hard work and research, I became well known as Ladybug Wreaths. This business was a success. I was recognized online for the BEST wreaths to be found! Within 6 months, I became a Power Seller on eBay.
That’s when I purchased my favorite book which led me to my mentor. It was “The Silent Sales Machine Hiding On eBay”, by Jim Cockrum.
Jim has been voted the most trusted, honorable, Internet Marketer online today. He is a strong Christian and does not hide his faith. This book literally lit a fire in me, as I knew God was leading me in a new direction – His direction.
I am on a very strict diet after finding there were many foods I could not eat. The three that I had to avoid at all costs were gluten, soy, and milk. And I leave off many other foods which still make me sick today.
With Jim Cockrum’s help, an amazing partner - Linda Joseph, and many followers through Facebook, my Website, Pinterest, and more…ladies have learned that I am FINALLY winning a battle against these horrible chronic illnesses. I am OVERCOMING!
I have literally received thousands of emails from these ladies wanting and needing my help. I always do whatever I can to train and encourage these ladies to grown their own businesses and begin selling online. My partner, Linda, and I have set up a membership site to support and teach “artisans”.
My business is growing by leaps and bounds. My partner and I can hardly keep up with where God is leading us. We believe God formed our partnership for a reason (we live over 1000 miles apart), and we certainly believe this is all from Him.
I suffered as I did for so many years, so I would have a heart of understanding for ladies just like me. To finally be able to encourage them to reach their dreams and goals is such a joy. It is a feeling that I can’t describe, but I know I am on God’s path; He has me here for a reason.
Congratulations on 41 years of marriage! What advice would you give to others on a lasting marriage?
I can answer this question now, but for many years I couldn’t even talk about it. You see, after a while – and for many years, my husband had a hard time believing that I was really sick. After we met our “angel” doctor in her office that day, our lives were changed forever.
My husband is a different man - I am a different woman. He gave up a lot for me. We changed churches to attend a new church together. I get up with him at 5 a.m. every morning, get a shower, dress, and put on makeup. We sit facing each other as Steve reads our devotional, and then, holding hands, we pray together before he leaves for work at 6:15. I send him out the door with a hot mug of coffee, his breakfast, and his lunch. We have a devotional, read the Bible, and pray together again each and every night.
I would have to say that praying like this together has brought us closer together than we ever thought possible. We can both say we are now truly happy. God’s blessings flow over us as our lives are changed forever. We are truly in love, and very thankful that through God, we can finally experience a marriage “made in heaven”.
You and I both share a passion for using the gifts God gave us to honor and glorify Him. On your website, you mention that your friend Molly expressed your thoughts and feelings in an amazing way: “By picking up the pieces of a broken life and putting them back together, a person cannot help but be changed. This change is a beautiful thing that results in a deeper understanding of others and their situations, and gives us a chance to share our experiences with them, showing them that there is a way out — a light at the end of the tunnel. I believe that I have not just been broken, but put back together by God in a beautiful way — a way that I could have never imagined on my own.”
That’s why I write what I write. Though I always give a happy ending, my stories aren’t fluffy. I love to see God work in the darkest of circumstances, to pick up the broken pieces of our lives.
In spite of your health problems and the painful journey to healing, you have joy in what the Lord has given you. Please share with us your life verse and how your faith has impacted you and your family.
Actually there are two that I have called on and depended on through the years:
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13
“But He said to me, My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9
Thank you for sharing your beautiful testimony with us. And thank you for inspiring my debut e-novella Bright Copper Kettles. I’m grateful that the Lord put us together on this project, even if we didn’t realize it initially.
No, thank You! God has brought us together, just as He has brought MANY amazing people into my life in these years. I am TRULY so very BLESSED!
Please visit Nancy on her website at www.ladybugwreaths.com