By Rachel A. Clingen
"He has filled them with skill to do every sort of work done by an engraver or by a designer or by an embroiderer in blue and purple and scarlet yarns and fine twined linen, or by a weaver—by any sort of workman or skilled designer” (Exodus 35:35 ESV).
As far as design, color, texture, and all things pretty go, not much has changed over the course of my life. From as long as I can remember, it was pretty clear to me (and to my teachers) that math and the sciences were not my thing, so much so that my compassionate, grade nine science teacher offered to give me the credit even though my marks were not worthy of such achievement. At the end of the semester and just before reports were handed out, dear Mr. Hawkins, smiled and said to me, “Rachel, since I am quite confident your future does not include an occupation using the sciences, I will give you the credit.” Totally undeserving of this kind gesture, I sighed the biggest sigh of relief. I couldn’t imagine trying to comprehend the periodic table one more time. I wasn’t really sure whether it was me he felt sorry for or himself, should he have to go through one more semester trying to explain to me once again how to combine metals and gases. I was one step closer to my eventual career which would utilize what I did comprehend, design and the arts. I am a daydreamer of sorts, with an imagination that ran wild. I always pondered the next combination of clothing I would wear, how the furniture in my bedroom should be arranged, and what new color I could convince my parents to let me paint the room. I always knew I would like to pursue some type of creative profession. It was pretty clear I wasn’t one of those “academic achievers” when it came to math and science, but you can be sure I came alive in every art and social studies course I took. Isn’t it amazing how intricately different the Master Designer, our Creator has made us?
It’s hard to believe just how the God of heaven has orchestrated the course of my life. My journey has been full of the highs and lows of life and through them all, God has been faithful in demonstrating His relentless love for me. My name is Rachel Clingen and my story starts in Sault Ste. Marie, a small town in northern Ontario. The good news of Jesus and His plan of salvation were presented to me on many occasions in my childhood days. I am thankful that God used Christian parents and a Bible teaching church to reveal to me my need of a relationship with Christ, but it was at a Christian camp, that my soul was stirred about needing a Savior. As a young girl in a little cabin in the bush, I accepted and received the greatest gift ever…forgiveness of sins. This is pertinent to the weaving of the tapestry for the remainder of both my personal and professional life.
There are many challenges in life, regardless of whether we have trusted Christ or not. Shortly after this moment of salvation, I learned that my thirty-eight-year-old, vibrant, creative, and passionate mother was full of cancer. As we watched her pass from this life here on earth, I was overcome with fear for our future and a sense of deep sorrow and loneliness. Yet the comfort of knowing she was safe in the arms of Jesus and free from pain were enough to sustain me through that difficult time. I wondered. “How could this be part of God’s plan?” From then on and through my teen years, life had its moments of joy and difficulty. Although I went through a season of rebellion in those teen years, I can also attest to a heavenly Father who was faithful to bring restoration upon my repentance. God’s restoring love is relentless, regardless of our performance. It’s a concept foreign to human nature, but I have experienced this love and come into the good of it, time and time again. The joy that came from honoring God with my life became a reality to me. I learned I was happiest when I lived for Him and not myself. For this reason I continued to be very public about my relationship with God, even later in my professional life.
Then I met my life partner and best friend, David, just another reminder of God’s care and provision for me. Against a few odds and a few “nay sayers” (we were only twenty-one-years-old), we embarked on what we both believed was God’s will for our lives and were engaged. I had applied to a few different programs in college, but not having a peace about any of them, I decided to enter the work force for a time until I figured out what I would like to do. I love people, I love interacting and hearing their stories and so it was soon evident that my position at the bank would involve customer relations. Newly engaged, David and I started to plan a wedding in my home town, Sault Ste. Marie. Since he and his brother John had started a small tent company at the time, we were excited to host our wedding in a tent.
We quickly encountered a few planning challenges when it came to the decor and design for our wedding. It was too pricey to hire vendors from Toronto, and the “Soo” had many limitations when it came to pretty things for our tent. Our first wedding assignment was, in fact, our own. I’m not sure what we were thinking, but with a little creativity and ambition, we tackled our first floral and decor project. And so with this new “experience” under our belts and all the sourcing for wedding decor products, it invoked in me a desire to create beautiful environments for weddings for others and maybe, just maybe, we could make a go of a business in this field. Excitement mounted as I contemplated the reality of a career making pretty things! Convincing David we should take a crack at this wasn’t difficult. He is just like that…loving and supportive of every crazy idea I come up with. His experience in the the tent business did us well and was instrumental in the development of our current businesses.
Believing God was directing our paths in this way, on a sunny day in 1992, David and I headed down to Toronto to register our little business. We’ve come a long way from meeting people at their homes with a box of flowers…I still can’t believe I did that! Currently, we design the floral and decor for over two hundred and fifty weddings a year and we have been blessed to receive awards within the industry. I am thankful that God has allowed me to utilize my personality and creativity in a career. Somehow, we have a special niche in the luxury wedding market under the umbrella of two businesses. It can be easy to fall into the trap of self accolades, especially when people compliment our work, to think, “Look what I’ve accomplished. Look how creative I am.” But I am ever reminded of the One who made me and has placed these creative traits in me in the first place. So I love to share how Jesus has blessed us, how our faith in God has shaped our lives, and that includes our business. Oh yes, it is true. I am certainly passionate about flowers, colors, fashion, and design, but I am more passionate about the fact that I have been forgiven! I am not embarrassed about my faith and want to be defined, not by what I do, but by the One who has blessed me. I often tell people, “What I do for a living does not define who I am because it is so temporal, so dependent on circumstances. Just think about it—a bad recession, sickness, so many circumstances can happen that could prevent me from doing what I love and then what? Who am I then? I’ll tell you who I am. I am a redeemed child of the God of heaven and I do what He alone has allowed me to do. I am not the master of my ship. In the end, it is my heavenly Father, my God, who is responsible for it all!” I am often reminded of those high school days, and all the dreaming about what ever I would do with my life, and when I do, I am so very thankful I will never have to use the periodic table to make a living! Isn’t God kind like that?
“For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11).