My soap-making journey isn’t just about producing soap with good quality ingredients. Instead, it is a reminder to me of where I came from and where I am now. It is a story of the triumph over tragedy, and the joy of living in a hope filled life.
I began making soap at one of the darkest times in my life. I was deep in the trenches of a marriage riddled with domestic violence. Soap-making transported me away from his mantra about my worthlessness. The essential oils wafting through the house soothed my war-torn spirit. Creating something with my hands enhanced my self-worth. Seeing the fruit of my labors sell was a boost to my confidence. But, when customers returned with glowing reports about the products I had created, I began crossing a chasm of hopelessness, realizing I could add value to the lives of others. This was a foreshadowing of hope during such darkness.
Gaining confidence and developing a skill-set, however, put me at a higher risk for harm in this marital context. I would soon have to part with my newly acquired goats to ease the conflict created by my fledgling business. Autonomy, confidence, and financial independence act as a fuel for the fire of domestic violence. To decrease the conflict, the goats had to go. My children stood crying as the critters they bottle fed and loved were carted off down the road with their new owners. I felt like a part of me left with those goats.
I continued to make soap using the resources available to me. I used cow’s milk instead. My little business continued. But, bad became worse as the violence escalated. Survival required a restraining order and legal action.
It was there, in the middle of dreadful circumstances, that I discovered a transformation taking place in my life, a transformation not all that different than the soap I was making. The soap making process is symbolic for me. It tells the story of my transformation through tragedy. The story of triumph over hopelessness is retold every time I make a batch of soap.
To make soap, I needed a caustic soda called lye. This chemical all by itself is hazardous. But, when joined with oils, it becomes a catalyst. Lye then triggers a metamorphosis. After a time spent curing, the result is a beautiful luxurious bar of soap.
This difficulty with domestic violence was like a caustic soda. It was hazardous in every sense of the word. However, it would act as a catalyst when mixed with the “oils” of my character. After time of curing/healing, these hardships transformed me into a stronger person adding quality to my character.
That season of my life was full of upheaval. Yet, the success of my soap company continued to increase my self-confidence pointing to hope. It also provided a meager income. Everywhere I turned I saw this promise:
“For I know the plans I have for you…for a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11
I found this passage in a card sent by a friend to encourage me. I found it in a song sent by another friend to lift my spirits. I even found it hanging on the wall at my physical therapist’s office as I attempt to regain use of my body after the abuse. I clung to this promise not knowing what those “plans” were. But, I could sense it involved hope that would be bright.
I would see those plans unfold in stages. The violence ultimately ended. The children and I were given a brand new start in a safe location. God gave me a tender and gentle companion underscoring the bright hope of His promises.
Ten years later, in the summer of 2015, I would see another dimension of hope I never dreamed possible. I returned to my old hometown to visit family. I learned Sierra, one of the baby does I sold on that tearful day, was still alive. My children and I eagerly loaded up in the van to pay her a visit. Sierra ran to the gate and greeted us like we were long lost friends. She put her nose to mine. It was like she knew about the promise and was waiting for this special day. The owner saw what took place and offered to sell her to me.
It took a few months to gather soap making supplies. But, the day came when I used Sierra’s milk to make soap again. It was a powerfully emotional moment for me. Sierra’s presence in my life reminded me of where I had come from. That hard journey was not in vain. My experience equipped me with a skill set. The pain and suffering enriched my life. More important, I realized I was no longer waiting in anguish for that future hope. It is a present reality.
My life and home are full of joy. My home has been free from violence for ten years. It is a true sanctuary. I am free. It is from this place of profound joy that Bright Hope Soap Works was founded.