Masks. Ever wear one?  Maybe you think “yeah, when I was a kid, when I wanted to be like Batman or maybe to that costume party a few years back.”  But how about today?  Sometimes, do you feel like you have to  wear a mask for something that happened to you in the past?  Last night?  Last week?  Last year?  Do you change your mask like you change your shoes? Can you imagine what it would be like for just a minute, to be in a world where it didn’t matter what you do for a living, where you live, who you hang out with or what kind of car you drive?  Masks are great because we can pretend to be someone else or hide from something.  And I’m sure there are plenty of you out there who wear one often.  Maybe just won’t admit it.

Having conversations around our house are colorful.  It requires communication skills not taught in the classroom, especially when you have two parents, two teens, a grandparent and a dog, all living under the same roof. Oftentimes, things get “lost in translation,” at least when I’m communicating or rather, telling someone about something.  I’d bet you have a similar story.  Best intentions come out of my mouth wrong…with my husband, kids, mother, sister, friends and acquaintances.  Communicating is a skillset developed over time to convey to people what’s on our mind, yet sometimes we lose an important detail: filters.  Words easily fly out of my mouth wrong and I hurt people whom I love, even when I have the best intentions. Feedback from my closest loved ones has revealed I can be rude, short, talk down to or be downright sarcastic.  OUCH!  That hurts.  Anyone out there relate?  I could name quite a few more adjectives but time to move on.

In June, our nephew Stephen came for a visit to California.  While he was here, he wanted to help us consider a new way of thinking about 180living.  Get down to who we are.  A laser-focused mission statement.  We knew it was going to be more than just a 15-minute “gather-around-the-firepit” kind of discussion.  It would require two opinionated and passionate business owners having to sit down and get on the same page. Be in concert with one another. Harmonize.  Oh boy.

For those unfamiliar with our story, in a nutshell, Kevin (the guy who birthed and launched 180living, and my husband) and I (the gal behind the scenes doing the non-glamorous financial stuff), have run a faith-based apparel company since 2005.  In spite of ourselves, we have done OK; operating our company from our house while raising two kids and opening up our home to have my 91-year old mother join our colorful cast of Sumners.  We are an expressive and talkative family. And everyone has an agenda.

So, you ask, what’s behind the 180 and what does 180living even mean?  Stephen asked us both thought-provoking questions, he reeled us both in as we have a tendency at times to be different in our thoughts, our approaches, our tastes, our ways of doing things. Yet, one thing we agree upon is this:  180living is turning your life around from a setback to a comeback.  And we can all agree that life is full of them.  Hence, 180living.   

As we mulled over more about why we do what we do with our apparel designs, we confidently agreed that everyone in life experiences setbacks.  Setbacks are not permanent and don’t define us.  They are temporary.  Our designs are birthed from some reflection on setbacks when we have come through some difficult times. Or they evolve through inspiration when we have reached our peak and things are good (comeback). We desire to communicate the basic premise of faith, hope and love.  We strive to say it's OK to be authentic because life is a journey of ups, downs and all arounds. And what better way than to wear it, share it, live it.

When Stephen visits, he always goes shopping in the warehouse (aka: garage) for a couple of new shirts.  When I dropped him off at the airport to catch his plane back home, he was wearing one of our newer designs, SPEAK.

I felt an urge to snap a picture. In Ephesians 4:15, it’s conveys to speak the truth in love.  WOW!  It hit me like a ton of bricks.  I felt God speaking directly to me because you see, I’m one of those who is never wrong, or at least I think I’m always right. Did I ever need a dose of the humbling message right before my very eyes!  Even when my opinion differs, there is a way to communicate in love.  In a calm and loving tone. With grace. I have been wearing the defensive mask and was hiding behind it.  

Humbled, God planned not only to have a wonderful week with our nephew, but there was a plan to gently nudge me to consider that it’s time for me to take off my mask.  Being right all the time (uhm me?) is that I must learn not to be defensive when I’m wrong.  Humble pie.  Big slice.  So, my mask came off, well, at least for today.  When I want to stand my ground on being right when wrong, I’m reminded to admit I’m wrong and speak with words of love and encouragement.  A good lesson. 

Only mask I’m going to wear today will be a facial mask.  How about you?  Sue



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