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100 Dresses

This little business/side-hustle of mine, Emily Mabry Creative, started as a little idea, and has blossomed into an absolute dream come true – right before my eyes. Having friends, friends of friends, and even strangers message or contact me to order custom lettering art or ask me to do some photography for them is honestly one of the most special feelings in the world. I have always had a heart for creating and giving things to others… just ask my family!

Every single Christmas, I was known to spend the weeks of December hiding up in the playroom, crafting and creating handmade gifts for our family of 6. From crocheting to knitting, painting wooden bead bracelets to handwriting books, to painting bible verse canvases for every family member (oh and don’t forget the handmade cards I would make, too) …. you could say I tried and did it all. I have always had a love for crafting, and now that I think of it, just plain and simple, creating things!

Hence, Emily Mabry Creative.

It really is crazy to see how God weaves the little parts and quirks of our souls to give us our own special character and personality, unique only to us. We truly are “beautifully and wonderfully made,” and one of a kind.

As I have watched this little business take off right before my eyes, spending most of my extra time writing papers for grad school and creating art and lettering pieces for customers, I couldn’t help but think back to one of my most vivid memories of childhood.

Have you ever had one of those moments where you remember a childhood memory so vividly, one that has just stuck with you forever?

Well, here’s mine. A memory that, unbeknownst to me at the time, has forever shaped and changed me.

In the Third Grade, with my favorite teacher of all time – Mrs. Wood – we read this book titled The 100 Dresses by Eleanor Estes. Long story short, we had a class contest where we all got to create and design a dress of any fashion, but we had to write a short story to go along with it to explain why we created it the way we did. All I remember is that the dress I created was full of all kinds of vibrant colors, and that I wrote about how I wanted the wearer to “feel happy” when she put it on. In my class, I was definitely not one of the “cool fashion girls,” if anything, I was just the “nice and athletic girl” who was known for wearing the same three hammy-down shirts every week (because I liked the colors - just ask my mom) and who liked to go play soccer and race all of the boys at recess. Thus, I never thought for a minute that I would even have a chance at winning the contest.

Well, low and behold, I walked into class the next morning, and saw the most beautiful and shiny blue 1st place ribbon on top of my colorful dress design. I will never forget the feeling of pride and joy that welled up inside my heart, as all of my classmates congratulated me and “oohed and ahed” at my 1st place dress, hanging high up on the wall for everyone to see.

Something in me changed that day, and Mrs. Wood instilled in me a confidence that I had truly never had before. Mrs. Wood is the reason I originally wanted to be a teacher, the reason I love lettering (because she taught me cursive, and always told me I had the most beautiful handwriting), and the reason I now love to create things.

But despite this vivid memory of winning that dress design contest, I honestly couldn’t remember what the story was about, so just the other day I went and looked up a little summary on Wikipedia:

“The book centers on Wanda Petronski, a poor and friendless Polish-American girl. Her teacher, outwardly kind, puts her in the worst seat in the classroom and she does not say anything when her schoolmates tease her. One day, after Wanda's classmates laugh at her funny last name and the faded blue dress she wears to school every day, Wanda claims to own one hundred dresses, all lined up in her closet at her worn-down house. This outrageous and obvious lie becomes a game, as the girls in her class corner her every day before school, demanding that she describe all of her dresses for them. She is mocked, and her father, Mr. Petronski, decides that she must leave that school.

The teacher holds a drawing contest in which the girls are to draw dresses of their own design. Wanda enters and submits one hundred beautiful designs. Her classmates are in awe of her talent and realize that these were her hundred dresses. The students who teased her feel remorse and want her to know this, but they are not sure how. They decide to write her a kind letter and send it to her old address, hoping the post office can forward it. Unfortunately, she has already moved away and does not realize she won the contest. The girls realize that they misjudged Wanda, and feel incredibly guilty for never believing her stories of her "one hundred dresses." In the end, the girls write a letter to Wanda, hoping to make amends, and they are pleasantly surprised by her willingness to forgive.

Nevertheless, Wanda's lovely nature and kind heart are revealed later when she tells the teacher to give the students the drawings.”

After reading through this summary of this wonderful book, I was in awe at the beautiful story line and lessons taught to us back in the third grade. But also, it is so crazy to me to think that I, the little girl who wasn’t known for being the “cool fashion girl” or the “artist” in the class, ended up winning the class contest – first place. I will never forget walking into school that morning, expecting to not place at all, and seeing that beautiful blue ribbon tacked onto my vibrant, colorful dress design – with my writing piece to go with it as to why I created it as I did.

What’s your "100 Dresses" moment?

It’s these little moments that make and shape us into who we are as adults. I pray that you can think back to your fondest childhood memories, where an adult took the time to love and pour into your own talents and dreams, and you might just see that you are capable of so much more than you could possibly imagine. All it takes is someone believing in and encouraging you. I had Mrs. Wood back then, my family and friends over the years, and my incredibly supportive husband now – to always lift me up and believe in me. Who is your Mrs. Wood? Who are you being a “Mrs. Wood” to? I hope and pray we can always be encouragers of one another and build others up to be just who God created them to be, no one else. In a world full of criticizing and tearing down, why don’t we be the lights that encourage and build up?

Just like the 100 Dresses story, let’s learn from Wanda and stay true to who we are, and always show others the same love and kindness that our Heavenly Father has shown to us, no matter what. There will always be loud opinions and discouraging people in this world, but we don’t have to be one of those.

Let’s be like Wanda. Like Mrs. Wood.

Encourage and build up. Don't tear down.

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