March 22, 2021 -


How Small Dreams and Small Promises Can Lead to Big Change

Liz Forkin Bohannon

Liz Forkin Bohannon Headshot
Even though Liz Bohannon didn’t get funded on Shark Tank, she kept dreaming. One small dream at a time, she watched a global community form through her business, Sseko Designs. She shares about creating instead of always critiquing, focusing on what we are for and not against, and what she learned from a statue in the park near her house.

Episode Reflection

Invitation to Explore

Liz Forkin Bohannon invites us to think small. Oftentimes we can have big dreams and big goals that can overwhelm us or become so abstract that we fail before we begin. By thinking small and being specific, Liz shows how you can begin to make small steps in the right direction that lead to realizing big dreams. Consider your own goals and dreams. What is one small, specific action you can take to start today?

Scripture to Study

O Lord, our Lord, 
how majestic is your name in all the earth! 
You have set your glory above the heavens. 
Out of the mouth of babies and infants, 
you have established strength because of your foes, 
to still the enemy and the avenger. 
When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, 
the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, 
what is man that you are mindful of him, 
and the son of man that you care for him? 
Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings 
and crowned him with glory and honor. 
You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; 
you have put all things under his feet, 
all sheep and oxen, 
and also the beasts of the field, 
the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea, 
whatever passes along the paths of the seas. 
O Lord, our Lord, 
how majestic is your name in all the earth! (Psalm 8:1-9)

Wise Words to Consider

“So often we think big dreams and big goals and big, sexy ideas are the things that are going to keep us motivated. And for me, the bigger it gets, the more overwhelming it can get, the more discouraging it can get, also the more, like, intangible it can get. Whereas when we make things small and when we give energy and when we treat small things with a level of—when we treat them like their sacred dreams, just as sacred as important as the big ones, I actually think that they have more power.”—Liz Forkin Bohannon 

A Prayer to Lead You

Loving Father, help us to not despise small beginnings. Help us to see the goodness and sacredness of the small hopes and dreams that you have placed in our hearts. Give us a concrete vision. Guide our actions, and help us to embrace small beginnings knowing that, like the feeding of the five thousand, you can turn our small offerings into a great blessing for others. We pray in the name of our merciful and loving Savior, Jesus Christ.

A Practice to Begin

Liz mentioned being broken-hearted over the state of Christianity, how it’s been seen, received, and lived out over the last few years. And she asked of all the things Christians are known for, what if Christians were the best listeners? What if we became a community that was quick to listen and slow to take a defensive posture toward others? Like speaking or reading, listening is a skill that one can develop. Consider taking a person out to coffee to make time to listen and really hear another person’s experiences and perspectives. How might you begin to develop a practice of listening to people with a courageous openness to what they might be willing to share?

Questions to Answer

While Liz acknowledged the importance of critique, of seeing what is wrong in our society or church, she thought that it was more important to move from critique to creation and construction. Often, God might be working in us to notice faults, deficiencies and needs in our communities so that we might rise to the occasion to be part of the solution and make a positive contribution. What are some needs you see in your community or church? How might God be leading you to make a positive contribution to the common good for His glory? How might your unique gifts and talents be a blessing in an area of need?

Resources to Help

Liz Forkin Bohannon, Beginner’s Pluck: Build Your Life of Purpose and Impact Now

Julian Treasure’s Ted Talk 5 Ways to Listen Better 

Sseko Designs Together Coffee Reflective Listening Challenge


Sam Holland  0:04  

You’re listening to the Created For podcast. We believe that everyone was created to make a unique impact in the world. Created For is a podcast to explore ideas around purpose, calling, and discovering how God is inviting you to influence the world in your own way, right now. I’m your host, Sam Holland.

Liz Bohannon is the founder of Sseko Designs, a socially conscious fashion brand, and the author of “Beginner’s Pluck.” She was named a top speaker by Forbes, and a transformational leader by John Maxwell. She spends her days encouraging and equipping women to build lives and businesses of purpose and impact.

In her Created For talk in February, Liz asked, “What if instead of only dreaming big, you dream small too? What if you broke down your big dream into something small, that might involve reaching out to another human and making a friend?”

Liz, we both live in the Portland area.

Liz Bohannon  1:14  

We do.

Sam Holland  1:15  

Yes. Do you remember when we met at the Bible Project headquarters through our mutual friend, Suzy, a few years ago? That night, I turned on an old episode of Shark Tank. And there you were, pitching. Just totally coincidentally.

Liz Bohannon  1:32  

I mean, you didn’t Google, “Sseko on Shark Tank.” It just came up for you?

Sam Holland  1:39  

I promise. It was one of those really weird things. It was a channel that was showing a marathon of Shark Tank. So I guess the odds that I would see your episode were a little higher. But still.

Liz Bohannon  1:55  

That’s wild. That is so trippy.

Sam Holland  1:57  

I was like, “Oh my gosh!” So I just want to know, tell us about being on Shark Tank.

Liz Bohannon  2:03  

Oh my gosh, well, it’s so funny because one of my best friends right now, her husband just launched a kid’s toy company. It’s called FORT. By the way, – I think – it’s really awesome. But they’ve just raised a ton of money on Kickstarter. And so I think they’re thinking about Shark Tank. And she just texted me the other night and was like, “This application is insane.” And I texted her back and was like, “File this under things that I’m really glad I did when I was young.” You know, just like so fun. So much work, so much adrenaline, so many big feelings. I am so grateful for the experience, but I’m glad that I’m not gonna do it again.

Because it– yeah, it was just like everything you would imagine. It’s so intense. They quarantine you – back before that was a thing that we all knew how to do – in a motel for leading up to the filming. It’s so intense. And then you get on the show, and you have no idea how it’s gonna go. And you have no idea how they’re going to edit it. And it’s all very scary and fun and thrilling. But it was definitely an experience that I’m really glad we had. It was a big deal for our business, to get that level of exposure. And definitely one of those things that you’re like– it’s a memory maker, that’s for sure. It is a memory maker.

Sam Holland  3:23  

Did they actually decline to invest in your business on camera?

Liz Bohannon  3:27  

Yeah, we didn’t get a deal. We had one guy– we had a deal that didn’t really get aired that was really bad. And he knew it was bad and knew we wouldn’t take it basically. So we did not take a deal. If  we want to get into it – the deal for us is that we were actually raising money from real investors at the time. And so we left probably 30% of our round open, once we found out we were going to be on the show. But we already had a set valuation. We had already gone through that whole process. And by the way, once you raise money from people with a certain valuation, you can’t change it. You can’t go back and say, “By the way, we cut our valuation in half.”

And that’s what you have to do on the show, to get a deal. You know the deal – everybody goes in, they say, “This is what we’re worth,” they say “No, you’re not,” and then you negotiate. So we knew from the outset, we were probably not going to get a deal because we weren’t going to negotiate on our valuation. But we still saw it as an amazing opportunity to share the story. And so, that’s what we did and that’s what happened and it was great.

Sam Holland  4:36  

I love that that’s part of your story. It’s just fantastic. So okay, talking a little bit more about Sseko and the beginning stages in your excellent book, “Beginners Pluck,” which I devoured – it’s super readable and really funny and self deprecating. And just, my kind of a book. You talked about dreaming small. Just the opposite of what everyone else, you know– “Don’t dream big – dream small!”

And you told the story of meeting one woman in Uganda. And then, you tell the whole story. And eventually you’re back in the States and you’re selling shoes out of the back of your car. So just, drop us into those moments. What were those moments like? Were you concerned that you weren’t on the right track? Or, how did you stay sure of your calling – when you’re eating the peanut butter out of the jar and taking the cold shower? You know what I mean?

Liz Bohannon  5:38  

Yeah, I think– and I talk about this a little bit in the book, that I think it weighed– it was profoundly impactful for me, that I had started out my journey, in such a small way. That it wasn’t like, “I’m gonna go out and change a million people’s lives or bring a million people out of poverty.” It was like, “I’m gonna go to Uganda, I’m gonna make one friend.” And then that evolved into, “Okay, there’s these three girls, Mary, Mercy, and Rebecca, and I’m going to make this promise to them, I’m going to tell them that, if they promised to make sandals for the next nine months, that I promised that they’re going to go to college in the fall.”

And I think so often, we think big dreams, and big goals, and big sexy ideas are the things that’s going to keep us motivated. And for me, the bigger it gets, the more overwhelming it can get, the more discouraging it can get. Also, the more intangible it can get. Whereas when we make things small, and when we give energy, and when we treat small things with a level of– when we treat them like they’re sacred dreams – just as sacred and just as important as the big ones, I actually think that they have more power.

So for me, it was really about, “You made a promise.” There are three actual individual living breathing people, that you implicated into this story and this idea that you have, and you have a responsibility and an honor and a privilege to keep your promise. And like, “Bummer that you’re eating peanut butter, again, for the 15th time in a row. And bummer that you’re living out of your car, but at the end of the day, promises matter.” And I truly still to this day believe that a good life is really a series of making promises that actually align with our values – right? You can live a whole life making a lot of promises to a lot of people that you don’t actually believe in, or that you feel like you should be making because somebody else is asking something of you, that doesn’t actually align with your core beliefs or values. So it’s important that we’re making promises in life that are actually like, “Yes, this is who I am,” or this is – rather for me usually – it’s like, “This is who I want to be. This is the area of growth that I want to pursue.” And then keeping your promises. And then doing it, over and over and over again.

And so for me, I think it really was having relationships and having small promises there. Somewhere in the Scriptures, maybe in Jeremiah, where it kind of talks about, “Don’t despise small beginnings, for the Lord just wants– honors action, basically.” [Zechariah 4:10] That’s the Liz Bohannon version of the Bible – a little bit paraphrased – take it with a grain of salt. But that concept resonates a lot with me like, “Don’t despise smallness, because actually, be faithful in the small things.” And I deeply believe that what happens is that creates a sense of momentum that actually ends in– leads us to pretty big things.

Sam Holland 

Yeah, I’m glad you brought up that Jeremiah verse because I think you mentioned that in your Created For talk.

Liz Bohannon

Oh, there you go.

Sam Holland  8:48  

Yeah, I think you did. So it’s had an impact on you. Are there other Scriptures that you, throughout your lifetime, you’ve gone back to like that? That have reinforced your calling and your work?

Liz Bohannon  9:02  

Oh, I mean, I would probably say classic, like, Micah: “Do justice, love mercy, walk humbly with the Lord your God.” That verse hangs above my boy’s crib and is definitely a calling – the simplicity and frankness of like, “Do justice, love mercy.” And then I love that it’s followed up with, “And then, walk humbly.” Like, know your place in it all, because I think there’s also the tendency of like, “I’m doing justice and I’m loving mercy and look at me!” And instead it’s like, “No, do justice and love mercy, and also know your place in God’s big kingdom.”

And I talk about this in my book, I think the second chapter is this idea of owning your average, which is very counterintuitive to people. But it’s really just about, “You’re not the hero of the story. You don’t have to be, it doesn’t all rest on you, actually.” Like, you get to be– you are a small– but again, don’t despise small. You are a small, but really beautiful, important part of the story. But also small. And there’s this remarkable freedom that can come when we see ourselves, rightly. Not just in relationship, I think, to the Divine, but rightly in relationship to others – right? I’m no bigger or smaller than you. And my part really isn’t any more important or less important than you.

That’s something that we tell our boys – we start with, “No one on earth is more important than you.” And my four-year-old, who’s very competent is like, “Yeah, no one’s more important than me.” And then I’m like, “And you’re no more important than any other person on planet Earth.” And he’s like, “Um, that doesn’t sound as good.”

Sam Holland  10:52  

Yeah – right? “What? Mom!”

Liz Bohannon  10:53  

Totally. Yeah, like, “You’re my mom, aren’t you supposed to–?” I’m like, “I am your biggest fan. And also, you’re not more important than anybody else. You might be to me in my little mother’s heart. But in the grand scheme of things–” I think that’s what it means to truly be a child of God. Is to– once we recognize the divine within ourselves, then we have to recognize it in every other human being.

And that it manifests differently. And I believe that God created us all, uniquely, but with that fingerprint of the Divine, and once you see that, and you recognize that and you recognize that we all carry that equally, it changes the way that you see your place in the story. I think you start to move away from your illusions of grandeur – right? Like, “I’m so important. I have such an important calling, I’m so unique and special in the world. I deserve things more than other people do–” Whatever it is, you start to back away from that, but then you also start to back away from your delusions of insignificant, like, “I don’t matter, and I’m not good enough, and I suck and I’m not valuable enough, and I’m not worth it.” Both of those sides of the spectrum of untruth become more and more clear to you when you recognize, “Oh, no, we’re all just part of the whole.”

Sam Holland  12:16  

Yeah, I love that. I’ve always told my kids a version of that. I say something like, “You are way more significant than you could ever know. You are way less of a big deal than you think. Live in that tension.”

Liz Bohannon  12:32  

Yeah. Yeah.

Sam Holland  12:33  

Every day. “Live in that tension.”

That’s really good. Okay, Liz, can you tell us more about your spiritual background? Did you grow up in church?

Liz Bohannon  12:44  

Yeah. So I grew up in a family that was like culture– I would describe us growing up as culturally Catholic. So we went to Mass occasionally, and did the holidays. And both sides of my parents’ families are from Catholic backgrounds – Irish Catholic on one side, specifically. So big, big Catholic families. But I wouldn’t say it was necessarily a super integral part of growing up.

And then, I actually ended up transferring– my mom came to know the Lord when I was in middle school. And – she would say this – that she was clueless. She went to a women’s Bible study, met Jesus, and then was like, “Ahhh!” My dad wasn’t following the Lord, and she was just this new baby Christian. And so she was just like, “What do we do? I don’t know how to raise my kids with this.” And so she ended up actually really advocating that we go to a Christian school. And so she put us in a Christian school.

And I would say that was pretty foundational, primarily just in the relationship aspect of being exposed to other families. And some of my best friends – who are some of my best friends still to this day, of just starting to encounter Jesus in that way. When I went to college and had a whole different– I think I’ve always been– because I didn’t grow up in a very culturally Christian or super fundamental or legalist background, that just wasn’t really part of my story. I’ve always been really drawn to how Christians– evangelical Christian culture seems to be really against a lot of things, and me always being like, “It seems like Jesus also talks a lot about what he’s for, and creating this counter intuitive, countercultural life.” And I think that still defines me to this day – of really interested in not being defined by the things that I don’t do, but actually being defined by the things that I choose to say “yes” to, and that I’m not being defined by the way that I critique, but really engaging with being a creator.

You know, I just sent this Slack out to my friends – yesterday morning, I read– and you’ll be familiar with this being in Portland. So we live right next to this amazing public park in our city. And there’s been a statue of this guy who was famous in Portland – I think his name was Harvey Scott – I probably need to fact check that. Anyway, turns out, like a lot of people, he has a very bad history of basically being this misogynist, racist figure in the city. And for months and months and months and months, his statue keeps getting torn down. And it gets graffitied and the whole deal. We know – it’s happening all over our country.

And then I just read this article in the paper yesterday morning, that overnight, without anybody knowing where it came from – I think even who did it – this incredible – I’m gonna cry talking about it – this statue emerged. It’s a bronze portrait face. It was the only Black person on the Lewis and Clark Expedition that I think made it all the way to Oregon. And he was actually a slave. And it tells the story– it tells his story on a plaque. It’s a really, really beautiful image of his face. And the statue is just stunning. It’s beautiful. And it just appeared overnight. And the Parks and Rec people are like, “We had no idea that was happening, we don’t know who did it.” It was this rogue act in the middle of the night, someone replaced this statue with something else.

And I just was reading this article, and I just started crying. Because to me, it felt like such a literal example of the difference between– I think, critique is a necessary part of any cultural movement, and a part of being a co-creator. But we can stop just with critique and with destruction – right? Like, “That’s not good, I’m going to tear it down.” And to me, what felt so beautiful was that there’s someone out there – an artist, right? Who said, like, “That’s not good, let’s tear it down. Also, let’s replace it with something that’s more true and more beautiful, and tells a story that is more about our shared and collective humanity, that we want to honor in this space.”

And I think that’s the way of– I think that is what Jesus was about. Like, “Hey, I’m gonna come in, and I’m going to critique–” By the way, the majority of Jesus’s critique was about the most religious people – right? Like, “I’m going to come in, and I am going to critique, but I’m not stopping there. I’m inviting you into a different way of seeing creation in yourself, in the world, and come be a part of this.” And so that spirit of being a co-creator has long been embedded into my spiritual journey.

That was a rabbit trail that took us all the way up to my thoughts yesterday about my spiritual history – so there you go.

Sam Holland  18:01  

You’re still spiritual, and you’re still making history. So it fits. I love that story. I don’t know who that man is. As much as I’ve learned about Lewis and Clark, I need to look and see who that– does the article say? Who the new–?

Liz Bohannon  18:17  

Yes, it does. York. I don’t know what his first name was. But the statue says York, and I’d have to click into the article to read his whole story. But he was the only Black member of the Corps of Discovery, which I think was the Lewis and Clark Expedition.

Sam Holland  18:33  


Liz Bohannon  18:34  

Yeah. And it says this on the plaque, I guess, that he operated as a full corps member. But he was a slave. He was enslaved the whole time. And at the end of, when they made it out, it said he was a skilled hunter, negotiated trade with Native American communities and tended to the sick. And upon his return east with the Corps of Discovery, York asked for his freedom, and Clark refused his request.

So he was this full on member of the team and played a part in that 1804 expedition, but was still denied his full humanity. And I also didn’t know that story. And now I love that it’s like– that park is a sacred place to my family and to me and we go there all of the time. And it feels like such a gift to– I mean, it’s a sad and heavy story that obviously doesn’t end with a happy fairytale, but those are the stories that I think are important to make their way into our hearts and into our heads and to recognize that this is part of our shared history and collective humanity, and to be reminded of that through art on a regular basis in a place that’s really special. It feels like such a gift.

Sam Holland  19:48  

Yeah, that is a gift. Well, Liz, we’ve all had to reimagine many aspects of life and our calling and pretty much everything during this global pandemic that we’re still in. Can you tell us the story of how you pivoted at Sseko? And you added – I might get this wrong – I think you added a coffee division and also a reflective listening aspect that’s all called Together Coffee. And I’m just so interested in that. Will you tell us more about that?

Liz Bohannon  20:19  

Yeah, yeah – the origin story of Together Coffee is that last March, when COVID-19 was hitting the United States, and the fullness of– I mean, I say fullness – we had no idea. We had no idea what was ahead of us. What we knew was bad. And we knew it was gonna change things for forever. And we saw an immediate and pretty terrifying impact to our business in March. And, it’s like we sell, we’re a fashion brand. And so it’s funny – it’s not funny, it wasn’t funny at the time – but our entire social media calendar for all of the upcoming four weeks was around wanderlust and travel and, “Here’s the perfect leather carry-on bag for all your adventures, and your sandals that can be tied and six different ways for your spring break.” And then COVID-19 hit and we were really seriously questioning the viability of our business and like, “Are we going to be able to sell leather travel handbags and sandals and apparel during a global pandemic?”

And there were several weeks where we were really, really unsure about the future of our company. And we sat down– of course, we did all the things that every business owner had to do. And you go into the war room and make plans and make hard decisions and figure out your strategy, and what you’re going to do to survive.

And once we made it through that like, “Okay, what’s the survival plan?” My husband and co-founder, and I just sat back and we were like, “Okay, let’s get creative. Let’s think about– we’re not going to go out just banging our head up against the wall. If things are really bad – and they’re looking really bad – let’s just swing for the fences.”

And a really important thing for us was thinking about our Sseko fellows. So Sseko fellows are the people, primarily women across the United States that sell our product. And they’re really the engine for our company. These are women that are– most of them do it on a very part time basis. But they’re hosting Sseko trunk shows, they’re sharing the Sseko story, they’re selling the products to their friends and family. And they’re earning an income and a commission. It’s a job for them. And they are the growth engine of our company and the lifeline of our company here in the U.S. And we were like, “Okay, we know that in order for our global team to thrive–” And honestly, when you asked earlier in the show about being tied back to your mission and your purpose and your why, I would say COVID-19 was such a gift for us in that sense, in the sense that it really called us back to, “Why are we doing what we’re doing?”

Because the first question that we’re asking is like, “We’re facing a global pandemic, which means our economy is gonna tank, it could potentially be dangerous–” We didn’t know back then what we were dealing with, but then really thinking about our global family. We face very, very real challenges here in the United States, but we know that our brothers and sisters across the world face seismically different challenges. And we know that when crisis happens, that the folks that are already the most vulnerable, and marginalized become more vulnerable and more marginalized. And while we’re scrambling and trying to figure out how to apply for an SBA loan to keep our business afloat, we know that our brothers and sisters in Uganda– that’s not a thing, there’s not a safety net, literally, if they don’t get paid next week, they might not be able to feed their family. And there’s not a safety net, there’s not a backup, there’s nothing to fill in that gap. Our community – our global community – is the safety net.

And that– man that will just kick you into gear. When you’re just like, “This is it. We are not messing around.” And what we saw were its devastating impacts in the fashion industry specifically. Massive brands that saw their sales decline. And so canceled, you know, millions, hundreds of millions of dollars worth of orders that had already been made. That didn’t end up getting paid for – that just leaves garment workers and those that are the most vulnerable in the supply chain, in literally life or death situations where it’s like, “I don’t have money to feed my family now. I can’t keep my kids in school.”

And so for us, it was like, “We’re not just having fun. We’re not messing around. This is our community. And this is our family. So we’re going to go into go mode and figure out how we keep the whole ship afloat,” specifically for our global community. Which meant we had to answer the question for our local community of making sure that they had a product and a business that made sense during a global pandemic. That they could sell, that they can earn a reoccurring revenue on. And we didn’t know if our product line could still do that anymore. Spoiler alert, it did. And fashion sales have been great and retail therapy is very real.

Sam Holland  25:39  

People still buy clothes?

Liz Bohannon  25:41  

Oh, yeah.

Sam Holland  25:42  

I’m shocked.

Liz Bohannon  25:43  

They do.

Sam Holland  25:43  

I don’t know where they’re wearing them.

Liz Bohannon  25:46  

I don’t know where they’re wearing them either, but I deeply identify. Think about it. We’re not spending money. We’re not going out to eat. We’re not going to go have a glass of wine with our girlfriends. We’re not getting any petties. We’re not traveling. There’s something very real about the dopamine hit that comes from like, “At least I’ll look cute, or I’ve got this beautiful new bag for whenever that time comes.” That is very real.

But we didn’t know that. We didn’t know that.

So long story short, we launched a fair-trade coffee company in like, four weeks. And really what we did is we just leaned in really, really heavily and listened and really just tried to imagine our customer and what she was experiencing, her new life. Thinking about the fact like, “Oh my gosh.” Her husband just got laid off. She’s working full time. She’s got three kids in elementary school. Now she’s accidentally a teacher, like, she had no– you know, she’s managing virtual learning for her kids. And where she used to have this job where she dropped the kids off at school and she’d drive into the office, and she’d have these little breaks in her day. And maybe she would once a week, stop at the fancy coffee shop and get a nice latte for herself. And all of those little luxuries were gone.

And so the idea was, “Can we instead of a big luxury like a nice new leather handbag, can we create a tiny luxury?” Something that everyday she gets to interact with, she gets to feel like, “Oh my gosh, this is just, it’s beautiful.” It’s really high quality, the packaging is amazing, it smells incredible, really, really high quality and this feeling of luxury, and also impact and knowing that, “I’m also making an impact. That this cup of coffee that I’m brewing – something I’m going to do every day – is making this beautiful impact in the world.”

And so in like four weeks, we launched this coffee company. It was wild. Ben and I felt like we were back in college. We were pulling all nighters. And you know, designing the logo. I went next door– one of my best friends lives right next door to us, and she used to be a designer at Adidas, and so– we have this elephant mask, or statue that we bought when we were traveling in Thailand that hangs above our kitchen table. And I hauled the mask over to her house. And I was like, “This is our inspiration.” And in like six hours in the middle of the night, we designed a logo together.

And it was such a wild trippy thing and got this product to market in less than a month. And watched as both the coffee definitely took off and had success but how that also just galvanized our whole community around our core business. And thanks to a lot of pluck, a lot of hard work and a lot of late nights, and also I would say the grace of God, Sseko had a banner year. We grew really significantly, we were able to keep every single member of our global supply chain employed.

And not only that, we were actually able to grow our employment in Uganda. I just got last week, I got to do a live call. It was so fun. It was 6 AM in Portland, so it was a little bit early, but with our community of fellows who had joined during this time, where we just got to do a live Facebook call. And we hired 13 in the midst of a pandemic, we hired 13 new women to our team in Uganda.

And so this is one of my favorite things that I get to do is connect the women here that sell the product, with the women there that make the product, so they can see how their lives are impacting one another. And how they’re inspiring each other. And how we’re building this thing. And it was amazing, just hanging out with your 13 co-workers. They’re sitting in our workshop with like– we’re in a blizzard, and they’ve got beautiful palm trees behind them. And we’re sharing stories and laughs and getting to connect to one another. So it was a really, really incredible year of growth, but also a community that was showing up for one another and taking care of each other. Which was really beautiful to see.

Sam Holland  29:41  

What a great story. Connecting women globally, like that.

So, okay. My name is Samantha, it means listener. And I have a Cru podcast that I host for staff, by staff. And it’s called “Listener,” and listening is a big deal to us and that community. So tell us about the reflective listening part of Together Coffee.

Liz Bohannon  30:08  

Yeah. So I have become really passionate about listening in the last couple years. I will say honestly, of course, reflective listening as a general principle, I was aware of. I’m sure for years like, “Oh, yeah, reflecting, you know, being a good listener as a general concept.” But it was actually really transformational, being religious and militant about reflective listening.

It started out honestly, in our marriage. Where with my husband Ben and I, because we both also really love to talk. And we really love to be right. And we really love to argue, and we come in guns blazing. And so we got into a habit where, when things would get dicey, and it just felt like, “Oop, someone’s not listening anymore.” Or usually, it was both of us at the same time, we pulled out literally, the rules of reflective listening. And I mean, it’s stringent – right? Here’s the four things that you’re allowed to say, to open the conversation, and then your partner shares. And here are the three things– here are your three options for ways that you can follow up with that – right? And the whole goal is to not win the argument, but just to keep your partner talking and to gain intimacy and understanding and to really hear one another, and to create those spaces.

And so it really started out on a personal level. And I started becoming like, evangelical about it. I’m texting people like, “Are you doing reflective listening? Are you doing this with your partner? Are you doing this with your kids? Are you having conversations following the–?” I mean, we had ours up on the fridge. I kept a version of it on my phone. So I could just very quickly be like, “Wait, I gotta get my rule sheet out.” And it feels so forced at first – so dorky that you have to rely on this piece of paper to tell you how to be a good listener. But it was so powerful.

And it got me thinking about how helpful it would be as a culture, if that was something that we did. If we came to the table, and we were more interested in learning and in understanding than we were in defending ourselves and in proving ourselves right. Just in general in culture, but I think I was specifically mindful of that conversation, specifically with historically marginalized voices in our community. Also at the time – it was last summer. So this is when everything is happening as it relates to Black Lives Matter.

And there was just, so much debate. And there was so much anger, and wondering of like, “Oh, my gosh, what if we were defined as a people and as a country and as a community of wild listeners, that we’re just so willing–?” You know, I was watching– and again, I think we’re all pretty much not great listeners. I think we have to learn how to do it like anything else, and we have to practice it. But I think what I saw was a real swell of white, and specifically white Christians, who were so quick to say, “No, no, here’s why that’s not wrong. Here’s why all lives matter. No, no, here’s why I’m not a bad white person.” And it just struck me that it’s like, there’s no– you’re jumping so fast to defending yourself, that the broken heart and the cry of an entire people is being lost and silenced.

Because you literally can’t shut your mouth for long enough just to say, and this is one of the lines in reflective listening that my husband and I say to each other, like, “That sounds really painful. Can you tell me more?” Or, “I see how I could have contributed to that. Can you tell me more?” And just watching on an individual level how powerful that can be between two individual people. And I think my imagination just sparking, like, “What if that was it?”

And of course, you know, Sseko is not– we’re not a Christian company. Like Ben and I follow Jesus and I don’t even really know what that means. But whatever I’ve big other thoughts on that. But I think my heart and my desire of– I have been very brokenhearted, frankly, by the state of the church over the last year, but really over the last– I would say, we’ve had a fundamental shift in the state of Christianity – how Christianity is seen and received and lived out over the last four or five years. And frankly, my heart has been completely broken by our confusion between what I think is the way of Jesus and what I would define as white Christian nationalism.

And just of all of the things that Christians are defined by and known by right now in our culture, just asking this question of like, “What if we were just the best listeners?” Like, “What if we were the ones that were willing to not defend ourselves and to shut up for a second?” And to just say, “That sounds so painful? Can you tell me more?” Like what type of transformation would that bring?

So we launched something called the Together Coffee Reflective Listening Campaign where we literally sent out– we made these reflective listening cards, sent them out with every single order of coffee that went out. If you ordered coffee, whether you asked for it or not, you got a card teaching you how to reflective– how to listen with a challenge of like, “Hey, invite someone to coffee, who one, has a background that’s different than yours that might be hard to hear. And two, ideally, that comes from a background that probably doesn’t have as much of a platform or hasn’t been given as much space to share their experience and invite them to coffee. And just ask them these questions.” And that’s the catch. It’s like, you don’t get to share your opinion. You don’t get to defend, you don’t get to say why it’s wrong. All you get to do is say, “Tell me more.” And being imaginative about what that could create in our culture, in our community.

Sam Holland  36:15  

It’s really hard to do, isn’t it? But it’s really powerful. Like you said.

Liz Bohannon  36:21  


Sam Holland  36:22  

Liz, as we wrap up, if you just had one invitation for followers of Jesus that are listening right now, who want to step into their calling, what would that one invitation be?

Liz Bohannon  36:37  

You know, I might go back to the beginning of the show, and say, do not despise small beginnings. Just start small, but don’t be ashamed of starting small. Have gusto and have fervor and treat your small tiny dreams that might not feel very impressive to anybody else, treat them like they are sacred, beautiful little dreams to be stewarded. And with gusto and with vision and with excitement, even if nobody else understands. I think I read an Instagram post the other day that said I think it was from – who was it? Bob St. James, maybe? I would need to fact check that That said, “It’s okay if other people don’t understand your calling. It wasn’t given on a conference call.” Something to that effect of like, “It’s okay if other people don’t get it.” Treat it with gusto and excitement and go do the thing that you feel like you were created to do. And do not despise small beginnings.

Sam Holland  37:40  

Do not despise small beginnings. Do you have one small dream? Are you stewarding it like the sacred gift from God that it is? What’s one small step you can take to pursue your calling? One that might involve someone you already know or meeting someone new.

Created For is hosted and produced by Cru. If you enjoyed this episode, subscribe, rate or review it wherever you listen.

For more resources to continue your journey to living out your impact, check out the show notes on our website and follow us on Instagram at _createdfor. Thanks for listening.

We’ll catch you again on the next episode with Dave Robbins, where we’ll talk about practical ways to stay connected to God as you live out your calling.

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