My about to be fiancé, Mike Sweeney, sought my mother’s permission for my hand in marriage. She knew I would say YES! She also knew I wouldn’t want to register for the same plates every other girl chose who was engaged that December. So my mother gave the gift of a set of unpainted, unfinished, unfired bisque dishes to me. They sat on my kitchen table for months because I had no idea what to paint or how to paint them…I was terrified. Then my mother gave the same gift she gave to me throughout my childhood - the courage to “just get started for cryin' out loud!” and the confidence to fail- “ you’ll learn something great no matter what, so failure is in your head.” I painted those dishes and learned that I loved the process. I wanted to paint piles more as gifts for friends.
Cabells Designs – About Us
Cabells Designs – about us
Cabells designs – about us
The next gifts. On our first Christmas morning as a married couple, Sweeney woke me up with the presentation of a puppy and a kiln. I began painting bisque in the corner of our hallway, glazing on our kitchen counters and firing in the kiln on our back porch. Teaching second grade by day and painting into the wee hours of the night became a familiar routine. I couldn’t believe people other than my mom and friends wanted the stuff I made- and they were willing to trade real money for it! Orders continued and even overwhelmed. I spent weekends at craft fairs with makeshift shelving and a fanny pack as a cash register.
Another gift came in the form of a friendship that has been as significant as a marriage in my life. Enter the gift of Susan Peterson. We became friends as we served together in our local Young Life area in North Atlanta. I gave her a few handmade gifts and she was always so encouraging. One night, in tears, I spilled my heart to a room of friends. I knew Sweeney was about to try to pay our power bill and would soon discover I had just spent close to our last $500 on paint and supplies. I had quit teaching. I was running this business out of our personal checking account… I use the words running and business very loosely. I was tired and overwhelmed and couldn't bring myself to ask my mom to “invest in a promising new start-up” AGAIN that month. Susan and her husband Todd laid in bed the night of my emotional surge praying for me and wondering if they were called to help in some way. I soon brought “my numbers” to The Petersons for us all to review. What that really looked like was showing up with a shoebox of receipts to a dinner with friends who wanted to love in any way possible. Susan and Todd sensed a prompting from God to walk beside friends more than they ever saw a favorable business opportunity. Susan and I became business partners. But it is her friendship that is worth more to me than gold.
Since that night there are more stories of triumphs and tears than you could read in hours. There have been more people who came along side us and gave more of themselves, their time, their talents and treasure than we could have ever have been bold enough to ask for. More than any one person should be given in a lifetime.
Today, because of our partnership with Magnolia Lane, Cabell’s Designs is a company holding collegiate licenses for over 40 Universities and has put more than 3,500 products in more than 4,500 stores nationwide. That humbles both Susan and me to our cores. To say we are grateful is an understatement; awestruck, dumbfounded…reverent seems more fitting.
In the 12th chapter of Luke, Scripture reminds us to whom much has been given, much will be required. Much has been given to us. It is our desire to live our lives and conduct our business in reflection of all that we have been given. Not just in this business, but in all we've been given in life, in love, in relationships, in faith and in salvation. We want to live out of the knowledge that this life is so fleeting and "the only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love". (Galatians 5:6)
Susan and I hope you sense faith expressing itself through love today,
Over 10 years ago my husband, “Sweeney” and I sat in Todd and Susan Peterson’s living room and Todd said, “Cabell, close your eyes and tell me what your dream job is. Forget about how to get there, just tell me the dream.” My response was, “I want to walk through my garden to a studio where I design and make gifts for people all day. I want the gifts I design to be more than just products in the marketplace; I want those gifts to be part of celebrations and the making of memories.” These few About Us sentences could never contain all the prayer, work and tears - the life spent and love shared from that moment until today. But that dream I hoped for is pretty much the reality of my job. I work in a quaint studio tucked inside the coolest neighborhood coffee shop called Swift & Finch. And I do get to create and design things that lots of people give as heartfelt gifts. Some days I pause and think, “Who am I that this is the life I get to live?” I am humbled to do this for a living. I am blown away that I get to do it with my best friend and business partner, Susan Peterson. Both are tremendous gifts.
About seven years ago my husband’s job with Young Life brought us to Rome, Georgia. After a year here Sweeney was diagnosed with cancer and so began an 18 month battle with Melanoma. Sweeney died in March of 2009 at the age of 35. I won’t even try to summarize the kind of man he was, the marriage we shared, the journey of cancer, or the way our friends carried us through in a few sentences. It would be an injustice. If you want to read more you can visit www.caringbridge.org/visit/mikesweeney
My yellow lab named Penley and I live in a little gray cottage that is almost completely engulfed by flowers. I am involved with the flourishing ministry of Young Life which allows me to share life with the high school folks, college leaders and dear friends who are a part of it. I am grateful for the life I have been given. It has not always been easy, but it is rich and deep… full of love and of joy and of God’s faithfulness. Thank you for caring enough to read this, thank you for buying our products. I am beyond grateful. A little more insight into things I love and believe in:
Caringbridge.org/visit/mikesweeney and Ryanlong.com
I am a wife to Todd and a mom to Hannah and Zachary. Those are my greatest passions in life. And because I know that we really aren’t guaranteed anything in this life, the fact that I have a family I love and a best friend with whom I love to work and play is more than humbling. It is overwhelming. My job at Cabell’s Designs is life giving and purposeful. I love it. It really does help me celebrate life every day. And when there’s extra time after work, I am also passionate about a few other things….
Young Life and teenagers in my community and around the world, The Karama Collection and finding real ways to help the poor, The Seed Company and bible literacy and translation , and Passion City Church, the most amazing church I’ve ever been a part of.
I also really love to plant things, cook yummy food, and have people over all the time. Life is full at our house, but I kind of like it that way.
If you want to read more about the things I care deeply about, please do!