A Month In Review: December

December_2017

Merry Christmas and happy (almost) New Year!

It was another great month of lettering goodness! Lots learned and lots to celebrate, so I’ll just jump right in:

Reasons to Celebrate

  • I exceeded my book sales goal for 2017.
  • I sold more prints and books this month than any other month EVER.
  • I got all my workshops for February and March scheduled.

What I Learned and How I’m Gonna Grow

  • I learned that creating custom orders for people in December is really challenging. I  had way more Etsy sales than I planned for (thank you!), so I was working a lot more on the retail side of things. Thankfully, I didn’t have a ton of custom orders, so they all got fulfilled and it was fine. But, trying to communicate efficiently with clients during this time of year, which is chaotic for EVERYONE, is a bit more difficult. I think next year my custom order cutoff for the year will be mid-November.
  • I learned that I want to do more pop-up events and art fairs next year – especially during the Christmas season.
  • I learned that I need to get better at pricing my products and that I need to come up with more product ideas besides just prints and the book. I have a few ideas already, but I’m open to suggestions. 😉

Anyway…

Thanks for reading and to those of you who have purchased from my shop or signed up for a class… an extra big, special thank you goes out to you! If it weren’t for you, I wouldn’t be able to do this for a living!

Also, I want to remind you all that free shipping on books, signed books, and discounted shipping on prints ends when 2017 ends, so get those orders in if you want to take advantage of those special holiday perks that will be going away for a looooong time! Click HERE to shop!

❤ Lauren

Life lessons of 2017

I’ve been reflecting a lot on the past year. My weekly #IbachThenAndNow series on Instagram has especially been causing me not to just look back on my lettering progress, but how I’ve grown in my faith and what the Lord has been teaching me over the past few years. So, in honor of this year coming to a close, I felt inspired to share what God has been teaching me in 2017 here on the blog.

Avoiding Confrontation

2017 had an interesting start and impacted my entire year moving forward.

I was just three months into my marriage and I had just started doing hand lettering professionally as my side-hustle. My husband, Luke, was starting a new job, was coming up on his 1-year anniversary of being diagnosed with a chronic illness, and was getting ready to start a new medication.

I was struggling to approach God in prayer and in Bible study. I knew this, but for some reason I was avoiding that one-on-one time with God and every day I told myself, “I’ll sit down and have quiet time with him tomorrow,” or next week, or when BSF started up again… I had so many excuses and to this day, I still don’t know why I was ignoring the battle that was going on in my heart.

Wake Up Call

laurenibachWithin the first few weeks of 2017, Luke became very ill. I didn’t think it was a big deal at first, but when I heard he’d need to be admitted into the hospital if he didn’t show signs of improvement in a matter of days, I had a meltdown. At that point, the doctors would consider his illness to be potentially life threatening.

I remember hearing this news over the phone, hanging up and sitting on my couch and thinking, “God, I know you’re in control, but everything feels so out of control right now. I know you’re in control, but that doesn’t guarantee Luke will pull through this. I know you’re in control, but I can’t find any comfort in that truth.”

I tried to pray, but it felt like talking to thin air. I felt no “peace that surpasses all understanding” (Phil. 4:7 ESV), I couldn’t hear the Holy Spirit’s promptings, and His presence felt non-existent. I felt completely alone.

Breakthrough

One night, Luke still showing no signs of improvement, I decided to sit down, listen to some new worship albums and hand letter short Bible verses. I needed an escape from the chaos. Prayer was discouraging, I wasn’t finding comfort in sitting down and reading the Bible, but maybe art would bring comfort.

By God’s grace, it did. I lettered the piece below with Ellie Holcomb’s song “Find You Here” on repeat. I not only found peace in the creating process itself, but I began receiving texts from people who I hadn’t even told about Luke saying they heard how sick he was and that they were praying for healing.

Winds and Waves Watermark

I could feel the Lord taking care of me and even though I felt too weak to pray, by God’s grace, Luke and I were still being covered in prayer. And we needed it, because if he didn’t show improvement the next day, he would most likely be admitted into the hospital.

Joy Comes in the Morning

The next morning, Luke was upright and had some life back in his eyes. I finally had hope that we both would be okay. By God’s grace, Luke continued to improve and we made it out of those few weeks without a hospital visit.

Those were some of the hardest days I’ve experienced so far in life, but I truly believe God used them to bring me back to Himself. I wish I could say, it happened over night. It was still challenging, but because the Lord’s love is unconditional, He didn’t give up on me even though I wasn’t holding up my end of the relationship.

Trust

Since words are a huge part of my life, I’ve been thinking about the past year summed up in just one word and that word is: Trust. From the get go, God was reminding me that I need to trust Him in all circumstances, not just the tough ones. I found that because I wasn’t seeking Him when things were easier, it was harder to turn to Him, feel His presence and find comfort in His truth when things felt like they were spiraling out of control.

FullSizeRenderMy life continued to take unexpected twists and turns as the year went on. Luke decided to go back to school and I decided to quit my steady job to pursue my lettering full-time. These were all good things, but it was still overwhelming to walk into the unknown. Our lives were not turning out the way we pictured them!

As I tried to wrap my head around all these changes, people would tell me, “Trust God. He’s in control,” and I would get so frustrated, because A) It felt like an easy response to complex feelings and circumstances and B) My world had been shaken so much, I no longer knew how to find comfort in that truth.

I still struggle with that statement, but not in the same way I did even a few months ago. I know God is in control, I know He’s working all things for His glory and our good, and when I find myself struggling with the truth that God is in control, I don’t question Him like I used to. That doesn’t mean I don’t wrestle sometimes, but instead of questioning Him, I question my own heart, because I know He is constant. I know He is in control and I know He will never forsake me. He doesn’t withhold His peace from us, so if I can’t feel it, it’s because there’s something wrong in my heart that’s preventing me from being open to receiving His peace that surpasses all understanding.

Where I Am Now

IMG_7338 copyI wish I had some profound statement to conclude this blog post, but I don’t. The truth is, I’m still learning and wrestling and I don’t have it all figured out. However, I can now see that though the illness and all the changes that happened over the year were scary, God used them to bring me back to Him. I’m not afraid of approaching Him anymore, I feel like I’m where He wants me at this point in time, and my heart feels a lot lighter than it did a year ago.

Soli Deo gloria – Glory to God alone

❤ Lauren

Thank you for taking the time to read this post. Whenever I talk about Luke’s chronic illness, I get a lot of questions about what he has and if he’s okay. We so appreciate your concern! He is okay thanks to God’s grace, good doctors and medication, but though we wanted to share this story with you, we would like to keep the specifics private for now. Thank you for understanding.

A Month In Review: November

November_Watercolor_Watermark

What a crazy month it has been! Crazy in all the best ways, that is.

There were a lot of good things that happened and a few bumps along the way I’m deciding to look at as learning opportunities. Instead of writing about a few of the highlights, I’m gonna share two lists with bullet points, highlighting my reasons to celebrate and what I’m gonna learn and grow from. That just feels more real to me this month and maybe I’ll continue with this format for future month in review posts if it feels right. Sound good?

Reasons to celebrate

  • It was my first full month as a full-time lettering artist
  • I officially started teaching my Beginner Brush Lettering workshop
  • I released my book, Romans: A Hand Lettered Devotional
  • I had way more sales during my Thanksgiving weekend sale than I anticipated
  • I am now selling my book internationally and had my first overseas order
  • My Etsy shop hit 100 sales

What I Learned & How I’m Gonna Grow

  • I taught a workshop at a private party and decided not to do anymore of those until I have a better organizational system in place.
  • I sent a couple prints to a custom order client that weren’t up to my usual standards and realized it after I shipped them. I decided to redo them completely and send her new ones before she even got her prints in the mail. I learned that it’s better to wait and think on things if I’m not 100% happy with a design, instead of getting an order out for the sake of sticking to a timeline. Better to send a great product late, than a sub-par product on time!
  • There was one thing in particular I found in Etsy analytics after my sale was over that I really wish I would have done differently. It’s a long explanation I don’t need to get into. The short explanation is, I could have been more effective with how I directed people to my shop.

Anyway…

I hope y’all liked this different format of my Month in Review post. I like sharing my highs and my lows, so I’m thinking I’ll stick with this format for awhile. I’m learning that optimism isn’t about focusing on the good and choosing not to think about the mistakes. It’s most beneficial for me to think about the lows as learning opportunities, because then they don’t seem like lows as much. Plus, if I pushed all that aside, I would never learn and that would be counter productive!

Blessings to you all and thanks for all the love and support –

❤ Lauren

P.S. Don’t forget to visit my shop to purchase those Christmas gifts! I’m now shipping ALL of my products worldwide!