Grow In Your Faith This Summer

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“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.”John 15:4 ESV

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Summer is finally getting started! Many of our schedules change over the summer and it can be easy to let our spiritual growth become an afterthought. But, what if we made it our number one priority? It can be challenging to know where to start, so I wanted to provide a few resources for you to consider. We need God’s Word, prayer, and community to grow, so I’ve listed some books, studies, accounts, and suggestions below to consider.

The Word

Holy Bible

If you haven’t invested in a good study Bible, there is no time like the present! You can learn so much from just reading from a great study Bible daily. I love my ESV study Bible. I really like the ESV translation because it is more of a word-for-word translation, but it’s still written in language we can understand. If you are newer to reading the Bible, you might better understand a thought-for-thought translation like the NIV. But, I wouldn’t get hung up on the translation. I’ve heard it said, the best translation is the one you pick up and read. 🙂
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P.S. When you’re on the go or needing to quick look up a verse, using the Bible App or Bible Gateway are great options too!

Commentaries

A great way to go even deeper as you read the Bible, is by reading a commentary. I love The Be Series by Warren W. Wiersbe. I’ve linked “The Gospels” bundle, but you can find any book of the Bible. I cannot express enough how much I love these commentaries. I highly recommend these books and know you will grow so much if you use these as companions to your Bible reading. There are even a few questions at the end of each chapter for you to reflect on!

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Devotionals

I would love to help you grow in your faith this summer and I’ve written two devotionals you should definitely check out if you are looking for something less in-depth than a commentary. Ephesians: A Hand Lettered Devotional breaks down each chapter in half, Romans: A Hand Lettered Devotional is broken down by whole chapters, and both include intricate hand lettered art to spark creativity and help with scripture memory,  along with thought provoking devotional content to help you apply what you’ve read to your life and remember the main ideas of each chapter. (An additional perk is you can save a lot by ordering both together!)
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Prayer

Prayer is essential to growing in our faith, because it’s really all about growing in our relationship with Christ and that takes knowledge and understanding through His Word, but also requires communication with our Savior.

Prayer Journal

If you are like me and struggle to sit down, pray, and get your thoughts in order, a prayer journal might be really helpful for you. I recently released my Guided Prayer Journal to help you grow in your prayer life, whether you are a long-time believer or are getting to know Jesus for the first time. I’ve included prompts for praise, gratitude, confession, reminders to pray and read your Bible, and space to write and reflect on prayers for yourself and others. I have been keeping a prayer journal for over seven years and I’ve been working through the journal. I can honestly say, I am so thankful for the balance the Guided Prayer Journal has added to my prayer life.

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Community

Connect with others near you

I have learned more than ever this year that community is essential to growing in our relationships with Christ. When we surround ourselves with like-minded people who are also actively seeking the Lord, we are strengthened! Iron sharpens iron (Proverbs 27:17)! Attending church is important (keep doing that this summer!), but right now I’m talking about making room for fellowship outside the Sunday morning church service. You can join a Bible study – look into what your church or other churches in the area might be offering – or it can be as simple as making time to get coffee with one or two friends every other week with the intention of talking about what the Lord is teaching you and praying together. I am involved in Bible Study Fellowship during most of the year, so I usually just get together with a few friends regularly over the summer and making that time a priority in the summer is so sweet!romansdevotional_016 copy

Connect with others online

I hesitated to add this section, but I did think it was necessary. Community online can be amazing, but as much as I love following and connecting with other women who love and share about Christ on social media, I’ve found that it can be harder to get deep and have an actual conversation when you’re just connecting over DMs and comments. If we’re on social media, I think it’s very important to follow, connect, and communicate with others, instead of just scrolling mindlessly through our feeds, consuming whatever comes up. I’ve listed just a few women I have connected with – some have books, some have “official” ministries of their own, some just love sharing the love of Christ, some are close friends of mine, others are friends I only know through chatting here and there online. I hope you’ll be encouraged by what they’re sharing!

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Encouragement

Hope you have a great summer and that even just one of these resources were helpful to you or that they’ll lead you to other great resources. Remember, Jesus wants our whole hearts. He doesn’t want to just be a part of our daily routine, He wants to be the center of our lives! Our time with Him helps us recenter and keep Him first throughout the day and He deserves to be made first! So, especially in the summer when things are busy, focus on the quality of your time with Him. Instead of asking yourself, “Did I spend time with the Lord today?” ask yourself questions like:

  • What is the Lord teaching me today?
  • How is God speaking to me today?
  • What truths are God revealing and reminding me about Himself?

It can be easy for us to worry about the amount of  time spent, but really He just wants to connect with us, meet with us, reveal more of Himself to us, and make us more like Himself. Sure, more time can really be a benefit, but if we focus more on the connection, instead of worrying about hitting a specific time frame, that’s when we will grow and fall deeper in love with Jesus.

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Recommitting My Work to the Lord

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“Commit your work to the LORD and your plans will be established.” – Proverbs 16:3

I shared in a recent Instagram post that I have been feeling restlessness in my life – especially in my work. I’ve been praying my heart would be aligned to Christ and it didn’t take long for Him to start answering that prayer. However, it took a little bit more time and a good nudge for me to really start responding.

The turning point

At the beginning of May, I was a vendor at Minneapolis Pinners Conference. This was a dream come true for me and I saw it as a career milestone. However, God used the event not only as a milestone, but as a turning point in my career and life.

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I met so many wonderful people at the conference and had some great conversations that really got me thinking about my purpose as a creative small business owner. I walked into the event with a new realization that I had been making a lot of decisions based on what other people in the professional lettering community were doing instead of looking to God for wisdom and guidance. But, I wasn’t totally sure what to do with that knowledge.

After processing the entire event and many insightful conversations with other vendors, teachers, and attendees, I realized that I first needed to stop doing what other successful people are doing or saying to do and assuming it will be right for me. I had gotten caught up in the hustle and was starting to realize the things I was striving for weren’t 100% in line with how God wanted to use me and my gifts.

My response

I responded to these new realizations by taking some time off from posting on social media. Planning content sucks up so much of my time, so I knew by cutting that out for a bit, I would be opening up so much more time to pray, read my Bible, listen to sermons, meet with friends, and begin figuring out how God wants to use me. I also knew that I needed to re-evaluate the content I was putting out there and place my trust in the Lord to provide, instead of relying so much on my marketing efforts. Taking a break from posting for a couple weeks needed to happen for a lot of reasons and I’m so glad I took that time to reset.

I am amazed by all the things the Lord has been teaching me in just the past few weeks. The list really goes on and on and I’m excited to share more about those things in future social media and blog posts. I am still very much in the process of discovering how God specifically wants to use me, but what I do know for sure is that He wants me to go all in for Him. He wants me to give up my control, my ideas of what I think is gonna work, and allow Him to show me what He’s capable of. Not just so I can experience His best for me, but more importantly, so I can be used for His greater purposes.

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Moving forward

Like I said, I’m still learning a lot and figuring out where God is leading me. I know it will be a never ending process and I’m excited to see how the journey will impact what I share with this supportive, kind, loving community I get to be a part of.

I was hoping to end this post with what you can expect from me in the future, but really all I can say is, expect change. Expect more Jesus. I don’t want my shop and posts to be about hand lettering or even about me. I want my hand lettering and creativity to be used as a tool to point myself and others back to Him.

❤ Lauren

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2019 First Quarter Wins & Learns

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We are a quarter of the way through 2019 already! I announced at the beginning of the year I would no longer be doing these Wins & Learns posts every month, but would still keep you up to date on the ups, downs, and everything in between – just less frequently. So here we are with my first update of 2019 and just wow! So much has happened!

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I was fully expecting things to slow way down in January, but it was the complete opposite. I got back from Christmas break, opened my email to find some great opportunities, and I continued to stay busy in the best ways! It was an amazing feeling. I got my first magazine commission, my biggest logo commission to date, had some huge orders, launched a new enamel pin… it was such a great way to start the new year and the boost of confidence I really needed!

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At the end of January, I decided to invest in a camera. I ended up getting the Canon PowerShot G5 X, which was not at all the kind of camera I expected to get, but after trying out a bunch of different ones, I decided it was perfect for me and the place I’m at in my business right now. I love how easy it is to use, it’s not so big like a DSLR, and it is inspiring me to really up my photo taking and editing skills. It’s been such a fun challenge!

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At the beginning of February I got signed up to be a vendor at Pinners Conference in Minneapolis, MN! This has been something I’ve wanted to do for awhile now, so I was thrilled to be ready and free on the dates Pinners would be in Minneapolis this year! My best gal pal, Kiley Bennett got so excited, she decided to fly out that weekend to help me and hang with me for a few days. We met on Instagram, but over the past couple years our friendship has grown so much, it’s rare we go a day without talking on the phone. This event will not only be a huge milestone for my shop, but will also be the first time Kiley and I get to be together in-person! (Excuse me while I go happy dance for a sec!)

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I wanted to release something special at Pinners, so I spent the first couple weeks of February brainstorming ideas and then the idea finally came to me: a guided prayer journal. So, I spent the rest of February and March designing and writing prompts for this journal, which has honestly been such a fun, positive experience. I am so fired up about this project and happy to say it’s available for pre-order for a little while longer and is already in production! I can’t wait to see how the Lord uses this journal to bring others closer to Himself.

Learns

2019 has been a rollercoaster. There were so many things to celebrate, but also so many low lows. However, these updates are titled “Wins & Learns” for a reason, so I will do my best to stick to what I’ve learned from the hard stuff and less on the hard stuff alone.

February was the complete opposite of January. It was crazy to go from one of my busiest months ever to my slowest since last summer. I was reminded how unpredictable this creative business life is and how important it is to cling to God and surround yourself with people who will speak truth into your life and encourage you. It’s so easy to forget the good stuff when things don’t feel like they’re going your way – even if it’s only for a short time. And I’m not just talking with my business, but just in general as well.

I’m learning more than ever just how crucial it is to have community. Just a few short weeks ago, I would have said community is important, but I now say it’s crucial. No one is an island. In order to stay an all around healthy human being, we need to surround ourselves with those who will encourage us through the big and small things and we need to be that kind of support for others. I’m thankful to say I’ve experienced some amazing moments of community and I’ve also experienced the result of attempting to do far too much on your own. Again, lean on Jesus. Invest in the lives of those around you and if you feel like an island, pray for community. God doesn’t want you to be alone! He will provide!

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Anyway…

Thanks for joining me here on the blog once again. I am so flattered that many of you care about what’s going on in my life. I would love to hear about what resonated with you in this post. I have found time and time again as I write that there are a lot of you out there learning the same lessons and experiencing similar victories alongside me. So please leave a comment if you feel led. I’d love to connect with you on that! And of course, if you’d like to connect more throughout the month and stay up to date on blog posts, shop releases, and upcoming events, please join my mailing list community. I’d love to meet with you there!

❤ Lauren

My Everyday Lettering Tools

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Whether you’re a brush letterer or an iPad letterer, I’m sure you have your go-to lettering tools. In this post I’ll be sharing the tools I use daily, but if you want a more extensive list, visit my resource page where I have much more detailed lists of other products I love for lettering. The ones I’ll be sharing today are the ones I use most frequently, so let’s get started!

Brush Lettering

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Tombow Fudenosuke Brush Pens

Tombow Fudenosuke brush pens are not just my favorite, but they’re a favorite of many – amateurs and pros alike! I couldn’t tell you if I like the hard or soft tip better. It really depends from project to project.  I love how versatile they are, that they are a great brush pen no matter what your skill level may be, and they last a long time, especially with the right kind of paper. Which leads me to my next go-to tool…

Smooth Card Stock

You can use the Tombow Fudenosuke brush pens on any kind of paper, but what I have found is they last the longest when you use them on a smooth card stock. I don’t really have a brand preference, but I’ve linked some paper here if you’d like a recommendation. 😉

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Delde Pen Case

This is my all-time favorite pen pouch. I mean, come on! How can you top this design?? I like having a collection of pens with me wherever I go and it’s so nice to not have to dig for the right pen like I do with other cases that store pens horizontally. You simply pull down the top half to access your pens easily and pull the top half back up to close it. I love that it’s like a pen cup to go. 😉 This is my favorite one, because of the simple color and metal zipper, but I also have one in blue and gray one with a plastic zipper for spare pens. It comes in quite a few colors so you’ll definitely want to check them out if you like this pen case!

iPad Lettering

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iPad Pro + Apple Pencil

For many of you, this one might seem like a no-brainer, but I still get a fair amount of questions about what kind of tablet I use. There have been more recent iPad versions that have come out since I first got mine in the fall of 2016, but since I’m giving you all my personal recommendations, I have linked the iPad that I currently have. (I would love to get the newer, bigger iPad Pro one of these days!)

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It wouldn’t be worth having the iPad Pro if I didn’t have the Apple Pencil I’ve tried other digital pencils and none of them compare to the Apple Pencil. The Apple Pencil hooks up to the iPad via Bluetooth and is pressure sensitive, which is a must to have as a calligrapher! Again, I have the first version and would love to get the new one with the latest iPad Pro, but it’s such a fabulous stylus, I doubt I would notice a huge difference between the two!

Procreate

Procreate is the app I use for my lettering and illustration. I first fell in love with it because of how intuitive it is to use, unlike more complicated programs like Adobe Illustrator – which I am always learning to use and has also become a staple for the kind of lettering work I do!

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Procreate Brushes

Procreate comes with a lot of default brushes, but my favorite are the ones I created myself. I use my Essential Brush Pack for the vast majority of my lettering work and I offer this brush pack, as well as a similar brush pack called the Natural Brush Pack, which looks similar to my essential brushes, but they have a more natural look to them… much like the Tombow Fudenosuke brush pens I mentioned above!

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Procreate Grids

Procreate is slowly improving the default grid system within the app, but it still doesn’t measure up to the grids I created for Procreate. I created five grids with common paper size dimensions and if you set your canvases to the correct dimensions mentioned in the Etsy or Creative Market listings, the grids will lock perfectly to your canvas and represent accurate dimensions in inches, divided into half-inches and all the way down to quarter-inches. If you aren’t worried about exact measurements, Procreate has a locking feature that will lock whatever grid and size it to fit your screen. I use the grids both ways! Sometimes I need to know exact sizing for custom orders, other times I just need some guidance to keep my lettering straight and centered on the page. If you want to learn more about how the grids work, watch this video tutorial where I share how great these grids are to have and how easy they are to use!

Anyway…

Again, these are my daily go-to lettering tools. If you’d like to see more of my favorite tools I use less often, make sure to visit my resource page for the full list!

If you’d like to be notified about future blog posts and shop updates, please join my mailing list community! I’d love to stay in touch!

❤ Lauren

Strong & Courageous

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9 ESV

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I’m so excited to being sharing the ‘why’ behind my latest enamel pin design which says, “strong & courageous.” More often than not, there is a story behind each of my designs and in this case there are two – the biblical story and my personal one.

As I’ve mentioned in a few posts on social media, I’ve been studying books in the Old Testament with BSF this year. We started in September with the book of Joshua and I was amazed by how the Holy Spirit used that book to speak to me and meet me in a season filled with unknowns.

God’s story

I highly encourage you to read the book of Joshua on your own, but today, I’m mainly going to focus on Joshua 1 – even more specifically Joshua 1:9. To give you some context, the book of Joshua opens with the Lord declaring Joshua the new Israelite leader after the death of Moses. They have reached the land God promised to give them after 40 years of wandering through the desert. And in this chapter, the Lord is preparing Joshua to lead the Israelites in taking possession of the land. God not only gives Joshua clear commands on how Joshua should move forward, but He also encourages Joshua. He commands Joshua to “be strong and courageous,” to not be afraid, and to remember that He would be with Joshua and the Israelites wherever they went, whatever they came across.

Joshua was constantly asking the Lord for guidance as He led the Israelites, in each decision. When they followed the Lord’s commands, they prospered, but when they took matters into their own hands, they perished. And, in the Lord’s great and rich mercy, He forgave them when they realized what they had done wrong and continued to guide them. In order to be led, the Israelites had to be willing to follow – they had to trust that even when God’s way appeared difficult and impossible, He would keep all of His promises in His perfect timing.

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His strength in me

As I studied the book of Joshua, I was drawn to Joshua’s relationship with the Lord – how he confided, listened, and really trusted the Lord. However, I saw a lot more of myself in the Israelites. Like them, I like to take things into my own hands, forgetting that God knows the future. Therefore, I need to be willing to be led and I can’t be led when I’m constantly trying to take control of my circumstances. I need to trust in His promises and as I read at the end of my study of Joshua, He will not back down on His promises (Joshua 21:45).

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God continues to speak to me through His word as I make my way through many of the books in the Old Testament. He continues to remind me to trust Him. Not just to ask for more strength, but to pray that Christ would actually be my strength – that in Him alone I’ll be made strong and courageous, not through my own attempts to change.

My hope for you

It is my hope that you too will be inspired to find strength in Christ. That you would let go and let Him take the lead in your life – that He would fill you with His strength and give you the courage to endure whatever trials you might be facing. You can attempt to take on life’s battles on your own, but I’m here to tell you today that it’s so much better when you allow Christ to lead the way. Only He knows the future. He will comfort you, protect you, encourage you, and not just give you strength, but with fill you with His strength!

So, say yes to Jesus today, whether it be for the first time or hundredth time. Allow Him to lead you and see what He has in store for you! He reminds Joshua – and us – over and over again not to be afraid! He will be with you wherever You go and will always keep His promises!

❤ Lauren

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My Soul Finds Rest

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I’ve shared occasionally on podcasts and social media about rest and my determination to make that a priority in my life. But, I haven’t really shared one-on-one with my community about how I make rest a priority and why. Since the new year is still young and fresh starts are still on the minds of many, I feel like now is the perfect time to talk about rest and why you should consider making more time for rest in your life as well.

Rest in my life

For the past few years, I have been keeping a “Sabbath” day. I use that word loosely, because to me it means so much more than a day of rest, but a day to keep holy and spend with family and that is not always the case for me… but I’m working my way there! I decided to dedicate one day a week to rest from work and scheduled plans after several years of studying scripture, as well as reading books on the topic, like John Mark Comer’s Garden City.

Many people think of Sunday as the Sabbath. I have been working nearly every Sunday as a worship leader for the past five years, so Sunday has never exactly been a Sabbath day for me personally. A day filled with worship, yes, but rest? Not so much when I’m up at 5:30 AM and not done until sometimes 13 hours later! (Phew!) So, my day of rest has fallen on Tuesdays, Fridays, and for the past couple years it has been Mondays. I pick one consistent day of the week, not a different day each week, because I believe keeping consistency is important.

So what do my Mondays look like? Well, I rest from work – which includes product design, custom orders, email, Etsy convos, and all social media. I don’t have a personal Instagram account, but truthfully, even if I did, it would be just too tempting to check up on my work stuff, so I hide my Facebook and Instagram apps on a separate “page” on my home screen. I also rest from scheduled plans. As an introvert, it’s necessary for me to have a day with no obligations. If I feel like making last minute plans that day, I do, but I keep it open beforehand. So what do I do? I sleep in, I spend an hour or two journaling and working on my Bible study lesson for the week, I read, I nap, I indulge in something creative, usually unrelated to work (AKA hand lettering) like knitting or drawing… those are the typical activities, but sometimes I’ll go visit my parents, watch a movie, or hang out with friends in the evening.

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The downside to my current arrangement is I’m still sticking to the same routine I did when I was single. I’d love to share a day of rest with my husband, but he’s in school and working, so it’s been nearly impossible to coordinate. I would like to start making rest a bigger priority in my marriage and we can hopefully start cultivating that as a couple once he’s out of school and has a more consistent schedule. Rest as a couple just happens in shorter, more frequent, less consistent periods of time right now. It’s a work in progress!

My main focus is keeping the spirit of the Sabbath and remembering Jesus is Lord over the Sabbath. It’s not about keeping legalistic practices or holding myself and my marriage to a standard of perfection in this area. That’s not rest. It starts with making the commitment to a day of rest. As we seek the Lord in our time of rest, He’ll reveal to us how we can rest in Him more fully – a rest that is peaceful and restorative as described in Psalm 23.

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Practical ways to prioritize rest in your own life

Now, I am totally aware of my unique circumstances. I’m self-employed with no kids, so I realize in many ways it’s easier for me to set aside an entire day of rest, but I will say, whether you’re single, married, have children, are employed by someone else, or create your own work schedule, keeping a day of rest is a sacrifice, a challenge, and something that takes continued practice and discipline to do well. But, as you begin settling into a rhythm, you’ll start to see what a blessing rest is, that it wasn’t just a command from God, but one of the greatest gifts we’re given!

So, keeping in mind that jumping right into a full day of rest might be daunting for some of you, here are just a few practical ideas to help you start making rest a bigger priority:

  • Daily quite time with Jesus – prayer, journaling, reading your Bible, working through a study.
    • My Bible study recommendation: I personally love the “Be” series of commentaries by Warren Wiersbe! He breaks down scripture in an easy to understand way, but takes you deep. There are also questions at the end of each chapter to answer. They’re great books for personal or group study.
  • Picking one day a week to go social media free – or if you feel comfortable, turn your phone off completely for the day!
    • Read this post if you want to read more about why I think this is so important.
  • Scheduling one evening a week for dinner and a night in with your spouse and/or kids.
    • Watch a movie, play a board game, get outside, or go out and do some other fun activity!
    • Leave distractions like phones, tablets, laptops, and homework in another room.
    • At the table have everyone go around and share words of kindness about each family member… verbalizing appreciation for your loved ones might be uncomfortable for your family at first, but there is rest and comfort in hearing words of affirmation from those closest to you.
  • Help your children get into the habit of getting their homework done by Saturday night, so they don’t have to do any homework on Sunday.
    • This will not only help them learn time management and help them see the value in rest, but will also give you a break from helping and reminding them to get their tasks done! Everybody wins! (I may not be able to relate on the parenting side of this, but remembering how much work my parents put into helping with homework and putting up with the protests and tantrums from my sisters and me, I know both kids and parents need a break!)
  • Try starting with committing to a half day of rest. Pick a time to start and end and stick to it!
  • Think you’re ready for a full day of rest for you, you and your spouse, and/or your family? Go for it!
    • Discuss what day will work best for your family, work around the most important commitments, let some go, and start experiencing the gift that is an entire day of rest!

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Anyway…

I hope this post, if anything, got you thinking about rest and how you might start keeping this spiritual discipline. We live in the midst of a hustle culture in America. Busy = better and rest = laziness. I used to struggle with that lie when I first started prioritizing rest, but I work six days a week and even our God rested on the seventh day! Maybe you work five days a week and have one day for getting errands run, chores, kids activities, etc. But, set aside a day – or, at the very, least a regular extended period of time within a day – for complete rest. Don’t worry about being perfect! Take baby steps and begin discovering how regular rest positively impacts your trust in the Lord, your physical health, mental well-being, relationships, work, and all the other unique aspects of your life.

How are you already prioritizing rest in your life? In what ways do you want to improve? What are your favorite scripture passages about rest? I’d love to hear in the comments! And of course, if you want to stay up to date of future blog posts, I welcome you to join my mailing list community! I’ll let you know about new blog posts, shop updates, and upcoming events, and I’ll even send you a little gift just for joining!

❤ Lauren

 

2018 Wins & Learns

Wow! What a year it has been! It’s been such a treat to share my wins and learns with you in 2018 – my first year running an online shop full-time. If you’ve been following along with my monthly wins and learns posts, you know it was a great year filled with lots of reasons to celebrate, but it also came with it’s challenges and learning experiences.

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I have really enjoyed being so open and honest with you this past year. I hope these “Wins & Learns” posts have been an encouragement to you whether your are a creative business owner, hobbyist, or simply have an interest in my life as a Jesus follower and small business owner. It’s crazy to think that so many of you keep coming back to hear what I have to say and it’s a privilege to be a part of your life in this way. Thanks for letting me in.

As much as I have enjoyed writing these “Wins & Learns” posts each month, I am not planning on doing so in 2019 as frequently. Right now I’m thinking quarterly, but it also could mean more topical posts relating to what I’m learning. I haven’t really decided yet. I love these posts, but they were getting really challenging to keep up with as my business grew and didn’t leave a whole lot of room to spend time on other blog post ideas I had. But don’t worry! I’ll still be just as honest and open with you as I have been in the past, it’s just going to look a little different in 2019. Sound okay?

Now for the wins and learns of 2018…

Wins

I expanded my product line

My main goal this year was to add a lot more products to my shop. At the beginning of 2018, I had several black and white prints and my Romans devotional listed, but that was it. A year later, I have two books, regular prints and foiled prints, enamel pins, custom address stamps, calendars, notepads, mugs, and a variety of other fun products! A lot of product making dreams came true this year!

I released my second book

Ephesians: A Hand Lettered Devotional was released at the end of October! I still can’t believe I self-published another book. It was such a huge undertaking once again and I still feel like a crazy person for creating another book with even more intricate hand lettered art and longer devotional content… all in less than a year! As I sit here reminiscing those long days, weeks, and months of working on the book, I realize that as crazy as it was to put myself through such a challenging process once again, some of my best memories from the year were surrounding the new book. Two that come to mind: chatting with my good friend Kiley on video chat for hours working on the art and meeting with my sweet friend Joan, discussing the devotional content and how to best communicate the messages in Ephesians to readers of various backgrounds.

Thank you to each and every one of you who purchased Ephesians: A Hand Lettered Devotional in 2019! I poured so much of my heart into that book and it’s humbling to know so many of you wanted to hear what I had to say about Jesus’ teachings in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians.

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1,000 Etsy sales / 10k Instagram followers

I want to be careful as I write this one, because numbers aren’t everything and this is not supposed to be some kind of “humble brag.” I put a lot of work into making sure I was putting content into the world that would resonate with others, but I had no control over whether or not people would respond. My Instagram account reached 10k followers in June and it was so exciting to have the “swipe up” feature to make shopping easier for my followers! I ended the year with just over 11k Instagram followers, which is amazing, but reaching 10k was a milestone moment for me.

It was possibly even more exciting to reach 1,000 Etsy sales in November on Small Business Saturday. Instagram followers can come and go, but nobody can take those sales away from you (unless you do returns I suppose, but I only do exchanges). 1,000 sales was such a lofty goal to meet and I genuinely didn’t think my shop would get there at first. Ending the year with over 1,100 sales was honestly so humbling. I put so much love into everything I design and make, but being passionate about what I make doesn’t mean that others will see the value or quality of each of my products. Each sale is a gift to me, which is why I loved shipping out all those orders in 2018 – to hopefully give you the feeling that you were receiving a gift in return, expressing my deep gratitude.

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Year 1 is done!

I got through my first year of running my Etsy shop and lettering business full-time! It was such a great year and looking back, I am in awe of how much this little business grew, the cool things I got to design and make, the new opportunities that came up… It is bittersweet saying goodbye to 2018, but I am ready for exciting things ahead in 2019 – not just in my business, but my personal life as well! I’m feeling all the good feels going into this new year!

Learns

Expectations vs. Goals

As I read my blog posts over the past year, this was probably the big overarching learning experience of the year. The majority – if not all – of the disappointment I experienced in 2018 came from unmet expectations and a lot of those unmet expectations came from poor goal planning. It’s really hard to plan your first year in business full-time. It’s a guessing game. I had a general idea of typical stats, but I made the mistake of jumping into 2018 believing I was the exception to these statistics. I think this “exception” mentality is easy to fall into, because we are constantly hearing success stories and either we’re being told directly that someone made $100k their first year in business or we’re being told indirectly – or really just making assumptions – that the people we look up to most got to where they are now in just a matter of months.

I have learned to tell myself, “You are not the exception. You could be, but you’re probably not.” I don’t tell myself this to crush my hopes and dreams. I will continue working towards my goals and I’m pretty sure I’ll reach them in the next couple years, but I remind myself of that statement to keep myself from having unrealistic expectations, which always lead to disappointment.

As I write this, I feel like it sounds like I’ve given up or lost my motivation. That is so not the case! For me, having realistic goals and little to no expectations means I’m leaving more room for surprises! Still dreaming big here! Just being more realistic with the timeline. 😉

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Patience

I feel like self-employment is one long lesson in patience. I hoped to reach my financial goals in 2018, but I didn’t even come close to the minimum! Looking at my growth over the past couple years and ahead into 2019, I can see that I might reach my goals by the end of 2019, but it’s more likely that I’ll reach them by the end of 2020. That feels like a long way away, but as I’ve said before, this job is more to me than a paycheck. It’s my passion and I miss it when I’m away from it for an extended period of time. It’s worth the wait!

And, patience goes beyond the financial side of things. As an online shop owner I’ve learned – and I’m still learning – how to be patient with people. Manufacturers that aren’t coming through on their promises, customers that ask the same questions even though I’ve posted the answers everywhere, rude customers and comments, even just little things like waiting for custom order proof approvals. Patience is still a big area of growth for me going into 2019 and I would love to be better at not letting all the waiting, occasional rudeness, and small annoyances get to me in 2019.

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Trust

This year was a rollercoaster and I don’t know how I would have gotten through it without Jesus. I grew so much in my walk with Him and after a few years of feeling like I’ve been walking through the desert, 2018 was the year I really felt I stepped out of that desert season. There were a lot of learning experiences that God used to lead me to where I am now, but really they all come back to trust. It’s one thing to believe in who Jesus is and what He has done for us, but it’s another to trust in His promises in a more personal way. For example, it’s easier for me to believe God is capable of doing things for other people, but I have a hard time trusting He will do great things for me. 2018 was the year of breaking through the fear that God wouldn’t respond, trusting that He would answer and be with me in the waiting, the disappointment, and the celebration. It was the year of significant breakthrough and I’m hoping 2019 will be the year my trust in Christ grows deeper roots.

Anyway…

Thanks for joining me for these monthly Wins & Learns posts! If this is your first time on the blog, welcome! I invite you to read past posts and join me for new things in 2019! I’d also love to have you come be a part of my mailing list community if you’d like to be notified about future blog posts and shop updates. I’m excited for what’s to come in the new year and would love for you to be a part of it!

❤ Lauren

P.S. Speaking of shop updates, I am down to less than 10 calendars and they are now on sale! Click HERE to shop before they’re gone!

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Workspace Tour

Every now and then I get asked about my workspace – how it looks, what I do to keep my inventory and shipping materials organized – and I’m excited to give you a little tour of my workspace.

My husband and I live in a two bedroom apartment in a Minneapolis suburb. We originally wanted a two bedroom apartment because we were both working musicians (and still are to a smaller degree) and needed a space to keep our instruments and amps. After my small, hand lettering side-hustle became my full-time job, I slowly took over the space and it’s now more of a general creative space. Luke still has a desk and a few instruments set up, but our second bedroom is mostly dedicated to my shop LaurenIbachLettering on Etsy.

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When you walk into the room, to your right, you’ll find what I call “my happy place.” I’ve got a tall desk I can stand in front of, packaging orders, or I can work for hours, sitting in my comfy bar stool I found brand new at Goodwill for $30.

Under my desk, I keep my pop-up inventory and on the shelves next to my desk, I keep my shipping materials and top selling items so they’re close by when I’m packaging orders to be shipped.

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This is my daily view. I’ve got a few pieces hung that inspire me and make me happy when I look at them and only my essentials on the desk top: my label printer for shipping labels, a cup of pens, pencils, and scissors, and my shipping scale (and a candle when I wanna feel extra cozy).

To the left are plastic drawers with stamps, packing tape, and shipping inserts for convenient access, and as we move further left on that shelf, I’ll show you what else I keep there.

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This is the full shelf next to my desk and I’ll explain what’s on each shelf from top to bottom. On the highest shelf, I have extra brown paper bags I use for shipping most orders, labels, foiling supplies for making foiled prints (I make all of mine in-house!), and my paper cutter. These are not every day items, so it makes sense for me to keep them up high.

On the next shelf I keep book boxes and a couple random things. On the middle shelf I keep photo document mailers (for shipping individual prints) and bubble mailers of various sizes. And again, the plastic drawers contain some of my smaller must-have shipping supplies.

On the shelf second from the bottom, I have more plastic drawers filled with Be Kind enamel pins (my top selling pin design), I have small bins that contain my prints and keep them clean, and on the right, I have a stack of Ephesians devotionals. I like keeping a few books stacked on the shelf at all times, because it’s easier than pulling them out of a box every time I need to ship one (I’ll show you were I keep the rest of the books in the next photo).

And, on the bottom shelf, I keep my foiling machine, files (gotta stay organized!), and Romans devotionals. To the left of the shelf, I have my laser printer (a foiled print making necessity!) and additional inventory, paper for my prints, and pin packaging supplies below.

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Now, if you were to turn 180 degrees, you’ll find on the opposite wall another shelf with a whole lot of brown. These boxes contain more inventory I didn’t have room for on the other shelf – more enamel pins, notepads, calendars, mugs, books (mostly books! they take up a lot of space!) – and extra shipping materials.

And, as you can see, this is much more of a shared space with Luke – his amp is under the window and so are a few guitars, and to the left of the shelf is our inkjet printer (I don’t use this for prints. All my regular prints are outsourced at the moment.), Luke’s desk is next to that, and his MIDI keyboard juts out into the middle of the room a bit.

Anyway…

That’s my workspace! It’s definitely not Pinterest worthy by any means, but I love it. I know so many creatives work from their living rooms, kitchens, and bedrooms (believe me, not too long ago, I was there too!), so I am grateful every day for this creative space I get to work from.

Thanks for taking my little “tour.” I hope you got some workspace inspiration! If you have any specific questions about manufacturing, shipping, or anything else, definitely go check out my FAQs. If you’d like to be notified about future blog posts, please join my mailing list. I’d love to welcome you into my email community and stay in touch with you a little more frequently!

❤ Lauren

November Wins & Learns

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I hope you had a great Thanksgiving (to all my American friends!) and an exciting start to the holiday season. I love this time of year – the craziness, the rare quiet moments, the shopping, the festive decorations, music, and parties… and we’re just getting started!

November was a big month for LaurenIbachLettering and I’m excited to share some big wins with you and one big learning experience.

Wins

Winter Wonderland Event

To kick off November, I had my second art fair experience as a vendor! This was a two day show and quite a bit slower than the show I did in October, but I was still so pleased with how it went! I met so many great folks from my social media community, church community (the church Luke and I work at/attend was very close by as well), and some of the sweetest vendors! I love doing art fairs because I love connecting with people face-to-face, which honestly surprises me, being the introverted homebody that I am. 😉 Thanks to all who came out!

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Thanksgiving Weekend / 1,000 Etsy Sales

Thanksgiving was great! Luke and I spent the day with his side of the family and it was just the immediate family, so it was a very intimate, relaxing gathering. So so good. ❤ After Thanksgiving, came my biggest sale of the year! I decided to offer free shipping Black Friday through Cyber Monday and it was so fun to see the orders come in and find out what you all are most excited about! The top selling items were: custom address stamps, Be Kind pins, and ornaments (which were a very last minute addition to the shop)! There were also a fair amount of you who ordered my new book Ephesians: A Hand Lettered Devotional, limited edition 2019 wall calendars, prints, and even a few mugs!

To add to all the weekend excitement, my Etsy shop hit 1,000 sales on Small Business Saturday! I set a good, great, and amazing goal for how many sales I hoped to get this year and 1,000 was that amazing, seemingly unattainable goal. And, I hit it more than a month before the end of the year! Reaching this goal was like having a dream come true and I honestly still can’t believe people from all over the country (and world!) choose to shop at LaurenIbachLettering daily. Words can’t fully express my gratitude. I praise God for His faithfulness – answering my many prayers and keeping me motivated when things got challenging – and of course thank you SO MUCH to all who purchased something from my shop, shared about a product, left a positive review, and/or offered their own creative gifts and services to help me grow my business this year!

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Learns

I have one big learn from the month and it has to do with goal planning and expectations.

For the past several months, I had a number in mind of how much I wanted to make this month. It seemed like a lofty goal, but not totally out of the question. Before I go any further into money talk, I want to make sure I clarify I am not in this for the money. I doubt anybody who starts an Etsy shop is in it to become rich and famous for their creations (although that would be pretty cool!), but with my husband in school full-time and unable to work a full-time job along with that due to a chronic illness, we really rely on the income from my shop to get the bills paid and it is TIGHT.

So, I had a number in mind. It was gonna be tough to hit, I didn’t know how or if I would, but maybe if I worked hard enough, prayed hard enough, and had a killer marketing plan in place, I’d be able to reach it. Well… I didn’t. And disappointment struck on Black Friday when I started realizing the weekend wasn’t going the way I hoped or planned. I am just going to be real honest here, I was pretty down. Lots of sales were still coming in, but I was pretty wrapped up in my huge expectations not being met.

Saturday night (Small Business Saturday), when Luke got home from work, we headed out to dinner and he asked, “How were sales today?” I responded with something like, “Good, but I’m just disappointed. It’s not going the way I had hoped. I just wanna feel like I’ve ‘made it.'” His next words were exactly what I needed to hear to snap out of it. They were something like this: “What would make you feel like you’ve ‘made it’? Because the way I see it is it’s rare that you go a day without at least one sale, you’re not selling anything that people really need in order to survive… people are spending their hard earned money on what you make daily simply because they like it or feel some kind of connection to what you do. That’s pretty cool and that seems like ‘making it’ to me.”

Was that not the greatest pep-talk in the world or what?? Luke doesn’t always get it. Sometimes I get so frustrated when I try to explain to him what I’ve been up to during the day and he’s totally lost, but this showed me he gets the big picture. And he gets it way more than I do. His words turned my stress into peace and my disappointment into gratitude. He put it all into perspective.

The lesson I learned? Goals are good, expectations can be dangerous. Next year, I’m going to be better about making those good, great, and amazing goals like I did with my Etsy sales this year. I’m not going to stop dreaming big, but I am going to start working on keeping those expectations in check. Like with the art fair – I had no expectations, but I did have an educated guess of how the weekend would turn out. I had a goal, but not an expectation. Does that make sense? It served as a motivator, but I wasn’t going to feel like a failure if I didn’t make it.

What I also learned? When expectations aren’t met, disappointment sets in and it’s hard to be grateful. Thanksgiving weekend was a great success for my shop, but if Luke hadn’t put things back into perspective for me, I would have missed it simply because of an unmet expectation.

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Anyway…

I still have a lot of processing to do, so I hope that wasn’t too confusing or rambly. It’s my hope that these Wins and Learns posts wouldn’t just serve as a way for me to reflect, but that you would be able to celebrate and learn with me and reflect on your own wins and learns regularly.

I’d love to hear about something you’re celebrating or learning yourself, or maybe even something that stood out to you in this post! So, leave a comment and let’s chat! If you would like to be notified about future blog posts and shop updates in the future, please join my mailing list! I’d love to keep in touch with you that way. 🙂

❤ Lauren