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

Christmas Gift Guide 2018

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! However, it can be hard to find the perfect gifts for each of your loved ones. I would love to help make Christmas shopping a little easier this year, so I’ve put together a list with some of the items from my shop. I think you’ll be able to find the right gift for at least a couple people in your life!


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Books + Bookmarks

I just released my new book, Ephesians: A Hand Lettered Devotional in October and I would love to send it home to you to keep for yourself or give to loved ones! My Romans devotional is also a great gift, but whether you choose one book or the other or both, you should definitely add a bookmark to your order for just $1.50! These books are a great gift for seasoned Bible studiers or those approaching the Bible for the first time. (Click their individual listings on Etsy to see previews of each book.)

The perfect gift for: students, adults, parents, grandparents, Bible study group members and leaders
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Calendar + Have Faith Pin

I have only printed a small number of these calendars, so you’re definitely going to want to get your orders in before they sell out! They contain 12 colorful Bible verses and prayers to remind you of who God is throughout the year. And if you’re looking for something to go with the calendar, add a Have Faith pin to your order! I’ve linked one color, but they come in four different colors, so you might want to do some browsing HERE first! Whatever pin color you choose, you can’t go wrong with the combination of something to display and something to wear.

The perfect gift for: students, adults, gal pals, moms, Bible study group members and leaders
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Custom Address Stamps

This is the perfect gift for so many and I’m thrilled to now offer seven designs! Prices range from $26.95-$48.95 and they vary based on design and stamp type: wood mounted with or without a handle and self-inking. (Click HERE to browse on Etsy).

All stamp orders must be placed by December 1 for Christmas delivery!

The perfect gift for: parents, grandparents, newlyweds, newly engaged couples, new homeowners.
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Mug + Print + Print Stand

Have any coffee lovers in your life?? If you want to go beyond the usual coffee shop gift card, consider ordering one of my 15oz mugs (dishwasher and microwave safe)! If the mug isn’t enough to satisfy your caffeine-loving friends, pick up one of my “Caffeinated” prints and a print stand to display it on. Your friends will love having a silly quote to display next to their coffee maker of choice. 😉

The perfect gift for: students, young adults, moms, baristas, teachers
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Notepad + Do Good Pin

Notepads have been one of my top-selling items at local fairs! We all have busy schedules and so much to keep track of throughout the day – why not make list making a little prettier? And to better encourage your loved ones to keep doing good in the lives of those around them, add a Do Good pin! Both will make perfect stocking stuffers!

The perfect gift for: students, young adults, moms, teachers
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Enamel Pins + Display Banners

Enamel pins have really taken the world by storm over the past year! Once you buy your first, it’s hard not to start collecting them… they’re just so cute! That’s why my mama and I made a bunch of these small pin display banners. It’s so fun to display our pretty pins when we’re not wearing them. (For more pin style inspiration, visit this blog post // Click HERE to browse pins on Etsy.)

The perfect gift for: students, young adults, moms, baristas, daycare providers, teachers, sales associates, Bible study group members and leaders… the list goes on!
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Ornaments

And of course, you can’t go wrong with this classic gift: Ornaments! You can choose between wood engraved (pictured) or gold or silver acrylic if you’re feeling extra fancy. 😉

The perfect gift for: family members, friends, teachers, daycare providers, co-workers… the list goes on!
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Anyway…

Those are just a handful of ideas fo you, but be sure to go do some browsing and mixing and matching of your own at my shop: LaurenIbachLettering on Etsy! Be sure to get on my mailing list to be the first to hear about holiday deals and get Christmas order deadline reminders (See below for more info).

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Enamel Pin Style Inspiration

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My love for enamel pins has grown so much in the past year. They have become one of my favorite accessories no matter what season. Wherever I go, I usually have a pin somewhere on me – a jacket, a vest, my backpack, a sweater… and I always have the ones I’m not wearing at home on display. I also was curious to know how my social media community was wearing their pins, so I reached out to them and received some great pin style photos from them as well.

Whether you have a collection of enamel pins or just one, I hope you’ll be inspired to start rocking your pins in your day-to-day wardrobe and at home. ❤

Jackets, vests, & sweaters

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Let’s start with an obvious choice: jean jackets! Sturdy fabrics like denim are your best friend when wearing enamel pins. You can place your pins on the collar, the pocket, or somewhere in between. In the photos above, I’m wearing my silver Be Kind pin. and in the photos below, I’m wearing my Strong & Courageous pin. and black and gold Have Faith pin.
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I love these photos submitted by Kiley of @kileyinkentucky and taken by Connie of @januaryjunephotography! Vests are great for the days you want to wear your pins, but it’s a little too warm for a jacket or thick sweater. I also love how Kiley paired the gold Be Kind pin with the rose gold Do Good pin.
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Like Kiley, you can totally mix and match your metals. But, I usually I like to match my pins with each other and the metals on my clothing. I really like how the gold in my gold and white Have Faith pin looks with the brass zipper on my army green vest.
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On extra chilly days, I wear my pins on thick knit sweaters and cardigans. Strong & Courageous pin looks so sweet and dainty on this cream knit sweater.
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My friend @steenaanne looks so cute with her gold Do Good pin and that cute little fly pin she already had. They look so perfect together on the collar of her vest.
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Wearing a pin on my overalls is probably my #1 go-to. I have two pairs of overalls, so I wear them often and I love how my pins fit perfectly on the strap. It’s a subtle way to say something sweet while you’re out and about! And, the silver and black Have Faith pin looks so good on that dark denim.

Backpacks & Bags

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Since receiving these photos, I’m more inspired to up my pin game on my purses and bags. I only have a few leather purses, as well as a leather tote, and I personally don’t like the idea of poking a hole in my good leather bags (but hey, if you’re braver than me, go for it!), so I thought @rebecca.aimeee‘s solution was genius: stick the pin through one of the buckle holes! I also like how the buckle acts as a frame around the silver Be Kind pin.
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If you’re like Kristin of the @howtofailpodcast and you do have a canvas purse or tote, you can place pins anywhere on the canvas without worrying about doing any permanent damage. Kristin paired the Be Kind and Do Good pins (both in gold) on her tote and I think it’s such a classy look!

Tip: I’ve heard a few people say they struggle to keep their pins in place on bags and backpacks or worry about them falling off. The fabric on bags is often times a bit thicker than clothing and we tend to toss our bags around during the day more than our clothes so a locking clasp can solve that problem. I personally have never had an issue with a standard rubber back, but locking clasps are nice to have if you need a little more reassurance when placing your pins on thick material. Locking clasps are available as an upgraded option when you order any of the pins from my shop.
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Candace of @julingtonmarket wears her gold Be Kind pin on her black backpack. Pins are a great way to dress up a simple bag or backpack and this is the perfect example.
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@rcraikr also wears her gold Be Kind pin on her backpack. The white and gold pops on the blue fabric and she picked the perfect spot to place it.

When you’re not wearing your pins…

I don’t wear my pins everyday, but I still like to look at and enjoy them when I’m not wearing them. Instead of storing them in a box or drawer there are a couple other places I keep them:
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Canvas banners work great for displaying enamel pins when you’re not wearing them. I’ve seen larger banners for displaying big collections, but my collection is relatively small, so I made some small pin banners that look great with several pins or just a few.
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One day, while decluttering my desk, I put a few pins on my pen cup and thought they looked so cute, I kept them there until I wore them again. I’m the type of person who likes having verbal reminders throughout the day and the rose gold and white Have Faith pin paired with the gold Do Good pin are the perfect reminder of the importance of having faith and doing good works. ❤

Start rocking your pins!

Ready to add enamel pins to your wardrobe? You can find all my pins at my Etsy shop, as well as pin banners, locking clasps, and of course, many other pretty things. Please send me photos of how you where your pins! Just tag @lauren.ibach and #laurenibachlettering when sharing on Instagram. I always love seeing my pins out and about and continue to get inspired by how others wear them too!
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Other pins pictured:
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Heart glasses pin: @justine.gilbuena

How do you manage stress and anxiety during the workday​?

I recently posted the photo below on my Instagram stories, sharing about my brief walk to help manage my anxiety. I asked the question: How do you manage stress and anxiety during the workday? And I loved the responses you sent in!

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I’ve also mentioned in recent blog posts that I’ve been struggling with anxiety, so I decided it would be fitting to share the great advice so many of you sent in right here on the blog, instead of on a quick Instagram story that will disappear in 24 hours. This will not only allow me to spend a little more time reflecting on your words of wisdom, but it will also give others the opportunity to stumble upon these words on a later date.

So one more time – here’s the question:

How do you manage stress and anxiety during the workday?

Your answers:

  • “Walked away from my computer and did a smaller task that would make me feel accomplished”
  • “Really listening to myself and learning what I need for myself mentally”
  • “Watch Vines or go somewhere by myself”
  • “I listen to ASMR videos on YouTube!”
  • “Lunch breaks away from the office!”
  • “Being outside or at least in a different environment helps me.”
  • “Start the day with scripture, prayer throughout, and counsel of good friends.”
  • “Softly playing Jesus music with my headphones! Works well when I can’t be away.”
  • “Walks are huge for me and I also sneak away into a cozy meeting room and read!”
  • “Devotionals about anxiety and fear really help me put myself in check.”
  • “Don’t just drink coffee. Do pour over. The ritual helps.”
  • “Visit with friends.”
  • “Lay on the floor with my palms up, close my eyes, and focus on my breathing.”
  • “Walk with the dogs. Helps every time.”
  • “I love watching IG stories of dogs. So funny!”
  • “Movement (walk, dance, stretch), music, prayer, pets.”
  • “I try to take the stairs as much as possible so I get a little exercise to break up the day!”
  • “Make a list of everything adding to my anxiety to help me calm down and conquer it.”

I want to make sure I mention that I am not trying to say one or all of these answers will cure an anxious heart. I have had seasons where I’ve gone to counseling and been on medication, so I am sensitive to those of you reading this who might think, “Easy for her to say!” or “She really doesn’t get it!” I know personally that overcoming anxiety is not a quick fix. These are just a few answers I felt either personally connected to or thought others might find beneficial to help combat anxiety in the moment. Advice to help you and me simply get through the day.

Just in case you’re curious to know my go-to tactics for overcoming anxiety and stress during the workday:

  • Starting the day with Jesus – in the Word and/or in prayer (and praying as I work or while I’m driving)
  • Cutting back on caffeine (I have no shame in drinking decaf! I notice a big difference with this one!)
  • Walks and just being outside for a bit
  • Breaking for lunch instead of eating at my desk while I work
  • Turning off phone notifications and placing my phone out of sight (out of sight, out of mind!)
  • A scented candle
  • Spending time with the people I love in the evenings
  • Also in the evenings: Knitting, Netflix, Harry Potter… my interests that aren’t related to work!

Anyway…

Take good care of yourselves! Do what is best for YOU to get through the day. If you’re struggling with deeper anxiety, I highly suggest getting help, whether that be through friends and family, counseling, your church, medication, or a combination of those. You are not alone!

Thanks again for all the great responses to this question! Can’t wait to try some of them myself!

❤ Lauren

Our Story; Nearly Perfect Pins for Crohn’s Research

Update 8/24/2018: Together you helped us raise and donate $1,040.85 to the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation. Thank you so much for helping us reach our goal in less than three months! Nearly Perfect Pins will now be sold for profit, but be assured that those sales will still be doing good – going towards Luke’s continued medical expenses. We are overwhelmed by your love and support these past few months and can’t thank you enough! ❤ Lauren & Luke

Today is an exciting day! I am now selling Nearly Perfect Pins at my Etsy shop to raise money for Crohn’s disease research!

Why Crohn’s disease research?

In the past, I have mentioned on the blog and on social media that my husband, Luke, has a chronic illness. Out of respect for Luke and his desire to keep that part of his life private, I have been careful not to share too much. However, we recently went through some life-changing circumstances surrounding that and we both feel led to share more of our story and do something in response to our experience.

In January 2016, my husband Luke was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. Crohn’s disease is a chronic illness that affects one’s entire immune system, but the main issues involve the colon and small intestine. Symptoms vary from person to person, but since Luke’s symptoms were not as “normal” as many cases, we are guessing he went undiagnosed for 5-7 years. This caused a lot of permanent damage to his colon and small intestine. So, in May 2018, Luke had surgery to get 20 cm of his colon and small intestine removed.

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Before surgery, Luke experienced daily pain – especially after eating. But, it didn’t take long after surgery for him to start noticing its positive effects. Now, he can eat almost everything he likes and no longer suffers from daily pain (Praise God)! Though Luke’s surgery was successful, he will continue to live with Crohn’s disease and take medication for the rest of his life to keep things under control and avoid another surgery down the road.

God’s provision

The past six months were filled with so many ups and downs. Luke’s pain was increasing, he was laid off from his job, and there were a bunch of issues at school I won’t get into. All in all, it was a rough season of one thing after another. When we got the news that Luke needed surgery ASAP, we began to see the Lord’s hand through this experience. For example:

Up until this past February, Luke was in school full-time and working about 35 hours a week on top of that. When Luke got the news that his position was no longer needed at work, we were so confused. At the time, we had no idea how bad things had gotten and surgery was not on our radar. If Luke hadn’t lost his job, he probably would have continued working through the pain he was experiencing and most likely would have had to go into the ER for emergency surgery. He would have had to drop out of school mid-way through the semester, we would have been out thousands of dollars, and Luke’s hard work would have gone without any credit.

Luke losing his job was a HUGE blessing. God worked out all these little details to save us from even more trouble than we were already experiencing. We are humbled by the Lord’s compassion for us and that He continues to reveal that He really did have a plan for Luke and me through this difficult season.

So, as a response, Luke and I felt led to do two things: 1) Share the love of Christ with others through our story and 2) Help others like Luke.

How we plan to help others

I was designing a new pin while Luke was in the hospital, so pins were on the mind as we began discussing our desire to share our story, God’s goodness, and somehow help others with Crohn’s disease.

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As many of you already know, I started designing enamel pins this year. A few recent orders didn’t come out quite right, so my manufacturer sent me the flawed ones in addition to the ones I ordered. These pins are nearly perfect. I’ve given a few away to friends and they don’t mind the extra dings, scratches, and markings. But, I just didn’t feel right selling them at full price alongside the other pins that did come out right.

So, Luke and I felt the obvious starting point was to sell these Nearly Perfect Pins and start raising money for Crohn’s research. It is our hope that we would be able to donate at least $1,000 in December 2018 to the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation. So, starting today, I am selling Nearly Perfect Pins at my Etsy shop and 100% of the profits will go towards a donation we’ll make at the end of the year.

Thank you

Thanks for reading our story and thanks in advance to all of you who choose to pick yourselves up a Nearly Perfect Pin (or two or three!). The money from your purchase will go towards changing people’s quality of life, gaining a better understanding of what causes Crohn’s disease, getting people diagnosed sooner, and finding better treatments.

Click HERE to get your Nearly Perfect Pins today!

Update 8/24/2018: Together you helped us raise and donate $1,040.85 to the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation. Thank you so much for helping us reach our goal in less than three months! Nearly Perfect Pins will now be sold for profit, but be assured that those sales will still be doing good – going towards Luke’s continued medical expenses. We are overwhelmed by your love and support these past few months and can’t thank you enough! ❤ Lauren & Luke

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A Few Reasons Why You Should Take a Break From Social Media

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About a month ago, my husband and I went on a trip to Florida and I completely disconnected from work – which included social media. As an artist and business owner, I get overwhelmed by the pressure to produce content. I’m an introvert, I’m not active on my personal Facebook account, and I don’t even have a personal Instagram account. I genuinely don’t think I would be on social media if I didn’t run my own business, so you can probably imagine how hard it is for someone like me to stay on top of her social media responsibilities!

Taking a break was what I needed and when I shared on my feed that I’d be going away for awhile, I received comments like, “that’s unheard of!” and “reading your post about taking time off reminded me I can do that too.” These comments made me realize how much we all need a break, that it’s 100% okay, and that I really needed to share my experience in depth to help those in my community give themselves permission to let go and take a breather.

So, I came up with a few reasons I think you too should take a break from social media based on my personal experience.

Do it for your loved ones

I’m starting with this, not because I think it’s more important than doing it for yourself, but because this is the shorter of the two. I think both reasons are equally important!

Whether you realize it or not, your social media use impacts those around you. The first and obvious example? When you’re on your phone when your loved ones are around. I don’t think I need to elaborate on this much more, it’s pretty obvious. When we are distracted by physically being on our phone while with others, I’d argue they don’t even get half of our attention. We gotta get back to making the people with us the number one priority, instead of the people not with us.

I’ve also found that even when I’m intentional about not being on my phone when I’m with my husband, my brain still tends to wander towards that weird DM I got, or how that one post didn’t do as well as I had hoped, or why it feels like my growth progresses in a two steps forward, one step back pattern. These are all minor things that become major in my head when I get too consumed with my phone. So, even if Luke (or anybody I’m with!) were never to even see my phone, they’d still have a more distracted Lauren and they deserve all my attention, not just a fraction of it.

Do it for yourself

There are two sub-categories within this section: your mental health and your spiritual health. I know technology and social media affects our physical health too, but personally, this wasn’t one of my reasons for taking time off, so I’m not going to share about that today. If your physical health is being impacted by social media, it’s important to recognize that and make the necessary changes you need to! But, below are my two big, personal reasons for taking time off from social media:

Mental Health

I mentioned briefly how social media affects my mental health in the “Do it for your loved ones” section, but I’m going to expand on that. Not only is social media a distraction, but it has an impact on the way we think about the world and ourselves.

Negativity: There is a lot of negativity out there, whether in the form of articles re-posted by others, internet trolls with rude comments, or even taking in too much information at once can affect us negatively. It definitely has a big impact on my mood and outlook on the day or life in general, so it’s important for me to be aware of that.

Addiction: We also need to constantly be aware of social media addiction and keep that in check. It’s a real thing. I continue to see articles and videos warning us of that risk. I heard someone mention once that if you can’t go a week without social media, you’re addicted. That was actually the comment that made me want to take a week off from social media. Personally, I needed to know where I fell on the spectrum and I’m thankful to say I had no issues being away from my phone for a week. I want to continue to have a healthy relationship with social media so I will continue to keep my use in check.

Comparison: I think we oftentimes forget that we’re viewing other people’s lives through a lens – literally and figuratively. We all are only showing people the parts of our lives that we want people to see. Everyone has the right to keep certain things private and make other things public. Some people are more honest about that than others, but regardless, we have to be careful about comparing our lives to others. We just don’t ever know the full story!

Spiritual Health

I have shared with my community about my struggles to pray and study the Bible consistently. When I look back on the past six years of pursuing a relationship with Christ, I’ve noticed that that struggle became much more of a problem when I received my first smartphone as a college graduation gift from my parents. I’m not blaming my parents or my phone… I’m thankful for the gift and the convenience of owning a smartphone, but now that I know this, I need to take responsibility for my actions – or lack thereof. I’m going to start by setting boundaries and sticking to them. I’m not sure what that even looks like yet, but I just needed to say that here for accountability! I’m a woman of my word and wouldn’t want to tell you I’m working on something I’m not!

And, to conclude, I suppose spiritual health could go in the “Do it for your loved ones” section too (God deserves all our love!), but the section I’ve placed this reason in isn’t what’s important. The important thing is that we need to take time away from social media if it’s affecting our spiritual walk. Time away helps us clear our minds, remind us what’s really important, and gives us a fresh start when we return to the social media world.

Applying this to your life

This blog post is already getting long, so I’m just going to end with a couple bullet points to help you apply all this to your own life and successfully step away from social media for a week, a month, a year, or forever if it’s right for you!

Things you can do to effectively take a break from social media:

  • Turn off all notifications on your phone
  • Delete your social media apps or hide them temporarily. (You know how you can have multiple pages on the iPhone home screen? I hide my work and social media apps on their own page/screen in the very back so I can’t see them.)
  • Schedule your posts to post automatically… or don’t! You decide! I chose not to, because I didn’t want people to think I was ignoring their comments while I was away.
  • Have a friend you trust look over things once a day just in case clients try to get ahold of you while you’re away – I’m talking to you, small biz owners! It’s super easy and will really help you have peace of mind during your social media vacay.

Anyway…

I hope this post helped you in some way or another. There is so much more I could say, but this post is already longer than I planned. Just remember that you make the rules when it comes to social media, not Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, social media experts, or algorithms. I’ll say it again, you make your own rules when it comes to social media use. When you need help keeping your social media use in check, repeat this phrase to yourself and it just might help bring you back to reality when things are getting overwhelming or out of hand:

Is social media serving me or am I serving it?

Thanks for reading!

❤ Lauren

If you liked this blog post, please sign up for my mailing list. I will notify you about similar blog posts when they are posted and I only notify my community about what I think is most important – I won’t clutter your inbox and I’ll send you a free PDF download to print and display at home when you sign up!

Written by Lauren Ibach  // Edited by Kiley Bennett

How I created the art for my book, “Romans: A Hand Lettered Devotional”

I have been wanting to do a blog post like this since before my new book, Romans: A Hand Lettered Devotional, was even released. Today, I’m finally going to share the step-by-step process (with pictures!) of how I went about creating the art for my book.

Journaling

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If you’ve been following me along in this project or have seen my video, you know that this started as a personal project. I didn’t originally intended for this to become a book, so it all started in the pages of my journal. In the beginning, I didn’t take notes beforehand (as you can see on the left page), but as the chapters got more content heavy, I needed to plan more or else I knew I would run out of the room on the page before finishing!

Scanning

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After posting the first few pages of my “Romans project” I received an overwhelmingly positive response from so many people on social media and through friends and family I ran into while out and about. I was working on Romans 4 when I decided I was no longer just doing this project for me and Jesus alone. However, finishing this personal study of Romans right in my journal was important to me, so I decided to finish the art this way before recreating it for the book. When I finally made it through all 16 chapters in my journal (this took about a month), I scanned each page onto my iPad.

Prepping the journal pages for tracing

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Once the art was scanned onto my iPad (using an app called Procreate), I would size each page to a template I made, so all the pages would be the same size and all the titles would be positioned in the same spot. Pictured below is what that guide/template looked like:

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I would line up the first and last journal lines with the blue lines shown and the titles would be dragged and repositioned to be in between the pink lines at the top. Once the page was positioned as it should be, I resized some of the hand lettered sections if they were too squished on the page or didn’t look balanced (shown below):

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As you can see, I shifted things ever so slightly, within the page. This really helped the art look more balanced. That wasn’t always easy to plan for when I did this with an actual pen in my journal.

Tracing

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Once all the slight formatting adjustments were done, I was ready to start tracing the art. Like Adobe Illustrator, in Procreate, you can create multiple layers, adjust the opacity and show or hide these layers. I brought the opacity way down, so I could see my original artwork, but could also see clearly the new art I was creating with my Apple Pencil on a new layer.

Even though the journal pages were recreated digitally, they were still completely done by hand. The Apple Pencil is pressure sensitive, so it is very much like using a real pen.

Finalizing

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Each page averaged on 11.5 hours (yes, I timed all 16) and once I was satisfied with how it looked, I would save it to my computer and back it up in multiple places. My fear of losing hours worth of work was oh so real and thankfully I never did (always back up your work in at least two other places! Mine is saved to my computer when it’s in progress and also to a flash drive and Dropbox forever).

I could have just uploaded these pages to BookWright (the program I used to format the book’s content page by page), but because I used ESV Bible verses mixed with personal thoughts and paraphrases, I had to add some markings to differentiate between the two for copyright reasons. I added these little gray * symbols in Adobe Illustrator (not pictured), which was very time consuming, but also very important!

Getting the art into the book

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Like I mentioned in the last section, I used a program called BookWright to upload all my art and typed content to make it all into, well… a book! I did my printing through Blurb and was very happy with the customer service. Self publishing is scary, but my rep was so helpful and very easy to communicate with (shoutout to Melissa)!

It took three proofs until the printing looked the way I wanted it to, but once I got that third proof, I was so pleased with how it all looked and got the first run of copies ordered. I was excited and proud to see it all come together so beautifully and I couldn’t wait to get the rest of the copies shipped to me, so I could ship them all over the world!

All done

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The rest of the copies came in the mail just in time for the release date and they looked even better than that final proof from Blurb! At that point, I could finally sit back, relax, and celebrate one of the biggest accomplishments of my life so far.

I hope you enjoyed learning about the thought, love, care and work that went into creating this book. If you’re interested in purchasing your own copy of Romans: A Hand Lettered Devotional you can find it at my Etsy shop!

Thanks for following me along in this amazing self publishing journey!

❤ Lauren

Christmas gift ideas and sweet deals!

Hey there, friends! Happy Thanksgiving! I hope you had a wonderful time with loved ones yesterday and are starting your holiday season off right today!

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This weekend I really wanted to get in on the excitement, so I’m offering free shipping and a free gift with every purchase now through Monday (11/27). The free gift is a special Christmas PDF download you can print and display at home or even get printed on cards to give out this holiday season! I’m really excited about it and I hope you are too. 🙂

To help you with your shopping…

I know shopping for everyone in your life can be tricky at times, some people being more difficult to shop for than others, so I’m sharing a few ideas with you today on what you can get from my shop and who in your life is likely to be interested in those things (based on who has purchased the items so far).

So, here are my three best ideas, who to give them to and what else they could be gifted with (click the photos to be directed to their individual listings on Etsy):

FullSizeRenderMy brand new book, Romans: A Hand Lettered Devotional

Perfect gift for: Everyone! But, especially friends, parents, wives, young adults, teens, pre-teens, teachers, people in your Bible study group, spiritual mentors, etc. (Contact me directly for orders of 15 or higher and I can offer you a discount!)

Gift it with: One of my Romans 8 prints, one of my “Thankful” card packs, and/or a 5×7 print.

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Any 5×7 print – the perfect stocking stuffer!

Perfect gift for: Friends, co-workers, moms, wives, young adults, teens, pre-teens, teachers and women in your book club, small group or any other kind of group you might be a part of.

Gift it with: A cute frame, stand, or fun binder clip(s) to use for hanging.

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Romans 8 print

Perfect gift for: Friends, new homeowners, newlyweds, parents, grandparents, teachers, your small group leader, a spiritual mentor, etc.

Gift is with: A frame (I got this one from Target).

Click HERE to shop all the things!

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If you’d like to have something custom made in time for Christmas, please send me a message through Etsy by December 5th. I can’t guarantee Christmas delivery for custom orders after that time. I hope to hear from you soon!

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