Happy Jack London

Jack was a surprise, and not in the way you think I mean. It was my birthday weekend and we were making stops around town, eating at our favorite bakery, going to music stores to feel out guitars. Well, before we even got inside the music store, I heard dogs barking. If you know me real well, I get way too excited about seeing a dog or puppy. Even if it's just an old man walking down the street with his hound, I can't even help it. So we made a stop at the pet store first, where the rescues are brought out every Saturday morning. 

Walking down the sidewalk, we saw him, the last cage on the end. spotted and colorful. I didn't even look at the other dogs, I was only drawn to Jack. We had Nelson with us already, our 1 year old puppy. So we walked Jack and Nelson together and they seemed not that interested in one another. 

Well, these days...they can't get enough of each other. I can barely separate them-they're only focus is each other when they're a part. 

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I was a little nervous bringing Jack home, knowing I was setting myself up for more training, more hair, less sleep...but double the amount of puppy cuddles? Oh my word, yes. 

 

We are a little crazy for adopting on a whim, but I can't say how thankful I am that Jack is here. Nelson was alone by himself all day when we are at work, but now He's got a lifetime friend. We are slowly training Jack and he's not nearly as smart as Nelson, but his sweetness makes up for it. All he really wants in life is to love on us, and thats all we could ever as for.

I think adding a second dog into a home is a decision that needs to be based solely off of your living situation and not others. Maybe your dog really is better off on it's own. It's easy to get caught up in the cuteness..dang, is it! But the most important thing is evaluating your current dog; what personality type do they have? Will the second dog you pick mesh well with your current one? Be prepared for jealousy of attention, sharing each others bad habits with one another, and maybe a few accidents if your dog isn't potty trained. (I highly recommend training with the bell method.) There can be many obstacles but you can handle them if you have the time to train, a positive attitude, and patience...oh and maybe the need to vacuum more often. Hypoallergenic dogs are a great option..but I'm far past that!

Sincerely, 

L

BISON.shop Logo

One of my most recent projects was creating this logo for @Bison.Shop. It has been one of my favorite projects this far because it challenged me (I had never drawn or painted a bison before) and I had so much fun creating texture to bring this bison to life. 

Thank you @blakelyhi for giving me this opportunity to give your great shop a new logo! 

 

 

If you haven't checked out @bison.shop on Instagram, you need to! She has great vintage, great brands and gently used items there and is always adding new items! 

 

Much Love,

L

 

Studio Office.

I recently moved my studio space over to a smaller, "more office appropriate size" room in our house and before I even thought about moving my things, I had to paint. I chose to paint it bright white, and happily said good-bye to the blue-ish green that was there before we moved into our house. I ended up with an open, clean space and a blank slate, helping me to feel that I can create more freely. 

Having a space to create and focus is important, especially for those like me who have to continuously re-direct their attention and be intentional with their time. The space allows me to focus more than if I were constantly distracted by ugly painted walls and clutter. 

Now I have a few other rooms to de-clutter and paint...it's a never-ending process. And though it's tiring, I kinda love it at the same time. 

 

With Love,

L

More than a Midwest s'mores night.

Photo cred: @freelyronnie

Photo cred: @freelyronnie

photo cred: @jessicalaff When I was quietly preparing the final things for dinner, everyone had arrived. The laughter and chatter of women filled my home and I couldn't help but smile. The whole evening was spent getting to know one another; depth filled conversations. The coolness of the evening pressed against the circle of women while we kept warm by the fire; both personal and laugh until you cry stories filled the air, vintage records crackled. This is what I envisioned Matt and I's house to look like, our own (not a bungalow), bungalow. But I could have never planned out a perfectly smooth evening. A home is meant to be opened up and shared; to be filled with memories that you will remember and cherish for the rest of your life. And that is what last night was, cherishing. There was a deeper meaning to having this event..I felt that ladies didn't come just to eat good food. Nope. That was a perk though. It was to finally meet and get to know each other better, face to face, after months or even years of "following" each other on Instagram, FB. Some of us knew one another by recent coffee dates, some of us were close in friendship, others beginning new friendships. The internet has a way of tricking us to thinking and feeling close to others, in some weird way, and I think it is because we see a glimpse into each others lives. But really we are hidden, seen but not seen too much, just enough to not show our every insecurity or flaw. And last night was it. Insecurities were cut down, flaws were embraced with love. There was no need to feel insecure, because we all have it. There was no need to not share personal stories and be vulnerable to what people might think. Because there was no judging, only love, and it resonated in the air. Life is short...and I'm getting closer to 30. I don't want to live life wishing I had opened up to people, or wish I had not been so scared. There is risk taking in finding new friendships. You have to be open and willing to let people see a different side of you, and hope they accept you as you are. And the friends who are friends, will accept you and love you. I have recently gained a couple of friendships that bring me so much happiness through planning this event and it's incredible. Gods grace is showering me with friendship right now and it has been much needed after a hard year of depression.  Last night felt like what I had needed and wanted to do for so long but my lack of self confidence had gotten in the way. And for what? For nothing. It was in the way for nothing. But I also believe Gods timing is perfect. And for the past 6 months i have felt growth and confidence in myself as a woman like never before, and though it's still a process, this evening made me realize even more that I'm a grown woman. An adult. And I'm un afraid of being my self; my goofy, sometimes quiet, sometimes crazy self. Insecurities are nothing more than a wall keeping you from growing, keeping you from feeling vulnerable, keeping you from making friendships that are needed so much after a dry season. And so, after saying all of this, I want to say thank you. Thank you ladies for coming and being your beautiful selves. Thank you to those who helped clean up the big mess, thank you! We are all different and wonderful in our own ways; personalities, opinions, style, beauty, quirks...and it's was so much fun to see you in a real, personal light. Love you all. Until next time. Who's hosting the next #midwestsmoresnight ? Or #midwestpotlucknight ? :) Love always, L

photo cred: @jessicalaff


When I was quietly preparing the final things for dinner, everyone had arrived. The laughter and chatter of women filled my home and I couldn't help but smile. The whole evening was spent getting to know one another; depth filled conversations. The coolness of the evening pressed against the circle of women while we kept warm by the fire; both personal and laugh until you cry stories filled the air, vintage records crackled.


This is what I envisioned Matt and I's house to look like, our own (not a bungalow), bungalow. But I could have never planned out a perfectly smooth evening. A home is meant to be opened up and shared; to be filled with memories that you will remember and cherish for the rest of your life. And that is what last night was, cherishing. There was a deeper meaning to having this event..I felt that ladies didn't come just to eat good food. Nope. That was a perk though. It was to finally meet and get to know each other better, face to face, after months or even years of "following" each other on Instagram, FB. Some of us knew one another by recent coffee dates, some of us were close in friendship, others beginning new friendships. The internet has a way of tricking us to thinking and feeling close to others, in some weird way, and I think it is because we see a glimpse into each others lives. But really we are hidden, seen but not seen too much, just enough to not show our every insecurity or flaw. And last night was it. Insecurities were cut down, flaws were embraced with love. There was no need to feel insecure, because we all have it. There was no need to not share personal stories and be vulnerable to what people might think. Because there was no judging, only love, and it resonated in the air.

Life is short...and I'm getting closer to 30. I don't want to live life wishing I had opened up to people, or wish I had not been so scared. There is risk taking in finding new friendships. You have to be open and willing to let people see a different side of you, and hope they accept you as you are. And the friends who are friends, will accept you and love you.

I have recently gained a couple of friendships that bring me so much happiness through planning this event and it's incredible. Gods grace is showering me with friendship right now and it has been much needed after a hard year of depression.  Last night felt like what I had needed and wanted to do for so long but my lack of self confidence had gotten in the way. And for what? For nothing. It was in the way for nothing. But I also believe Gods timing is perfect. And for the past 6 months i have felt growth and confidence in myself as a woman like never before, and though it's still a process, this evening made me realize even more that I'm a grown woman. An adult. And I'm un afraid of being my self; my goofy, sometimes quiet, sometimes crazy self. Insecurities are nothing more than a wall keeping you from growing, keeping you from feeling vulnerable, keeping you from making friendships that are needed so much after a dry season.
And so, after saying all of this, I want to say thank you. Thank you ladies for coming and being your beautiful selves. Thank you to those who helped clean up the big mess, thank you! We are all different and wonderful in our own ways; personalities, opinions, style, beauty, quirks...and it's was so much fun to see you in a real, personal light.
Love you all. Until next time. Who's hosting the next #midwestsmoresnight ? Or #midwestpotlucknight ? :)

Love always,
L

5 years and counting.

Matt and I will be celebrating our 5th wedding anniversary tomorrow and time has flown by.

As our anniversary approached, I began making a list of the things I've learned and hope to stick by through the rest of our lives together. Making a list is a good challenge. Some of these are from personal experiences through our marriage, some of them are from hearing other's stories and experiences. It's a good reminder of how far we've come, how proud we should be of our marriage, how strong of a bind that has been spun.

My heart is full. And as I write this, I tear up because we have had some really rough times. I'm not afraid to be real with you. Because no matter how pretty photos placed on Instagram are, the happiest comments to follow, it doesn't even begin to capture the whole reality of marriage or the true beauty of loving and giving through the difficult times, the restless nights, the most challenging seasons. And that is part of the beauty. Your marriage, is your marriage. God is in it, He is for you, forever with you. What God has joined together, let no man tear a part; not even yourself.

Let's start with number one...

1. Cling to God. Through the breezy times, through the roughest. Cling to the Lords truth. Dive into scripture. Satan is at work, always. Do not be fooled by the lies he tells you that will pull you away from your spouse or from God. Be filled with the Lord's goodness and his wisdom through prayer and time with Him. I know that my strength comes from the Lord. There have been times where we just needed to be pulled through a mess, a challenge, a financial burden. Ask the Lord for help. What we cannot carry, the Lord will.

2. Pray for your spouse. This year I have discovered more the power of prayer. I've seen the fruit of believing and by the consistency of it, I've seen change in my spouse. I've been in complete awe of the fact we can even communicate to such a Mighty God. Recognize your spouses needs, what they need protection from. Start praying, because God is Hope. God is a faithful God, always, forever.

3. Make time for one another. We are so caught up in our individual lives with work, children, projects, house work, etc, etc. Making time for each other once a week to get out of the house alone, can open up conversations you may not have had if you stayed home and pooped out on the couch. (Yes, I said pooped, because thats usually how I feel after a busy day. Pooped.)

4. Accept each other. Matt and I married young. We were different people with different dreams and different views and beliefs when we married. I think one of the most loving things we can do for our spouse is accept the changes that come over time in them and love them unconditionally. We may not like all the changes, we may be hesitant about the changes, we may dwell on how things used to be. Well, get off your high-horse, because you've also changed ( tough-love folks) and you're both going to continue to change. Change is inevitable. You need to wrap your spouse up with Christ-like love. The important thing is that you do not let go of our spouse just because your expectations weren't met. God has something better for you than your expectations. The love He has for you... you cannot even imagine the things He's prepared for you. Trust in Him. Trust your spouse through Him.

5. Motivate each other. Push your spouse. Challenge them to work hard with constant encouragement (no nagging allowed) and communicate how much you love that they have dreams and aspirations. It's one thing to have friends and family encourage them, but to have their partner in crime to back them up, well that's pretty great.

6. The little things matter. Pursue each other, even though you're married. Do you know your spouse's love language? Sometimes we think we do, or we assume what they like. I had some of Matt's wrong after being married for several years. Oops! It's never too late to start giving your spouse what they need by understanding what their love language is. Check out the love language test online (it's free, ya'll.) Turns out we both love acts of service...so there ain't no sittin' on our booties as much. ;)

7. Reassurance. Sometimes your spouse needs reassurance of your love for them. Maybe you've had a rough season, and maybe they're having a hard time bouncing back even when the page has turned. Communicate with them. Don't believe lies from the past. (Remember, cling to God, cling to His truth!).

8. Accept hardships. There's no giving up. Not even after nights of silence. Nights of argument, after argument. Your hardships are a part of the journey. Your steadfast love and perseverance is part of giving your Christ-like love. What you begin, you finish. Finish in strength, finish in honor and undeniable love for each other.

Now, there are exceptions. I am not talking about accepting abuse of any kind. There is definitely a line and cruelties that are not acceptable. There are options that open up your opportunity to seek help, shelter, and a new beginning. Sometimes your team mate doesn't want to reconcile or they leave. Sometimes, for whatever reason, things just don't work out. You tried really hard, but you're moving or have moved beyond that hard time. Believe me, we've experienced seasons in time of heart ache. I thank God for His goodness, I thank God that we saw beyond our own needs and worked together. It takes time, it takes patience. But it's worth it. That hard season is worth it. Believe it. These stories break my heart. God is still faithful. May God bless you with abundance and peaceful understanding.

9. Happiness is a vapor. It easily comes, it easily goes. Sometimes we have to sacrifice our personal happiness for the sake of saving our marriage. Sometimes all we can do is get down on our knees and pray out of despair and lost hope. Your lack of happiness and acceptance of it is worth something, it is worth a lot. Have joy in the Lord, have joy in the purpose He has placed in your life. True happiness will come again. It will blossom and you will look back in complete awe of the God you serve and how He carried you through. Remember, there's a season for everything.

10. You & your spouse are a team. Do not forget it. In everything, in everyday, your partner needs help. Your spouse needs a hand with cleaning up the house, helping with dinner, washing the car, paying bills. Do these things together and work along side each other. Watch the magical transformation of your relationship strengthen before your eyes.

11. Do not mistaken your spouses relationship with the Lord for your own. Though in marriage we have become one, we are also individuals. We have a responsibility to pursue Christ on our own and make time for Him. He is jealous for your love and affection. He wants to spend time with you. I very easily rely on Matt for a lot of things and I began to realize this was one of them. This past year, God showed me His fervent love for my attention. Sometimes I think an intervention disrupts our expectations, even when we don't see it coming, so that the Lord can be glorified. Be strong in the Lord for your spouse when they need your support. Be there, readily with the Lord's wisdom and Love to help them through.

12. Communication. This is a pretty big one and it intertwines in every part of your relationship with your spouse. You cannot read each other's minds. Sometimes you can get an idea of what your spouse is thinking if you've been with them long enough, but sometimes in the moment of frustration and chaos of the day, you need to communicate and say it. Say it with grace and with gentleness.

13. Reach out for wisdom. Chances are, those who have been married longer than you, may have some things they have learned through their marriage. If you're having a hard time, don't be ashamed to reach out for wisdom from someone you trust. Ask for prayer. There is no shame in asking when your marriage is in a rough season. As believers, we need community and Godly wisdom. We need them to lift us up in prayer during trials and time of need.

14. Try new things together. I'm not a big golf fan. But my husband is. Sometimes the matter of being there, just hanging out in the beautiful weather in the golf cart with Him is enough. Be available. Go places together. Get off the couch. Or don't, and watch something with them you don't like, but your spouse does. Do something your spouse loves, that you don't necessarily like doing or aren't good at. You're a team, you're companions.

15. Get naked. Yeah, I said it. I did. We're adults here, right? As much as some of us may tend to separate this one from the rest of our relationship, it is a very important one. Intimacy can be challenging in a busy day, week, month. But we have to make time for it. Think of it this way. You have chosen your one. You have chosen each other. God created this beautiful thing! Why are you passing it up? There is no one else that can give it to them. There's no one else that should give that to your spouse. Don't hold back. Don't hesitate. Take every chance you can. Yeah, sometimes it won't work out, and that's okay. But as for those other opportunities, take it and run with it...naked. Run with it when you're in that crap season. Run with it when "you're too tired". Run with it when you're the happiest.

RUN. WITH. IT.

I hope this post was encouraging to you married folk. I hope that it got your mind moving. I hope it reminded you. I hope it prepared you. I hope it gave you hope. That is what I strive to do here on TBN. Always.

With much Love,

L

Sweet Carolina

We almost didn't go. We thought we should save some money. But that sounded boring and we went anyway. Sometimes you need to break free of the normal. Get out of your town, find something unknown, experience adventure and meet new people.
And that's what we found after the 17 hours of driving to Wilmington Beach, North Carolina. We passed by the smokey mountains, met the ocean again, everyday, and got a tad lobster-y, even after re-applying sunscreen. We ran into the coolness of the water to feel the crash of ocean against us, played some catch football along the waves. Some of us endured a few minor injuries; a stubbed pinky, blistered feet, a cut on the side.
But we pushed through to indulge in Rita's slush and custard mixed treats, (no match to Andy's custard in my opinion, but nevertheless, good stuff), and home cooked dinners by each couple or group every evening.
We experienced karaoke in downtown Wilmington and danced our booties off on a roof top club.
We also discovered how calming and exciting long board paddling is on the intercostal; Matt paddled as I sat and wore an oversized life jacket in hopes of not falling off, but as I let those thoughts drift behind me, I listened to the smoothness of the water passing and felt the warm, salty breeze across my face. Pure bliss.

Letting go of fear is hard. I tend to be a worrier. I first worried about falling off the paddle board before attempting to get on, getting stung by a jelly fish or bit by a shark in the ocean instead of completely being content in the moment of satisfaction and awe of the world God made for us to experience and thrive in. The thoughts entered my mind but I caught them and let them drift away.
That is often my thought process when I am in my head; but this trip I decided I needed to let go and raise my hands high to my creator and in my thoughts cry out "Abba, Father!"

I'm missing the point of living when I hold onto the past, hold onto worry, fear, and anxiety.
North Carolina was a beautiful experience and a much needed vacation. I kept thinking about how much we would have missed if we chose to stay home. Thank God He knew our needs.
We met new people, widening our community coast to coast, let loose to try something new, laid on the beach like bums for hours to soak in the sunshine and found rest on the house deck through each morning cup of coffee.

Next time you're feeling stuck, drained, overworked...take time off. Drive away, even if it's only a few hours, or it can be seventeen. Either way, be reminded we were meant to thrive and be free. Take part in that. Relish in the fact that The Lord delights in your happiness. He sacrificed His Son for you so that we could be free and have the Holy Spirit's help.

"For the LORD takes delight in his people; He crowns the humble with victory."

Psalm 149:4

Let us also remember the troops who sacrificed so much so that we could be safe and have the freedom to experience beautiful places in this country.
Amen Amen.

Much Love,
L

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Fellowship

Fellowship
A poem by Shawna Arnold, 2006

I have paused this moment
Where faces are stuck in awkward
Open mouthed smiles from laughter
& hands are stopped in the air
From their expressive motion.
It is times such as these
That bring me to an unreached emotion
It is the times like now that I realize,
God delights in my happiness,
For if He did not,
He would not have placed
These people in my home.
These are the people
With the open mouthed smiles,
The eyes filled with love &
The essence of fellowship
In their being...
These are my Best Friends.
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In 2006, my best friend Shawna wrote a poem that I will never forget. She wrote this during the holiday season to a group of us in a Christmas card to each of us, at the age of 16 or 17, and I have held onto it since. It struck me because it was exactly how I felt about our shared friends. We had fellowship, laughter, love and an understanding of each other. We've seen each other grow up and get married, some have traveled the world, some have had children, others puppies, bought houses; were growing up, getting old. It's happening!
The true meaning of friendship shared is mutual through out the distance or time between. The essence of true friendship goes beyond the ordinary, it extends throughout a lifetime.
I painted this illustration for Shawna for a late birthday present after our 9 years of friendship. :)

I hope you all have a beautiful memorial weekend!
As for us, were driving 17 hours to the east coast to the beach!
Bon voyage!

Much love,
L

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No Pain, No Gain

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To me, known in the sports industry, the "no pain, no gain" slogan is commonly used to represent the hard work, dedication, and effort that has to be done in order to make ourselves quicker, better, stronger.
I'm not an athlete by any means. Working out sucks. I don't enjoy doing it, but I enjoy the results. I'm less stressed, I feel better, Im stronger. But really, it's the hardest thing to start back up after a long winter, when I've been stuffing my face with sweets and large proportions of food. But if I'm consistent enough and barge through that wall, I break free. I'm renewed, I'm alive!

This last week, as I was working with a patient, she said the phrase "no pain, no gain," and it clicked within my brain. Many of us, time to time, drown in our self pity, our sorrows, the way our lives are planning out with unmet expectations. (Okay, I may be talking about myself, a little.)  And we forget that without the struggle, the climb up, the discontentment; we won't fully experience joy and contentment.

What if we held onto this concept in our brain to fulfill our marriage, our personal goals, spiritual journey, and happiness. We depend too much on others for our happiness that we forget we make the choice daily whether to be upset and drowning in our failures to focusing on meeting our goals, bettering our relationships, etc.
It's a mental and spiritual battle to think we aren't good enough. We focus so much on that aspect of winning all the time in life and forget that through our failures, we learn how to become quicker, better, stronger.

I've recognized in my own life, the reliance I've had upon my husband. He provides so much that I've confused Him for supplying all of my needs, (how selfish is that?) including my relationship to Christ. I've finally recognized this year how much I've needed to put forth effort in seeking God on my own. I held onto God in the past, but I wasn't really trusting Him with my life. Things were falling to pieces and I didn't know who or what to look to for strength, reassurance, and protection.
But The Lord was patient with me. He took the time to lead me to enlightenment. Recently, I recall a patient at my last job, that only by the Holy Spirit could have known to see past the smile on my face, point out the reason for my despair, pray for me after only knowing me for a few visits to my work, and encouraging me.  That day I remembered how much God loved me.    And just like that, God is working among us, daily. The many days I didn't speak to God, He was patient. The many days I felt angered with Him and doubted His ability to save my situation, He was patient. Days, weeks, months, He is patient. 
He began to show me a part of the bigger picture and who He is; a sovereign God, a faithful Father, who wants to be closer to me, who wants me to know who He is.

We forget to have patience. We forget in our difficult season, that beyond it, something better will emerge. It may not turn out to be a perfect situation, it may not turn out to be our expectations, but God is calling our name. The beautiful thing, is that God knows our needs and He supplies something better.

The simplicity of changing seasons says it all; Winter feels drawn out, but once the blooms and beauty of Spring arrive, it gives us hope and a fresh perspective. While in a dreary season, be reminded that all things must come to pass and that whatever circumstance you're in now, it's preparing you for the future to have gratitude, to trust God, to be closer to Him and with your family, to accomplish something you never thought you could. Whatever it is, know that this season is worth it, or the one you just had, was worth it. Whether you believe in God or not, at least believe that we weren't meant to be swallowed up by a dark hole. We were made to flourish. But most of all, we were made to know the love of God, and spread the Love of God. Because with Him, anything is possible.

 

2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.


Isaiah 30:18 And therefore will the LORD wait, that he may be gracious unto you, and therefore will He be exalted, that he may have mercy upon you: 

Isaiah 40:31 
Those who wait on the Lord will renew their strength; they will walk and not grow weary, they will run and not grow faint. 

Psalms 27:14 Wait for the Lord; Be strong, and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the Lord. 

Psalms 37:9 For evildoers will be cut off, But those who wait for the Lord, they will inherit the land.

 

Happy Sunday friends,

L