December 27, 2012

an anchor of the soul

on christmas eve, three days ago now, i had the absolute honor and privilege of painting on little lenya's casket. it was the most difficult thing i've ever had to do, impossible really....

i was in the car with my husband on sunday when i got a text asking if i would paint an anchor with a verse on lenya's casket. i can't even describe the mixed emotions of honor and sadness, beauty and tragedy. it was unlike anything i've ever experienced. my husband was silent as i read the text and cried, squeezing my hand so tight. i'll never forget that moment. of course i agreed, i wanted to do anything i could for that sweet family i love so much.

christmas eve morning i woke up with a heaviness... wondering, praying, crying... praying, wondering, crying out to God. how on earth was i going to do this? my husband had already left for church to get ready for the second round of christmas eve services, so i got a ride with my dear friends [who are family to me]. crystal asked what i was doing that day [they were singing for the services and i usually help out in the green rooms]. i took a deep breath and told them i was going to paint her casket. the car was silent then i said what i had been thinking for the last 12 hours - "i don't know how i'm going to do this...."

crystal said exactly what i needed to hear - "it's how we get through anything else - by the Holy Spirit." she told me of the times she's had to sing at funerals, crying right before and after her song, but somehow she was completely able to sing like normal.

a couple of hours later, i got the call that it would arrive at the funeral home shortly. as soon as i got in my car, i was crying, just praying over and over again - "ok, Lord, i can't do this, i need You. i need Your strength." repeating verses like:

"and He said to me, 'My grace sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in your weakness.'"
[2 corinthians 12:9]

"...He who has begun a good work in you will perfect it..."
[philippians 1:6]

i sat in the funeral home, waiting for its arrival. it was running late, so the funeral director showed me where i'd be working... in one of the viewing rooms. i slowly set up my paint and brushes, then sat and cleaned up the sketch, waiting. the door opened, there it was. i forced myself to keep it together until the funeral director left... then i wept. i stood there staring at it, thoughts of lenya going through my head - her beautiful raspy voice, her big brown eyes, her sweet little hand that i held so many times as we crossed the street at church... i put both hands on the casket and whispered another prayer to Jesus... "carry me.... let this glorify You."'s a prayer i've continued to pray for the luskos... that they would be carried.

the minute i started painting [and for the next 4 1/2 hours], i had a different mindset altogether. there was a calm, a stillness in my heart and mind, a peace that surpassed all understanding. i stopped crying. i was focused, on a mission. God was carrying me. there is no other explanation. God uses the impossible situations to show us that ALL THINGS are possible with Him.

when i finished the painting, i just stared at it in disbelief. i couldn't believe [i still can't] that i had done what seemed impossible... i praised God in the quietness of my heart. i thanked Him for being faithful.
i left the funeral home, crying tears of joy, overwhelmed by the grace and strength of God to get through this, and knowing that little len isn't held down by the grave, but with Jesus now.

in the old testament of the Bible, people would set up altars or memorials after God had done something great, as a way to always be reminded of His deliverance and a way to share the testimony with others who hadn't been there to witness it themselves...
i wanted to write and document this, not only to remember the faithfulness and real strength of God, but to encourage you to put your trust, hope, faith in Him, who is an anchor of our soul, who is able to do exceedingly above all that we ask or think, who will carry you through the impossible, He always will. He is real. He is alive.

lenya's amazing memorial service will be archived soon and is definitely something i'd recommend everyone watch. i'll keep you posted on that, but feel free to check out fresh life's website for other awesome messages, like this past weekend's christmas service... a message that pastor levi gave days after his daughter went to heaven... incredible.

the pain and temporary struggle i experienced, that i've just written about, is obviously nothing compared to what the lusko family is experiencing right now, so please continue to pray for them... i can't imagine...
[in lieu of flowers, you can make a donation to skull church, which lenya loved heart and soul.]

love to each of you.


December 21, 2012

to die is gain...

no one is ever ready for that phone call... the one that stops us in our tracks, the one that shakes us to the core, the one that gives us that shocking, tragic news of death. we all know we'll die someday and everyone we know will die someday, it happens every day, every moment around the world, and yet we find ourselves in disbelief when it happens to someone we know, someone we love.
no. this can't be happening. i can't believe it. it can't be true. it must've been a nightmare, right? that text couldn't have been real last night...... and then you check your phone, reading the tragic news over and over again trying to come to terms with it, making sure you read it right... hoping, wishing, praying it weren't true.

you replay every memory you have with that person, especially the most recent... remembering your interaction, remembering the words you said, remembering the sound of their voice and the tight hugs they loved to give. you keep replaying it, making sure the memory is burned into your mind.

a little over three years ago, my husband lost his dad to pancreatic cancer, a roller coaster battle that lasted about two years. even though we were "prepared for it" there was absolutely nothing that could prepare us for that moment, when he actually breathed his last. even when you've watched the decline, you still can't believe they're gone, that death has come... that they've stepped into eternity.

[photo taken from levi lusko's blog]

last night, a sweet little girl named lenya lusko [one of pastor levi's daughters] stepped out of this world and into heaven. it was the most shocking, tragic news. my husband and i prayed and cried for most of the night. i kept replaying her cute laugh, the gleam in her eye when we'd play games, her tight "monkey" hugs when i'd say good bye, and her pure love for Jesus. the last conversation i had with her, i asked her what they talked about in class, and she replied with the biggest smile: "the birth of Jesus! the best story ever!!"
little did we know she would see Him face to face in paradise that following week.

do you know where you would go if you died tomorrow? or what if it happened tonight? the next hour isn't even promised to us... would God welcome you as a friend and faithful servant? or say that you were someone that He never knew?
the latter is scary if you don't know Jesus.... but you have a choice... accept Jesus as your Lord and you'll be saved. it's so easy! He loves you and died for you so that you could be with Him for eternity. all you have to do is open your heart to Him.

i love you guys, + this is all that really matters. i want you guys to experience freedom and grace in life, and His beautiful glory when you die. i like what paul said in one of his letters:

"for me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain."
[phil. 1:21]

we know that we will see lenya again someday, walking on those golden streets, with that beautiful contagious grin on her face. miss you already little len.

sincere love to you all,

December 17, 2012

rough sketch: sean woolsey

happy monday friends!

i'm super excited about today's artist - sean woolsey - whom i had the pleasure of meeting through a mutual friend a couple of years ago. i pretty much became an instant fan when i saw his work, ranging from amazing lighting fixtures + furniture to fine art pieces... all of which can be found in his shop. :)

i'm so glad sean took the time to give us a peek into his craft, because i am already feeling inspired + challenged by his interview.

thanks again sean! :)

q. // when did you start building/painting/etc. + what prompted you to start?

[ a. ] I have always done art and had an innate desire to make things by my hands whether it be fine art, furniture, or lighting.
The art that I do now is all on sheet metal that is built into a canvas, then I use all different paints, patinas, and acids and leave some out int he sun/rain to be exposed to the natural elements as well. It is very organic and experimental how each one forms, and how they come out. I then seal them with epoxy resin, and lastly frame them with black walnut. As for my woodworking, I got into it about 2 years ago, originally intending on just making a simple desk. One thing led to the next, passion ensued and I could not get enough of it. Now I make everything from cutting boards to chairs to dining tables.

q. // what inspires you + where do you find it?

[ a. ] Nature. God. Tea. The detail in a leaf. The kindness of a random stranger. M83. Caffeine. Late nights in the shop. Friends. Traveling. Reading. Arcane methods of working. Making things by hand. My wife. Surfing. Rauschenberg.
There are so many things that inspire me on a daily basis, most of them not sought after, they just happen. Inspiration for me is an all changing, ever-growing, never-ending list of the things that I simply encounter in life.

q. // when you're not working on a new piece of art, what's your favorite thing to do?

[ a. ] Traveling, surfing, tennis, BBQing, sailing, reading by the fire, getting lost. These are my favorites, and where you will most likely find me if not in my studio.

fill in the blank:
i have a penchant for the longer route, the mysterious story, and the arcane way.


December 13, 2012

christmas inspiration...

i just love the pairing of those colors, don't you? what can i say, i'm partial to earthy tones.... and yet as i write that, i look up + see that we've got nothing but bright colors on our christmas tree! haha! our life cracks me up sometimes. :)

how are you guys decorating this year??

ashley :)

December 12, 2012

modern junkie

one of my favorite parts of the design process is reading about each client in their 'about me' email that i require before i draw anything. it's always so fun to read about their uniqueness + glean inspiration from their personality. sometimes i get a vision right away for design + sometimes i have to work at it for several days before anything comes.

this time, the vision came immediately. as soon as i started reading karina's email, i felt like i met her face to face. she was so cool + friendly + real, + i found myself saying "mmhmm" + "me too!" out loud as i read about all of her favorite things... + i felt like i knew exactly what she wanted!! 

i'm so happy + thankful i had the chance to work with karina [the super awesome modern junkie] + i can't wait to check out everything in her new shop [coming soon]!!

congrats karina, thanks so much for letting me design your banner!!


December 10, 2012

christmas illustration for the laviks!

what an adorable family!! i was so excited when i got an email from steph [the lovely wife + mom] asking if i could illustrate them for their family christmas card! i loved painting them in cute matching wintery outfits. :) i used black ink + watercolor for this piece + i just love how it turned out!

jadon is a singer/songwriter from southern california [my husband actually used to play with him!], check out his music here + his recent christmas project with a plethora of amazing artists - a christmas together !

happy monday!!

December 6, 2012

hello, 28...

every birthday eve, i find myself reflecting on the past year + wondering what the next one will bring. a year ago i was celebrating my 27th birthday with my new, sweet montana friends, preparing to drive back home to california, wondering if i'd ever come back... it was emotional... i think i cried for the first 20 minutes of our road trip. little did i know that 3 months later we'd be packing our bags [+ a giant semi truck] to move to montana.

the last year has been stretching for me, in so many ways, kinda like growing pains... it's not the most comfortable thing but it's bearable because you know there's a reward coming.... was uncomfortable + sad to leave my family + friends in california [where i had lived my entire life] but it was worth it + exciting at the same time, knowing we'd never regret stepping out in faith, moving when God presented the opportunity. 

....i opened up about my past this year, sharing things that i thought i would always keep secret. i've been able to face it, be transparent about it, be honest about struggles, in hopes that i can encourage you.'s been so exciting to watch this blog grow + have the opportunity to connect with so many people around the world... can't believe this thing started less than a year ago!! it's been a personal victory to be consistent + keep at it even on those days i feel like giving up, learning that patience is key to persevering. 

....i used to not like the idea of getting older, but i've realized that getting older is a gift [even if i did find a few gray hairs last week, yep that happened]... so it's with that truth that i can happily say good-bye to 27 + hello/hooray to 28! cheers!!


December 4, 2012

chalkboard fever

this past weekend i was commissioned by my church to write on a couple of chalkboards for the new whitefish campus... + i couldn't have been happier to do it!!

they liked them so much that i've been asked to work on another chalkboard for the coffee bar... can't wait to show you photos of the place, it's incredible!!


December 3, 2012

rough sketch: jacob schafer

happy monday friends!

today we have jacob schafer, a talented writer, who comes from a super creative family + has already written a couple of books!! so inspiring. i've been working on a novel for a couple of years now + trust me, it's no easy feat!!

so happy to share his interview with you guys!

q. // when did you start writing + what prompted you to start?

[ a. ] I started to take writing seriously in 2011. Originally I had wanted to be a director and screenplay writer but by the time I had finished my first book I realized the worlds I wanted to create were bigger than what a movie could show, which is true for most books, and I've switched over to novels ever since.

q. // what inspires you + where do you find it?

[ a. ] When I read a book or see a movie and am moved to tears, and that can happen for many reasons both out of extreme joy and extreme sorrow, those are the stories that we remember and really become part of us. I believe I can reach that level of literature and that is what I strive for. To create a true story with real people is my ultimate goal.

q. // when you're not dreaming up new stories, what's your favorite thing to do?

[ a. ] Not much is better than a cup of tea and a big book to read.

fill in the blank:
i have a penchant for letting my stories get bigger than I intended.


December 1, 2012

december desktops + iphone wallpapers!

we wish you a merry christmas!! it's the most wonderful time of year!! may your days be merry + bright!! yes, singing christmas carols nonstop, so what better quote to use for december than that from a christmas carol? well, i should say from TWO christmas carols...

since it is the season for giving, we thought it would be extra fun to offer you 2 desktops + iphone wallpapers to choose from... or use both if you'd like, switch it up in the middle of the month!

one of my favorite childhood memories is bundling up with my family, hopping in the car after dinner one night every december, + driving around for hours, admiring all the christmas lights, choosing our favorites. when kelli + i decided to use lights as one of our december desktops, i couldn't wait to make it mine! it evokes all those magical, nostalgic memories that christmas brings. i absolutely love it!

for our second desktop, we wanted something completely different, but still create that same kind of magic. i didn't grow up on skis, nor have even tried it yet, but maybe some of you have a family tradition of heading up to a mountain, strapping on skis, + enjoying your christmas vacation in the snow... this desktop is for you, friends.

whichever one you choose now or later, i hope these stir up love + joy in your hearts as you work on that project or check the time on your phone.

merry christmas from the both of us to you + yours!!
so much love to you!