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0 In Art

How I Knew I Was an Artist

How did I know I was an artist?

To put it simply, I knew I was an artist because I found joy in creating.

The longer answer is I found myself loving to communicate visually, I was drawn to beauty in asthetics and meaning, I loved making something out of nothing. I loved translating what God made in my own way. I love the thought process behind understanding an idea from something that isn’t straight forward. I love taking ugly and making it beautiful. 

I saw it in myself as a kid, I loved adding drawings to my written work at school. Every crafty school project was so exciting to me and I usually went overboard making it awesome.

I saw it in my love of color combinations, noticing symbolism, noticing detail, noticing light. The way certain things look in their surroundings.

I saw it in the excitement I felt understanding meaning from a wordless picture. Noticing the way people feel joy and pain. Translating a feeling into a visual picture or a written word picture. Freezing a feeling in a photograph, painting or drawing.

“Artists are people driven by the tension between the desire to communicate and the desire to hide.” – D.W. Winnicott

I found this quote and I started smiling because it’s so true for me. Creating art is such a joy for me because it is a communication of myself. Yet it is not straight forward and requires a sort of digging for information by the viewer. The message is there, but it’s usually hidden.

My favorite communicating tool is painted pictures. I’m not good at writing songs or written word pictures like some of my friends, but I know it has to be the same feeling for these creators as well. Art gives us a unique type of freedom to communicate, but the meaning is partly hidden waiting to be found. It think art makes people brave. It’s a unique language communicates more than the obvious.

The painting pictured above is something I painted in 2003 as a part of my senior art project at California Baptist University. It’s a self portrait. I made the canvas and used oil paint. It’s been at my parents house. I recently picked it up. I’m loving it in our home. It’s reminding me that I am an artist in the traditional sense when I have my paint and brushes, and how I’m growing to draw out my creator-self into the tools I have now… our home and our kids.

The title of artist is not just for those with a paint brush in their hand. How do you see yourself as a creator? Leave a comment to let me know, I’d love to hear your story.

2 In Gifting

Justin’s Father’s Day Gift Guide

There’s this whole concept of “love languages” some people are really into. One of mine is definitely gifts, but definitely way more in terms of giving than receiving. I straight up love giving people gifts that don’t just make them smile, but almost leave them puzzled. Like a “this is awesome, how did you know?” reaction is what I’m going for.

I’ve got all kinds of methods for pulling this off: from pouring over someone’s Pinterest boards to searching for who they’re following on Instagram for any brands and then looking at their new releases. I even have an eBay alert set for a certain hard to acquire item that is going to blow one of my coworker’s minds if I can ever get my hands on one at a reasonable price.

But sometimes you’re in a pinch, Father’s Day is in like a week and you just want to gift something really special. So if you’ve got a dad in your life who is anything like me here are some ideas I think he’d be in to.

Japanese Handsaw

Most guys I know are at least somewhat into the idea of being able to build cool stuff. When I first started tackling projects like building our treehouse I bought one of those power tool combo kits thinking that was what I really needed. Man, I wish I would have waited and done some more learning because I could have saved a lot of money and probably done a better job if I’d have purchased a saw like this.

I’m obsessed with the Wranglerstar YouTube channel and that guy uses a Japanese handsaw all the time and I’m amazed at how much better cutting that guy does by hand than I do with my power tools.

Here’s why your guy will love this: the superior engineering of this style saw will get him better results on any woodworking projects he’s attempting and that will make him feel awesome. Plus it’s less than $3o, so pickup a saw and then watch this video so you can explain why it is so awesome in your own words.

Vans Classics

My Pinterest Wishlist board almost always has a pair of Vans on there, Eras are my personal favorite. Last year I customized a pair in The Debrief colors and I picked up a new pair for our recent anniversary getaway.

Here’s the deal, I never need a new pair, Lindy is all in to minimalism and I’m getting there, but there’s just something about slipping on a new pair of Vans with clean white foxing that makes you feel like a million bucks. For about $40, that’s a pretty good deal, right?

Pro-tip: for shoes that come with white laces I will sometime spend an extra $15 for the black leather laces that give the shoe a little more put together look for date night or something like that.

Relational Soul

This book has been the most important thing I read in the last year. What I learned, about both God and myself, from Relation Soul was the foundation for a sermon I preached in January. It was recommended to me by my boss, Pastor Matt Brown, after he read it and met the authors.

I have now had the opportunity to meet the authors myself and that is another one of the reasons I’d recommend this book. These two guys led a two day training for us and the thing that most profoundly impacted me was the fluidity of their relationship with one another. They were team teaching the whole time and were just bouncing back and forth with such ease and humility. I just kept thinking I need to build a friendship like that. And the book is like that too.

It’s pretty easy to read, but it really speaks to some deep places in your life so I could only read about a chapter every week or two… I like that pacing for a book.

Parachute Bathrobe

This is the only thing on my list that I don’t actually have any experience with. We have had Parachute’s sheets and comforter on our bed for like a year (and completely love them, by the way) so I get their emails a few times a month. Every time I see their Classic Bathrobe in gray it just makes me want one, and I don’t even use a bathrobe! Ok, I guess that’s not true – I use bathrobes whenever we’re staying at a hotel and it always makes me feel awesome. Maybe that’s why I want one.


AirPods are the most expensive things on my list, but these are honestly the best things I’ve purchased in the last two years. The only other recent expense I may have enjoyed more was our bathroom remodel, but that cost like a billion dollars. Lindy borrowed my pair for a day earlier this year and then immediately wanted a pair for herself.

“But Justin, I already have the headphones that came with my phone, or another nicer pair, or whatever… how are these better?”

Let me count the ways. First: there are no wires! Seriously, this is a game changer. These things fit so comfortably in your ear because there is no cord pulling down on them or getting caught on something and pulling them out, they’re amazing.

Second: they’re so easy to use. Yes, there are other Bluetooth headphones out there, but these are the best. Here’s how you set them up: unlock your phone, open the AirPods case near your phone. That’s it. Seriously, it just works.

Also, they’re tiny so I feel super comfortable wearing them in public. There’s this young guy who walks into the coffee shop downtown I work from most mornings and he’s always wearing a sharp suit and a giant pair of wireless Beats and I’m always like “Man, you’re so close! I get that you can’t stop on that new K Dot, but you don’t need to be in here right now with what a complete 7.1 surround sound system on your head. I’ve got DNA on over here and it’s sounds amazing.” Sorry, I know I sound like a jerk. Sit down, Justin. Be humble.

I’m just telling you though, AirPods are amazing. They’re tiny, they sound great, and they’re so easy to use. If a guy in your life listens to podcasts, music, or literally any audio I promise this will spark some joy in his life.

Ok – that’s enough. If you still want more, you can check out my Recommendations Board on Pinterest. This is all stuff that was on my wishlist, entered my life, and I’m super happy with.

0 In Photography

From Selfies to Self-Portraits

We’re home from our 10th anniversary getaway and it’s been fun to go back and look at all the photos we took on our trip. We stayed at The Parker in Palm Springs and The Venetian in Las Vegas–two wildly different hotels, but both are photogenic in their own unique ways.

Usually a lot of the photos that we have of Justin and me together are selfies are a crooked picture taken by a stranger. But this trip was different, just before we left Justin gave me a small tripod and a remote clicker for taking pictures on my phone. We got to try the setup out on this trip and it was so fun and we got some great photos.

If you want to try this setup out you can pick both of these things up for around $30. We think it was worth every penny. (The 3rd thing is a bigger mount if you have a iPhone Plus)

  1. JOBY GripTight GorillaPod Stand – $20
  2. Bluetooth Selfie Remote Shutter – $13
  3. Tripod Mount for iPhone Plus – $10

There are a lot of little tripods on Amazon but I like this one because the legs grip to whatever surface you set it on. We set it on weird stuff like odd shaped rocks and a tall uneven Joshua tree stump. The fact that it’s grippy and can conform to different surfaces makes all the difference.

If you try this out, here are a few tips for a getting great photos with the tripod and remote:

1. Think Bigger Than Your Arm

Think about what makes a compelling photo that includes more than just your face and a little background. Since the camera is not attached to your arm you can be more creative and take a shot from a perspective that’s unique.

2. Be Confident

You might feel like a dork smiling and posing by yourself in front of random strangers with no camera in sight, but do what you need to do to get a good shot.

The Venetian had this rad love art installation we wanted to get a photo in front of. We had to set my phone up on the other side of a fountain probably 30 feet away from us in order to fit all of the letters in the background. Not only did we have to stand on the other side of the fountain to strike our pose I had to be confident that no one was going to run away with my phone. I did tell Justin that he better chase down a thief.

3. Take More Photos Than You Think You Need To

Never take just one photo – we always take a handful of photos in each pose. And when I say “a handful of photos” you might think I just means 2 or 3, but I pretty much mean 6-8, at least. Sometimes we even move around a little bit since we can’t exactly see what looks best. The more photos you take the better chance you have at getting a great shot. You can always pick your fave and delete the rest after. This helps us to chose the photo with the least amount of background distractions.

If you’re taking a family photo you have a better chance of getting all the kids looking the same direction in your photo if you take a lot of pictures. Another variation is to set the camera up without your kids knowing and get some candid family shots. Those can be so precious.

The remote is better than using the phone timer because you can set it up and take multiple shots without running back to the camera. We also were able to stand there and wait for people to mosey out of our shot so it looked like we were the only ones there.

4. Think About the Details

Turn the sound up on your phone so you can hear the shots click. It helps to know when the picture is taken. Whoever is holding the clicker makes sure their hand is behind them or someone else’s back so it’s not noticeable. This might seem basic, but make sure the phone is attached in the clip so you have full access to the screen and you can tap anywhere to focus

We hope you enjoy these cool tools as much as we do!

0 In Art/ Family

Habitation: My Cousin’s Art Show

I love a good art show, but I really love it when it’s a show featuring my dear and talented cousin. Last week I got to go to my cousin Grace’s Bachelor of Fine Arts senior show at La Sierra University. It was amazing for so many reasons.

Art is big in my family. Many of us know we are artists and others may not think they are, but their craft speaks otherwise. On my dad’s side six have graduated (or are graduating) with a bachelors degree in the arts. That’s some commitment to the arts right there!

One of those cousins is Grace, when she was 11 years old I started art lessons with her. We did projects together and I shared the art knowledge I had gathered through school and work. We did art together for years and I have such fond memeories of it. She took that foundation and ran with it. Her incredible unique style emerged and now I sit and watch her create amazing art pieces that I wish I could take and hang in my house.

I brought Titus, our naturally creative seven year old, to the show as my date. It was his first art show and it was so fun to watch him experience the art. I saw him walk up to a painting and start to run his hand down it. I let him know that touching was not allowed in the gallery setting. Although in my heart I knew how fun it is to feel the texture of a dry, smooth, bumpy, cool, thick painting. Running my hand down a finished painting is one of my favorite things to do and I loved that natural attraction he had to it.

Seeing the show Grace put together was amazing and very special. She shared the space with another graduating senior friend and they called the show “Habitation”. Grace did large scale oil paintings that zoomed into small and overlooked spaces. She found sanctuary in these small places as she noticed their beauty and power. She said in her artist statement , “Changing the scale, changing the focus”.

Enjoy the show.

Loss of Time, Not of Heart

Emanating Light

In the Care of the Present

Caught in, Caught up

The Part that Stays

This is Grace and her friend she exhibited with, Yessenia. I mainly focused on Grace’s work, but Yessenia had amazing ecological prints that were so beautiful and meaningful.

0 In Crafting/ Decor

Ombré Heart Valentine’s Wall Art

We don’t decorate too much for Valentine’s Day. Not like we don’t want to, but there’s not usually time to put together anything that takes longer than pulling it out of a box and setting it somewhere. We do have a few things lingering around for years that still make their way out of the box every year, such as the always classy mini bean bag pillow.

Justin picked this up at a 99-cent store at the beginning of our marriage and it has never left. This is the first year our seven-year-old read what it said out loud. Justin got to have a slightly informative conversation with him about it and now we’re well on our way to one of our kids knowing where babies come from.

I decided to up my game this year so I got creative and made a quick trip to Target to grab a few supplies. (You know those quick trips where your husband texts after 2 1/2 hours asking when you’re coming home and if you can bring dinner).

Bit by bit, over a few days, I tackled this project.

To start, I painted some cardstock paper five different colors. (This step can be totally bypassed if you just buy colored cardstock, but I didn’t have time to look for the colors I wanted). I chose five colors that ranged from light to dark and reminded me of Valentine’s Day.

I set the boys up with scissors and set them free to cut the paper into pieces. They loved it. Boaz liked cutting fringe instead of straight lines and Titus was scratching out secret messages to me on the paper (heart eyes for days).

Then I used chalk to mark out a large heart on the wall. I took all those paper bits, some double sided tape and went for it. I arranged the bits of paper in an ombré style. I made sure the colors bled into one another and wasn’t too careful about it. I put the “love” heart Titus cut out for me in the perfect spot and decided it was done.


I love the controlled chaos this has. Wild with boundaries. Isn’t that a bit like love too? I love it.

What are your favorite Valentine’s Day projects?


  • Paper
  • Paint
  • Brushes
  • Scissors
  • Tape
0 In Art/ Marriage

Art, as Defined by Justin

My professor showed up late on the first day of class. He walked in straight to the front of the room and asked “what is art?” It seems like such a simple question, but it was one I had never stopped to think about.

“Does something have to be beautiful to be considered art? Does it have to be timeless? Can something modern and non-traditional be considered art? Which of these two are art?” he asked directing our eyes toward the screen.

Dancers, dressed like dancers, crossed the floor moving gracefully upstage and down. Many of the women were balanced up on their toes which moved fiercely while the rest of their bodies gently swayed and spun. This was clearly dance, this was clearly art.

Cut to the next a video. Dancers, dressed like animals and jungle natives thrust about in the shadows. A woman turns slowly through the air – in a cage. She steps out the cage to join the dancers and they all move so quickly and boldly, in tight synchronization. They clump together in a group, their bodies all sweating as they move. There was a lot of dancing, but was this art?

Yep, Britney Spears’ 2001 VMA performance of I’m a Slave 4 U was the thing that forced me to begin seeking an understanding of what makes something art. Years later, I think I’ve discovered and answer, or at least a working definition:

Art is anything created to communicate something beyond itself.

So when Lindy paints a painting that stops and makes me think, that is art. When a Dancing With the Stars pro choreographs a routine to help a celebrity tell the story of the most memorable year of their life, that is art. When a musician writes a song to challenge my thinking, that is art.

But not all things beautiful are art, some are just performance or entertainment. To me, art must communicate.

What Art Communicates

I took another great course in college called Art and Ideas, taught by what seemed to be an aspiring musician trapped in the body of a bushy browed 73 year old concert pianist. The course walked us through art history through the lens of Mortimer Adler’s Six Great Ideas of truth, goodness, beauty, liberty, equality and, justice. These six ideas are categorized as those that we judge by and those that we act on and have become the things I look for when I’m asking if something has been created to communicate to me.

In turn, Lindy and I have focused ourselves to treat our home as a canvas for the art of family and like dancers on the stage, we’re working together to create something beautiful.

When people come into our home we want them to see beauty that makes them feel comfortable and welcome. When people interact with us we want them to feel valued. When our kids venture in to adulthood we want them to step out from a place of freedom to pursue justice and goodness in this world.

We want our home, our family, our lives to be beautiful and point to a hope that is beyond ourselves.


0 In Art/ Home

Art, as Defined by Lindy

I was in a contemporary art museum once. As I was walking around I saw a freestanding white pedestal with a few food items on it. I looked closer and saw that there was a taco… a real taco with shellac spray on it. This was bending my mind about how I had been categorizing art. Was this art? Was this just food picked up from a restaurant around the corner?

As I stood quietly and processed these questions, someone bumped in to the pedestal and the taco fell on the floor. I was shocked and didn’t know what to do. I just saw this broken taco on the ground with a bunch of rice around it. There was a scurry amongst the museum people. I saw a small broom with a pan coming. I was in awe as this piece of art was swept into a dust pan and then horrified as I realized the rice scattered on the floor wasn’t rice, it was actually live maggots.

My view of art changed that day. My artist mind has never been the same and just seeing maggots in general can give you nightmares, so it was a memorable day.

My Definition of Art

For most of my life art basically meant paint on a canvas, sculpture, and all the traditional stuff in a museum. I never thought too much about it, I just knew I liked it. I liked looking at it and creating it. It made me feel something inside and it added joy and boldness to my life.

From what I’ve gathered over the years, art is something created that moves your emotions.

It moves us through beauty or an idea. Sometimes it’s just visually attractive, sometimes it makes us think. It’s a representation of something meaningful. It can be a visual object that connects us to a bigger idea, a feeling we’ve felt before, an experience we know.

Art can be a freestyle or a discipline. Some art is free and creative, making anything that pleases you. Some art requires following rules. Like the rules of light, shadow, shape and perspective. Other art can even be your interpretation of the rules-, which is a mix between freedom and rules-.

Art can be made or found. When I’m creating art I curate it and I’m aware of it developing. I guide it and hone it till it is exactly the way I want it to be. I choose each the parts and what I use to make it. Color and shape are considered. Found art is a little different, it exists solely based on if I have eyes for it or not. It’s not necessarily intentionally made, but it is noticed. Like noticing the way someone’s shadow falls on the wall or perfect little muddy footprints on the sidewalk.

Art can represent reality or a metaphor. Art can look like reality, like drawing from life. A painting of a leaf that looks like a leaf. Or it can be a symbol for something else. Painting a set of wings that reminds you of a verse you read.

Art is a craft. Something you get increasingly good at over time. Like the more you practice drawing the human form, the more it looks the way you intend it to and at a quicker pace.

Redefining Art

For years, I defined art as something I could paint. When I got married and our home and kids began to need the bulk of my attention, using paint was not possible. What I knew art to be began to disappear, but I’ve begun to learn that the concepts I used to apply to my traditional art could be applied to anything I do. My craft at home.

Art can exist in as many places as there are colors in the spectrum. Written word, dance, music, photography, wood working, conversation and cooking are only some of the many places where art resides.

I aspire to be a bread artist, an iPhone photo artist, an artist of the written word, an artist of my morning coffee, an artist of praying for others. I want to be an artist of creating spaces of peace in my home, of making my kids feel loved even when they’re driving me crazy. An artist of knowing when to clean or let the rooms of my home be messy in order to spend time with the kids. An artist of the things I place on my dining room table and the way I arrange flowers and set them in the sun. An artist of my daughters’ hair. I want to be an artist that notices beauty.

My home may look nothing like a taco on a white block, but I consider it art.

4 In Art/ Marriage/ Personal

Opening Our Door

I am an artist at heart. As a kid in school I remember the best part of class was when the teacher said we could add pictures to our project. I was all over those colored pencils and I usually took whatever creative freedom I could. I even remember being home sick in the 3rd grade and writing a poem about it with a lovely drawing and asking the teacher if I could read it to the class the next day. Yeah, I was special.

Over time I learned that I was ok at a lot of things, but with art and creativity I seemed to excel. Art became a way for me to go farther than anywhere else and it made me happy in a way other things hadn’t.

In high school I started oil painting and loved it right away. My first big painting was of a single drop of water falling. I was good at breaking each color down into a shape and section and representing that on the canvas. Many art projects later, I started college as an arts major. Over those four years I learned a ton about art and felt both good at it and bad at it at the same time. Mostly, I learned there was still so much to learn.

After graduation, I apprenticed under an established and successful artist in town. She was doing faux art, murals, and artwork and I got to assist her. In the first few months she gave me a lot of freedom to be in charge of things I had never tried before. Months passed, then years, and I grew from trying to help, to actually helping, then to being totally in charge of certain projects.

After Justin and I got married I slowly I began doing art projects on my own. I was also doing art lessons for young aspiring artists in my free time. After a few years of this, Justin and I had our first baby, Titus. Since I had always planned on staying home with my kids, I stopped working and Justin started to fully provide for us.

I thought it would be generally easy to take care of a kid and I thought I’d kill it with the homemaking stuff.

That turned out to be only kind of true and with a really needy baby and so much housework, art began to fade away. I always thought that staying home meant I’d finally have a chance to cover our house in art and design that were ours. I wanted colors, paintings and life on our walls. But I couldn’t make those dreams fit into the long list of things I needed to do and our walls remained a simple cream color. I began to accept this new life and decided I was taking a break from all art and that it would be good.

By the time our oldest turned six years old, we had added another three kids to our party and I was still ok with being a non-artist. I was mostly just accepting it at this point because art simply didn’t fit in to my schedule and I had learned from many attempts that if I tried to make it fit it would be interrupted, incomplete and unsatisfying because I could never give it the time and freedom I needed to make it what I wanted it to be.

Although what I had known art to be had disappeared years ago, I realize now that it actually hadn’t stopped existing. That same feeling I felt when I used to paint would pop up here and there. I’d get that same satisfaction and fulfillment I used to feel except it would be in an unusual place or smaller measure. It was the same feelings, but the form was different.

I felt it as I collected a few of my favorite things and set them together on my dining room table with the light coming through the window just right.

I felt it when I was hanging out with my kids and machine-gunning photos on my iPhone, then choosing the perfect moment and editing it in my own way.

I felt it when I chose the perfect pillow and blanket combination for our bed.

Those things fit into my day. And to my surprise, I felt my art in them. I think it took me a while to accept that it was the same art, it just didn’t look the same. It was unrecognized, unnoticed and ignored for years.

Life is normal and all new at the same time. The same old things are starting to look different.

Now I see that I have never stopped being an artist, I just had to learn that art is bigger than the boxes I had put it in.

That’s what I’m learning, how to find art when it’s not obvious. And now art isn’t just something I do alone, because it’s not just my art, it’s Justin and my art. Together we’re not just noticing art, but looking for it. We’re opening our door and we hope you’ll step inside and see what we’ve begun to create together.