Today’s topic is love.

I recently was given a gift of love that is unmatched in my life. Not the kind of romantic love that I share with my wife, nor is it the love that Christ gives me throughout the day. It isn’t even the love that my dogs give me when I ease myself down on the floor and nuzzle muzzles.

None of the above. It is the love of life and the joy of creation that only an artist can provide. That artist is Lauren Mattson.

Lauren and I have been working on a children’s book for over three years. I’d written the text long before meeting her and it had languished on the shelf waiting for an artist to illustrate it properly. I tried a number of people who had “artist” in their title, none of whom could focus on the project, bring it to fruition, or in one case, even seriously attempt the task. It sat in my “someday” file on the hard drive for a long time.

The story is about my two dogs of that era, Edzell & Maisie. And it’s about a miracle. Santa is in the story (naturally) and I’ve shared some of the art with you over the past few years as Lauren has completed drawings. But the story of the artwork is important.

Lauren was in high school when a coworker of mine recommended her as “my artist.” My wife and I arranged to meet her and her parents at a local Perkins. Being a nitwit I’d forgotten to tell her what we looked like. Or get her description. Super.

But God took care of that for me. We’d been in the restaurant for about 15 minutes when a woman came over and asked us if we were Kip and Joe? When I asked her why she suspected us the answer was simple – we were the only ones reading The Bible in the whole place.

The guidelines were simple: I requested one drawing to see if this was going to be a match between my mental picture and what this young woman could do on paper. She agreed. I suggested we split the credit for the book and any profits down the road. It was a good way to do it, children’s books are notoriously hard to market and she was as new to publishing as I was. A handshake agreement and we were off.

The first drawing was absolutely smashing. Exactly what my brain saw when I read the words I’d written. The girl had it! The biggest caveat was that she not put her school work in jeopardy to work on my book.

Over the next three years she sent me drafts, I made very minor corrections/suggestions, and she went back to work. She even came up with a great title for the book based on the story. Each drawing was more poignant than the one before because the dogs were coming to life on those pages as they were fading from my real life.

Lauren finished the drawings just about the time Maisie passed away. And she’s working on the coloring and final prints as I write this blog. My old boy, Edzell, is moving on soon. I can sense it in him. He knows it as well. I just hope he gets to see another nice spring day before he’s gone. He deserves a little time in the sun and the wind. He’s my buddy. (Stupid monitor is blurring up again. Gotta get that fixed.)

So, what was the gift? A hand made sack with the initials E & M embroidered on it for Edzell & Maisie. Inside were the original drawings that Lauren had done. My wife and I sat in wonder and awe as we looked at our two friends forever captured on those boards. I will have them always through the good graces of my friend and partner Lauren.

Thank you, Lauren. You have no idea how much this means to me. I hope the book is a huge success and serves to launch your artistic career in the years to come. You are a special young woman and God’s blessings are evident in your kindness and talent.

Lauren, you are much loved in my household.

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