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23 May 2024

Summer Forest Paintings | Part 1

blog post by Lindsay Sherbondy

I'd like to tell you about two new paintings I've created, but I think in order to do so, I'll need to tell you a little bit about how I'm feeling about my life these days. I want to say that I'm going to just say how I feel, without making it pretty, without caveats. I'm not an expert in grief or raising a child with disabilities. I'm not a counselor or pastor. I'm just going to share my unfiltered thoughts as an offering of one person's experience into a vast pool of experiences making up the human experience. Usually, I like to wrap things up with a bow, but for now, this story is an unraveled silk ribbon, waiting on God, waiting to see what He decides to craft with it. 

The good news:
Phoenix is incredible!! He's adorable and creative and funny and perceptive. Gah, he's just amazing. He's my little Harry Styles and loves playdates and the pool and making TikTok videos on my Lindsay Letters account. (Ha!) He took this photo of himself – a photographer/videographer in the making.

phoenix with a daisy

Eva experiences joy almost every day – she understands humor, she gives big smiles, she loves her people, and facials, going for walks, and reading with D & Savta. She loves hearing how you all love her.


We have a beautiful home that addresses every need of Eva's and ours.  We have incredible friends and family. 


We laugh every day. There are moments of beauty and delight and goodness and God's grace peppered throughout our life and those are the mana that sustain us. Amen.


And also, this is really freaking hard.

Then again, it's been "hard" since I became a married adult, and it's been "really hard" since Eva's accident in August of 2019, so it seems like I might need to come up with more descriptive adjectives than just "really" and "hard," because while this season is really hard, it's been differently hard. Maybe that counts for something? 

I think if I could summarize, the things that makes this post-traumatic-event life so hard are the following:

1. We're in a state of active grief.
Most often when I had thought of grief, I thought of the absence of something. Death is so final. Divorce is so final. Loss is so final. And then what we experience is the void where something was. I think that one of the beautiful things about participating in a process of grieving is when you experience moments of this great void, you use that time in the void to feel the things – to walk through the stages of grief (albeit out of order) and figure out who you are on this side of it. You welcome the grief as love for the lost, and learn to live life with it as a sub-par replacement for what once was. (And, if it's the loss of a person, someone you will see again in heaven). In my other experiences with grief, I remember feeling that the void was so vast that I couldn't believe how empty it felt without the thing that was missing... without my grandpa or grandma, without living in the same house as my dad, with the death of someone I'd been praying for a miracle for. And in those moments, it felt comforting to sit in the grief and almost welcome it as the thing that fills in that big empty space.

But with Eva, there is no void. It's deep grief, but with no time and space to grieve. Our lives are packed. There's the absence of who she was and the hopes and dreams we had for her, but also, she's still very much here. And thus we have, like, a SHIT TON of stuff to do. We are Eva's full time caretakers and parents, and it's a lot of work. A lot. She has a super high level of disability, but is also extremely medically complex. I'm exhausted to the bone and have been in survival mode for so long that I don't know who I am not in a state of hyper-vigilance and tasks and lists and calls and appointments and medicine measuring and alarms beeping. It's like the feeling of being a new mom, kind of. You're immersed in breastmilk or formula and diapers and snuggles and crying and sleepless nights and evaluating and the uncertainty of each day... it's like that, but with no promise of it ever ending. Or being different. It's like that, plus, knowing that at any moment, any day, we could loose her. She's mostly really strong and doing well, but we know full well she can turn on a dime, and the veil between earth and heaven for her is so transparent, the only thing that reminds me it's there sometimes is the feeling of fear that's a constant pain in my gut. She's amazing, she's a miracle, and this is really freaking hard. They can all be true at the same time, and they are.

2. The shrapnel,
as I like to call it. I think anyone who's experienced any devastating life event will understand me when I say that one of my biggest issues with God is like, okay, I understand that Eva's accident had to happen. (Too much to get into now, but that's how I feel). BUT, there's all these things that have happened in the wake of the bomb that went off that feel SO EXTRA UNFAIR. For example, but not limited to... this has been super hard on my marriage. Dugan and I at our best are the funnest, most creative, entertaining sitcom of a situation (if I do say so myself). At our worst, we are oil and water. To do this together has been incredibly trying. Iron sharpens iron, but in stress and sadness, we're two limestone rocks, mostly sanding each other down. I believe in us, and our commitment, but I share that to say that if trauma or some crazy life event has made things challenging with you and your parter, hear me say: You are not alone.

This post-accident life has difficult for Phoenix. He's overall doing great and we are being really intentional about helping him process (ambulances showing up, alarms going off, the uncertainty of our rhythms, and who Eva is now versus the big sister that snuggled and smooshed him 24/7), but in the same way that this will shape him into a caring and compassionate person, he also struggles with things as a result of Eva's accident that break my heart and feel so unfair for him. And there's the financial stress. The tension of having extra needs that cost extra money, but limited time to make the extra money to support the needs is tough. Since August 2019, we have spent well over 400 days in the hospital with Eva. To weave in and out of engagement with Lindsay Letters has been extremely challenging, but at the same time, this business is how I support us. No parent should have to work while holding a surgery room pager... to have to take a zoom call while their child is getting a central line placed... but so many caregivers do. So many. We are not alone, and I'm actually just so grateful that D and I have had jobs that have allowed this kind of uncertainty. Most caregivers don't have this priveledge, and it's heartbreaking. 

Anyway, all of those elements combine to make a cement mixture so heavy and thick, it's hard to not want to escape it somehow, because it feels too impossible to hold this long. Sometimes it feels like we're standing in quicksand, watching the world breeze by on trendy electric bikes.

3. YOLO.
Imagine you were told you only have a short time to live. You didn't know how long, but it was shorter than you'd like. What would you want to do with the time you have? I have a dear friend who was told this recently, and she struggles with wanting to make memories, but not always feeling well enough to do so. I can relate to this, completely. On top of the active grief and shrapnel, I also feel this insatiable gratitude that WE STILL HAVE HER! Eva lived! We are still a family of four and Phoenix loves us and Eva experiences joy and I want to do things and have fun and soak up every minute of this life while we still have her here... before the next shoe drops, before the next admission, before the next illness... before we loose her. So if you can imagine, it's really hard to be like:

"I'm stressed - sad! - worried - grieving - mad!... AhhhhHH!.... does Eva have a cold? An infection? Is she in pain?! 
.... Anyone want to take a trip to the zoo?"

The tension is real. Maybe you've been there before. Maybe you're there now. I see you, and you are not alone. 

4. Life still goes on, good or bad.
Phoenix fell and fractured his elbow (normal kid stuff, but still!), my mom (who is blind) was recently diagnosed with blood cancer, and some very dear friends have gone through some very devastating things in this past month. "They're dropping like flies!" is something I've said more this month than "Amen." Whoever said that misery loves company was very wrong. Misery wants their loved ones to not be breaking, too. Misery wants less misery. Misery wants FUN! And pretty things! And SOUP! HOT SOUP! (Or maybe that's just me). And of course all the other "regular life" stuff... (Happy Maycember, by the way, to all the moms out there who observe).

So that's where I'm at. Some days, I try to remember who I am. Some days, I spend every small moment I have to myself trying to reconcile what I've lost.

Sometimes it's between dusty treasures in quiet antique malls. At times, I'll find I'm almost feverishly looking for something that I will stop and say to myself "what are you looking for?" 

And the truth is, I'm looking for her, that little carefree girl. Some time capsule back to Eva's wild love and magnetic levity. Her memory lingers like a ghost at my favorite antiques place and I think part of me feels like she'll come bounding around the corner in a silly hat again, and embrace me, and we can just forget all of this and move on to the wild and audacious life of physical and mental freedom like she deserved.


(ceramic cat, for all those wondering).

I look for myself at my favorite Yin class. Who was I? Who am I? What's this body I'm in? Is this the body that almost died from septic shock? The body that betrayed me? Is this the body that ran a marathon and had two babies and is also a miracle? Is it all of those things? How can I make peace with it? I've been working hard to not feel inconvenienced by having a body, but grateful. It's a journey.

And I try to find Jesus from my hot tub. Looking across the clearing at the row of trees, I ask Him where the hell He is. I tell Him he's running out of time. We're going down in slow, steady flames over here... and He's up. Like, literally.

 
And in that row of trees is where I found Him, I think. And that's what I'd love to tell you about tomorrow...

 Read Part Two

14 Nov 2019

🌵"Wild one, you will never go alone."

blog post by Joy Neal

We have two VIP birthdays in the LL community this week. 

Tomorrow is Eva's birthday, and Sunday is brother Phoenix's birthday. 

As anyone who has suffered knows, celebrating in the midst of grief is bittersweet, bringing both joy and pain into sharper focus. The gap between what is and what should be feels deeper during holidays and milestones. 

But I am wishing little Phoenix all the fun and happiness in the world on his birthday, even though I know he'll miss his beloved big sister so very much.

And for Eva, I am praying a pervading sense of well-being (Dallas Willard's definition of "joy") over her today, tomorrow, and in the days to come.

Friends, Eva is in such a rough part of the healing journey right now. If you follow Dugan on Instagram, you've seen the photos and videos of what's happening in this stage: crying, "posturing," "storming." It's draining and stressful and heart-breaking. It's so very physical and human and hard. 

But I am praying, with everything in me, that deep down—deeper than whatever process her body is taking her through in this brutal path of emerging consciousness—Eva is secure in what's true: that she is protected, that she is held, and that she is so very loved.

Eva and Phoenix

Team LL has been thinking ahead about how to mark this important week with you, the Lindsay Letters community.

Most of you will be familiar with "Rainbow Daydream," which Lindsay drew a couple of years ago as an artistic imagining of what Eva's dreams look like. It's become the most well-loved piece of art in the LL shop for 2019—and for such good, beautiful reason.

Rainbow Daydream

INTRODUCING...

Today we're revealing two new, special pieces that Lindsay created several weeks ago, that we've been anxiously waiting until this week to share.

Introducing the new sibling pieces to "Rainbow Daydream," available now in the Eva Love Collection: "Adventure Daydream" and "Wild Daydream."

Adventure Daydream

"Adventure Daydream" (above) features pirate ships, lightning bolts, dinosaurs, volcanos, planets, and a friendly little campfire—the stuff of an adventurous kid's imagination. We love the invitation bursting from the background ("explore everything!") and the bubble of encouragement ("be brave, be bold"). Lindsay created this one to celebrate Phoenix Brave and brave little kids everywhere. (My son got a sneak peek of it and said: "I WANT THAT IN MY ROOM.")

Wild Daydream

And then: "Wild Daydream." 

I know the world is good because it has you.

Wild one, remember... you will never go alone. 

These words are nestled in a whimsical, visual symphony of rainbows, cacti, swings rocking in the wind, and music notes. Lindsay designed it with both of her children (and sophisticated, neutral rooms) in mind, but I know these words are straight from her heart to Eva in this season. All of the Daydreams pieces capture something ineffable, but this one has my heart right now.

Wild Daydream detailed shot

Thank you for honoring this meaningful week with us, and thank you for your continued, faithful prayers for Eva, Phoenix, the entire Sherbondy family, and the Lindsay Letters team. It means more than you know!

xoxo,
Joy and the LL Team
23 Sep 2019

🦄 Eva, Art, Beauty, Miracles.

blog post by Joy Neal

Here we are, one month later, waiting and praying for Eva Love, who remains at the hospital in a sometimes-wakeful but still "powered down" state (as Lindsay describes it)—resting, restoring, and demonstrating incredible progress.

Eva Love

Lindsay recently shared a series of Instagram stories with answers to FAQs about Eva's injury, which I'll summarize here.

On August 22, Eva fell off the back of a golf cart in her neighborhood. There is no explanation as to why she fell. No wild turns or sudden bumps. She just tipped off, and apparently didn't or couldn't protect her head in the fall. The idea that another factor was at play has certainly been considered. An aneurysm would have shown up on a CT scan; however, any of the strokes that showed up on her scan could have happened pre-fall.

For a little girl who ran, twirled, and skipped her way through life, it does seem strange that she landed so severely. Whenever I (Joy) have been around Eva, I've always marveled at how sure of herself she is. How quick and steady on her ever-moving feet.

Eva leaping off a balance beam

Eva on a Swing

Her exact injury was a severe ischemic brain injury secondary to herniation. Upon arrival at the ER, she had a procedure to remove part of her skull to allow room for swelling. At one point in the days that followed, her ICP (internal cranial pressure) numbers rose to 62. The highest the medical staff at that hospital had ever seen was 40. It's a miracle that she is still alive. 

On September 6th, Eva was successfully extubated and—to the surprise of her doctors—began breathing on her own, without needing a replacement tube or tracheotomy. It's a miracle that she can breathe. 

Eva continues to make improvements that far outpace what her doctors thought possible. Lindsay writes:

My husband Dugan and I have believed God and prayed for an incredible miracle since the beginning, and we will not stop. The process is slower than we would like, but there are already surprises and progress more so than the doctors ever thought possible. She is coming back to us. Coming back from the worst brain injury the unit has ever seen. Slow and sure. We feel confident God is in this, especially because God allowed for continued brain activity. He allowed Eva to breate on her own. God and Eva decided to take on this fight, and we get a front row seat to watch His miracle at work. 

And so here we are, one month later, sitting in the front row that Dugan and Lindsay have generously and vulnerably saved for all of us. Praying with them. Hoping with them. Waiting in this "eternal now" with them.

As is Lucy, Eva's beloved dog. Lindsay took this first picture just a few hours before the accident.

Eva and Lucy

Eva and Lucy in hospital bed

As Dugan and Lindsay continue to spend days and nights at the hospital, the Lindsay Letters team continues at work, grateful for this opportunity to continue stewarding the Sherbondys' small business while they focus on their family. This part, running the business, is a true pleasure, because we all believe that Lindsay's art is an important gift to the world, and we continue to hear stories of how her art has comforted and inspired others in the difficult, messy, and even brutal moments of their lives as well. 

Like Lindsay wrote in her "About" page: 

Art isn't only for rich people or fancy people or bloggers. Art isn't the icing on the cake for when everything else in your life is perfect. Art matters – what you surround yourself with every day matters. As someone who struggles with anxiety, I know the positive impact art can have first-hand, and I can say with confidence that what you put on the four walls you stare at most can be a real game-changer. You are worthy of meaningful art, and I would be so honored if the special pieces you decide to invest in would be some of mine!

Rainbow Daydream Canvas

Rainbow Daydream Print

Shortly after we curated The Eva Love collection, I asked Laura if I could send her some of the pieces to photograph, to show them some extra honor and love. 

Laura went above and beyond what I could have imagined, and the results are truly incredible. It gives me so much joy to see Lindsay's work celebrated this thoughtfully and beautifully. It's art within art, really! Even if you've shopped the collection already, I think you'll love going back and seeing the new images. 

There are also a couple of additions to the collection! Like "Great Big World," which reads: There is a GREAT BIG WORLD out there, just waiting to be loved by you. 

(You might wonder how we could have missed this one until now, but Lindsay is an extremely prolific artist. There are so many to choose from!) 

Great Big World

"Great Big World" canvas in Perfect Peach, framed in Gallery White

The verse in this "Be Brave" canvas is Jeremiah 29:11: "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord. "Plans to prosper and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

Lindsay wrote in the description:

I have always wanted to live a brave life – of trust and adventure and not of fear. But these words and this scripture took on a whole new meaning once I became a parent. I pray this scripture over Eva all the time, and I hope it strikes a chord in you as well.

"Hello Sweet Beautiful Girl" in a nursery

Love, Imagine, Play, Repeat

Before you go take a look, here are a couple more LL updates:

- Per tradition, the brand new holiday collection (as well as timeless Christmas favorites) will launch the night of October 31 (Halloween night). Mark your calendar! Holiday is always the highlight of the year at LL, but this year is very special and personal, as Lindsay painted pieces for it in stolen moments at the hospital. And we're photographing it in her own home, for the first time. Laura and I both arrive in Sun Prairie tomorrow and she'll be shooting through Thursday. I'll be sure to share some behind-the-scenes of the shoot, so watch your stories in the next couple of days. 

In addition to some changes to the Eva Love Collection, I've featured a few more of Lindsay's pieces in both Abstract Art and Lettered Art — including the "God is Stronger" lettered piece that I referenced in the first update after the accident. 

This was an especially long newsletter, but there was a lot to share! Thank you for reading! Please know I'm organizing and passing along the emails I've received for Dugan and Lindsay. And if there's anything we can help with regarding an order, please always reach out. We always love the opportunity to serve Lindsay's lovely customers!

With Love,

Joy & the LL Team

31 Aug 2019

Eva Update: Never Underestimate the Power of Hope

blog post by Joy Neal

* This blog post was originally an email on August 31, 2019 *

Since the last LL newsletter, Eva has remained in a coma in critical condition. Some moments have been joyful and full of hope, and others have felt scary and sad. The stories pouring in from people who have cared for loved ones with a traumatic brain injuries say yes, that's what it feels like in the immediate aftermath: a roller coaster of emotions that all feel ultimate. 

It's a doctor's job to report facts and information as accurately as possible, and no one begrudges them for it. But the news they've had to convey has often been difficult to hear. Eva's ICP (internal cranial pressure) numbers rose after the 72-hour mark, when they were expected to go down, and remained higher than hoped. 

But. Eva's case has been "off the charts" in a lot of ways—not adding up exactly as it should, which does feel hopeful. And as of this past Thursday (August 29), her medical team decided to turn off her sedation medicines. This is a really big step. Her doctor said, "Now we're not treating the numbers. We're treating her."

In all of the sadness and fear, Lindsay and Dugan remain steadfast in prayer and faithful in hope. We are all believing the very, very best—which is that this precious, creative, bright little girl is on her way back to us, healed and whole.

Eva Spinning

As I was compiling this newsletter, an LL advisor (Laura, our photographer and stylist, and a dear friend of Lindsay's) texted me a screenshot of Romans 5:1-5. The last verse, especially, brought me to tears: 

"And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us."

Hope does not put us to shame.

Eva Sky

On that same note, a longtime LL customer recently sent me a link to a blogpost that Lindsay wrote in 2013. In the post, Lindsay shared that she had been talking with a friend who had a high-risk pregnancy, and her friend (Steph) said, "I've realized that I'll never regret having hope." Lindsay wrote:

"I don’t know why awful things happen to amazing people… why incredible women get cancer, or struggle with infertility, or depression, or have miscarriages. The only hope I have is in Christ. And when the reality of the world settles in, and I start to not have faith and not pray, and not believe for the best, I think about Steph. And I think “I will never regret having hope.” And in that hope, I do believe that we can have power in the face of adversity."

Never Underestimate The Power of Hope

Power of Hope Printable

As soon as I saw the art print in that blog post (long discontinued), I knew Lindsay's customer was right and we needed it back in the shop.

When I couldn't find it in Lindsay files, I contacted Lindsay's printer, who responded within the hour with the art file, which I then sent it to Hannah, who pulled colors from Eva's Collection to use for the lettering and collated all the color versions into a single PDF. While I taught myself how to create a new SKU and add a printable into the delivery app (things Lindsay has always done herself), I sent the PDF to Laura and Beth in hopes that one of them could create some images of it on short notice. They both did. 

When I asked Beth to snap some pictures of it, she said, "I don't have any cardstock!" I told her, "Just print it on printer paper—Lindsay does it all the time!" Whether you print this on fancy paper and frame it, or print it on printer paper and tape it to a door, I hope it inspires hope and peace as you continue to pray for Eva.

Big, Colorful Dreams Canvas

Each day since releasing the Eva Love Collection, a different piece from it has been on my heart. First it was "Beauty from Ashes Abstract." Then, after Lindsay shared what she imagined Eva is experiencing right now in her coma, it was "Rainbow Daydreams Abstract." After that gorgeous pink sunrise that Lindsay saw outside her home, it was "Eva Sky Abstract." 

Today it's "Big Colorful Dreams," which Lindsay used to offer in a blanket and now offers as artwork. Lindsay wrote in the product description: My sweet Eva Love came up with the fun idea for this Rainbow Dreams Blanket! It's her absolute favorite thing to snuggle with, and I hope your little loves will enjoy it just as much!

It shouldn't surprise me, and yet it does, just how high people will rise to a situation this overwhelming. Every prayer said in a group or in private, every comment and message (seen or unseen), every purchase big and small, every donation... all of it adds up, and all of it is making a real difference.

Just as I was getting ready to send this, Lindsay shared some really hopeful news going into today. Even if you're not on Instagram, you can read it here.

With love,
Joy & The LL Team 
26 Aug 2019

🌈Pray for Eva Love

blog post by Joy Neal

* This post was originally an email on August 26, 2019 *

This is Joy on the LL team, compiling this newsletter on Lindsay's behalf to share some important news about her daughter, Eva.

Here are Lindsay's words, which she shared on Instagram, August 23:

It's so hard for me to write this, because somehow sharing this with you—my many friends that I both have and haven't met—makes this even more real.

Yesterday [August 22], our sweet, sweet seven and a half year old baby girl Eva (pronounced Ava) Love suffered a traumatic brain injury from a weird, totally fluke, very short fall. She went into emergency brain surgery and she is, in the surgeon's words, in critical condition. Her numbers are stable, but everyone keeps reminding us that the next 72 hours are critical and are making no promises as to the outcome.

BUT GOD.

I'm asking you to join us in trusting God for FULL and complete healing, in Jesus's Holy and Healing Name. 

Eva's name means "Life + Love" and we are boldly proclaiming that over the rest of her long, healthy life!!

Will you please lift up Eva and her care team in your prayers?! I am more scared than I have ever been, but I know I worship a God who is in the business of miracles, who hears us, who is the Ultimate Physician, and that is what we cling to!!! I am so grateful for this community to entrust this huge and important prayer to. 

To God be the Glory!!!! 

Eva Love

Eva Love

Since Lindsay shared that first post, tens of thousands of people have joined their family in lifting up little Eva and believing for her recovery. If you haven't already, would you join us? 

If you've never met Eva, I can tell you this: You'd know she was an artist even before you knew who her mama is. She is wholehearted and expressive, full of laughter, and exceptionally creative. She's beautiful, and sweet, and giggly, and she loves pink. She's active and feisty, but also so tender and caring toward her little brother.

And even if you've never met Lindsay, you may have sensed this: Lindsay has the softest, most sensitive, most empathetic heart. She's one of those people who can't watch sad movies because of how they affect her. But she is also a woman of deep faith and conviction, and to see her hope in this situation is to see God's strength in her. I think of something she once wrote, which some of you may have on a mug in your home:

You are exactly as strong as you think you are. It's God who will surprise you. 

Lindsay and Eva

While the Sherbondy family has a village of support in this season, the Lindsay Letters team itself is very small. It's made up of one part-time employee (me) plus a handful of friends and advisors to the business. When it comes to the vision, planning, creating, and executing behind Lindsay Letters—that's all her. 

As her team, the best way we know to support the Sherbondys at this time is to continue stewarding and promoting her business while she focuses entirely on Eva and her family. It will be a JOY and a PRIVILEGE to do this, because we know that Lindsay's meaningful words and beautiful art have helped so many people in difficult times. 

To start with, we've created a special collection in Eva Love's honor, which you can find on the website, hereEva is everywhere in Lindsay's work, but these pieces are especially near to our hearts right now. You can click any of the pictures below to see the whole collection. 

Eva's Bouquet Abstract

TWO WAYS YOU CAN HELP

1. Pray for Eva. Pray for Lindsay, Dugan, their son Phoenix, and the entire family. If you can do nothing else, your prayers still mean everything to them. Either @lindsayletters.co or @dugansherbondy's stories are the best place to find up-to-the-minute updates and prayer requests.

2. Support Lindsay Letters. Your support has always meant the world to Lindsay, but it's never mattered more than it does now. All purchases directly benefit the Sherbondy family and keep their business running during Lindsay's absence. 

Thank you from the bottom of our hearts!

Love,

Joy & the LL Team