Thursday, January 15, 2015

Guest Post By Laura Christine||Living a Productive + Educated Life

Tonight I am delighted to introduce you to a dear friend of mine, Laura Johnson, of Laura Christine Portraits.
I have known Laura for a number of years. I can't even remember how our families originally met, but we got to know each other throughout the years as both of our families are in music ministry  + we would meet up at certain music events, and family camp.

One of the things I appreciate so much about Laura is that she is a FANTASTIC example of an exceptionally productive young woman! She works hard at everything she does + she is 100% committed to excellence. (as you will be able to tell just from her photography in this post.)

I personally feel like striving for excellence in productivity is something that is greatly lacking in our generation of young women. I believe it is one of our greatest weaknesses-the tendency to while away our single years nothing. When I say "excellence in productivity", I am am referring to a personal work ethic + drive in which one is motivated to "shoot for the stars" and to fully live out Ecclesiastes 9:10a. ("Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with all thy might".)

And listen, just because you went to college and got a "degree" does not mean you are necessarily productive! Neither can you automatically be called a productive young woman just because you did not go to college, or because you work an 8-5 job. We are talking about productive here in the terms of doing something you LOVE, because you are called to do it, for the glory of the Lord and to be a blessing to those around you.

So really, college is not the issue. The issue, simply put, is how you choose to spend your time. But since college is such a hot-button issue anyway, with people everyone trying to persuade you that you can't know "anything" without that all-encompassing degree, I wanted to introduce you all to one of my friends (Laura!) who has gone against the status quo and definitely proved the truth to be otherwise.

If you have read my blog you know that I am passionate about this! (read my full article on this here) I want to see daughters take back this ground that we have lost. I want to see a new generation of women who are skilled, driven, passionate, productive, and knowledgable about life! I know these five adjectives may scare you and you may be thinking "I can never attain to that!" but never fear-I can't either, and neither can you, on your own strength. As daughters of the King, we are a work in progress! Praise the Lord that we have a God who is so much bigger than us + who has given us a holy calling of living for Him, by HIS grace!

Now...onto the main post! (Sorry, I always get on a soapbox when I start talking about this subject!)
Hope y'all enjoy her article (in italics) below!

Laura Johnson||Living a Productive + Educated Life without a College Degree

(Laura) There are a multitude of ways I have spent my time post-graduation as I strive to live a fulfilled, useful, and joyous life. Sitting and waiting is never something I’ve been good at or enjoyed. Ever since I was young, my parents have worked to instill in me a vision for the future - what do you want to accomplish? What are your goals? What if you end up having 10+ years after graduation to do great things and live life with our family - what will you do then? With that in mind, I created a plan and have throughly enjoyed carrying it out. Not that there haven’t been ups and downs along the way - there have been. I’m still human after all! But, overall, so far it has been a thrilling journey that only promises to get better in the next months. I have learned and been forced to grow through the many circumstances that have come about by following through with my goals. 
To go, or not to go? That is the question.
In deciding whether or not to go to college, I did a lot of praying for wisdom, studying the Bible for insight, and figuring out my options. By the time I had finished highschool, I had already studied a great deal in my field of interest and had some concerns about living on my own and the Biblical roles in home and life situations. I didn’t want to go into debt. My dad posed the following questions: If you got a college degree, what would you do with it? How would it help you in realizing your goals? I decided to go a different route - learn as much as possible by myself and then fill in the gaps with targeted, in-person, or online classes. Now I have business coaches. I also participate in a coaching group forum, bi-monthly phone conferences, and monthly webinars to continue growing my business and my personal skills set.
Conclusion: I achieved all my objectives by learning the needed topics without going into debt, and in a much shorter amount of time. At age 22, my business is already 1 1/2 years old AND I’ve been able to continue ministering and performing with my family. I wouldn’t have it any other way!
Here are a few of the many things I’ve done since graduation (this kinda feels like some sort of test!) Hopefully, though, this will be of some use and encouragement to you ladies!

1. I’ve been able to be much more involved in our family music group, The Johnson Strings. My tasks include writing weekly blog updates, taking the pictures for all promotional, social media, and web use, doing the graphic design and printing of our CD inserts, and planning, scripting, filming, and sorting footage of all our Johnson Strings music videos.

2. Having the time to experiment in the kitchen, create variations of favorite recipes or make new ones, and learn how to get balanced, delicious meals on the table on time while spending the least amount of time possible is a good challenge and a useful one. How do I know that I’ll always have flexibility with how much time I can spend in the kitchen? I’m (very slowly!) working on a list of freezer meals and great-tasting quick favorites.

3. Taking the opportunity to start my own business, Laura Christine Portraits. Starting a business has been more work than I ever thought it would be, but I’ve certainly learned some great skills and life lessons from it. For example, I never would have been pushed out of my comfort zone as much or as far as I have been in the last year and a half. Put that together with learning about marketing, sales, communication, web use, people skills, and money management, and I have a huge list of things that will come in useful no matter what direction my life takes in the next decades! I’m definitely not good at all those things yet, but I’m learning more every day!

As to my photography business, I am a portrait artist who specializes in creating special wall art portraits of my clients for their homes. These portraits are designed specifically to fit their wall size, mesh with their d├ęcor colors, and add an impressive finish to their home. Ever since childhood, I’ve loved art. Drawing from my former experience in pencil art, painting, and chalk pastels, my inspiration often comes from studying the great old master painters and portrait artists. By using the highest quality materials and special finishes, I enjoy creating masterpieces that will last for generations. I have a studio in a remolded barn at my family’s home that is located on 18 acres in the beautiful countryside, 10 miles west of Cedar Falls.
For the photographers out there, you may be wondering how I learned photography! I got started in 2006 when I bought my first camera to take pictures of scenes to draw or paint. Since I wanted to learn to use my camera well, I started to study photography on my own. After realizing that I enjoyed photography even more than drawing or painting, I started learning more about photography for its own sake. Soon I was reading stacks of books, (you can find a list on my website!) going to classes online and in person, getting my portrait certification and general photography certification, and launching my portrait photography business! (Now THAT was a long sentence!) It's been an exciting adventure ever since! (if you are interested in advancing your photography skills, also feel free to check out this guide for photographers on my website!)
As a young family, our parents were wanting us to have something we could do together instead of sports. The prospective task of driving 6 kids to various sports and the short physical window of opportunity sports take place in helped them to chose music instead. So, our parents enrolled us in the Suzuki school at UNI. After years of lessons in the Suzuki program, we went on to take from the doctors and professors at UNI and other colleges. I have been playing viola for 16 years, and had music lessons at the University of Northern Iowa and Coe College for 10 of those years. Our family has been performing together as The Johnson Strings for 7 years. Playing violin, viola, cello, piano, upright bass, mandolin, and banjo, our styles include classical, bluegrass, and gospel. We perform at various events including theaters, conventions, performing arts centers, festivals, churches, retreats, fairs, and private parties. 
This past year, we have been filming a series of music videos, and are very excited about several more we will be releasing in the future! Choosing the location for each video is quite the process! First, we have a brainstorming session for theme ideas for a specific song and then someone is “signed up” to contact our location choice or to do more research in order to find the perfect location that matches our brainstorming specifications. Once the location and date is nailed down, insurance papers are sent, timing details worked out, and outfits gotten together for the date, and I prepare the shot list and script. 
We do all the filming ourselves. For the stationary shots, I set up the shot and use a tripod. With the moving shots, I mount my camera on a Glidecam and do moving shots of the soloist(s) or portions of the group to add interest and excitement. In order to get shots of myself also, Luke and Seth (and sometimes Dad) have learned how to use the Glidecam as well. A normal video takes us one full day to complete. Believe me - we’re tired at the end! But, it’s worth it. After the filming is finished, I sort the footage and send it along with my notes and ideas to our video editor.

“Beware in your prayers, above everything else, of limiting God, not only by unbelief, but by fancying that you know what He can do.”  - Andrew Murray


Thank-you so much, Laura, for sharing with me + my readers today!
I am closing by sharing my personal favorite of the music videos that Laura + her family have produced. This song is one of the most beautiful songs of all time anyway, and they play it SO.WELL.
I'm sure y'all will agree with me that the Lord has blessed their family with some incredible talent! After you've watched this video, head on over to YouTube to watch their other music videos as well. {And don't forget to subscribe to their YouTube channel while you're there!}

Be sure to leave a comment below if you enjoyed this post!


  1. I LOVE that beautiful!! Thank-you for the inspiration, Laura! (and thanks to you, Chels, for posting her encouraging words!)


  2. I am impressed with the deep amount of thought, at a very young age, that went into your life plan! And the way you are working the plan.

  3. Hey Chels, I always enjoy hearing about young ladies who are living a fulfilled life and following the Lord with their whole heart - thanks for the encouraging post!

  4. The gift of singleness is the time and opportunity for a young woman to "care for the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit" (I Cor. 7:34). At the heart of what Chelsy and Laura are saying is to use singlehood to the fullest. Be faithful in what the Lord has called you to do. I know several young women like Chelsy, Allison, and Laura who are flourishing at home as they bless and serve their families in countless ways. They are fulfilling what God has called them to do. One of my dearest friends has been called into the medical field, where she, as an OB/GYN surgeon, has been given amazing opportunities to minister to the physical and spiritual needs of hundreds of women across the globe. She is one of the most joyful, fulfilled women I know because her worth and identity are found, not in her accomplishments, but in Christ. She is flourishing because she is right where the Lord has called her to be.

    Thanks, Chels, for provoking us to think further on how we spend our single years! Blessings to you!

  5. Thank you for continuing to show that the life of daughters staying within the family home can be healthy and productive in their own ways. The thing that struck the most is to examine our motives for what we do. Some colleges/universities have a first-year program that is supposed to help students who don't really know what their path is, to figure that out. Some friends have just-graduated children who don't know what they want to do yet, so they are working in retail or restaurants; some fast-food and some full-service. One told me how that is very valuable in learning business skills and customer service, which can take them anywhere. Some even need the experience of living somewhere else; either temporary like your brother, or permanent. Nothing like learning that the bathroom only gets clean when YOU clean it and the bills only get paid when YOU pay them. Keep on searching, learning, and posting and sharing, and I will too.

  6. Wow! that IS phenomenal God-given talent! =) Beautiful it! Thanks for the inspiring + refreshing post. =)

  7. Yes, I did enjoy this post! Very inspiring. Thanks Chels.

  8. What a neat testimony of how we can use our single years for the Lord! It's always encouraging to hear about other young ladies who didn't go to college! Thanks for sharing this with us Chels! I really enjoyed their music video that you posted too! What a talented family!! They do a great job!

    Blessing & Prayers,
    Sarah F.

  9. Hi Chelsy,
    I really enjoy your blog, I find it to be very encouraging! My goal is to read through the Bible this year. I need to purchase a new Bible and I was wondering what Bible you use. There are so many out there and I'm not sure which one to go with. Thanks a lot! Have a blessed day and hope you are enjoying your travel.


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