26-28/52 Children’s Harbor- One Team 100 Hearts

This was a 3-piece set for a sweet little nursery. The recipient allowed me to pick Children’s Harbor as the featured organization. Children’s Harbor provides children with serious illnesses and their families a place to be themselves – to have fun and relax – while also receiving no-cost services that make life a bit easier for the whole family. If you have been following along, you know my husband is one of the coaches for the UAB football team. This Saturday the UAB football partnered with Children’s Harbor. The team will be wearing the names of 100 hospitalized children from Children’s Harbor on their jerseys. All week I’ve been looking forward to these children cheering on the players and the players playing their best for these kids! The kids and their families have incredible strength, determination and fight. Just like our guys! It will be special to see these relationships develop!

If you want to help this wonderful organization. You can visit Children’s Harbor Website

UAB Champions


  • The UAB Blazers Football team will have the name of a child serviced by Children’s Harbor, in memory or honor, on the back of their jersey during the Homecoming game on October 7th at Legion Field.
    Learn More


    As always, thank you for taking the time to read and learn new ways you can make a difference!

– Lauren Woods

25/52 She chose not to let the diagnosis of MS define her but to create a beautiful example to her children that love, strength, faith and prayer define her… and always will.

Disabling, chronic, disease…words used to define multiple sclerosis.  As with all words, they hold power.  When heard they can instill fear or pity, they can change a life, or even encourage defeat.  But if you look carefully enough, they can also beautifully inspire.  Not in the words themselves but in the people who defy them.  The people who battle MS every day and chose victory.  The people who do not declare the fight easy, but rather find strength to overcome it.  The people who chose love, who focus on others, and who put family and children first.  The people who show the world that they will not be defined by the struggles they face, and who make the world a better place through their example of service in spite of hardship.  The people who prove to us that love, strength, faith, prayer…these are powerful words indeed.

This is the way Brewer Hicklen’s mom, Connie has chosen to live her life. This is the reason he contacted me to design a painting to honor her. Brewer grew up an incredible athlete. He was a Division 1 college football player and baseball player. He then went on to play professional baseball and currently is living his dream doing so. He’s an All-American kid. The kind that you hope your son grows up to be. Not because he’s good at sports, but because he’s about the right things…one of those things being the way he loves his mama. Below in his own words he shares about his mother’s fight with MS and how she never allowed the disease to stop her from being the best mother she could be.

“I think everyone can agree that your love for the Lord is what radiates the most and everything else follows. From a young age you have taught me what love is. You taught me to first love the Lord with all your heart. I can honestly say, that is the reason I am here today. Second, you taught me to love our family. You told me that when life gets a little shaky, look to your family to encourage and support you. You also taught me to love others. You always told me you never know what is going on in someone’s life and to look for the positives and leave an impact on their life. Lastly, you taught me to love myself. To be proud of what God has made. To be humble and confident in everything that I do. To embrace myself and to accept not just who I am, but whose I am.

Throughout your life you have inspired, encouraged, and motivated all to push past what life throws at you. And I am not talking about all the good; I am talking the hills that you have had to climb. Most people don’t know but my mom was diagnosed with MS 16 years ago. What most people see is a beautiful, motivational, God loving woman; what they don’t see is her battle with her health everyday. Because of her MS, she is easily fatigued, forgetful, and struggles with her strength.

With MS being more than most can handle, you have also struggled with skin cancer, a breast cancer scare, eye surgery, and gum surgery. You truly are a warrior!

The most amazing part is I have not once heard you complain about the cards you have been dealt in life. You choose to accept what has been given, make the most of it, and impact others along the way. One of my favorite moments is during an MS Society meeting a few years ago when you where sharing your testimony, without a dry eye in the room, about how you have conquered your life with MS. So many people left encouraged, fulfilled, and confident that they can continue their life without slowing down.”

So many mothers, including myself, hope that we can set positive examples for our children. That they will see something good in us. There is no question Brewer sees strength in his mother. Strength that has made him the man he is today. She chose not to let the diagnosis of MS define her but to create a beautiful example to her children that love, strength, faith and prayer define her… and always will.

If you would like to learn more about ways you can donate your time or give to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.  Click https://www.nationalmssociety.org/Get-Involved. To learn more ways to give follow my Instagram page @52thingsofbeauty.

Thank you for reading and learning the stories behind my paintings. These stories turn my artwork into 52 Things of Beauty.

Lauren and Emily Woods

24/52 Nora Rose’s Journey

This painting was done in honor of a little girl named Nora Rose. This precious little baby has brightened the lives of so many people. So much so, that it touched Matika and Shanda enough to want to nominate Nora and her parents to be a part of 52 Things of Beauty. They wanted to share with all of you this sweet baby’s story, GIVE hope to someone else that may have a Trisomy 13 diagnosis and cheer on Nora Rose! Here is what they wrote in their nomination:


“Matika and I have been following updates from a precious baby girl named Nora Rose on Facebook, as Matika knows Nora’s dad from high school. We instantly knew we wanted to share her amazing story in an effort to raise awareness and educate others about Trisomy 13, which is Nora’s genetic diagnosis. Working in pediatrics, I know Trisomy 13 babies are not usually given a long life expectancy, but Nora Rose has defied most odds and continues to grow and prosper each and every day. She has such a beautiful story and has certainly touched our hearts, as I know she will capture yours too.

Nora’s mom has written a short summary of Nora’s journey thus far.

Nora Rose is a very unique girl. She has a full case of a genetic syndrome called Trisomy 13, which means the 13th chromosomes in her entire body have three copies instead of two. The prognosis for Trisomy 13 babies are very grim, but Nora has surpassed the odds by the grace of our Heavenly Father. 

19029292_301237670333633_5639812567771092067_nNora’s medical conditions include a complete cleft lip and palate, blindness-she can only see light due to an underdeveloped right eye and an absent left eye, polydactyly- meaning she has twelve tiny fingers, a feeding tube, some sleep apnea- so she sleeps with oxygen to keep it in normal ranges when she has small apnea episodes, and in February she survived open heart surgery- as they repaired a large VSD and a small ASD in her heart. Upcoming surgeries include putting tubes in her ears and removing her 6th digits on both hands. Future surgeries include a cleft lip repair and potentially a cleft palate repair. 

Currently, Nora is doing awesome! She’s generally a happy baby, can roll over, smiles to familiar voices and silly games like pat a cake and dancing, can hold objects with her hands and bring them to her mouth, can sit up for short periods of time with support, and has been cleared by her cardiologist with a PERFECT heart!! God gets all the glory for this miracle girl!!

  Nora Rose’s Journey was created to ask for prayer requests, provide updates to family and friends, and show the world what a true miracle looks like. Now, she is providing hope for other families that have received the heart wrenching diagnosis of Trisomy 13. Instead of aborting, as we were given the option multiple times, she is proving that T13 babies/children can live a happy/somewhat normal life if they receive appropriate medical intervention. Most importantly, we want God to touch others through Nora’s life like He has used her to touch ours. 

If you want to follow along, pray and encourage baby Nora Rose and her family you can see updates on their Facebook page Nora Rose’s Journey

–Matika Thomas and Shanda Shrader


If you have someone you would like to nominate please fill out the nomination section of the website. Thank you to everyone participating in the 52 Things of Beauty Project! This outlet of painting for special people and organizations has been such a rewarding way to allow me to do what a love and give stories to my paintings.

Thank you,


23/52 Hurricane Harvey Help

 What is happening to people in the path of Hurricane Harvey is so hard to watch. Everyone seems to have someone they know that is dealing with this crazy storm.  For me, it is my friend Dana. She and her family which includes two precious little babies were picked up by boat just this morning after their home in Beaumont, TX flooded. Obviously, I can’t imagine what it feels like to be trapped in your home with your babies but I wanted to try and send her something to help with the situation. So I am auctioning off this painting below and 100% of proceeds will be given directly to them. If you are looking for other ways to help, I am also sharing information that a Houston based fashion blogger Veronika Blushing’s put together below. You can find the full version Veronikasblushing.com

R E L I E F  I T E M S/ N E E D S- B A S E D

The Texas Diaper Bank supports the basic needs of vulnerable babies, children with disabilities and seniors. The Texas Diaper Bank is asking for cash and diaper donations to help provide for the victims in Texas. Click here to learn how to donate. Source.

Purchase/donate cleaning kits from UMCOR, here.

The George R. Brown Convention Center shelter needs the following:


Houston Texans player JJ Watt is raising funds for hurricane Harvey relief, here (it has raised over $1 million so far).

You can donate to the Red Cross directly, here or text 90999 to donate $10. If you’re looking to volunteer your time to help those impacted by Hurricane Harvey, the American Red Cross and the Salvation Army are in need of volunteers to help at shelters. You can learn how to volunteer for the American Red Cross here and for the Salvation Army here (Source)

Amazon and Apple are collecting funds. Read more here.

The Salvation Army’s Emergency Disaster Services is working to help provide food and clothing to victims seeking shelter. Donors can call 1-800-SAL-ARMY or click here (Source)

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner established the Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund after receiving an overwhelming number of inquiries of people reaching out to offer help. The funds will be administered by the Greater Houston Community Foundation and accepts tax-deductible flood-relief donations. To donate or to learn more, click here.  Source.

You can donate to Texas Children’s Hospital, here, so that the hospital can continue to support its patients’ greatest needs. See a video from Texas Children’s during the hurricane, here.

His Grace Foundation is an organization that helps ease the multitude of stressors faced by families with children on the Bone Marrow Transplant Unit at Texas Children’s Hospital, allowing families to focus on supporting their child during the crucial treatment and recovery period. As a result of this hurricane, they will have an increased need for funds to help families that are facing the loss of their homes, cars and other issues while they are also in the hospital with their sick child. You can donate here.

The global crowdfunding community is attempting to raise $2 million to “provide relief to survivors in the form of emergency supplies like food, water, and medicine in addition to longer-term recovery assistance to help residents recover and rebuild.” Global Giving says all donations made to the fund will be exclusively used to support local relief and recovery efforts. Click here to learn how to donate.  Source.

The National VOAD will be in Houston providing relief and recovery for years to come, and will need your assistance.  You can donate to a Texas VOAD Member or a National VOAD Member to help those affected by Hurricane Harvey.

Texas Baptist Men is an organization a friend has served for. They provide meals to the first responders and those in the hard hit areas in need of food, mobile showers and laundry for first responders and those affected, child care assistance at shelters and construction including temporary roof repairs to prevent further damage.

United Way of Greater Houston has set up a relief fund that people can donate to. The organization said its first priority is shelter and basic needs like food. The organization said it will also focus on long-term recovery efforts. (source)


All of these are safe and easy ways to do something to give to those that have had to go through this unimaginable experience! Thank you to everyone choosing to help!




22/52 Big House Foundation

BigHouse Programs provide much needed support and valuable resources for local foster and adoptive families. In most cases, programs are available for the entire family, not just children in foster care. We want to encourage and equip each member of our families as they navigate the world of foster care and adoption.


BigHouse operates a Clothes Closet for foster families to access monthly for the children in their home. Donations of new or gently used clothing are accepted year round to keep our Clothes Closet well stocked. Children ages newborn – 21 are able to access this program.





We believe in restoring as much dignity to a child’s first 24-48 hours in foster care as possible. Our New To Care Bag program provides a new duffel bag, backpack or diaper bag to children entering foster care. We include new socks and underwear, toiletry items, clothes and pjs, accessories and a comfort item in each bag. Each bag is tailored for the individual child and items included vary by age. Bags can be requested by social workers or foster parents when children enter care.

BigHouse hosts monthly Kids’ Night Out respite events for local foster and adoptive families. This is an opportunity for our families to have a break while our Kids’ Night Out team is able to build relationships with our BigHouse kids.


Each month our moms come together for dinner and fellowship with other foster and adoptive moms in our area. BigHouse provides the meal, the moms provide the conversation. This is an opportunity for these women to meet and build relationships with each other.


Birthdays are important and we want to make them extra special for kids in foster care. BigHouse families can bring their kids to choose a toy from our Birthday Club during the month of their birthday! We also have birthday bags local groups put together that include decor, a cake mix, candles and more!

As a coach’s wife who witnesses every day the hope and beauty created by bringing back the UAB football program, I simply wanted to say, “Thank-you Birmingham”

FullSizeRender 3This is painting number 21 of 52. It will hang in the new UAB Athletic Facility, inspired by the dedicated people that gave so much to bring UAB football back and the 2014 team. As a coach’s wife who witnesses every day the hope and beauty created through this program, I simply wanted to say, “Thank-you Birmingham”.

Some say football is just a game. And in a way, they might be right. But football is also something so much more. It is team, community, hard work and dedication. It is hope, opportunity, and faith in those who share your field. It is learning to pick yourself up after a loss and being a part of something bigger than yourself. It is a group of people that protect you and fight for you. It is a family.

So many people don’t get a chance to see some of the things that go on behind the scenes of a football program. I’ll be one of the first to admit that before I was married to a coach, I had no clue. If I’m being honest, I was more interested in a chance to make some tailgate cheese dip or get a new dress in my school colors! Now things are different. I get to know the players; their personalities, their backgrounds, their crazy dance moves, their nicknames like Phat Phat and Zay…and some of them I really get to see their heart. I get to know the coaches and what they put into the program. I see how much they love their players and want the best for them on and off the field. I will hurt if we lose and will get tears in my eyes when we win. I will watch the players run up to my kids after the games and give us the best sweaty hugs. That is why this experience of bringing back this program is so much sweeter than just giving young men a chance to play college football. It has allowed us to become family. It has allowed us to fall in love with Birmingham and the people that make up this great city. The people that fought for us to play this year.

Over the past year, I can’t help but think what if UAB had stayed shut down? What if the people that fought for this program had remained silent? I realize many of the guys here today could have gone on and received scholarships at other schools to play football. But what if some of them didn’t? What if those who knew UAB was to be their home and football was their way through the door? What if those guys now have a different path for their entire lives because of this experience? What if now they look at this opportunity to be a part of something bigger than themselves as something they take incredible pride in, and they make more mature decisions regarding their futures? What if UAB football becomes someone’s new beginning?

In a world that seems divided on issues, we can all agree that football programs bring people together. The stands will be made up of people with different political beliefs, people of different races, genders, sexual orientation, and religious beliefs, but all wearing Blazer green and gold and all cheering for the same team. We will be proud of our school and grateful that the right thing was done. What if the community of Birmingham grows closer thanks to all of you?

Truthfully, we may never know the answers to these what if questions.  However, my belief is that if even one player’s life is changed for the better, one more person fills the stands to support the team, or a community of people comes together because of the decision to bring back this team, then this was absolutely worth fighting for.  And it is my hope and belief that ALL of these things will in fact happen.  So, thank you, to all those that took a stand. To those that donated money, made a call, put on a bumper sticker, wrote a simple email fighting for this program or bought season tickets. I sure do know one thing. Thanks to you, this UAB football team is back and they are going to make the most of their opportunity… Go Blazers! DSC_0865






20/52 Church of the Highlands Serve Day!

Here is how Church of Highlands describes Serve Day:

SERVE Day is Church of the Highlands annual outreach event. It is an amazing opportunity to bless and be blessed. Thousands go out into our communities and show the love of Christ in real and tangible ways. Church of Highlands encourage everyone to choose a serve project of their own and be the hands and feet of Jesus on SERVE Day.

SERVE Day 2017 takes place on July 15, 2017. Click Here for more information!

Here are some of the General Ideas :

• Host a free garage sale
• Bring free lunches to construction workers and servicemen in your area
• Hand out free gum at a local park
• Clean up a widow’s or single mom’s yard
• Give out free sunscreen at a city park
• Give out free bottled water
• Plan a “Back to School Bash” for foster care children. Have free food, games, and a backpack/school supply giveaway
• Give out free donuts and coffee at bus stop or shopping center
• Host a free car wash for the faculty
• Minor car repairs for elderly, widows and/or single mom’s
• Kids host a free kids toys and games garage sale

We hope you will pick something to be a part of and make a difference Saturday!