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It is well…

From the next room, laughter and the banging of toy trains on wooden train tracks distract me from the glowing laptop in front of me, so I pause and listen to a small three-year-old voice giggling and chattering away in conversation with his daddy as Thomas and Friends chug-a-chug up short wooden slopes and through plastic bridges.
Train table
Gratefulness wells up within me and I stop to thank God for these sounds, for the peace in this house.

My new addition catches my eye…
"It is well with my soul" - Canvas Letters at View Along the Way

And I think, yes… it is so, SO well with my soul.


in these times for me, with tiny feet running barefoot down hallways, plenty of food in the pantry and blessings raining down unexpectedly at every turn… in these times we rarely struggle in any real way. These times are precious and good.

When peace like a river attendeth my way…

We are not often tested. We are not made to wonder where our next meal will come from, or whether our little ones will survive the night. I wonder what my faith would look like in other circumstances.

When sorrows like sea billows roll… Whatever my lot…

Have you heard the story of the hymn “It is well with my soul?” I always liked the song, but once I heard the back story, it took on a whole new meaning for me.

The man who wrote the hymn was a successful, wealthy lawyer in Chicago with a wife, son and four daughters. In 1870, he lost his only son to scarlet fever. One year later, every one of his real estate holdings was wiped out by the great Chicago fire. Realizing his family needed rest and escape, he decided to take them on vacation to Europe via a large steamboat set to sail across the Atlantic. At the last minute, he was held up by business and sent his family ahead of him with plans to join them in Europe shortly.

En route to Europe, the ship carrying his wife and daughters collided with another ship, sinking within 12 minutes and claiming the lives of 226 of its passengers. As the ship sank into the deep, cold ocean, his wife stood on the deck with her four daughters watching the water swallow the ground beneath them. Her last memory of the disaster was having her baby girl torn from her arms by the violent force of the water. All four daughters died that day.

Upon hearing the tragic news, the man boarded the next ship out of New York to go to his wife. As his ship passed over the place where the previous vessel sank, he stood on the ship’s deck gazing into the water that claimed his children. I can only imagine the turmoil washing over his heart as the waves rolled beneath him. He returned to his cabin and wrote the lyrics to this hymn.

When sorrows like sea billows roll…

Whatever my lot, thou has taught me to say…

It is well. It is well with my soul.

What faith in the goodness of God! What trust, when all that had happened to him screamed not to trust. I consider the faith that would compel his pen to compose these lyrics… I want to soak up that perspective and pour it over my heart. To set my heart on ground so solid that no violent wind or wave can shake it. To consider the sovereignty of His plan even when it’s so far from what I might have chosen… I want to have that faith.

So here, in my home, where peace reigns and our hardest days are still gifts, I thank God and ask him for faith that doesn’t lean on an easy life. I ask for faith to give Him praise for who He is and not what He gives. I ask to see through the tearful eyes of a heartbroken man gazing over rusty railing into an angry ocean, so that I might say, “whatever my lot… it is well with my soul.”

And that’s why I’m so happy for this new reminder:
"It is well with my soul" - Canvas Letters at View Along the Way

The sweet family who owns 163 Designs sent me these amazing canvas letters after I spied them on another site. As soon as I saw them, my whole world went “SCREEEECH” to a stop and I had to investigate! I loved that the letters were the same color as the walls, so it’s the 3D effect that jumps out at you.
I needed some of those letters in my life, specifically for this blank wall spot between my kitchen and living room…
I worked with Jen of 163 Designs, who I instantly connected with and kinda have a girl-crush on now that I discovered her blog – and she helped me create a design that would fill that spot perfectly, with a quote that would remind us every day that It Is Well, and not just because It Is Easy.

These letters are laser-cut out of eucalyptus and covered in canvas. I loved the canvas texture, but I wanted the letters to be the same color as my walls. I asked Jen if the letters were paintable, and she was sweet enough to send me a little ampersand to experiment with. You can really see the canvas texture here:
canvas ampersand from 163 designs
I wanted to see them hung up first to be SURE I wanted them blue. To hang them, I just stuck a couple of these bad boys right to the back:
scotch mounting squares
Then I whipped out the trusty laser level to get them all aligned. Not gonna lie – hanging them straight and even was the hardest part by far. Once they’re in the right spot, you just stick ’em, and the mounting squares work their magic.
Canvas Letters at View Along the Way
Are the crooked letters bothering you? I know, me too. I knew I had to paint them first, so I wasn’t too worried about it at this point. I hope we can still be friends.

I loved them, but seeing them on the wall confirmed for me that I wanted them fade a little more. I wanted them to softly hum the hymn, not scream it at me, know what I mean?

I used a little foam brush to veeeeerrrrryy lightly cover the letters in some spare wall paint I found in the garage. At first I was worried because the color looked a little patchy. (You can also see where I touched up the wall paint. Lazy girl’s solution to the pencil marks I made when I was aligning the letters!)
painted canvas letters
But they dried evenly and ended up looking pretty fantastic. The edges are dark wood, so they help the letters pop just the right amount. Mostly it’s the shadows that catch your eye.
"It is well with my soul" canvas letters at View Along the Way

How do you feel about words as art? Are you going to have this song stuck in your head all day now?

P.S.: If you like this post, you might like my easy DIY verse art too!

Disclosure: I received free product from 163 Designs, but all opinions here are my own, of course!

Let's connect


  1. wow- i didn’t know the story behind it- so bittersweet and beautiful and tragic… thanks for sharing.
    and i love how it looks on your wall and is a good reminder.

  2. Positively gorgeous post and gorgeous letters as well. I have sang the hymn many times growing up and never knew the backstory… so sad but so incredibly powerful. The color on color is brilliant, especially with that quote! It positively rolls off the wall into a crescendo. Thank you for sharing with us! 🙂

  3. I always think about all the heart ache that our ancestors went through and how they managed to go on.
    Love your post today and the meaning behind the sentence for you. Looks beautiful on your wall.

  4. I love them!! And I love that they are the same color as the wall. I’ll be I spying that & in photos around your house!!

  5. cathy Johnson says:

    This is my favorite Kelly post so far. Your words are such a blessing to me today. I also want to have that kind of faith! May God continue to bless you and your family.

  6. Thanks for sharing the backstory. It gives me chills thinking of that man’s faith after losing his children. The new letters look perfect. I need to find a spot in our place for something fun like that!

  7. This song always makes me think of my grandma, because everytime we hear it she morbidly reminds me she wants it played at her funeral. I love it anyway. And this post. And you.

    • No, Amy, it is not “morbid” but realistic…As a (young) grandma myself, I think perhaps she is acknowledging the comfort of this song. I have in my Bible comments telling my family what I would like at my funeral…including what songs…including “It Is Well With My Soul”. I feel better knowing that my family will know what I would like.

      • I’m so glad to know that I’m not the only one who has (sort of) planned her own memorial! When my mom passed the only thing that got me through was planning her funeral. I looked on it as the last gift I could give her, so I made it as beautiful as I could. I can see how for some it would be a terrible burden to put upon them when they’re grieving, so I made notes for my own. Of course, my kids and I joke that I’m doing it so no one screws it up! This hymn just made the cut! Thank you (other) Kelly for giving us the back-story. I’m going to immediately share this with several people I know would love to hear it. You have a new follower here!

  8. I didn’t know the story behind that hymn, that I have heard so many times! The letters look so awesome and what an amazing reminder.

  9. My aunt used to sing that song in church! It will not be stuck in my head all day because, while it’s a lovely song, it is not exactly catchy. Unless that was just the way my aunt sang it. I love the way you painted the letters; they look great 🙂

  10. Thank you.

  11. This is one of my most favorite posts of yours so far. I love that hymn. Jen wants it at her funeral. I love how the words softly blend into your wall. I love your heart. 🙂

  12. Love it! I have the same quote/lyric in my house! I did it on canvas though, and I love looking at it every morning as I get ready for work!

    I really love the size of yours, it gives it so much more meaning. Truly a powerful reminder of faith.

    Thanks for sharing!!!

  13. I love that hymn and the story behind it. Thanks for sharing!

  14. I just went to a womens conference where they had a really good group sing that hymn, loved it! The letters look awesome! Way to get the level out too, making them straight is the worst.

  15. Kelly, I love this post. Every bit of it is thoughtful and beautiful. I have always loved that quote and knowing the story behind the hymn and your thoughts about things being well within your soul when times are good but also having that kind of faith when times are bad, it really made me think this morning. I love the reminder that you have on the wall and so appreciate you shared it in the perspective that you did. Sharon

  16. I absolutely LOVE this! I really want to do something similar on our living room wall and I love the flat letters! Want, want want!

  17. Kelly, this is such a beautiful post. Thank you for sharing that story. I will definitely pass it along to my kids. They have no idea how good they have it living the life they do, and I’m so grateful for how easy it is for them right now because in every life a little rain will fall. I desperately want them to grow up with faith in God’s will for their life, and be filled with gratitude even when times are tough. I adore your new wall art and how you came to choose those words!

  18. LOVE THIS. The whole post. Also, I used the same phrase (well, half of it) on some recent artwork I made:

  19. Love this post girl! The letters look amazing, and I love that they remind you of that message! Muah!

  20. I have had this song in my head since I read your post this morning–you were right! My dad is a pastor and uses Horatio Spafford’s story as a sermon illustration a lot–brings me to tears every time. Such a great message. And your letters look absolutely beautiful! Have a great day, Miss Kelly!

    ~Abby =)

  21. Words ARE art… 🙂
    Beautiful, Kelly.
    xo Heidi

  22. This was a great post. I had a terrible day yesterday at work and when I got out of work I made the conscious effort to have a good evening. Time is a gift and I should make the most of it. I spent the evening being present and enjoying all the small things and being super grateful for all the good in my life. We are truly blessed.

    This art is beyond amazing!! I am planning what phrase I should display right now… off to check out the shop. I want it for my dinette area!!

  23. That is an amazing story behind that hymn. It seems so many songs of praise and worship are inspired not be happiness but by tragedy, in the midst of having nowhere else to turn. God is so faithful! I love your letters!

  24. Kelly, God knew I needed this today! Thank you for sharing this beautiful post. The new lettering is gorgeous, but what spoke to my heart more that was this:

    “What faith in the goodness of God! What trust, when all that had happened to him screamed not to trust. I consider the faith that would compel his pen to compose these lyrics… I want to soak up that perspective and pour it over my heart. To set my heart on ground so solid that no violent wind or wave can shake it. To consider the sovereignty of His plan even when it’s so far from what I might have chosen… I want to have that faith.

    So here, in my home, where peace reigns and our hardest days are still gifts, I thank God and ask him for faith that doesn’t lean on an easy life. I ask for faith to give Him praise for who He is and not what He gives. I ask to see through the tearful eyes of a heartbroken man gazing over rusty railing into an angry ocean, so that I might say, “whatever my lot… it is well with my soul.” ” Yes, how I need Jesus to give me faith that doesn’t lean on an easy life, a faith that thanks Him no matter what we are facing, a faith that TRUSTS His heart!

    Thank you for blessing my heart today…for being used by Jesus to bring encouragement to my heart. (Your blog is so fun to read!)

  25. bea.u.ti.ful. xoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxo!

  26. I had never heard that story before, and it is beautiful. I don’t know what I would do. I admire that strength.
    Love love love the letters! The tone on tone is awesome. Nice idea to paint them!

  27. Kelly I love this post. I think it ranks right up in the best top 5 blog posts I’ve ever read. Thank you for sharing the story of the song…and also for sharing a bit of yourself.

  28. I love the letters and that hymn. I am going to have it stuck in my head for sure, but I’m not complaining! What a good reminder to have it running through my head the rest of the day. Thanks for sharing!

  29. I love how you wrote and explained us this beautiful story Kelly and these letters look beautiful in your space! 🙂

  30. melissa pearce says:

    Kelly, thank you for posting this! You’re so right. “I want to soak up that perspective and pour it over my heart. To set my heart on ground so solid that no violent wind or wave can shake it. To consider the sovereignty of His plan even when it’s so far from what I might have chosen… I want to have that faith…and ask him for faith that doesn’t lean on an easy life. I ask for faith to give Him praise for who He is and not what He gives.” It’s a tough thing about this life, that deep faith and intimacy are usually a result of deep suffering. Oh, that I would not seek my comfort above my Lord! Undergoing some trials this week that sent me reeling, and the words of faith that you and a few others have spoken are like salve to my soul. <3

  31. Heartbreaking story… when I think of all we’ve been through it pales in comparison…

    And despite of our struggles, we are truly blessed.

  32. Unimaginable.
    Beautiful, calming sentiment though…
    And they look lovely.

  33. Love that look and especially when it’s done in the same wall colour. I remember waking up in the middle of the night with Thomas Tank songs running through my head:)

  34. Such a meaningful sentiment. It looks great on your wall!

  35. Wow, how powerful. Very familiary with the hymn but was unaware of the story behind it. Thank you so much for sharing and a beautiful post, too. Love the words/art on the wall, color, etc. Looks fab. Blessings….

  36. AAHHH!! SO glad to read this post today! Had never heard that story and it had me a lil choked up too. You are so right though… even my hardest day IS A GIFT!! Thank you so much for this post–it was one of MY blessings today!!

  37. What an incredible post, Kelly…so moving and I never knew the backstory on that hymn either. Leaves me speechless and in absolute awe…what a beautiful reminder to put on your wall and I love how subtle it is. It’s perfect. Jesse @ Scout & Nimble

  38. So very beautiful….the words and the post. Trusting Him in those times when things are bleak…is such a Parent/Child part of faith. He is so precious. I’m so thankful that He never gives up on these “ashes” that I have to offer. ~k.

  39. Oh wow. I have such a soft spot for word art. This is so awesome!!! I think I need to do this in my house. It’s large and graphic but subtle. Perfect.

  40. What a great idea! This has been one of my alltime favorite hymns since I was very little, and even more so after I long ago heard the story of its composition. A wonderful reminder that our peace is only found in Christ…good to remember any time of day. This and your piggy Easter post are my favorites!

  41. Beautiful post. One of my favorite hymns!

  42. Wow. I’ve always loved that song too. I agree that knowing the real meaning behind the song gives a whole new meaning.
    I love your project–thanks so much for sharing it and the powerful story. I’m stopping by from Tatertots and Jello. Have a great weekend!

  43. Wow. The hymn looks amazing on your wall and the story truly brought tears to my eyes. Thanks for a little real perspective:)

  44. I’m doing this tomorrow. Thanks for the idea.

  45. Thanks for keeping it real, Kelly! I’ve heard the story before, and it always makes me cry with joy for how blessed I am. So inspiring! I’m all weepy now. Thanks a lot! 😉
    Love the wall, btw.

  46. This is so beautiful, I just love it Kelly! When my husband and I were newly dating, this was the song that we sang every Sunday during invitation. It takes me back to that sweet time:0)

  47. kelly, if i could i would give you the biggest hug!
    love the lettering & i love your post! beautiful!


  48. I knew this hymn, but not the moving story behind it. Such a beautiful way to start a Sunday! Love the placement of the letters and the shadow effect – just perfect!
    Thanks for the inspiration,
    Pieced Pastimes
    PS-Would love to have you link this up to Saturday Sparks

  49. wow Kelly thanks for sharing the tragic background to those words! I LOVE your wall! We are moving to a new house in a few weeks – next time I go over there, I’m looking for a wall that I can do something similar to!!

  50. This is simply fabulous…. I love it! Thanks for the inspiration!

  51. Love! Such a perfect application of typography! New follower here!!

  52. tiffany says:

    Beautiful post. It came right on time. My family and I pcs’d to Germany at the beginning of the year. It was a tough move to do especially while pregnant. My sweet baby girl is here now but the only rooms decorated in the house was hers and her big sister’s. Now I am getting to the rest of the house and I want to be done before my husband deploys sometime this summer.

  53. What a story. I love the letters and how you painted them the same color as the wall.

  54. I love the letters, I love the verse, and I so adore the story. You brought a tear (or two) to my eyes on this sunny Sunday afternoon, my friend!

    🙂 Linda

  55. Well.

    I think this could very well be the wall that I secretly covet. I absolutely LOVE the quote… I love the back story on the hymn… I love the spot where you placed the letters… I love that they’re the same color as your wall paint… Wow! You just did everything RIGHT! (Not that I’m a decorating professional, because I’m the exact opposite of that. But I know DONE RIGHT when I see it!)

    I found your blog, quite by accident, this afternoon, because I was being rather unproductive on Pinterest during the baby’s nap, instead of folding laundry or emptying the dishwasher or any other number of things. I followed a post with some fantastic blue plates hanging on a blue wall, and here you are. I took your home tour, and now I’m pretty sure that I’d love to have you over for coffee one day. You could sit at my dining room table, sip your cup slowly, and redecorate my house when you’d finished. I’d love for you to say things like, “This rug! It has got to go!” and “These throw pillows! How do you live with THESE THROW PILLOWS? Ugh!” And then we’d push the rug and the throw pillows out to the curb with a FREE sign on them, and I’d take all of your advice, as you said things like, “Now buy THIS rug, and THESE throw pillows, and let’s get you a sassy little quote that points you to Jesus all the live-long day on one of your walls!”

    I may have to start stalking your blog a little bit, but don’t worry. I’m not a crazy stalker, because I have a 12 year old and a 1 year old, and by the end of the day, I’m so worn out from chasing the toddler around and driving the “almost-a-teenager” around that I just want to go to bed. Ain’t nobody got time for being a CRAZY blog stalker, who wears a black trench coat and uses a code name like Gold Eagle 1. If I had that much energy, I’d put it toward redecorating MY house!

    Have a happy Sunday.

  56. Christel says:

    Beautiful letters, amazing story of love and faith!

  57. Wow. Is there some kind of blog award system? If so, I hereby nominate this post. Can I get an Amen?
    I experience such a range of emotions when I read your blog. Usually laughter because you’re a hoot, inspiration (and maybe a little envy) at your creativity, and now tears. What a beautiful story!

  58. Ohhhh Kelly,

    I LOVE your blog! And this too may be one of my favorite posts! I heard this back story on Adventures in Odyssey on the radio, and knowing the heartache and faith despite it all, is just so inspiring. to God be the glory!

  59. love this so much and love the song you chose! perfect!

  60. love love love this Kelly!!!!! (one of my favorite hymns too) 🙂

  61. I didn’t know the story behind that song and it literally took my breath away! I have always loved that song but with that perspective it really does change the way I look at all the blessings in my life. Thank you for this. The letters are a gorgeous, simple reminder.

  62. Great focal point for your home Kelly!! I love the phrase you chose – I’ll have to check that site out – I have a tall 2 story wall in my family room that needs something added to it! This would work so great!

  63. I am relatively new to the world of blogs. I love pouring over the endless decorating ideas and marvel at the diy talent…much of my kitchen redo inspiration comes from sites just like yours. Beautiful, I must say, of all your designs and renos, you are so talented! However, I stopped by to leave you this message because I truly believe that I wound up on your blog for a reason and when we ask for His guidance, we have to stop and sit quietly in His presence long enough to listen. I have been going through some things that have caused some anguish and haven’t been able to make sense of any of it…your words stopped me in my tracks. “To consider the sovereignty of His plan even when it’s so far from what I might have chosen…… I thank God and ask him for a faith that doesn’t lean on an easy life.” I too, want to have that faith. Your words are beyond important to me, I have copied and saved them and will be using them everyday to remind me that, yes indeed, it is well with my soul. So thank you, Kelly, whom I’ve never met, for sharing from your heart. Happy Mother’s Day.


  64. My eyes well up with tears every time I hear the story behind that hymn…in fact, one of my very first bloggy projects was very similar to this! White letters on white canvas…with this same phrase! #anotherreasonwhywearebesties Love how yours turned out…and how big and bold it is on your wall. We need big and bold reminders of God’s faithfulness to us sometimes, don’t we?

    Here’s the link if you’re curious:

  65. Oh wow…I just hopped on over because I caught a glimpse of your recent blog title from the comments on Gwen’s gluten free pizza crust. When I saw, “It is well”…well, it intrigued me in a way that made me hope that when I got here it would have something to do with my favorite hymn of ALL TIME.

    I was not disappointed! First, love the lettering on your wall and how it turned out. I would love to do something like that in our home. Second, thanks for sharing the story behind the hymn – although I heard it shared during a sermon many years ago, I love seeing that story out there.

    And reading it again this morning, reminded me of why I love this song so much. 🙂

  66. Love this so much, this was my late grandmother’s favorite hymn and I tear up every time I hear it. I love the look!

  67. One of my favorite hymns! Today we are so blessed, we skate along in life and think we have it so hard. I always think of the story behind this song and remember that my life is so easy. Thanks for the reminder to be thankful that my life is so blessed.

  68. Came here from IHeart Organizing, looked through your home posts, cracked up at your hilarious writing, and now reading recent posts on my google reader. I too am at such a sweet, sweet time in life. I thank Jesus for His many blessings, and sometimes I do get scared of what is to come, that life couldn’t get sweeter, so what pains await me? Sounds really depressing, but I remind myself of Truth, and that I have an eternal hope! Whatever comes my way, my Father is in control, I’m on the winning team, and when I’m in His hands, I won’t be shaken. I pray that I would have steadfast faith in our loving Father in good times and bad, and like Paul, that I would be content in whatever circumstance. Thank you so much for sharing the story behind that hymn. Really powerful.

  69. Cindy B. says:

    Would love to order this exact saying as it is my favorite!!! Can you share what size letters you ordered? Thank you so much.

  70. Thanks a million! I truly needed this.

  71. So beautiful! What is the name of the paint color? I love it!

  72. Hi Kelly. Love the story, the hymn, and the wall! Although I see I’m a little late in discovering it. I have finally subscribed to your blog instead of just happening upon random posts through Facebook. I’ve always wanted to add “words to live by” to my home décor, and this is the best way I’ve seen!

  73. Gah, I love it! The same-color-with-shadow effect totally does “hum” instead of screaming at you.

    And “It Is Well” is one of my favorite hymns. So I’m swooning.

  74. When I got to the horrible part of the story, I almost couldn’t continue reading. I’m glad I did, though, and you’re so very right. I want that kind of faith, I need that kind of faith. Thank you for sharing.

    Lovely lettering, by the way!

  75. Found your site through Pinterest. That song has always been one of my favourites, and I’ve long known the back story which makes it even more special. There’s one more bit to the story–after losing his daughters, he and his wife went on to become missionaries! I think he was well rewarded by God when he got to heaven!

  76. I love this! It looks great on your wall

  77. I love every part of this project. The song is one of my all time favorite hymns and now it IS stuck in my head. That is not a bad thing at all though. Thank you for sharing the back story of the song. I have never heard that before. I can remember my parents singing this in church when I was a little girl. Good memories!

  78. Hello!! So sweet and I love the design and phrase you picked! Can I ask which paint you used? I especially love the color!

  79. Kelly – Could you give me the letter sizes you used. I realize I will fit for my space but love the varied sizes and wondered what the differences were in sizes. I LOVE THIS…we are building and I am finding somewhere in the new house to put this quote. 🙂 Wonderful to have that reminder DAILY. Thanks.

    • Hi Beth, if you tell the sweet people at 163 designs that you want the same one as I have, they’ll give you a quote for it. They’re friends and they’ll remember what sizes they used. I’ll bet they’ll do a little package for you with those letters.

  80. Mary Doukakis says:

    Hello! I just happened upon your blog through pinterest & I’ve beek reading some of your posts & imagining myself in the “DIY driver’s seat”, happily painting away…
    I just want to give you a (y) (y) *two thumbs up* for such a lovely project & tutorial.
    I will definitely be trying to do that “canvas word art” & painting a small canvas project– maybe even two 😉
    Thanks for such a faith-filled story.
    -Mary (aka Yayamama)

  81. Like you, I loved the song all my life and it became even more endearing when I heard the story. God has blessed us with a wonderful Church. I write and teach and we have the honor of readying it for Sunday. As I clean and set up, I sing this song just as I would an anthem and imagine the strength it took for this man to write those words that burned in his heart. Such a devotion to God. And your idea is beautiful. On either, the wall or canvas, those words will be my next project. Thank you.

  82. I NEED this!!!! lol I love it!!


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