William Butler, poses with one of his many beautiful paintings from his gallery in the Rollins Mansion in Des Moines, Iowa.

William Butler, poses with one of his many beautiful paintings from his gallery in the Rollins Mansion in Des Moines, Iowa.

The first time I met William Butler, I was visiting with a pastor at Lutheran Church of Hope in lovely West Des Moines, Iowa. We were fairly new to the church and I was in the process of jumping into the deep end of the pool by volunteering on the worship team. I had seen William up on stage a week prior and for some unknown reason, I wanted to be his friend. So when William popped his head into Pastor Richard’s office to say hello, I inexplicably said, “I think we’re supposed to become friends.” Without pausing, William looked at me, smiled and responded, “Okay!”  And we were friends.

William, his wife Ronja and their two boys (Carson and Kaden) are a gift from God. When I reference families that “walk the walk” from a Christian faith standpoint, I start with the Butlers. Ronja, whose name means joy, embodies that word from her head to her feet. Her hugs are genuinely so sincere, and I have never met a more kind person before in my life. And William speaks truth and love into your heart with his words and actions. Their boys are a shining product of amazing parenting and are always gracious hosts who delight in talking about books, music and sports – namely soccer.

God has laid big dreams on the hearts of the Butlers and they are following His calling, moving from their comfortable home in the West Des Moines area to Camden, New Jersey. Yes you read that correctly. They are more or less modern, American missionaries, ministering to so many beautiful people in the Camden / Philadelphia, PA area. Not far from their apartment near Campbell’s Field in Camden, you’ll find a restored firehouse. But instead of finding old fire fighter memorabilia, you’ll find Gallery Eleven One – which serves as an art gallery and studio for William.  Most days you’ll find him inside creating a masterpiece that’s been commissioned. Other times, he’ll have the beautiful melodies of Misty Edwards, Jesus Culture, Hillsong United and other worship leaders as the Holy Spirit guides his paint brush around the canvas.

Carlson Family Crest

This amazing family crest was designed by William Butler (ThomasLift.com) and includes our family mission statement and wedding date.

A few weeks ago, my 12 year-old twin sons asked to be baptized as a step of obedience in their belief and faith in Jesus. As parents, we couldn’t be happier or prouder of them! Leading up to this event, I had plowed through “Raising a Modern Day Knight” by Robert Lewis and wanted to celebrate this important decision. A couple of great ideas that Lewis suggests include developing a mission statement and family crest for your family. I had taken careful notes while reading “Raising a Modern Day Knight” and already had a good start on the mission statement. I wanted something simple and memorable and had written down 6 words.


Know and obey Jesus. Love and serve God and others. Submit to God, the church and those over you; lead your family and when necessary others under you as a servant leader.

While I had a good start on tackling a mission statement for our family, I needed a little help with the family crest. I reached out to William because I knew his design would be smothered in prayer and led by the Holy Spirit. After a lot of great conversation about our family names and mission statement, I was pleasantly surprised when several design comps showed up in my inbox. The problem was I had a difficult time choosing. But honestly, I chose the crest that I thought would also double as a really cool tattoo…something I haven’t had the courage to pull the trigger on. Yet.

We printed a few t-shirts featuring the new Carlson family crest designed by William Butler (ThomasLift.com).

We printed a few t-shirts featuring the new Carlson family crest designed by William Butler (ThomasLift.com).

The night before my boys were baptized, I planned a “man date” together in which we caught a movie and had dinner together. Following dinner, we grabbed some drinks at Cafe Diem – one of my favorite coffee shops in downtown Ames, Iowa. We sat and talked about their decision to get baptized and what it means to follow Jesus. I was baptized about the same age as my boys, but honestly really struggled to remember the events leading up to my baptism.  To help the boys always remember, I had them write a letter to their future self.  And then I handed them each a notebook of letters that all the men in our lives had written to encourage them in their faith journey. After putting their letters in the back of the notebook, they dove into all of the letters reading each one with great interest. It’s a gift each really treasures and will hopefully keep forever. Who knows, maybe they will pass it along to their kids someday.

And if you’re wondering, yes – we had a few t-shirts made up for the boys.

Be sure to check out ThomasLift.com and Art11One.com to learn more about William Butler…and to purchase some of his amazing paintings!

Erik Carlson, is the founder of Lighten Up Gear and Bald Tees. By day, he manages the digital marketing efforts of a large manufacturing brand. By night, he’s dreaming up shirt designs, playing the guitar and singing. And 24/7/365 he’s following Christ and loving on his wife and 3 children.

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