29 July 2016

My Compassionate Kid: a teaching moment

Yesterday Jack came with me to the church office and was playing while I worked. While there, a young girl (with no shoes) came to the church and asked if she could use our phone. She had just spent the night in County, was released (sans shoes), and walked a mile down County Farm Rd.until she got to our church. Her ride hadn't showed up, and she lives 10 miles away.
She called her friend, and while she waited, I got her a bottle of water and we chatted. Turns out she is 23 with 4 children, ages 7 months to 6 years old. None of the babies' daddys are supporting her or the children. She was picked up by the cops because her brother accused her of being too rough with one of his kids. She spend the night in jail, and was released on her own recognizance--with a court date sometime in the future.
Honestly, she was as sweet and polite as could be. She never asked for money (and I probably would have given her some), and she kept thanking me for use of the phone. I encouraged her as much as I could, because as I told her, those babies need her. Jack and I prayed with her, and then her ride showed up.
After she left, Jack had a lot of questions. He asked if she had been outside all night. So I explained she had actually spent the night in jail, and his eyes got as big as saucers. This girl definitely did not look like someone he imagined being in jail. Then Jack wanted to know why, so I explained that someone said she'd been too rough with a kid. Again, shock on Jack's part. You can go to jail for being too rough with a kid?! It seemed like a good teaching moment, so I talked to him about some of the foster kids we know. "You know kids who don't live with their 'real' mom and dads? Sometimes it's because their parents made bad choices. Some of the moms and dads were too rough with them. Maybe they hit them too hard. So the police said those kids can't live with their parents. They put them with foster parents, like _____ [who we know]. And they give the 'real' moms and dads a second chance to start making good decisions."
Jack's eyes well up with tears. "Will those kids go back to their 'real' parents? he asked.
"We don't know. Some will, if their parents show they can be good moms and dads. But if they don't, the kids will stay with the foster parents, and they might get adopted by them."
At this point Jack stared at the floor, biting his lip and trying not to cry. I asked him what was wrong, and he said, "I'm just so sad for my [foster care] friends."
Me, too, Jack. Me, too.

24 June 2016

A Difficult Task

For those of you not on our Facebook page, and/or who haven't heard, it looks like our adoption isn't going to happen.

I could recite all the explanations they've given us, but not one makes sense. As our agency told us, it's mind boggling.

Yesterday Jack and I were out shopping, and he spotted a pink pair of pants. "Mom! I think M would love those!" I smiled and nodded.

A few minutes later he saw some ruffly dresses. "Mom, we should buy those for the girls!"

I smiled again.

"Don't you want to put them in the cart, Mom?"

"Honey, I don't think M, M, and D are going to live with us. Remember, I told you that the Judge said no?"

"Mom, you have to keep hoping if you want it to happen!"

"Oh Sweetie. I do want it to happen, but it doesn't look like they'll be coming."

"Maybe we need to pray more. You know, we haven't prayed about it lately."

I changed the subject, and he forgot. For now.

I couldn't tell him that I pray with every breath, but that I don't pray aloud with him because I don't want him to doubt God. The way I do sometimes.

A few days ago I told Ken that I wanted to buy new linens for the girls' room, the room that will now be an extra room. We're having various guests over the next few months, and I can't bear to have the girly lavender quilts on the beds. They were bought for the girls,and the thought of someone else using them makes me too sad.

It really was the sweetest little girls' room you could ever imagine. The picture doesn't do it justice.

So tonight we removed the girls' quilts and replaced them with gray and white damask quilts. The walls are still lavender; we don't have the energy to re-paint them. It's fine. The room seems drab without the bright pink rug and the polka dot bedding, but it will do. It doesn't scream "little girl room," and that was the main thing we wanted.

D was going to share a room with Jack, so no major changes are necessary in there. The next task will be the clothing. The dressers are full of pajamas, still with the tags on them. Underwear and socks still in the package. Tshirts and jeans and shorts. Dresses and jackets and boots and shoes and hairbows and jewelry and coloring books and Amharic-English dictionaries, and little pink dollhouses and a brand new 10-speed bike in the garage for D, price tag still hanging from the handles.

There's so much to do. So many decisions to make. But not today.

Next week we'll have a conference call with our team in Addis; I guess so they can tell us they tried everything they could and that this journey has come to an end. But until then, I'll hold on to the tiniest sliver of hope. Because we promised M, M, and D we wouldn't leave them as orphans. That we would come for them. And so we can't leave any stone unturned.

26 May 2016

What You See v. What You Get

It was January in Chicago. On my drive to the office, I stopped by my coworker’s apartment because he needed a ride. I fiddled with my sunglasses while I waited for him. A few minutes later, Moses’ smiling face appeared. But something ...

(I recently blogged over at CCFL. Click here to read the rest of the story.)

07 May 2016

Mama Said

The business of training little humans for life is a mind-boggling process. And let’s be honest, some parents are better at it than others.

And tomorrow is Mother’s Day, the day when ...

(I'm blogging over at CCFL today. To read more, click here.)

03 May 2016

Free Printable

Here's a free printable for any special woman in your life: your mom, your wife, your sister, your aunt, your friend. Or print it for yourself. Because you are. Really.

Frame it or use it as a card. Or hang it on your fridge.

Choose the pink framed image, or just the image. Then click on the one you want, and right click to save or copy.

12 April 2016

As promised...

We're about midway through April, and we've experienced some downright weird weather--even by Chicago standards. Twice in the past two weeks it has alternately snowed, rained, and had clear blue skies--multiple times in one day. Sometimes in the span of 10 minutes.

I did, however, want to do another bulletin cover about April showers. No one ever said they had to be rain showers, right?

I found a picture online of this great polka dot umbrella that was sold by Barneys New York. It's no longer available for sale, but apparently its image lives on via the world-wide-web.

Much to my five-year-old's dismay, I turned it upside down. [gasp]

I added texture,

a puddle,

and of course the "shower of blessings." I played around with a lot of fonts and angles to get the effect of a shower. I originally was going to make the rain blue, but it overwhelmed the picture.

Finally, I added the Scripture reference. This font doesn't come in a bold, so I made two layers and overlapped them slightly.

And finally, my dreary gray/blue cover...that hopefully has an encouraging message: God's blessings will shower down on you.

And maybe that sometimes blessings look like rain.

(Personally, I prefer the kind that look like rainbows and unicorns and puppies, but as my friend Michelle says, you don't always get what you want.)  :P

When I finished, and the image had been printed on the bulletin, I realized none of the rain is actually going into the umbrella...which it would in real life, right?  Oops. Do you think anyone noticed?

(If you'd like to print out this image, simply click on it, then right click and save it to your computer and then print.)

05 April 2016

Art > Therapy

I've recently started designing covers for our church bulletin.

Initially I used free printables for the cover, but then Easter came, and I couldn't find what I had in mind.

I've been "doing" graphic design for nearly 20 years, but for the most part, it's been basic photoshopping.

So when I couldn't find what I wanted for our Easter service, I decided to go out on a limb and make something original. I knew the main focus would be "Christ is Risen," but I also wanted to include something about death being defeated when Christ rose from the dead.

I made a pastel watercolor-y background in blue because it reminded me of a robin's egg--perfect for springtime.

I used gold letters to announce the resurrection because gold seems kingly, royal. I tried to give each letter a gradient to make it look more like brushstrokes, and although it's not super obvious on the screen version, the printed version had a bit of a glimmer in the gold letters. (I credit our awesome printer at the church office.)

Then I wanted to add the "Death, where is your sting? Hell, where is your victory?" verse, but it started feeling cluttered. Since I wanted this to be a lesser focus on the piece anyway, I used a white font so it appears that the sting of death is fading in the light of Christ's victory.

Here is the final result:

The next Sunday was April 3, and I wanted to again do something seasonal. But the only thing that kept playing on repeat in my mind was "April showers bring May flowers." (or Mayflowers...)

A fun little poetic saying, but not actually in the Bible. Then I thought about clouds, one of my favorite subjects in the Bible. Although I've personally felt like a rain cloud's been hovering over me the past few months, I wasn't sure it would be appropriate for our church bulletin.

So again I turned to Google and found a Bible verse I don't recall ever reading before.

"Oh, that we might know the Lord!
    Let us press on to know him.
He will respond to us as surely as the arrival of dawn
    or the coming of rains in early spring.”   -Hosea 6:3 (NLT)

Wow. What a word picture.

And then I found a watercolor painting that was so awesome, and I really, really wanted to "borrow" it for my cover.

But somehow, stealing an image for church didn't seem quite right. So I again set out to create my own version.

Turns out I'm pretty slow figuring out all the amazing features Photoshop has to offer, but oh.my.goodness--there are some amazing features on Photoshop! I started with this photo of pink rain boots I found online.

I added a whole bunch of filters and brushes until they looked water-colorey. And a little less bubble-gum pink.

(See the little circular puddles of rain under the boots? No idea if they are correct in terms of direction. Making them was nearly the end of me...but I liked the effect.)

I downloaded some free fonts that looked kind of rainy.

Then I made a paintbrush in Photoshop in the shape of a raindrop and added about a million of them in varying sizes and colors.

And then the flowers. I needed something bright and cheery to add a splash of color, but creating actual flowers is beyond my skill level. So I found some clip art flowers, changed their size, shape, and color scheme, and played with them until they looked like they could actually be coming out of a rain boot.

(Does anybody really plant flowers in a rain boot? Would be a cute idea, but who would want to fill an adorable pink pair of Wellies with soil?)

Approximately 29 hours later, I had created this:

I wanted to emphasize two things: First, the truth of the verse...He will always come to those who seek Him. And second, even rain--dismal as it can be at times--is part of the process of creating something beautiful.

I added a faux matte frame to this version. I popped it in a $2 Ikea frame, and I love it for spring decor in my office.

I'm working on more cover art for April, so come back soon to see my latest creative adventures.