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 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,
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.)
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.
A dozen years ago I had a coworker named Nancy*. We were both in our thirties, but that's where the similarities ended.
Nancy was outgoing, audacious, and always the life of the party. She loved being in a crowd. She dressed in the latest fashion and couldn't resist a pair of shoes that had 4-inch heels.
I, on the other hand, was an introvert, trying to survive a job that required me to be outgoing, assertive, and personable. I had to meet lots of new people and establish relationships with them. It exhausted me. I tried to dress in style, but much like now, I wasn't usually successful.
One day Nancy and I were comparing our high school experiences. As a teenager, Nancy was the extroverted party girl. She died her hair pink and blue and orange. She was at every football game, dated lots of boys, and hung out with the "in" crowd. She dressed in the wildest clothes and was fearless.
As I thought back to my high school experience, I could only describe it like this: I was the complete opposite of Nancy. I was a rule follower. I tried to blend in. I didn't want to be noticed because it was usually for something like being the tallest girl in the school.
I wasn't invited to parties, and if I had been, I wouldn't have known how to act. I probably would have said something that sounded good in my head but got jumbled on my way to my mouth...and ended up coming out all wrong. I was tall and painfully skinny, and since there was no internet back then where you could buy tall-girl clothing, my pants were usually too short.
(My mom suggested sewing bric-a-brac on the bottoms to make them longer, but I declined, deciding floods were better than bric-a-brac.)
I confidently told Nancy we *never* would have been friends in high school. But, I was so glad we weren't teenagers anymore and could be friends with people who are different from us. As I recall, we had a good laugh and went back to work.
During the next week, Nancy was quieter than usual. She suffered from debilitating migraines, so I assumed that was what was wrong.
But after several attempts at small talk, I realized the normally outgoing Nancy was giving me one-word answers. She wouldn't look up when I walked past her cubicle. I started wondering if she was mad at me. I searched my mind for anything that could have upset her. I replayed conversations we'd had.
But I didn't replay the one conversation that mattered. I had filed it away in my brain as inconsequential small talk.
Finally I couldn't take the silent treatment any longer. I summoned all my introverted courage and approached Nancy. She was shocked when I asked her if something was wrong. Of course something was wrong! Did I not remember the terrible thing I had said?
Her anger was intense. Clearly her animosity toward me had been building for days, and I had been clueless.
Finally she recounted our conversation about high school, and I was equally shocked that she was upset by it. But then I realized her recollection of our conversation was different than mine. She was seething as she said, "You said you wouldn't want to be friends with me because I was too wild! I'm not good enough for you."
No, that wasn't it. I said (or I thought I had said) that I was intimidated by girls like Nancy because I was so socially awkward. I *thought* I had said I was glad we could be friends now, because we were so different in our younger years.
But that wasn't what Nancy heard. Just like in high school, I had tried to say something that made sense in my head. In fact, I saw it as complimentary toward Nancy and slightly self-demeaning toward myself. But somewhere on the path from my brain to my mouth, the words had jumbled. And Nancy was hurt. She'd suffered in silence for nearly two weeks.
Why do I tell you all this? Because I can be a clod sometimes. My words, my sentences, my paragraphs, my stories come out all wrong. My timing is terrible. I think I'm posting something interesting or helpful, but others think it's a personal, passive-aggressive attack on them. They think I'm sending out a coded message via social media that only some will be able to decipher. (Trust me, friends. My brain is not that complex.)
So if I've written something or said something that hurt you, please forgive me. Please assume the best about my intentions. Please know that generally speaking, I like most everyone**.
And if you think the latter part of this blog is about you, you're correct. This time it is about you, and I hope you will accept my apology.
*Names have been changed. Stories are true...at least to the best of my recollection, which admittedly isn't always the best. **Unless you're unkind to children, animals, the elderly or the vulnerable. Then I probably don't like you. But I doubt those kind of people read my blog.
He likes pancakes, strawberry smoothies, and french fries.
He loves going to school; I suspect it's mostly for the social aspect.
He never wants to lose, and he never wants you to lose. So usually he declares a tie.
He rarely will say what his favorite is in any given category--whether it's a friend, babysitter, food, or animal--he always says he likes all of them.
Except the color red. Red has been his favorite for more than two years. And his favorite cake is strawberry cake--even if he's never had it--because strawberries are red.
He's the tallest five year old in his class at preschool, Sunday School, and Cubbies.
He loves going to Cubbies and to church. For a while he would cry and throw a fit every time we tried to leave.
When I asked him earlier today if he knew his Cubbies verse, Lamentations 3:23, (Great is your faithfulness) he looked at me like I was crazy and said, "Of course, Mom. It's a song!" Then he proceeded to sing the old hymn, "Great is Thy Faithfulness" in his best opera voice. He only knows one line, but it's pretty key to the song.
I take credit for any singing ability he has. Especially in the operatic genre.
He's not very patient. Halfway through most events--a movie, the circus, a drive in the car--he'll say, "I thought we'd be home by now. Didn't you?"
He hears every single conversation I don't want him to hear, and proceeds to ask a million questions about it.
He never hears me give instructions, and will readily admit he wasn't listening when I ask him why he hasn't put his shoes on or gathered his coat and mittens or brushed his teeth.
He is the best at going to bed. He's usually asleep in five minutes or less. But he'll always ask if he can stay up a few more minutes and "cuddle," because he knows I'm a pushover for a good cuddle.
His best friends are Alex, Sammy, Claire, and Anne Marie. He's not sure if he will marry Claire or Anne Marie, but right now Anne Marie has an edge over Claire because Claire growls at him, and "it's scary."
If he could, he'd eat at McDonald's and Dunkin Donuts for every meal, every day.
He hates any food that is green, even though we make him eat something green almost every day.
Back when he was "regular four" he only liked peanut butter sandwiches, but when he turned four and a half, he started liking peanut butter AND jelly sandwiches.
He has favorite stuffed animals and he pretends they are real. Christmas Puppy, Baby Pooh, Jake, Froggie, and Little Bear. And when he sleeps with them at night, they must be lined up in that exact order. The order has something to do with size--smallest ones on the outside of the lineup, and biggest in the middle. And the smaller ones that are closest to his heart (physically speaking) are the ones that are closest to his heart (emotionally speaking).
He is good at spelling, computer games, typing, and he can read a little. His handwriting is atrocious. He can hardly write his own name legibly, probably because he's destined to be a doctor.
However, he says he wants to be a daddy when he grows up, probably because he has such an amazing one.
He loves to read from his Jesus Storybook Bible every night before bed, and when we write down the things we pray for, he always asks to pray about the exact same things. Every night... "That the Judge says yes. That M, M, and D come home soon. That DeeDee doesn't get no more headaches. That Mrs. Berger's leg gets better. (A lady we haven't seen in months, but she left a deep impression on him.) And that Baby Brendan and Little Allie get better soon."
He loves to be tickled. In fact, he begs to be tickled. He can't fathom why I don't enjoy it.
He has a love-hate relationship with our dog, Lucy. He is very proud of her, and he brags about her to his friends. But it bothers him that Lucy always wants to sit close to me, "in his spot." It also bothers him that Lucy can't do any tricks. I try to explain that some dogs are cute and some are smart, but he keep suggesting that she go to school.
He loves bow ties. And wearing fancy clothes. But most days you'll find him in jeans, a t-shirt, and barefoot.
He hates wearing socks. I think it's because he was born in Florida.
The first thing he does when he gets home from being out anywhere is sit on the couch, take off his socks, and clean between his toes. Every.time. It's like his little ritual.
He says he hates baths, but he always wants to stay in the tub for a long time--usually 45 minutes or longer.
I love the way he smells when he's fresh out of the tub, with baby shampoo scent on his silky blonde hair.
When he's sick he thinks it's great fun to sleep on the couch with Mommy, in the middle of the night, despite the fact that our couch isn't that long. Or wide. And the dog usually wants to join us. Oh, and he likes to lie right on top of me.
In those moments, I remind myself that someday soon my little boy will be a big boy and won't want to snuggle up with his mom when he's coughing or congested or has a tummy ache. And so I breathe deeply, run my fingers across his cheek, and try to soak in every moment of his 4 year old love.
He's a boy through and through. He loves trucks, cars, monster machines, robots, light sabers, farting, and making weird boy noises.
His favorite TV show is Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, even though I think he knows he's getting a little old for it.
He gets hot easily, and his cheeks flush read like his mom's, and his lily white skin easily burns in the sun. When he sweats he says he has "hot wet" on his skin.
The first thing I noticed about him when he was born was that his fingers look just like his dad's. And they still do.
His face will always tell you exactly what he's feeling.
He can't eat anything without getting it on his face. And he doesn't care.
He gets upset at injustice, but he'll readily forgive anyone who apologizes sincerely.
He has a long attention span and can play for nearly an hour by himself, making up storylines with toys that were never created to go together.
He hates coloring but he loves playing with yarn. Give him a ball of yarn and he'll be happy for the afternoon. And the house will resemble Charlotte's Web on crack.
There's so much more, but it would take forever to write everything I love about this boy. This boy who will turn five in just one more day.
The famous evangelist D.L. Moody was preparing to speak when an usher handed him a note. The evangelist thought it was an announcement, so as he took the pulpit he opened the folded piece of paper and found one word scrawled in large print: FOOL.... ... (I'm blogging over at CCFL today. To read the rest of the story, click here.)
Today we received both good news and not so good news.
The good news from our adoption agency is that the regional authority who previously refused to sign off on our kids' adoption has been replaced by a new authority who sympathizes with our situation and says she won't oppose any appeals we make.
So our team in Ethiopia presses forward, working with their experts on how best to word their latest appeal. We expect to get news in the next few weeks on that. The team says they are "heartened," but they don't want us to get our hopes up too high.
The bad news is that our 10 year old girl has been very ill. In their last update, I noticed that she looked really thin, and her skin and hair had tell-tale signs of poor nutrition.
At the end of December she and other children at her school were given anti-parasitic medicine. Several kids got sick after taking the medication, including M. She had such a bad reaction to it that she ended up in the hospital, in the severe acute malnutrition ward. The combination of poor nutrition and bad medicine were more than M's little body could handle. Her blood counts were terrible, and she required two blood transfusions and a 6-day stay in the hospital.
She's back in the orphanage now, but she will stay home from school for a few weeks until she gets stronger.
If you have ever had a loved one hospitalized, you can understand a bit of what we're feeling. We're so thankful M received the care she needed. At the same time, having your daughter hospitalized for something that could be prevented with proper nutrition and clean water is frustrating. Being 7,000 miles away is frustrating. Thinking about your daughter being hospitalized, without any family to advocate and/or care for her is heartbreaking. Plus, she was in the hospital during Ethiopian Christmas. Alone. On Christmas.
It makes me want to punch something. It is infuriating and annoying and frustrating and disheartening and confusing and I just want her home so she never spends another Christmas alone. I never want her in the hospital again without a parent to advocate for her, I don't want her living in a place where anti-parasitic meds are necessary and yet unregulated.
So while we are glad there was a sliver of hope today in the adoption case, it's horrific that these children, our children, are still in Ethiopia when they should've been here 12 months ago. It's terrible that some people seem to care more about their pride and their politics than about giving kids a safe place to live with a mom and dad to love and care for them.
I could go on and on, but I know you feel the same way. It's maddening.
I don't know how this story will end. Just when I've given up hope, we get a glimmer. Just when I've convinced myself that they'll never come home and perhaps it is for the best, something like this happens, and I know the reason we're infuriated is because we love these children so much.