Thursday, September 30, 2010

Random Photoshop Example

Here is a cool effect I just figured out last night, with the help of my brother Ben (who actually read the directions :). This came from a brand new HUGE book I purchased at the Photoshop conference called "Photoshop CS4 Bible". It is full of great information and I love it! It will take forever to read it, but that it's okay-I want to learn!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Another Statistic?

As most of you have probably read, my dad's job was terminated yesterday.


We have become a statistic, another family whose provider has no means of providing. It is weird. I know some of you have experienced this before and have/are surviving, but this is still scarey...if I think about it too long. But then, if I consider all God might have in store for our family, I get excited. How mixed are my feelings!

It is odd to wake up on a Tuesday morning and find Dad here with our family. It is great, don't get me wrong...but I know Dad can no longer provide for our family like he used to, so that gives me a slight chill.

I think of all the families who have gone through this same trial before, and I know most of them make it, and they grow closer together through the hard times. I then think of the innovative ways we kids have come up with to cut costs. Take out light bulbs, unplug everything, eat bean soup for the rest of lives, etc. :) You know, really, this could be a neat adventure for our family.

Actually, the more I think about the future, the more excited I get, for I know God has great plans for our family. After Mom heard the news from Dad, she went to their bathroom and opened up the Bible she has in there. Unaware of where she turned, she began to read,

"Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: 'Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. For thus says the Lord: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I have sent you into exile." (Jeremiah 29:4-7,10-14)

What comforting words, so familiar, but so true. I will trust in the Lord and just buckle up my seatbelt: it's going to be an unforgettable ride!

Again, please pray for us. I know we will be okay, because we are the Lord's hands, but we certainly appreciate your prayers of support.


Monday, September 27, 2010

Good News, and Bad News

I don't have time right now to explain what has all happened to our family over the course of this weekend, but I have written two important blogs at our family's blog: Visit there to get an idea of the rollercoaster we've been on. Up, and down, and...


Friday, September 24, 2010

True Woman Story: Part One

This series is based on a blog from Lies Young Women Believe. Erin Davis said, "In the meantime, I would love to hear your true woman story.What has God recently taught you about what it means to be a girl? What questions do you still have about His design for your femininity? What do you think He wants to change in your heart and life in the next ten years?" This is my true woman story...

She sat side-saddle on the fallen log, her blonde hair being tossed in the slight breeze, her blue eyes were turned toward the book in her hands. Her young, growing form was slightly pudgy, her face dotted with acne, her movements sometimes clumsy, but she dreamed of being beautiful, graceful, like a princess. The newly turned 14-year old was on the start of a new adventure that had just barely commenced the year before. It was the journey of true womanhood and discovering what God wanted for her life.

In her hands she held a challenging book, So Much More, by Anna Sofia and Elizabeth Botkin. The concepts and stories told in the book intrigued the girl and she found herself wishing to blossom into godly womanhood as described in the book. The ideas of purity and modesty weren't strange to her, but being a daughter thriving at home and cultivating a servant heart and submission were slightly foreign. Giving her heart to her parents? That was difficult to imagine. But she wondered, Was that possible?

As she read these wonderful ideas, taken straight from God's Word, she felt a desire to share these same concepts. But how? A website, of course! Hold on, what did she know about websites? Nothing, but she soon brought it up to her parents, and the rest became history.
Soon articles, poems, recipes and more popped up on the little website. The girl wrote with conviction, but her articles were unpolished and filled with typos. Even so, young women and mothers seemed to benefit from her writings.

But as the years went by, the girl was bothered by the growing unrest in her own heart. She fought her own temper, was plagued by subtle lies that dominated her thinking, bothered by her impatience with her siblings, troubled by her disrespect toward her parents, weighed down with bitterness toward certain people, filled with doubt and confusion about God, and struggled with hidden sin in her heart. Each time she wrote another blog about purity and crushes, her conscience was stung. One day would find her writing an article about helping mothers and then, the next day found her slacking in her responsibilites and provoking her own mom. Her heart was in doing good and living for the Lord, but she kept messing up and she felt like she wasn't worthy to be maintaining a website about godly girlhood.

She struggled with idols erected in her heart: guys, lies, wrong attitudes, and at the center, herself. The young woman knew they had to go if she was to be a true follower of Christ and they would only hinder her in her journey of true womanhood, but it was so hard to get rid of the idols that had ruled her life so long. God was beckoning to the young woman, and she knew what He offered, but the passing pleasures called louder.

Toward the end of her 17th year, the young woman was sinking into a depression. She had clutched so tightly at the things she thought satisfied, but now their gleam was dimming. It did not feel good to be always looking for true love and going from one guy to the next in her mind. It did not feel good to tell herself the old lies, "Nobody loves me. I'm not good enough. I'm always causing problems. The world would be better without me." It did not feel good to rebel and cause disruptions in her family. It did not feel good to be distant from her parents. It did not feel good to be so distant from God. What was wrong?

To be continued.

Another Photoshop Example (And New Blog Design)!

Okay, all my photography/designing friends, here's another example of how great Photoshop and Photoshop Elements are...

First picture, not bad, but it could be lots better:

Second picture, edited with Photoshop Elements 7.

Using the Burn tool, color/ lighting correction using levels, the Blur tool, the Healing Brush tool, the Details setting on the Smart Brush Tool, I was able to create a nicely polished picture with a professional look (I think those are all my steps :). The only problem is that on our family's computer (which I am using now) it looks a bit too yellow-green. On my laptop it looks a bit different. But otherwise, I am pleased with the overall effect. What do you think?

If you love photography and want to make your photos look better, or want to start designing, get Photoshop Elements (version 7 or 8 will do just fine). It's typically around (if I remember correctly) $80, and worth the money if you know how to use it. Photoshop is definately for the serious user, as there is SO much on the program and it takes SO long to find out what it all is. Of course, this program is quite a bit more money, but I know I surely want to get it! Elements is simpler to use and easier to edit photos with, as Adobe provides some quick tools for fast editing. I have LOVED it and it has helped me grow my talents in this area.

By the way, how do you like my new blog design? The buttons, banners, and photos were all created and edited in Elements this past Wednesday. This is what I originally envisioned for my blog (I designed this on Elements Wednesday night too):

I like how my blog is now different, and not a generic looking spot in the blogging world. I like the elegance of the colors and fonts. GRAPHIC DESIGNING IS AWESOME! :)


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Photoshop Workshop and Beyond

I love graphic designing. It thrills me to see designs forming with the click of a mouse and tweaking of objects and pictures. I have loved art for years, doodling since I was just a little girl. And I liked showing and giving my art to people. Gifts to my family members, scribblings for friends, cards with relevant cartoons or designs for people, pictures in art contests, etc.

Somehow, someway I became interested in computer art. Probably around the time I started Godly Girlhood, I found I could edit photos and manipulate objects and text in such a way to create cool little buttons and things for my website. Then came our family band and we needed brochures and business cards. How fun! My first attempts weren't very good, but I learned a lot.

Here are some of my recent "buttons" for our family blog and FOGMA:

Anyway, I went to a Photoshop Workshop last Thursday and learned a lot! My brain was on overload and I was so excited to try out my new "skills" on my trial Photoshop CS5. There is SO much to learn about Photoshop and I've barely scratched the surface.

Here are some (poor) examples of what I can now do on Photoshop.

It kind of looks like I couldn't make up my mind on this picture! Using the masking technique, I layered different pictures of Jayme to a background picture and then changed the opacity levels. That is so cool!

"Auntie Em!" This technique makes Sam and Caleb look like they were stuck in a tornado! Using layers and selections, I was able to create this neat effect.

Dad and Mom twenty years younger! No, they always look that young! :) Using the Patch tool and the Healing Brush tool, I took away all their "wrinkles". I didn't do the best job, as it kind of made their skin look all splotchy. (BTW: These tools don't take away chicken pox!)

My favorite! Again, the masking technique with a watercolor brush, a butterfly brush and burning on the yellow shape, a diffuse glow filter on the photo (the photo had been edited previously), and opacity and drop shadow on the text. It looks SO pretty!

If you are interested in graphic designing and photo editing, get Adobe Photoshop! It is amazing and you will never learn it in your life time!

The sad news for me is, My trial just wore out, so I now have to purchase it. Ouch! But I can't wait!


Almost Recovered, But Now...

Almost better! "Arm's Length Photography" this Sunday (Sept. 19th, 2010).

Praise God, I am almost fully recovered from the chicken pox! Except for healing scabs and faint red spots, my normal skin is showing again. Whew! I was worried I'd never look the same.

But now, get this: Leesha and Sam have both come down with chicken pox as well! Exactly two weeks after I was "afflicted", my younger siblings, both immunized against the disease, have started showing spots and running fevers. I can't believe it!

It will be tough, because our "Most Anticipated Night of the Year" (Legacy Five concert) is this Friday, and poor Leesha and Sam will probably be looking similiar to Ben and I. Now we know why we didn't have many concerts this month! :)

Okay Lord, we will follow You wherever You lead. We will continue to trust in You.


Monday, September 20, 2010

A Fresh Start

The start of a new week. The beginning of a new day. A new breath. Another chance to live, to hope, to try, to learn, to succeed, to be all God wants me to be.

After two extremely long and painful weeks, I am glad for another opportunity to live life. To love God with my whole heart, my body, and my soul. To honor my father and my mother. To invest in my siblings' lives. To minister to Mal. To encourage those around me. To serve God in what He has given to me now. To prepare for whatever God has in store for me by following His guidelines laid out in His Word.
  • Live
  • Love
  • Honor
  • Invest
  • Minister
  • Encourage
  • Serve
  • Prepare

May I embrace these words, this attributes, these actions and live them out to the fullest.

Thank you, Lord for a fresh start. I ask for Your strength to accomplish all You want me to do. May I glorify You through my life. It is Yours. Again, I surrender it all to You. Use me as a vessel for Your ministry. Direct me in Your paths and enlighten me with Your truth. To You be all glory and honor forever.

Lacheln, Taylor

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

New School Year, New Schedule

Sam, Jayme, and Caleb doing school.

A thrill of excitement ran through me as I heard the alarm go off this Monday morning at 7:30 am. Jayme stirred in the bed across our room and Leesha began to climb out of her bunk. The first day of school!

Then it hits me, I'm done with school. :( But the joy and excitement of Leesha, Sam, Jayme, and Caleb was contagious; I was excited! A brand new school year, with brand new books, and best of all, a brand new schedule! That is something I have always wanted: instead of just routine, schedule. And now, this year, we have it. Yeah!

I spent Monday morning crafting my schedule. Here it is:

7:30 am: Get-up / Get Ready / Make Bed and Clean-up Room
7:45 am: Personal Bible Study
8:00 am: Breakfast / Family Devotion
9:00 am: Home Clean-up / Finish Room / Getting Ready
9:30 am: Venture Academy / Business Training
10:00 am: Computer Time - Blogging / Email / Web Work / GA Stuff
11:30 am: Mal / Extra Time
12:00 pm: Correspondence - Letters / Notes of Encouragement
12:30 pm: Lunch / Clean-up / Vocal Workout
1:30 pm: Driver’s Ed
2:00 pm: Writing - Stories / Devos / Articles / Poetry / Songs
2:30 pm: Household Check / Clean-up
3:00 pm: Music (Practice, DVDs, and Books) - Mandolin / Fiddle / Piano / Guitar / Banjo
3:30 pm: Phy-Ed - Bike Riding / Walking / Exercises
4:00 pm - 5:30 pm:
Scrap-booking / Recipe Collecting / Foreign Language / Business Planning / New Skills (Crocheting / Sewing?) / Design Work / VDGC / Extra Time
5:30 pm: Help with or Prepare Supper
6:00 pm: Supper
7:00 pm: Great Adventure Gospel Band Practice
8:00 pm: Sugar Creek Gang Family Reading / Clean-up
8:30 pm: Free Time and Misc. Stuff / Take care of the cats
9:30 pm: Get Ready for Bed
10:30 pm: Bed-time

So far I haven't had a full day to see how this schedule really works, but today may be that day! I tried most of the morning activities yesterday, and it was nice. I have much to do, and I am grateful for it.

I am also trying to be aware of how I can be more of a servant in our home and to others. I automatically think, "What I can do for me today?", instead of, "How can I serve others today?" It is so hard to think of others first. Dad and Mom gave me a beautiful necklace several years ago; a pendant with three small diamonds hung on a delicate silver chain. I called it my "JOY" neckace: Jesus - Others - Yourself. I loved the reminder. (Unfortunately, one of my sisters accidently vacuumed the chain after it had fallen from my shelf and it has been un-wearable ever since.) Yes, Jesus needs to come first, others second, and me last. It's all about "surrendering my all", isn't it?

Well, I have blogging to do on Great Adventure's blog. How fun! Then, let's see, what's on the schedule next...

Have a great day!



Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Beauty Challenged

This last week I was challenged by an ugly offender-chicken pox-which stole away something I highly esteem, my "beauty". The scabs and sores on my face completely changed my appearance and I was horrified at my own looks. I could barely make myself glance in the mirror, as it scared me to see such a condition. I was a beastly sight...and there was nothing I could do about it.

Saturday, before the concert.
Only a week before.

I've had pretty good "self-esteem" as some would call it, because I've learned to accept my face, hair, and body the way God created it. I have watched many girls fall, hard, because they loathe what God has given them and have succumbed to the deadly game of comparison. I've seen it, and haven't wanted that for my life. Yes, I have not been without my struggles, but God has allowed me to praise Him for what He has fearfully and wonderfully made.

But this week was hard.

Last Saturday I put on minimal make-up and tried to fix my hair in preparation for our concert in the evening. I couldn't believe I was actually going into public looking like I did. I kept praying, "Lord Jesus, I know I'm not very beautiful right now, so please let Your beauty shine through me."

At the church, I felt SO self-conscious. It seemed like everyone was watching me, thinking, "What's the matter with her?" Of course, this probably wasn't true, but my thinking was filtered by scabs and sores. It was difficult to stay focused on the Lord and His beauty.

When Dad announced during the concert that I had chicken pox, I wanted to fall through a hole in the floor. Now they all knew. They'd be afraid of me. But it wasn't so (mostly). I had a good time talking with people (those who were brave enough!) after the concert. When I shared my struggles about my appearance with a sweet lady, she sympathized with me and said something like, "Oh if you're this beautiful with chicken pox, you must be very pretty!" That was kind of her!

But it was tough. Looking later at the church bathroom mirror, the red sores and large scabs with red, infected eyes were a scarey sight. I kept asking, "God, why?" I know true beauty comes from within, from a heart of character and faith, but I do appreciate my normally clear complection!

What an humbling experience. It is amazing how something we place our worth in (like beauty) can be stripped away like that, and there is nothing we can do. Beauty, health, wealth, fame, friends, family, can all disappear, but the grace of our God will always remain. When I am "unbeautiful" on the outside, God is making me beautiful on the inside. When I am "unhealthy" on the outside, God is making healthy on the inside. When I am friendless, He is my constant Friend. When my wealth is gone, He is my riches. He is all I need, and in Him is true worth.

I know this has been a great heart beautifer. God has taken the purifying soap of trial and the "make-up" of His Word to beautify my heart. It takes the hard times to make us soft.

Anyway, I am doing SO much better, and my face is recovering. I won't be the same, may have scars for the rest of my life, but I have learned A LOT. True beauty isn't skin deep; it's what God has done that makes us truly beautiful.

A friend sent a Dayspring card that was so uplifting that I'd like to share it with you.

Hey sweetie, I am thinking of you and praying for you.
I know God is working in your life, his hand is upon you, and his healing touch
will sooth you. You are beautiful, Taylor, and it resonates from you where ever
you go. You are fearfully, wonderfully, and beautifully made. And I am so
incredibly blessed to have you as a friend. Over the years, I have seen God
working in your life to make you into his beautiful daughter, a woman after his
own heart. Because of His marvelous work, he has made you beautiful!


Friday, September 10, 2010

Drowning in the Sea of Pox and Itch...

I looked into the mirror and almost yelped at what I saw. In a panic I rushed out of the bathroom, covering my face, crying out, "Don't look at me! I look horrible and feel horrible!" I crumpled on the floor near where Ben was playing guitar. Jayme and Caleb just stared at me with wide eyes while Ben quickly examined me.

It's amazing how one's appearance can totally change overnight.

On Saturday I had an odd cough, but thought little of it, as I wasn't sick. On Sunday I was pretty worn out, though we didn't have any concerts last weekend. Then on Monday, I knew something was wrong. My body ached all over, like I had been on a LONG bike ride. By mid-afternoon, I knew I had a fever. Mom told me to take some Airborne, but by that time, I was in for it. Ben suggested I may be getting the mysterious virus he had two weeks earlier. I hoped I didn't, because it came with some blistery spots. Yet, sure enough, I looked at my forehead that evening and found a bump, just like his. Ben just smiled. But I had no idea what was coming.

Tuesday, I was down and out, feeling pretty feverish. So far, not so bad. I spent a lot of my day thinking, praying, and reading my Bible-just a wonderful time of repentence, worship, and encouragement with my Lord. I started to get a few more spots, but nothing major. "This will blow over fast," I thought.

Then came Wednesday. My face, neck, and chest were totally covered with horrible red, blistery spots, and I was itching like crazy when I woke up. I freaked out (see the first paragraph), because even Ben's outbreak wasn't as bad as this was. I looked like a monster, and felt like one too!

Yesterday Thursday was the absolute worst day of the week! By then I had spots all over my body and no relief from the itching. This did not seem to fit the description of what Ben was diagnosed with (even the diagnosis Ben was given didn't fit what he had)-pityriasis rosea-but it reminded Mom and Dad of chicken pox. All of us kids had been vaccinated when we were younger, so it didn't make sense. I had even had a small pout of chicken pox, so was it even possible? I was SO miserable the entire day and cried many times, wishing for the itch and bumps to go away. I didn't get but an hour of sleep last night (I'm really feeling it right now!).

This morning I felt better, my face especially. Mom did some more research, and we became convinced Ben and I had chicken pox. She called the hospital, and the nurse agreed with her. How crazy is that? I have a severe case of chicken pox, but am now (kind of) on the mend. Praise God. I still look scarey, and we have a concert tomorrow night (ekks!), but thank God I getting through it. I was begging God to take away the pain yesterday, and was even getting mad at Him for letting me go through such misery. But with the gentle reminders from my Dad, I have begun to be more accepting of what God is letting me go through.

It's a weird outbreak, and I certainly can say I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy, except if he was really, really bad and evil. :) Stay healthly, and I appreciate your prayers as I attempt to get my strength back and try to do a concert with my family tomorrow night. ("Unclean! Unclean!") That will be interesting. But right now, I NEED MORE BENEDRYL!


Thursday, September 2, 2010

"Note to Self"

Guess how God used the blog I wrote yesterday? He used it for me! I
have to laugh at how God likes to use the words I say to redirect
myself. Maybe I should title my blog "Notes to Self"!

Anyway, last night, while brushing my teeth, my mind was wandering into
not the best thoughts, and during my wandering, I suddenly was reminded
of the blog I wrote earlier that morning. Eek! I was tempted to
continue in my wrong thinking, not paying attention to my own words,
but I quickly wondered what God thought of my thoughts. I reached over
for the small New Testament in our bathroom and flipped it open. I am
continuely amazed at how the Bible is so relevant to my every day life,
and to what I am going through. The Lord always leads me to exactly
what I need to read or hear!

Here's what I read:

"You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgement on someone
else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning
yourself, because you who pass judgement do the same things. So when
you, a mere man, pass judgement on them and yet do the same things, do
you think you will escape God's judgement? Or do you show contempt for
the riches of His kindness, tolerance, and patience, not realizing that
God's kindness leads you toward repentance?" (Romans 2:1, 3-4) Verses
1-16 were all so convicting and I totally resolved to really fight my
wrong thoughts.

I had victory and gave the glory to God.

How does God use His Word in your life?

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Take This to Heart

I only have less than 5 minutes left to write a quick blog, so I am trying to use my time wisely.

Let me share with you from the Word of God:

"Repent and turn from all your transgressions, lest iniquity be your ruin. Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed, and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! Why will you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord of God, so turn and live." (Ezekial 18:20b-32)

It has been impressed upon me to share these verses with you. Take them to heart, as I continue to as well.

God offers forgiveness and reconciliation to Himself (Romans 5:6-11); He promises to give us new hearts (Ezekial 36:26). He will make us clean from all our sin and impurity (1st John 1:9), in order to be clean vessels for His kingdom (2nd Timothy 2:20-21). Strive today to rid yourselves of the sin that so easily entangles (Hebrews 12:1-2) and be made free through the power of Jesus Christ (Galatians 5:1). We cannot live any longer in our old nature (Ephesians 4:17-24), as we are children of God, a chosen priesthood (1st Peter 2:9-10).

I pray this encourages you today!