Antelope Canyon {the amazing underground secret}

{Lower Antelope Canyon}

Antelope Canyon is one of THE MOST AMAZING places in the United States. Our family hiked there this past January, after we had hiked in the Grand Canyon the day before, & it was an amazing contrast of canyons: small narrow places vs. wide open gulfs; the sky is almost hidden vs. vast expanse of sky.

The colors, shapes & textures are an artist & photographer’s dream! It was so surreal & simply magical.

Typically people try to go there in the summer, when the sun is the highest in the sky, so that you can see shafts of light coming down into the holes of the slot canyon. But, I would highly recommend going in January so that you will not be dying of heat & there are a little less people {though on the day we went, every tour was sold out}!

When you go to Antelope Canyon, it is required that you are taken by a guide. The canyon is in the Navajo Reservation & we took the Dixie Ellis tour. It was worth every penny. Our guide was very sweet & taught us not only about the geology of the formations, but she also taught us a little bit of her Navajo history.

While we were waiting for our tour to begin, we had the joy of watching a traditional Navajo dance. He balanced these 10 hoops & it was really something! {My 10 year old daughter thought he was doing magic & that the hoops broke apart to then reconnect together! It would make a good lesson in physics & balance!}

The craziest thing to me about slot canyons is that the are completely hidden in plain site. This is the view you will see just steps from the underground magic! I would have driven right by!

This is the “path” to the entrance of the canyon. Our guide told us that years ago when the US Army was chasing the Navajos out in this desert, the Navajos would jump down into the slot canyons to hide & the army could NEVER find them.

Here is my family “on top” of the lower antelope canyon. See that crevice to their right?! THAT is the canyon.

Being in the canyon reminded me of the spiritual lesson about how God looks at the heart, not at the outer appearance. {1 Samuel 16:7 – when Samuel the prophet is sent to anoint the new king of Israel & God has chosen David, the youngest & smallest, because he had a heart after God.} We are to look underneath the surface to see the true beauty which is hidden below.

There is MUCH beauty to behold!

It was also fun to think about the power of light, illuminating the darkness.

I hope one day you are able to explore this wonder with your family also!

Grace & Peace,

Julie

 

 

Hiking the Grand Canyon with kids!

{the 5 of us … see the Super Moon peeking over Sunshine Girl’s left shoulder?! I JUST noticed that now!}

This past January, we escaped the bitter cold of Chicago & started our new year by doing our favorite thing: exploring the beauty of nature! Sam found $95 round trip tickets on Frontier from Milwaukee to Las Vegas and from there, we rented a car and put over 900 miles on the rental car in one week. Oh & by the way, we each took only 1 backpack on the airplane … so no carry-on or luggage fees! {We may or may not have worn several layers & sweat on the plane ride there.}

There is NO WAY you can ever fully prepare for the breathtaking view of the canyon. We had showed the kids photos & videos, but nothing compares to being there.
So, here’s tip #1: Park at the visitor’s center & head to Mather’s Point {a very short walk just behind the visitor’s center} & take a video to capture their reaction. {I really wish I had done this, as it was absolutely priceless when Sunshine Girl literally gasped when she saw it for the first time!} You might even want to blindfold them & then do a big reveal!

After watching the sun set in the west, I turned to show the kids how the colors of the canyon had already changed so much in the short time we were there & all of the sudden we could see a flaming ball rising over the eastern side of the wall. It was the super moon!!! The photos do not do it justice at all, as it looked HUGE. Apparently, it will only happen there once this year & we were so blessed to see it! Thank you, Jesus!

The next morning, we got up early to hike The South Kaibab Trail. See those switchbacks above?! It is intense. Which leads me to tip #2: Hike the desert in THE WINTER!!!! Over & over throughout the day I repeated to myself {& honestly out loud}, “I CANNOT IMAGINE doing this in the summer heat!” There is NO shade. And, there is no “easy hike” in the Grand Canyon since you are essentially going straight down & then straight back up. The trail starts at 7, 260 feet in elevation & we hiked 3 miles to Skeleton Point which is 5,200 feet in elevation.

{photo above is her “Patagonia pose” .. omg … she kills me!}

Ooh Aah Point is just that. You will stop, feast your eyes on the beauty, and it will take your breath away. Worth every step.
More on tip #2: Another reason to hike in the winter is there are WAY LESS PEOPLE out there. We maybe saw 50 people all day which equals bliss.

The above series of photos are from our final destination, Skeleton Point. Just steps past Skeleton Point is where you will get your first good glimpse of the Colorado River. And, how did we know this? It is based on tip #3: Make friends with the National Park Rangers & ask them LOTS of questions & they will gladly share their nuggets of wisdom. The reason we chose this trail in the first place was based on their great advice: shorter that Bright Angel, but more steep … so up to you. They thought the kids would do better with this trail & I am sure they were correct! {just look at those smiles, still on their faces! … remember, we’ve only gone downhill thus far}.

One of my favorite things about being in nature is the way it grows my heart in pure awe of God, the Majestic Creator. And I also love the spiritual lessons that come with the outdoors. While sitting here, overlooking the HUGE expanse of the canyon, we read to the kids my life verse, Ephesians 3:14-21 & I told them to look out & see how deep, how high, how wide, and how long is the valley & how much bigger God’s love for them is!

One funny story: I had also tried talking to them about The Bridge Illustration {a gospel tool illustrating our need for Jesus & how our “good works” could NEVER get us across to God}, but that was a total fail. I had said, “Pretend we are here.” Kids, “We ARE HERE, MOM!” {O.K.} Me, “Well then, look way over there & pretend God is over there.” Kids, “That’s dumb. God is EVERYWHERE.” Me, “JUST PRETEND!” Kids, “But, that does not make any sense!!!!” Finished by Sunshine Girl saying, “Mom, I don’t mean to offend you, but that just is not a very good analogy.” {Umm… OK… it’s only been used for decades!}

Tip #4 for hiking the Grand Canyon with kids: take lots of breaks & bring lots of water!
It was a HARD trip back, even in the cool 55 degrees, and I offered the mule leaders $1,000 to give me a ride! {Ha! They declined … they were working mules}
Tip #5: create incentives with your kids to get them to certain rest points. This can be a number of steps you both take, a certain rock or tree, a bathroom, etc… that way, they are not overwhelmed. I think my last incentive with Pumpkins on this trail was, “You can eat WHATEVER you want for dinner!” {those little legs earned it & I was seriously impressed!}

My Favorite Little Mister, on the other hand, did not need ANY incentives to complete the hike. In fact, Sam gave him permission to go up ALONE {every mother’s nightmare} & he RAN 1 of the 3 miles up. {He had been going through cross country training withdrawal & just “needed to get a run in”} OMG! Craziness. He got “a little lost” at the top, but then did his “cool down” run back to the visitor center where we met him over an hour later. Tip #6: Fathers, please do not allow your children to “just go up ahead” & thus give your wife anxiety.

Tip #7: Soak in an amazing sunset & celebrate the adventure you had that day! This view is from Lipan Point, another park ranger tip!

 

Enjoy!

Grace & Peace,

Julie

 

 

 

Merry Christmas 2017!

Merry Christmas from our family to yours! This year was a year of change & adventure. In January we went to Taiwan for a family wedding & travelled around the entire island in a week. In July we drove from Chicago to California to visit 4 National Parks: Arches, Bryce, Zion, and Yosemite. We hiked till we dropped & saw more of God’s glory than we could have ever imagined. Then in August we skipped the second day of high school to see the solar eclipse! Magnificent! As you might be able to tell, we are trying to expose our children to the beauty of creation so that they will grasp a deeper sense of awe & wonder of God our Creator & so that they will respect the earth & take good care of it.

My Favorite Little Mister is by NO means “little”. I think he grew 6 inches in 8 months & is such a handsome young man (if I say so myself!) He started high school & has found his niche in running cross country. The dedication & discipline & teamwork those boys have is fascinating to me & it was so fun to cheer them on. He also continues to play cello at school & on the worship team, & is teaching himself guitar. He just got a drone, so a new passion has developed.

Sunshine Girl is basically all grown up also. (AHHHHH!) She started 7th grade & made the school play. It is her first time in drama & she is a natural. She’s also my rock star, playing percussion in the school band & bass guitar in the worship team at church. Her level of comic book expertise continues to grow & she is most often found reading. If I say things like, “Is Gwen Pool married to Dead Pool?!”, she will shrivel up & die (remember the drama reference? yes, she’s a NATURAL). She also loves soccer, cross country & badminton. Her heart & her beauty is pure. I tell her she is the glue of our family (ie: middle child to middle child love).

Pumpkin-Poos (aka “Little Punks”) is in 4th grade. (Yes, I have 3 kids at 3 different schools: OH JOY!) She loves soccer, dancing, and most of all, her dog. She is taking piano to prepare for percussion next year in school & also loves reading. She is full of JOY & can often be found writing encouraging notes to family & friends. She is my little artist, constantly creating. One highlight of her year was riding a horse in Yosemite. Her love for animals is strong. And, I love her heart for worship songs.

And, here is our dog. He is BY FAR the MOST BELOVED dog in the world, guaranteed! Boy, does he have the life. When the kids are not doting on him, he’s either sleeping or being king of the backyard. And, when we go on vacation, grandpa & grandma spoil him rotten.

Lest you think we are a picture-perfect family, please enjoy these out-takes.
(Why my family can be normal for only 5 minutes of a photo shoot is beyond me!)

If you are familiar with the tv show Fresh off the Boat, that is the neutral face of displeasure the kids have. And, yes, my son did wear his cross country uniform UNDER his clothes & at the end of the shoot stripped down to reveal it & started running around. OH MY GOODNESS!

I hope your Christmas is full of joy!

Grace & Peace,

Julie

He Holds My Hand + Scripture Art Giveaway!

Book design is one of my greatest passions in life, and I was privileged to create the packaging for Carol Kent’s latest devotional, He Holds My Hand,for Tyndale House Publishers. {I work there part time – such JOY!}

To be honest, it is one of my all time favorite designs.

He Holds My Hand is a 365-day devotional to strengthen your faith & encourage you daily – just in time for the new year! Today, I am giving away 1 copy along with a framed 5×7 piece of Scripture art. They will look so lovely on your bedside table!

To enter, go to my Facebook page and leave a comment under the photo of the book as to what Scripture God has been speaking to you through lately.

Winner will be announced 12/6/17 over on my Facebook page.

BONUS! I am also happy to say that I am offering for the rest of this week another BOGO FREE SALE:

Buy any 8×10 Scripture art & get 1 8×10 Scripture art FREE*. At checkout, in order notes, simply write in the name & color scheme of the art you would like. This sale ends 12/8/17. *This is good on Scripture Art ONLY.

 

Now, go enter that contest! I hope you win this book!

 

Grace & Peace,

Julie

Exciting Christmas Sale!

Now through Monday, 11.27.17
Buy 1 8×10 print, get 1 8×10 print FREE

{offer is not good on custom artwork, sorry.}

To redeem this sale, simply purchase 1-8×10 print + at checkout in “order notes” write in the name, style, & color scheme of the art you would like for FREE.

You can use this offer multiple times in one order {ie: buying 3 prints gets you 3 free, etc…}

$5 flat rate shipping still applies {so fill up your cart!}

Here’s to giving meaningful gifts this Christmas season!

Grace & Peace,

Julie

Behind the Scenes on designing Beth Moore’s first novel

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YOU GUYS! I have some really fun news to share! I recently had the JOY of designing Beth Moore’s FIRST ever novel, The Undoing of Saint Silvanus, which will debut in September 2016.

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Here she is holding the book in her hot little hands. Follow this link to watch her heartfelt video in which she discusses the vision for the novel and how God has allowed it to come about.

 

I feel incredibly blessed, honored, humbled, and overjoyed to be able to be a part of this book that will touch your heart FOR SURE. And, honestly, I find it funny and simply fascinating how God works. You see, for me to be designing her book is a glimpse of life coming full circle.

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Back in 2007, I was first “introduced” to Beth through studying her Living Beyond Yourself : A study of the fruit of the Spirit, and it was this study that spurred me on and gave me the inspiration to create my very first piece of Scripture art for myself and my entire Bible study. The next year, Beth was speaking at Tyndale House Publishers, so I was able to go see her live {WOW! is all I can say . . . she is really that energetic in real life AND, she is the REAL DEAL . . . she LOVES Jesus with all of her heart}. I was not able to meet her, but brought the above art as a gift for her and my friend who designed So Long Insecurity was able to slip her the package. Then, a few hours later I received a phone call from BETH HERSELF telling me thanks for the gift and that I should cherish every moment of motherhood.

And now, I am designing her book!

Some frequently asked questions I immediately get:

• Have I met Beth? No, but I hope to someday so I can give her a big hug and thank her for her life changing ministry.

• Do I get to talk to Beth? No, the Acquisitions Director of Tyndale does that. Designers rarely talk directly to authors.

• What do you mean you “designed” her book? You took the photo? No, and this is really a conversation for an entire blog post someday, but to put it simply, a book cover starts as a blank page and it is the designer’s job to give visual “life” to the content of the book. It is my job to choose the typograhy, color scheme, and imagery that will give the book a specific look and feel to draw the readers into the story. More on that later!

Thanks so much for celebrating with me! I will keep you posted on the book release!

Grace & Peace,

Julie

 

Valentine BOGO Free Sale {spread some love!}

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For a limited time only I am offering a buy 1 8×10 print, get 1 8×10 print FREE {offer is not good on custom artwork, sorry.}

 

To redeem this sale, simply purchase 1 8×10 print + at checkout in “order notes” write in the name, style, & color scheme of the art you would like for FREE.

 

You can use this offer multiple times in one order {ie: buying 3 prints gets you 3 free, etc…} & my $5 flat rate shipping still applies {so fill up your cart!}

 

It is my hope that you spread love, encouragement & beauty to your friends & family this Valentine’s Day!

 

Grace & Peace,

Julie

Merry Christmas!

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Merry Christmas from our family to yours!

{the above is the front of our Christmas card}IF5A4846_WEB_WEBIF5A4896_WEB_WEB

{and, this would be our “real” selves}

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We had some wonderful adventures in 2015 & are so thankful for the joy that is in our home … IF5A4931_WEB_WEB

Even though Daddy Bear looks so serious,
we really are a crazy bunch … esp the girl in the fedora … IF5A4936_WEB_WEB

We wish you all love, joy & peace!IF5A4946_WEB

And a Happy New Year!

Emmanuel! God is with us!

Grace & Peace,
Julie