I’m not quite sure how to begin this, the longest blog post ever, but here’s a start: I’m a recovering packrat. I get this honestly and I’ve tried very hard to get better about not saving every little thing. However, the one area where I can’t seem to say goodbye to anything is when it comes to my computer. If I ever created a digital file, chances are very good that I still have it. Case in point: the post you’re about to read was written in November of 2007, six years ago. I found it as I was searching My Documents for something completely unrelated and it brought back so many emotions that I knew I wanted to post it on this blog. But not without an introduction first.

I wrote it because in the course of one short year, my life changed drastically in a way that I never would have expected. The post was written with a 1-year perspective and I now have an additional six, a period of time that has only served to strengthen and solidify the direction that I was tentatively headed in when I wrote the post. This is the part that’s really cool because it’s like a testimony of sorts. But I’m getting ahead of myself. First you should read the original post, a “muse” that I submitted to an online digital scrapbooking company called ScrapGirls, which was published in December of 2007 (almost exactly six years ago).

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Thao Stole My Heart From Alton Brown

There I was, happily feasting on asphalt with Alton Brown, throwing down with Bobby Flay, and watching with rapt fascination battle after battle of Iron Chefs when, on the last day of November 2006, a virtual rabbit hole led me to ScrapGirls and this layout by Thao Cosgrove:

thao_layoutThis scrapbook page was like no scrapbook page I’d ever seen, much less created myself, and I lost myself in the details of it for a long, long time that night. I kept revisting the vibrant colors, the emotion of the photo, the beauty of the quote—the sheer perfection of the overall effect. My own pitiful attempts at scrapbooking came to mind in stark contrast: piles upon piles of supplies never used for fear of messing them up and, before that, oversized books full of crumbling, yellowed paper and fading newsprint. If it was possible to do this on a computer, I thought, then take me to your leader!

I wrote to Thao that night and she actually responded {gasp!} with enthusiasm and advice. If I hadn’t been hooked before, I absolutely was then. I signed up for the ScrapGirls newsletter, became a member of their virtual board, read as much as I could about scrapping, and started fervently wishing for a copy of Photoshop.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately because as November comes to a close, I’m coming up on my first anniversary with digital scrapbooking. I don’t really know what made me think of it, but as I was preparing for Thanksgiving this year I had the sudden thought that my year-ago self had never even heard of digital scrapbooking. I was completely unaware as I ate my turkey dinner last year that my life was about to undergo one of the most radical changes ever. That, in the span of only a couple of days, I would willingly walk away from any and all diversions (especially all of the Food Network shows I had come to love over the course of that summer) and become a digital scrapbooking devotee.

Each of us has had this experience in one way or another: benchmark events that mark the end of one thing and the beginning of another. Graduation, marriage, the birth of a child, death of a loved one, move to a new place: each of these new “afters” can cause you to ponder “before.”

Now, a year later, I have a hard time remembering what in the world I did with all my time back then. Before the late, late nights and early, early mornings spent creating layouts, making my own digital scrapping supplies, creating fun and meaningful gifts for friends and family, even taking the very scary step of starting to do my own freelance graphic design for a local corporation. I took pictures and occasionally journaled—I’ve always done those things—but I never had an outlet with which to showcase them. This is why digital scrapbooking is so exciting to me. It takes all of the ways that I love to express myself creatively and combines them into a form that is art, memoir, and most of all, treasure.

Last Christmas, I was proud of myself for thinking ahead far enough in advance to put together one of those online books featuring family photos perfect bound with a beautiful, full color hard cover. If you’ve been a digiscrapper for any length of time you can imagine my disappointment when I opened the books to find tiny captions that you could barely read under page after identical page of tiny rectangular photos. It captured the moments of the year, but not in any way that was beautiful or very thoughtful.

This year, I’ll be making my own books and designing each and every piece of each and every page. I’ve also designed my own Christmas cards as well as a good number of the families in my community through a joint venture with a friend and fellow entrepreneur who’s started her own photography business (and who also happens to be one of my very first ScrapGirls converts!). Just this morning my kids and I enjoyed putting together an Advent chain made from simple strips of paper beautifully decorated with digital paper from one of my favorite kits. I’m giving my sister-in-law a custom designed purse when we celebrate her birthday this weekend and will be making all sorts of custom touches—gift tags, bags, cards—to include with our gifts.

With one year under my belt I can say unequivocally that no creative pursuit has ever brought me as much joy and satisfaction as digital scrapbooking has. Certainly not my attempt to create an Ace of Cakes-inspired, fondant-wrapped cake:

cake

There won’t be any Furi knives on my Christmas wishlist this year. Give me a gift certificate for scrapping supplies and I’ll be as happy as a clam.

Somehow, I think the Food Network will do just fine without me.

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Christmas Chalk KitSo what does this have to do with anything? Especially anything in the present, now a full six years since I penned those words? Well, for one, I can clearly see in retrospect how my journey with digital scrapbooking perfectly illustrates the classical method, an educational movement that I now find myself intimately involved with as I homeschool my 3 boys and lead a local campus for Classical Conversations. When I first became interested in digiscrapping, my oldest son was only 4 and I was as unaware of the classical method as I was of clipping masks. However, because that creative flame was lit, I learned as much as I could about digital design (grammar stage): I joined the online forums, I read as many tutorials as I could, and I began to imitate the masters by mimicking their layouts using my own supplies and photos. As my knowledge and confidence increased, I began to put the pieces of the puzzle together. I was able to ask intelligent questions and make connections between seemingly disparate subjects (logic stage). Finally, I arrived at a point where I was so proficient that I was able to apply for and be accepted as a member of the product design team—the very group whose products had blown me away just over a year before. I also began teaching other people how to do what I was doing (rhetoric stage).

However, I realized another, more important connection this morning when I read the following challenge in my Good Morning Girls Bible study:

There is power in recording God’s faithfulness in our lives and sharing it with others. This week in your gratitude journals, begin recording the different ways God has been faithful to you in your life. Pray for opportunities to share these stories of His faithfulness with those God has already placed in your life. You never know how God could work through the testimony of your story. Let’s be good stewards of the stories He has written with our lives and in our hearts.

Friends, digital scrapbooking became so much more to me than just the “creative pursuit” that I described when I wrote that original article in 2007: this “pursuit” led to not one but two, full-fledged, home-based businesses—first website/graphic design and then photography. God provided for our family through my income as a designer during a very difficult period in our lives and He continues to do so through various other creative pursuits that can be directly traced to digital scrapbooking. What I intended as a means for me to document my family’s life in a creative way became a lifeline for my family instead. In the process, I have gained more friends than I can count, had the satisfaction of doing work that made my heart sing, and seen God’s provision through it all.

I’ll end with a poem that a friend recently shared that perfectly sums up these somewhat random thoughts:

My life is but a weaving
Between my God and me.
I cannot choose the colors
He weaveth steadily.
Oft’ times He weaveth sorrow;
And I in foolish pride
Forget He sees the upper
And I the underside.
Not ’til the loom is silent
And the shuttles cease to fly
Will God unroll the canvas
And reveal the reason why.
The dark threads are as needful
In the weaver’s skillful hand
As the threads of gold and silver
In the pattern He has planned
He knows, He loves, He cares;
Nothing this truth can dim.
He gives the very best to those
Who leave the choice to Him.

This Thanksgiving, think back to how God has shown His provision for you over the years and then consider sharing that testimony with other people. You never know who might be bold enough to take that first step of faith because of what they can see in you.