Sunday, January 7, 2018

Beginners Guide to Hand Lettering! And a FREEBIE!

About a year ago, I created a Beginner's Guide to Hand Lettering after having tons of questions on how I "got so good" at lettering, what my favorite supplies are, how I incorporate bible journaling, etc.

So, to answer those questions plus some, I created this guide! It's a 50+ page guide that includes:

• What hand lettering is
• Supplies
• Lettering terminology
• Common mistakes
• Types of lettering
• Examples and practice pages (serif, sans serif, script and every letter of the alphabet!)
• Basic Strokes
• How to hold your pen
• How to incorporate those things into your bible pages

This guide focuses on faux calligraphy hand lettering, not brush lettering (which I may cover sometime in the future) because I feel like it's an easier place to start and the basics of hand lettering help you better understand how to control your brush pens if you try to do brush lettering in the future.

I wanted to offer a couple of practice pages for you that are a part of the hand lettering guide so you can get an idea of what's inside.

Here is a PDF that includes practice sheets of the script, serif and sans serif letters. I recommend printing these out and then using tracing paper to trace them with so your hand can get use to the way it feels to make the shapes of the letters.

There's actually one more practice sheet than in the picture below and I also included a coloring page that can be found in my coloring book!

If you'd like to purchase the entire lettering guide, you can find that here. In the meantime, I really, really hope that you love these practice sheets!

I'd love to see your practice! You can tag me in your posts @neelysphoto and use the hashtag #beginnersguidetohandlettering!

Sunday, October 22, 2017

How To Draw 5 Effortless Banners

I’ve made blog posts about what bible journaling is, why I do it, and hand lettering, so now I wanted to give a few tips on how to draw banners.

Banners are something I really like to add to my bible pages. They can really add dimension, interest, and fun to your artwork!

There are so many different ways you can draw a banner, but today I want to just go over a few that are pretty simple.

As you practice them, you can combine them to make bigger more complex banners or even make your own designs!

I have to be honest, when I first started learning to draw these, I had a really hard time!

I couldn’t figure out where to put the underside of the banner where it looked like it folded under. No matter how many tutorials I read, no matter how many times I drew and re-drew, I always seemed to put them in the wrong place.

The image above is an example of when I drew them wrong. It still looks nice, but you’ll notice the “back” part of the banner where it’s shaded goes two different directions. They should go the same direction for it to be an accurate drawing.

Here are some other examples of banners that I’ve drawn in my bible!

See how much it adds to the page?

In this blog post, I want to keep it simple and go over 5 different variations.  I have no idea if these are their technical names, but it’s what I’m callin’ ‘em.

Below are images of the banners we’re going to go over and a very brief explanation of each.

(Don’t panic! The descriptions will make more sense later.)

1. Straight Banner 

This banner is made up of one rectangle with the banner’s tails on each side.

2. Arched Banner

This banner is drawn almost exactly like the straight banner, except you will curve the main part of the banner instead of drawing a straight rectangle.

3. Wave Banner

This banner is made up of two wavy parallel lines that you will make into a rectangle by closing the ends, adding some curvy lines to make the folds, and finishing the ends on each side.

4. Double Wave Banner  

This banner is made up of two wavy rectangles like in the wave banner, but between them they are connected diagonally by the ‘folded’ part of the ribbon. The banner’s ends are made like the single wave banner we made before.

5. Triple Straight Banner

The last banner is made up of three straight rectangles like our first straight banner. Between each rectangle they are connected by diagonal lines to make the ‘folded’ part. The ends are made like we drew them in the first straight banner.

I don’t know if you’re like me, but sometimes following a how-to just by looking at pictures and words can be confusing (and I’m the worst at not reading the instructions all the way…oops!).

So instead of writing an in-depth tutorial with lots of images and words, I made a video of myself sketching some out for you, so you can see how I drew them.

Hopefully this will give you a great visual and help you follow along (this is where the descriptions I gave you above will make more sense. I wouldn’t leave you hanging like that!).

Please keep in mind that this video has been sped up for time purposes. You should definitely take your time and go a lot slower than this video shows!

To help you practice I made a worksheet for you to download print! You can get that here!

These are just a few of MANY different ways you can draw banners. The possibilities are endless! Keep practicing and try to come up with some variations of your own.

I hope that you found this video and the worksheet helpful. I’d love to see your progress! Tag me on Instagram @neelysphoto in your banner pictures!

Saturday, October 21, 2017

5 Bible Verses To Help You Conquer Comparison

Comparison is an ugly game that we all have played at least once in our lives (but more realistically, probably daily). 

Envy is usually the result. 

We all know that envy is not fun and God isn’t a fan of it.

The internet makes it worse. 

It can encourage you and discourage you in the same breath. 

We know what everyone is doing, or at least what they want us to know (the good things). 

It’s so easy to scroll and scroll and have disappointment and jealousy grow with every thumb swipe.

Bible journaling is one of those things that can very easily make you discouraged. Here you are trying your best to worship and find encouragement and all that you find is that you’re disappointed.

I have been there…often. In fact, that’s the whole reason I’m writing this. 

Just the other day, I was scrolling through Instagram looking at other people’s gorgeous Bible pages, reading their inspiring captions, and I got this twinge of “I’m not _________ enough.” You can fill that in with anything.

And believe me, the devil will try to force you to fill that blank.

The thing is, the devil may try to convince you that you’re not good enough for whatever reason, but God knows you ARE good enough, and He wants you to believe it, too!

I have had so many people tell me that they don’t want to start Bible journaling because they can’t draw, they know it won’t be perfect, they’ve seen other people’s pages and they'll never look like theirs. I could go on and on. 

You can find all the reasons in the world to not like your artwork or worse not even try to make any. 

But my friend, if you’re trying to create art that they’ll hang up in the Smithsonian, then your focus is all wrong.

The reason that you are making these pages is so you can spend time with God, learn from His word and worship Him.

And Bible journaling is a type of worship, just like singing. 

I’m horrible at singing but that doesn’t stop me from worshiping Him in my car on the way to get Jackson from school. 

There are a million people who can sing better than me, but God doesn’t compare my abilities with theirs. He doesn’t cover His ears and will me to stop. He’s just happy I’m there and that I’m trying.

That same thought goes for your Bible pages. So maybe you’re no Van Gogh, but why let that stop you from worshipping God through your artwork? God will think it’s beautiful because it’s coming from your heart. 

Listen, Bible journaling isn’t for everyone for a lot of different reasons. That’s completely okay! I just want to encourage you to not let thinking you’re not good enough keep you from trying. 

In the image above, I couldn’t figure out where to put the underside of the banner where it looked like it folded under. No matter how many tutorials I read, no matter how many times I drew and re-drew, I always seemed to put them in the wrong place. 

You may look at the pages that other people are doing and THINK they are perfect, but I’m telling you right now that they aren’t. And unfortunately, the people making those pages are playing the comparison game just as much as you are.

I have been Bible journaling for almost 2 1/2 years and here’s a page that I did the other day that isn’t perfect. I spelled remember wrong and I shared it on my Instagram anyway. 

Believe me, I didn’t share because I wanted to (The fact that remember was spelled wrong REALLY bothered me. A lot guys, a lot), but because God really spoke to me through my study that day, I wanted to share what I learned in hopes that it encouraged someone else. 

I couldn’t let the fact that it wasn’t perfect in a human's eyes keep me from sharing some heavenly truths.

I do things like this all the time. I smudge paint, misspell words, spill water, and sometimes I’ll get done with a page, and it isn’t what I envisioned at. all. But, I’m not making them to impress other people.

I want to please God.

I want to grow and learn from Him. Using art to worship Him is how I do these things the best, whether they’re pretty and perfect or they’re not. And you never know, it might be how you do them best too. 

How will you know if you never try?

When you’re feeling comparison creep in, whether it’s with your artwork or just life in general, here are some verses to pray over so you remember Who it is you’re really creating (and living) for.

Here are 5 verses to help you overcome comparison in your bible pages or just your daily life.

1.    Galatians 1:10 (NIV)

“Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.” 

2.    Galatians 6:4 (NIV)

“Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else” 

3.    Romans 12:6 (MSG)

“Let's just go ahead and be what we were made to be, without enviously or pridefully comparing ourselves with each other, or trying to be something we aren’t.” 

4.    Colossians 3:2 (NIV)

“Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” 

5.    1 Corinthians 3:3 (NIV)

“You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere humans?” 

Please don’t let the fear of failure keep you from trying. Not just Bible journaling, but anything that you want to do!

God doesn’t care about how pretty your flowers are or how legible your lettering is. God cares that you’re seeking Him, spending time with Him, learning from Him and setting your sights on Him. 

I think that when you focus on Him, He will bless you greatly…and who knows, you might just find a new hobby that you really love.


Friday, October 13, 2017

How To Choose The Right Journaling Bible For You

If you're wanting to get into Bible Journaling, you might be wondering what options there are out there. Today I wanted to address something that I didn’t really have to think about when I started bible journaling — how to choose which journaling bible is right for you.

When I started bible journaling, pretty much the only option that you had was an ESV journaling bible from Crossway.  To make your decision you just needed to decide if you wanted single or double column and which cover you liked best.

Since then, they’ve come out with lots of different translations and styles and they just keep coming!

The Crossway ESV journaling bible is my favorite, but I wanted to give you guys some examples of the many journaling bibles that there are to choose from now.

Keep in mind that this list isn’t exhaustive, but it does include a lot of the most popular styles and translations. I want to try and make this post informative and helpful without being overwhelming.

I’m going to break this post into two sections. Translation and Bible Style.

To make your decision, first you should probably pick out which translation you prefer. These days journaling bibles come in lots of different translations. After you know which translation you prefer, you can pick which style you’d like.

I say to do this because I think a lot of people have a bible translation that they really love and that is usually most important to them than the style of journaling bible that they have…but if you don’t have a translation preference, you can skip to bible style first and go from there.

This is a looooong post, but please bear with me. It has TONS of information in it!


I’m going to start with different translations of journaling bibles. I have included the most common translations and a budget friendly option and also an option if you feel like splurging for each!

(The following links are affiliate links. It won't cost any more for you to use these links to purchase your bible, but it will give me a few pennies to add to my piggy bank to buy my next one.

Prices on journaling bibles see to fluctuate a lot, so at the time of this post these prices were accurate examples, however I can’t guarantee they will stay the same. I recommend using this post as a starting point and doing your own research to help decide what’s best for you.)


Budget Friendly

Splurge (This one is my personal favorite. It’s so beautiful. I have heard through the grapevine they're discontinuing this. So if you find one, snag it before they're gone!)


Budget Friendly



Budget Friendly



Budget Friendly



(If you're looking for a bible with white bible pages, this one has them! The rest are cream colored)


The Message 

Bible Style

Next, you’ll want to figure out what STYLE of journaling bible you want. I have listed the most common styles below, what they are, why you’d choose this style and some links to examples of them.

Journaling bible - These have a 2 inch, lined margin on the side of each page’s text. They are all lined. That’s a question I get a lot because from my images sometimes you can’t see the lines.

Also, these come in double column and single column bibles. I personally prefer the single column because they are easier for me to read.

If you’re buying online, be sure to read the description of the bible to know which one you’re getting. Many times I have come close to buying double column bibles accidentally because I wasn’t paying attention.

Double column bibles are occasionally cheaper than single column, so that’s something else to think about.

This style would probably be best if you just want to take notes, just want to draw in the margins, don’t mind covering the text or you want a lot of different translation and cover options.

Budget Friendly

(All of the examples above in the “translation” section are examples of this style of Journaling Bible, too)

Interleaved Bibles - These have an entire blank page after every page with text. The down side to these bibles are they are HUGE…but they’re also beautiful, so it’s an okay trade off, I think.

This would be best if you want LOTS of space for notes and/or illustrations without covering up any of the text and completely blank pages with no lines.

Budget Friendly


Writers Edition Bible - These have blank space at the bottom of every page.

This would probably be the best choice if you just want to take a few notes or want to draw small illustrations. The space at the bottom isn’t that big, so you won’t be able to use the blank space for anything too extensive.

Pre-Illustrated Bible - These bibles have illustrations in them already for you to color. They also have the lined 2 inch margins like the original journaling bibles for your own artwork.

This would be the best choice if you love to color or you don’t feel 100% confident in bible journaling yet. So you can color the illustrations, but you can also add your own artwork to the pages that have empty margins.




The Message

Large Print Bible - Most journaling bibles have about a 7 or 7.5 point text which use to be a huge complaint. These larger print bibles have type thats about 9.5-11 depending on the bible.

This would be a great choice if you can’t read the small type normally found in most bibles.





Red Letter Bible - I have to admit, I do love seeing those red letters and I was a little disappointed when mine didn’t have them. There are a few bibles that do include the red letter text now. I think that most of them are KJV or NKJV.

If you love seeing the words of Jesus in red, this would be a great choice for you.


Budget Friendly



Budget Friendly


Now, within all these different styles of bibles there are different covers to choose from too. Hard, soft, leather, cloth, ect…but I think that first the above things are the first things to consider and then you can look at the cover options from there. :)

Keep in mind that to get the STYLE of bible you want, you might have to change which translation you prefer.

For example, if you want a King James Version, you won’t be able to get an interleaved style bible because they don’t make them in that translation.

So, you’d have to decide which you really want more. The translation or the interleaved. Not all translations come in certain styles, unfortunately so you might need to be a little flexible.

I do feel like I need to include a small disclaimer.

All bibles aren’t made the same way. I haven’t personally seen every single bible I have listed here in person so I can’t speak for them all in terms of page thickness/durability, whether or not they’ll work for you, ect.

However, a few that I can speak for and from what I have seen the Crossway ESV bibles have the most “durable” pages.

The Zondervan NIV bibles have a lot thinner pages.

The Message Canvas has pages that are in between the Crossway and Zondervan in terms of thickness.

The turquoise NLT bible above has very white pages, while all the rest seem to have cream. The pages durability remind me of the Crossway ESV bibles.

With all of that being said, I have tried to give you a lot of information to make a great decision on the right bible for you, but I recommend doing your own research as well, such as going to your local Christian bookstore and finding some to look at in person.

If you purchase them online from some place that has images of the cover and the inside pages and also that has a great return policy just in case the bible you purchase isn’t your favorite.

I really hope that this small guide has been helpful to you in making a decision for purchasing your journaling bible! Which one do you think you'll choose?


Wednesday, October 11, 2017

When the Doctor Says Down Syndrome - A Look at John 9:2-3

October is Down Syndrome Awareness month! So I want to share with you a little bit about my journey with my son's Down syndrome diagnosis and how I think Jesus addresses disabilities in John 9:2-3.

About 8 years ago my husband and I were in Walmart, and we passed a young couple with the cutest little girl in their cart. Her blonde pigtails bobbed as she looked up at me with her blue, almond shaped eyes.

I could tell as soon as she looked at me that she had Down syndrome.

 The first thoughts that went through my head were, “Oh my goodness, she is so cute,” and then my mind went to, “I hope we don’t ever have a kid with Down syndrome."

My son, Jackson, was born probably 2 years after I saw that little girl.

He was 3 months old when we found out he had Down syndrome, and it changed our world. (You read about learning about his diagnosis here.)

I don’t think I would be making assumptions if I said that people have probably had the same thoughts I had 8 years ago when they see us with Jackson.

I've seen people look at us with pity.

I’ve seen people look at us as the wheels were turning in their heads, probably trying to figure out what I did wrong while I was pregnant that we had a child born with special needs. Wondering what sins we committed to be given a disabled child.

I am sure that people asked themselves something similar to what Jesus’ disciples asked him, "who sinned, this child or his parents, that he was born with Down syndrome?”

When we found out about his diagnosis, I was scared, confused, and angry.

I had no idea what life would look like.

This was definitely not what we had imagined or planned.

The world doesn’t portray someone having a disability as some great, meaningful thing.

Even Jesus’ disciples, his own students, assumed that the blind man’s parents, or even the blind man himself, did something to bring on his disability.

So when you learn that your child has a life-changing diagnosis, it’s not odd to believe that it could have been you that brought this in your life, that it could possibly be your fault.

Your mind tries retracing your steps trying to find the mistake or sin:

Was it that caffeinated latte?
Did I eat too much sugar?
I thought I only changed the cat’s litter box once.
I microwaved my lunch meat.
I pray.
I go to church. I don't lie.
I'm a good person.
Did I not have enough faith?
What did I do?
What didn’t I do?
Could I have prayed differently?
Did I do this to my child?
Who sinned, this child or myself, that s/he was born with ____________?" 

What I struggled with most was thinking that it was because I wasn't good enough. That my child was being punished for my lack of faith.

Maybe I didn't pray the right way. Maybe I didn't go to church enough. Maybe this was a result of my sins. This could have been my fault. My son would struggle his whole life because of me. Talk about feeling like you've failed your child, I felt it.

My first mistake was viewing my son’s diagnosis as a punishment.

If this was a punishment, what would that mean?

It would mean that this was all about me. That isn’t true. 

It would mean that Down syndrome was a bad thing. That is also not true. 

It would mean that God punishes us because of our sins. Which is definitely not true because Jesus took the punishment for our sins already. That price is already paid. (Romans 8:1)

So, why then? 

If there has ever been anything that I have struggled with it’s why Jackson had Down syndrome.

There are a lot of things in life that go unanswered, but I really believe that Jesus answered this question for us in John 9:2-3.

When His disciples asked him why the man was born blind Jesus replied, "Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.”

I could sit and think about it all day long and bring up more in depth and complicated questions and scenarios, but it would really be pointless. The absolute fact of the matter is God had important plans for him, plain and simple. So important that he intervened at the first splitting of his cells.

I love The Message translation of this verse.

Jesus said, “You’re asking the wrong question. You’re looking for someone to blame. There is no such cause-effect here. Look instead for what God can do.” 

I think that this really encompasses a lot of the feelings that come with having a child with special needs.

Asking why is the wrong question, and its only purpose is to look for someone to place the blame on, whether it’s yourself or God. It’s hard to grasp, but sometimes there just isn’t someone to blame because what’s happening isn’t wrong.

Instead of trying to find someone to blame for what we felt has been done to us, like Jesus said, we should look for what God can do.

Now what I’ve been looking forward to the most: I’m going to tell you about my son.

Jackson is the light in a room. He literally draws people to him wherever he goes, like a moth to flame. When he walks in a room, you see him because he's smiling ear to ear. You hear him yelling and laughing with joy because, he might not know who you are, but he’s happy to see you.

It’s almost impossible to be around him for 5 minutes and not smile at least once.

Seriously, I dare you to try.

He is a goofball. He loves to sing, dance, and make people laugh. His favorite food is French fries, and he really loves his daddy. He notices when you're sad, and he'll try to cheer you up. He loves babies. And very recently he's deathly afraid of flies (I'm really looking forward to when he's over that. Do you know how hard it is to avoid flies?). He seems to know every single person in his school, kids, teachers, kid's parents...even people I've never seen or met before...(don't worry, we're working on stranger danger...although, a kidnapper would probably love him too)

He’s an absolute joy to be around (I mean, most of the time. Let’s not kid ourselves…he’s still a 7 year old little boy.)

You may have just read that and thought to yourself that I described any child, and I’ll give you that.

A lot of kids love to sing and dance and act silly, but Jackson interacting with people is something you have to see yourself.

The way he works a crowd is truly a thing to witness. If I let him loose in a full room, he will be drawn to certain people. He’ll be handing out hugs, up on laps, charming the pants off anyone that he encounters… and he means it. I truly think he just likes seeing people smile.

When we’re in a store, we have had people just walk up to us to look at him and hold his hand, not really saying much except how cute he is. It’s like all they need is to be near him for a few seconds.

 It never fails that everywhere we go, at least one person is drawn to him, and they always walk away smiling.

I know it sounds like a mom talking about her son and how special he is. I’m definitely not trying to claim he has any supernatural or angelic gifts, but he is an extraordinary kid. I think anyone that’s ever met him could tell you the same thing.

I've said it many times to my friends, if God told me today that he'd take Down syndrome away right now, I'd tell Him no. My son has been my son from the time he was conceived, and that includes Down syndrome.

God made Jackson the way he was supposed to be because he has a purpose in life. He is who he is, so the works of God can be displayed through him.

When we first found out, I won’t lie and say it didn’t feel like we were grieving the child we thought we were having.

For months we made all these plans for what our “normal” son would do as he grew up… and within a few seconds it’s like it was ripped out of our hands.

But the thing is, Down syndrome was never NOT part of the plan. God knew before Jackson was even conceived that he would have Down syndrome.

He’s always been the same child we loved.

The same child we loved when we found out we were having him.

The same child we met in the hospital.

The same child we learned had Down syndrome.

There’s never been a point in time where he was anyone different. And we love him just the same now as we ever did.

No, I take that back. Probably more. Did I mention how charming he is?

I’m going to take a second and say some things that make most people uncomfortable... 

My son will never be president.
He'll never be a lawyer or a famous brain surgeon.
He will never cure cancer or be a rocket scientist.
He will never have children, and it’s extremely possible that he will never even live alone.

I have said that to people before, and I always get the same sweet, well-meaning response of, “Oh, you never know what he can accomplish.” And I usually follow up with a, “No, I do know. There are some things he just will not do.” That’s almost always met with a look of pity for Jackson because his mother doesn’t believe in him.

But listen, I have pictures of his chromosomes, and the fact is he has Down syndrome. I’m not going to pretend that he doesn’t. I’m not holding out my hopes that he’s going to become the next Ben Carson, changing and saving lives because he’s an extremely gifted surgeon.

I do believe in Jackson with all of my heart. 

I will be rooting for him every single step of the way doing anything and everything I can to help him, but physically and mentally Down syndrome will limit the things he is able to do.

What it doesn’t limit is his heart and the way that he interacts with and affects other people. If anything, it enhances those abilities.

The other fact I know is that he will do just as much good, accomplish just as much and change just as many lives as if he were to do any of those other things. Maybe even more. I am 110% positive that he will change lives, hearts, and perceptions. I have already seen him do it. (You can read about it here.)

He changed his family. He’s changed our friends. He has changed our perceptions of disabilities. He’s opened our hearts. He’s made us more considerate, empathetic people who watch what they do and say and care how those things will affect others.

He’s helped us realize that just because someone or thing is different doesn’t mean it’s wrong or defective.

He has increased our faith in God. He’s shown us that just because some plans aren’t what we had in mind doesn’t mean they’re bad.

Jackson may never do things that seem like huge accomplishments on paper from a worldly point of view, but I believe with every ounce of my heart that from a heavenly standpoint he will have achievements and successes that we could probably never even begin to fathom.

And that is something that makes me more proud than a degree from Harvard, a mansion, or a Nobel Peace Prize.

I fully believe that Jackson’s purpose in life was to have the works of God displayed in him, just like Jesus said.

If you’re reading this right now and you have a child nearby with any type of disability, and you’re struggling with the why’s, the hard days, the things that may or may not ever happen, and a plethora of other hard things that come with having a child with special needs, I don’t want to claim to have any concrete, definitive answers on why things happen, but please remember this: Jesus’ own disciples thought what the world tells us was true--a disability is a defect caused by a wrong and should be addressed, removed, and disregarded.

But Jesus tells us it’s the opposite… "this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.”

We can’t trust the world or its views and perceptions.

Sometimes we can’t even trust our own, but we CAN trust Jesus. God's ways are not our ways. Just because something isn’t recognized as desirable, normal, or easy doesn’t mean it has no meaning or purpose. It might just mean that it has more.

Don’t let the world tell you what’s good, right, or normal. It’ll lead you wrong every time.

© neely beattie
Maira Gall