Today we’ll be interviewing one of the people who contributed illustrations and activities to the Telling God’s Story, Year One Activity Book. We hope to post more such interviews in the coming weeks. This morning’s interview is with Sarah Park. She, her husband, and their children live in Virginia.
Tell us a bit about your children, please. How many you have, what ages, and something unique about each one.
Our first is Lucy, turning 7 this spring; she is exuberant, curious, and observant. Following Lucy, we have twin girls, Kate and Frances, who just turned 4. Kate has a flair for the dramatic and is very relational. Frances loves figuring out how things work, especially small, complicated things!
What sorts of challenges have you and your husband faced in teaching your children about God, answering tough questions about God/Jesus/matters of life and death, etc?
My goal is to try to bring God into conversations in a natural way, so that they see how he permeates our life—gives life to our lives, really. It can be funny to hear this reflected in their conversations with each other… around Christmastime this year, I overheard the twins playing. Kate was saying emphatically to Frances, “No, God did make it, and God did GIVE it to Santa!”
With Lucy we find ourselves having more serious discussions about the nature of being humans made by God. Recently I talked with her about how no parent, however wonderful they might be (or however they fall short, while tending to siblings!), can ever fill the need for love that exists in our hearts. Short of quoting Pascal, with his God-shaped vacuum, I tried to explain to Lucy that when we feel that overwhelming need for love and care, and feel that our parents are not giving us all the attention we crave, we need to turn to God, and ask him to satisfy us. And of course, we can always ask for extra hugs from our parents! This is hard, as a mother; while thinking fast for solid, spiritually grounded answers, I am also trying to not beat myself up for being unable to give her attention around the clock!
What was your education (schooling, apprenticeships, study-abroad)? Did it provide you with anything in particular that you’ve been able to draw on, when working on Olive Branch Books materials?
My high school in Pennsylvania had an excellent art program, with wonderful teachers and whole classes focused on computer graphics. I have been building on the skills I gained there ever since, both for work and personal projects. I attended the College of William and Mary, and majored in Art History, which gave me a great appreciation for the way that artists through the centuries have used their media to express profound truths about God and humanity.
During college, I studied abroad in Italy. That time was an amazing immersion in a culture steeped in art. I had the honor of apprenticing with a family-run stained glass studio, where I gained a love of craft—setting aside the intense, brain- and heart-focused work of creating a new idea, and delving into the rhythm of repetitive work. Any kind of art involves both, really—the creative bursts and the long haul of problem-solving, editing, massaging into the final form. While making stained glass I learned to love the whole process.
Now, as a mom, I enjoy illustration work for how it uses different parts of my brain from parenting (or perhaps similar parts in different ways?), and challenges me to keep my hand artistically coordinated.
Can you tell us about a memory of your upbringing, related to religious education at home or church, or a family ritual, something that’s really stuck with you in your own faith journey?
My father shared something with me that made a huge impression. He told me that he was a Christian because he had finally realized that he deeply, profoundly needed Jesus to save him from his own problem-filled self. And that being a Christian was not something that I would be just because my parents were; it was something I could choose to be, if I understood that need in my own heart. It was both a shock and a compliment, being told that I was not inheriting this faith, but being given an independent choice. And it laid the foundation mentally for me, to turn to Jesus when it hit me that I was not sufficient for anything.
My mother laid a foundation of faith in me through more of a steady drip (smile). I remember reading beautifully illustrated Bible stories (The Ladybird Bible) with her every night before bed, and praying with her frequently, both before bed and in times of emotional upset. It also made a big impression on me that my parents prayed together every morning. It was a normal thing, to see them sitting quietly on the living room sofa, eyes closed. Recently I’ve had the pleasure of watching my mom express her faith through painting, which is very inspiring for me.
Besides “Telling God’s Story,” what other books or projects have you contributed to?
I have illustrated the maps for The Story of the World series, as well as Susan Wise Bauer’s History of the Ancient World and History of the Medieval World. (I am currently working with her on the maps for the third volume in that W.W. Norton series.) I’ve contributed illustrations to the Activity Books that accompany The Story of the World. I’m also working right now on cover designs for the forthcoming Peace Hill Press books on Creative Writing. And I have a major role in the design decisions for the internet start-ups that my husband, Charlie, runs (PearBudget.com and Monotask.com).
What are two of the activities from the Telling God’s Story Year One Activity Book that you like the best, and why?
I love the Centurion’s helmet. My kids looked adorable and hilarious wearing that thing around! Also, the girls also really enjoyed making an ox-yoke. They had great fun making their stuffed animals wear it!
What’s your workspace? Do you work at home, or at outside locations, or at an office, or all of the above? What tools/computers do you use?
I do work from home at times, but am finding that it’s much easier to focus on work if I get out of the house! Leaving the laundry behind, I like to work from a coffee shop or library. As of a few months ago, I’ve been working on a gorgeous MacBook Pro (if something happened to that machine, I would shed many tears over it). I primarily use the programs Adobe Photoshop and Adobe InDesign. A good scanner, a lightbox, some quality art pens, and the internet are the only other tools I need. Except when I’m coming up with a new craft project! Then it helps to be at home, with my stash of felt, cardboard, markers, scissors, glue, needle and thread, etc.
Can you give us a preview of a project you’re working on for Telling God’s Story, Year Two? Something that you’re especially excited about?
I am psyched about a felt bean-bag fish that the girls and I made. It has a retractable coin in its mouth! [See Matthew 17:24-27]
Thanks to Sarah for sharing her time and experiences with us today. For a YouTube interview with Telling God’s Story author Peter Enns, go here. To find out more about the books, visit olivebranchbooks.net.