Posted in A Non-Artist's Guide to Bible Journaling

A Non-Artist’s Guide to Bible Journaling: November 8, 2016

I could go on and on about how disappointed I am in America. About how I never knew we were still so racist, sexist, and hateful. I could make a long post about how Donald Trump is the epitome of a Biblical fool. I could post links to eye-opening articles, explain why open support of him is a personal attack on me myself.

But I won’t. At this point, I’m not exactly sure what effect it can have so late into the game. All I can do now is pray. Pray for this country’s healing, pray for peace in the coming days, pray for this Election Day. I can’t vote this time (and I may never get over that), but one prayer has a much bigger impact than one vote, going directly into the ear of the King of kings, the Ruler of rulers, the election Decider. A prayer is a vote for Jesus.

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So I challenge you today, no matter who you support, to pray as well. And after the day is done, when the votes are all counted up, and the new president is declared, I challenge you to pray for her/him too. Not just for God’s sovereignty, but for Him to touch their heart so they can make good decisions, so their heart can be open to His truth and direction. Just imagine what could happen if we all prayed like that.

Note: Feel free in the comments to leave your thoughts there. I’d love to hear what others my age have to say about this election. But if it gets too nasty, I will stop the discussion. 

 

Posted in A Non-Artist's Guide to Bible Journaling

A Non-Artist’s Guide to Bible Journaling: Weeping


Psalms 30:5 (NLT)

For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime! Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning.


I cry a lot. And that’s okay.

Emotionally, this has been one of the most painful weeks of my short, teenage life. For a while, I’ve been wrestling with forgiveness and bitterness. Just when I start to think that I’ve begun to move on, a wound that’s been festering for years is struck again, becoming further infected. An already deep gash increases, making the healing process all the more difficult.

I’m tired of this vicious cycle, but every time I make myself vulnerable and speak up, all that arises is more hurt. Constantly, I’m told that I’m free to express my feelings, but whenever I try, something I say is undermined and rejected. Words offend, and I’m the scapegoat, the one to blame for bringing it up, damaging relationships even more. I gave the failed method one last try, and within a matter of seconds, my emotions were destroyed. It all happened so fast that I didn’t have time to process it. One minute, progress is seemingly being made, and the next, I’m so worn and spent that I don’t even bother to gather the strength to get back up again.

I’ve spent an entire week without hope, and it is the darkest place to be. My Bible journaling suffered greatly. I spent six days working on a one column entry that I would usually tackle in an hour.

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All I wanted to do was cry, but surprisingly, tears refused to come forth. Usually, a good cry can ensue with a single thought, but I’d fallen to a place where I’d exhausted my supply of tears on the subject, something I once thought unfeasible.

I’ve always been slightly ashamed of how easily I can burst into tears. Crying seems to be my body’s first response to sadness, anger, frustration, and elation. It’s not uncommon for teardrops to roll down my cheeks when I’m writing heartfelt scenes–or even when I’m simply plotting a depressing scenario in my mind. And I can guarantee you that I cried at least once while composing this blog post. As I’ve gotten older, I find that I’m more prone to cry during a book, TV show, or movie. I used to be able to keep track of how many had made me cry, but I don’t bother anymore. The more I embrace my personality, the more emotional I become.

All my life, I feel like I’ve been led to believe that my hair-trigger emotions are a character flaw, a result of caring too much and naivety. Maybe if I could just “fix” this problem, I could fit in, say what I really want without hesitating, get over my fear of rejection and not being taken seriously. Maybe as I grow older, I’ll lose my idealism and learn to just move on with my life. Maybe I won’t spend my days wallowing in distress, resentment, and silence.

But I don’t want to lose myself. No matter how many times my personality comes back to bite me, I don’t want to change who I am. I don’t want to lose my compassion for others and gain mistrust. I don’t want to lower my opinions of people just so I can avoid another disappointment. I don’t want to fill those special places in my heart for the hurting with indifference.

I’m an optimist. I don’t automatically expect the worst from people, and it can be quite shocking when someone acts out of character. I can’t stand confrontation, and I die a little inside whenever my power laced words hurt another. I’m passionate in my beliefs. While I might not always speak up, you can bet there’s a debate going on in my mind, attempting to decide whether or not I have anything worth fighting confrontation to say. And when I do muster the courage to talk, I’m firm in my opinion, always trying to use facts to support it. If I can’t find “sufficient” reason to have credence in something, I sit out, content with my view and willing to respect yours.

But I take things too personally, often not seeing the difference between criticism and humiliation. Disappoint is an emotion I experience daily, and it’s also one of the most mentally harrowing emotions on me. I’d rather you be furious with me than disappointed. I avoid it nearly as much as confrontation. To me, there’s little worse than failing to meet your exceptions. How can I hold someone to a standard I can’t meet myself? Offending or disrespecting someone else is almost as worse as failure. It is failure. I’ve failed to get my point across, and instead, I’ve only hurt someone in a way I despise being treated myself. I don’t wish those ugly feelings on anyone, and to know I caused that is not something I can easily recover from.

Slowly, I’ve come to realize that it’s not my personality that holds me back. It’s fear. It’s always difficult for me to discuss anxiety with other Christians. Often, I’m met with the reciting of verses that only remind me how much I suck at the whole being Christ-like thing. Sure, scripture is more often than not encouraging, but it’s also nice to know that you’re not alone in feeling this way. I do talk to other believers about it because I’m looking for Christ-centered motivation, but as a sister in Christ, I’m also looking for empathy, not a harsh rebuke and a reminder of the “rules.” Maybe it’s my fault for having expectations, but nonetheless, I don’t want to leave fellowship in more anguish than I started with.

And sure, one could argue that it’s my choice to feel this way, that I’m the one twisting their words of encouragement into reprimands. And to that, I don’t have a sound argument against the notion. The same choices don’t come easy to everybody. That’s the beauty of humanity–everyone has their issues, struggles, and flaws. This just so happens to be mine. All I can ask is that you try to see my point view in the same way I try to see yours.

Last night was a restless collaboration of hours for me. I’d found it difficult to focus on my writing all week, my heart too busy contemplating paranoia to focus on doing my idea of the week justice. In the wee hours, I managed to force myself into a groove, relying on my ability to be somewhat functional without adequate sleep to get me through yet another despondent day. I resolved to start journaling earlier than usual, starved for some meaningful time with the Lord. On the table, my Bible lay open to the same entry I’d slaved unnecessary days to finish. My eyes skimmed the adjoining page for any journaling prospects, and they instantly landed upon the second half of Psalms 30:5. My heart leaped; my eyes swelled; my brain shouted, “HEY! I KNOW THAT PROMISE!” 

Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning.

Well, it was 6:30 A.M. Sunlight was starting to stream through the blinds. It’s morning.

But where’s my joy?

I didn’t have time to think about that. I needed to find a sunrise tutorial fast, so I could make some headway before church. Last minute, I decided to include the verse in the drawing and rushed upstairs to print off a fancy font to trace. I made quite a few mistakes with this entry. I picked a bad color to use for the words, making them somewhat hard to read. I colored the ocean at the bottom of the page too dark, forgetting to fade it out. I used the wrong black colored pencil and now have to squint to read the little bits of text encompassed by the swimming girl.

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Nonetheless, I love the entry and cherish the hours I spent this morning working on it. Finally, I had a good cry, the songs on my Bible journaling playlist confirming that the morning is coming, weeping only lasts for the night, and that I’m not alone in my insecurities. One song in particular hit me especially hard, Vicki Yohe’s “In the Waiting.” I can remember listening to this song (and the entire album) on repeat as a kid, but I don’t think I ever paid close attention to the lyrics or grasped its honesty.

 

Pain
The gift nobody
Longs still it comes
Somehow leaves me
Stronger when it’s gone away
Pray I try and pray
For your will to be done
But I confess it’s never
Fast enough for me
It seems the hardest part
Is waiting on you
When what I want
Is just to see your hand move

When I take a moment to think about it, I realize that my issues are somewhat petty. There are so many others out there who have to deal with things I can’t imagine surviving. There are even much bigger problems in my own life right now, but frankly, I’m not worried about those. That should tell me something. If I can have confidence that the Lord will take care of my dire needs, then I can have confidence that He will aide me in the process of healing and forgiveness, that He’s the one who can show me the happy medium in my personality. It’s by no means an easy journey, but I don’t wish to waste anymore time in hopelessness.

I know I’ve gone off on a bit of a tangent, but that’s okay, too. These blog posts aren’t supposed to be scripted to the very last period. They’re about sharing what’s on my heart, and going on a tangent is perfectly acceptable when it’s all coming from there. 😉 I want to leave you today with another song, another promise. It’s been on repeat since I began writing this blog post. It’s exactly the reminder I needed today, so thank you. 😊

Posted in A Non-Artist's Guide to Bible Journaling

A Non-Artist’s Guide to Bible Journaling: “Why did you doubt Me?”


Matthew 14:22-33 (NLT)

Immediately after this, Jesus insisted that his disciples get back into the boat and cross to the other side of the lake, while he sent the people home. After sending them home, he went up into the hills by himself to pray. Night fell while he was there alone. Meanwhile, the disciples were in trouble far away from land, for a strong wind had risen, and they were fighting heavy waves. About three o’clock in the morning, Jesus came toward them, walking on the water. When the disciples saw him walking on the water, they were terrified. In their fear, they cried out, “It’s a ghost!” But Jesus spoke to them at once. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Take courage. I am here!” Then Peter called to him, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.” “Yes, come,” Jesus said. So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus. But when he saw the strong wind and the waves, he was terrified and began to sink. “Save me, Lord!” he shouted. Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him. “You have so little faith,” Jesus said. “Why did you doubt me?” When they climbed back into the boat, the wind stopped. Then the disciples worshiped him. “You really are the Son of God!” they exclaimed.


I think it’s safe to say that we’ve all had the misfortune of meeting doubt. But if you haven’t had the displeasure, then allow me to illustrate with words the gnawing feeling. The official definition for doubt is to be uncertain about something, to believe that something may not be true or is unlikely, but I don’t feel like the dictionary does the emotion justice. Even when you throw in synonyms like uncertain, insecure, and apprehensive, you still don’t get an accurate picture of doubt. Frankly, I don’t belief emotions can be drawn with pens or painted with watercolors. Instead, sentiments are drawn with similes and painted with metaphors. It is comparison that portrays the clearest. It’s why a well-written book can touch your heart, move your soul. It’s why words can toy with your emotions, leaving you in a tattered crying mess or fits of giddy. It’s why I read; it’s why I write.

Because even if you’ve felt exactly what the words are forming on the pages, you can feel, understand, experience the emotion, the situation, or the attitude in a brand new light.

So doubt.

Indecision.

Distrust.

Wariness.

Anxiety. 

Doubt starts as a small fire in your heart, ignited by a choice you’re about to make or a decision you’ve already made in the past. The risk is the match, kindling the flammable fuel the brain provides. The questions are acetone, the motives why not are gasoline, and the reasons why are the fire extinguishers. They’re only of help if you use them before the blaze becomes an inferno.

As a spark, doubt is usually fleeting, easy to ignore or drown. It burns when you try something new or exit your comfort zone a little bit. This fire is easy to put out. You may wonder someday why it even started. Though if not handled immediately, doubt can spread to your limbs, paralyzing your thoughts. This is the indecision that drives you mad, frustrates, and intimidates the truth. It burns into a disability, immobilizing your decision making. Doubt takes over your body and makes the choice for you–whether or not it’s according.

Occasionally, incapacitating doubt can be a good thing. It’s a sign that what you’ve done or are about to do goes against morales, beliefs, rules. But I find that more often than not, this doubt doesn’t save me. Rather, it scorches what could have been, chars a good path, and blackens my confidence. It leaves me singed, disappointed in myself. Doubt is meant to make us think, delay a dangerous action, distract us from making grave mistakes. But I let it substitute my GPS instead of letting Jesus be the navigator.

How many times have I channeled Peter? How often do I take my eyes off my Savior and focus on doubt? How many times have I allowed the wind to knock my blinders off, causing me to suddenly be aware of a storm I was gliding through moments earlier. Or even worse–how often do I turn to the boat and call out for Judas to help me, not trusting Jesus enough to calm the storm, rescue me from all my troubles, and deliver me from evil?

Why don’t I take courage, assured that He is still walking on the water even when I am sinking? Why do I loose the phlegm I beamed when I left the safety of the boat to follow Christ? Why does cowardice replace determination in my spirit when I look out and see the waves? Why don’t I fight the sea, refusing to be engulfed, submerged and swamped with these petty troubles?

Aggravatingly, the answer is because I am human. It is a chronic condition, something I cannot change. I will always battle my flesh. It’s a grim diagnosis, the truth no one wants to hear.

The Good News is that there is a cure. My pre-existing sins and conditions will never disqualify my eligibility. Any future bouts of sickness have guaranteed coverage. I will never be denied because of my age or circumstance of life. This insurance, my salvation, is not cheap. The premium is so expensive that I could never work hard enough to pay for it. No matter how much I want to, how hard I try, or how pure my intentions are I can never afford afterlife insurance.

Yet the policy is mine. I have not a paid a cent for it; no one will ever harass me for ransom. It’s already been atoned for in full. The entire amount paid for by the blood of Jesus Christ. Salvation is completely free to me, offered as a gift. I could have chosen not to accept it, to work for it in vain, to not care. No one forced me to do anything. I was given a choice. There was an unlimited selection of providers to choose from. But I chose Jesus, the only guaranteed Provider, the only one not contingent on flawed me, the only one that knew my needs without a word from my mouth. Instead of distain, His eyes looked upon me with compassion and love. How could I say no? How could I go on with my life, knowing that a free cure for my disease exists? How could I walk away from the promise that He will always be mine, and I will always be His?

How could I run from the promise that I can do all things through Christ that strengthens me? So that when He does call me out upon the waters, to the great unknown where feet may fail, I will find Him in the mystery, in oceans deep.

So that my faith will stand, and doubt will fall.


Journaling Inspiration

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Posted in A Non-Artist's Guide to Bible Journaling

A Non-Artist’s Guide to Bible Journaling: In the Beginning

It’s been nearly two months since I started Bible journaling, and the experience has greatly changed my outlook on morning quiet time. More than once, I’ve gotten up earlier than needed simply to have more time to decorate the pages of my Bible. I’ll be the first to admit that Bible journaling is not for every Christian, but for me, it has been a tool that’s brought me closer to God, excited to study His Word in a brand new way. While I don’t claim to be an expert on all things Bible journaling, I’d like to use this series as a way to pass on what I’ve learned in my crafting ventures and to share what’s been on my heart lately. As a short (and unnecessary) disclaimer, I am absolutely not being paid by anyone to say nice things about their product. Anything I recommend is something I do use on a daily basis. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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I have to admit. I did a lot more research on what kind of journalling Bible to get after I had already ordered an Inspire Bible. The thing that immediately drew me towards it was the fact that there were illustrations already printed on the pages, just waiting for me to color in.

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And this is a non-artist’s guide to Bible journaling, right? 😉 Having pre-designs sounded like a good backup plan–just in case I couldn’t fill an entire Bible’s worth of blank, one column pages.

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But oddly enough, I immediately found myself gravitating towards those blank, intimidating pages. My very first self-entry is the featured image, the one at the top. A two page wide design that popped into my mind the day I got my Bible. Hours earlier, I had given a devotional at my CO/OP, a recount of the past three years and the worst months of my life. The Lord had put Psalms 121 on my heart a mere months before the storm had begun, even prompting me to compose a little picture. My first Bible journaling experience you could say.

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A part of me knew that I would recreate the scene in my new Bible, but I didn’t endeavor to make it my first. Psalms 121 was special to me, and I didn’t want to mess up the entry. I wanted it to be beautiful, designed by a mind that was familiar with the page layout, and drawn by hands that knew just how carefully to press the pencil. I wanted it to be perfect.

And I quickly realized that I would never be able to create a single entry if perfectionism was my goal.

Because mistakes are inevitable. No matter how skilled you are at anything, your work will never be perfect. There will always be something out of place, something wrong, blemishes. A perfect Bible journaling entry is unattainable. My entries are meant to be imperfect. They’re done by a flawed vessel, one only made whole in Christ Jesus. They’re apart of my worship, an expression of adoration and thankfulness for all He’s done for me. My goal shouldn’t be to make an Instagram (or blog) worthy entry, something to show off my growing art skills. My goal should be to spend quality time with the Lord, immersed in His Word. Encouraged by a Youtube video, I devoted a still unfinished page in the front of my Bible to declare just that.

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It was becoming painfully obvious what passage I needed to do first. Not only did I have a design in my head, but I also needed to eradicate the fear of imperfections in my heart. So I Googled the lyrics to one of my favorite songs,“Shoulders” by For King & Country. The words match Psalms 121 wittingly, and in my darkest hours, it was my cry to the Lord, a reminder of His promises. I knew that I wanted to reserve a column for the lyrics, but my handwriting is nowhere near the flowing, neat marks I envisioned. Yet another roadblock.

That’s when I discovered tracing.

Bible pages are thin. The fact had been a nuisance during my quest to highlight my entire Bible. My Sharpie gel highlighters would bleed through, always ghosting. It got to a point where I had to implement a system of what colors could be used on which side of the page. What had once been an annoyance was now a gift from God. I could print off song lyrics, scripture, and even etchings to trace straight into my Bible. I may not be able to draw on my own very well, but I could be a pro at tracing. I found a beautiful font, Silent Reaction, watched a tutorial on how to drawl hills, and got to work.

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It took me two days to complete, but I couldn’t have been happier with the results. After I had finished tracing in the words, a wave of doubt washed over me. Without the color, the page looked incomplete, wrong. I hated it, nearly erased it all. But a voice whispered to me that it was okay, to give it a chance, to color it in. I must admit. It was a bit of a nervous moment for me, coming to accept that I’d possibly “ruined” my favorite passage, my biggest fear in this new endeavor. But even if it was ruined in my eyes, to God, it would be a work of art. The time I spent sitting in my dinning room, singing praise and worship music, silently praying in my heart was not wasted. It was spent with Him, and if I didn’t regret how I spent those hours, what did it matter how the entry turned out? So I scattered my brand new pack of Crayola Twistables across the table and started coloring. In the end, the color made all the difference, changing a despised design into something I loved. I know it’s not the best; it will never be on display in a museum. But that was never its purpose.

So in conclusion, my advice to you, dear reader, is to not let fear hold you back. Pray. Ask the Lord to guide you, remove all needless fear from your heart. His perfect plan will win every time. Even if you overcome your fear, and it still doesn’t workout, have confidence in knowing that the Lord has something better in store–and that you didn’t give into anxiety.

And to anyone who wishes to start Bible journaling but isn’t sure where to start–or if they could even afford to. You don’t need a lot of supplies. Just a pencil and a Bible will do. If you want to buy a new pack of colored pencils, I highly recommend Crayola Twistables. The colors are gorgeous, they’re relatively cheap, and I’ve used them on a daily basis with no signs of needed replacement soon. Frankly, you don’t even need a journaling Bible to start either. Even on the highlighted pages of my ESV Study Bible, Bible journaling shines through.

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But if you do want to purchase a special journaling Bible, I strongly recommend that a lot of research and prayer go into it. There are so many to choose from–even just among the realm of Inspire Bibles and similarly pre-illstruated ones. Even if you’re the exact opposite of me and have been blessed with the gift of art, I would suggest looking into creative journaling Bibles. There is a certain beauty to them that anyone can appreciate.

If you already Bible journal, I’d love to have a discussion in the comments, and if you want to start but still have questions, I’d love to try to answer those as well. 😊