I’m pretty blatant about dropping hints for the things I really want when it’s gift-giving time. Christmas, birthday, anniversary, etc… I lose all my subtlety and just start texting Ethan pictures and links of the things I’m eyeing and say “PLEASE GET THIS FOR ME”. I did it when I wanted a dog (shamelessly) and I for sure did it this past Christmas. So although I was not exactly “surprised” to receive a journaling Bible on December 25, I was ecstatic!
I made one solid resolution for the year of 2015: to spend time in the Word, digging in with the Lord, every day. I chose the word “dig” as my word for the year as a reminder to get my hands dirty and seek the rich soil of Scripture every single morning. By January 12 I’m pretty sure I’d broken my resolution. But nevertheless, I kept coming back to Scripture with an eager heart and was really growing in my time with Jesus. I was reading through Genesis and John simultaneously and I felt so enamored with the same God who would speak this world into existence, then come walk on it’s messy ground to save the men who had broken that perfect creation. Jesus was there when the flowers and the animals and the oceans were first spoken into creation, then He graciously came to walk alongside us in our sin and bring new life to those same things He saw laid perfect in the beginning. I love the Word of the Lord!
Very quickly I saw that my journaling Bible played a huge role in this time with the Lord – it felt exciting to have space to doodle and write down the promptings He was speaking to my heart. When an image came to mind, there was room to record it so that as I flipped back through those pages in the days and years to come, I would recall to mind the lessons He was speaking to me through His truth.
This image was something I shared on Instagram — and I remember feeling a very anxious feeling of waiting to see how people would respond. Not because I wanted or needed affirmation, but because I was hoping to convey the same sense of joy I felt in leaning into Jesus and experiencing His economy of abundance. I remember so many women sharing gratitude for that reminder and saying that the Lord had spoken to them through those words and that image – much like He had for me. That sense of community that started to form around these lessons and images was so exciting to me. I felt like I was using something secular for a redeemed purpose, and God was being glorified through the conversation that resulted. I loved that!
So it continued. I would illustrate what I was learning – using watercolors that I had never touched before but loved their texture and imperfections – and would sometimes share those words either on this blog or on instagram or twitter… and soon this little community of women in the Word was opened up before my eyes. I started to see all these other ladies illustrating their Bibles too. Whole accounts dedicated to posting truth and speaking the Word of encouragement they’d received that day. This was such an eye-opening and beautiful experience! What if we redeemed these secular social media platforms for the Lord? What if we filled these accounts with pictures of truth and illustrations of God’s inspiring Word?! What could be better?
So I kept illustrating, creating, posting, sharing… Really wanting to communicate the lessons Jesus was speaking to my heart. I made some connections and friends through those posts and those outlets, and some that even today have grown into actual friendships. I love the fruit of that outlet!
But what happens when time gets away from you, and you haven’t had a good time in the Word for a few days, and you feel like you don’t have anything to bring to the table? Do you go running back into the Word for encouragement and time with Jesus – to experience His presence and feel His nearness? Or do you go running back to your watercolors in order to have something to share? Do you go pick up the Holy Word of the Lord and beg for some bit of inspiration so you don’t feel left out or like you’ve fallen short of the ‘responsibility’ you have to share? See, that’s the trickiness of combining your sacred and intimate quiet time with your social, public and not-so-quiet time on social media. If you aren’t careful, those worlds can collide and bring a confusion of intentions to the atmosphere that’s intended for you and your Father.
When I start to look to the left and the right and fail to keep my gaze locked on Jesus, then my “quiet time” can be so quickly blurred into “prep time” for something to post – something to share – something to be noticed. And doesn’t Scripture so clearly tell us to go, hide away in your closet, and pray to the Lord in private? Was I wrong for ever sharing? But then Scripture also tells us to fill our homes and walls and bind Scripture on our foreheads – to speak of it wherever we go and with whoever we spend our time. So maybe that community was good indeed!
And that’s where I’ve learned a few lessons along the way about Bible journaling. Things the Lord has convicted me of and challenged me in areas to refocus my attention and put my gaze back on Him. Maybe they can encourage you too if you ever find yourself in this trap.
1. Don’t trade the beauty of the Word with the beauty of your invention.
What I mean is, while there are so many benefits to Bible journaling, it can be easy to lose focus of the real Word that actually matters. My words are just fluff half the time. Sure, God speaks to me and gives me encouragement to share, but His Word, Scripture, is a living and active double-edged sword that can heal, speak life, redeem… My words are not those things at the end of the day if they are not from the Holy Spirit. I never want to confuse a beautiful image or a thoughtful caption with the real beauty of His life-giving truth. Sometimes the simple act of painting over His Word to where you can’t even read the Scripture any more – that little act can almost reveal the hidden attitude of our heart without us even noticing. Are we enamored by our own words and our own creation more than we are caught up in the power of His truth? May the words of my heart and meditation always be pleasing to you, Father, and not selfish or focused on the wrong thing.
2. Look to the Lord for your creative inspiration – not those around you.
The community of women who are creating for Jesus is abundant! There are so many inspiring accounts out there that daily point me back to truth. But as soon as you start to look to them for inspiration INSTEAD of Jesus – that’s when you find yourself in the comparison game, losing joy and working for the wrong reasons. There are these beautiful accounts of women who have immaculately painted Bibles, better lettering, better technique, better success… and praise the Lord for the work they are putting out there! But my time with Jesus is not defined by their process and abundance of praise. I hope and pray that their hearts and pure and their blessing is well earned, and praise the Lord that His Word is being made known to others. I hope that continues and that others receive blessing as a result. But that cannot be the goal of my life, and it cannot be the reason I create. If I’m working to please man, I am a slave to man! But if I make it my goal to do everything for the Lord, to work with my hands for the Lord, to find inspiration and creativity in My Father the Ultimate Creator — is He not better praised and glorified through that? If I sit and wish I could paint like so and so or letter like her, then my gaze is not on the cross and the beauty of Scripture – it’s on the created and not the Creator. Don’t fall into this pit! That’s the enemy winning at a game he’s allured us into – one where joy and confidence and abundance do not reside. That’s not a game I want to be a player in, I want to win with Christ and march forward in the confidence He’s poured into me from the moment I was created in the womb. He knit me together after all, so even my making was a creative endeavor!
3. Learn to use any possible platform for His glory, not to puff yourself up.
This one is so hard! Aren’t we constantly away of our followers, our likes, our positive feedback? Some of that can be an encouragement – words of kindness and affirmation help us to feel we are on the right path. But the moment your heart feels the need to post something in order to please man and not Jesus, it’s all about you and not about Him. Your words may speak of His praise, but does your heart really care if He receives glory more than yourself? That has been a constant heart check for me. Am I posting this because I want people to speak kind words to me, or because I can’t help but share the goodness of the God I serve? At the end of the day, those motives are not always known to man, but our Father sees the heart and sifts through the authentic and the ego. I want to please Him in every endeavor!
4. Use your time in the Word to help document and remember what He is speaking to your heart.
This week I’ve been so blessed through Periscope – particularly, through women who are speaking about the Lord on that platform (like Gretchen from Life Lived Beautifully and Jess from Naptime Diaries). God has used some of their words to speak direct encouragement to my heart. His truth is abundant in their lives and their lips are an overflow of His truth — so I’ve been intentionally trying to document what I’m learning so I don’t forget that season of growth! I want to live in the confidence He’s provided – and man’s words do not come above Scripture. However I’m a firm believer that the Holy Spirit uses people to speak to us, and that was evidenced this week! I have been reminded that sometimes it’s okay to incorporate other life-giving elements into my time with the Lord. I may turn on Page CXVI Hymns on Spotify, or listen to a Periscope about Scripture, or read a blog about truth from the Lord — and those things can stir our affections toward Him.
The challenge here is just to remember His Word above mans. Man’s word can be helpful and challenging and good, but Scripture should always have first priority in our hearts.
5. Just start somewhere!
Don’t be afraid of not knowing what to do or how to do it – just ask the Lord for inspiration, and dive on into the Word! Any time with the Lord is never wasted. Those moments in His truth will speak to your heart for days to come, and I pray that you will be immensely blessed by time with your Father!