Beth Ann, a mother and a Web developer, and Grace, a recent college graduate working at a non-profit, share a passion for Bible journaling. Though their lives differ in many ways, they will each lead a group of women in their respective churches who want to begin Bible journaling.
Bible journaling has been around since ancient times. Scribes used art forms such as calligraphy, stenciling, sketching, and gold leaf to show value and preserve the Bible text in a mostly illiterate world. The British Library houses ancient illuminated manuscripts from before the year 800. Perhaps you’ve seen these beautiful illuminated Bibles at a museum or images of them in your historical reading.
We asked Beth Ann and Grace to share their Bible journaling experiences with us.
Tell a little about yourself: What is your church experience? Where did you grow up? When did you begin spending time in a relationship with Christ?
Beth Ann: I am a preacher’s daughter, so I grew up in the church and was there at every service (usually hearing the sermon at least twice when my Dad served two churches!) and whenever the church was open during the week. I can remember starting to read the Bible from Genesis to Revelation when I was in elementary school. So, my relationship with Christ and the church has been a thread throughout my life into adulthood. Christ is a constant in my life.
Grace: I grew up overseas in Bangkok, Thailand. I have been a Christian since I was 6 and was taught that spending personal time in a relationship with God was important and necessary if we want to learn more about the character of Christ. As much as I knew this to be true, I had a hard time sticking to a regular quiet time when I was younger. Like many other Christians, I had times when I would be consistent with my time in the Word and other times when I just got busy and pushed it to the side. It wasn’t really until college that I gained a routine and an appreciation for that time with the Lord.
How did you get started with Bible journaling?
Grace: I have always been a visual learner. Reading alone has never had much of an impact on me.
I struggled with dyslexia through most of my childhood and rarely found the same connection to written language that most people seemed to have.
I understood from an early age that I had to use visual images along with my imagination to help me put meaning to written words. I am convinced that this was a huge reason why my quiet time never really clicked with me until I started college. When I started college, I began thinking about the difference between the time I put into my school studies and the time that I put into my Bible studies. It seemed clear to me that time with the Lord should have the same kind of dedication as my time in school. I figured one way that I learned was by taking notes and using diagrams, so I started using a notebook to take notes and sketch as I read my Bible. Even that small difference started to help me understand what I was reading and helped me stay focused on topics. I learned to write down questions and tried to take notes, draw time lines, and diagram as I would do in school. Learning to pair images with God’s Word totally changed how I viewed my time with the Lord. It helped me turn passive reading into active learning and meditation. From those early notes and sketches, it was a slow transition into using my actual Bible for notes and art.
My first journaling Bible: One of my really close friends came to stay with me about four years ago. I saw she had this awesome Bible that had a column for notes. At the time, journaling Bibles were not as popular as they are today. That next day I searched online and finally found the same one she had. When I finally got my new Bible, I was really overwhelmed with the clean, white pages. It was so easy to draw in a notebook, but much harder to start creating on those fresh pages. I knew I wanted that Bible to be an illustration of what God was teaching me over the years, but I was nervous that I would mess up or that my art would be ugly or childish. While praying one day, I felt God reminding me that it didn’t matter how my art appeared. God only cared about what I was learning while meditating in His Word. This was such a freeing realization for me. It still took some time to be totally confident painting and drawing, but I knew God didn’t care about the product—He cared about the process. One time when I was painting in Acts, it struck me that the Lord had truly helped me get to the point where I felt there was no way that I could mess up what I was working on. I had never really felt like that before! I’m usually stressed that things will turn out badly or my paintings won’t be perfect, but at that moment, I felt confident that God would meet me wherever I was. I could do whatever I needed to and God would honor that work as long as I was using that time to glorify Him.
Beth Ann: I love being creative. I loved learning about the Bible in Vacation Bible School and Sunday School growing up. I am a crafter—scrapbooking is my favorite craft. I discovered Bible journaling from some fellow scrapbookers at a weekend session last year. Scrapbooking allows me to put together photos and their stories in a creative way. Bible journaling seemed to be another way to help me connect the stories in the Bible with my life by using my creativity to connect in a deeper way to the stories.
I had begun a new spiritual discipline of reading daily Scriptures, and Bible journaling was an exciting way to interact with the verses and express my creativity and my faith.
So often, I am busy with all that is going on in my life as a working mom that I don’t always stop to focus on how God is talking to me. Now that I’ve added in this creative step with reading the Bible, it makes me stop and slow down to listen and really hear the Word of God. The act of finding a way to draw and color the Bible verse right there on the page focuses my busy brain into the deeper meaning that God is trying to communicate to me. It can be a powerful experience in growing your faith and listening to God’s Word.
Tell about a time when you felt especially drawn to spending more time with God through reading Scripture and journaling.
Beth Ann: I have always felt deeply with the suffering that I see in the world. With the recent highly political environment and all the people who are hungry and hurting in the world, it was hard for me to not be distraught. I decided to start back with a daily spiritual discipline of reading the Scriptures to help find peace in God’s Word for our current world.
I wanted a way to connect the spiritual discipline of gratitude journaling—where you intentionally find several things to write down that you are thankful for—with my Scripture reading.
The idea of Bible journaling connected these two spiritual disciplines for me, so I decided to start it. I’m a beginner in this process, but it does give me joy to connect my creative side with my spiritual reflections.
Grace: Not long after I started Bible journaling, my life really got flipped upside down. Most of my life, I felt that God was leading me to go to nursing school. I was confident in the decision and was so thankful that God had led me to a path with great job security. I’m not one who lives easily in the unknown, so this worked perfectly. I started nursing school with a 4.0 and a scholarship and began devoting all my time to studying. I really enjoyed most of my clinicals and loved the hands-on work in my practical classes.
Two semesters away from graduating, I started struggling in one of the “weed-out” classes. I prayed and continued to work hard on my classes, although my efforts were not getting me where I wanted. It would be awesome to be able to say that God brought me through that time and allowed my efforts to result in my becoming a nurse, but they didn’t. I didn’t pass the class by one point and was not able to continue as a nursing student. I felt like my future plan was gone and the money that my parents invested into my school was wasted. I had all of these people praying that I would pass, I had given it everything I had, and yet it still wasn’t the result I wanted.
Logically, I knew that God could have worked out a way for me to get one point to continue if that was the plan He had for me, but it was a hard reality to accept. I didn’t know what to do at this point. School would be out soon for Christmas and I had no idea what degree I would even look into next. At this point I basically just wanted to get a bachelor’s degree in anything that wouldn’t cost me much more money or time. Within a week I had signed up for a Public Health program. I really loved the classes that I was taking, but I had absolutely no idea what the next steps were.
For someone who loves a plan as much as I do, this has been really hard. This is when I started Bible journaling more regularly. I started branching out in my art mediums and really started trying to create on a regular basis. During the time after changing majors, God started teaching me not to waste the waiting time. I still don’t know exactly what kind of a future God has for me, but I want to make sure I am learning about His character while He continues to show me.
When I use Bible journaling, it allows me to slow down and think about what is happening in the Word.
It forces me to reflect on the text enough to attach a visual representation to it. Many of the illustrations in my Bible that have held the most personal meaning were dated during this time when I felt at a total loss of clarity. Although I don’t have everything in my life in order yet, I have begun to see in the years following my nursing school trials how God used that time for me to rely on Him and not on the comfort in my person plan.
What would you say to women who may have a hard time getting stared with Bible journaling?
Beth Ann: Don’t be afraid! You won’t mess up your Bible with this creative way to interact with the Scriptures. You also don’t need to go out and buy supplies. You probably have crayons and colored pencils in your child’s art box. Get those out and play! You can start with something as simple as putting a square around the verse that you want to focus on and then coloring around that square to highlight it on the page. There is no right or wrong way to do this. Let the verses speak to your heart and your creativity express what you are feeling. As you get more experienced there are stencils and stamps that you can add to your toolbox to be even more creative. It is a beautiful and creative way to really connect with God’s Word.
Grace: By far the hardest thing for me was making my first mark in my journaling Bible. I would suggest that the very first thing you should do is turn to the back or front page of your Bible and start there. Start by writing (in your Bible) a list of what you want this Bible to be used for. Some of the things I wrote include meditating on the Word, learning more about His character, learning new skills, using gifts that He has given me to glorify Him, etc. Your list obviously will look different. Then under that list, write a list of what you DON’T want this Bible to be used for. For example, I don’t want my Bible to become a source of pride, an art display book, a place where I feared creativity, a place where I worried about creating a perfect piece, etc. After you finish, get some colored pencils or paint and just add some color to that page. By making that first list, it helped get me into the right mindset for the future of my Bible and helped me make my first marks on the clean, new pages.
What else might be helpful to someone wanting to begin Bible journaling?
Grace: So many people limit themselves because they don’t feel creative. From the beginning (Gen. 1:27) God said that we were created in His image. Without a doubt we know He is a creative God! I firmly believe that God gave everyone the ability to create. Although that doesn’t look the same for everyone, He can teach us about His character through it. There are so many ideas out there about different ways we can use our gifts to glorify Him. I encourage you to think about using things you like to do in your Bible study. Most likely you can use what you enjoy and incorporate it into learning about His Word. I have always loved art, so it was an easy transition to using it to reflect on His Word. Because it was something I enjoyed, it helped me develop a greater love for my quiet time with the Lord.
Beth Ann: I enjoy sharing my Bible journaling with friends, so I will snap a picture while I’m working on a page and post it online. I also have my Bible with me to journal and read while I’m at my son’s soccer games or waiting to pick him up from school events. I am also working on a class to teach other church members about Bible journaling. You can start a small group where you get together to craft with each other and share ideas, supplies, and your faith.Pinterest is a great way to find ideas for your Bible journaling. You can follow my board where I’ve pinned some that spoke to me: https://www.pinterest.com/rmrjmrgrl/bible-journaling/.