Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Is Bible Journaling Good For Bible Study? Three Cautions to Consider

Hi there Gracefilled Lillies,

I recently came upon this article and wanted to share my thoughts with you: Please read the article first so you can understand what I am responding to:

Is Bible Journaling Good For Bible Study? Three Cautions to Consider

Here are some examples of my natural process when expressing my faith and worship:
Journaling in a notebook what I learned from the Word and responding to it
creatively and adding my prayers. 

Another notebook journal entry

My very simple Bible...not a journal Bible, but well used. 

Notebook journaling

Using one of my digital stamps in a notebook journal entry

Journaling in a notebook

Adding stencils to my normal Bible...didn't really give me any satisfaction.
It is just not a habit I want to pursue any longer. 

Tip-in added to my normal Bible. 

Bible journal close-up of entry

Notebook entry

Notebook entry
I hope you can see that I was able to be very creative in my journals and express my faith, my worship and prayers all in one place...much more than in my Bible. Not because it's not a journal Bible and has space, but more because I just didn't feel that it was a process I wanted to continue within a Bible. There are alternatives that may offer more peace, more depth of processing and learning as well as satisfaction. If it is just about the art for you, then there are many many alternatives for artists as used by many. Why not utilize the place created for it: an art journal or canvas. 

My story:

I have been a born-again Christian passionately following Jesus Christs since the age of 15. I love God's Word. I love digging deep into it. I love sitting for hours on end allowing the Holy Spirit to plant the Word in my heart. I love teaching and sharing it with others. 

I am also very much an artist and designer. I love expressing myself creatively. Always have. 

The last couple of years Bible Journaling as marketed by Creative Industries, companies, and individuals, have spilled over to South Africa and the local Creative Christian woman community.

Despite this, God has had me on a journey of my own over nearly two decades and one of the things He instructed me to do was to "publish". I believe whether it is writing a devotional study, creating content that encourages women to create, writing my story and sharing my lessons learned, I am being obedient to that instruction to "publish". 

One of the things I knew God wanted me to write about, was my Dreambook process of Praying and waiting on Him to answer. How I use the process in my spiritual journey, is unique to me and I felt lead to share it with others. I also had some fear God needed to deal with in me. Fear that if I stepped out and shared my journey, it wouldn't mean much to anyone or it would be flat out rejected like so many other experiences I had. As a sensitive person, I didn't want to face more of that, so I held back.  In the meantime, I ventured out with Ivytree Studio together with my sister as a creative partner. We stepped into 'industry' and commercialized our work for the benefit of creative woman and creative women in business. 

In 2017 at long last I had the courage and stepped out in faith writing the first little book about the Dreambook process and I created a workshop around it. 

The first workshop went so well. It made me feel like this was the open door I have been praying for over a decade. Suddenly I had inquiries and an invitation to travel and do another workshop. Exciting stuff. I quickly realized that what people wanted was the product and techniques they saw hyped up online by the "Illustrated Faith movement" and not the story...my story....and not me.  When I asked for feedback, an elderly lady who attended the second workshop even said, it's great but she could have done with less of my personal story. I really felt that it was the wrong crowd and the wrong place...a scrapbook corner in a local shop. Perhaps that was my mistake. 

Then Bible Journaling as promoted by Illustrated Faith really took off locally. Anyone who was anyone in the creative community now wanted to do Bible Journaling. You see, locally our country's statistics show that nearly 80% of our population is Christian and most people believe it is enough to grow up in a Christian family or go to church and own a Bible to call yourself a Christian. I was part of that statistic until the age of 15 when I was confronted with Jesus and He invited me to have a relationship with Him and not just be a religious person. 

What I feel happened here was a lot of creative women really loving the colorful new products that they could actually relate to also in their Faith life. That's great. But as the industry pushes sales via products and techniques, I felt God was (because of my own creative business) giving me the inside view on things. The same shops, the same people, the same types of products and techniques were now focussed on targeting the Faith community and God's Word. It is, after all, a large segment of the market and thus a very lucrative business. Everybody in the creative community, well most everybody is now suddenly focussed on putting products out that can be used in Bible and Faith journaling. And because of my own experience with the industry, local industry, my heart was sinking in my shoes. My spirit responded with uneasiness. Peace is a sign God is present and approving. No peace...not so much. 

I also felt that at Ivytree Studio we have always shined our light for Jesus in everything we do. All our products are free from occult images and content like mandalas (yes horribly occult!!), Halloween, fairies, dreamcatchers (also occult and I see ladies add it to their Bibles...jikes!)  Because of our journey with Jesus, both me and Surita, have a witness in what we create. We started out years ago doing prophetic art and developed content for companies with a kingdom perspective on it. God has walked a long road with us to get to this place of freedom where we created what we like and feel He leads us towards. Recently we have been moving more boldly into developing content specifically for Faithgirls. My passion is to guide women towards living a holy worship...to think about what they are using to worship a High and Holy God. Is Spongebob SquarePants really the right content for that? 

Think about why the journaling in your Bible is such a fun way of learning? Isn't that where we all started out in Sunday School or at school learning about Jesus and the Bible? Colouring in those pretty Bible Story pictures and using art products got kids on board easily. It's fun. Isn't that what forms the basis of why girls are now feeling like they are connecting again with their inner child, having fun and when we have fun, we learn better. It happens without effort. Many ladies comment on how it has brought them closer to Jesus. Wow! Great! I love that this is possible, but it is not the only consideration. 

I thought it a great idea to add Gracelilly faith based elements to our collections. I love it. I love using it myself. Suddenly when we added these Gracelilly elements to our products, our sales started dropping. It made no sense. When I stepped out to create Gracelilly printable kits and wrote devotionals, things did change for us and I am so happy we changed direction. Even those diligently promoting Bible Journaling and related products wanted our paper elements, but they didn't want us, or our workshops or use our devotionals. Strange, right.  When I stepped out to actually step into my calling as a teacher, as a writer (remember God instructed me to "publish"), I felt the rejection like never before. So the enemy was pushing back...and it was actually my sign that we were on the right track. And God brought me to a place where He shared the story of the Sower and the seeds with me again. A familiar passage, but suddenly it had new meaning. He said that the problem wasn't with the seed I was sewing...the problem was the ground I was sewing it into. I had to take a hard look at all the places I was sowing my seeds. 

He lead me to close some doors...difficult to do, but eventually, I got it right and closed it. No more retailers. No more shops. I felt cut off and without community but I realized that I never had real community with them anyway as they were always just interested in the product and the profit they could make from it and never even once interested in me or Surita, to make friends with us, love and support us. Not once in one instance did I feel that and that was my sign...the wrong ground. 

Then God did wonderful things for us. Things we would never have been able to hustle up ourselves. We connected with the Editor of the Lèèf Magazine about getting some old magazines I could use for the Dreambook Workshops and Christine connected back with us. I ended up doing TWO radio interviews with her and she published two articles about us in the online version and recently in the physical printed version of the magazine. I was really blown away. I have always dreamed about featuring in my favorite magazine and God accomplished it without me trying to end up there myself. It just happened...naturally. I would much rather be part of a Faithgirl community of women who follow hard after God and whose intentions and habits are grounded in Jesus Christ and His Word. Women who love to honor their King with what they do. 

I don't want to be part of creative industry who push products on us so we can 'cover' God's Word until nothing much shows and our time with Him is limited because we are spending the majority of it on art process and decorating. The same marketing, the same techniques, the same results....but now in the Word...focussed on the Word.  We end up buying more than we can use or need for that matter...hoarding stuff again just so we feel we can keep up with our friends. We lose sight of what is really important. And that is not what God wants for any of us. That is why I have to write about my story, my personal journey, my doubts, my fears, and outcomes. If I want to lead and guide woman towards Jesus, this is my responsibility. God honors honesty. God honors transparency. 

I was recently invited to a local event and I would really have loved to attend. I had to take a hard look at where I was and I realized God had me writing an online experience for Creative Christian women. Something that would take up most of my time and efforts, would re-direct Ivytree Studio totally and could change lives. I had to decide what was more important. Obedience to God and waiting on Him to write this Retreat with me...so a LOT of time with Jesus or to go and teach at a Christian camp for Christian women and get my name in "lights" with all the other teachers attending. God challenged me with the words the organizer used when she invited me: "Let me know if you can think of other teachers I could invite. I would like all the BIG names in Bible Journaling in South Africa to be there". I stopped me in my tracks and I heard Jesus say: "This is also not for you". I felt sad. I needed community. I really wanted to be part of the picture. And I realized that it had nothing to do with the organizer or her invitation. It was kind of her to think of me. I think she is really sincere. I just knew that the hype that was built up around Bible Journaling had trickled into the Body of Christ and Christians were affected in their thinking and speech.  Big names?? And I heard Jesus ask me: Who is the Biggest Name in Bible journaling? Who is supposed to be the Big Name?  That is how the industry has come to change how we think. My heart was answering: You, Jesus...you are the Big Name. And I knew He was asking me to sit this one out. 

I have a song I really love by Francesca Battistelli called "He knows my name": "I don't need my name in lights, because He already knows my name....it is all His stage." And these lyrics ring true:

"Spent today in a conversation
In the mirror face to face with
Somebody less than perfect
I wouldn't choose me first if
I was looking for a champion
In fact, I'd understand if
You picked everyone before me
But that's just not my story
True to who You are
You saw my heart
And made
Something out of nothing"

 When listening to this song, it reminds me of who I am in Him. It also encourages me to step out in faith and tell my story, because my story matters to Him. I have always known that is my ministry...through sharing my very real experiences, He can use me to touch lives. So, I won't keep quiet and like Francesca says in her song, I am meant to be a lion, fearcly moving forward in what Jesus calls me to do. 

And that's why I declined and didn't grab the first opportunity to be part of the local Bible journaling teaching community...meet up with the girls in person...get to know them...as my heart so longs to do. I felt Jesus saying: "I have a better way for you. Follow me." It doesn't mean that there is anything wrong with the invitation, organizer or other teachers she invited. One of them I call my friend and most of them I know and have talked with on Social Media. It's not about them. It is about what Jesus is saying to me. What I encourage is obedience to that Voice. 

Becoming a Bible Journaling teacher is easy. You just need a love of the Word and be a little creative and your in. Have some access to products and a local scrapbook shop or your church group and you have a ministry going. Start a channel on YouTube like I have done, blog or Instagram and Facebook. Things will start to happen. And believe me, it is not supposed to be just for some to teach the Word. I believe we only need the Holy Spirit to teach and guide us, but then we DO need to have Him live inside of us otherwise we are going to open doors in our own lives that should have stayed shut. God's Word teaches us that to be a teacher of the Word, means also that we are held to a higher standard. If we lead people astray, God will deal with us. So, you see, it is not just about you, or what you enjoy to do and share with others. It is about the message, the habits the encouragement, the Word of God you spread. God says He will not let His Word return empty. It has the power to change lives, but if we water it down, if we cover it up, if we distract from it by the pretty things we love, then those actions will take us all somewhere. We need to be mindful and think this through. Can you do a Bible Journaling class with just a Bible, a pen and a notebook? What would you teach then? Would girls attend your class and pay for just that? Probably not. I need to ask the hard questions: Are we in it for the fame, the accolades, the fans, the money we perhaps can make, the fun of it, the process, the products, the techniques, the acceptance, the social interaction? God says we cannot serve two masters. We need to really take a good look at what we are doing and how we are doing it. I know I had to...still do each time I step out to do something. Is it for me or is it for God? 

So, I posted the article I found on ReasonableTheology.com over the weekend in the Gracelilly Faith art community group on Facebook. I wanted to share the article for the benefit of those who, like me perhaps, are struggling with what industry pushes on them or how your personal time with the Lord has changed due to this.  

I wanted to see what all the fuss was about so I have been testing the process and here is what I have found: 

I used an old NIV that my Dad received from an old age home...pages were ripped and missing. I decorated it, added tabs and started using it as a "Journal Bible". Don't get me wrong, I treasure it as much as any of my other Bibles. I gave it a new life and purpose again. That makes me feel good. But it doesn't offer much in terms of space to journal or respond creatively. It ends up putting you in a predicament after adding tip-in pages upon ti-in pages to art and scribble notes on, that you end up doing exactly what the Word teaches us not to do...covering the text.  It is inevitable and you will probably end up there. Because you can only add so much to a Bible before the spine splits, you need to think about what you are doing and where it is taking you. You are adding to the Word and you are taking from it when you add the product to the extent that you cannot read the text any longer and abandoned that Bible for another and yet another.  I even considered buying a journal Bible at one point. But something stopped me...or rather Someone.  The only type of Bible I would, however, consider buying is the large Illustrated Faith Bible with the big margins, but I would have to save up for many years before being able to afford it. It's just not gonna happen. It doesn't make financial sense. So, back to square one. I can't do what I see other girls are doing. So is that really a problem then? And for a while, it bugged me until God gave me my peace back. I have always journaled about the Word. I have always been engaging with it in my own creative way. I am a journaler. See, He took me back to who He made me to be...who I was already and that settled me right down. I need to enjoy my time with Him even if it doesn't look designer or like anything other girls are doing or promoting. 

Then I also realized that it was putting so much pressure on me to be creative each time I entered the Word, that I was spending less and less time just studying. The prep of getting everything together...from paints, craft mats, all the tools and and and...it drove me nuts. So, I am back at just my Life Application Bible, a  notebook and a pen and a couple of colour pencils to highlight...and I am connecting with Jesus like I use to. Just me and Him and His Word. That is important to note...back in the Word...learning, reading, talking to God and Him talking to me through His Word. Why should it be any more complicated? 

Then there is the need for community we all have and it is encouraged by the Word to not neglect that. We are also encouraged to disciple others and lead them to the Lord. My husband has been encouraging me lately to just live out my ministry and leave the "doing business" behind because he can see how industry has affected me and how I blossom when I am busy with the things of Jesus and His Word. I am a much nicer person when I just live out my calling. But like Paul and many of the apostles, I would love to pay my own way and I feel God gave me a Word about eating from the fruit of my hands. He will bless it and He has never let me down. 

I would like to share with you my comments on the post I shared on our Facebook group in response to the article on ReasonableTheology.com 

What is important to note is that it is more about your personal journey with Jesus and what He speaks to you. Sharing my own thoughts here is not about judging my fellow Bible Journaling community or teachers for that matter. We are each called to a ministry that is unique to each of us. 

What I am trying to encourage teachers with, is:

1. to be careful of worldly industries and not to lose focus and be lead astray by the importance you place on products and techniques. 
2. Also to be careful with what you teach others to do in and with the Holy Word of God. It is not the book that I am referring to, but we should always be careful when we step out to teach God's Word. Make sure you have His seal of approval on what you are doing and where you are doing it and with whom. 
3. Make sure He calls you to do that specific thing the way you are doing it. 
4. Make sure your motives in doing it is pure and that it is not about getting your name in lights, but putting the Big Big Name of Jesus up there. If He is satisfied with you, He will bring you to the stage to sing His praises. Don't work to put yourself up there. Don't do it for the accolades and the congratulations and the "Oh it's wonderful or beautiful" or "you are the expert" or "you are the best".  Jesus deserves ALL our praise ALL OF THE TIME. What we are, is all from Him and because of Him. Without Him, we are nothing and what we do, is nothing...really...it means nothing in comparison. 
5. Never let the words of people determine your worth...no matter if it feels good to hear or not. It will mislead you every time and if you find yourself on a stage in the lights and Jesus is in the shadows behind you, then you can know you are in the wrong place. But if He puts you there and you shine His Wonderful Name in the lights for all to see, then you are exactly where He wants for you to be. Let Him lead you there on His own time. 

So here is my Facebook comments to the post on "Is Bible Journaling good for Bible Study?":
The peace that God gives, is important. My habits over the years to study the Word and write down what I learned, adding my prayers to it, shouldn't change now because industry pushes a new 'way' on us. I feel that it is important to be able to access and read the Word. Journaling artistically is a natural thing for me too but doing it in a Bible or on top of the text that I want and need to read, isn't. I love notebooks and journals…always have and that will never change so my habits of working and growing spiritually in my notebooks have grown so much over time. It gives me so much satisfaction to fill my journals. I just don't feel like I would pay R600 to R2200 plus for a journal Bible just to have my creative expressions and notes next to the Word…even though it might be practical to have it all in one place.

Some feel it is OK to cover the text, but because I know what the Word says about this, I feel that we should honor the Word and how we engage with it, with our habits too. I don't have peace about covering Bible text with paint...I just don't. The action of 'covering' what God wants us to see, read and become part of us, the habit of doing that, can end up becoming a spiritual habit more than an artistic choice. That is what I am worried about and what comes out in the article. God says the Holy Spirit will be a Voice that directs us and if we go down a path He didn't intend for us to go, we will hear that Voice that tells us to turn back and get back on track. I feel that is how He is leading me. That is why I feel like I want to offer women an alternative. So, just on the issue of covering the actual text, I am convinced by the Word and the soft Voice and prompting of the Holy Spirit, not to do it.

I talked it over with my family too and another Bible Journaler recently and I feel that this is the major issue for me...the covering of the text and the pressure of now feeling required to art each time I spend time in the Word. If Bible journaling comes between you and God or quietly moves you further from that connection with Him, I recommend you don't do it. BUT if it brings you into a deeper connection with Jesus, please continue. It comes down to what God works in your life and if you respond and HOW you respond in return. 

This is an important conversation to have as we are called not to follow the wisdom or leading and influence of this world blindly. It is harder to refrain from doing something you believe God is calling you not to participate in than to follow popular culture and what everybody seems to be doing without a problem. It is also not about judging what anybody else is doing. We are called to be fruit inspectors, not judges. It is therefore about what you yourself decide to do...it is between you and God and I will always encourage woman to listen to God's Voice above what people say. That includes me. 

For me as an artist expressing my deepest feelings or what I have learned, will be creative in some way. I want access to the full text of God's Word and I also would like to have it all in one place so I can track what God teaches me. I believe in dating my reading and journaling. I believe in physically responding to the Word. I am also a teacher so being tactile in the learning process is beneficial.

So how can we apply these things to the way we do 'Bible journaling'?
1. Honour God and His Word by how you do it and this would be through the habits you form.
2. Don't let pop culture change the way you have always grown spiritually
3. Let your worship be sincere and motivated by the right reasons.
4. Don't get distracted by the products or techniques or industry when Jesus should be your focus. If you have allowed the artistic side of it sidetrack you from putting Jesus first, then be determined to get back on track. Be intentional about your habits.
5. A final comment would be that if you feel pressured into things or feel like what you are doing is lacking in some way because of what you see online or experience in classes, just remember that God doesn't accuse or makes you feel less than. He disciplines in love and guides us gently. The fear of missing out or keeping up with friends to feel included or part of the picture or accepted...the dynamic of group pressure is still very much a factor to consider even for grown-ups.

If God is convicting you to speak out about something, be obedient. He will reward you even though people may not. I pray that we all act from a place of conviction, love for Jesus and His Word and a desire to connect with Him, the Word and then finally sharing our experiences and stories with each other bravely without fear.

Visit Ivytree Studio to see more of what we are up to www.ivytreestudio.co.za
Buy some of our pretty paper here
Connect with the team on our Facebook page here.
Share your Ivytree Studio layouts with us here
Join the #GracelillyFaithArtClub here. 
Join our #CreativeGirlPrint&PlayClub here
Watch our Youtube channel here.

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Need a creative boost?

Hi there Gracefilled Lillies,
A very exciting thing is starting to happen over at our website. For the last couple of years, I have been dreaming of an online classroom where I could encourage fellow artists and creatives and share our passion for the arts and all things creative. I use to stand in a physical classroom and I have been missing it. God has made it possible and has given us a fresh new vision. Our very first Online Creative Retreat is about to start and you don't want to miss it.
You can already purchase your Retreat over in the store here and until the 15th of May, you will be able to purchase the experience at an EARLYBIRD discount. Even the full price is a bargain when you realize what goes into this Retreat and what you can get from it.
God is writing this Retreat and He is guiding both me and all participants step by step through it. I am excited to see what He does with it and I have committed my heart and efforts to give it my very best.
The first participants have received their first email and an invitation to log into the website to view the Retreat Home page.
During the next couple of days, participants will be able to access sections from the Reception Center. Officially the doors will open to the weekly content on the 15th of May, so there is still enough time for you to come and join us.
The full Retreat is hosted on the website, but there is also a private Facebook Community group where you will be able to engage with me and fellow Retreat-goers.
And for all the Faith Girls out there, we have a special Retreat area just for you with content created to inspire and encourage you as a Christian Artist wanting to grow your art and creativity through connection with the Lord and His Word. We call it our Faith Girl Fountain. If what you have read about this Retreat so far has not yet convinced you, just remember that there is also a BRAND NEW COLLECTION named after the Retreat...a little something NEW to play with.
From website content, video sessions with a formally trained Educator (that's me), a workbook and journal pages and decorative kit to the Facebook group with projects and content to guide and encourage you PLUS the most important part, connection with your Saviour, Jesus Christ, and your own art, this could make for a really special experience. The fact that you can discover new things, develop your skills and invest in your spirit and art all in the privacy and comfort of your own home while having someone to support you throughout, sound good to me.
Whether you have never really invested in your own creative journey, even started it really or you have been creative for a while but need a boost or new ideas or you just want to connect with fellow Christian Artists, we invite you to come and join us on this "maiden voyage" of our very first online Retreat.

Visit Ivytree Studio to see more of what we are up to www.ivytreestudio.co.za
Buy some of our pretty paper here
Connect with the team on our Facebook page here.
Share your Ivytree Studio layouts with us here
Join the #GracelillyFaithArtClub here. 
Join our #CreativeGirlPrint&PlayClub here
Watch our Youtube channel here.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

April Scripture Writing Challenge

Dear Gracefilled Lillies,

I recently launched a Scripture Writing Challenge for April over in the Facebook community group. Even though it is already the middle of the month,  it is not too late to join in.

I  just loaded the updated challenge pack in the store here as a FREE resource for you to download.

There are about 14 different scriptures to write out. I didn't feel like giving more as I myself have only been able to complete the first set of scriptures this past weekend. So,  it is not necessary that you do one scripture per day. If you wind a little time, you can play catch-up or work ahead. Try at least to finish by the end of April. Let that be your goal.

I also want to show you that Scripture writing is important to plant the Word in your heart.  Writing it out is part of the learning process. Creative journaling can be part of your process as I show you in these photos of my notebook.

I love the Travel size notebooks as I can keep them handy and take them wherever I go. Ticking off the Scriptures from the list also helps you feel accomplished so I added the list to my notebook.

You can apply all your Bible journaling techniques to the Scripture writing process in your notebooks instead of journaling in your Bible. It gives you an alternative if you are not comfortable to journal in your Journal Bible.

Find this FREE item in the store here

Visit Ivytree Studio to see more of what we are up to www.ivytreestudio.co.za
Buy some of our pretty paper here
Connect with the team on our Facebook page here.
Share your Ivytree Studio layouts with us here
Join the #GracelillyFaithArtClub here. 
Join our #CreativeGirlPrint&PlayClub here
Watch our Youtube channel here.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Is compassion still alive today?

Dear Gracefilled Lillies,

Scripture: Joel 2:13

This scripture is about compassion. A recurring theme for me lately. So let's look at the word "Compassion" first and what it means. 

  1. sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others.

    "the victims should be treated with compassion"

    synonyms:pitysympathyfeelingfellow feelingempathyunderstandingcareconcern,
    solicitude, solicitousness, sensitivity, tender-heartedness, soft-heartedness,
    warm-heartedness, warmthlovebrotherly lovetendernessgentlenessmercy, mercifulness, leniencytolerance,
    considerationkindnesshumanity, humaneness, kind-heartedness, charitybenevolence

God normally talks to us through recurring themes and topics over time popping up in our daily quiet times with Him, Scripture, and events that happen in our lives. He can use our circumstances to talk to us and enforce lessons He wants us to learn, repeat or take a test on. 

God is concerned about our character more than our comfort. He will use what happens to us, to speak to our spirits about who He is and what He wants for us to become. 

Last week we encountered a lady who contacted us online. She is going through some similar challenges to our own but much worse actually. The difference is that we have a family to support us through our trials, but she doesn't. That made me think how very blessed we are. We did what we could within our means to encourage her and to be practical with our support. 

In the end, I wasn't sure if she was a person we could really trust to tell the whole story and the truth about her situation. I received some discernment regarding this. What I ministered to her was that she doesn't owe us any explanations or need to prove her story. The road for us in this was clear. We didn't encourage her or offer help to gain anything from it or from her. She didn't need to prove her worth before we showed up for her. We did it because God has shown compassion to us and does so daily. He wants us to show His character in our compassion towards others in the same way...even when it is hard to do or uncomfortable. 

He doesn't ask us to first change or be different or be perfect before He helps us. He helps us because He loves us. He knows that we will change once we realize what He has done for us. 

My hope always when helping someone God sends our way, is that somehow they might meet Jesus in the process and that would be the greater help they actually need. 

In our country we are riddled with conmen and women and the general spirit ruling at the moment is one of corruption and deceit. Dishonor, lies, self-promotion, greed, crime, and corruption has become the legacy of the South African people. It really saddens me as we are also known to be about 80% Christian.  It doesn't make any sense. So trusting people, especially strangers, is hard to do. Opening up to people you just met, trusting them, doesn't come easy. 

What we need is discernment in moments when we are faced with challenging situations and the hurt and destruction we see in other's lives. How does God want me to respond? How does He open up the truth to me? It is important to be aware of the quiet voice of the Holy Spirit within you. 

I know quickly when people don't tell me the full story or tell a lie. How do I know?  I asked God a while ago to give me a physical sign in my body, a response that would help me discern honest from dishonest, sincere from insincere and the truth from a lie. He was faithful and used a painful event to open my eyes to that physical gut feeling. I call it my "pit-of-the-stomach-nauseousness"-feeling. I know God uses it to protect me and make me aware and then He will guide me through my obedience of Him, to do the right thing and show me how to respond. 

What is important to note is that through His Word and His values He teaches you over time, you will know and have the right response at hand. Always act from a place of peace and calm. That is number one. If you feel rushed or pushed into something, stop and rethink it. Nothing done in haste is from God. You can know it is probably not. God is a God of order, so allow Him time to speak to you when you need to make desitions. 

When someone asks for help, no matter how desperate their situation, also ask God for His leading in what to do.  Always be kind and compassionate. Jesus didn't send people away. He met their physical need as well as their spiritual need all at the same time. Follow His example. 

But when you discover that someone is not being honorable in their dealings with you or has a hidden agenda, tread carefully and ask God for wisdom. 

My husband has a great gift of giving. I always remind him that never offer something to someone if you don't have it to give. You cannot offer someone else's resources too. Always give what you know you can give because you actually own it yourself. It is available to you to give away if you want to. Don't make empty promises because then you create an expectation in someone's heart that you may never be able to fulfill. Also, don't give hesitantly. Give freely. Don't give because you think the other person deserves it or not. They may not deserve it. It doesn't mean that God doesn't want you to give it. Be obedient to Him first and foremost. If He says give what you have, then do it. He is your reward. Because hubby's first instinct always is to give, he needs me to remind him to stop and think about it and ask God for His will. It is a wonderful gift to have, but people may abuse it. Once again, we all need wisdom even in giving. 

I saw my husband stop the car and take off his shoes to give to a begging boy who barely had a shirt and a pair of shorts on. We were on our way to the shops and when we came back the same way, he was still standing without shoes, in the middle of the road, begging. See, he probably owns a pair of shoes on the side, but he needs to play the part to get people to give to him. The worse off he looks, the more people will stop to give him money. We just gave him shoes, and yet he wasn't wearing it. So, what was the lesson here? Should we have stopped or not? Was it about what we did or was it about how he would respond? This lesson cost my husband a pair of shoes. I know he now thinks about it and asks God for His leading.  I learned this lesson while on a missions trip to India a couple of years ago. The beggars are actually a community all on their own. You are born into that community and you will probably die in it. Parents (and this broke my heart) will break their baby's bones so they are lame and can play the beggar part more convincingly. I saw this with my own eyes. Young boys limping on the ground, begging for money or food. It is heartbreaking. What I took away from this was that some people don't even realize that what causes bigger poverty in their lives is the fact that they are dishonest, that they use their situation to the fullest and con people into giving. They con people who would probably have given to them anyway. They play the "heartbreak" card and all that does is make us think twice when someone really in need comes our way. How sad. 

It is uncomfortable to be faced with people in real need. It is painful to see and think of, right. Most people quickly give something so they just don't have to deal with that person or situation any further. That is not compassion. That is also not the attitude Jesus wants us to have. He paused His program and busy schedule and even His ministry to get sidetracked by those in need. He gave them His full attention. He loved them. How can we do the same each day?

So, should we give or not is the question? If the world is so corrupt, should we still open our hearts and give? We often get people at our gate and my dad use to have a little ministry going to give them food and the gospel. If he could, he would give a bible, strike up a conversation. But lately, things have become so hairy in our country that you cannot afford to open your gate to strangers. One frequent beggar comes with a real nasty attitude and we suspect he stole our copper doorbell at the gate. He is always insistent that we give him what he wants and not what we have to give. I am adamant not to open our place of safety to just anybody. 

But in the end, I know that Jesus, despite the realities of my life in my own country and the experience we have in this very cruel, very aggressive and unstable loveless world, still wants me to live with compassion. He said that we would always have the poor with us. "Poor" to me, is not just lacking physical things, but also spiritual. I know He came to seek and save the lost. So that should also be my mission and the mission of every believer. 

I know that we are facing a very difficult time in our country with the elections coming up, the aggression and corruption pot spilling over into social media and the news daily, but I know that God wants believers to shine His light of Righteousness wherever we can whenever we can. 

I challenge you to not just journal about compassion but to live it in every situation that comes your way. It is not about people deserving of it. It is about Jesus giving it to us freely, so we can spill it over into others. 


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Friday, March 29, 2019

Seeking God's Face

Hi there Gracefilled Lillies,

Today I would just like to share a post with you about seeking God's Face. 

Click here for this artwork in the store

As I am playing catch-up on all my writing and blogs lately and starting new journeys with it, I feel like I am always growing closer to living out God's purpose for my life more and more, when I write.

Today's topic is seeking God's Face. Last year when I stepped out with Gracelilly, I knew that it was something I really wanted to do and felt equipped to do. I shared a couple of online Bible studies, created some artwork and digital kits en wrote a couple of devotionals. It gave me such joy to be able to bring my teaching skills, love of art and creativity and my biggest love, God and His Word together in one place. My heart with it, as is also God's heart, is to reach others with the love of Christ. 

But then a couple of things happened that halted the whole process and I was forced to really look at what I was doing and how I was doing it and where and for whom I was doing it. A couple of things needed to happen first before I could move forward into the "ministry" I so desired. One of the things that happened was that my laptop's hard drive crashed. I was working my little laptop so hard that something happened that never happened to me before. I use to have good housekeeping habits for keeping my tech safe and secure, but I was working so hard that God needed to physically stop me by shutting down my computer to get me to slow down. He protected me and turned everything around and I really didn't lose much else than the use of my computer for a while and the discomfort of the disruption. But I knew God was saying: "Stop, I want to do something here". I took me a while to realize what that was and it took me the year to really see the picture. I am still in need of some adjustments here and there, but I know He is faithful to guide me trough. 

Before I could move forward, I needed to look back, regroup, rest and really listen. It was a hard year emotionally and spiritually. It took me a whole year to really get back on track with Gracelilly and I feel that all the things that happened were necessary for me to see things from God's perspective. I made big changes to our business and how we run things and I have such peace about it. :) It was a scary thing to trust God when what He was asking me to do looked like He was shutting us down, but He wasn't. 

So without going into too much detail, the bottom line is that we sometimes need to let go, fast from the things that occupy us so much, even the good things like our art, our work and just get back to basics. A big thing for me now is to sort through all my creative ideas and wait on God. Wait for Him to show me the green light on the ones He wants me to follow through on. I have to work on waiting on God for His timing. I will always have to work on this and I think we all do all the time. Oh, man can I be impatient. I know that my lesson through this past year was to take note of the things that are more important to God in comparison to what is important to me. He is interested in how my heart is doing. He is interested in how things of the past affect my present responses or actions. He is interested in restoring what the enemy has stolen, revealing the enemy's lies in our lives and in loving us to wholeness. None of us can really say that we are perfectly complete, whole or untouched by this life, can we? So all of us do need His healing hand to guide us to that place of rest and restoration. 

My word for this year is RESTORE. I need God to restore my broken places, to restore what the enemy has stolen over time through his lies and deceit. For me to have balance in my life in all the things that are important, I need to seek God's Face. 

How do we do that? Seek His Face? What does that mean practically speaking? I am a visual person. I am also a very tactile person. I learn through actively being involved in the learning process. You call that being a kinesthetic learner. learning style in which learning takes place by the students carrying out physical activities, rather than listening to a lecture or watching demonstrations.  

Most artists and creatives are kinesthetic learners I presume. We would rather touch and feel and smell and physically try things out than to just listen to someone talk about it. So Bible Journaling has always been something I did naturally. I remember sitting at Christian Students Association Camp in Winkelspruit at age 17 doodling and making notes while the Preacher was teaching us about God's Word. We had daily devotional meetings where over 250 students would sit in a large assembly listening to the sermon. I had my notebook as it was also encouraged to bring your Bible, notebook and a pen to camp and I was writing stuff down and doodling in the margin. Most of my note taking over the years involved writing my prayers down, Scripture writing and sermon notes. That is how I learn. I cannot sit and do nothing in church. My mind wanders and I lose focus. I am a big daydreamer. Al my creative ideas come from daydreaming...it is a powerful thing and it needs to be harnessed. Making notes and writing helps to accomplish that order in the brain. So my point is that seeking God's Face can also be an active thing. Sitting down with your Bible and your notebook and involving God in what you write down. It is a partnership for me. Me and God in my quiet time. Writing this post is a partnership with Him. I am the vessel and He breathes through me onto the pages that I write. When anything of importance comes out, you can know that He takes all the credit for that. 

When we make choices in how we want to live and what we want to do with our lives, it is important to involve God in those choices. He is the One who made you. He knows why He made you and what His purpose with your life is. 

When you give your life to God, as I did when I was just 15, something marvelous happens. He really comes to live in you and with you. He makes your heart His home. That is such an awesome thought. While we all have challenges in life and hang-ups and things happen to us, it may cause us to lose our focus or to sway from the path He would want us on. I constantly have to check back and make sure that I am still on that path and the wonderful thing is that His Spirit will always lead you back home to Him. 

My story isn't finished. I know that He is definitely guiding me somewhere awesome even though I cannot see the full picture yet. I know I can trust Him to lead me there.

Sometimes, when I feel discontent in my heart and I process what I am feeling by really quieting down, slowing things way down in my life, He is always faithful and works in me to show me what it is that I am feeling or what it is that is causing the discontent. Discontent in itself is not a bad or negative thing. It may just be God's Spirit re-directing you or re-aligning you with what He wants you to do or where He wants you to go in a specific moment in time. Be ready and willing for Him to lead you away from what you are doing or planning to do, for what He may ask of you, that interruption in your schedule may just be way more important than what you had planned. 

Sometimes feeling that discontent is fear holding me back. Then He will encourage me to stand in faith and trust Him to help me be more courageous. Sometimes I process conflicts of the past and He will show me why I went through uncomfortable experiences and who was to blame or why I need to have grace for myself and the other person. He helps me understand and process things correctly according to His truth and not necessarily my own or other people's.  Sometimes He leads me to understanding just by whispering into my spirit a truth about me or about Him or about a past hurt and it is just over and done at that moment because His truth sets people free. It is something very profound that happens so quietly without any real big event or moment but you know that you know He spoke to you. You also know that from that moment onward you will not be the same again. I have had a couple of these moments throughout my life and I treasure them. 

I remember when working in Saudi Arabia a couple years back, one day I was standing in front of my cupboard and I had to decide which clothes to pack for another weekend in Riyadh, the capital city. We were working in a desert village that looked like the surface of the moon, isolated and very dusty. We were paid very well, but while working there we realized why...it was really a very harsh environment to a large extent and a big culture shock for most expats. It was part of our remuneration package to receive a sponsored night in the city at an expat compound much like a holiday resort but with walls and security and barbed wire. It was our sanity break to go to the city.  I will always remember very clearly the Voice I heard audibly in my spirit that specific day: "If you stay here, you will lose your soul".  We had a two-year contract, but we only stayed for 6 months due to our company not being able to secure long term visas and the stress of the situation and a lot of other factors showed us that God wanted us from the start to only stay half a year and then come back home. Someday I will share the whole story, but for now, this moment was important. God speaks to us at times very clearly. My main reason for not returning to a country where I really felt I could make a difference in the lives of my beautiful students, was that Voice on that day in front of my open closet. It was a "no" from God. It was a "go home". It wasn't an easy choice to make. It had very big financial and circumstantial repercussions for me and my husband for the long term. It was God saying: "Will you trust Me no matter what?" and boy, has it been a really difficult difficult journey. I have never in my spiritual life experienced such a difficult season as the one God has been asking me to go through the past decade, but this one choice I needed to make would affect my comfort and my future security. God was saying "I am your Source and you need to trust me that I will provide for you and look after you" and He has. 

Seeking His Face in the moments when you land in hospital with a scary diagnosis, or family abandons you, or the one you love is in turmoil, or you see your elderly parents grow old and frail and sick, or friends desert you, industry reject you, fellow Christians attack, persecute or discredit you, and your fridge is empty, your dreams fade in the distance, your dreams to have babies of your own grow dim as you celebrate yet another childless birthday and years grow into decades, then seeking His Face becomes an absolute necessity. When you experience that harshness of life and years turn into decades and your fig-tree still doesn't bear fruit, then it starts to really matter what you believe and how you live that faith. Being honest and open with God in your darkest times, when you really don't get what it's about and you perhaps question your beliefs, that is when you need to seek Him and seek His Face the most. 

As a young girl in the Church, I remember how we sang that song about the fig tree and how we would keep on believing and praising God even if it doesn't bear any fruit. I am in my midlife now and God uses those songs of my youth now to bring it to life and show me why I needed to learn how to sing them then when everything was rosy and all of life seemed filled with color and light and possibility. It is so important to know God and choose Him when we are young so that He can build our faith for the long haul. So it really can grow deep roots to anchor our souls. I am thankful that God took my hand back then and helped grow a steadfast spirit in me. Though my flesh may fail my spirit is strong and I only realized how strong while going through the difficult times in my life. 

So seeking His face in the difficult times may not look rosy and it may be filled with tears or anguish or doubt and fear even. But I know one thing: I will always always run into Him because not only is my home in His Word but His home is in my heart and it is less about what I do or how I act or feel or respond and more about Him and how He leads me to quiet waters where I can look up and know that I am loved. 

So when I hold my heart in my hands and close my eyes as an offering to Him, seeking His face in the moments I feel lost or broken or empty, He is faithful to bring me through it all to waters that will quench my thirsty soul and a place where I can rest and know: I am loved by the God who made the Universe and He knows my little name and has inscribed it in the palm of His hands. He pursues me relentlessly out of love and He uses the difficult seasons to bring honor to His Name through the witness of our faith in Him. 

So, dear Gracefilled Lillies, let your difficult times become your witness of the God who loves you through it, stands by you when the world fails you, provides for you and heals your broken pieces. Let the mosaic of all of that be your banner of truth and fly it high because His banner over you is LOVE. 

My encouragement to you today is to not put God in a box. Allow Him to speak to you any time He wants. To be open to those God moments. To look out for them and listen attentively.  Even note them in your journals when they happen. They happen for a reason. It might be in your journal time while sitting in church or at a bible journaling class. But guess what, most of the time it is when God catches you alone in life when you go about your business washing the dishes, pushing the shopping trolley, washing your hair in the shower. Like I said, some of my God moments was simply standing in front of my closet. Some of my God moments even happened when I was extremely sad, or depressed or angry or felt like giving up or just after I had cried out to Him. He just didn't allow me to give up. My husband frequently comments on this that he is astonished that I haven't given up on this or that yet and I can only attest that I also don't understand it...it must be God in me showing me how to go the distance and keep on trusting Him, when I would just like to give up or run away. ;) 

God's power in us little frail humans can turn a coward like Gideon into a mighty worrier. It can turn a shepherd boy like David into a King. A stuttering murderer like Moses into leading a nation. His economy works differently than this world's. He can heal the blind with a little spit and dirt, raise the dead and bring little children back to life. He can give countless barren woman more children than the married and turn ashes into beauty. 

So my story isn't finished yet. As I continue to seek His face regarding my purpose here in this venture and countless others, I realize that it doesn't really matter what we do. It matters why we do it and for Whom. So when you sit down and work on your Bible journaling, forget about the product and the techniques and focus on God, the Word He is giving you at that moment and then study it as deep as you can for as long as you can and make it your own through your creative expression. Date it so you know when He spoke to you and what He said. Return to it often. 

Another one of my God moments was when I was in the hospital a couple years ago, feeling scared. I asked someone to pray for me and she didn't know what Scripture I was reading but confirmed actually through her words of encouragement to me, what God had already said to me at that moment. The main lesson was that God sees into our hearts and He knows if and when we are being sincere when we have a request or some kind of need. That sincerity is key. God saw my heart at that moment and He answered me. He knew instantly that the women who touched His robe in the crowd desperately needed His healing and He gave it to her. I can relate to her not just because I basically have a similar challenge, but because I know who to go to, to find my healing. Jesus is the gentle Healer and as the Michael Card song rings true: "He came to my town today". God can see were people cannot. He knows our true self better than we sometimes do. Allow Him to come to your "town" and bring healing there as you seek His Face. 

I didn't know what this post would be about, but I am glad now that I was obedient and sat down to write to you here today. It reminded me of a couple of things and I hope that it has encouraged your heart too. When you work on your journaling, remember what is important. Remember who you are doing all of that for and why. Journaling about God, or His Word, using a ton of product or kits or paper or whatever is all empty and void if there is no connection between you and Him. Prioritize that first and all the rest will be a happy expression of that meeting. 

If you want to use this little artwork, you can find it in the store here. (Personal use only, please)

Visit Ivytree Studio to see more of what we are up to www.ivytreestudio.co.za
Buy some of our pretty paper here
Connect with the team on our Facebook page here.
Share your Ivytree Studio layouts with us here
Join our #CreativeGirlPrint&PlayClub here
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