Friday, August 9, 2019

His cupped hands holds you and will Revive you everytime

Hi, there sweet Lillies!

This will be a long read so grab a cup of tea and sit back. I pray that God will use my story to touch you and teach you what He wants to bring to your attention right now. Before we kick off, grab your Bible and read Josua 21 and 22 as well as Colossians 3:12, Hosea 10:12 (Amplified version) and Colossians 3:23,24 (NLT) and John 14:17.  Ask yourself where you stand on all these Scriptures. Ask God to reveal His truth to your heart for this moment and for you.

This year has been a hard year. It has been a challenging year. I am sure you can relate to some extent or another. It has also been a #gracefilled year with Jesus close by and it has been a super creative least for me.

What I know for sure is sharing your story and the road God asks you to walk is very important. God can use your mess as a message to help support, build and encourage others. This is hard for me at the moment but I share this post with the hope that it will touch a heart somewhere. I will touch on things and weave a couple of different experiences of the past couple of years into my story and at the end, I hope that it will make sense. Some things I can talk about easily and share my lessons learned fearlessly because I have processed it, fully forgave and put it behind me. Some things may not yet be for this post, but nonetheless, I am going to be as honest as I can. If you have read my previous post, I may rest on a couple things I already talked about, but at the end of the post, you will see that there is specific reasoning behind it all.

As an educator, I always teach by using examples either from my own experience or from life in general. Going through the hard things life throws at us, may not be so easy to share openly. There is however a way of sharing your lessons without revealing all the details of your personal life. It can still pack a powerful punch. Try and stick with me here. As I process my current circumstances and the last couple of years...OK decade, and try to make sense of it and find God and His whispers in the dark corners of my broken heart, I find that He is still all the way with me. The broken heart is not just from one blow or one circumstance or disappointment or painful is the consistent chipping away at it over time. Despite this, with each step I take, He takes with me. My mom has a way of explaining it with her hands cupped together and says God holds us like that in His hands. The best image I could find is this one. Imagine you are the cup and God is holding you. Jip, a wonderful soothing feeling, right. This is how I feel God is holding me right now....perhaps always has and probably always will.

If you have been reading my blog here, you will know that I have tried to make sense of the "Bible Journaling" thing and find my own way either in it or through it. This blog mainly started because of my Dreambook journey I wanted to share here as well as my prophetic art portraits. Honoring God with my gifts and what projects I attempt for Him, is important to me. My journey with God started at the age of 15. My creative journey started even earlier. I have always made art and was creative in how I do things. At 15 I started writing poetry with the dream of turning them into songs. Unlike Mr. David, Words have always come easy to me. (I hear the FR David song in my head). I started Dreambooking (which is basically my prayer journal in pictures) in 2000. I created a workshop and devotional study kit around it. I have shared the experience in previous posts.

Engaging creatively with the Word comes so naturally for any journaler and artist. Then came Illustrated Faith and Bible Journaling exploded like colorful paints on a canvas. Who wouldn't love it? (So, no this post is not about criticism for or against Illustrated Faith and others like it) It is playful and fun. It is so very creative and attracts most paper crafters without effort.

I stepped out to do two Dreambook workshops and then stopped. Mainly because of what I experienced at both the workshops. I didn't feel people really understood that what I was doing had very little to do with Illustrated Faith. I wasn't copying Shana's process or way of doing things at all. I wasn't even stepping out because of them. God's timeline for me had nothing to do with it. I was sharing my story and the lessons that came with it. Instead, people got caught up in the Illustrated Faith movement and all the products and techniques and I was teaching something very different which wasn't what they expected me to do. At the second workshop, someone said that she was sure she had attended this workshop before and I confirmed she couldn't have because it was only the second one and she definitely didn't attend the first. Afterwards, she came to thank me and was very happy that she did attend mine as she felt now she had heard the heart and story behind the Dreambook, it made more sense and it had a bigger impact on her. I realized that one of the girls from the first workshop must have gone out and within weeks, advertised privately and hosted another workshop under her own name without my story, using my concepts and teaching. I was once again blown away that people could do this. She had the book with all the details. At the first workshop, two of the ladies had mentioned that they wanted to do something similar for years but didn't know how and silly me encouraged them to just step out in faith and do it. I didn't mean to take my ideas and concept and copy it. I meant: follow God's thumbprint for YOU. It will be different from mine. Creativity is not exclusive and no one person owns it. The idea is to bring variety to life and people's experiences. Create your own workshop. Tell your own story. Why oh why would you want to tell mine??? I can't see it being blessed. I can't see God putting His seal of approval on it. Every time I step out and it is not authentically me, it fails. It is doomed to fail...epically. Just, take my word for it. It is a much less painful experience to do things God's way. I am still trying to practice this each time I step out...if and when I step out with a project.

I struggled to know if I should change and adapt my approach or keep going with what I was already doing. My frustration with the local creative community, in general, is that they see what others are doing overseas and locally and then copy it, adapt it a little, call it their own and present it to the local market without any thought of originality. The local market is just so glad to see something local at last, that they grab it blindly or they are just not knowledgable enough to have any discernment.  If you spend just a little time online, you will start to notice what I have noticed. Same old same old duplication. So, I have stopped all Gracelilly kits until I can hear from God on what He wants for me and my journey with Gracelilly Faith Art. I am not writing any more devotional studies unless God directs me specifically.  I feel like I don't want to put out one more kit and then see how others monetize on my ideas. I also don't want the enemy to win here so it is important to have a mandate from God that He directs from the start.

I know the learning curve of an entrepreneur, artist, and designer. You start with referencing outside yourself, researching online.  You want your product and business to be recognizable, relatable to clients. You try to look like others and after a while, you do. You do it so well, that it scares your competition into panicking and they start to do all sorts of strange things and give their panic away through their actions and communications with you. All that ends up happening is creatives reproduce what others had already painstakingly created with lots of effort and cost.  It may be totally legal, but is it ethical and more importantly, is it honourable for us who call ourselves "daughters of the King"? Who is that King?  Is it your bank account, your desire to be noticed, accepted by others or like me to live and eat from the gifts God has given you? What is your motivation? What are your deep-rooted values? Are you really representing Jesus well? All questions we need to ask ourselves constantly when stepping out in this creative expression and use of the Word.

I feel that God has a unique task for each of us, a special message we need to bring to the world and it needs a package that holds that uniqueness.  That package should be as unique and original as each one of us. If we and the "we" I'm referring to is each and every "Bible Journaling" teacher or Creative Christian Artist who puts product, devotionals, and creative elements out into the world, really want to make a difference in the Kingdom and follow God's heart and plan for us, we need to think about this issue. How are you creating content? Where do you find your "inspiration" from? What do you end up offering the Christian community and will God approve? Are your efforts hap-hazard and flimsy or are you really putting in the hard work to really think things through, create original art and make sure you present the best possible and quality designs to your creative network?

God is challenging me with this and I have always felt strongly about doing my own thing and doing it my way and not following blindly in the footsteps of others. I ended up realizing that my bigger challenge is to do it His way. I need to make some changes and I'm taking the time to do it. It may be slow, it may be painful but I'm committed to change and growth in this area. I have committed Ivytree Studio to only put out art that we have created ourselves. Always have. We do not buy image packs for this very reason. We make sure that we use our own content each and every time and if you didn't know, we pray together over it. Lots of praying is going on behind the scenes constantly no matter if it is just for general crafting or if it is specifically for the #Faithgirls.

There are tons of great ideas out there and people creating wonderful creative content. And, yes, I am inspired by it too. And yes, I also incorporate good ideas that I find around me and online in how I develop our elements, but God is asking me to take it to the next level and change my way of thinking, researching and doing things. More original art. More original ideas.

We are also all faced with the problem of there only being so many things you can put on paper. My dad always jokes that when you watch TV or movies, there are always only SEVEN stories. The same concept applies to design ideas. What has been done, will be done again...and again and again...theme-wise anyway. But, the ORIGINAL IDEA is born when we start thinking out of the box and when we throw out the ideas of others and search in the dark for our own and in the dark, I mean deep within yourself.  I believe that Jesus brings light when we dare to visit the empty dark places in ourselves. Guess what, He is the one who brings light to any darkness and fills the emptiness with waters of Lifegiving Water. This is kind of the whole theme of the Revive Creative Retreat we are hosting again this year. I know if the Retreat didn't reach anyone else, it did Revive my own art. I know of at least a couple of girls who really blossomed through it. I could see it in their projects and responses. I have the desire to create art again, because of the experience and just for the sake of making it, even if nobody sees it and that feeling gives me so much joy.

So how can I challenge my fellow "creators"? If you read here, you may just be a journaler who loves the art in your Bible and how it connects you to your Lord. You may be interested in more than just doing it for your own personal enrichment and journey. You may have dreams to start a creative ministry. Then take heed of the lessons here. You may want to start a business and earn a profit by selling products or you may want to design and create your own products and then distribute them because like me you want to use your talents to honour God in this world filled with craziness. You want to bring beauty to the world through your art and skills. You want to encourage others. You may want all of the above. My question to you is: Have you asked Jesus what He wants for you? This is the question I am pausing on. It may not be the same as what you want. It is important to stick to your lane, your playing field that God has called you to. To me it might be journaling, writing, creating art, developing products that honour God and encouraging #Creativegirls and #Faithgirls or it might be to be a supportive wife to my husband and loving my family well. The direction may come all at once or be slowly revealed over time and when you look back you will be able to see God's golden thread in your life tying all the random things together in one cohesive unified outcome.

If you are a "creator" then this is the challenge I offer you: How about the next time you see a great idea in a product line from a competitor, you totally deconstruct it and rebuild it in totally a new way. At least then, it will be something new. OR even better: begin from scratch, invite God in and ask Him to inspire and lead you to the content...your best content with the message and story He wants you to share with the world. The art will flow from there.

I just don't think I will ever buy anything that has been done to death by a ton of other people. I am always looking for something special and unique and topics that I can relate to. I am 47 going on 48 and not 12 going on 13. I don't want kiddy content and I'm sure many adult Christians feel the same way. The Word also talks about not being a child anymore and not eating food meant for children. We need substance, right.  Sponge bob square pants, unicorns, mandalas (very occult) and dream catchers(super occult) is just not something I would ever put in any Bible. I won't even put it in any of my notebooks. Someday I'll tell you my SaraMoon story. It will make the hair on your arms fall off...not even stand up. All I can say is Christians should stay clear of any occult elements. Don't bring it into your home, don't put it on your clothing, tattoo it on your skin, don't pay for a class where they use it in the artwork...just stay away from it. And if the sweet lady teaching the class is a Christian and offers it to you ignorantly, then politely decline the use of the products, educate her in kindness and pray that God opens her spiritual eyes without a fight. She perhaps has never heard the truth about it. "My people perish because of a lack of knowledge," says the Word, so share the knowledge with your fellow sisters. Embracing these occult elements opens spiritual doors to demons to torment you and mess up your life. Search out Derek Prince to know more about how these things can affect your life. He teaches on how to recognize the enemy and how he tries to destroy our lives through the things we ignorantly give him the legal right to with the things we "play" with.  Side note: I am not obsessed with the enemy or overly focussed on these occult elements at all, but I have been seeing Christians naively play with it and adding it to their Bibles and scrapbooks and just like I would warn and scream out if someone was going to fall over a cliff unknowingly, I want to warn my sisters to be careful. Have your eyes wide open, sisters. The enemy is walking around like a prowling lion ready to devour you. He sneaks things in seemingly innocent hobbies like scrapbooking and your Bible Journaling. The Word warns us that we need to be knowledgeable and KNOW. Not knowing is not going to deter or put off the enemy from his plan to destroy you. So, do your homework.

Back to our topic today. What I find in my line of work, is that people find their inspiration online and then just merely copy what others are doing. Nobody is really creating any original content because it is just so easy to take someone else's idea and re-package it.  My struggle is to know if God approves or not. What non-Christians can get away with, is not the same as what God will approve of for us.

Remember I said I teach by example or experience. More than a year ago I wanted to find a way of making my own handmade Travel Notebook cover. I was making notebook inserts and filling them and needed a place to archive them and store them so they won't get damaged. I feel comfortable with the smaller notebook size and can take it with me and be creative on the go...something I encourage other creatives to do. Making and using these TN's just works for me in so many ways. I also quickly found how expensive Travel Notebook covers can be and I needed many covers to fill with my little books. I watched a couple of "How to" videos but couldn't find something I could make that would give me the satisfaction of a finished product that didn't look too handmade. I decided as I couldn't find anything online that could help me solve my problem, that I would use my problem-solving skills and figure it out myself. I am a designer after all. I think it is also about trying to go it alone creatively and find my own way instead of just relying on others to show me the "PLAN" and "How To" and I think God would approve of me rather doing the work instead of taking the easy way out and following someone else's plan. That plan may work for them, but it may for various reasons not work for you. Again, get back to basics and do the work.

I started by browsing my local craft and stationery stores. I was looking for materials available within my immediate reach without importing expensive materials. Just like Scrapbook Albums are very expensive and we all need it to safely archive our pretty layouts, I needed to find a way to start a process with the TN's that I could keep up financially without it breaking the bank over time. Another thing I have learned is to always think ahead before you start something. Where will it take you and where do you want to go with it?

As a teacher, I use to make my students buy plastic file folders to put their projects in. It was flat, colourful and I could label the sides with a printed name label. I like the order when it comes to filing my students' work. It makes assessments so much easier and painless. And suddenly I realized that something familiar, a file folder, could be cut down and used as the outside cover of a Travel Notebook. Eureka! Inexpensive and easy to clean and a variety of colours available to me. I added hat elastic and fun foam to the inside and there you go. So easy! I shared my first make on a local Planner group because I get excited if I can teach people something, help them save a buck or two and give them the joy of something handmade. The idea was to offer it to the "end-user" for their own enjoyment. I immediately received messages asking if I was taking orders. "My goodness. You missed the point!" I thought to myself. Even though I am a product developer for Ivytree Studio, that wasn't the point of the share. I was sharing as a fellow crafter, my joy in making something myself. It was made clear in the post. No matter the idea, some people will pounce on you like a hungry hyena (I see the picture in my head) to grab hold of it. They will get very excited about your idea and you will be blinded by the excitement and after a while, you will realize that they actually took your idea and is now monetizing it. Exactly what happened! Now, understand that I am oversimplifying here for the sake of this post, but I do realize that everybody has their own needs and reasons for wanting something or needing it or being passionate about it. That is totally fine. It is fine to see something and like it. What you do about it and how you go about it, is totally a different matter.

Now, in this instance, I have to mention also that I do realize that Travel Notebooks have been around for a long long loooooooong time. I am not the first to discover it. AND so many others have created handcrafted leather and other versions commercially and I salute them. Great job! Etsy store upon Etsy store has it on offer, personalized and jazzed up and will even make it to your own specifications. Please support them if you are able to.

The lesson here is about my personal experience in my own journey towards making something that would satisfy a personal need and how by sharing it with others freely, I fell into the trap of giving away what God helped me figure out. I let it go and it kept rolling. I didn't inquire of the Lord what He wanted me to do with this idea. I didn't stop to think about how my sharing would  I just followed my teacher-heart and shared away.

My sister did warn me that I should not give the ideas God gives me just away and she did so again and again when I shared my "pit-of-the-stomach" feelings with her....because we need wisdom and patience and we need to wait on God for His timing in all things...and I confess, I didn't. I was just so excited and my own excitement got the better of me and lead me to this experience that say the least, very painful. I normally take my time with things and make sure when I move forward that I know why and how. If I don't, I'm anxious from the start and I don't like feeling anxious.  Sometimes because of my cautious nature, I feel like I hold back too much and then I force myself to do it afraid. It is not always a good idea. If I had given myself more time I would have wanted to bring out Journaling Kits with a TN cover, inserts, and all the Cute Cuts and Creative Elements you have become used to from Ivytree Studio. I could add a devotional study and it would be a #FaithgirlKit. As I wasn't focused on what others were doing, I did develop TN covers in printable format with a tutorial and planned to bring out more and more. Teaching girls to make their own for their own enjoyment was the focus all along. The focus was on the end-user. Not supplying retailers. Not necessarily enabling other creators to mass-produce TN's using my findings or process.

The lessons I had to learn was: learn what you need to and take note so you don't have to go through it again and again. I wish I could get this one down. None of us can take credit for the TN as the first person who ever decided to put leather around notebooks and travel with them and protect their journaling in this way, can take credit and is long gone by now. We all are just improving and adapting the original idea again and again. So, I know that I have no way of stopping anyone to do this. So what is the fuss about? It is observing human behaviour and seeing how people use each other blatantly without blinking an eye. It is about how creativity can quickly become something else. It is about hearts and hopes and it is about who God wants us to be. I feel challenged by this. Do you?

I am still using my notebooks, but haven't made a TN cover in while, because seeing how people respond has taken the joy out of it for me. I need to get over this. I am forcing myself to get over it. To learn how to let go and let God.  So I'll keep sharing the story with you and talk about my process and what I experienced: I figured out a variety of simple ways of making an inexpensive Travel Notebook cover for the purpose of saving money and still having something practical and pretty to enjoy. I am still working on more ideas and I'm still excited about it. I will brand it and I will sell it, but not just yet.

Local girls who are only now catching on to this TN trend, that is pushed hard on them and advertised globally by industry, saw my ideas as an "entrepreneurial opportunity" instead of an opportunity to connect with me and other fellow creatives. What they do is push you to the side, take your idea, make it their own, because you even showed them how to do it in a video (heck, I'm a teacher...what can I say)...and the whole idea of community and connection and sharing ideas is out the window. Because to them, it is all, I still can't really figure out what it's about for them. What do they get from doing things this way? A quick buck? Is that it? Really? Perhaps it is just about getting ahead, being noticed or having a following on Social Platforms. 

I always love to give credit where credit is due. I feel it is important to tell someone when they have made a difference to your journey. One of the girls did so publically and I appreciate her so much for this. She made a bunch of TN's because it is so much fun to make and gives you so much satisfaction to see the end result...and it is so easy. But she is not selling them for profit even though she is also a creator and has an Etsy shop. I can't really know the reach of my video or influence, but I know some girls made a bunch after watching my video and sold it for the purpose of supporting a charity. I'm always up for a good cause, but the fact that it's catching on and running now is not the point. Should it bother me that I made one and popped it into a kit as a freebie and now that person is making bunches and selling them? I wanted to give her something to show my care for her as a person. Despite her selling her handmade goods, I still wanted to connect with her as a person. I have been trying to really move past it and commit to finding common ground and collaborate creatively and spiritually. Isn't that what we should be offering each other in love? I don't know anymore. The point is, what should I have done? Should I not have shared my project? Should I have declined the orders from clients coming in? How many times should I decline orders before I close the doors of my business? Should I not have made a video? How many people watched it and went "Hey, I can make a quick buck doing this"? Should I care? Should I not have sent out kits with TN covers to bless a couple of my clients? How many others have shared videos in order to collaborate with the creative community in support of handmade projects and found their ideas being monetized by someone else? Over and over again we clone and copy. Should I accept that every time I send out a package with my product that the person on the other end is going: "Hey, how can I start a business with these ideas? How can I promote myself?" It becomes a muddled pool and then I just want to run to Jesus and hide under Him.

The clincher is the first person jumping on me after my first share, wanted to place an order. I put her off because nowhere did I indicate that I was thinking of taking orders because I didn't think about it yet. I didn't have time to think about it. Should I have made it clear right then and there? "Hey this is my thing, I am making these and the only way you can get it is if you buy it because I put in the effort to figure it out" or "Why do you want to buy one? Is it because you want to scrutinize my process and products and re-make it and sell it as your own because that was actually your idea all along?" Should that even have occurred to me at the start?  Is this how this so-called "creative community" functions and have functioned all along? Girls, can you believe that we put each other through all of this?

Yet, I didn't give up. Later I made a couple of TN's as a little surprise element to some of my journaling kits...a FREEBIE. An unboxing video was made of one of these packages in request by the client who purchased it and the first girl who jumped me, jumped me again after watching the video, wanting the same kit for the same amount and insisted again that she wanted the TN cover too. See, now the door was open to her. I had no choice now. By this time that pit of the stomach feeling had become total nausea and I didn't have peace about it. Yet, I sat for long hours to put the double order together for her and her business partner. I was committed to do my best despite my feelings and concerns which I couldn't at that time really prove. See, my mistake was to trust her because she called herself "Daughter of the King" and was knee-deep into the "Bible Journaling" business. I should have realised that because she worked for someone who was selling products and doing events for the "Bible Journaling" community, that the chance that they would either want my products for their shop or events or take our ideas and run with it, was kinda 100%. They were a registered retailer with us years before when we offered our physical paper collections but hadn't supported us in a long time. As I look back on the experience now, I realize how very naive I was. I opened the door. The order went through, ended up being doubled but still was for personal use to both end-users. None of my kits that went out was to retailers to resell. Knowing what I know now, I feel I was being naive to even allow this order. 

In the end, the whole experience blew up in my face. This girl messaged me on a Sunday and again I opened the door....which I shouldn't have done. She wanted me to do a rush job and print a couple of the sheets I sent her for an event they were doing the following weekend. Obviously an unplanned and impulsive decision on her part. I kindly declined as it was outside of our print cycle and would end up being very expensive per sheet. I urged her to wait for another time when she could place a proper retail order. See, I don't just think about the retailer and their profit margins, but also how it could affect the consumer. Throughout I was polite, honest and professional. When I declined, she came up with a counter suggestion that she could push it through a copy machine and just pay me for each print. I was flabbergasted at the suggestion. We take lots of care to put out quality products when we do printed kits. It is, after all, our name that is on the product. It is like saying that it's OK for retailers to purchase just one pack of Scrapbook paper from a Scrapbook company and then push it through any copy machine on just any paper and then re-selling it to the public. It is NOT OK!
Especially if the order was for personal use in the first place.

I politely declined again and then after a couple of minutes, I felt I needed to raise my concern at this. I said that I am really concerned about what is going on in the local community. If Christians have the sense to ask, what would those with no moral compass do? She quickly backtracked and accepted my boundary. Something about she would never... I again encouraged her like a mother hen would and like I did with my students so many times before to go the way of wisdom and patience. I was kind even though concerned. I was polite and definitely not rude. We ended the chat. Within minutes her "boss" messaged me and yes, you guessed it: ripped my throat out...jip, you can do that in a text message. Apparently, I was "extremely rude", "short-sighted" and this is why I am not popular with the retailers (so I was discussed in their circles obviously). {Side Note: At this point, we had already shut the door to ALL retailers any way as we found them to cause immense stress and conflict, bullying us to do things we were not ready or comfortable to do. They were only interested in using our product for their own gains, not interested at all in building a long term business relationship built on mutual trust and respect. I found most (not all), manipulative and sometimes outright unprofessional. I trained students for many years in business etiquette which I found a rare quality among local proprietors. Some would take chances to ask for stock on consignment putting all the risk on me. No way. God put His foot down and told me to shut that door and I did. The more I tried to accommodate them, the less they would support and promote us. I had already moved on from this toxic situation.

She went on to say I could have been promoted by them where they were going for the event (not that she even asked me if I wanted our business and products to be promoted in another country where people couldn't afford to ship small packages over the border at exorbitantly high prices...been there...tried that and counted the cost and God said no), but now she would never promote anything Ivytree Studio ever again and has instructed her "girl" to chuck both packages in the bin. (All that hard work down the drain.) Also that they would never steal from anyone and always paid their way. (More probably that she paid the way for both of them and had been for a while, so money was obviously not a problem...just my personal observation). I felt she was emphasizing this so much and I didn't even accuse them of anything. It made me wonder if her obvious overreaction was more about her own encounters with others than it had anything to do with me. I didn't go there. Why did both of them go this route so adamantly?  So after having to endure this message..yes written in black and white, I wanted to talk to her so I called. She didn't answer. I left a very emotional voice note and made sure she understood that I never said anything to the effect that could anger her to this extent. I hadn't accused them of anything at all. No response even after my tearful "It pains me that the enemy gets to win and destroy connections we could have had as sisters in Christ." voice note.

So what or rather who was the problem here? Are you starting to get my picture? Painful, right? It is not the end. Obviously, my TN idea was out there and the "girl" had it in her hands. They are even marketing events with the TN center stage. She is sharing it widely as her own work. Not a mention of who paved the road for her to make this the way it is made. Nothing. This journey has been hard and as you can see here, I am not the type to sit back and take it on the chin. I talk it through. I process. I share my story to help others understand the dangers of stepping out in faith.

Is it my boldness that gets me chucked to the side? Is it my honesty and candor that some people can't take? Is it the fact that I can smell manipulation a mile off and can put down healthy boundaries in the protection of the GOOD STUFF that God gives me? The "Good Stuff" being your heart and mind and peace and your very life, the person you are..the person He made and loves dearly?? Is it just the mere fact that I belong to Jesus and am a big fat target to the enemy to try and use anything and anyone to drag me down and keep me down? What do you think? Yes, I'm very much creative and talented. Yes, I'm intelligent and educated. I work hard and I think things through. I plan and invest my time. I go all the way. I give all the way and try to live with integrity in a world that doesn't embrace it any longer. I work with excellence in mind and not perfection. I give my best because what I do I do as unto my King and His name is Jesus Christ. 

I know that I am a contender to be reconned with to some and a threat to those lesser souls who cannot see their own genius or purpose or value? Can I openly discuss important issues and address bad attitudes or reckless behaviour or even show my care by speaking up if I see something or someone goes downhill or heading for a cliff? Yes and yes. Absolutely! Remember I was called to stand under the anointing of the Teacher ministry. I am not however a rock and I am not without feelings. I do know I am called to be fully me. If that challenges another person, perhaps that is the whole point. So no matter how people treat me, dismiss me, ignore me, use me or chip away at me, I know that Jesus holds me in His cupped hands. I know He provides for me. I know He will find a way to finish the work He started in me. I can just encourage you, my dear friend, that He will do the same for you. Sometimes living, working and witnessing for the Lord, means carrying our cross and it may not be easy or comfortable. Just because people may not like or accept the message or messenger, doesn't mean that God doesn't have a plan and purpose with it. So, I am bold in sharing this story.

Ok, let's back up a bit again. When I bring out a workshop or a devotional kit, people immediately copy the ideas. It has come to the point that I didn't want to do any of it. It just sucks the joy right out of it. Sometimes they improve on it but mostly it is a mediocre version of the original. The reason it is mediocre is that there is nothing like the original. That is why cloning is not a good idea, right. A copy of a copy of a copy...each time diminishes the original and after a while, you can't even see why you bothered. We are all originals and if we can find the courage to look within and find our originality there in the places we meet Jesus, then there would be less copying others and more variety to our Bible Journaling and Faith Art expressions. I secretly hope the right people will read this. Come on people. Let's do this right. Let's do it God's way. I see the cheerleader with her pom-poms cheering you on. You can do this!

One major image that comes up in my minds-eye each time I think about "Bible Journaling" is the image of Jesus in the temple overturning tables. I can't help it. This story has always stuck with me personally. I have always whispered in my heart to God that He would help me not offend or sadden Him with how I go about engaging with His Word. It is the only place Jesus got angry. It touched me deeply. I think it so important that when we do anything that involves God and/or His Word, that we tread so carefully. Not because we are in fear, but because we know that every Word He gives us in the Bible is a part of Himself and the Word is ALIVE. It is precious and to be honoured. You might say it is a Person. Jesus is the Word, right. I just want to be absolutely sure I am on the right track. I have asked Him why everybody else seems to be allowed to run with it, find joy in it, but I am struggling with the concept and the why and how of it. What is behind this struggle? Is it God? Is it the enemy trying to hold me back? Is it me?  Is it all of these negative experiences with people? What I have come to realize is that it is about obedience and about making sure your motives are in the right place. What is stirring in me is that because I am called to be an Educator, a Teacher and as such I am also called to a higher standard.  God's Word makes this very clear. If I lead people astray as a Teacher, God will definitely deal with me. And perhaps that is the ONLY reason I have been struggling with this "Bible Journaling" thing. I just can't seem to embrace it and call myself a Bible Journaler. In a previous post I wrote about the core issue of covering God's Word in the Bible and that I just don't feel comfortable doing it, with the process of always having to take out art products when spending time with God. It's just not gonna happen. My time with God is my time with Him. Me listening. Him talking or me pouring my heart out. Writing perhaps. Reading but sometimes just listening and sitting quietly. I want to cry when I think I need to give that up to look like other "Faithgirls".  Bible Journaling has actually impacted my time with God negatively and that is the reason I don't call myself a "Bible Journaler" despite the fact that we create elements for #Faithgirls at Ivytree Studio. This is my personal journey I'm sharing here with you. I'm being really painfully honest. I see Jesus and the tables and I just want to run to Him and apologize for even hanging around here. I know. I know. A bit over-dramatic. I know in my heart that Jesus does not judge anyone who sincerely loves Him and creates beautiful spreads in their Bibles to honor and communicate back to Him in free response to His Word to them. You can also be in total peace with what you are doing and use your Bible like and art journal and be miles away from God while at the same time sharing your passion with others. That is what we need to be aware off. 

I have experienced how others in the "industry" treat each other behind the scenes and I know the insincerity that comes with it first hand. I know how people have searched me out, pretend to want to connect with me just to spy things out, find out where my head is at, or to see how they can use me or our products. I have personally tasted how fellow Christians kick you to the curb, kick you in the mouth, stab you in the back, take what you have on offer, shamelessly use it to build their own little kingdoms, talk behind your back, discredit you in their circles and even tell you about their gossiping to your face..twice now. Man, it's painful and mind-blowing. I just can't seem to want to be part of that either. I think that is the second reason why I struggle with the concept of "Bible Journaling". Unfortunately the selfish behaviours of a few have me questioning everyone now. Remember earlier in the post I talked about a broken heart. We all have broken pieces. Our ashes of what we dreamed about scattered on the floor. I think at my core, I desire relationship. Relationship with God and relationship with others. Don't we all? It is the only thing that you can take with you when this life has passed. We all want to be known and loved. So do I. So living with this shadow the enemy wants to hang around my shoulders like a cloak that I won't ever again experience a real connection with other Christian women outside of my family circle, is not something I am willing to accept. It is a blatant lie and not God's will for any of us. If you can relate to my story and you are reading between the lines and you find yourself there, either on the one side or the other, ask yourself what would Love do. Ask yourself where does Love live in all of this? And my answer would be right in the middle of all of us who belong to Him cupping us in His hands. My story is true. My experiences real and raw and shattering. To me, it is challenging to know God has a plan with all of this and that it will turn out for my good each time. His Word says it will. I need to just believe it. 

I think it also comes down to a trust issue. I just don't trust people very much...especially if they say they are Christians. People say it so easily, but they don't know how to live it. Live love. How could the story, my experience above have turned out differently if Love was center stage? I could have lashed out at any time at any of the people in my story. I didn't. I could have probably very reasonably be angry at the suggestions to copy product that was meant for personal use. I didn't. I kindly suggested a better way. For my heartfelt sincere response, I was ripped apart and tossed in the bin. I have felt that I needed to be more aware of the dark side, the selfish "I am only out for myself and building my own little kingdom"-side of people. Who wants to live like that...always doubting everyone? But I, my dear friends, am much too naive still. I always take people on their word until they prove me wrong. It always worked well for me when I was dealing with young adults and teenagers. They struggle with life in general and sometimes their actions are just a way of saying: "Hey, I'm in trouble...please help!" or "Hey, I need a little more love and attention".  If you give them the benefit of the doubt, they seem to flourish under your care and they know when you are not being sincere.  The difference is that kids know they are still growing and need help and guidance. Grown-ups make excuses for their bad behaviour, but never take accountability for it. They just keep on doing whatever they want without considering that a heart may be broken on the other end while shouting on Social Media how wonderfully "Faithful daughters of the King" they are, doing events, bringing people together and pushing their product. They get angry and lash out and justify themselves and think that's that. It's not that. In the hidden places where only God can see, the broken bits lie silently.

This story happened recently. It is the very thing God is using to steer me in a different purposeful direction and even though very painful, I know God has used it for my good. He is growing me and loving me through the painful parts. Being able to learn and move on. Being able to forgive. Staying open so God can still use you. Reaching out to those you see struggling. That is what God does with those broken bits the enemy chipped off of you. Every hit has a purpose. I see it play out in my mind. The enemy picks up his very large axe. He aims. Ready. Steady. Bang. Just as he hits, God steps in with His cupped hands. He holds His back. And all the enemy gets to pick off you, is that sharp edge that was in the way, in the end, he did you a favour and God worked it out for your good. Can you see it too?

I think what has surprised me the most was that as a believer who wants to live my faith and art boldly for Jesus and searching for others with the same heart, I haven't found people in my local community that I could really connect with on a deep level. As an INFP (Meyers Briggs personality type), highly sensitive artist and idealist I am driven by freedom and seeing how things could be and striving to always make things better. I am into honest relationships built on trust and loyalty and commitment, loving and caring about each other sincerely. My radar quickly picks up on the insincere tone of voice of some and unless God specifically instructs me to give that person another go, I have to walk away. When I don't, I pay a price like in my story above. If I had to rewind my story, way back to 2016, 2017, 2018 and this year, God showed me things and I cannot say He didn't. He always protects us by letting us know upfront who we can allow in our lives and who to avoid because they will either cause you hurt or they are just not in a place where they will be able to love and appreciate you or vice versa. Sometimes God shows us someone's character. It is not always in what they say or do but sometimes it's something in their voice or eyes that gives them away. Sometimes it is not something you can put your finger on or prove even, but you just have that feeling in the pit of your stomach that all is not right. God is protecting you. Listen to His Voice. Walk away. It is a physical feeling and reaction and you should not ignore it.

While I have been "out for the count" the last two months, RESTING, I once again visited my feelings and thoughts about this and I feel that God has a mission for me. He has prepared me for this mission. He has given me all the tools and gifts I need and I know that if I don't follow in obedience, that I will miss my purpose in this. One thing I know is that if you don't follow the plan God has for you in His bigger picture, then He will find someone who will. So, all I am doing at this point is to make myself available to Jesus if and when He wants to use me. In the meantime, I will keep on doing what is on my desk...the next thing and the next.

I find that while you wait on God to show you the way, or make things clear, or give you your next assignment, work is the best thing. Keep moving forward. Keep creating. Keep breathing in and out and trust the One who can be trusted to hold your heart and life and dreams in the palms of His cupped hands.

My question is how do we do that?  I have talked about being an artist and being a Christian and how to navigate that with how you worship God with your artmaking, in previous posts. Just like you, I am bombarded with Social Media posts and videos of people creating "Spreads" using all sorts of elements. To me, it is not about judging anyone or their personal journey with Jesus. I'm a fruit inspector and not called to judge. It is however important to me to understand what Jesus wants for me and the art He placed in me. How does He want me to live it?

Running a creative business and trying to put food on my table with my art, is really hard. Don't let anybody tell you otherwise. There are so many factors to consider here. I think my biggest challenge is to make sure that God is still center stage in all of it. The moment I feel He isn't, I take a step back until I feel His peace and calm return.

I worked hard this year in obedience to create the Revive online Creative Retreat Program. I created a website that just kept growing and the content that went with it. It started out with an experience I enjoyed that someone else created and I wanted to adapt the idea and do "my own thing" and God said: No, you are going to do it My way. I ended up with a 4-week program spread over 4 months, a Workbook and a Creative Journal as well as a Creative Prompts System to help you create endless projects with the focus on finding your creativity at the Source: God. 

I am so glad I put all other projects on the back burner. I am glad that I worked nights and sacrificed so much to develop this big THING. To me it's big. I know that each time I sat down to write it, Jesus showed up. I also know I am not yet finished with the process yet. I do know I am tired and spent and my family has insisted I take a little mini "sabatical" which God didn't really give me a choice in. He wants me to REST. So no matter how big the thing is He is asking you to attempt for Him, know that He might also ask you to stop along the way and take a break. It is not giving up or giving in. Sometimes God re-aligns us with Himself and we need to know that His timing is totally different from our own.  We might see the finish line, or hope for it or rush towards it. He will slow you down...way down until it might look like you have lost the race or given up.  You haven't. Do you know how I know this?  Each time my strength gives in and I feel like I really cannot go on even one more step, a little time passes by and I find myself still waking up in the morning, still breathing, still here. Then by some miraculous unseen inner event, I get up and I keep going. What? How did that happen....again. The only explanation I can find is that because Jesus lives in me, His Holy Spirit and the power of His Blood over me, raises me up, fills me with new strength and I walk again. Dry bones do come to life when Jesus shows up. Yes, every single time. I shared a post on Facebook a while ago that I really relate to. The image is of a girl with a towel thrown to her head and the caption says: I frequently throw in the towel, but then God throws it back at me. It's like He is saying "Hey I'm not done with you yet!"

So, getting back to "Bible Journaling".  I think it is fair to say that there are as many ways of going about this as there are people in the world. We are all so different and unique. So I have decided that I will do it my way and if it doesn't look like what others call "Bible Journaling", that's OK. I will journal in my little notebooks and write love letters to Jesus as I have always done. I will pray in my Dreambooks and add His Word to it and trust Him for each and every dream. I will offer Him my art and prophesy to others about the Word and what it means. I will teach and make art and create product to encourage and support other women like me...creative women of faith. I will commit to do it His way and I will commit to find the art in me and follow the thumbprint He placed in me. I challenge you whoever you are, to do the same.

And if you play with someone else's art or ideas and make it your own, give credit where credit is due.

I will lead by example. In my latest little process video, I used my sister Surita's art stamp from our Revive collection. I love my sister's art. Not because she is my sister...that is probably an obvious reason. I love it because the softness and love and beauty I find in Christ shine through each and every artwork. Her little "Pearli" heart shines through it too. Surita means "Pearl".

Visit Ivytree Studio to see more of what we are up to
Buy some of our pretty paper here
Connect with the team on our Facebook page here.
Share your Creative Journaling with us here
Join the #GracelillyFaithArtClub here. 
Watch our Youtube channel here.

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....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 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 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, 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 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 up with the girls in person...get to know 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 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 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 

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 means nothing in comparison. 
5. Never let the words of people determine your 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 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.

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