Why I draw on the pages of my Bible

Editor’s note: This blog post originally was dated in 2018. Since then, a lot has happened. I have grown in my Bible journaling life. I have learned lots of tips and techniques. I have fallen into the trap of spending more time on the art than in HIS word. But overall, I have developed a deeper relationship with the Lord, and everything is worth that.

Some of you will be horrified. Some of you will be curious. And some of you will say, meh. Yes, I do draw, color, write, paint and make collages in my Bible.

I do it after realizing that it’s not sacriligious to accent God’s word, especially if it means I spend more time reading it.

Gone are the hours of binging police procedurals on Netflix. Night after night (and sometimes morning) I sit on my little enclosed porch and create art in the books of the Old and New Testaments.

It seems like I began months and months ago, but it has only been a little more than one month that I first learned about this practice, called #biblejournaling, after I bought a canvas bag from DaySpring.com. It’s mission was emblazoned on the front of the bag: “I color in my Bible!” In January, I had started reading YouVersion’s “Bible in a Year,” and I thought since I was reading like I never had before, I might as well start journaling.

To be honest, I had no idea what to do with it. Inside this slightly larger-than-a-pencil bag came two pens, some paper clippies to mark your pages and some cut-out words and phrases.

I had a Bible — a regular paperback with two columns and narrow margins. Starting in Genesis, I scrawled some comments that narrowly fit on the edges of the book. There wasn’t much room to write, and I was afraid to write on top of the words.

With those barriers, I didn’t do much, and, frankly, I put the little bag on my nightstand, where it lay for months.

I saw it everyday, but because I was stuck, I didn’t pick it back up. Until one day, when I looked up Bible journaling on YouTube. And I found this:

Eureka! This search yielded a bounty of people who enjoyed this hobby, and who were incredibly talented and generous with their skills and time. Hello Jillskey, LindseyDecor, Monica from Because Jesus and Jenna from Scibbling Grace became my new best friends. Instead of watching detectives solve murders, I watched spiritual how-tos of art and design.

I asked this question on Facebook on June 9:

“Any Bible journalers out there? I’m going to start. Lots of YouTube videos, but I’d love to hear your experiences.”

I found lots of Facebook groups: Bible Journaling for Beginners Community, Because Jesus Bible Journaling and the Illustrated Faith Bible Journaling Community. Illustrated Faith is one of many companies catering to Bible journaling hobbyists. Others are Creative Retreat, Citrus Twist and others.

And, the mother of independent companies, Bible Journaling Ministries, which has a free 10-day course that helped me immensely.

Like any other journaler, I started off a little afraid of writing on His Word. Like, actually writing on top of the words. In fact, I started in a little journal given to me by my mother-in-law— NOT in the Bible intself. I didn’t have many supplies, just my little coloring sack and some scrapbooking papers from an earlier hobby. This is what I came up with:

I bought more supplies, but stayed in the journal:

After I created a couple of times in the little journal, I felt I was ready to go to the Bible. I added to my supplies with a Bible journaling kit. Here is my first page. Not perfect, but it was a start. I used a concentrated pigment I’d heard the YouTubers talking about called gelatos and some alphabet stickers (called “alphas.”) I learned how the thin, delicate pages of a Bible are very different from scrapbooking paper, and react differently to wet mediums.

The main photo at the top of this post was created with Gelatos and adhering a thin paper napkin to the page.

Gelatos, which I’ll talk more about in another post, is an all-purpose pigment that can be wetted to act like watercolor paints, mixed with other mediums to create paints and used dry. I’ve been using them almost exclusively because they are the only colors I have (not including pens).

The page above, and two below, are some more examples of pages with gelato:

Bible journaling is not just about coloring and lettering in the Bible. It’s about spending more time reading, dwelling on and praying about the Word of God. It’s tempting to just start playing around with pencils and color, but it’s important to let yourself be led by the spirit. Some people use a Bible study method, such as the SOAP method: S- scripture, O- Observation, A- Application, and P- Prayer, others pick a word for the year to focus on, others meditate, and still others just read until something strikes them. Whatever you do, know that journaling is a way for you to get closer to the Lord. Listen for His voice, and He will inspire you.

My favorite verse tells me that I need to be fearless, be still, to not worry or be anxious. For me, this is the crux of being able to spend time in His word.

10 “Be still, and know that I am God.

I will be exalted among the nations,

I will be exalted in the earth!”

11 The Lord of hosts is with us;

the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Psalm 46:10–11

There is such a thing as Pinterest syndrome, that crippling fear of not having perfect Bible pages. And it is real. It is a struggle. It can keep you from creating in your Bible or even in journals. During a “flip-through” video on her YouTube channel, Jenna from Scribbling Grace noticed mistakes:

“I have made a lot of mistakes … but I also have a lot of faith and a lot of beauty in this Bible so I just want to encourage you if you are new to Bible journaling and you are kind of scared to jump in …”

She is right. No one is perfect. Only Jesus is perfect. We are perfectly imperfect until we have faith and strive to be like him, and are then made “perfect and complete.”

2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

— James 1:2–4

And, so, I told others about my new hobby. I posted on Instagram and Facebook. I think at first, people didn’t know what to make of it, but eventually I got some messages of curiosity:

“Yes, I admire your bility to do this. I have trouble making myself underline or wrote in any book- too many years spent in public schools. Lol. It’s clear you’re having a wonderful time doing this project!”

“You are inspiring me to try this! I’ve always taken notes, doodled, etc., in my Bibles. I’m loving this!!!! ❤️ Any suggestions???”

“Hi!! I want to start Bible journaling. Would you be so kind as to guide me in that direction?”

And while well-meaning family and friends “like” my posts, I know this is not for everyone. And so, I created places to house all my Bible page art. It’s all my VSCO page, Perfect Imperfection, an Instagramlike photo feed with filters. Lately I have posted more often to Instagram, under @yvettebwalker.

UPDATE! In Fall 2018 I started a small group at church, showing people what I learned. We are going into our second semester, and people have grown in the Word — my goal for starting the group.

I will post here on journaling from time to time, and I’ll provide tips and tricks as I learn them. Look for them here. And get started! All you need is the Bible.

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Yvette Walker of the Positively Joy podcast

Yvette Walker of the Positively Joy podcast

Walker is the host of Positively Joy, a multicultural podcast that takes a mostly Christian look at the search for light in all seasons. www.positivelyjoy.com