Writing

writing doesnt

Journaling is wonderful. Writing memoir is helpful. But in and of itself, it is not enough.

It’s not enough to erase the pain.

It’s not enough to heal the wounds. 

It’s not enough to deliver me from all my sufferings. 

It’s not enough to give me peace.

It’s not enough to save me.

It’s not enough to wash away the memories.

It’s not enough to heal the hurt.

It’s not enough to fix me.

Writing is a gift. But it’s not my salvation.

When times are hard and it feels like the entire host of hell is stirred up against me, running to writing doesn’t fix it. It doesn’t fix it for me because it wasn’t meant to. There is only One that can fix it, and His name is Jesus. 

He binds up my brokenness and saves me from my crushing pain. He heals my wounds and anoints me with the oil of gladness. He is the only One I have.

These are the words my soul needs to live by. In them I’ll find my peace.

What words of encouragement do you live by?

Life

goals 2016

Making goals for the new year is one of my favorite things to do. But, just like the next guy, I usually fall short when it comes time to work on them. Not this year! I’m giving this year first to the Lord, and all my dreams and desires I’m placing in His hands. He will bring about those things I long to see fulfilled, and He will give me the grace and wisdom to work towards those things He would have me do.

This year, let us dissolve all our hopes into a single hope, to know Christ and be found in Him. May this be the year to desire a radically transformed, deeper, truer, knowing [of] Christ as our all-sufficient One.

Elisabeth Elliot

These are the four areas that I want to focus on in the coming year.

  1. Growth in my relationship with the Lord 

To me, this means praying more, studying the Word more, and spending more time meditating on Him. I want Him to be at the center of my life and my hopes for the new year!

2. By His grace (and if it’s His will) self-publish my memoir

I’m praying that this is the year that our story is finally heard. I know there’s going to be a lot of work that goes into it: we’re talking translating, formatting, marketing, promoting, and launching a book – all on my own! Gah!

3. Write and complete my second book

I have a good chunk of it written already, but I need to begin writing more consistently as I did the previous year when I was completing my first book. I also need to learn how to balance writing a book and keeping up this blog (just thinking about it exhausts me, ha!)

4. Blog more often and more purposefully

For so long, I was unsure about why I was blogging and what it was I wanted to say. I believe I’ve finally discovered my approach: writing is a subject I am so passionate about. Combining that God-given passion with my passion for Jesus is something I could write about endlessly!

I will be touching on each of these goals in my upcoming posts, so keep an eye out for that. And tell me – what are your goals for 2016? 

 

Faith

bible study

“You ought to search the Scriptures yourself, to discover the glorious gospel.”

Lailah Gifty Akita

As a lot of us know, studying the Bible is a cornerstone of the Christian walk. The Bible is, after all, the Word of God, and it is just as prevalent to us today as it was when it was originally written 2,000+ years ago.

I grew up reading it, of course. Studying the Bible in communal gatherings is also familiar to me – my family sits down together every morning to read and study with my father leading us. But when it comes to my private relationship with the Lord, I’ve always felt a little bit confused and unsure about how to go about it. Do I close my eyes, open the Bible, and point with my finger, assuming that’s the verse God wants me to read that day? Do I start at the beginning and work my way through to the end? Most of the time I’d just pick a random chapter to read through, but I wouldn’t retain anything.

I wanted to be diligent to spend time in the Word, but I didn’t know where to start or how to do it. I started Googling things like “How To Study the Bible” but nothing really stood out to me. Except for this video, which I actually found when my sister showed me this channel:

After watching this video, I understood that I needed to have a focused approach to Bible study. Taking elements of what Gretchen spoke about, and compiling them with the bits and pieces that I was picking up in other places, I began tackling my “secret closet” time in ways I never had before.

But it was one particular thing that brought studying the Bible to a whole new level for me.

A notebook.

“I believe the Bible is the best gift God has ever given to man. All the good from The Savior of the world is communicated to us through this Book.”

Abraham Lincoln

If you read my last post, 7 Reasons Why You Should Keep A Journal, you would have noticed that reason #3 had to do with the secret closet – writing your prayers down to the Lord. But what I didn’t get into was my own personal testimony when it came to the amazing ways that journaling helped me in delving into the Word.

So just how do you study the Bible using a journal?

First of all, watch the video up above – Gretchen, the speaker, gives a great foundation on how to go about it, including insight on how to navigate choosing your study. When I started using the method of journaling as I studied my Bible, I chose the Book of Ruth for my first in-depth study (and wow, was that a huge blessing!)

Pray for the anointing of the Holy Spirit

This is first and foremost. You should pray before every study session for the Lord to touch you and anoint you with wisdom and understanding. He wrote the Bible; He holds the honored and glorified position of interpreting it to you. Don’t leave Him out.

“Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.”

Psalm 100:4

Read

Using the Book of Ruth as an example, I open up to the chapter I’m preparing to study, and I read through several verses. How much you read through and how long you take to study a particular verse, or verses, is up to you. Sometimes, I use the whole of my study time to focus on one single verse; other times, I read through and take notes on several verses. It depends, and there’s no right or wrong way of doing this. Let the Lord lead you and take rest in the fact that this is a learning process and a journey – you can’t fail!

Reread & meditate

Often, we skim over the words, not letting them take root in our hearts and minds; being a fast reader, I’m particularly prone to this. Read slowly. Meditate on the words. Read the verses over and over and over again. (Literally. It’s amazing how things start to become clearer when you’ve read the same verse eight times in a row.)  If you’re wondering about the meaning of the word, get your hands on a Strong’s Concordance (if you don’t have one, consider investing in one – it’s a priceless addition to your Bible study toolkit). You can find the Hebrew root meaning of any given word in that concordance, and oftentimes the verse you’re studying can take on new depths and meanings when you understand where the word comes from.

Take notes

This is where the journal comes into play. I write the date; some people choose to write the hour and the location – I don’t bother with that sort of thing, but you can if you want to. I write down the verses I’m studying, and then I break it down. Sometimes – like when I was studying Psalm 119 – I copy down the verse, and then I write my notes on it. My notes include everything from my impression of the verse, what I think it’s saying, how it pertains to me, what I think God could be showing me with it, and so on and so forth. If I don’t understand something I write it down. This brings the Word home in a deep and personal way. I’ll never forget those verses that I took notes on, that I meditated on and pondered.

You can ask yourself these questions:

  1. How does this apply to me?
  2. What is God showing me through this verse?
  3. What can I take away from it? 
  4. How can I learn from it?

Other things I write down in my prayer journal are personal testimonies, answers to prayer, dreams, things God is showing me, trials I’m going through, and how God is ministering to me through my study of the Word.

Here are some things to keep in mind:

  1. Be open to the leadership of the Holy Spirit. You may be in the middle of a study on the book of Proverbs, but God may put into your heart one day to turn to the book of Galatians. Don’t hesitate. That’s God speaking to you. He wants to show you something.
  2. It’s okay to play ‘Bible Roulette’ every now and then. (That’s when you close your eyes, open your Bible, and point to a verse.) Sometimes when we’re desperate and in need of an answer, God will use this method of “chance” to minister to us. However, use wisdom. There’s a story of a man who does this and the verse his finger falls on is that of the man who vowed to God that he would sacrifice the first person who came out to greet him on his return home from battle and it ended up being his daughter (Judges 11:29). Naturally, this left our Roulette friend pretty confused. I would pray and ask God for discernment if you’re confused about what you’ve read.

Did this help you in any way? Do you have any tried-and-true methods when it comes to studying the Bible? Leave me a comment and let me know! 

I have one desire now – to live a life of reckless abandon for the Lord, putting all my energy and strength into it.

Elisabeth Eliot

Writing

7 Reasons

To me, journaling seems to have a bit of a bad rap. When you say the word “journal,” what comes to mind? I think of angsty preteens with fuzzy, pink diaries and feather-tipped pens scribbling away about their first crush or that horrible thing that so-and-so said at school today. Journaling almost seems petty – trivial.

However, coming from firsthand experience, I can say that it’s anything but.

I have journaled off and on again since I was ten years old. I originally started because I was in foster care: not only did my dad want me to record everything that happened, but I had nobody to talk to and I was lonely. I carried that journal with me everywhere.

I started up again the following year during my second bout in foster care. This time, the habit stuck, even after we were returned home.

The older I got, the less I needed to rely on journaling. But in recent times, I have gone back to it and I have discovered a bit about the underrated practice – and myself – along the way.

  1. Journaling is cathartic

“Journal writing is a voyage to the interior.”

Christina Baldwin

For me, journaling is the freest form of expression. It’s the only place where I can truly admit what I am experiencing, knowing that no one will judge me. I am still teaching myself to let go more, to delve into those thoughts and feelings that I usually ignore – the ones I don’t want to put a name to. But whenever I do? I feel nothing but relief.

Don’t be afraid to state in your journal, in no uncertain terms, what you’re feeling or going through. It has an immediate cathartic effect that will help you to make peace with whatever life is throwing your way. 

2. Journaling helps you make sense of what seems senseless

“Writing is the only way I have to explain my own life to myself.”

Pat Conroy

Often, when I’m journaling, I find myself writing, erasing, and rewriting as I go, trying to capture the exact feeling, the exact emotion, trying to recreate every altering moment, every twisted thought and half-formed fear. Putting an exact name to the feeling or to the situations that I experience was, I used to think, just another symptom of my raging perfectionism. Now I know better: what I’m really doing is trying to make sense out of what, to me, is senseless; every time I erase, every time I rewrite, I am understanding more and more about myself, about my troubles and fears and pains, about the people that feature in my life and the experiences that we share.

Why is it that this happened? Why did it make me feel this way? Journaling will help you find the answers to those questions. 

3. Journaling is a form of praying

“This is what you do when you journal. You are recording God’s grand, epoch-spanning redemptive story as it unfolds in your limited, temporal sphere of existence here on earth. Your journal has the potential to record the continuation of the Holy Spirit’s work in our world!”

Adam L. Feldman

Did you know you could write your prayers down to the Lord? Write down your hopes and dreams, your pains and fears, and be open and honest – with Him and yourself. Not only does this increase intimacy between you and the Lord, but it’s a great way to keep focused and not get distracted. I don’t know about you, but I often struggle with not getting distracted in my thoughts when I pray. Praying aloud – even if it’s in a whisper – helps, but when I’m alone inside my head, my thoughts wander. Writing down my prayers is a focused, deliberate conversation with God and seeing the evidence of the state of my heart does two things for me:

  • Forces me to acknowledge those areas about myself that I would rather close my eyes to, i.e. selfishness, pride, pettiness, etc.
  • Gives me a play-by-play of what God is doing. I love reading back old entries and seeing the areas where God has caused me to grow or the things He has answered prayers about.

Pour out your heart to the Lord and watch Him heal you. One day you will look back and read an old entry and think, “wow, I remember how horrible that was! It’s amazing how God brought me out of that place.”

4. Journaling is a way to record memories

“These handwritten words in the pages of my journal confirm that from an early age I have experienced each encounter in my life twice: once in the world, and once again on the page.”

Terry Tempest Williams

Your journals can become the chronicles of your life – they are your unpublished memoirs, if you will. Cameras can’t capture everything, and there is something very priceless about reading over old journals, recalling and acknowledging the different chapters of your life story. Based on what you write, you may even choose to share your journals with someone someday; maybe a daughter, maybe a spouse. It will provide both you and them with an unfiltered glimpse into the past. And your heart.

Journaling is the evidence of a life lived. Record all those moments that you don’t want to forget; you’ll enjoy reading them over again someday.

5. Journaling helps you heal

“These empty pages are your future, soon to become your past. Twill read the most personal tale you shall ever find in a book.”

Anonymous

Sometimes the things we go through seem almost too painful to put into words; we’d rather repress it than face it head-on. We all have our different coping techniques, and repression has definitely been high on the list for me. So I don’t always feel like journaling. In fact, when really horrible things happen, I’d rather not acknowledge it – even to myself. For example, I’ve been avoiding writing about a certain experience in a my journal for several weeks now. Last night, I finally confronted it in my own way, and I felt freer afterwards.

You don’t have to force yourself to write down what is too painful to express, but you might be surprised by how you feel after getting it out. Working through each phase of the grieving process is a part of healing, and writing down your thoughts as you go through your trials will help you in accepting your circumstances. 

6. Journaling is synonymous with self-discovery

“Often as writers, we are surprised by what we learn about ourselves. It runs counter to what we’ve thought about who we are. But it is closer to the truth.”

Rob Bignell

To journal honestly is to take a good, long look at yourself in a mirror built for souls. I used to struggle with truthfulness when it came to journaling. I’d rather have been lenient, painting myself as the victim of life’s circumstances, a damsel in distress. I shielded myself from my own bitterness and anger. But, with time, I realized that I would rather give an exact representation of my thoughts and feelings than have to face them later – the hidden shadows in a sentence made of sunshine.

The truth is, we’d rather not face that we are shallow, mean, resentful, and silly. But how else will we grow? The Bible teaches that we must confess our sins before we can be forgiven and made new. To confess means to acknowledge. And acknowledgment happens naturally when you journal. You are forced to see yourself for what you are. You come to understand yourself.

Through journaling, you will grow and you will change. Embrace it. It’s all a part of the process.

7. Journaling is a safe place

“And so I just kept writing to myself.”

Kimberly Novosel

My journals are like a scribe’s record of secret closet meetings. The Bible speaks about the secret place – a place where you are alone with the Lord, a place where you find His presence. My journals are the essence of what that secret place means to me. They see the worst of me – they see my frustration, my anger, my bitterness – and still, empty pages remain, waiting to be filled. My journals also see what is most fragile about me, the hidden wounds that no one but the Lord knows of, and I can trust that it will remain that way. There’s no one but me and God there.

It’s an escape; it’s a place to run to – a place that doesn’t exist within the crowded walls of my home. It’s where I pour out my heart with only God as my witness.

In our lives, we are often faced with terrible challenges and bitter truths. Journaling provides a safe place where you can express what you’re going through.

I hope this entry inspires you to keep a journal!

“Why, then, do I set before You an ordered account of so many things? it’s certainly not through me that You know them. But I’m stirring up love for You in myself and in those who read this so that we may all say, great is the Lord and highly worthy to be praised. I tell my story for love of Your love.”

Augustine of Hippo