Coloring Outside the Lines

I have a confession to make: My name is Melanie, I’m 42 years old, and I like to color (…in my Bible).

GASP! Is that allowed?! I’m guessing some of you may be “purists” and think that the Bible shouldn’t be written in, let alone colored and painted all over, and that’s okay. Even one of my daughters gives me a hard time and jokingly (I think!) tells me I’m defiling God’s Word whenever she sees me journaling.

I understand that Bible journaling isn’t for everyone, but Friends, let me tell you…it has changed my world! I’ll tell you why, but in order to do that, let me first tell you how I got into it.

A little over a year ago, I started seeing Facebook posts from a few friends—with themed lists of Bible verses for the month—saying how they were copying down a Bible verse a day and encouraging others to do it, too. I was intrigued, as I was absolutely horrible at reading my Bible and needed something to get me over my thinking that the Bible was just a snooze-fest. (Literally…I always seemed to zone out and almost fall asleep whenever I’d try to read it.)

So, in December 2017, I searched up a reading plan for that month, bought a notebook, and started copying down a set of verses each day. The list I picked was from some blog (I don’t even remember which one), but the theme was “Names of God.” Each day, I sat down, read the required verses, and copied them into my notebook. The readings were often long, and writing them down was sometimes labor-intensive, but there was something about copying Scripture word-for-word that drew me in.

I have to admit that that first month’s list actually took me two months to complete—I’ll blame the holidays—but I went on to another list in February. That month, I kicked things up a notch by writing certain words in different colors and lettering styles. (I was a document designer in my pre-mommy life, so I love playing around with fonts.) While I wasn’t always loving the length or the list-maker’s choice of verses, in March, I started adding little pictures and doodles to truly make the verses my own.

I wanted to do more—more lettering, more pictures, more coloring, but I didn’t even know what all of this even was. I started thinking, “Have I created something new here?” (No. No, I hadn’t.) It turns out, after a couple quick Pinterest and Google searches, what I was doing was called Bible journaling. And, man, was I hooked!

After doing some research online, I quickly ordered a journaling Bible and a how-to book and told my hubby that my early Mother’s Day gifts were already on the way, via Amazon Prime. I read the how-to book cover-to-cover in one day and started sketching out my first journaling entry the following day. 

Since then, I’ve finished more than 60 entries, led a Bible journaling small group through my church, and been asked to teach some small classes to a moms’ group in the spring. It’s become a passion, as well as a calling. Beyond that, though, Bible journaling really has changed my spiritual life. Here’s how:

1. I love reading the Bible now.

Remember earlier, when I said it used to be a chore for me to read the Bible? Now, I actually look forward to it every
day. Journaling has allowed me to become more engaged with the Word. I may not have the time to journal each day (I have four kiddos who, for some reason, think they need to be fed and driven places every day, so that kind of slows
me down!); however, I keep a running list of verses I’d like to journal at some point. Trying to add to that list keeps me alert while I’m reading. (Really, it does!)
I also love looking for imagery—pictures I can draw that will connect with the words I’m reading. Scripture comes alive now for me because I’m seeing verses in a whole new way. I look for meaning, symbolism, and, like I said, imagery. I’ve always been a creative person; it just wasn’t until I discovered Bible journaling that I discovered I could apply that type of thinking to the Word. Now, the Word comes alive to me in a way it never did before. And I get so excited to put it down on paper. Sometimes, I’m not even sure where my ideas come from (okay, so I do—God), and I will completely surprise myself by what I create. It’s awesome!


2. I am memorizing Scripture like never before.

I recently read about a study that was done in Canada; in it, the researchers had subjects memorize a list of words either by just remembering the words or by drawing a picture that went along with each word. Subjects who were asked to draw pictures were more likely to remember more words than those who were just asked to memorize the list without pictures. That is totally happening with me since starting journaling.

I’m a visual learner, so when I draw pictures or use creative lettering to copy a verse, it gives me a picture in my mind to go along with that verse. The verse comes alive, and I can “see” it; it’s no longer simply words that go in one ear and out the other, but because I’ve given it “life” on the page, I am so much more apt to remember it. (Saying it in my head over and over again as I copy it down doesn’t hurt, either!) I have probably memorized more Scripture in the past year of Bible journaling than I have in my entire life (not including all the verses I’ve memorized because of songs, but that helps, too)!

3. I’ve discovered an entirely new form of worship.

When most people hear the word, “worship,” they immediately think of singing and music—especially the beginning part of a church service, where you sing the required three songs before the sermon starts. I am not putting that type of worship down at all, but can I just admit that it’s not my favorite part of church? If you know me at all, you know I can’t carry a tune in a bucket, and I’m definitely not the one in the front row with my eyes closed and my hands lifted in the air during every song. If that’s you, and you feel the Spirit move with every worship song, that is awesome, and I wish that I felt the same. But I don’t. God definitely did not give me a musically-inclined soul!

Worship, though, doesn’t have to have anything to do with music. It is, simply put, showing adoration or reverence for God. You can do this in a multitude of ways. My husband has the gift of giving, so for him, giving monetary or other resources to the church or other Christian organizations is an act of worship. Serving is an act of worship. So is praying. The Bible says you can even worship through dance (Psalm 149:3)—although some of us (me) are more blessed with that ability than others (my hubby), so let’s leave that one to the more proficient dancers, okay?

It wasn’t until I was a few months into my journaling journey (say that three times fast!) that I began to see it as an act of worship. If I believe that God created me to be a creative being, then I believe that He wants me to use the talents He’s given me to give glory back to Him. Just as the singers on stage every Sunday are using their vocal and instrumental talents to worship God, so can I use my penmanship and sketching talents to praise Him.

Does that mean you have to be a prize-winning artist to Bible journal? Definitely not. (I’m far from it!) Does that mean that all entries will be masterpieces? Um, no. (I’ve completed a few that I definitely would like a do-over on!) What’s important is that while I’m journaling, I’m giving God my heart and my talents, and I’m giving Him and His Word my full attention. And that, to me, is true worship.

In the coming months, I plan on sharing more of my entries, as well as some practical tips on getting started in Bible journaling. (The type I do is just one way of several, so even if you aren’t artistic but still want to get into it, I’ll have some info for you, as well. So, stay tuned!) I love sharing this gift with others, and I can’t wait to share some more with you! 

Do you Bible journal? Comment below! If you have questions, or if there’s something you’d like me to teach you how to do, let me know that, as well! Do you have a non-musical way of worshipping the Lord? I’d love to know that, as well. We at the Salty Sunshine always love hearing from our readers! Let us know how you’re doing! 

Until next time…


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