Happy Mail

I received some happy mail yesterday:  Some We R Memory Keepers Envelope Wraps from my Bible Journaling friend Connie Denninger, author of Vintage Grace.  She discovered that these stickers, designed for dressing up an envelope, are just the right width for our Bible margins.  They are a great option for covering up bleedthrough.


Earlier in the day, I was sorting through some papers hoping to find the physical form I needed for my daughter’s kindergarten registration, when I came across a coloring page that I received when I attended an awesome Visual Faith event at Connie’s church.

The coloring page led me to the perfect verse for one of the stickers that Connie sent me and the Psalm prove to be just exactly where I needed to be spending some time in the Word.  I felt blessed!


Psalm 37 is a good reminder to wait on God and keep His way.  And the bicycle reminds me of what it means to follow God:  You have to stay well-balanced, keep going, and look to the road ahead!


My husband and I were both brought up to believe if you do well in school and work hard, you will do well.  We have three jobs between us and are often up past midnight doing work.  There are times when it can be discouraging.  Our parents never worked quite this hard and some things they took for granted are a struggle for us.  We see other people doing just as well or better by not doing the right things in life.  Psalm 37 reminds me that this problem is as old as time, but also it provides this assurance:  God does not forsake His saints.  God provides for us as we do our best to walk in the way our parents taught us and God shows us in His Word.




It was so nice to receive some fun mail, which randomly turned into a bit of needed encouragement.

One, two, whatever you do, start it well and carry it through.

Try, try, never say die.

Things will come right, you know, by and by.

PEACE AND LIGHT – Playing in prayer and scripture with Suzanne Stovall Vinson

Guest post by Lisa Nichols Hickman, author of Writing in the Margins: Connecting with God on the Pages of Your Bible.

I am beyond excited to introduce you to Suzanne Stovall Vinson owner of Silver Tree Art.  Below, in her poetic voice, you’ll hear how she fell in love with praying in color.  And, you’ll catch a glimpse of some of her favorite artistic tools!

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When I see photos of her studio space pop up on my Facebook feed, I want to transport myself from snowy western Pennsylvania to her light-filled art and gathering room in Richmond,Virginia.

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Suzanne’s work is beyond the margins of scripture, but in every image she exudes what it means to “pray in color.”  Take a look!  I think you’ll fall in love immediately.  Here’s what Suzanne had to say about her practice of painting and praying…

Somehow, I got into journaling and praying with paint and color when my hands met my heart, and my head and my health poured forth.

I started reading and experimenting with a mixed media art journaling approach to my devotional time through the great work of books like “Wild Surrender” and “Create for the One Who Made me” by  Mindy Lacefield.

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My daily practice is distilled into the essence of listening. Reading Krista Tippet speaks of “generous listening” which I find to be luxurious – wrapped in silk and lace – at some point listening becomes a conversation, too, once you’ve listened long enough.

I am inspired by the shapes and colors in nature, and by the interweaving color stories in my imagination as brush moves across paper. I love, love moss and seed pods. Lichen and leaves and ferns. I love blooms and trees. I love rusty things and barn wood.

I process life through my paintbrush. So when I’ve had a trail run or a walk in the neighborhood, the joy of that experience enters the page. When I am feeling fatigued and worn out, I find energy in painting. When I am in a dark space, painting brings me into the light.

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Somehow, I meet the right people at the right time. friendships are foundational in my path to wholeness and healing. friendships help me to survive the fatiguing moments of motherhood and life. near my 20’s i was diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome. i’ve learned in the last 20 years that i need a different pace, a rhythm of work and life that needs to shift according to my body’s needs. i’m reminded again and again through health and wellness ((or the lack thereof)) what i need to maintain a healthy course. most of the time, i want to pretend that fatigue isn’t there, that i’m fine. then i over-do the work-flow and under-do the self care practices. i skip lunch or work through half the night. while my work gives me energy, avoiding meals and sleep isn’t sustainable for any of us.

And I love to dream big. i dream often, setting those hopes and dreams to paper, object, word, art. i put them into flames and let the smoke carry them to the grandmothers. i ask for help. dreaming big these days, i’m aiming to spread the word about the work i do in the world and tell others why i do what i do and what i believe it can do for the world. i make art to care for my sacred soul. i make art that is made to care for others through rituals of healing, receiving care and love, and to release what is carried that no longer needs to be. my wisdom cards are shared from me to you through social media and in my wee etsy shop and Silver Tree Art studio in Ginter Park. those soul seeds of wisdom cards are then carried to our tribes in times of loss, celebration, when cancer shows up, and when we need to be reminded we are beautiful and so, so very loved. my candles and sacred strikes are shared in much the same ways. my prints aim to add delight.

When I started moving from purely abstract into integrating the wisdom I was hearing, I found my art rooted in a place of growth. My art began to grow as I gave myself permission to use the materials I loved the most, watercolors.


The art went deeper as I gave myself permission to trust my intuition and combine ink and pencil into my work. If I did all this in secret, i would be fed. I’ve chosen to share through my blog(s) and social media over the years. Sharing helps me to expand my heart and my art. I love hearing the stories of others who tell me that I made the piece for them, that the message or image spoke to them in a particular way. I believe that’s part of the art-making. The art is something and the sharing and seeing is another art form.

i am an artist, mother, and minister living an intentional life toward wholeness, kindhearted listening, and compassionate care. when i listen to myself and those i trust in the tribe that encircles me, i hear that i am a loving mother who has banked really good times and when i am the too-tired-to-say-the-right-thing-first mama, i slow down and show some forgiveness where needed, asking forgiveness when necessary. i am a mother of two very sweet souls whose lives i’m thrilled to witness unfold. one is 10.75 and the other 3.5. each adds wonder, delight, and levity on the best days. my partner in life is my one-and-only-true-love who i’ve been married to for 13 years. he’s my grounding and my joy. my love for my love deepens in our growing together. as an artist, i create soul wisdom art, which is art that is meant to deepen your experience of life, delight and connection. as a minister, i gather women around the table in circles, mini-retreats, and retreats where we experience ritual, healing, rest, and the creative flow as kindred spirits. my gatherings are said to be “life giving” where “you leave more rested than you walked in” and you experience synchronicity, self care, and a deep soul exhale. i also love the opportunities i am given speak and facilitate retreats, conferences, and gatherings.

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I’ve always been a creator from my earliest days of mudpies, and grass and blooming soups in rain water. I’d paint or color and play, play play. I loved 4H as an avenue of exploring through travel, conversation, and the work of my hands. My education was at a private liberal arts school in MS in business education and a master of education in guidance and counseling, then a master of divinity studies and post grad coursework in bereavement care and chaplaincy. I was a minister in the church in some form from the time I was in my early 20’s. Before that, I babysat for families and sold plants at a nursery, which carried me through college. during my first masters and undergrad, I worked within the laboratory preschool at the college – cooking and teaching in the afternoons. I loved gathering the art supplies and creating projects for the 3, 4, 5 year olds to create. I loved it all.

My calling expanded from the time I was 16 until now. Before selling art, I ministered in church, facilitated bereavement groups before moving more into chaplaincy. Then my call reached for a space of my own, and I moved into the studio space so I could welcome groups into my own space rather than relying solely for contract work. I’ve always had a short-term contract outside the studio space to work with folks in group facilitation or chaplaincy. Now I am relying upon the intersection of art and spirituality, the healing work of gathering women together, and showing up for speaking engagements, retreats, and groups and believing something wonderful happens when we’re sharing the same air and space for a period of time.

my business is silver tree art where i make art, lead mini-retreats and gatherings in the studio, as well as travel to lead retreats for organizations, non-profits, and churches. i specialize in working with groups who seek healing, wholeness, and slowing down.

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my studio is painted “reflection pool” blue with accents of red, brown, and black. there are 5 large windows and windowed closets. you feel like you’re in a tree house, looking out among trees and rooftops. Within the walls of the studio, there are turquoise ball jars filled with buttons, baskets upon baskets of rik rak, ribbon, paper, paints, and fabrics. the studio functions as retail space, gathering space, and in-action-artist-studio space. after moving into the space, I had 12 or so women gathered around the studio tables for a studio blessing. since then the birthday celebrations and mini retreats continue to bless the space. when you walk in, it’s a wonderland of creativity and visual delight. it’s an artist’s treasure box.

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in my studio i hold an evening creativity circle mini-retreat where women gather around the table for a small fee ($40) for just over 2 hours. we have a light snack, a 10-12 minute guided meditation of my creation, a creative project, and conversation woven with poetry and readings. each gathering is unique in theme.

walking you through a mini-retreat :: when you gather at the table, you are greeted with opening words from a poem, a time to light candle(s), and a time to pause and consider what you hope for. we begin with deep breathing and guided meditation as we move into our time of retreat. deepening the relaxation, we create together, with a project suzanne leads us into from the guided meditation. everyone, at every comfort level of creativity from none to great, feels comfortable diving into the creative play. conversation, readings, and poetry and questions are interwoven during our creative play. what is shared is sacred and just right for the evening gathering. you’ll leave more relaxed than you entered, with more energy and care to share with those in your world. there’s magic, too, along with the mystery and soul work that is best experienced than explained.

i also offer private gather your tribe mini-retreats, birthday celebrations, and day long or overnight retreats for groups. i’m available for speaking engagements and workshops as well. my art is made available through silvertreeart.etsy.com.

Micah 6:8 has been especially close to my heart for many years, and I have finally made it art that I keep near.


Growing into a woman, Proverbs 3:5-6 was always in my pocket. So many verses have been underlined and written over the years.

I especially love stories from the Hebrew Bible. There is such rich imagery and lessons throughout – and humor. I love the humor infused in Scripture as much as I love the Wisdom throughout.

My favorite materials include:

Medium Rollerball Pens
Koi Pens
Fluid 100 cold press watercolor paper
no 2 round princeton select brush
escoda prado watercolor brushes

oil pastels

Bristol Strathmore Smooth


Tombow pens from Japan



Schmincke Watercolors


Getting to Know Paper Pieces

My daughter asked me to make a Bible for her.  So we went to Lifeway and she picked out a journaling Bible with a bird on the cover, and she said, “Mom, I want bird stickers for my bird Bible.”  Shortly after she made the request, Illustrated faith came out with a new set of Bible Journaling supplies called “Seeds of Faith” filled with bird and nature images.  I had a 25% off coupon and I bought the whole collection from Dayspring.  The collection includes a box of little paper pieces, just small cut-out illustrations with a Bible verse on the back.  I’ve never really known what to do with these.  They tend to sit in my drawer, so I challenged myself to use the WHOLE box!!!  I journaled all of the passages on the backs of the pieces.  (I also used transparency pieces, stickers, and stamps with the paper pieces.)

I wish I could begin to describe how these little paper pieces ministered to me.  I’ve learned so much from these little birds about singing, weathering life’s storms, taking refuge in God, trusting in God’s provision, learning from God’s ways, flying free, and enjoying friendship.  It’s been a fun journey!  I’m so grateful to my daughter for the inspiration and Illustrated Faith for the the most random and fun Bible study ever.

So many people say that they don’t know where to begin.  A box of paper pieces is a good place to start!

What they are:  Little illustrated pieces of paper.

Why they are great for Bible Journaling:  They are flexible, cute, and fun.  Unlike stickers, you can glue down just part so that the rest of the picture can be lifted.  You can also let part of the paper piece hang off the side or the top to use as a tab.

Page Prep Needed:  None

Ideas:  It’s fun to add color to the page first with washi tape, acrylic paint, Distress Inks or gelatos.

The big question for me with paper pieces is what’ the best adhesive?  Really you can use any adhesive that you would use with paper crafts:  Tape runners, double sided tape, or glue sticks.  Scor-Tape is nice double-sided tape because you can tear it to size with your fingers.  My very favorite adhesive to use with paper pieces is the Xyron sticker maker, which is a little tape role that applies a sticky back to any small piece.


I especially liked using the Xyron sticker maker with the transparency pieces.  You just drop the piece in one side and pull the tape through the other.  It comes out with an invisible, perfectly smooth layer of adhesive.  After I tried this, I haven’t really gone back to other adhesives unless the piece was too big.  Then I personally prefer to use a glue stick.

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After applying adhesive, you just add the little piece to your Bible page…



One of the first pages, I did in my daughter’s new Bible has the words “With my song I will praise him.”  I always hope that my life story will sing praise to God (even if my daughter wants to cover her ears when I sing!)

I found that the paper piece looked a little flat against the Bible paper, so I added some color by backing it with a small piece of scrapbooking paper.  I used washi tape to attach the transparency page that matched the verse.  My daughter delights in how the transparency lifts up and changes the appearance of the page.

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Some of the Illustrated Faith pieces have Bible verses on the back of them that make me wonder:  “What were they thinking?”  This little bird tab had printed on the backside “Isaiah 38:7”:  “When the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy?”  I wasn’t quite sure how to make this work, but I was inspired to create singing stars and little birdies as the sons of God shouting:  “Be joyful!”  For the tab piece, I used a glue stick to make the tab sticky and folded it over.


Another tab piece suggested Psalm 96:1.  This page came together very quickly with stickers and just a little writing.  I love that God encourages us to “Sing a new song.”  We don’t have to do things the way we’ve always done them.  We can can look to the future and move forward in new ways, even better ways.

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The next few passages are more about times of trouble.  Here’s a good reminder for times when we feel misunderstood or unfairly criticized.  I used the back side of one of the tip-ins for a quick backdrop (that also covered up some bad shadowing!)

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This next page took me totally by surprise.  I picked up a little piece of paper shaped like a branch that led me to Job 29:18:  “Then I thought I shall die in my nest, and I shall multiply my days as the sand, my roots spread out to the waters, with the dew all night on my branches.”  As I read the text around the verse, it was Job defending his life, his hopes, his dreams.  Here was a man who truly kept the faith, but everything went wrong for him.  I was looking through my stamp collection for a nest stamp.  Instead, I found a “crown of thorns.” I was moved to tears thinking how Job’s nest turned into a crown of thorns for him and I prayed for those facing challenges and heartaches within their families and their homes.  Job tries to understand and cries out:  “Where shall wisdom be found?  And where is the place of understanding?”  There are times in life where what we want more than anything is to understand “why?” and we would prefer a good answer to all the riches in the world.  In those moments, we have to look to Christ and know that the son of God, too, had his thorn of crowns and suffered much so that we all could be in relationship with His father.

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Here’s another sad bird; she went out in search of dry land after the 40 day flood, but couldn’t find a place to rest her feet.  As I looked at this little bird returning to Noah, I was reminded that just because a storm has past doesn’t mean we feel better immediately.  It takes some time to recover, to feel like we are on solid ground again.

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As I illustrated the next verse, I found myself focusing on the word wait.  So often when I read this famous passage from Isaiah, I want to be in the place of soaring like an eagle, but the passage really calls us to be patient, to wait on God, and to walk with God…

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The next paper piece took me to Jeremiah 1:11.  Jeremiah receives a sign from God.  It’s just an almond branch and the only purpose of the sign seems to be to make sure that Jeremiah sees it.  Reading this page I felt encouraged, knowing that long before we were born God knew us and loved us into being.  God has a plan for our life.

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I guess the next passage is for the worst of times, when death comes.  I was touched by these words: “For the one who has died had been set free from sin.”  I suppose all of us are set free from all the sins and sorrows that afflicted us in life through death.  I was reminded of the song:  “Earth has no sorrow that heaven can’t heal.”  But here’s the true power of Jesus:  Through Christ, we can live in hope now with joy and love in the midst of all our troubles.  Jesus came that we might have life and have it abundantly!


God reminds us through the Psalms that during life’s storms we can take our refuge in Him.  My daughter liked this page just as it was.  Maybe some day we will add some journaling.


And also that even as we take refuge in God, we should still keep singing.


If we take refuge in Him, we will set us free:  “The Lord answered me and set me free.  The Lord is on my side; I will not fear.  What can man do to me?”


We all need this reminder:  “Consider the lilies.”  I’ve always taken this verse to heart at least when it comes to clothes.  God has always met my need for clothes in fun ways. Both my mother and mother-in-law give me clothes.  I have the most beautiful cashmere coat that I found at a little thrift store near my house for $10.  I always receive nice complements on the coat and I just smile and say, “It was a gift.”  (From God!)  The funniest thing to ever happen to me:  Right before my family took a trip to Disney world, we received a package by mistake from the Disney store with two hoodies just the right size for my kids, but with embroidered with different names.  They said either keep the jackets or give them to charity.  We put buttons over the random names, and I took the whole experience as a”god-wink.”  I had been really worried/stressed about the trip for a variety of reasons, but after this I felt peace.  Those little moments help me to know that God will always provide for me.  I had to add the cute little strip of birds to this page, too, with the verse:  “Fear not little flock!”  But like many people, I still get anxious about other areas of life, often things I can’t even control.


The following paper piece with a butterfly took me to Proverbs 23:5:  “Cast but a glance on riches and they are gone for they will surely sprout wings and fly off to the sky.”  I had to really ponder this verse.  What I’ve learned through the years of working with both people and money is that there a lot of wisdom in not toiling to acquire wealth.  It’s far wiser to simply live well, but always within your means; spend money in a way you can sustain (not too little or too much–both can be a problem); and invest savings for the long-term so time does the work for you.  There is a flow when it comes to money that just needs to evened out both in the short-run and the long-run.  My daughter liked the dollar bill with wings!


Another verse about God’s provision:  “Even the sparrow finds a home.”  I love Psalm 84.  Sometimes people worry that a sticker or stamp can only be used with one verse, but I’ve found that themes recur throughout the Bible.  This seemed like a good place for another reminder:  “You are worth more than many sparrows.”  This is a beautiful promise:  “No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly.”

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And of course, it’s fun to put a paper piece right next to the verse it belongs:


Not only are we worth many sparrows, but we are loved by God!!!


This paper piece led me to the Exodus story:  “In the evening quail came up and covered the camp and in the morning dew lay around the camp.”  I was reminded of the curious ways that God provides for us and in this passage how he tested the people to see if they could learn to trust in Him.  God provided exactly what they needed for each day, no more and no less, except on the day before the people were to rest.  Then they got extra.  I had fun with the little quail stamp from an Illustrated Faith Christmas set.


Again, I had a hard time putting this paper piece with the verse. The heart with the words “Be joyful” led me to the story of Melchizedek, the high priest, serving bread and wine to Abraham. Is the message here that one serving of the body and blood of Christ was enough to sustain a family and people through generations until Christ came and offered these gifts to us in the sacrament of Holy Communion?  Sometimes its hard to read stories from the Old Testament without seeing them through the lens of the New!  I’m guessing this was not the original intention of the author, but I still came away from this page with a reminder to be joyful in worship and grateful for the gift of communion.

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I wasn’t sure exactly where the little tree would lead me.  The verse on the back said:  “And Joshua wrote these words in the book of the Law of God.  And he took a large stone and set it up there under the terebinth that was by the sanctuary of the Lord.”  As I completed this page, I was touched that thousands of years after this event, the Bible and church are such a big part of my own life, too.  God provides for us through his Holy Word and through our community of faith.

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A little reminder that spending time in the Bible is a wonderful way to grow.  The Word helps us to be like trees planted by a stream of water, continually renewed and refreshed.


The next page is really simple.  I was totally smitten with this little flying bird.  It is the reason I ordered a Xyron because I really wanted to find a way to attach the transparent piece to the page.  We can all learn a lot from the birds about sticking to the natural rhythms of life.

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The little bird below led me to Psalm 119:45:  “I shall walk in a wide place for I have sought your precepts.”  As we grow in our understanding of the Word, we grow in wisdom and influence, too.  We walk in wider places than we could ever have imagined.


I have never journaled Proverbs 31 before.  Its one of those passages that looms large in my life as the kind of person I want to be:  a good wife, someone that can be trusted, someone who brings good and not harm to others, hard-working, resourceful, prudent and wise with money, strong, generous, aware of the needs of my family ahead of time, clothed with dignity, fearless, able to laugh at the time to come, wise and kind, and I want my children to see me be happy.  These are beautiful images; Am I the only woman who finds this passage a little intimidating?  Can I say high expectations?

I used acrylic paint as a backdrop for this flower bouquet.


Little birds and butterflies speak to us of freedom.  The butterfly picture below took me to John 8:35.  I was reminded that we aren’t meant to stay forever in some situations.


I loved this reminder from Galatians:  “For freedom Christ has set us free.”  Sometimes there are things that weigh us down or start to feel heavy, but we have been made to fly.  We need to lay our burdens down and when we do, we will surely wonder why it took us so long to do so.

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Still in Galatians thinking of freedom and love:  this little paper piece was too big for my margins, so I used washi tape to attach it as a tip-in.

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Acts reminds us that Christ has freed us from everything about the law that felt heavy.  We still have the wisdom to guide us, but we aren’t chained to the past.


This is one of those verses that I may not have otherwise focused on:  in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him. (Ephesians 3: 12)  St. Paul’s writing is so packed with verses that I could meditate on all day and all night that its easy to miss a piece of encouragement that doesn’t just immediately speak to me.  As I spent time with this verse, I was so encouraged by the reminder that we can be bold in Christ Jesus and that we always have access to Him with confidence through faith.  I was quite cheered by the bold, little toucan!


Many birds are social creatures, and they remind us that we really do need each other.  This verse is so true:  Iron sharpens iron and one man sharpens another.  Friendship is one of life’s best gifts.

And of course, Jesus is the ultimate sharpener and best friend.  It is always good to be in his presence.

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The pages above and below remind me of a poem I learned from my grandmother:

A Priceless Gift

by Helen Steiner Rice

Friendship is a priceless gift
That can’t be bought or sold,
But its value is far greater
Than a mountain made of gold.

For gold is cold and lifeless,
It cannot see nor hear,
And in your times of trouble,
It is powerless to cheer.

It has no ears to listen,
No heart to understand.
It cannot bring you comfort
Or reach out a helping hand.

So when you ask God for a gift,
Be thankful that he sends,
Not diamonds, pearls, or riches,
But the love of a real, true friend.

In life, it is good to have friends:  “Two are better than one.”  It’s just good to know that we have someone to catch us when we fall and be there to share life’s ups and downs.  (I used two paper pieces on this page, just because I messed up a stamp and used the scrap booking paper to cover up my mistake!)

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It’s also possible to make your own paper pieces.  I printed out the Bible verse for the last paper piece on cardstock and used clear scrapbooking glue to attach it to the transparency paper.  We are free in Christ, but we are freed for God’s purposes, so that we can love and serve one another through the every day ordinary duties of our lives.  Through it all, love endures.

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Feeling so grateful for this little journey led by paper pieces, for Illustrated Faith and the ways that they have opened up Scripture, and for my sweet daughter who inspired me to go on this bird-themed journey!


BIBLE JOURNALING AND WORSHIP…Worshiping in Color with Melinda Ransdell

Visual Faith (Bible Journaling and Praying in Color) is something that brings me closer to God. Praying in color makes me more aware of God’s presence in my life. Visual Faith helps me remember God’s promises and hold tight, steadfast, to them. Visual Faith (VF) is me listening to and then responding to the Holy Spirit.

I first learned about VF when I met our church district’s president’s wife, Connie Denninger, about two years ago. Right away, I was enthralled! I am very much so a visual learner and processor. I have to take notes in classes and write my thoughts out in order to think straight. I am also an artist (even though you do not have to be one to practice VF). Visual Faith appealed to my creative side instantly.


What really drew me in about Bible Journaling and Praying in Color (visit www.prayingincolor.com to see what it is all about) is how interactive it is. It wasn’t just sitting and reading or praying or even just writing. I was visually expressing my time with God in a way that was memorable. The color, the shapes, the words all came together as a significant reminder of my time spent with God. It was not about the finished product as much as it was about the amazing experience of the connection felt with the Holy Spirit during the process of creating.

It did take me a good few months, maybe nine, to find a flow, routine and define my style. Even though the focus is not on the end product, I had to be comfortable with how I create, know that God loved what I made and not compare it to anyone else’s creations. “This is my style, this is me,” I had to declare.


In the meantime, I shared Visual Faith with my husband and kids. They took to it right away. Kids love art projects and art is an important part of our lives. VF took our family faith life from a sporadic time of a few scripture readings or kids bible books and reciting some prayers to a full on interactive, creative crafting session with bursts of color, shapes and washi tape. It was like VBS every day! (visit http://womenofthesed.blogspot.com/2015/09/melinda-randsdell-northern-region.html for more of our family’s story) It quickly became a part of our regular routine that the kids look forward to.  Here is a picture of my son’s faith book and Bible journaling:


We all use Journaling Bibles for notes and faith expression. A few of us have coloring bibles like the Inspire Bible, the HCSB Illustrator’s Notetaking Bible and The Message Canvas Bible. We have prayer journals and what we call Faith Books. Faith Books are where we put our Sermon Notes, prayer sheets and do some scripture doodles. It is a small binder that keeps everything all in one place. Mine also functions as a planner with calendar inserts that I use every day. It has my check lists and prayer lists. It has become one of my favorite faith tools to point me to God. (visit http://unconventionallysf.blogspot.com/2016/05/what-is-faith-book.html to learn more about my Faith Book)

That is what it is all about, Visual Faith, equipping people with tools to strengthen their relationship connection with God. It helps to keep you from forgetting His great love for you. We tell our kids this over and over again, this is why we do Jesus Time. And it works for adults, too!

My husband and I have also integrated Visual Faith into the ministry of our congregation. When you have such an amazing tool that has made such a difference in your faith walk, you have to share it. I have taught a few classes on Bible Journaling and Praying in Color. As a result, I developed a faith tool called ‘Sermon Notes’ for our worship services. Each week, the bulletin has an insert to use during service.


They are based on the idea of learning styles. Some people like to doodle, some like to take notes and now we have the ever so popular adult coloring trend. We want people to be able to better interact with the lessons and retain them. I had already been note taking and doodling all over the bulletin cover, so why not create a designated space for it.


After service, the Sermon Notes can be taken home (that’s usually when I color mine) and used throughout the week. We put ours in our Faith Books.

The layout is simple. There is a box with lines for notes, a blank box to doodle or more notes and a simple outline image the size of a Journaling Bible margin. There is the option of cutting it out and putting it in your Bible or tracing it in. I wanted the Sermon Notes to be usable by all ages and any gender. I also have them all available for free download on my blog www.unconventionallysf.blogspot.com . If your sermon series or scripture readings are different schedule from ours, you still may be able to find something that works. I also have teaching tools to help you share with others what Bible Journaling and Praying in Color are all about.  Below is a page we used during Epiphany:


I realize I have a unique advantage being married to the pastor and having a graphic design degree. But, what I encourage people to do is to pray and look for opportunities that Visual Faith can be used in your ministry. You may be surprised by the creative way God gives you to introduce VF. It may be sharing with a few friends how Bible Journaling has transformed your faith life. I have shared VF through my social media, my blog, adult bible class, our women’s group, Sermon Notes, VBS, the youth, lay care ministry and confirmation. The more we can encourage people to connect with God, the more we all can share His message of hope and salvation with the world. (visit http://womenofthesed.blogspot.com/2016/06/visual-faith-st-johns-dover-de-part-1.html to see how I shared VF with St. John’s in a two part blog post)

Visual Faith has allowed me to process and connect with information, specifically Gospel information, on a deeper more meaningful level that has resulted in remembering God’s love for me and how to love others. I have seen true transformation in myself and my family since we have been drawing and creating closer to God. Remember that the Creator makes creative beings in His image that He invites to be creative with Him.


If you are just starting out, my advice is to keep it simple. See where God takes you. You only need some basic tools of a bible or journal and some colored pencils. This blog has some amazing resources. It isn’t about a work of art, rather it’s about a work of the heart.

Bible Tabs for Perfectionists

Adding tabs to your journaling Bible, which show the books of the Bible, should be relatively easy, but as it turns out, there’s a lot of little things that can go wrong.  (Trust me, I learned the hard way!)

Here’s a few tips:

  • I think the “Books of the Bible” tabs work better along the side than on the top.
  • Leave the tabs open as you place them along the page, so that you can be pleased with the spacing; it’s easy enough to re-position the tabs before you close them by gently lifting them up.
  • Check that you didn’t miss a book of the Bible.
  • Be careful closing the tabs so that you don’t catch an extra page along with the first page of the chapter.  (I managed to do this three times!)
  • Do this job while you have plenty of time and ability to concentrate; adding Bible tabs is one of those relatively mindless tasks where it is easy to make a mistake.
  • Some people find that the tabs become a place where the page rips.  It doesn’t hurt to reinforce the tab with washi tape or even packaging tape on both sides.

This tip is not specific to Bible tabs, but I happened to learn it putting tabs onto a Bible:  If you really mess up a Bible to the point where the perfectionist within you can’t be overcome, it’s ok to start a new Bible and use the old one for practice, especially if you haven’t gotten too far into the process.  You are likely going to be spending years with the Bible, you might as well be happy!  It’s a small price to pay.

It always makes me smile to see a picture of a chubby Bible with tabs and book marks on the top.  I have never used tabs in my Bible Journaling, but I decided if I started a new Bible, it would have tabs.  My daughter is interested in starting Bible Journaling, and picked out a sweet Bible with a bird on the cover.

We bought some tabs and put them in the Bible at the top.  The Bible didn’t close right.  It didn’t look cute and chubby.  It just looked odd.  I stopped after putting in the first set of Bible tabs from Illustrated Faith, which only covers half of the books in the Bible, and I pondered what to do.  The Bible tabs are nearly impossible to remove.  Making matters worse, the first page we did in the Bible was kind of a disaster; the page tore.

Bible tabs 3

After about a month passed and I still was unhappy, I decided God allows do-overs.  I can save the Bible above for trying out different supplies or doing a trial run before putting something in the Bible that I use all the time.  I may also cut the tabs out and figure out a way to doctor up the corners.

I bought a new Bible for my daughter.  We tried again with the tabs along the side.  This time, I carefully placed the tabs along the side of the Bible, making sure that I was pleased with the spacing before my daughter closed the tabs.  The tabs are easy enough to re-position before you close them.  I skipped the book of Haggai and made it all the way to Luke before I noticed.  I just plucked them off, made room for the Haggai tab, and put them back on.

bible tabs 1

I was much happier with the finished results!  I love the cheerful tabs!

bible tabs 2

And the Bible closes nicely….

bible tabs 4

Hope his helps!  I think I will eventually add washi tape to reinforce each tab because I want this Bible to one that my daughter keeps forever!

Review: Complete Guide to Bible Journaling

I’ve had so much fun over the past week with the new book:  Complete Guide to Bible Journaling:  Creative Techniques to Express Your Faith by Joanne Fink and Regina Yoder.  Generally, I pick a Bible passage and then think about how to illustrate it.  With this book in hand, I picked illustrations that would be fun to trace and thought of a verse to go with the pictures, but I stuck to the book of Psalms for something of a theme.  What I discovered:  Spending time in Psalms, tracing images, and meditating on the Word is profoundly relaxing.  Illustrating a verse always helps me understand it better, but this experience was somehow different, maybe more peaceful.

If your journaling Bible is just sitting on your shelf, this book is a wonderful way to get your creative juices flowing!!!  The book covers many different artist supplies and techniques, features artists, provides a beautiful gallery of ideas, and best of all includes a bonus section of traceable images and stickers.  It’s great for beginners and has plenty of tips and advice for those with more experience, too.  It’s clear from the pictures below that my favorite part of the book was the bonus section!

I really like Joanne Fink’s simple patterned illustrations.  I can definitely see incorporating more of this style of drawing into my Bible journaling.  I love that she starts with simple easy to draw shapes and makes the picture look interesting with varied line widths and patterns.  It’s relatively easy to do.  You can find even more inspiration in her book called Zenspirations.

One item that I would highly recommend getting along with the book is a set of black micron pens in different widths.  I usually reach for my Micron .05s, but I found that that width was too thick for some of the images in the book.  (It will be more clear when you see some of the first pages I did below!)  I found that I was happier with the results when I used a thinner Micron .01 and added weight to the line as needed.

Here’s a few images from my adventures putting the resources to work in the pages of my Bible.  One of my hopes with sharing my art has always been to show progress and to show that ANYONE can Bible journal.  As I glance over the pages that I did after working with this book, I really can see some improvement.


The first page I did was quite simple.  I just traced the image with pencil and used a black Micron .05.  For this simple image, the .05 weight worked ok.  I may add color to this page at some point, but I kind of like it quiet and still.


I traced another image from the Bible, and this time added some color and some stickers from the book.  With this image, I really wish that I had traced the images with a pen with thinner weight.  I used the Micron .05 again, and it was just too thick!  The book includes several examples of lettering with complete alphabets.  In the page below I played around with the “Simple Monoline Mix”.  It feels so unnatural for me to let the letters bounce around the baseline, but it does create a nice effect.

Do not be discouraged if your traced image does not look as good as the original.  Even tracing takes practice!  Some pages don’t turn out quite as well as I hope, but adding stickers always makes me happier with the page.  All the stickers below are in included in the book.

And spending time in the Word is always good!  The Psalm begins:  “Give thanks to the Lord for He is good”, but then goes onto describe a number of really terrible situations where God responded to different cries of distress.  As I reflected on Psalm 107, I pondered the different ways that God responded to times of crisis both in this Psalm and in my own life, “God Answers Knee Mail.”  seemed to be the perfect sticker to accompany this Psalm.  There are times that drive us to our knees.  Still, we trust in God’s goodness.


A super simple page:  I just used a margin sticker.  What I love about this image is the reminder that while I play at being an artist God’s creation is truly majestic.


I doodled on a tip-in and added some stickers from my stash…


I always find the following verse to be reassuring.  It’s something I tell myself often whenever I start to feel worried; it’s good to know that God has us covered.  I thought the pretty illustration of the feather fit well with this passage.  I colored it with water colors and markers.  The Complete Guide to Bible Journaling also shows how to make your own handwriting look more fancy by adding weight to the downstrokes.


It happened to be my father’s 80th birthday over the past week, so I used some washi tape from the book to add his picture to my margins and doodled a little border following Joanne’s instructions from The Complete Guide to Bible Journaling.


The book shares several examples for how to illustrate Psalm 96:  “Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth.”  It shares pages with various themes:  music, singing birds, and also the earth.  I felt drawn to the cute singing birds.


I loved this butterfly.  I was trying to think what verse I could pair it with when my Pastor posted the paraphrase of Psalms 103:4-5 below on Facebook.  Both the verse and the butterfly spoke to me.  Here’s how it came together in my margins…


These pretty flowers seemed to fit well with a passage dealing with the ephemeral nature of humankind and the everlasting nature of God.



I was thrilled to learn how to color a beautiful gradient.  This is one of those artistic techniques that looks amazing and pretty easy to achieve.  I just could never figure it out before!  The instructions in the book are perfect.  As I colored this simple leaf while meditating on Psalm 6, which speaks to the experience of being inconsolable (the Psalmist talks about flooding his bed with tears night after night), I felt an assurance from God that those time where we can’t find our joy are much like the times when a tree loses its leaves.  It’s just a shedding that prepares us for a new season of life.


I knew that I wanted to place this tree next to a verse about steadfast love.  I was drawn to these words:  “Because your steadfast love is better than life.”


The Complete Guide to Bible Journaling is an incredible resource.  I improved some skills and had so much fun with all of the traceable images.  With a Journaling Bible, some micron pens, some colored pencils, and this book, you would be well on your way to a wonderful journey!


Learning from my Mother’s Hand…Penmanship, Calligraphy and Lettering with Monica Griffore Malbouef

Guest post by Lisa Nichols Hickman, author of Writing in the Margins: Connecting with God on the Pages of Your Bible.

Perhaps you’ve seen the offer from Monica Griffore Malboeuf for “creative lettering” pages.


Here is a link to a PDF of seven pages of her Creative Lettering  techniques.  She is kind to share!


Once I saw their joy and beauty, I knew I needed to talk with her about her Bible journaling journey.  Here’s what she said:

“I am a wife, mother of two growing boys, a high school art teacher and freelance artist. My mother influenced my penmanship from a VERY early age. She was a calligrapher ( and a beautiful one at that). I remember her teaching small classes in our home and being right there next to her practicing my “good” letters.


As a kindergardener our rural school in northern Michigan ( I am from a small town called Mancelona – it is in the snow belt- just east of Traverse City, west of Gaylord and south of Petoskey)  was without bussing- so her being pregnant at the time and not wanting to drive through crumby snow conditions, homeschooled me until bussing started up again. One of my very earliest memories was filling out line after line of letters – and her putting little smile stickers next to the ones that were almost perfect! It was to her then, as it is to me now to study lettering and make words beautiful.

I am a super newbie at bible journaling- although my experience with sketchbooks, visual journals and hand lettering have been a part of my personal and professional life for years.


I am always excited to practice, learn and to be challenged- which is exactly how I got into this! A friend approached me a few months before starting and asked if I would be willing to teach a class. I thought about it for awhile, bought a Bible and was addicted immediately.


(Side note from Lisa – I had to linger with the beauty and whimsy of the Bible journaling verse from Hebrews 13:16.  When I told Monica how much I liked it she added:  The people represented are each from the passage in chapter 13 – the prisoner, the lover of money,the bride, the angels in disguise.)

My biggest AHA moment so far in my experience is just the mere attraction to reading my Bible. I mean, I’ve always known how Great God’s WORD is, but reading has never come easy to me. Its not that I am a struggling reader- its that 1) my brain was wired for busy- and sitting down to read feels like a chore- like holding still just to get through a chapter of my sons novel ” the Indian in the cupboard” feels like torture. 2) I am a busy working mom- lets be honest anytime I sit still for more than a minute- I am fast asleep- even if I am soaking in the tub (not like I am speaking from experience or anything)!

My point here is just to say that being able to digest small bits, verses, segments- and to spend time working it into my creativity has been nothing but life- changing. It has given me a deeper desire to know the Lord, talk to him, mediate on the goodness he brings to all of us.

My favorite verse is Philippians 1:6:For I am confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will continue to perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.’ I don’t know how you interpret this verse- but it is my life verse. It is my daily reassurance that I am a work in progress- that perfection isn’t necessary- that the good that came into my life the day grace saved me is there because of Jesus- that he is going to grow me, and mold me and he isnt going to back out- ever- and say “you aren’t good enough” ” you messed up one too many times” ” I quit!”


Asking an art teacher what her favorite art supply is , is like asking a mother who her favorite child is- THEY ALL ARE- but recently I have discovered GELATOS. I mean its like painting with lipstick- how can you not love them! One of my favorite parts about them is that although they are an investment, it is an investment that takes the place from so many other materials- oil pastels, watercolors, ink pads ( for stamping), misting spray, etc.  They offer versatile and creamy color. I also love that they are generally able to be applied both before and after written text!

I worked in between teaching jobs as a waitress and got hired on the spot once they realized I could do their chalk boards.


This “job qualification” and years of experience with chalk, encouraged me to start my own little side gig I call “Slingshot Slates– Chalk designs that leave a mark!” It is a fun and exciting way to use my hand lettering! You might also see in many of my journal entries a heavy illustration emphasis- I loveeeee my pen and ink and watercolor! Two years ago I wrote and illustrated a book in memory of my Grandmother June, my biggest artistic influence, It is to date, outside of my own children, my greatest accomplishment!”


Getting to Know Neocolor IIs


What they are:  Neocolor IIs are water color crayons

Why they are great for Bible Journaling:  They are beautiful water colors that do not bleed!  They dry smooth so it’s easy to write on top of the color.

Page prep needed:  None for most applications.

Ideas:  Background color for stamps or writing, painting, coloring, doodling, paint splatters.

After playing with my Neocolor IIs on the 20 pages below, here’s what I can tell you:  They are great fun to use.  You can color with them just like regular crayons and then paint with water for a water color effect or scribble some color onto a surface and lift the color like paint.  You can also use a wet paint brush to draw color directly off the crayon or flick paint at your art project.  These do not bleed at all on Bible paper and no page prep is needed, so they are a good choice for adding a last minute dash of color.  The paint dries perfectly smooth, so it is easy to write over the paint.  They work well with glitter and stickers and other fun embellishments.

Sometimes, I like to challenge myself to use new art supplies by using them with a new devotional.  A local friend recently recommended the book “Boundaries:  When to Say Yes; How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life” by Cloud and Townsend.  I have the workbook that goes along with it, too.  As I read the first chapter of the book, I thought:  This could be a great devotional.  One of the reviews on the back of the book says:  “Boundaries is the ‘untold story’–the other side of love and servanthood that we need so desperately, but that we hear so little about.”  What I love about the book Boundaries is that it is filled with Scriptures that provide the balance, I know that I need in my life.  Most of the verses in the book I’ve yet to journal after two years!  I guess I’m more naturally drawn to verses about service and self-giving and love never failing.  Cloud and Townsend highlight verses about setting limits and knowing our own responsibility.  What I’ve written below in response to the Bible verses they selected largely comes from their book, not necessarily my own understanding.

IMG_6190According to Cloud and Townsend, personal boundaries helps us know what is ours and what is not, what is our responsibility and what not to worry about.  Boundaries give us a sense of freedom within our own domain.  They help us let go of what is not ours and devote more energy to what is.  A lack of responsibility for boundaries can lead to confusion and cause us to carry a heavier burden than God ever intended.

In many ways, the verse below is the theme for the entire first chapter of the book.  Its amazing how much wisdom is packed into these few words.  What lies within each of our hearts forms the core of who we are and what we are responsible for and whom we are responsible to.

I colored the heart with the Neocolor IIs and just let the wet colors bleed into each other.  When I was finished, I spattered paint from the tip of the crayon with a wet brush.


A Bible verse that pops into my mind often is “Bear one another’s burdens”, but I NEVER noticed the verse that follows: “For each must carry his own load.”  It was really helpful to me to recognize and acknowledge that there are times when we should bear each others burdens and times we need to get back to carrying our own loads.  Cloud and Townsend describe burdens like boulders too big to carry and loads as what’s enough for us.  While it’s good to help someone carry a boulder, it’s a mistake to carry another person’s load.

Below is my interpretation of this passage.  I just used the Neocolor IIs like regular water color paint, picking up color with a brush.  This works well in small areas…


So what belongs in our load?  Cloud and Townsend have an interesting list of what’s ours alone to carry, so much of these are matters of the heart:

  • feelings
  • attitudes and beliefs
  • behaviors
  • choices
  • values
  • limits
  • talents
  • thoughts
  • desires
  • love

Our Feelings:  Let me start with feelings.  Cloud and Townsend take a positive view of our feelings and note that feelings often motivate us to take the right action.  The good Samaritan felt sympathy for what the other had experienced before he offered help.  I put this quote from the book on the backside of my tip-in:

Feelings come from your heart and can tell you the state of your relationships.  They can tell you if things are going well, or if there is a problem.  If you feel close and loving, things are probably going well.  If you feel angry, you have a problem that needs addressed.  But the point is your feelings are your responsibility and you must own them and see them as your problem so that you can begin to find an answer to whatever issue they are pointing to.

I would just add, speaking from my own experience, that owning our feelings require developing discernment.  For example, sometimes when I’m angry, it just means I need more sleep.  When I feel sad, looking for the reason why just makes things worse; I am better off just observing the feelings and letting them pass.  And as a person who can cry at Hallmark commercials, I’ve learned my strong empathetic response does not always a good indicator I need to get involved; sometimes it’s enough to pray!  Still, reading the story of the Good Samaritan again in light of Cloud and Townsends’ observations, gave me greater appreciation for my own big feelings and for the ways that they often lead me in the right direction.

With the Neocolor IIs, it’s kind of irresistible to draw circles of color, and then just paint them with a wet brush…


Our attitudes and beliefs:  These are something else that falls within our property line.  Cloud and Townsend note that it’s good to challenge our own attitude and beliefs so that we don’t find ourselves holding to the traditions of men instead of the commands of God.  Below I just colored with Neocolor IIs onto the background to add some color.


Our Behaviors:  We all have to live with consequence of our own behaviors, and as hard as it may be, Cloud and Townsend say it is for the best to expect others to live with the consequences of their behavoir.   At some level, we have to trust that self-preservation will kick in when it comes to watching other people make mistakes.  I put this quote next to Proverbs 15:10 (a rather tough verse to accept!):  “To rescue people from the natural consequences of their behavior is to render them powerless.”

Below, I colored the scene with my Neocolor IIs and then just went over everything with a slightly wet brush.


Our choices:  Below is my favorite verse that I’ve rediscovered as a result of reading this book.  It’s better to give others options rather than compel them to do things.  In doing so, we let their goodness shine.  We all need the freedom to say no in our lives.  Often saying “no” enables us to give our best “yes.”

A few helpful thoughts on the word “No” from their book:

People with poor boundaries struggle with saying no to the control, pressure, demands, and sometimes the real needs of others.  They feel that if they say no to someone, they will endanger their relationship with that person, so they passively comply, but inwardly resent.  Sometimes a person is pressuring you to do something; other times the pressure comes from your own sense of what you “should” do.  If you cannot say no to this external or internal pressure, you have lost control of your property and are not enjoying the fruit of “self-control.”

Below I used the Neocolor IIs for the background color and to paint the butterflies.  I spattered a few paint drops, too.


Cloud and Townsend shared several verses about God giving us the freedom to respond to him or not.  I was reminded of a story I heard from a children’s minister:  “God has no grandchildren,” she said.  “Just because your parents have chosen to follow Christ, does not mean that you have.  It’s a decision that you need to make for yourself.”  As an aside:  Today, I am choosing to no longer be upset by anyone who complains about Christians forcing their religion on others.  It can’t be done anyway!  God has made it so:  we each have the freedom to choose.

Below I used the Neocolor IIs for background colors and paint spatters.


Our Values:  As I was reflecting on this verse:  “For they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God,” I started thinking of the seven virtues.  I found two lists.  One comprised of the theological virtues (faith, hope, and love) and the cardinal virtues (fortitude, justice, prudence, and temperance).  And the other list had the contrary virtues to the seven deadly sins (chastity, temperance, charity, diligence, patience, kindness, and humility).  Both lists of virtues have been taught by the church for centuries.  I feel like the virtue that is most missing in our society today is temperance.  The virtue is found on both lists, but means something different in each instance.  As a contrary virtue to “gluttony”, temperance refers to moderation.  As a cardinal virtue, “temperance” is the proper ordering of one’s own passions.  I was talking with a friend who has studied philosophy.  He said the ancient Greeks saw temperance (the proper ordering of self) as a prerequisite to justice (the proper ordering of society).  The Ancient Greeks couldn’t conceive of a justly ordered society made up intemperate people.  I like how all the values taught by the church over time hold together and support each other.

Below I just added a little color with the bullets and the frame around the verse with a red Neocolor II crayon.


Our Limits:  The next Bible passage is probably not one that I would have ever chosen to illustrate on my own.  For me the words evoke the practice of shunning, taking a group stance against a person because of their behavior.  I’ve heard stories of how hurtful this experience can be, and some of the stories have even included a reference to this verse:  “Do not associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard or swindler—not even to eat with such a one.”  Cloud and Townsend write that we can’t change people or make them behave right but we can set limits to our exposure to people who behave poorly.  Since I had the seven deadly sins on my brain, I noted how Paul’s list lines up with them:

  • Sexual immorality (Lust)
  • Greed (Greed)
  • Idolatry (Pride is a form of idolatry)
  • Revilers (anger)
  • Drunkard (gluttony)
  • Swindlers (a mix of envy and sloth)

As Christians we should take a stand against what destroys love.  I can reclaim this verse as common-sense wisdom to avoid abusive people, even if personally, I feel sad knowing the hurt these words have caused when applied without good understanding. I can see the verse as being protective.

I used Neocolor IIs just to add some background color for my writing and stamps.



Some of what St. Paul writes can be hard for us to embrace as modern readers.  In his defense, let me say Paul’s entire message was one of freedom from rules and laws and obedience to Christ who taught us how to love.  I probably shouldn’t speak for St. Paul, but his words have carried the love of Christ into my heart and I’ve been reading his letters since I was a child.  I feel reasonably confident saying that St. Paul would cringe to see his own words read as law.  He was doing his best to write guidance to young churches.  Paul expected the churches he encouraged to look different from the rest of the world as a result of a holiness that would come from being in Christ.  What was sung at my church growing up:  “They Will Know We Are Christians by our Love.”

When Jesus makes a similar point, it doesn’t seem so harsh:  “If a brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone.  If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.  But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses.  If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church.  And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.”

In the picture below, I colored the picture with the Neocolor IIs and then used a wet brush to go over it.


It’s a comfort to know that when we let a person behaving badly go, that we can put our trust in Jesus, who is the good shepherd.  Maybe the ultimate form of pride is believing that we can personally save a person or a situation.  We would do well to remember that Jesus is the savior.  All of us have heard how Jesus met with prostitutes and tax collectors.  What we sometimes forget is that they were changed after meeting him because he was Jesus.  We should be open to the possibility of change, too; our limits are not necessarily permanent.

Our Talents:  We have a responsibility to develop and use the talents that God has given us.  One things I’ve really enjoyed about reading Cloud and Townsend’s book is the different take they have on familiar passages.  I loved their thoughts on the parable of the Talents:

The parable of the talents says that we are accountable—not to mention much happier—when we are exercising our gifts and being productive.  It takes work, practice, learning, prayer, resources, and grace to overcome the fair of failure that the “wicked and lazy” servant gave in to.  He was not chastised for being afraid; we are all afraid when trying something new and difficult.  He was chastised for not confronting his fear and trying the best he could.  Not confronting our fear denies the grace of God and insults both his giving of the gift and his grace to sustain us as we are learning.

I paraphrased this and put it right into my Bible.  I used a tip-in since I didn’t have quite enough room in my margins to write the whole quote.  I used Neocolor IIs for the background color on the front and back of this tip-in.


Our thoughts:  I love this verse:  “Make every thought captive to obey Christ.”  As I thought about what this would mean:  I hope that all my thoughts must be healing, truthful, and loving.  Probably the most important way to keep our thoughts obedient to Christ is to make sure they are truthful.  As Cloud and Townsend point out:  “We all have a tendency to not see things clearly, to think and perceive in distorted ways…Taking ownership of our thinking in relationships requires being active in checking out where we may be wrong.  As we assimilate new information, our thinking adapts and grows closer to reality.”

This page was inspired by a similar illustration in Rebekah Jones’ Bible.  I used Neocolor IIs for the back ground and to add color to the drawing of the brain.


Our Desires:  We own our desires and its up to us to pursue them and find fulfillment in life.  It’s good to remember that God loves to give gifts to his children and supports us in our goals and plans as we walk in God’s ways.  As I reflected on this verse below, I thought of how important it is to express our desires.  Sometimes we don’t get what we want simply because we don’t make the request known, both to God and to people in our lives who can help us.

I colored swirls and hearts with the Neocolor IIs and used a lightly wet brush over the top.  For some reason, I can’t resist adding glitter to my pages with Neocolor IIs.


Our Love:  The Bible teaches us to love and our love is the greatest gift we have within our own control to give.  Leviticus often gets singled out an unpopular book of the Bible, but there’s a lot of wisdom to be gained just wondering what led to the rules in the first place.  And on a page that encourages us not to put a stumbling block before a blind person (common sense?) and a rule against wearing fabric made from a blend of materials (I would need to throw out 90% of my wardrobe!) and a poignant, timely reminder to be kind to the strangers and foreigners living among us, we find the wisest words ever written:  “Love thy neighbor as yourself!”  And I love what comes just before:  “Do not take a vengeance or bear a grudge.”  The often neglected first part of the verse seems like good advice for our times!

I couldn’t decide how to illustrate this verse, so I took two approaches:  Colorful stamped houses and writing out the whole beautiful verse!




We need to take responsibility for the love we can offer the world, and also our ability to receive love.  These words from “Boundaries” found their way onto my margins:

Our ability to give and respond to love is our greatest gift.  The heart that God has fashioned in his image is the center of our being.  It’s abilities to open up to love and to allow love to flow outward are crucial to  life.

Cloud and Townsend remind readers of the importance of receiving an inflow of love, too!  St. Paul encourages us to widen our own hearts.



Boundaries have gates and when our gates function well, we are able to let the bad out and keep the good in.  I love how Cloud and Townsend paired the warning from Jesus about what comes out of our hearts that defiles us with the promise from 1 John that if we confess our sins, God will cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  And the time to let the bad out is when it’s first in our heart.  Have you ever heard yourself say, “Well, if I weren’t Christian, I would….”  As I worked on this page I was reminded of Zechariah 8:17, which encourages us not to devise evil against another in our hearts.  That’s where sin begins.  And we need to let it out and bring in the good stuff:  forgiveness and love!

I used Neocolor IIs to color in the dirty and clean hearts.


God and Boundaries

This post is getting much longer than I ever could have imagined I first set out to journal my way through the first chapter of this book!!!  Cloud and Townsend ask what we can learn about our boundaries from looking to the Bible and learning from God’s own boundaries.  I’ll just take one question from the Boundaries workbook at a time and look at the passages Cloud and Townsend suggested for each question and journal one of the passages.

Question #1:  God defines his personality by telling us about himself.  What does he tell us in the Bible about what he thinks, feels, plans, allows, doesn’t allow, lies, and dislikes?  See for instance Genesis 12:2, Jeremiah 3:12, Ezekiel 6:9, 36:26.

I’ve shared before that the calling of Abraham is my favorite Bible story.  As I think about the story and how it relates to what Cloud and Townsend suggest is within our boundaries, it does show that God makes choices:  He chose Abraham out of all the people in the world to bless us all and to help us develop into our full potential as human beings.  God lived with the consequences of his choice.  When Sarah couldn’t be patient waiting for the promised child, God did not abandon Hagar and Ishmael.  He made a promise to them, too, one that still has an impact on us today.  Whether we are Jewish or Muslim or Christian, we trace our spiritual ancestry to this one man (Jews through Isaac, Muslims through Ishmael, and Christians through a spirit of adoption).  We are all called to live our lives as a blessing to others.  It’s kind of incredible to think how God’s choice to work with Abraham has played out in human history and to know that God’s plans are still unfolding.  God was faithful in his promise to Abraham, and we can trust that God is faithful to us, too, in our own calling.

Jeremiah 3:12 and Ezekiel 6:9 both show that God owns his feelings.  He angry at times but that His anger doesn’t last forever.  God shares through the prophet Ezekiel that He is broken by seeing His people turn to idols.

With regard to likes and dislikes (just based on these four verses), Ezekiel 36:26 shows that God likes when we have hearts of flesh, but not when our hearts are turned to stone.


Question #2  God differentiates himself from his creation, from us, and from others.  He tells us who he is and who he is not.  What does he say about himself in Leviticus 11:44, Isaiah 48:12, 60:16; 1 John 4:16?

God reminds us that He is different.  It is God who is first and last.  We are called to be holy, but God is holy, separate from us and perfect.  1 John reminds us both that God is light and in him is no darkness and God is love, and all who abide in love are with God.  And God alone is our savior and redeemer.


Question #3:  God also limits what he will allow in his yard.  What, for example, do Exodus 20:1-17 (the ten commandments) and Matthew 5:21-6:4 (the sermon on the mount) say about those limits?

God sets limits about what is allowed in his yard through the Ten Commandments, which just aren’t that onerous.  Many people think that Jesus somehow the law easier, but in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus ramps up the standard.  It’s not enough to avoid murdering our friends and family—we need to release the anger in our hearts.  It’s not enough to simply not commit adultery—we are not to look at people with lust.  As Jesus builds a fence around the Law in a way that shows we ALL sin, Jesus shows the way back to God through his death and resurrection.  As we die to sin, we are given new life.

Question #4  What do Hosea 6:6, Micah 6:8, Mark 12:30-31 and 1 John 4:7-12 say about the gates in God’s fences?

It’s not a surprise to me that while I’ve ignored many verses about boundaries, I managed to find and illustrate all these verses about God’s gates (If God has a way in, I’m finding it!):

Hosea 6:6:  For I desire steadfast love not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.

Micah 6:8:  He has told you, o man, what is good:  And what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.

Mark 12:30-31:  And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.  The second is like this:  You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  There is no other commandment greater than these.

1 John 4:7-12:  Beloved let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.  Everyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.  In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.  In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loves us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.  Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.  No one has ever seen God, if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.

I did the lettering for this page many months ago, but I added a few doodles and some color with my Neocolor IIs.  It is good to remember this:  Its not sacrifice God desires from us but our love and for us to know him.  That is enough!


This is only the first chapter of Boundaries.  I am not promising to journal my way through the rest of the book, but the remaining chapters have much more food for thought.  I hope the illustrations encourage you to have more fun with the Neocolor IIs and that the passages relieve some worry and release some anger and give you more energy for what is truly yours to carry.  Blessings!!!



Guest post by Lisa Nichols Hickman, author of Writing in the Margins: Connecting with God on the Pages of Your Bible.

There are some awesome guys in the Bible Journaling Community. Today I want to introduce you to Adam Walker Cleveland – father to a new baby and founder of Illustrated Children’s Ministry (Click onto his website if you would like to download a sample pack.)


I asked Adam about his entrance into journaling and faith formation.  Here’s what he had to say:

“My entrance into the coloring craze was quite accidental. I always loved coloring and drawing as a kid, but it wasn’t until my mid-30s that I got back into drawing and sketching, and eventually doodling. The doodles/patterns that I started doing turned out to work really well as coloring page designs, and a friend of mine encouraged me to consider enlarging them into posters to sell for churches and families to color during Advent, and other church seasons.



For over 15 years, I worked in both camping ministry and youth ministry in the parish setting, and now that I am outside of the parish and doing non-traditional ministry, I feel like I am impacting even more people and churches around the world. For example, over 1000 churches around the world used our Advent Coloring Posters this past Christmas, and almost all of them found the posters to be able to provide them with very meaningful intergenerational opportunities.  We have the hope that our Lenten resources will reach even more folks!



It’s extremely fulfilling to know that work I created at my kitchen table in Skokie, Illinois, is creating these types of programs and opportunities for children, youth, adults and older adults throughout the world.  I have received too many testimonials of communities and congregations who have used our materials. It’s been especially meaningful to see photos of parents and children coloring together or doing Advent or Lent devotions together and finding that with a downloadable PDF resource and some crayons, that Illustrated Children’s Ministry could help them find a space to be together and have conversations they wouldn’t have been able to have otherwise.


When I first started, I was doing everything by hand – but when our production picked up, I switched over to the 12.9″ iPad Pro and the Apple Pencil and the Procreate iOS app. They’ve been amazing additions to the tools I use – and although I really do enjoy using real pens on real paper, I also love drawing on the iPad and seeing it come to life.”

For those of you who like topical studies, you might enjoy Adam’s scripture verses and coloring pages for an Il-lustrated Earth devotion.


Here, he lists four scripture verses in three areas for reflection on water stories, plant and food stories, and animal stories of the Bible.  Try journaling the verses in your margins – and then compare your images to his illustrations.  Or, use his illustrations for inspiration for your Bible!