Writing in the Margins is a deceptively thin book. It’s only 135 pages, and yet I’ve spent over an entire year with this book beside my bed. I am quickly approaching the last few prompts. When I started this journey, I didn’t know what art supplies to use in the Bible, and I had no sense of what my artistic style might be. I thought to myself: “I’ll just follow the prompts and figure this out as I go. This will be a good warm-up.” I didn’t want to start by illustrating my favorite Bible passages, especially before I knew what I was doing! I thought it might take a few months.
Writing in the Margins has been such a wonderful guide. As I search for words to explain why, I keep coming back to the phrase, “It took the pressure off.” But what pressure? Maybe the pressure to be artistic? I’ve been able to enjoy the process of doing art in my Bible without being overly concerned about the final result. I’ve tried lots of techniques: hand-lettering, collage, painting, drawing, stamping, stencils, colored pencil drawings, tip-ins, digital art. But I’ve also responded quite often with prayers, notes, and quotes if that seemed the more appropriate response. The invitations Lisa Nichols Hickman provides always give me lots of food for thought, too much for my margins! My blog has been a way of unburdening myself of these thoughts. Some prompts took me to unexplored places within myself. Other prompts took me to far parts of the world. I especially enjoyed learning about others who practice margin writing: J.S. Bach, Melville, Elvis, and Lisa Nichol Hickman’s friend Rich. And about artists like Chagall and Makoto Fujimura, who felt drawn to respond to the Word with art. The book encouraged me to explore some more challenging Biblical passages like Amos and Zechariah. It also took me often to the Sermon on the Mount, a passage that largely defines the practice of Christianity for me. I enjoyed talking with friends and family about their favorite verses, and I was surprisingly touched when I discovered that I could easily map my personal walk of faith in Romans. I feel like the book has become a good friend to me. As the byline says, the book has definitely helped me to connect with God on the pages of my Bible. I am sad to reach the last chapter!!!
So this next prompt…
Leviticus 23 is an extended reflection on “margins.” Go back to this chapter and write into the margin some of the effects of your marginal practices. How has your margin writing shaped your ability to “live in the margins”? How has each informed the other?
When I looked back at Leviticus 23, I found a prayer that I wrote in response to an earlier prompt:
Lord, I do not have a field ready for harvest, so order my life in a way that pleases you. Save me from the tendency to go too hard and do too much. Keep the margins of my life wide so that I can be responsive to the needs of others, spend time in your Word, and find my rest in you. AMEN.
The effects of my marginal practices:
As I think about that prayer, I think the major effect of my marginal practices so far has been to answer the above prayer. I keep coming back to the idea that Writing in the Margins has taken the pressure off. I remember where I was shortly before I decided to start doodling in my Bible, sitting in the sanctuary at church alone crying tears of exhaustion and feeling totally drained. I am doing just as much now, if not more, but I’ve created some boundaries for myself and let go of the unnecessary pressure I tend to put on myself. The result is that I feel supported in a way that I didn’t back then. But it’s me that has changed, not my circumstances. I feel spiritually fed; my life feels more in balance, and I’ve let go of a lot of stuff I was carrying that no longer served me well. I’ve felt close to God and experienced intensely God’s tender, fatherly love for me. I’ve learned to respect and guard the margins in my own life, to leave room for rest and creativity and unstructured time with my kids. I feel like I have more love to give. I feel less critical and demanding of others as I’m less critical and demanding toward myself. It’s been a season of spiritual growth, and it has been a gentle journey, not one of crisis. I also feel more tuned into others and also the news from around the world.
How has your margin writing shaped your ability to live in the margins?
Margin writing started for me as something simple that I could do to fill my own cup. Sometimes I’ve had two kids jumping on top of me or wrestling my art supplies away from me, but Bible Journaling is as easy as grabbing some art supplies and opening the Bible for a few minutes. And the passage that I illustrate tends to stick with me throughout the day.
How has each informed the other?
Writing in the margins has put me back in touch with this unconditional love that God has for us all. God’s given me the rest I needed and I simply feel like a new person. Yes, God makes all things new!
I’ve shared the margins of my Bible for the past year. Maybe visitors to the blog have been able to glean a little from what’s here. Most of all I hope that readers will be inspired to write or create art in their own margins. You don’t have to be especially crafty or artistic to begin. I thought about responding to this prompt in my Bible by adding to what I’ve already done on Leviticus 23, but upon further reflection, there’s a verse that I haven’t yet illustrated that offered much inspiration to Writing in the Margins and also speaks to my own hopes for anyone who visits my blog: