Leaning on the Everlasting Arms with Kenyetta Pope

Another Guest Post by Lisa Nichols Hickman!  

“Oomph.”

I love Kenyetta’s word to describe what she discovers in her Bible journaling.

She explains, “My journaling makes me know the scriptures. But even more so, my Bible journaling provides that – oomph – when I need to be strengthened.”

I first came to know Kenyetta through the Bible Journaling Facebook community. I took a gasp – and found a little oomph for my own journey – when I realized Kenyetta has been teaching Bible journaling to women from a crisis shelter.

Kenyetta’s church partners with McKemie Place once a quarter to provide three meals, crafts, clothing, haircuts, manicures and pedicures to women in need. Kenyetta has long partnered with this ministry.  Now, with her new love for Bible journaling she knew she needed to share it with the dozen women who arrived at their church for the day.

Funny how “oomph” multiplies and calls us out of our comfort zones.

I love how Kenyetta described that time of journaling together.  “The space was so calm.  Everyone’s spirits were so peaceful.  All was so quiet.  And most of all, you could see joy radiating on the women’s faces.”

She went on to explain, “You don’t have to even teach the women what to do.  The instinct is there to worship in the presence of God.”

The materials Kenyetta supplied to the women, and uses for her own journaling, are not expensive yet perfect for the task.  Items from Dollar Tree, Target’s  “dollar spot” and after the holiday sales at the local craft store.  She uses  markers, pens, watercolors, colored pencils and lots of stickers. For ideas, Kenyetta finds inspiration at Periscope in the work of Celeste Rodriquez.

The women from McKemie have pretty amazing stories.  So does Kenyetta.

“I’ve been a caregiver all of my life,” she explains.  Her mother was inflicted, and paralyzed by MS, when Kenyetta was just five.  Her mom died when she was 16.  Her father, a diabetic, died of renal failure.  In all of this, Kenyetta found strength in the hymn “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms.”

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Kenyetta’s grandmother raised her.  Kenyetta cared for her grandmother as well.  “Because of all that caregiving, I had no sense of self…” Kenyetta explains.  She writes about this really difficult journey, and the moment when she nearly gave up completely, on her blog “Losing Me to Find Me.”

In that moment, when she nearly gave up completely, she had to face the pain of all that she had been through.  “I can fight this,” she said to herself, “I’ve never been a quitter.”

Now, in retrospect, she can elaborate, “Where’s the joy and the promise in giving up?  I had to find that joy and promise in another way.”

Bible journaling, for Kenyetta, is a place of joy and promise.

One thing Kenyetta loves about Bible journaling is that in a Matthew 18:3 kind of way, Bible journaling lets you have the faith of a child once again.  “As a kid, you know the greatness of God.  Sometimes you lose that amid the circumstances of your life.  We stop being kids.  We need to see God at every age and stage of our lives in God’s fulness and discover what God has promised you in each moment.”

What I love about Kenyetta is that in finding that faith of a child, she stepped out in service to share that faith with others.  Kenyetta has yet to figure out a way to share Bible journaling with the women prisoners she ministers to outside of her town in Mobile, Alabama.  This is something we can all be praying about for Kenyetta – that a door opens for her to share Bible journaling within the prison walls.

Knowing full well, the real challenges and circumstances of life, Kenyetta simply says, “In all these things, I simply tackle them one by one.”

One of her precious possessions is a quilt made from squares cut out from her father’s blue jeans.  I think of that quilt, and all its patches and stories and memories held in those denim squares.  There, I can see the strength of the one who taught Kenyetta to tackle those challenges one by one, one square at a time.

Kenyetta loves to journal in her hymnal and in scripture.  One of her first moments of Bible journaling was simply three heart stickers in 1 Corinthians 13.

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The Bible verse Kenyetta has yet to spend time journaling is Psalm 139:14:  “For I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”

“Sometimes, I doubt that about myself,” Kenyetta sighs.  “I have to tell myself that in the mirror.  After all of these life circumstances, I sometimes wonder what’s wrong with me.”

I told her she needed some “mirror” stickers to use alongside that verse.  Even more so, wouldn’t it be incredible to see all these amazing parts of Kenyetta reflected back in the mirror?  Her father’s blue jean quilt. The women from McKemie place.  The prisoners who hopefully will soon learn Bible journaling.  And Kenyetta herself, full of holy-spirited oomph, fearfully and wonderfully made.

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