Leaning on the Everlasting Arms with Kenyetta Pope

Another Guest Post by Lisa Nichols Hickman!  


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.”


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.


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.

Jacob’s Ladder

As I’ve been working my way through Genesis, Jacob’s ladder has been very much on my mind.  I’ve always wondered about the meaning of Jacob’s dream.

The answer I’ve settled on is rather simple:  It was the moment Jacob first felt the presence of God in a powerful way.  Jacob responds:  “How awesome is this place!  This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.”  He marked the place with a stone, and poured oil on top of the rock.

Why that moment?  Jacob was at a crisis point in his life.  He had just tricked his father into giving him his brother’s blessing and his brother wanted to kill him.  He was running away to a safer place until his brother’s anger had passed.  And it was in this moment that God met him and blessed him.  Angels ministered to him and brought comfort and protection.  What’s both astounding and at the same time so very real, when Jacob encountered God, he met a loving, caring presence.  He met grace.

It’s so real because when you ask others what it’s like to encounter the presence of God, they will often share similar moments where they felt intensely loved, blessed, protected, under God’s care, and awe-struck in a way that’s hard to explain, much like Jacob and his dream.  And it can happen anywhere.  In the previous post, Melissa shared her experience of God’s presence with her in her car in a Walmart parking lot.  The memory of those special, intense moments carries us through our more ordinary experiences, reminding us of God’s faithfulness and love.

I had fun playing with some Distress Inks for a dreamlike effect on this page.  I prepped the page first with the Dina Wakely Media Clear Gesso.


A Worn out CD and a New Practice for Writing in the Margins

An update from Melissa B. Noren…

I thought you might be interested in a new journaling ‘activity’ I’ve discovered. My step-sister shared a CD with me almost a year ago, I finally found it and listened, and can’t get enough of it!

Lifeway created a women’s devotional audio CD that has 12 speakers on it from women’s Christian conferences around the US. Each snippet is only 10 minutes in length, and it features women like Beth Moore and Priscilla Shirer speaking on their modern day connections to either people or chapters within the Bible. It’s fantastic! Each time a speaker begins, they tell you which verses they’re connecting with before they speak so you can follow along, take notes in your journal bibles or doodle your connection alongside! One speaker does not follow along with the other – they’re all different subjects. This will allow us to have a set study or theme for the next 12 weeks, without having to play catch up or feel as if we’re missing the previous one! Each one will be brand new…just like our connections in the margins!

Here’s the link on Amazon to the audio CD for LifeWay’s Women’s Audio Devotional.

I’ve just about worn mine out already, and I’m going to connect with each 10 minute session and journal/doodle it as an example before our Wednesday meetings!  The group is growing in faith and in numbers – we’re up to 10 now at work – I’m loving every minute of it!

We listened to the 1st speaker, Jennifer Rothschild, from her Missing Pieces segment on “Present in the Presence”.

IF vs IS (Gideon Jdg 6)

Everyone simply sat quietly and took their own notes when something triggered a heartfelt response.

After the 10 minute snippet was through, some had questions on how do I know I’m in His presence, I need an example of how to get started, etc.

I shared with them a very personal moment from just a few weeks ago, when I had bottomed out – in a Walmart parking lot no less!

How I sat in my car early the Saturday morning before Mother’s Day just squalling, feeling as if I was being forced to do something I did not want to do, crying out loud to Jesus, realizing for the very first time in 2 years on my walk with Christ what I was feeling was failure:  failing as a wife, failing my husband, failing our marriage, failing God himself – when I felt His Presence.

There was a feeling of literally being enveloped where I was, and my heart heard, “My child – when you cannot be loyal to me, I will still be loyal to you.  I’m going to show you what loyalty truly is.”

Well that was it – if I was squalling before, I absolutely has a meltdown then!

I’ve heard His voice two times within the past two years and the only word I can find to describe it is resonate.  His voice absolutely resonated from above, through my ears and heart and body, and out into the area around me shaking me to my knees.  This time was different; this was being held and whispered to, physically feeling His Presence wrapped around me as if I were sitting in his lap and his arms/robes fully enveloped me from head to toe.  I was present in His Presence!  And I know this because had I of NOT been present, I would have missed it all of it – I would have missed the opportunity to cry out to the Lord (like Gideon), I would have missed feeling Him envelope me (Gideon had the Angel/Jesus reassuring him of being the mighty warrior), and I would have missed feeling his voice (He told Gideon, “I Am with you”) and I would have missed learning the lesson of loyalty from God (Gideon was reassured time and time again “I will be with you and you will conquer…)

After sharing my lil’ meltdown of a testimony, the ladies had a new understanding of what His Presence meant.  Everyone is going to journal times in their lives when they either were or were not ‘Present in His Presence’ and bring them back next Wed at lunch during our Bible Study!  I can’t wait to see what everyone’s looks like !!!!  I’ll have to take another pic of what the completed Journal Bible pages look like and send to you as a follow up!

Very Respectfully,

Melissa B. Noren

Happy Camper

Illustrated Faith is offering a 12-week Bible Journaling Revival Camp, and I felt inspired to sign up.  The course includes printables, a weekly devotional, and videos from Shanna Noel.  I watched the first couple videos today.  I always enjoy watching Shanna Noel create and also her heart-felt messages, and the videos are just the right length.

My project for the evening was putting together my travel journal.  It was helpful to have a color printer and a paper trimmer.  I printed out all of the printables onto cardstock.  There were three options for the cover, and I decided to go with grey.  The printables included a “field workbook” page, but I decided it was beyond my ability to get those to print correctly and line up neatly, and blank pages work just fine for me!


I trimmed the cover.  Then I trimmed seven pages of regular printer paper to size.  I folded and creased the pages.  And then searched all over my house for a stapler that might work for the final assembly.  We have three staplers in the house, and none of them were quite right.  I just folded the back pages over.  This gave the back part of my travel journal an immediate “worn” look that works just fine for this project.


I was pleased with the final result, especially the “doodle badges” page that I somehow managed to print correctly on the backside of the cover page!

the book

This is my first ever attempt at making a travel journal.  It was a pretty easy project.  I have used the travel journals before that come with many of the Illustrated Faith kits.  They provide a nice workbook for generating ideas for Bible Journaling or trying new techniques.  I always feel a little bit more free to make mistakes, and sometimes that freedom leads to more creative responses.  Overall, it’s just a fun way to complement the Bible Journaling experience!  I’m a happy camper!



Mixed-up Blessings

I saw this picture on Pinterest, and it pretty much sums up how the story of Jacob and Esau was taught to me:

Jacob and Esau sunday school

(From the site:  Teaching Kids the Bible)

There are two twin brothers, Esau and Jacob, who are very different.  Esau, the slightly older son, sells his birthright to Jacob for a bowl of soup.  Jacob also tricks his blind father into giving him his blessing by dressing in Esau’s clothes and putting the skins of young goats on his hands and the back of his neck so that he would smell and feel like Esau.  (I’ve always wondered how any person could be as hairy as a young goat?)

People have different opinions of Jacob, but I’ve always been a secret admirer of his quiet determination and his intellect.  There’s something familiar and relatable about his ability to use his wits to get ahead.  Jacob sees the value in the life of the spirit, not just the life of the physical realm.

As I returned to this story, I found myself trying to understand it better by writing down all the blessings in Genesis up until Isaac’s blessing.  It took pages!  THERE ARE A LOT OF BLESSINGS IN GENESIS!

I also pulled out one of my favorite books:  To Bless the Space Between Us by John O’Donohue just to look for an explanation of blessing.  He puts it this way:

The word blessing evokes a sense of warmth and protection; it suggests that no life is alone or unreachable.  Each life is clothed in raiment of spirit that secretly links it to everything else.  Though suffering and chaos befall us, they can never quench that inner light of providence.

As I reread the blessing that Isaac thought he was offering Esau, I noted how different it is from the other blessings in Genesis.  There is no promise of numerous descendants or of the land shown to Abraham.  Instead Isaac offers Esau the blessings that reflect what Esau desired:  prosperity, power, and protection.  It is a blessing that Isaac clearly intended for Esau (and not the birthright blessing!).  Isaac is at first suspicious of Jacob’s voice, but the aroma of Esau from the clothes that Jacob was wearing temporarily overcomes his reluctance. Somehow, providence allows Jacob to be in the right place and for Isaac’s temporary confusion:


When Isaac realizes his mistake, he is visibly shaken.  He’s probably upset that Rebekah and Jacob did not trust him to give the right blessing to Jacob.  Esau is angry, but even more so he is devastated to the point of tears.  It’s hard to imagine a man like Esau crying.  Only when Isaac hears Esau’s tears does he find within him another blessing.  I think as readers we begin to see Esau in a new light, as a man who does have a spiritual side after all.  I thought of another passage from O’Donohue’s book:

A blessing evokes a privileged intimacy.  It touches that tender membrane where the human heart cries out to its divine ground.  In the ecstasy and loneliness of one’s life, there are certain times when blessing is nearer to us than any other person or thing.  A blessing is not a sentiment or a question; it is a gracious invocation where the human heart pleads with the divine heart.  There is nothing more intimate in life than the secret under-territory where it anchors.  Regardless of our differences in religion, language, or concept, there is no heart that is without this inner divine reference.

Esau receives a blessing of his own to live away from the choicest lands, to live by the sword, and to at last be free from the yoke to his brother.  Basically, he receives a place of his own, a power of his own, and ultimately freedom.

After a time of confusion, Isaac calls Jacob to him and gives him the birthright blessing without any confusion, as if he knew he would give Jacob this blessing all along:


So it seems the birthright that Esau gives up was to walk in the way of Abraham and to continue this tradition.  Maybe this part of the story reminds us that while a life of faith is our birthright, it is also something that we have to seek after as Jacob did.  With regard to Esau’s blessings of prosperity, power, and protection:  How would Esau have used them?  Maybe only for himself?  Perhaps Providence places Jacob in the right place because Jacob understands that the blessings of prosperity, power, and protection are given, not for our own desires, but so that we can live as a blessing to others.

As I was illustrating this passage, I felt the need to read the story of the temptation of Jesus in the dessert.  Taking time to slow down and illustrate a verse always leads to interesting connections!  When Satan tempts Jesus in the wilderness, he asks Jesus to turn a rock into bread, seek power, and throw himself off a cliff.  I see the same three themes:  prosperity, power, and protection.  Was this Satan’s way of reminding Jesus of Jacob’s stolen blessing?  Jesus shows his perfection by resisting all three temptations.  Jesus makes himself nothing, takes on the nature of a servant, and is obedient to death on a cross.  Thus, God’s plans are fulfilled apart from all the blessings the world has to offer.  There is no greater blessing than knowing Jesus!