The Catholic Journaling Bible

For my growing collection of Journaling Bibles, I pre-ordered The Catholic Journaling Bible months ago and it finally arrived…

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In the Illustrated Faith Bible Journaling Community, I’ve noticed a number of requests for a Catholic Journaling Bible.  You might ask what makes a Catholic Bible different from a Protestant Bible:  It has more books.  I circled them below…

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There is a well-known Presbyterian minister who became Catholic named Scott Hahn; he came to appreciate that Catholics have more of everything.  I’ve read Scott’s book “Rome Sweet Home” and while he has not convinced me to become Catholic myself (I really relate to his wife Kimberly’s reservations; I think communion should be a sign of Christian unity, not disunity), I do share with Scott Hahn a sincere desire to encourage everyone to read the Bible and chew the Word of God.  Spending time in the Word in a creative way has deepened my spiritual life and drawn me closer to God.  It has helped me to appreciate the fullness of God’s love and what it means to love God and love others.

The translation is the New American Bible Revised Edition.  I am almost entirely certain this is the translation read at the local Catholic church.  When I went to Christmas Eve mass, I was struck by the wording of the following passage from Isaiah 9:6:  “They name him Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace.” (This is how it reads in the Journaling Bible, too.)

The Bible is beautiful.  Each book begins with an overview…


And there are many pages of beautiful word art throughout the Bible…

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What I appreciate most about this Bible is the helpful, academic footnotes throughout, which are a great help in understanding the text.

You can tell just from the photographs that the pages of this Bible are very thin.  All Bibles have thin paper, but the paper in both The Inspire Praise and the My Promise Bible is less transparent and slightly thicker.  But I can still use my Micron pens without any bleed-through, so it’s all good!

If you have been longing to doodle or take notes or write prayers in Tobit, now you can!

Light a Candle for Love and Christ

What an Advent!  On one Sunday, we lit both the fourth Advent candle and the Christ candle.

I think we should also light a candle for priests and ministers who just had one epic Christmas Eve with regular Sunday morning worship services topped by an evening of Christmas Eve services.  And maybe light a candle for tired mamas, too.

Normally, my blog posts write themselves.  I just write down whatever pops in my head as I’m doing laundry or driving my kids here and there.

No words were coming to me for this final post of Advent.  How can I describe a Christmas that was at once so meaningful and precious to me and so exhausting?  I felt so blessed to be able to celebrate this Christmas surrounded by love, especially to be with my husband, our two young children and my parents and husband’s parents.

When I had no words for how I felt, Elizabeth Foss came through for me in her Christmas devotion from Rooted in Hope:

In those “rest and be grateful moments,” after a healthy birth of a healthy baby, there is a peace that comes with quiet joy.  The worry and work are past.  Contentment settles, a thick sigh of relief blanketed over extraordinary happiness.  These are the moments when praying mothers know to the core of our beings that God is near.

That pretty much sums up how I felt this Christmas; maybe I labored more for this Christmas than past Christmases in terms of reading Scripture, praying daily, and planning as a result of the beautiful “Rooted in Hope” Advent devotional.  When it was all finished, I was more happy and more tired than I expected.

Here’s a quick look at my last weeks of Bible journaling…

I love this beautiful promise of God’s love from Isaiah. Most of the stickers on this page are covering up mistakes. You can’t see it, but for me, it’s a reminder that we don’t have to be perfect to keep God’s love. I kept messing up this page, but it turned out ok.


This is one of the simplest pages I’ve ever done, just a verse and two quick stamps…I love this reminder from Jeremiah.  We are clay in God’s hands.  May God be creating something loving!


Ezekiel’s vision is anything, but simple.  I do better with simple verses that can be illustrated in a cute way than with prophetic images, but I was trying my best to envision what Ezekiel saw:  A sapphire throne, beryl wheels with eyes, a man dressed in linen with hot burning coals, cherubim, and a four-headed figure with wings.   Clearly whatever Ezekiel saw was beyond words.  His experience must have been a total assault on the senses. Reading this passage during Advent brought to mind the contrast between this vision of God’s glory, beyond description and the infant Jesus.  All that in a tiny, approachable baby!


The story of Daniel and the lion den is a favorite of a friend whose daughter is in the NICU. I’ve been praying this story over baby Colbie as part of my Christmas prayers: God please be with baby Colbie and keep her safe just as you protected Daniel in the lion den. It makes me happy this story was in the Advent devotion!

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We went to see “The Miracle of Christmas” at The Sight and Sound theater in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.  The Sight and Sound version of the Christmas story made me appreciate Joseph and his courage and trust. My son was able to see Joseph as a hero for protecting Mary and making what provisions he could for baby Jesus. It was such a tender portrayal of Joseph, perfect for the day’s devotion.


One of the things that I don’t really have words for is how my understanding of Mary has changed throughout this devotion and how much more clearly I understand the birth of Jesus as the fulfillment of Scripture and prophecy.  In the past, I’ve always read Mary’s words:  “Let it be done with me according to your Word” as Mary’s response to God’s call to be the mother of Jesus.  And it can be read that way, but it can also be read as Mary’s recognition that all that God has promised since the beginning of the Bible when God said to Adam and Eve “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel” was about to be fulfilled.  There are so many beautiful and complicated ways that the Christmas story fulfills the Word and the prophets.  It’s marvelous.  The whole study has been a good reminder that God’s promises are “Yes and Amen!”  I was looking for a blank page to put the beautiful lettering by Carolyn Svellerella.  Putting Mary’s words right at the beginning captured some of this understanding for me.

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Our Christmas Eve service at church was so sweet.  The pastor read the Bible story from the King James Version.  I saw many eyes wink and nod when the pastor said, the Christmas story just reads best this way.  He read from his grandmother’s Bible.  I’ve loved working in my beautiful My Promise Bible, which is in the King James Version, this Advent…


The greatest gift is knowing that our salvation was born on Christmas day, with his rewards with him and his work ahead of him…


Advent is a time of renewal.  This passage from Titus captures all that God has been working in my heart this Advent…


I’ve never felt so sad to reach the end of a devotional!  But that’s it.

I just wanted to say a few words about my Advent prayers.  I prayed the St. Andrews Novena 15 times each day this Advent.

Hail and blessed be the hour and moment In which the Son of God was born Of the most pure Virgin Mary, at midnight, in Bethlehem, in the piercing cold. In that hour vouchsafe, I beseech Thee, O my God, to hear my prayer and grant my desires.

This is hard…Prior to starting this devotion, I did “Gratitude Documented” with “Illustrated Faith”.   I didn’t quite finish the project.  I got bogged down at “unanswered prayers.”  I just wasn’t in a place to be grateful for them.

I was praying for my husband’s cousin’s wife, who was pregnant with twins.  She went into labor at 23 weeks on Thanksgiving.  I decided right then and there that I would pray the St. Andrews Novena for her two tiny babies.  My daughter was spontaneously offering prayers for the babies, too.  Between Thanksgiving and the starting date for the Novena, one of the twins died.  I was angry, especially because my 5-year-old was praying!  (And in the prior year, on Thanksgiving, my daughter prayed for this couple to have a baby.)

Oddly, this tiny baby had the same first two names as someone very important to me.  (The first and middle names were reversed, but it was an odd coincidence, especially since there was no relation.)  I wondered if God wanted me to pray for the person I knew by the same name.

I prayed for baby Colbie and my friend throughout the Novena.  And I was able to pray often near a manger scene including this living creche at my church, which would have made St. Francis proud!  (That’s my boy as Joseph!)


I also prayed during “The Miracle of Christmas.”  At the end of the performance at the Sight and Sound theater, staff from the production were available to pray at the front of the theater.  I felt led to the front, which is not something I would ordinarily do.  When I told the woman about baby Colbie, she said that her sister was born at equally premature and is now just fine.  Talking to her gave me peace, just as God gave peace to Hannah in the temple.

After my kids went to bed on Christmas Eve, I snuck out at 10:30 to go to 11:00 mass.  We heard the same Scriptures that I heard at my Presbyterian church earlier that night and sang the same songs.  I said a prayer for Christians to be one during the communion service.  When the service was over, I lit a candle for baby Colbie and my friend…


Am I in a better place to thank God for unaswered prayers?  I’m still sad about the death of the baby boy, but in his short life, he inspired me to pray for another person by the same name, and my prayers brought me hope, peace, joy, and love, just as a tiny baby in the manger brought to the whole world.  I’m grateful that his sister is getting stronger every day; she is five weeks now.  Her mom and dad are now taking turns holding her, a good sign.  God has a way of working things out.

I keep thinking back to the start of this devotion and the words:  “It’s a journey and he’s taking it with you!”

I am so thankful for my many blessings this Christmas, most of all I’m grateful for a good God, who became a tiny infant that we might be able approach him and know him.  May Christ enter into all the prayer requests on your heart even if they don’t turn out as you expect and bring you hope, peace, joy, and love!







Light a Candle for Joy

It was a joyful celebration at Church this morning.  The children led worship…


Throughout this Advent, I’ve been praying the St. Andrews novena:

Hail and blessed be the hour and moment in which the Son of God was born of the most pure Virgin Mary, at midnight, in Bethlehem, in the piercing cold. In that hour vouchsafe, I beseech Thee, O my God, to hear my prayer and grant my desires through Jesus Christ and His blessed Mother. Amen.

This morning, I had my first taste of why this simple meditation on the nativity is so powerful.  It is always a sweet and moving experience to see the children and hear the Christmas music, but today my heart welled up with prayers that have been on my heart over the past year:  prayers for a friend with unresolved back pain, prayers for a family that took in a child from a troubled situation and then had to give the child back, prayers for those going through financial difficulties at Christmas, prayers for those who have lost loved ones, a family from Syria that my parents met, who found refuge in our town, and for baby Colbie in the NICU and a friend I would like God to grant all the intentions of his heart.  I prayed for Christians everywhere that we might be more unified and for Christians facing persecution.

As the whole church sang:

Joy to the world
The Lord has come
Let earth receive her King
Let every heart prepare Him room

I hoped for Jesus to enter into all the situations on my heart.  I asked Jesus to bring healing, peace, strength, hope, and joy.

What the world received in that hour vouchsafe was Jesus, and deep down, I had a knowing that Jesus, a king born in a humble stable, who taught the world how to love one another, is the answer to my prayers and desires even today.

Looking back at my Bible journaling for the week…

First, I read the story of Samuel going to Jesse’s house to pick and anoint the future king.  The story has an almost impossibly Disney-like feel to it.  All the brothers arrive but one, and Samuel asks:  “Are all your children here?” (I was happy that some of the ladies in the Rooted in Hope Facebook group thought of the Cinderella story, too.  I’m not the only one!)

There’s something endearing to me that God chose the son who was at work, the shepherd, who would not leave the sheep to be part of the lineage of Christ:  “For the Lord sees not as a man sees for man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart.”


The next couple days were busy and was grateful that I had line art to color in My Promise Bible.

As I reflected on this passage from Amos and also the devotion by Ana Hahn in Rooted in Hope, I thought of how often we only learn to fully appreciate a good in our lives once we lose it (or think we might) and gain it back. A friend recently posted in Facebook that she didn’t appreciate her normal life until it was completely disrupted by a trip to a burn unit with her son who burnt his hand badly. In my own life, I had a frustrating night, but the next morning my kids woke up early and we had time to do the fun things I wanted to the prior night, but couldn’t. After reading Amos, I enjoyed them all the more! Simple joys!

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I had to travel for work this week.  I took my Bible, but forgot my coat!  The weather took a turn toward the frosty, too!  My favorite thing about working on the passage below:  It was read as part of the Christmas pageant today and I thought, “I know that passage!”


The next reading was the book of Jonah.  First, let me say that Jonah was my absolute favorite Bible story as a child.  The way I have always read the story:  Jonah wanted to run away from God’s call, but God would stop at nothing, preserving his life in the belly of a giant fish, to fulfill His purpose in Jonah’s life.

The trouble is:  I have never liked the way the book of Jonah ends with the Jonah being distraught over a wilted gourd plant.  The author of the devotion read the story in a much different way:  As the story of a man who had a pretty irrational hatred of the people in Nineveh.  I never wanted to wrestle with that part of the story.  After reading the devotion and reflecting on this last chapter of Jonah,  I heard more clearly the message that God was telling Jonah: “God’s love is for everyone.” This is the simplest and best truth of all.

I found myself thinking of a friend of mine whose family survived the Armenian genocide.  She felt led by God to go to Turkey and walk in peace, and she did.  Some of her friends from families who also survived couldn’t understand; even an Armenian priest seemed puzzled by this desire to share love and peace in this way.  Perhaps, the person most changed by the experience was my friend; her eyes were opened to the persecuted church, and at the same time, she was changed by the warm hospitality with which she was received by people from many different traditions.  Her heart grew.

Jonah is one of the few prophets in the Bible, who people actually listen to.  The Ninevites were changed by their encounter with him and God shows His mercy and love to them.  Jonah clearly had trouble with this outcome.  The story of Jonah ends without telling us whether or not Jonah’s heart was changed after his conversation with God.

I think the final chapter of Jonah has been left unwritten on purpose.  The final chapter is the story of our own hearts and how they need to be enlarged to see all people as created and loved by God.


My daughter came home from school with the cutest illustration on a worksheet titled “Grinch Growth” as I was reading this passage from Habbakuk:

Though the fig tree should not blossom nor fruit be in the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.

As I worked on this page, thought about the passage and the story of the Grinch, I pondered the message that it’s our joy when joy is unexpected that grows the hearts of others and opens hearts to faith and love. (The happy and sad Grinch are my daughter’s.)


The memory verse for this week….

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Last night my daughter said, “Let’s have a coloring party.”  My daughter colored pictures of Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer, and I kept coloring until I colored all the Scripture readings.


Every time I read the first chapter of John I find new insights.  Today, I found myself thinking more about John the Baptist…


who said:  “Behold the Lamb of God.”


The My Promise Bible has some pages with room for artwork in the back of the Bible, I used these to write out the passage from 1 Thessalonians since I’ve already added a lot of art to that page in my Bible…


Spending time in the Word in a creative way has brought me so much joy this week as I prepare my heart for Christmas!  Only one more candle to light before the Christ candle!


Light a Candle for Peace

I’ve been working through the Advent Devotional written by Catholic women for Catholic women called “Rooted in Hope.”  There are two main reasons that I chose it:

  • Over the past five or six years, I’ve made it a personal tradition to go to Midnight mass after I get my kids to bed and light a candle; it seems there’s always a prayer concern on my mind at Christmas.  This tradition began when our next door neighbors invited us over for a fish dinner and then let me tag along with them to the service, which was so beautiful that I’ve kept going even when they’ve been out of town.  I thought maybe this devotion would be a good way to prepare my heart.
  • The second reason has to do with what I do at mass: I can’t take communion at a Catholic church since I am Presbyterian, so I always just use the time to pray for unity among Christians.  One of the things that has warmed my heart the most about the Bible journaling movement is to see Christians from all denominations and backgrounds sharing art and supporting each other.  I have this deep hope that our art helps us see what we share in common:  our love for the Word and our love for Jesus.  As I light a candle for peace, I give thanks for the tie that bind us all together!

Here’s a window into the Bible Journaling I’ve been doing this week.  I’ve just been following the daily readings.

This passage from Isaiah 11 is a strange prophecy, one that seems to go against all the laws of nature: a wolf dwell with a lamb? But when we follow Jesus, we often do the unexpected: we choose forgiveness over getting even; we choose loyalty over just looking out for ourselves; we do what is right even when it’s hard or our actions might be misunderstood; we go the extra mile and turn the other cheek; we keep praying until our adversaries become friends; and we do not intentionally hurt or destroy. It may not make the headlines, but I am sure quiet moments of reconciliation made possible by Jesus happen all the time. From today’s devotion: “Salvation history unfolds one yes at a time.”


The next devotion took me to Exodus where God meets Moses in the burning bush.  I never made this connection before, but Moses is much like the shepherds in the Christmas story, just tending his sheep when he hears God’s voice calling to him.  It is great encouragement to know that God is with us in whatever we are called to do.


The next Bible story was unfamiliar to me.  When I have a tough time with a passage, I’ll often read it in a children’s Bible.  The Action Bible does a nice job with all of the book of Judges.  The mighty warrior, Gideon doubted God’s promise to him, and asks for a sign and then another sign.  So many times in life, we want God to give us a clear sign that we are on the right path.  God shows great patience to Gideon by filling his fleece with dew on one day and letting it be dry the next though the whole ground was wet with dew.  God still gives him the victory and St. Paul still lists him in the Hall of Faith.  That being said, I still think it’s best to walk by faith, not by fleece.


I have read the story of Hannah in the temple many times.  Reading it again, what I noticed is how she prays; then she talks to the priest; and then she feels relief. She is a beautiful example of someone who casts all her anxiety on the Lord and then trusts that he cares for her.  I’ll light at least two candles this Christmas Eve, one for a dear friend, who is a faithful saint, and one for a tiny baby growing strong in the NICU.  These two pages gave me time in advance to pray for both.


The following passage was selected for the Feast of Immaculate Conception.  I did not know what the feast of Immaculate Conception was all about.  I decided the quickest way to find out was to simply go to early morning mass on Friday.  I sat in the room for crying children because the church was surprisingly full and listened to the homily. As luck would have it, the school kids were there and the priest did a nice job teaching about the feast day. The priest explained that God had a plan for Mary from the moment of her conception to be the Mother of Jesus. I love how this ties into the Scripture passage chosen for today in the devotion: “He hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world that we should be holy and blameless before him in love.” It is easy for me to accept that God had a plan for Mary. God also has a plan for us to be adopted as God’s children.  That is something to celebrate!

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I’m in awe of the beautiful calligraphy by Carolyn Svellinger found in “Rooted in Hope”. I did my best to copy her handwriting from the book and then had fun with my Bible Journaling supplies.


I went to bed last night reading the first chapter of Mark.  I was a little surprised that my pastor preached on this passage at church today.  She begins almost every sermon telling us the passage just read is one of her favorites, but today she confessed that she was preaching on a passage that was just ok for her.  She made me laugh when she said: “Everyone at Christmas wants to see the angels with tidings of joy, but there’s not as much enthusiasm for the man in the camel hair that eats honey and locusts and reminds us to confess our sins and repent.” Advent is a good time to straighten out what is crooked and smooth over what has been rough. It’s not just homes that need to be clean and ready; more importantly it is our hearts. We lit a candle for peace today; Peace on earth begins when we make peace with our God.

I am learning to love St. John the Babtist for how he chose to live a life of austerity and penance and how he prepared the way for Jesus and pointed others to him.  Is there such a thing as a St. John the Baptist Christmas ornament?  I’d love for him to make an appearance every Advent!

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I read the passage about John the Baptist before bed and woke up thinking:  “Remember that you are dust.”  This is a bit of a paradox because I know that God loves and cherishes me.  I know my worth is measured by this:  Jesus paid the price for me.  And at the same time, I know that I’m dust relative to the power and glory of God.  And there’s a freedom in that, which is hard to explain.  Remembering that I’m dust simply helps take the focus off of me and allows my heart to focus on Jesus.  And this gives me true peace.




Rooted in Hope

Welcome to Advent, the start of the liturgical year.  I always think of Christmas as the end of the year, but really, it’s just the beginning.

We start the season of Advent by lighting a candle for hope.

At our home here’s how that looked:  My parents came over for dinner last night and helped us decorate our Christmas tree.  We held an impromptu Advent candle lighting service.  My house was a little cleaner than usual, but my kitchen table was surrounded by the ordinary mess of too many craft supplies.  I quickly picked a Scripture to read.  My mom suggested singing a Christmas carol.  It turned out that none of us knew all the words to the first verse of “The First Noel”.  My daughter randomly ran from the table to get some bells.  For some reason,  some of the potatoes in my soup failed to get soft.  My mother concluded our Advent lighting ceremony, by saying in a solemn voice:  “God, we give you thanks that there is hope.”

And we all burst out laughing.  We start the liturgical year with hope, but we all know too well how things will go.  Sometimes having hope can seem comical.  When things don’t go as planned, I am grateful for friends who laugh, and when the situation calls for it, cry with me.  And I have to believe that even our clumsy attempts to honor God in our homes and with our lives are pleasing to God.

This morning at Sunday school, the story for the children was the three visitors who came to see Abraham and Sarah.  Abraham believed the visitors when he heard that he and his wife would have a child in their later years, but Sarah laughed.  I don’t blame Sarah at all for laughing.  I know too well the pain of waiting month after month for a common enough little miracle.  I think she laughed, not so much in disbelief, but to hide the pain of so many disappointments.  I have always loved the story of Sarah and Abraham and how thousands of years later her descendants still tell the story of how much Sarah wanted a baby and how long she waited.  Her story is also my story and I pray that my children will always know how I prayed for them, longed for them and hoped for them.  What always fills me with awe about the story of Sarah and Abraham:  through Jesus Christ our brother, we are living proof of the promise that God made to Abraham that his descendants would be more numerous than the stars.

We always start to prepare for Christmas with hope.  By spending more time in the Word this Christmas, my hope is that no matter what happens, my heart will be focused on Jesus, my true hope in all circumstances.  I’ve been following along a devotional, called appropriately enough: “Rooted in Hope.”  I love how the Illustrated Faith Advent kits work together with the Scripture readings.  Here’s the first of my Advent Bible Journaling Entries.

The St. Andrews Novena found its way into the margins of my Bible.  Praying a Christmas novena is a new experience for me, but I’m enjoying this simple meditation on the night that Christ was born.  I’ve been working in the “My Promise Bible” from King James Bibles.


I was surprised at the simple way the prayer from the Illustrated Faith Advent kit was met by the Scripture in the “Rooted in Hope” devotional.  If you want to keep your heart on Christ through the Christmas season, there’s no better way that to have Scripture in your mouth and in your heart!  Spending time in the Word is the best gift you can give yourself this Christmas!


I loved this assurance from the “Rooted in Hope” devotional:  “The Lord will strengthen you to the end.  It’s a journey and he’s taking it with you.”


The page below will always remind me of the night that we put up our Christmas tree.  May I wait for Christ’s return with the same hope and excitement and eagerness to prepare that my children have for Christmas and always live as the servant he expects us to be, loving God and one another.


May you be filled with hope (even if it comes mixed with laughter or tears) this Advent!