I have so many questions…

I have so many questions. They keep returning, again and again. Things like…

What does God want me to do?

What should I pray about?

How should I pray?

Is there a proper way to pray?

Is just talking to God okay?

Is it okay to just tell him what is on my mind?

Why am I so afraid of what He might want me to do?

Am I doing the things He really wants me to do?

How will I be able to tell what it is He wants me to do?

Most days I work on my computer. Who am I kidding? Every day I work on my computer. I write in my journal. I  create graphics or I alter graphics for my own personal use in my journal. I scroll through Facebook looking at images and sometimes reading posts, rarely replying to any comments unless something strikes a chord with me. And once in a while, I write in this blog.

One day, recently, I was working on some graphics in Affinity Designer. I tried to open one of the graphics but Affinity Designer responded with an error message stating the filename I was trying to access didn’t exist and yet I could see it right there in the OPEN FILE dialogue window.

I spent hours trying to rectify this situation.

At first, I thought it was associated with Adobe Bridge which I had installed a couple days previously to help with finding files faster on my system. I had started tagging some files and the one Affinity Designer had issues with was one of the files I had recently tagged, or added keywords for in Adobe Bridge. I use the keywords to help me find the files easier by creating a smart collection. What was odd was Affinity Designer could open other files I had been working with in Adobe Bridge, so I decided to uninstall Affinity Designer and install it again to see if that would fix the issue.

Things went from not so good to another step further into bad. Affinity Designer wouldn’t load after it was re-installed. Every time I tried to load Affinity Designer, it responded with a blue screen stating there was an issue with the cldflt.sys file and would cause my computer to restart.

My computer is really slow on restarting.

I spent several hours researching this new situation. I am sure that several of the “fix it” scenarios assumed the problem interfered with booting my computer but my computer booted just fine. I knew this because every time I got the blue screen when I tried to load Affinity Designer, it forced my computer to restart.

I finally found a location where I could get a clean copy of the cldflt.sys file and instructions on how to replace it. The author of the instructions warned that only the highly experienced should attempt to do this. I took the risk which wasn’t as straightforward as it seemed, and replaced the file, restarted my computer. This time,  Affinity Designer loaded successfully.

However, Affinity Designer STILL had the original issue of not being able to open the file I wanted. Although, the file would open if I located the file in the folder outside of Affinity Designer, right clicked the file and told it to open in Affinity Designer but I didn’t want to have to do that. I wanted to understand why Affinity Designer would NOT open the file when I tried to do so from WITHIN Affinity Designer.

I finally renamed the file and gave it a rather short name that was maybe 8 characters long. Low and behold Affinity Designer opened the file without any problems. So… my original issue was with a filename that was too long for Affinity Designer to handle.

I have run across problems with filenames being too long before but in that case the file just didn’t show up in the software. This can be rather frustrating because more and more people in the business of creating graphics are using rather long filenames and they are either not aware that some programs have limitations or don’t care.

I will admit when I was stuck on the cldflt.sys issue and Affinity Designer wouldn’t load, I started to believe my system might have been invaded with a virus. I had been through enough system problems in my life of working with computers for over 30 years to know viruses can manifest in very odd ways.

In the midst of my struggles and considering the possible infection from a virus, I sat silent before God, with only one question on my mind.

“What do I need to do?”

“Get back into the Word of God.”

rang loudly in the midst of my silence and chaotic mind.

For the past couple of months, or rather since I had completed reading the bible from cover to cover, I had become inconsistent in my reading of His Word. My goal of reading the bible from cover to cover had sustained me and kept me hungry for His Word, but as soon as I had accomplished my goal, suddenly, I was at a loss as to maintaining that focus or how to get it back.

I felt bad. I knew I should be in His Word every day but I couldn’t seem to maintain it.

Then this happened. And BAM! when I heeded his message, I hadn’t been in His Word for more than five minutes when the answers to “fixing” my issues started presenting themselves. I was taken to the location for the clean file to replace my corrupted file. I was able to replace it and Affinity Designer started working again. By the time I had read two or three chapters in the bible, I had also discovered the reason why Affinity Designer wouldn’t open the file, by renaming the file.  I was back to working in Affinity Designer but not until I had finished my daily reading.

I had more questions, like…

What bible study method should I use for studying the bible?

Should I follow the bible study courses I have added to my arsenal as they are, or should I find my own way?

What works best for me?

One of the things which had distracted me from my daily reading was my struggles with setting up a prayer/war journal. I tried about three different ways of setting one up but couldn’t quite make it work for me. It wasn’t something I would turn to every day and when I did, I always felt like it didn’t feel right. I even tried sticking prayer lists on my wall and sitting down to prayer but that wasn’t working either. Eventually, I sat down and prayed, that eventually, I would come across something that would work for me. I sort of felt like I was giving up.

I knew God was working on things. I am continually amazed when out of the blue one of my questions will be answered. The answers never come to me in any way I expect. Some of them come within minutes or hours of me forming the question in my mind. Other times they may come days or weeks later or even months later. Sometimes they come when I didn’t even realize I was asking the question. But in every situation there is no doubt that the answers come from God.

As I continued to try to find something that would work for me, I signed up for a free Bible Journaling Conference. I wasn’t sure what I would get out of it but I hoped I would get something. In fact, after viewing the videos, I was rather disappointed in it. I didn’t think I had gotten anything out of it at all.

Then, one of the videos I had watched kept popping up in my thoughts. I couldn’t understand why it was so insistent on popping into my mind at what appeared to be random moments. When I watched the video, I wondered how the person went about doing what they were showing and describing. The video had appeared to me as a show and tell of what she did with and contained very little instruction on HOW she did it. She, apparently, was doing this with a group of people and they all found it helpful but I didn’t feel like she gave enough detail as to how it was done.

After viewing the video again, and going on a search online to try and find more information, I didn’t find much that helped. Mostly what I found was just tidbits of what she had shown in the video. I started just looking at whatever images I could find and trying to deconstruct them until they made sense to me. I eventually gave up on getting any more information. The thing that intrigued me in her video was  the making of a prayer page and a gift page. All I could get out of the video were two things:

  1. the gift page was about selecting something from our day that we thought was a gift or a sort of gratitude and writing it down.
  2. the prayer page was about writing down one thing to pray about that day and doing some doodling and/or coloring.

Both pages were worked on for the whole month and then you start new pages for the next month. It wasn’t the actual making of the journal or pages that had me stumped. What stumped me was the same thing I had been facing since I started this journey over a year ago:

What is the thought process and how does that translate into prayer?

When I first watched the video, I had questions:

How do you choose what to pray for that day?

Don’t get me wrong, I pray every day. I pray abundantly every day. In fact, I feel like I overdo prayer. Why do I feel that way? Because, I don’t feel like I am very focused on prayer and my prayers feel very selfish and reactive. I don’t want to be that way but that is how it feels to me. I wanted to find a more focused prayer life and one that has purpose and power behind it. One that God would be appreciative of because it wasn’t always “me” focused or complaining in nature. This is why I set out to try and create a war/prayer journal. It bothered me that it didn’t seem to be working out for me.

However, I am learning.

The other things I eventually weaned out of the video and my research, is this:

  1. prayer page
    • divided into sections (can be random or any design you want) or just build it as you go
    • color while praying, helps to maintain focus as you pray (this is a huge issue for me, I loose focus and my thoughts go all over the place, sometimes I don’t even realize I have left my prayer completely for the random thoughts that pop into my head)
    • a scripture is selected for each month and used in the daily prayer
    • select one thing to pray about each day, write it somewhere on the page, then doodle and/or color while praying
    • creates a historical prayer journal
  2. gift page
    • format is a numbered list for each day of the month
    • select one thing from your day that is considered a gift or something to be grateful for
    • write it down on the number for that day
    • consider decorating the page as you go through the month
    • creates a historical record

In regards to the gift page. I heard the word gratitude more than once, and the word gift used not so much or I wasn’t listening very well. I have, in the past, several times in fact, tried writing out a gratitude daily but it wasn’t something that stuck and eventually they started feeling repetitive and to be quite honest, not sincere. Therefore, when I heard the word gratitude in relationship to the gift page, I became stuck. I felt a block go up and resistance entered my heart. BUT, a question kept haunting me:

Why do they call it a GIFT page?

It didn’t take long after formulating this question in my mind for an answer to come to me.

Think of it not as a gratitude page, but ask myself,

“what GIFT can you find in your day which you feel God gave to you?”

I knew when I heard that message, I was going to have to give this a go. I wanted to see if it was something that would stick.

Would it be my thing?

Would it work for me?

The decision to give these two pages a try occurred a few days before the end of October. I couldn’t wait to start.  I wanted to start that very day. In fact, I did write down something I thought was a gift from God that day and did a bit of a doodle which felt good. The next few days was in setting up my pages for November.

I chose a journal that was partially used. This journal had a blank page facing a lined page so the blank page would be perfect for the prayer page and the lined page would be perfect for the gift page.

How am I doing?

Well, I’m still adding to my pages every day. I haven’t been coloring yet on my prayer page but I am writing out something to pray about each day and sometimes I add a doodle to the page. When I take the time to doodle, I feel myself focusing on prayer.

Sometimes, I find it difficult to come up with something I think is a gift from God for my gift page but eventually I come up with something that isn’t repeated. I know there may end up being times when I repeat something, like the warmth of the sun, because I do love the feeling of the sun’s warmth, so I have no doubt God would love gifting me with that feeling quite often.

So far, I am keeping up with it and it feels right, though I still have a bit more to learn about the process for making it more powerful. And I feel like I have a lot of work to accomplish regards to my process for praying.

However, I am learning.

I just had a thought. Maybe I need to create a Question page, and maybe an Answer page. Wouldn’t that be something?

I mentioned my bible studies earlier, so….

what about my bible studies?

Oh, I’m learning there too. At least for now, about what works for me. I’m combining some methods I have come across to devise my own way of study. I’m using a class from Robin Sampson called, “12 Bible Eras”. I’m doing the first lesson “Creation Era”. Robin’s lessons usually involve Bible journaling, which can mean anything from using the images she provides for the lesson or finding free/purchased images or even creating your own, mostly digital or physically in a traveler’s notebook (TN). She does support you in doing your own thing or your own art but doesn’t teach it. Sometimes there is writing but it doesn’t seem to be a large portion of her classes.

I have another of Robin’s classes, called “Proverbs 31 and Bible Women” and I thought I could do what I had been doing in that class, where I take the PDF document she created and add it into my digital journal where I can add my own notes.  I am doing this so I can search for information later on if I want to go back and study something or need to find something. But she didn’t make the PDF for the Creation Era course the same way she did in the Proverbs class. This caused me some frustration. Who am I kidding? It caused me a lot of frustration. I spent a LOT of time trying to get the information from her PDF files which were setup like slides but they wouldn’t format correctly and I couldn’t get it so the text would be searchable.

Once I figured out the process for the PDFs from the introduction, I discovered that process wouldn’t work for the next lesson. The next lesson had 4 slides per page. Printing them didn’t work because they were too small to read. I had to do a lot more work to separate them so they would be larger and readable but once again would not be searchable in my digital journal. Merging PDFs was an option but again the slides were too small.

Then I discovered the next set of PDFs were done even more differently, and even smaller, so I gave up on trying to use the process I had used in the Proverbs class. Or even including her PDFs in anything I was doing.

In case you haven’t figured it out by now, I like to find a process that works for me and stick with it. I don’t like having to come up with a new process each time I want to do something. It is very time consuming when all I want to do is just jump right in and learn.

Learning is my passion.

I used to wonder what my passion was. I think I finally know. Learning.

And if I learn something well enough, then I love showing others or helping others learn what I have learned.

I didn’t give up on Robin’s class. I’m taking her class, just adding my own twist to it. From another bible study group, they encourage writing out scripture that is being studied, so I decided to add this to the lesson. I listen to Robin’s videos, which are really just her talking through the slides/PDFs she provides. And I listen to other videos she has linked in her lessons. These videos are available online and don’t require Robin’s lesson to access them. Then, I choose an image I like that represents what I’m learning.  I add it to my page and I hand write the scripture.

As I was writing out the scripture for chapter 1 of Genesis, a question kept coming up, over and over again:

What is the original Hebrew word that was used, and what does that word mean?

So… I started looking up Hebrew text on blueletterbible.org. This site is extremely helpful for bible study. There is much more there than what I’m about to tell you. I lookup the scripture I’m studying and in the tools I can find references to the original language, and read the definition or possible interpretations. This gives me more insight into what the scripture means. I am adding this information to my journal because sometimes what I have heard others say about the scriptures isn’t really in context or within the meaning of the original language used and how it was interpreted. Yes, preachers, ministers, clergymen put their own spin on the meaning of scripture. I love that we now have access to the original scriptures in the language it was written in.

I don’t always realize how inquisitive my mind is. In fact, I didn’t think I was very inquisitive at all until I started writing this post. If I want to know something, I just start researching it. Sometimes, I don’t consciously realize that is what I am doing. I just do it.

What is next?

Where do I go from here?

I’m not sure. I do feel I am finally finding things that work for me. I have no doubt these will evolve over time. For now, I am glad God is teaching me what I need to know and answering my questions.  Sometimes, he even answers questions that pop into my head even though I haven’t taken that question directly to Him. This is something that was mind blowing for me. To know he actually pays attention to my random thoughts and takes the time to respond to them without me going to him in prayer. It is like my thoughts are prayers even when I am not consciously attempting to pray to Him, if that makes any sense.

Don’t get me wrong, I have heard preachers say that God knows our every thought. I believed it but in the way a child believes what someone says is true, not in the way where I believe it because I’ve seen it in action or experienced it. Seeing it in action, is just mind blowing for me, because I never thought I would experience that aspect of Him knowing my every thought and Him thinking it is important enough to take the time to respond.

Below are images from my journal for the Creation Era class. I have used some images that Robin supplied but I also used other images I got from other places. I made the journal by printing a pattern on both sides of just regular printer paper, then folded them in half, stacking 4 or 5 papers together and sewing them into signatures. This booklet has 3 signatures sewn into it. The cover is watercolor paper I painted and then coated with matte medium. I haven’t put a title on it yet. I may not do so until I complete the journal so I know how much is included in it.

 

The writing is scripture handwritten on a piece of paper before I glue it into my journal. The paper was created by me in MS Word where I can add images, background color and lines, before printing it. The I write out scripture before gluing it into my journal.

Before writing out the scripture, I read through it and decide how I will organize it. I don’t mean I change the order of it. What I look for is how to group it. I look for things, like subject or topic, search for images I want to use, then where there is a change within scripture and what image to use with it. In that way, I split scripture into manageable sections. The images help me when I look at the section to remember what it is about.

I discovered something interesting when using images someone else selected for a particular passage of scripture. I don’t connect with it like I do when I find the images that resonate with me. For instance, I used the images for the 6 days of creation supplied by Robin. When I flip through my journal, those images don’t immediately make sense to me. She had no image for Day 7 so I selected an image online and as soon as I see that image I know it is for the day God rested without reading the words. The same goes for the other images I selected in Chapter 2. Now I know, don’t use an image just because someone else used that image, choose one that resonates with me, so that is what I’m doing as I go forward.

I chose to create this journal differently than I did the journal I use for the Proverbs 31 class. I learned the hard way in the Proverbs lesson on issues that can be caused by gluing backgrounds onto a page and how it can warp the binding of my journal, so I’m trying it differently in this journal by printing the background on the paper and then making the signatures. This seems to be working very well.

Plus, my journal isn’t getting distorted due to the thickness of the layers. If I want to go back to this lesson and dig deeper, I will be able to add more notes by creating tip-ins. I could add in a tip-in that has information such as WHO, WHAT, WHERE, WHEN, WHY and HOW as a deeper study and even later I could add another tip-in that contains relevant references to other passages in the bible.

I expect, I will be creating many, many, many more journals like this as I work my way through the bible. Only time will tell if the prayer and gift pages continue to work for me or if they morph into something completely unexpected.

I am grateful to God for every moment I have in His Word and for the answers he gifts to me every day.

 

Experimenting, seeking, and blessings…

I have been playing around with watercolor pencils and my watercolor paints. I have been watching some youtube videos to get some ideas for what I can do artistically to support my bible studies and my spiritual journey.

First, I learned how to highlight text in my bible and then use the same highlighter color to mark my notes I make in the border of my journaling bible, so it is easy to find my notes which refer to the text. This is great because it not only makes it easy to reference the scripture with my notes, it also adds some marvelous color to my bible.

I also have a notebook where I write down notes regarding the chapter I read in my daily bible study. But the notebook is rather plain and uninspiring since it is written using black ink and in a cheap composition notebook. I decided to start making changes:

  1. The first thing I changed was the format so what I read daily was grouped together and each day was separated by a date.
  2. The next thing I did was use a different color of ink each day. I have about 6 different colored gel pens so I started using them to write my notes changing to a different color the next day. This created an obvious division between each day’s studies.
  3. The third thing I did was see if I could use watercolor pencils on the paper and a waterbrush to activate them. This is where I started to run into issues. The watercolor pencils didn’t move hardly at all on the untreated paper of the composition notebook. This also caused the paper to wrinkle.
  4. The next step, I tried some watercolor paint but that also didn’t move very much. Below is a picture of the watercolor paint layered over the watercolor pencils and you can see how splotchy it appears. I wasn’t crazy about it at all, although when I started writing my notes over it, I kind of liked it. This page has an interesting crinkling sound to it and it is wrinkly, an effect from becoming wet which I sometimes like and sometimes don’t.IMG_1613
  5. The next thing I did was try treating a page front and back with clear gesso and applying watercolor pencils to it and activating it again with a waterbrush. This worked better but still had issues with getting it to blend out the way I wanted it, so I put a wash of watercolor paint over it. This is still blotchy but better than the one above and the page doesn’t wrinkle or crinkle like the untreated page above. I actually love the texture of the page from the clear gesso I’m using. The gesso isn’t gritty and it gives the page what my touch and mind can only interpret as an almost leather type feel to it on both the surface and when bending and turning the page. It feels sturdier and not at all like paper in how it bends.IMG_1614
  6. On the other side of the treated page, I used just watercolor wash of paint over the clear gesso. This is by far my favorite and is what I plan on doing going forward in my bible study notebook.

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I expect my next change will be to decorate the cover of my notebook, after watching a video today on youtube of someone covering their composition notebook, it made me want to do something similar.

The thing I am most pleased about is finding a way to work with a cheap composition notebook. I have seen other people on youtube and in some art courses I’ve taken who use composition notebooks for their art journals, junk journals, bullet journals and so forth but when I tried to use one in the way they did, it just didn’t appeal to me. Most of them didn’t treat their pages, some of them glued pages together to make them sturdier.

As you read above, I don’t generally like the page when it gets all crinkly after it dries, though the sound is pleasing the results of the medium on the untreated page isn’t.  As I learned in my creative journaling bible and now in this notebook, treating the page with clear gesso is what I like best because it gives me a broader range of options for anything I might want to do on the page. Consequently, I’m going through clear gesso quite quickly, luckily the clear gesso I can get locally isn’t expensive and I like it.

I only have a couple pages done with watercolor in my journal, even so, when I flip back through my journal, I definitely like the ones with color more. I am hoping to add some doodles or some variations in my writing to help make my notes more visual so I might be able to have instant recall on what was in the text I was studying. Right now my notes just run together. I am intrigued by those who are able to create doodles in their notes as they go and have them make so much sense. I have never been a doodler, so trying to come up with simple images to draw that would emphasize what I’m learning doesn’t come easily or naturally to me. I think I’m more of a word person, so creating changes in my writing may be what I need to do.

What I’m learning is experimenting, trying different things, is helping me to find what works for me. This is being driven home even more so in my play with watercolor paint. These next two images are from practicing on two pieces of 4 1/2″ x 5″ watercolor paper. I have watched a number of artists on youtube paint with watercolor and each time I try to do something without following a lesson or what they are doing and just try to do something on my own, it ends up something like these. Then I don’t know what to do with them.

The first one looks like an out of focus picture of flowers that have no connection with the earth or each other.

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I have no idea where I was headed with this one, I just started putting paint down where I felt like placing it and letting it run. I think when I was letting the paint run we had a bit of thunder and lightening happening outside which doesn’t occur very often.

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Basically, I was just playing. I think I should try a challenge of doing one of these small watercolor practice squares a day for 30 days and see what happens. I’m just feeling a bit overwhelmed with other things I feel I should be doing and not progressing as fast as I think I should be so to add something like a challenge right now might be a bit too much.

It is hard to justify playing with my art when I feel I should be focusing on things to improve our financial situation. I have to keep myself open to what God wants me to do. After winning a spot in “Paint Your Heart and Soul 2019” and another spot in “Life Book 2019”, I have to believe that God wants me to continue pursuing my art and including it as often as I can in my day-to-day activities.

I started a prayer journal and I’m using my artistic skills to bring prayer to life for me. That may sound strange so below is an image of a page in my prayer journal. I don’t want to confuse anyone and have them think the artwork or text is mine. I got both from Pinterest.  If you want to look up the text graphic you can find it here. If you want to look up the image you can find it here.  The footnote to the image states, “Praying is a painting by Dorina Costras which was uploaded on April 11th, 2017.” I had the background painted long before I found the text or image so to find an image which spoke to me so deeply and blended so well with my background and also the text is wonderful. I would love to have this image on canvas or print for my wall but in my present circumstances I can’t afford it so I opted for a small printout to put in my prayer journal.

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The image and the words together bring prayer to life for me. It has been difficult to have faith that my prayers will be answered. Throughout my life, I have prayed more times than I can count where I felt like no one was listening and nothing came of my prayers. The more I read my bible, the more I realize there was a very important element missing in my life when I accepted Jesus into my heart as my Lord and Savior. Learning was disjointed, had no cohesion, there was no direction given to me as a new child of God. Would things have been different if there had been a more structured teaching to help someone like me? I can’t answer that. I would like to think so but God does things a certain way for a good reason. Maybe after being saved, I needed to become lost and lose almost everything so I would truly seek him for the right reasons. Seeking God for one’s own personal gain is wrong. I originally sought him and accepted him because I feared for my life that I might die and go to hell. I didn’t seek him to glorify him or out of fear of him. In April, when I decided to start reading the bible, I did so because I wanted to get to know God and who he really is. Not the God I was taught about as a child because I felt what I was being taught was a bastardized version of him and not the real HIM.

It is hard to sit back and study the bible at the pace I am studying it. I want to fly through it learning all I can as fast as I can.  Even though I’m moving through it chapter by chapter instead of verse by verse which is what is recommended by Anne Graham Lotz in her 3-Question Bible Study method, I feel like I’m learning at a snail’s pace.

I came across Anne’s method a couple weeks ago when I was searching different ways of studying the bible. I also discovered she has recently been diagnosed with breast cancer and has just started chemo treatments. From what she writes it sounds like her diagnosis is more severe than mine and her treatments will last a lot longer. I pray for her every day for God to give her strength and healing. I used to listen to her father Billy Graham many years ago but had no idea she had her own ministry. From what little I have read and listened to so far, she may become a rather important source of inspiration for me.

I am slowly finding my way in this life, this new life which is developing out of the ashes of my old life. I often feel as though I am no longer standing on solid ground, so unstable it might dissolve completely leaving nothing to stand on, or that I’m standing on the edge of a cliff where the slightest breeze could push me over the edge. God is the only one who is keeping me grounded. He is answering my prayers and giving me hope. When I am left to my own devices, and I try to rely on just myself, everything just feels like it is falling apart and there is no hope left in me.

I am learning to lean on God, and he is showing me in amazing ways that he is listening and answering my prayers in his own way and in his own time. It is hard to be patient. It is hard to change from my old ways. It is hard not to let doubt bubble up and overwhelm me. But each time I witness God’s helping hand in my life, my faith grows a bit more, a bit stronger and becomes a bit more rooted. I am glad my art has a part in my life. I love how it is becoming entwined with my spiritual growth.

Maybe one day I’ll discover my true purpose which God has for me.