The Progression of an Unexpected Journey

“Father, you have called me to write today about my journey, use my hands dear Lord to type the words you wish me to share with those who will read my blog. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.”

On April 8, 2018, I picked up my bible for the first time in a very long time with the intention of getting to know God. Not the God, I was taught about as a child, or as an adult through the churches I attended. No, I wanted to learn about the true God which is written about in the bible. I wanted to know who he is and the history which is contained within the bible. I was also curious how the history in the bible compares with what archeology has discovered but I knew that would probably come later.

Those who read this are probably wondering what this has to do with my journey as an artist. I had considered creating another blog to write about this journey but in truth, my journey as an artist brought me here, so these are not two separate journeys but one journey. My journey.

This is not the first time, in my 58, soon to be 59 years of life, to have picked up the bible with the intention of reading it from cover to cover. No, I remember at least one other time, but more like at least two other times of attempting to do so. You have probably already surmised that those other attempts, were just that, attempts. Attempts which failed. I have asked myself several times what makes my journey this time different.

I believe there is one significant difference. This time I was called upon to take this journey. The other times, the intent was just to be able to say I did it. This time, I felt a hunger that would not subside. I had to open the bible in my lap and start reading it. This time, that hunger did not subside. It did not dissipate. In fact, it grows. Why now? Why not back then? Maybe because I wasn’t ready for the full impact of what reading the bible would do in my life. But I really don’t know.

I can’t really say that there has been any major changes in my life, external life that is since starting to read the bible. At least not that anyone outside of my home would notice, other than attending church from time to time. Attending church isn’t a major motivation for me right now.  I go when I feel called to do so and when it is possible around my work schedule.

The changes which have occurred in my life are more related to how I see God, the part he has in my life, and how I should be handling my life and decisions. My priorities have changed. My first priority every day is to read the bible. It is the first thing I do, even on the days I have the early shift at work, with the exception of taking a shower first and getting dressed, so I’m not distracted with the possibility of not getting to work on time. I read between 1 to 5 chapters every day. There are not many days in which I didn’t read at least one chapter a day. I finished Isaiah 54 this morning.

I have gone back and forth on what I should do, whether I should just read through the bible and consider deeper study as the next step after I have read the entire bible. Or, should I include deeper study while I’m reading through the entire bible.

I started researching bible study methods and tried a couple of them. One source was from Anne Graham Lotz’s AnGeL Ministries website where I signed up for a daily devotional email. After trying a couple of the study methods, I put them aside for later.

To satisfy some of this desire to dig deeper, I started with a monthly topic prompt list of verses to look up. I type them into my digital journal next to a copy of the list. These help me to get a view of particular topics like the one for this month is “Forgiveness”.

I also type in the daily devotional scripture from AnGeL Ministries email I receive daily.

Then I came across a couple Facebook groups which included some bible study with bible journaling, so I tried including one of them. I did complete one of these studies and went on to the next one. I didn’t complete the next one, as you will see later.

Then another bible study crept in that was a bit different and had a two step study. The first step was writing out scripture that we were reading/studying and the second step was to use a keyword list to focus on particular words in the chapters marking them and then answering some questions about them or writing what we learned. This is called the Inductive Bible study method. To be truthful I didn’t complete that study yet. It is easy to find an excuse why. I don’t like excuses, they are meaningless and usually are not connected to the real reason.  I intend to go back to this study later once I have read the entire bible.  I felt like I was studying something out of context without knowing what transpired before. Then too, I don’t think I am ready yet for that type of in-depth study which is how I felt about the previous study methods I tried.

These two studies also overlapped each other. With the monthly prompts and two different types of bible studies, and my daily reading I was overloading myself. I realized too I was just piling things on possibly as a way to prove to myself that I am a godly person. This was not the right attitude to have so I put them aside for later.

I did love writing out the scripture from the one study so I started writing out a chapter a day when I was in Psalms. This, however, slowed down my progression in reading because I was trying to do it in conjunction with my daily reading. After feeling like I was being held back, I decided to continue my daily reading like I had been doing and not let writing scripture by hand hold me back. I now write scripture by hand when I have time to do so. If I can do it daily, I do. If not, if I skip a day or two, I don’t feel guilty about it.

I knew I was piling a lot on because I was still searching for something. I wasn’t sure what. Something was still missing.

I came across another course or maybe it is more like a challenge, called “Time With God” by Robin Sampson. She was the author of one of the monthly prompts I was doing which is how I came across her course. The course is to help, those who want to study the bible, to make a habit out of it. I had already made reading the bible a habit. It was a habit for me from the very first day I picked up the bible on April 8th to begin reading it. I didn’t have to think about it or make an effort to do it. The desire to do it was there every day. In taking the course, I hoped to find a process for my bible study that would work for me. I wasn’t sure if the course would help with that but since it was free, it wouldn’t cost me anything other than time. So, I added it to my daily study/reading plan. I am about half way through it.

I can’t say the “Time With God” course is helping me find a process that works for me, at least not directly. I am learning about things like Asana which helps me in all areas of my life for tracking the things I need and want to do. I have learned about other resources for learning, like torahclass.com, which doesn’t just teach about the bible but puts what happened in ancient times in context with current times. This is what I have always hungered for. Teaching, not preaching.  So this too was added to my studies but not daily.

I have since come across other bible studies online which excite me and I want to try them. One called “Discovering Hope in the Psalms” which I felt I could do since I have read through the Psalms. Hope is something which has disappeared from my life and I want to bring it back. I haven’t started this because of all the things I already have on my plate.

Then I came across “First 5” which is mostly run on an app but can be read from the computer. I’m just not able to make comments from the computer. Their current study is in Psalms, the exact spot where I am in my handwriting of scripture, so I added it as a supplement to my handwritten study, to read for getting another perspective. I don’t have to keep up with the daily post so that works out well for doing it when I have time.

While looking at “First 5”, I discovered it was part of Proverbs 31 Ministries where they also have another bible study. They have a current study which isn’t in alignment with where I am at, I believe it is concerning marriage/relationships and since I’m not married or in a relationship, I looked at some of the ones they have archived.

One caught my eye.

“It’s Not Supposed To Be This Way” And yes, I had to add it to my study schedule. Since it is an archived study, I can do it at my own pace.

I don’t know if it is apparent to the reader the progression of events since I started reading the bible. To me, it is apparent that I am being led. In, other words, shown the way.  In some cases, I am given answers to prayers which I didn’t know I had made. For instance, I knew what had happened three years ago in my life felt all “wrong” to me. So I knew as soon as I saw the title for the bible study “It’s Not Supposed To Be This Way” was an answer to a prayer I never purposefully formed and asked of God. He knew I needed it and in a progression of steps brought me to where I needed to be to find it.

Outside of my bible studies, what is happening in my life hasn’t changed much. I am still in a minimum wage job that doesn’t pay enough to cover my bills so my financial reserves are dwindling.

What has changed is this:

  1. I am no longer stressing daily or panicking daily over this situation.
  2. I am being taught through my bible studies to turn everything over to God and let him stress over my situation.
  3. I know without a doubt he is telling me to “be still” and let him handle things.
  4. I am learning when good and bad things happen, to equally turn to God and thank him.
  5. I have learned to be grateful for what he has already done and what he will do.

I have been given clear messages. I am given exactly what I need when I need it. There are times I am given things I didn’t even know I needed. I remember writing in my journal one day how frustrated I was over my lack of time to do things. The very next day I learned about Asana and now I’m getting more done every day than I did in the past. Not only does it help me know each day what I need to do but I no longer have to worry about whether I will forget something. When I find out I need to do something I put it in Asana, set a due date and when the day comes it is on my list to do. The interesting part is I didn’t pray about it, at least not in the traditional way. I wrote about it in my journal which tells me even when I don’t direct my thoughts to God he knows what I’m thinking and he delivers what I need when I need it.

This means, my financial situation will be fine. He knows what I need and he will deliver it. He knows better than I do. I don’t have to go out looking for it. He will bring it to me as long as I focus on him and make him my priority.

My faith has grown since starting this journey of reading the bible. I know there have been times when I didn’t believe he would provide for me. Stress would eat me alive as I sent application after application to job after job posting and anxiety would overwhelm me when I heard nothing or went through the process of an interview to only hear nothing. I believe this is God’s message to me to “be still”,  learn to make him my priority. Let the rest of this world be and focus upon him. He gives me more than I need when it comes to learning all about him. I have so many resources now I have to use something like Asana to manage them so I won’t lose track of them and I can go work through them learning more and more.

Even in the process, God revealed to me that my last name is Jewish. I may not be officially Jewish but in learning about God, I am also learning about Israel and the Jewish people. To think I could possibly be tied back to being one of Israel’s children gives me a warm feeling inside I can’t explain. I have always been curious about Jerusalem but now I feel its pull even more. I’m discovering something new all the time which brings me a bit closer to God when I do. As much as, I originally set out to learn what I could about the true God when I started reading the bible, I believe the root of that desire was based in a need to feel connected to God, deeply connected. I’m not there yet, but I can see him working to make that happen.

A Little Bit of This and a Little Bit of That…Life during the holidays and of course digital planners

Happy Holidays! Working in retail at this time of year is exhausting. My last two days off in a row were on the 11th and 12th of December and my next two days off are on the 28th and 29th of December. I have worked six 8 hour shifts within that period. Those who have never worked in retail, may not understand how exhausting it can be but for someone who came from a sedentary job and is just shy of 60 years old, let me tell you, it IS VERY exhausting. I don’t just stand for my whole shift whether it is 4 hours, 5 hours or 8 hours, I also move massive amounts of product through the till, sometimes lifting as much as 50 lbs and serving hundreds of customers a day. I don’t just deal with the physical product but also respond to the customer’s mental state and questions. It isn’t just exhausting physically, it is exhausting mentally.

Consequently, my one day off on Christmas day was spent in pain and recuperation. Customers periodically ask me if I have any plans for Christmas and I usually give them a vague reply of something like, “no, it is just me and my daughter”. I don’t explain to them that in this job of retail, where I stand on my feet my WHOLE shift, scanning item after item, after item, causes my body to seize up once I have a chance to sit down to rest, or lie down to sleep. When I finally decide to get up again, I have to do so slowly because of the stiffness and pain.

It takes one whole day to recover from working a 20 to 24 hour week, and during the holidays I worked 29 and 33 hour weeks with my days off scattered where I only had 1 day off at a time. When I have two days off in a row, the first day is a day of recovery and the second day is a day of getting things done that I need to get done. This means for the past couple of weeks the things I need to get done had to be spread out on the days I didn’t work an 8 hour shift or on my single days off cutting my recovery time short.

I need to add, I do this on minimum wage income. This job does NOT pay enough for a single person to live off of, let alone a single parent with no other income, even at full time hours. Keep this in mind the next time you are in a store and looking at the person who is helping you or serving you.

Today, I am back to work, yes on Boxing Day, working another 8 hour shift. Thankfully, after tomorrow, I will finally have two days off in a row. I’m hoping for some downtime of one whole day to just rest. I am hoping 2019 will be a better year.

Regardless of whether it is holiday season or just normal everyday existence, I have to consciously work in my creative time. Lately, all my creative time has been spent digitally from my desktop computer, mostly because just pulling out a few supplies feels too exhausting. I almost didn’t get my daughter’s presents wrapped because just thinking about doing it took too much energy.

I kind of miss working with real paper and various art supplies so I’m hoping to do something physically creative on my two days off, but it might end up with me just pulling out some knitting I haven’t touched in a while.

If you have been reading my posts, you will know my focus has been on digital planners/journals. I have become somewhat obsessed with them. I never imagined I would love working in them as much as I do. But because I do, I also want to share it with others. The problem with writing a blog about what I’m creating, especially in regards to these journals is that sometimes what I want to share is very, very personal. Which is what I want to do today.

I’m so happy with my digital planner spread from Christmas Day. When I look at it, I feel compelled to share it and write about it. I may have been in pain all day, on Christmas, but my creative spirit was alive and wanted some color. This is my spread. Forgive the blurring, it isn’t your eyes. I did this on purpose to preserve my privacy, so I could share what I love about this spread.

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This whole page was done in Affinity Designer (AD). The background was painted with AD’s paint brushes. The background isn’t blurred, only the text and personal pictures are blurred. I used some different brushes to create a blending effect. The mandala came from the coloring app on my phone called “Happy Color”. I used AD to crop them to fit the area of placement. The other graphic of the elves and gifts is from the same app. I like adding some of the ones I color each day. I color them during my breaks at work and in the evenings at home.

Lately, I have been creating my journal/planner pages completely in AD. I export them as a PDF file and use Xodo to combine the pages into one PDF file. Later I will add links so the PDF file will be easy to navigate.

I do it this way because Xodo (desktop version) doesn’t work in layers. Working in an application that supports layers gives me more control over what I can do in my journal/planner. Xodo also doesn’t have the ability to make images transparent. These are two things I like having available to me when I work on my pages. I do have the option of making the images transparent in AD first and then using Xodo to add them to the page.

I’m still trying to decide on the overall process for how I like to work in my digital planner/journal. In order to help me decide, I have been testing various options between Xodo and Affinity Designer. I’m working on gathering all the information I have and I plan on writing a post listing the pros and cons. To help me gather the information I need, I began creating my own journal/planner from scratch. The only thing that is NOT my own, in the image below, is the wood grain background which is free for personal use from https://texturex.com/.

Bright Planner cover

The above image is the front cover of my journal/planner. I used AD to create it. I could have done some in Xodo but AD has a lot more options to get a 3D effect.

The next two images are the blank and dot grid pages I have created, again in AD.

Bright Planner blank spreadBright Planner dot spread

I created the dot grid in AD. It is a transparent image, so it can be layered over other pages.

I also created two calendar styles, as transparent images, to use in my journal:

I created them with six rows because of how some of the months end up with 5 weekends. I’ll probably make another set with just 5 rows. I don’t like putting the last day or two of the month at the top of the calendar which is why I wanted 6 rows.  A good example of a month that does this is the month of December 2018.  If, I use AD to place them on the page, I could remove any of the rows or boxes not needed for the month but if it is a transparent image  then the rows and boxes cannot be removed.

What I like about AD, is I can build and contain the various calendar styles in one file. Using the layers, I can group those that go together and hide or show the style(s) by selecting or deselecting the group. This reduces the amount of files I have.

I can do the same thing with the items I previously created, a couple transparent graphics for creating lists:

I learned I can use a spreadsheet to help create trackers which I need in a grid format. A small version can be seen in the image of my 25 December journal spread above where I am tracking my reading of the book of Job. Another tracker I created is for my journey with reading the bible from front to back. I put this tracker at the beginning of my bible study notebook/journal.Journal V3 bible reading tracker

This tracker is really a copy from a spreadsheet I created. I imported it into AD on a transparent background and exported it as a transparent PNG file. The titles I added after I placed the image over my pages. As I progress in my reading I highlight the chapter I completed reading. Once I complete each book in the bible, I then highlight the name of the book.

Journal V3 bible reading tracker highlighted

I further track my reading by adding into my monthly calendar what book and chapter I read each day. Eventually, links will be added to the calendar so it will take me to the notes from that day’s reading. That day’s reading also includes a copy of the scripture from a PDF version of the bible. This means ALL of my personal journaling, bible notes, and scripture will be searchable through a PDF viewer. This is an important feature of a digital planner/journal. This is probably the MAIN reason I have decided to go digital with my journaling. If I had been doing this for everything, including all my studies, school or otherwise, I would have a huge personal historical and informational database I could reference. Not to mention, all the things I don’t remember about my past would be accessible not just to me but my daughter if she ever wanted to take a look at what I was doing on a particular date and time, or what I had learned about a particular subject.

Being able to access and quickly find something within my notes became even more important to me when my daily reading turned into studying. Since I became so disillusioned with the churches I attended many years ago, I felt if I picked up my bible to read that I should do so with the intent of learning what the bible had to teach me, instead of what others wanted me to learn from their interpretation of the bible. Finding a way which will make my studies more effective and efficient brings joy which I had not expected. Instead of trudging my way through handwritten notes and fumbling my way through the bible trying to find some particular reference, scripture or note I wrote, I’ll be able to open my document and enter search criteria to find what I’m looking for.  I’m building a searchable database I’ll be able to use and my daughter can also use.

I’m still learning the ins and outs of exactly how I want to create this living document which I can add to for the rest of my life and my daughter and her children after her if they so choose. I can either build the basic structure in AD and then add my notes, graphics, pictures, etc. and annotations in Xodo, or I can build it ALL in AD with my notes, graphics and pictures which can then be annotated in Xodo or any other application which will allow annotation in a PDF document. These are just things I need to iron out. If I choose to build the basic structure then that structure could be used by others for their own journals/planners. Which is what many are doing today and sharing online.

Many of the graphics created could also be printed out and used in a physical planner/journal. In fact, that is how my bible reading tracker originally started. But, since I started playing around with the digital journal I haven’t felt any desire to return to the physical journal. In fact, I haven’t touched it since I started working in my digital journal. The rest of the pages in my physical journal will most likely be used for sketching or possibly a sort of collection of physical things I want to keep, like the lovely sentiments my daughter wrote to me on the gifts she gave me for Christmas.

If anyone is interested in the trackers or graphics I have created, just use my contact page to send me a personal message.

Added pages to my Faith Journal…

I added some pages to my Faith Journal. These additions including the tags provides me with 56 areas to put text!

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turned page

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turned page

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with the tags inserted

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I decided to try and video tape a flip through since the individual pictures don’t really show how it really looks as you flip through the pages. You can see the video here.  Forgive the poor video, this is my very first video EVER! lol When I decided to record it, I didn’t think about what I had playing on my television so you can hear a bit of it in the background. It was an impromptu filming using my phone and I didn’t have the tags right beside me so at the end when I decided to insert them I had to reach a bit which is why the journal went off camera for a moment. I have no setup for filming so this was a fly by the seat of my pants sort of thing. lol

I am loving this journal so much that I wish I could add in all the scriptures and the dangly bits so I could have it to just read through over and over again. However, it is going to take some time to complete. The main reason is I want to add scriptures which have meaning to me and not just any scripture. I’m sure I could search online to find scriptures on faith but that isn’t my goal. I’m going to fill it as I am inspired to do so from my daily reading or from sermons or other situations where I am touched by scripture that will help me with building my faith.

When I started on my art journey, I never thought I would be creating something like this. Looking back, I can see how everything is connected. I really started with just doing tangles to get my confidence up in drawing or creating. At one point, I was frustrated over not finding the type of journal I wanted so I started researching how to create my own.

I found tutorials on creating scrapbooks, as well as, art journals.  I tried scrapbooking but it never took off with me, although I did create a few books. Those books sit unfinished on my shelf. One though is used to store my small tangle tiles. The foldouts I created in my Faith Journal, I learned from a few scrapbooking tutorials. The one page wonder which is the base for this journal, I learned when researching how to create my own journal. At the time I never imagined how I could add to the small one page wonder booklet, so to discover I was able to expand it to have 56 surfaces for adding text made me sort of giddy inside. I will need to figure out some sort of closure, either a tie closure or a band or clip of some sort. I’m still working on that, plus I want to get some lace or material to add to the tags for decoration. That will come over time as I add scripture and things I see inspire me for adding as decoration.

I LOVE creating journals! This one is no different. I have another I made from watercolor paper which I use for mixed media or watercolor journal pages. If I had the supplies I would have my shelves filled with my handmade journals filled with every type of paper imaginable. Maybe over time that is what will happen, if this journal is any indication of just how versatile they can be.

I created this journal from 3 pages of 14″ x 17″ Canson XL Mix Media paper 98lb/160g. One page for the booklet and two pages for the inserts or flipouts.  Using watered down Elmer’s glue, I layered one side of the paper with a collage of old book pages and some lightweight decorative scrapbook paper. For the booklet I also layered some napkins but I didn’t do the napkins on the inserts. The acrylic paint I used was CraftSmart and a couple inexpensive dollar store brands and applied three or four different colors using a sponge. On the page for the booklet I also applied gold acrylic paint over the surface. On one of the pages for the inserts I applied gold paint through a stencil. Once the paint was dry I added some marks by using different stamps and mark making tools, such as a circular object from a tape dispenser to make circles, the side of a gift card for straight lines, a natural sponge and other odds and ends for other various marks. When it was all dry I folded and cut one sheet of paper to form the booklet. The other two pages, I cut into strips that could be attached to the booklet and folded for foldouts. The tags were layered with a thin coat of acrylic paint and then stamped using permanent ink.

The pages of the booklet were adhered in such a way as to create pockets with side openings and top openings. The foldouts were adhered to the pocket openings using two sided tape. I actually didn’t add the marks to the inserts until after I had attached them to the booklet. I could add more tags if I want to or not use them at all. It all depends on how many scriptures I want to add.

The scriptures are added by printing the scripture on printer paper, then tearing the words or group of words out of the paper so they have a ragged edge. I used the watered down Elmer’s glue to glue down the bits of paper with the words on them. Once they were dry I used a black Tombow marker and the blending marker around the edge of the paper. I used different colors of Tombow markers to color in the text on the front of the journal. I will continue to do this same process when I find more scripture to add.

This is where I am now. I plan to add ribbon, lace, possibly yarn or other material to the tags and possibly to the journal. Maybe some charms or I might find some pictures or other things to embellish the journal. This will develop as time goes by and if I find anything which inspires me to add to the journal.

On one hand, I want to rush and finish the journal, on the other hand, I want to take my time. I am torn between wanting it completed and excited over having it available to add to for probably the next year if not longer. To have something completely made with my own two hands which I can add to for the next year or more which will reflect my growth and faith in Christ is blowing my socks off.

I have never felt this way before. I want to rush and learn all I can, which means sometimes I have to fight against the desire to skip over the rest of the old testament and start reading the new testament because I feel as though the majority of the scriptures I will want will be from the new testament. Or I want to just hurry and read past where I am now in 2 Chronicles and get into Psalms where I also know there is some good scripture to support my faith. I don’t just want to rush so I can fill my journal, I want to gobble up all I can, to learn all I can, with so many good things so I’ll grow spiritually. It is like being a kid again and trying to rush to become an adult which we all know we can’t rush or we might not learn some important information we might need to know.

I have to keep reminding myself that this is a journey and it is important to take it one step at a time. I can and have spent my whole day working on this journal and studying scripture. The more I read the more I want to read, the desire grows in me every day.  I remember when I was a kid and accepted Jesus as my Savior.  I don’t remember anyone telling me that it is a learning process. I didn’t have this drive to learn back then. I think I thought I was home free just by accepting him and life would be simple from then on. Since I started reading the bible in April, I am learning about so much that was left out of Sunday school teachings and Sunday morning sermons. I can’t rush this. Like a seed that is planted, it can’t just be full grown over night. It must grow through its various stages as it matures and I must do the same.

Art is the same as well. No one becomes a master artist over night. We all must learn and develop through the various stages an artist must go through before they can become a master in their craft. I love that I am able to blend my art and my spiritual journey to support each other. My spiritual journey is also supporting the rest of my life. Without it, I would be completely lost.

I don’t understand why things are so different for me now. It isn’t as though I only just discovered God and believed in him. I have believed in him my whole life. Only recently have I become aware of a growing hunger, an insatiable hunger and thirst for a deeper understanding and relationship with God.