Follow Him

Happy New Year!


I have decided this is definitely my favorite holiday of the year. Nothing like the fresh start of New Year’s Day!

The past few days for me have been focused on end of the year reflections, reviewing my 2017 Bible pages, and setting up my 2018 journals and planners. I’m also settling into my 2018 word of the year, follow.

January 2018

Last year, focus was a great word for me, but I wasn’t consistent in journaling or writing about it.  So my goal this year is to have monthly mini-themes to reflect on and journal about. Expect to see me on the blog weekly, sharing passages or Bible pages on the theme. This month I’ll be focused on “follow Him.” I really want to be sure that in my excitement of completing new tasks, starting a fresh in readings and devotionals, that my heart is set on going after God more than just completing the tasks. 

 The new year is a great time to update the blog, too! I am looking forward to keeping some writing momentum going here, but perhaps also some updating on the design and pages here. Stay tuned! 

I pray the new year finds you well and full of fresh energy for what God has in store! 


Hope Grows

My second guest post on The Crafter’s Workshop blog featured a page from my study through the BytheWell4God Great is Thy Faithfulness devotional kit.


This study was an instant fave as it came during a season in which I needed (and still need) the constant reminder to look to Him in all things. I shared some of my favorite quotes from the study about hope on my journaled pages. I pray you will read them and be encouraged in how hope grows through remembrance and praise.

If you haven’t had a chance to visit the TCW blog, hop on over and see all of the great work happening by fabulous artists there!


Today’s Passage: 2 Timothy 4:12-13

At my previous job, I had the opportunity to go to a great workshop on wellness. Perhaps I have mentioned it on this blog before. It was a short one or two hour workshop that could have easily been a weekend or week long retreat. The workshop facilitator challenged us to think about the idea of wellness on seven dimensions, and since attending, I have learned that some who studied wellness break it up into even more areas (financial wellness, for example, is important but missing from this list). WellnessFor the sake of this reflection, I am sticking to the seven she discussed (more information about these can be found here but I’ll summarize below):

  • Emotional Wellness (how we process and perform our feelings)
  • Environmental Wellness (how we perceive responsibility for and positive connection to the external world)
  • Intellectual Wellness (how we develop and stimulate our minds)
  • Occupational Wellness (how well our jobs work for us rather than us just working for a job)
  • Physical Wellness (how we make healthy choices for our body)
  • Social Wellness (how we grow and cultivate our relationships)
  • Spiritual Wellness (how we connect with who we are a soul level and find purpose and peace)

The takeaway for me from that initial workshop was that when one of these is out of balance/out of whack, it begins to affect the other areas.

“I sent Tychicus to Ephesus. When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, and my scrolls, especially the parchments.” (2 Tim. 4:12-13)

When I got to this passage in 2 Timothy, I had to ask, myself, why in the world did Paul ask for a cloak and some scrolls, oh yeah, and especially the parchments?? Was it simply a practical request for his prison conditions or was there some “deeper” meaning I needed to see between the lines? I found that the word “cloak,” according to Strong’s translation of the Greek, indicates that this was a reference to an outer garment used for stormy weather. The Matthew Henry commentary discusses this as well as the scrolls and parchments, stating:

… the cloak he had left there, which, it may be, Paul had the more occasion for in a cold prison. It is probable that it was the habit Paul usually wore, a plain dress. Some read it, the roll of parchment I left at Troas; others, the desk that I left. Paul was guided by divine inspiration, and yet he would have his books with him. Whereas he had exhorted Timothy to give attendance to reading, so he did himself, though he was now ready to be offered. As long as we live, we must be still learning. But especially the parchments, which some think were the originals of his epistles; others think they were the skins of which he made his tents, whereby he obtained a livelihood, working with his own hands. (qtd. from Blue Letter Bible)

What ever the “real” reasons may have been for his requests, Paul was led to include them in these letters. Perhaps it was for us to be reminded of his humanity on this faith journey. And perhaps it was to place some importance on highlighting that we should be diligent in making sure we are well, no matter the circumstances we are facing in our faith. If we are completely well (as much as wellness is determined by our actions—I recognize ultimate control belongs to God and many things are outside of our hands), we are in a better position to be ready and act immediately on the things the Lord calls us to.

So I took some time to think through the areas of wellness and pair them up with a Biblical perspective.

  • Am I emotionally well? If I am not processing my emotions productively, I will be easily distracted and moved by the whims of my heart rather than the Spirit. The Bible has a clear prescription: “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)
  • Am I environmentally well? My thoughts on this topic expanded when I simply searched the Bible for the word “earth”! I think much like money, this is one of those Biblical topics that we do not discuss as much as we should because the heavens and the earth are all over the Bible! The truth is clear–“The earth is the Lord ‘s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein, for he has founded it upon the seas and established it upon the rivers” (Psalms 24:1-2).  Therefore, part of my wellness is linked to my stewardship and respect for God’s creation—not to the point of idolatry—but with an understanding that it is a part of what He has made me to do. If I am not living well on this earth, then my faith journey will likely feel the effects of that imbalance.
  • Am I intellectually well? Paul’s attention to scrolls and parchments leaves room for us to think about our intellectual growth in the faith. Just remember: “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth” (Colossians 3:2).  There is a lot of junk out here we can stimulate our minds with too, and we must be sensitive to that.
  • Am I occupationally well? I think it was this year that I read Proverbs 31 in The Message version for the first time. Part of that translation writes: “…She looks over a field and buys it, then, with money she’s put aside, plants a garden. First thing in the morning, she dresses for work, rolls up her sleeves, eager to get started. She senses the worth of her work, is in no hurry to call it quits for the day.” Finding good work is good for us and good for our testimony as well!
  • Am I physically well? This can be a tough question to face up with for me. When my world gets rocky, I may cling to God, but I often let go of making healthy choices. This in turn impacts my faith because after a while, I am dragging—too tired to tarry a bit longer to pray or read or get up early. I have to constantly remind myself of 1 Corinthians 6:19-20: “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”
  • Am I socially well? People are such a rich part of Paul’s letter to Timothy. All throughout we are reminded of relationships—healthy ones and unhealthy ones. Consistent evaluation of my relationships with others is good work for making sure I am loving in a way that reflects Christ and surrounding myself with those who would encourage me on in the faith. Think about this verse: “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor” (Romans 12:10).
  • Am I spiritually well? But of course, the center of all of my wellness is Him. If God is my center, I am satisfied, and it is so much easier to take care of the other areas of my life. Paul is a prime example of wellness not because he asked for books and a cloak in one verse, but because he consistently demonstrated in all of his writings that his first and most important wellness check was with his God.
    “For he satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things” (Psalms 107:9).

Are you well, my friend?


Today’s Passage: 2 Timothy 4:9-11

Do your best to come to me quickly, for Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted me and has gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, and Titus to Dalmatia. Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry.

The last time I lived here, I lived on the coast. My husband and I were dating at the time, and we spent the summer trying to visit all of the local beaches. (We were unsuccessful; there are too many!) He would come by my place in the morning, we would scoop up lunch from a local deli, and then we would head to the beach.


We would lay out our gear, get nice and ready to have lunch, and then a bird would stop by. The first one never made a lot of noise, but you would see him (or her) out of the corner of your eye just strolling leisurely a few feet away from our blanket. Just casually checking us out. Then, within a minute or two, there would be more sea birds, as if the first had sent out some invisible alert that “possible lunch at this location.” I do not think the birds ever really bothered us (we later in life had to teach the youngin not to feed seagulls), but it was always impressive to see how quickly they would gather just in case we wanted to share our lunch.

Paul, in his time of imprisonment, was not afraid to send out the signal to gather his people. He found himself deserted by some and left alone by others who were attending to ministry. So he petitioned his friends and co-laborers for support.

Are you willing to ask for help when enduring in the faith?

Paul was attended to only by Luke as he wrote this letter to Timothy, and at least one commentator wonders if Luke’s role as a physician was especially important at this period for Paul’s health. It begs the question—who do we surround ourselves with? Paul said a lot in these chapters about the types of people to avoid and look out for, but this perhaps gives us more insight into who should be in our circle. So far in this letter we see the importance of faithful ancestors/legacy leavers as well as disciples who we can lead and encourage. This section of the letter inspires us to think about people who are good for our health and who are good co-laborers in serving the Lord.

I took a few moments to sort through some other verses to reflect on how the Bible describes people we should keep company with. I focused in on Proverbs because there is so much there on relationships. Here are a few that I looked at:

Proverbs 17:17— “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.”
When we gather our people, we must gather close those who love us in all times, the good times and the bad times. Some of our closest bonds will come out of relationships during our times of adversity. We have this social idea now of “bothering” others or intruding on their time, but the reality is that our best friends, our true sisters and brothers, are exactly the people we need near by in the tough moments. And those true friends will come quickly—they will not see it as a bother.

Proverbs 17:22— “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.”
I love that this verse follows in this chapter of Proverbs as well. This was one of my son’s memory verses this year, and they learned a cute song that goes with it. When our hearts are in need of healing and company, we must pull close to us hearts that are joyful and full of laughter. I do not know about you, but I have a few people who I keep on my team because they make me laugh. As a matter of fact, I was talking to one of them on the phone last night and my husband walked by and said, “It does my heart good to hear the two of y’all giggling and laughing together.” Joy is contagious! Gather your friends who are full of contagious joy when you are enduring in the faith!

Proverbs 27:17— “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.”
Speaking of my husband, this is one of his favorite verses, and it is apropos for this reflection. We must have by our side someone who is made of the same stuff we are. Someone who challenges us and pushes us to be better. My husband’s best friend is his iron. They call each other on their mess but also are there for comfort and fun. I love that they maintain healthy competitions. I think I have mentioned my husband’s affinity for grilling. He is a good griller in part because his best friend is a good griller. They exchange ideas and tips and when they are together, their skills are elevated. What if we gathered by our sides friends who share our passion for Christ, for prayer, for giving? How much more could our skills in the faith grow and be amplified!

Proverbs 27:5-6–“Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.”
I noticed this Proverb for the first time when I was researching a 19th century Black woman activist. This verse was used by a newspaper editor as a note to one of her speeches. What a fury her audience must have been in for the editor to leave this as a note! Being held accountable with hard truths from someone we think is advocating for us is not easy. We want the people on our side to say the things we want to hear sometimes (or all of the time). But when we are trying to grow and push forward in the faith, we need a Paul. And even Paul needed a Paul. Someone who is willing to speak the truth of God in the open in those moments when we needed it. Perhaps that is why Paul called for Mark who was helpful in the ministry. Perhaps he was the friend willing to stand with him not just in the tedium of church business but also kept a principled voice when he needed it most. Maybe you have that one friend that makes you cringe a little bit with those truths that cut close. Do not avoid him/her—gather.

1 Samuel 18:1,3— “As soon as he had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul. Then Jonathan made a covenant with David, because he loved him as his own soul.”
Of course, no consideration of gathering our people and calling on our friends is complete to me without Jonathan and David. We all need someone in our life who is willing and available to knit their soul with ours. Through love, through prayer, through experience, there is often that one special person who God has given to us as a gift to be our covenant companion in the faith. Don’t do life alone—call on that soul partner and tell her what is happening in your faith, in the good times and the tough times.

What are some of your favorite verses on the company we keep? Who do you send out the signal to in those times of weakness or hardship?

I pray that if you have not found that flock to gather with yet, you will. You need each other.

Eagerly Await

Today’s Passage: 2 Timothy 4:6-8

What is the last thing you really wanted? I mean altered your life for, changed your day for, did anything for wanted?

Black Friday is coming up. And while it is less en vogue to be up and out in the wee hours of the morning waiting for the doors of a store to open, there will still be moms and dads and grandmas and more eagerly awaiting the sale of a special item on Friday morning. There will also be folks constantly checking their phones and computers for online deals to “save time” at the stores for Christmas shopping. There will be inconveniences, annoyances, long lines, price disputes, and more, but in the end, many will find satisfaction in getting the one thing they wanted.

What are you longing for? What are you waiting for? What do you really want?

Eagerly Await

Paul makes it clear that for his journey in the faith, his motivation was a longing for the appearing of the Lord. He wrote:

For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing. (2 Tim. 4:6-8)

Paul was at a point in his life where many of us are not yet. He was able to look back and assess his life and ministry, and he had peace knowing he had done all the Lord had called him to do. He had remained faithful in advancing the faith as well as holding on to the gift of his faith in all times. And despite the special legacy that we might give to Paul now, he anticipated his final reward from the Lord not because he was “special” but because he was one of many who longed for the appearance of God—for the final fulfillment of all His promises.

I believe this is a good reminder to us that enduring in the faith does not have to be drugery. It is not a woe is me, can I make it to the end kind of journey.

The journey of faith is one in which we keep pressing forward, because we are full of hope and anticipation. What awaits us is beyond anything that is a part of life on this earth right now. Our future in Him really makes all the obstacles and people problems and difficulties we face look silly. We should be waiting for, longing to press on in the faith because every step gets us one step closer to experiencing the full glory of God!

This means that enduring in the faith should:

1) Fill us with peace.
If we truly believe that the Lord has come with a plan to come again, we should not worry or be anxious on this journey. In good times and tough times, we should always remember that the Lord is coming back to make it all right. We are able to endure right now because Christ has already come once to make a way for our salvation. And when He left this world, promising to return again, He went back to heaven not for Himself, but on our behalf. Take a look at Hebrews:

For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. (Hebrews 9:24)

So in the days we are here, we have peace knowing that we are fulfilling our part of the gospel story and that while we do this work, Christ is at work in us and in heaven on our behalf. There is no greater champion, no greater advocate, no greater friend we could ask for! Doesn’t that just make you feel good?!

2) Be motivated by eagerness and excitement.
Let’s look at the facts. The God of the universe came to save sinners like us. He then returned to heaven to prepare a place for us. He has promised us He will return to bring us home into His presence for all time. We should have the excitement and eagerness of children on this faith journey. I see this all the time with my son. When I pick him up from school and we head home, he is eager to know, “Is Daddy home?” There is a visible disappointment when initially he discovers Daddy is not home yet, but that shifts back to eagerness. He will quickly do homework or chores so that when Daddy gets home, he is ready to play with him and tell him about his day. And he never loses that expectant hope in knowing Daddy will be home. Oh that our hearts would be like that! That we would eagerly set about on our work here knowing that our Father is coming soon. Sure, some days we might wish that rescue, that final day He sweeps us up into His arms would happen faster, but let us not lose that expectant hope.

3) Rely on the promises of God.
God is good. His Word is true. He is the promise, and He keeps His promises. In that same chapter in Hebrews we find these words to close chapter 9:

And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him. (Hebrews 9:27-28)

Faith is not just a matter of will or believing with all of our might. Our faith is fed and grows when we sow it into God’s promises. He has promised to save those who eagerly wait for him. We must dig our faith deep down into that promise and never let go.

Purify My Heart, Lord

I love that the Lord has brought me into the Bible journaling community. Not only has it grown my faith tremendously, this community has introduced me to awesome friends and opened up new paths that I never would have imagined for myself. The latest blessing is that this month I have the awesome privilege of sharing some of my writing and art on The Crafter’s Workshop Blog!

When I started worshipping in my Bible last year, I (like many newbies)  experimented with everything. I bought All. The. Supplies. In. All. The Colors! But as I quickly learned the things I like and continually refocused on process over product (right, Shanna?!), I have found that I do have a short list of must haves. TCW stencils are a permanent staple on that list. I pick one up pretty much every time I go in Hobby Lobby or Tuesday Morning. (And I promise I go in those stores a whole lot less than I used to!) The awesome team at TCW sent me a few of their new releases to add to my collection, and I am loving them.

I hope you’ll head over to the TCW blog and check out my post as well as the other artists featured there. There are some great tutorials posted for holiday cards and mixed media projects. I’m humbled to share space with these amazing artists! Now go–go to the blog!!

Keep Your Head

Today’s Passage: 2 Timothy 4:3-5

One of the exciting advantages of media today is that you can tailor your feeds, your favorite lists, and your subscriptions to follow sources that relay subjects and topics that interest you. Growing up as an analog kid on the cusp of a digital world, I can appreciate this aspect of media. I remember being “stuck” with just three or four channels that had a good picture. Or missing the one show I wanted to watch because Grandma took forever at the grocery store. Of course I appreciate those analog moments more now that the TV never goes off, but I never cease to marvel at all the options we have now and my ability to find out what I want to know or see at pretty much any time.

Pretty unusual, though, these days for folks to praise media! We are getting a bit run down by media. especially the news. And many of us know the downside of personalized media—selective perception. If I choose to see the world from only one angle, one perspective, it distorts my view of reality, dulls my ability to think critically, and leaves me with some huge blindspots. A social media feed full of filtered images can change a woman’s body image. A constant diet of political news from one perspective can make our community seem more polarized than it actually is. A child fed a stream of images that only show people who don’t look like him can cause him to grow up feeling undervalued and invisible in the world. The list of potential harms goes on and on.

When we have poor media habits, we feed into a culture of itching ears, surrounding ourselves with what we want to hear. And it is not surprising then that we want “have it my way” gospels. We see the signs of this all the time.

Someone leaves a church because the pastor talked about sin or less than happy topics.

Someone de-friends a fellow church member on Facebook, because she talked about the need for the church to be at the forefront of racial reconciliation.

Someone else loses a lifetime worth of savings buying into a ministry that talks about God some but self and comfort more.

We have gotten to a point of following our own desires and feelings rather than measuring what we hear against the truth of the Word.

Keep Your Head

So Paul’s advice to us in this culture, as it was to Timothy, is simple: keep your head in all situations.

For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry. (2 Tim. 4:3-5)

Now truth be told, when I hear “keep your head,” I immediately add “up” and think 2Pac. Probably not appropriate (sorry Paul). So I found myself back in Blue Letter Bible to learn more out the phrase “keep your head.” According to the sources there, this phrase is often translated sober-minded and defined as “to be calm and collected in spirit; to be temperate, dispassionate, circumspect” (nepho).

Do people consider you sober-minded?

I have to admit, I fall on the calm side of the personality spectrum. In fact, my new boss is “working to see if they can get me fired up” or get behind my “poker face.” I would love to say that I am always well-balanced because of my constant focus on God, but I’m not there yet. Things do get me riled up, and sometimes I do lose my head. So as I wrote through this verse, four practical ways to keep my head came to mind that I think are important in life and in faith:

  1. Keep calm—don’t panic.
    Since faith is being sure of what we hoped for and certain of what we can not see (Heb. 11:1), we should have no need to panic. Faith is a gift that gives us an anchor (Heb. 6:19), so enduring in the faith means that we are able to remain calm in the storms and the winds because we are secure in Him.
    What keeps you from pushing the panic button?
  2. Eliminate distractions and stay focused.
    Being calm, collected, and circumspect are not just personality traits. They are actions. We have to make choices to intentionally remove the things (and sometimes people) that take our head out of the game. Have an annoying string of emails at work about to make you lose your testimony? Delete them! (Or at least save them for a time of day when you have prayed and intentionally sought wisdom about them). Having a hard time figuring out to do with your rebellious child but you only have enough energy to lift the remote after a 16 hour day? Turn it off and put the first things first. Keeping our head means we must actively set aside the things that keep us from acting on the truth God has given to us.
    What distractions do you need to get rid of to keep your head in all situations?

  3. Respond rather than react.
    Paul talked at length in this book about dealing with problem people in our culture and in our sphere of influence. Part of keeping our head around challenging friends (and foes) is holding our tongue and not spouting off or feeling like we have to break down all the reasons why someone is listening to “the wrong preacher” on TV. Everything around us that pricks us and prods us does not require a loud announcement—OUCH! Many times we need to silently pause and investigate why we are so bothered and deal with our own issues first in prayer. Then we need more prayer and wisdom in reaching out to meet the needs of the offender. When we react, we rely on our impulses and instincts—our flesh. When we respond, we rely on our mind and heart as moved by the Spirit. That is keeping our head.
    How can you grow as a responder?

  4. Replace distress with determination.
    I love the word “keep” in the ESV translation. To keep is to hold on to, to retain, to control, to possess. You can not keep something with half-hearted effort. Ever tried to take away a toy from a toddler who has declared “MINE!”? Not an easy or pleasant job is it? When we want to keep something that is being threatened, we instinctively replace feelings of distress with actions of determination. If our lives and our very faith are being challenged by hardship, persecution, workload, etc., we must be determined to not give up but to increase our efforts to get closer to God in those moments, to seek Him aggressively, to cling and not let go.
    What acts of determination do you need to commit to today?

I am so grateful that in the midst of a world that wants to distract us and fill us with myths and psuedo-truths, we have the Word and the power of the Spirit to help us live out our faith, to endure, and to keep our head in all situations!