I became a Christian sitting on the bottom stairs of our apartment building with the boy I fell in love with praying for me. I felt such a huge burden off my shoulders, a burden I didn’t even realize was there. I felt so free. I felt on fire and so loved.
Just two weeks after I graduated high school, I was not only getting married to Jonathan, but he told me just a short time before that he was being called into ministry. Our lives were about to change in so many ways, and I was still such a baby Christian, trying to find my way to Him in my new life to come. I needed Jesus now more than ever.
When we arrived at the Christian campus filled with young married couples I was quickly whisked away by the other wives. As they shared their testimonies and painted such beautiful pictures of how they arrived at this same moment in time, I quickly realized how different my story was. They all seemed so sure of their relationship with Jesus; they knew Him inside and out. They had memorized parts of the Bible I had not yet discovered. Many of them shared with me that they always knew they would marry a pastor and couldn’t wait to be a pastor’s wife. To be honest, all of that scared me to bits.
I had a much different life painted for myself before I met Jonathan, and although I was so excited for this season, it was all so new. These sweet ladies sensed that I was struggling and tried to teach me what they had learned and how they connect with Jesus. I loved their hearts. I loved that they wanted to tuck me under their wing and teach me what this journey could look like, but in truth, it only taught me to mirror their way to Jesus. They taught me about early morning Bible studies with a warm cup of coffee and a candle next to your cozy chair.
For years I would take the things that they taught me as if they were my own and used those as the tools in my relationship with Christ. Not once did I reach for Jesus and ask Him if this was what He wanted our time together to look like. Not once did I ask if it might be different or if I was missing something. Not once did I lay it all at the cross and ask to start from scratch and have Him take the lead. Instead, I did what I thought I was supposed to do, what a “good Christian wife” should do.
Through the course of our marriage and ministry, I white-knuckled my role as a pastor’s wife, trying to meet expectations but also growing resentful of them. So when I got news that my husband would deploy with the Army chaplaincy for nearly a year, I froze. I had no idea what I would do spiritually! We had two young kids, and I had used Jonathan as a crutch for my relationship with Christ. He had always been there to answer questions, read the Scripture, and lead us in our relationship with God. Now they would look to me?
I was able to take a back seat in ministry, so I asked God if we could start over, if I could find my way back to Him, if there were something more for us.
I began taking notes during sermons and listening to commentary from other churches. I had a drawer jam-packed full of messy, scribbly notes. I remembered seeing something online called a “journaling Bible” so I ordered it thinking it would help me to organize my thoughts and what Jesus was teaching me next to His Word.
When I received it, I brought the Bible over to my scrapbooking desk and began to transfer my notes from the Sunday morning bulletin to the margins of this Bible using paint, color, and illustrations. What I was learning in the Word began to sink even deeper into my heart over the next several days as I prayed through this process. I quickly began to realize that God had created me as a visual learner, and for all these years, I hadn’t been using this tool, this gift that He had given me to connect with Him.
I suddenly had those same feelings I had sitting on the staircase of our apartment steps, a sense of freedom and an overwhelming wave of praise flooding my soul. As Jesus does in these times, He prompted me to share my experience, and to which I said, “No thank you, Friend”! I was enjoying this private time with Him so much I didn’t want anyone to come in and ruin it!
Eventually, though reluctantly, I shared on my tiny little blog, and overnight so many people saw the post that it went viral. When I began to open up the emails that poured in, I learned they were on the same journey I had been on — we all wanted to connect with Jesus, but all the ways we had tried fell flat because we were looking to other people instead of to Him.
Before I knew it, I found myself leading a community of women (and a couple brave men), who wanted to document their faith through this creative outlet. They wished to leave memorial stones in their Bibles of what Jesus was laying on their hearts as part of their testimony. They desired to leave a legacy of prayer, of love, of learning, and of resting in His truth.
Bible journaling became my way to engage with God’s Word in a fresh way and for me to connect with Him as I did on those apartment steps years ago.
I’m very excited to be in a season of teaching, and I could not be more thrilled to release A Workbook Guide to Bible Journaling with DaySpring! In this book you will not only learn all of my favorite techniques for Bible journaling, but you will also hear from some of my friends who will teach you all about their process as well. It’s perfect for those who are brand new to Bible journaling and those who want to try some new techniques.
If you would like to learn more about Bible journaling and how we use it to document our faith, head on over to illustratedfaith.com!
Leave a legacy of prayer, of love, of learning, and of resting in His truth. -Shanna Noel: Click To Tweet