By Jaime Sherman
The Bible journaling I introduced earlier this week is not everyone’s cup of tea. In fact, it wasn’t always mine. I have journaled for 30 years in various forms to match the seasons of my life, but it has only been in the last six years that I’ve done more than underline or add a few words in the margins of my Bibles.
For years I was much like Brianna Hines who shares so accurately the feelings of many: “I normally love to doodle and take notes for things, but for some reason, I have never wanted to write in my Bible. I want each time I reread a passage to be a new opportunity for meaning instead of being reminded of a past revelation I had.”
I am the first to admit there is no right or wrong way to interact with the biblical text. I treasure a small NIV Bible from my college days that I have never — and will never — take a pen to, but I have other versions that I have used much like the journals of my younger years.
I have dozens of dated diaries from my childhood and college days when I penned a quick account at the end of each day. During this season, I also glued scrapbook memories into large spiral sketchbooks. In my newly married, working-woman days, I scribbled random notes in dollar store spirals and thought I’d remember every beautiful and heart-wrenching memory to write down at a later date. How wrong I was!
I started motherhood set to record every little memory in scrapbooks, but I failed to act on this goal the moment my second baby set to screaming all night. By baby number three, I was limiting my record of noteworthy happenings to 365 calendar squares, and by baby number six, I was adhering random sticky notes to the wall to remember my baby’s firsts because I had already forgotten the details of her siblings’ firsts, seconds, and thirds.
In the blurry-eyed baby years, I took to making notes and scribbling prayers in the books I was reading because it was just easier than finding a notebook, and now this is how I routinely process the information I am reading. If you borrow any of the books from my bulging library, you’ll likely get a little window into my soul.
In 2014, I started my first journaling Bible and have been somewhat consistent about dating my notes, knowing that through those words I can track how God has been at work in and through me for His glory. Our Bibles, journals, notebooks and sticky notes all serve as memorial stones to God’s faithfulness and our growth in Him. With a written record of our time meditating upon the Lord’s words, we will establish a way to look back and proclaim to future generations “that the hand of the Lord is mighty” (Joshua 4:24).
This summer I’m filling an Illustrated Scripture Journal of the Psalms with notes and rough sketches and paintings as I work through these beautiful, timely verses with my children. They each have one of these journals, and I’m attempting to show them how to highlight words, take factual and personal notes, do nature study and practice their art skills within the context of the Psalms.
This activity got me to thinking about how other women process God’s Word — some by keeping their Bible pages free of ink and pencil marks and others with notes and artwork. I asked women to share pictures with me, and I was so encouraged with the images and comments I received.
For Jim and Gayle Buie, who have read from a Scripture box at each dinnertime since they were first married, journaling in 2020 began with a devotional notebook and a daily reading through the Psalms. They are currently in Isaiah. She shares:
For Ashley Willms, Bible journaling is done in a bullet journal. She explains her daily method:
When I was writing “Old Made New” for this past Wednesday, I asked my friend, Monica Bauer, for any Bible art she might have from Psalm 90. She has a YouTube channel devoted to Bible journaling, so I figured she might have something to share with me. She surprised me with more than a snapshot. She put together three videos just for us as we explore what it looks like to “write” in our Bibles! Don’t miss the links just below the artwork.
Jaime’s favorite Bible journaling resources and tips
- Choose a style based on how the physical copy feels in your hands and on your eyes. I have found a single column of Scripture text and thick paper is best when purchasing a journaling Bible. Don’t rush to buy one, but instead ask friends what they like and dislike about theirs and read reviews — lots of them — on the ones that catch your eye.
- While I am pointing you toward Bibles in the English Standard Version, you will find similar products in the translation you prefer. I have a hardback version of the ESV Journaling Bible, which I love, but in the last year, I invested in another layout as I started playing violin with my Bible. Larger font is now my friend — and I love the feel of the leather cover and the extra space for writing!
- If you spend a lot of time outside with your Bible, you might want to consider one of these waterproof Bibles. Although it will not give you the wide margins for journaling, the pages are durable for limited but lasted notes. A small New Testament/Psalms/Proverbs edition is perfect for slipping in a backpack or purse, and the publisher often has half price deals on slightly imperfect copies. You will find these under the clearance tab.
- If you’re not sure if you’ll like “writing in your Bible,” I recommend you purchase this beautiful Psalms Illuminated Scripture Journal. Notebook pages that beckon you to write and/or be artistic within the dedicated space will show you whether journaling in this way is beneficial for you. This journal would also make a nice gift for a friend or a graduate!
- I use fine-tipped, no-bleed, archival-safe pens such as these or these for taking notes. I like the smooth writing of Faber-Castell Pitt artist pens when I feel like splurging on a new pen. Beware: pencils fade quickly in Bibles specifically designed for journaling! Pencil typically works in traditional, thin-papered Bibles. Correction tape, washi tape and stickers are great for the times when you wish you could erase a mistake.
- Date your notes whether you’re keeping them in your Bible or in a separate notebook. It’s incredible to look back and see how God has prepared you for and then guided you through changing seasons. If you are not excited about writing in your Bible but are looking for a creative Bible journal, check out this resource. Know that a simple notebook from the dollar store is sufficient, for you don’t need a colorful resource to bring God’s Word alive. It already is!
- If you’re an artist or learn best visually, sketch or paint in your Bible. This may help the words plant even deeper into your heart and mind. I am using this pocket watercolor set this summer as I explore painting in my Psalms journal.
- Purchasing an interleaved edition will give you a full page for artwork or notes next to each page of double-columned text, but be warned, this will not be your carry-to-church Bible as it’s not light! Check out this seller for a variety of interleaved Bibles — and often some good sales on other Bibles and journaling supplies that you can’t find elsewhere.
- Use the back pages of your Bible for notes you want to preserve. It is here I record the word I’ve chosen to guide my year with the Lord, new babies and heavenly homegoings, doctrinal definitions, long-standing prayer requests and especially impactful quotes from books or sermons.
- If a little kiddo takes a crayon or pen to your Bible, which has happened multiple times for me, usually with a new Bible, see it as part of the memory book of your life. Date the “artwork” and note the “artist.” The same goes for anytime a page gets torn or damaged in some way. Have you ever turned a page too quickly or spilled some coffee on a page? Allow these marred pages to stand as testimony to a life lived one day at a time, full of both joys and griefs. I’ve also been known to date tears that stain pages, for my Lord counts every one of them (Psalm 56:8) and knows my heart.
How are you documenting what God is teaching you this summer? I hope you’ll share in the comments section below how you’re doing this either within the pages of your Bible or in another format. Consider including your favorite ideas and resources for notetaking and/or artwork.