Bible Art Journalling

How do you read the Bible? Perhaps you are not sure where to start? Is the tiny font putting you to sleep? Maybe you stopped reading because it seemed too difficult to understand. Have you read it so many times that you feel bored now?

I accepted Jesus into my life at 10 years old. I remember that afternoon, seated in a small group, clutching my Bible and saying the salvation prayer. And as a new believer, I devoured the Bible and went for every Bible study faithfully, memorising scripture verses. Quiet times were filled with devotion magazines from Scripture Union. There were quizzes, crossword puzzles, games and colouring pages. When I started reading the bible without a devotion guide, I diligently wrote according to the outline: summary-learning points-reflection-prayer. And then the Pass-it-On Message Cards became popular. Anyone remember those? Wow, I had tons of those in my wallet. Before Bible lettering was trending, I was already writing verses and drawing pictures to make my own ‘pass-it-on’ cards.

But as time went on, and the busyness of life taking over, transitioning to young adulthood and then becoming a parent, I stopped reading the Bible altogether. The Bible was still on my table but not touched. Initially I gave excuses like not having time or I was too tired. But honestly, I got bored. The Bible sounded like a broken record, a nagging parent. Once in a while, I would read a devotion emailed to my inbox or I would flip to a passage when the pastor referred to it. But not reading the Bible as it is, on my own accord – I did not purpose in my heart to read the Bible anymore.

Then the warning lights came: anxiety, anger, bitterness, envy. You know they are warning lights when your body starts to break down physically and mentally due to stress. Desperate to find answers, I started reading the Bible again. But this time, I went back to my childhood first love – writing the verses and drawing the pictures. It wasn’t a sudden realisation, but a journey of being inspired by close family and friends. Social media played a part as well. So I started drawing and I started with my favourite thing to draw when I was young – coconut trees – I can’t remember why I was obsessed with drawing them though.

Creating art from Bible verses stirred in me the desire to read the Bible faithfully again. I seldom get bored even though I’m now bad at memorizing verses. I’ve been discovering new things from those seemingly ‘boring’ passages that I’ve been reading over and over again.

However I’m not art-trained nor do I’ve any special talent in art. Many times I ask myself, “Why do I bother? No one is going to look at my art. I’m not a professional artist.” I also fall back into the same old rhetoric of “I have no time”. But I continued to create art while reading the bible and continued to ask God the purpose of creating. Then one day, I heard Pastor Joseph Prince speak about “Building Faith Pictures” – how forming a picture of God’s word in our mind served as important visual reminders of God’s promises in our lives. He shared that God himself illustrated His promise to Abraham:

Then the Lord took Abram outside and said to him, “Look up into the sky and count the stars if you can. That’s how many descendants you will have!

Genesis 15:5

It took me about 5 years to figure out this creative journey with God, and I wrote a book called “Building Faith Pictures” to encourage others to create art while reading God’s word. Through reading this devotional, my hope is for everyone to discover the joy of reading the Bible and hearing God’s word through building faith pictures – beautiful visual reminders of His grace, love, hope and peace. You do not have to love art or know art or be good at art. You simply to wish to dig deeper into His word and explore creative ways in expressing your reflections. There is a total of 7 weeks and each week, there is 1 devotion reading with invitation-to-create prompts which will help you in making art. A white page is provided for you to write, sketch, draw or paint.

The 5th word in the Bible is “create”. God is the creator and we are made in God’s image, so we are creators too. His created ‘artwork’ is creation itself. We can create, we can create art. Will you accept my invitation to respond to God’s Word through art?

Click HERE to buy “Building Faith Pictures”

Green is also the colour of hope

One day, I had a dream in the day, maybe it was a vision or an imagination, or a subconscious thought:

I am running a race but at a leisurely pace because I tell myself to take it easy and not get stressed. So I take a break and rest on the green pastures. The rest is nice and relaxing, but I look back and noticed all the mistakes I made. I try to tell myself all the things I will make right the next time but I can’t seem to stop rehearsing the past. Finally I look up and I see everyone, even close friends, all running past me. I try to say “Hi”, but they seem to have no time to pause. I’m still resting on the grass and everyone is going so fast. I start to envy their speed, their progress in the race. I also get angry that they are leaving me behind. Then I start to wonder – will I still receive the prize?

ENVY. It was an ugly image of ‘envy’ – growing quietly like a weed, growing quickly. I thought I was just making comparisons or I was just a little jealous. But this ‘weed’ was competing for a space in my thoughts and it was corrupting my heart. It was messing with my mental health. It was time to cut it out of my life. As with any plant, this ‘weed’ has a root. I asked God again and again, what is the root of envy?

God told me but it took a while for me to acknowledge it. The root of envy is ‘fear’.

This ‘fear’ was no stranger nor an unfamiliar feeling. This fear had manifested itself in different ways before:

  • fear of letting history repeat itself
  • fear of making mistakes again
  • fear of never being good enough
  • fear of never feeling truly whole
  • fear of not being loved
  • fear of losing out

Thankfully, where sin abounded, grace abounded much more (Romans 5:20). God replaced that ugly image with His beautiful word:

No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.

Philippians 3:13-14

Recovery is a continuous journey of discovering one’s true self, healing from hurts and learning contentment. The first thing I did was to start a ‘Gratitude Journal’, noting down once a day for 365 days, one thing I was grateful for. I needed to forget the past, I needed to focus on the present, on the here and now. I’m running a race, a race of His destiny for me, towards my heavenly prize.

God has created new faith pictures of me:

  • I am a new creation in Christ. Old things have passed away, all things have become new.
  • I have peace with God. Jesus’ love has cast out all fear, even the fear of failure
  • I am enough. Jesus is my more than enough.
  • I am the righteousness of God through Christ. Jesus has forgiven my sins.
  • I am God’s beloved. He is my good father and and His love endures forever.
  • I can tap on God’s unlimited supply. He supplies all of our needs.

There is a prize for everyone – there is a prize for me.

But like a weed, if you’re not watchful, envy can start creeping back in again. Only ‘hope’ can cut out fear and anxiety and bring forth LIFE:

Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, and whose hope is the Lord. For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, which spreads out it roots by the river, And will not fear when heat comes; But its leaf will be green, And will not be anxious in the year of the drought, Nor will cease from yielding fruit.

Jeremiah 17:7-8

There is hope. There is life. A life that is not struggling and striving with envy but living and thriving with hope. Green might be the colour of envy but green is also the colour of HOPE.

My small village

When I decided to become a stay-home mum, I thought it was a job that suited me very well because I am an introverted homebody. I even had the nickname of ‘anti-social’ during my university days and the number of friends whom I hung out with regularly could be counted within one hand.

However just 6 months into my new job, the monotony of doing the same things over and over again and facing only a baby at home, made me realised that it was the toughest job I ever took on. Furthermore, most of my peers were either unmarried or had no children. I didn’t even have a smartphone which could take non-pixelated photos nor access Facebook. But I still manage to stay the course and persevere for about 7 years because gradually there were friends who came along to support me.

In my 8th year, my social circle started shrinking. At first I didn’t care much about it. But suddenly, my few close friends went back to full time work, some went back to part-time work and then others just stopped contacting for no reason in particular. All this happened in about 3 months.

My counsellor friend recently reminded me that ‘alone’ and ‘lonely’ have different meanings. You can be alone and not feel lonely. You can feel lonely even when you’re not alone. As an introverted homebody and anti-social person, I’ve always been alone. But for the first time in my life, I was alone and lonely. Loneliness is a terrible and scary feeling because it makes you focused only on one thing in your life – your negative self – all your weaknesses, past hurts, wrongdoings and fears. The loneliness then manifests itself as anger, envy, depression. And that was when I deleted my Facebook and Instagram accounts.

One day, God brought to mind a good friend – one who stopped contacting for no particular reason, and no longer active in the group chat. I was not in the mood nor in the ‘right mind’ to contact someone else but somehow I couldn’t stop worrying about this friend. Since she didn’t respond to my messages, I decided to write her a letter – a very honest letter – I asked how she was doing and I ended up telling her I had a problem. I think she was the second person (besides my husband) who would then know about my mental health state.

She read the letter and contacted me and we met, for one entire day. There was no drama of crying on each others shoulders, no aunty agony giving advice session but we had a very real conversation. After that meeting God brought to my mind a few other friends whom have been my support – actually only 2. But that 2 was enough to take away the focus on myself. I still felt alone but when I reached out to someone else, I didn’t feel lonely. I could live life again.

I can still count my close friends whom I can find support from, within one hand but now I’ve another hand for those whom I can reach out to. Even when you’re not okay, you can still reach out to others. It takes a village to “Live Life”, even it is a small village.

Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

Ecclesiastes 4:12

For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them

Matthew 18:20 

A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.

Proverbs 11:25 

He lights up your darkness

(Note: I wrote this post on 16 July 2016 and then deleted my blog. I’m reposting it here again on my new blog to encourage others who are going through a difficult time in their lives)

During my second miscarriage, my regular gynaecologist was away on holiday and I saw the covering doctor instead. Since it happened just right after the first, I felt a little resigned to the situation but nonetheless still sad.

There were already signs of miscarriage so it was not a sudden discovery. But something hit me hard – the closing words of the covering doctor were,

You already have 2 children; so don’t feel so sad about it okay?

I left the clinic with those words in my head. The next few days, I started telling myself,

I don’t deserve to feel sad.

I already have 2 children.

I felt that by feeling sad, I was being insensitive to the struggles of childless couples. Also, I felt I was doing my children a disservice. There was no time to grieve, I’ve to care for my children, I’ve to be there for them.

But choosing not to grieve was the worst. I started watching Korean dramas to distract myself. It was a terrible passive activity that has no healing effect whatsoever. I started to have feelings of bitterness and envy. I decided I had to put a stop to it.

So I started to doodle and paint in the mornings when I was alone at home.  Initially, I felt that I was being lazy. Doodling and painting has no economical or tangible benefits! I should be going out to find more work, to do something constructive, cook more, prepare more activities for the children, so on and so on.

But the ever so encouraging husband told me,

You need to do it to find rest and then gain strength for the day

 

So I started painting. And as I painted, I starting grieving and the process of healing began,

I don’t have to feel guilty for feeling sad.

I need to grieve to heal.

During one morning while I was painting, I came upon this word,

“You light a lamp for me. The Lord, my God, lights up my darkness.” Psalms 18:28

No matter what you’re going through, whether you think it’s a big or small issue, take the time to rest in His word, take the time to grieve, and He will light up your darkness and heal your wounds.

he lights up my darkness

Jesus is in my beginning and ending

(Note: I wrote this post on 2 July 2016 and then deleted my blog. I’m reposting it here again on my new blog to encourage others who are going through a difficult time in their lives)

A long 6 month hiatus from blogging and I’m back. Most people start the year off with a bang, I started the year off with a break because of a series of events. The second half of 2015 and the first few weeks of 2016 were difficult. I had 2 miscarriages back to back, and then my grandpa passed away, my last grandparent in my family.

It’s interesting how when you suffer from a miscarriage, you immediately want to keep it quiet to yourself and people around you who know want to keep it hush too. I was wondering about that kind of reactive behaviour. Perhaps it’s because it’s a very personal and a private experience. But I realised the deeper reasons for me were guilt and shame.

When the miscarriages happen, the first thing I said to myself was,

It was my entire fault.

I was the one carrying the life.

I was responsible for that life.

And the guilt and condemnation worsens when well meaning friends (whom I appreciate a lot in every way) try to comfort me,

You haven’t been taking care of yourself enough.

You have been over exerting your body.

You haven’t been eating enough vitamins.

I wished that were all true, then I know what can be done to prevent the miscarriages. But unfortunately, the doctor says, they were random occurrences that could not be explained because I have 2 children already. And that made me think,

Perhaps God doesn’t want me to have any more children.

During these 6 months, I’ve been resting and pondering, pondering and resting. Meditating over this simple verse we usually learn when we become a new believer,

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.” Romans 8:1-2

I didn’t cause the miscarriages and certainly God didn’t.

Then one Sunday morning, I heard Pastor Charles Nieman speak about the passing away of his wife and how he had been coping. He shared about a verse that we are all too familiar with,

“I am the Alpha and the Omega, says the Lord God, who is and who was, and how is to come, the Almighty.” Revelations 1:8

Jesus is in my beginnings and endings. He was there during the conception, he was there during the miscarriage. He was in it with me though it all, therefore there is no condemnation, no guilt and no shame.

He is in my new beginnings and he is in my endings no matter what experiences they are. And therefore I have hope because my hope is in Jesus.

I’ve asked God one more thing, I asked Him what is the purpose of this experience,

To bring hope to others. To bring Jesus to them.

I hope you feel encouraged by my sharing, I pray you will always hope in Him because He is in our every beginning and ending, in every moment, in the same instant.

alpha and omega