Creative Note Taking!



If you’ve been around me any length of time, you know I love to art journal!  Even though I just started doing this four years ago, it’s become a huge part of my life.  It’s how I process the hard in this broken world, as well as a tool helping me listen, learn, remember and disciple.

At the beginning of this summer the Lord laid it on my heart to create a new online art journal course to accompany Dr. Curt Thompson’s book The Soul of Shame.  Now I wasn’t primarily creating something for other people, though others were using it.  Rather it served as a forum for me to share my journey as I’ve been working my way through this (and provided accountability to keep me journeying as I am a highly distractible individual!  :0).

When I began I had no idea what the Lord would have in store… I just knew it would be good!  And it has been life changing!!!  I can’t recommend art journaling your way through Dr. Curt Thompson’s book highly enough!!!

In addition to learning a ton about shame – and how not to be emotionally hijacked by it (something I desperately need to learn) – I also started learning how to use art journaling for note taking – and I’ve been blown away at how much more I’m learning and retaining as a result.

Since I’m currently surrounded by friends getting ready to dive back into school, I thought I’d share some ideas for using art journaling to take notes in a way that enhances your learning… and remembering!

When I first read through the second chapter in Dr. Curt Thompson’s book, where he explains the 9 domains of the mind as well as gives an overview of the anatomy of the brain, I read through the text underlining what stood out to me.  Soon the pages looked like I’d bled profusely (got to love red highlighters!) and I found I wasn’t retaining much.

Now in my art room I have a basket filled with different sizes of paper cut into squares and rectangles that are leftover from projects.  I started writing down on these slips of paper key things that stood out to me.  When I finished the chapter, I took time to arrange the slips of paper in my art journal – talk about a great way to interact with and review the material!  I was amazed at how much I remembered and how I was able to identify key thoughts from the chapter.


But there was a lot in that chapter and I soon found pulling out slips of paper was a bit cumbersome, so next I grabbed a tin of gel pens and starting taking notes in color!  Was this ever a blast!  But I also found was learning a bunch doing this!


Then, whenever possible, I started taking time to sketch a quick picture summarizing key ideas.  It’s amazing how pictures stick!


I especially found it helpful to story board key thoughts from the chapter to capture of the flow of what was being communicated.

But things really went into warp speed when I began asking myself questions from the material I was reading – personalizing what I was learning.  This took it into the realm of “So what difference can knowing this make in my life?”


Imagine my surprise when I was watching a YouTube  video on note taking to discover they highly recommend using color and asking questions!!!  Sure wish I’d known this 34 years ago! :0)

But here’s the neatest thing – this isn’t just something that can help when you’re in school.  I learned this while processing through a book I was reading.  It can also help you retain and remember even more from sermons on Sunday or even when you’re at NavNites or conferences!

Multi colored gel pens are now a staple in my purse!  God truly is the greatest teacher ever! And I’m finding, with Him, class is always in session!




Treasure For Spiritually Investing In Children!

To know me is to know I love books!  Especially old books!

It’s not the yellowed pages or musty smell that thrills me – but the ideas often contained.  Now that’s not true for every old book, but I love to pray as I head into a used bookstore, “Lord, would you lead me to treasure?”  And it seems He often does in the midst of faded volumes.

This past Saturday I was just about to leave the antiquated book room at a nearby Goodwill when I saw the book Kenneth Forbes lying on the religion shelf.

An author’s name where the title goes? On the religion shelf?!

In truth, that’s what first caught my attention.  But then, when I opened the cover and read the subtitle, my curiosity was really piqued, “Fourteen ways of studying the Bible.”

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Each chapter in this book lets you sit in while a mother is teaching her children about the Bible using a different inductive Bible study technique.  So it’s written like a story, but wow!  Can that mother teach!  As she ties each lesson in with circumstances transpiring in her children’s lives, we are privileged to observe a master teacher in action.  And this was written back in 1854!!!

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I have been studying the Bible for 34 years and have read it through each year for the past twenty.  Still I found myself gleaning all sorts of new treasures from this mother’s teaching!  You better believe as I’m reading this I am being spurred on to dive even deeper in my own Bible Study!  I only wish I’d found this book when my son was younger and still at home.

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But even if you don’t have children to teach, this book is pure gold for learning new ways to study the Scriptures ~ and for motivating you to do so even more!

And here’s the best news of all – you can read this treasure online at the Internet Archive:

Just click on the pages at the top to turn them.

Or you can buy a facsimile at

Truly there is no greater gift a mom can give her children (and herself!) than to invest time helping them not only read the Scriptures but teaching them how to dig deep, to understand, ponder and worship The One revealed through them, then practically live them out for life!

And can reading this book ever help equip moms to do this in a number of enlightening and engaging ways!  I highly recommend it!



The Pressure’s off!

Ever been to a Bible study where you watch a video or listen to a speaker talk and then break into small groups and your facilitator presents a second message?  It can be a heady thing to speak and have a group listening to what you share.  But is that really what’s needed for life change to occur?

We live in a society that is information rich.  At any moment of the day you can pull up a sermon online or read a book or listen to a radio broadcast.  We’ve never had more access to the Word being taught – and struggled as much to live it out.

Consider what the Scriptures say:

“But you are not to be called Rabbi, for you have one teacher and you are all brothers.”  Matthew 23:8

“Neither be called instructors, for you have one instructor – the Christ.” Matthew 23:10

“As for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, abide in Him.”              1 John 2:27

Once someone is a believer their greatest need usually isn’t for advice, but for someone to come along and help them learn how to listen to what the Lord is teaching them and help them process what they are hearing so they know how to respond and to encourage them to respond by living out what He is laying on their hearts. There are three key ways you can do this:

1.  Modeling

Until the day we die we are all very much in process, in need of growing and becoming more like Jesus.  As you share your weaknesses, where you struggle, and what helps you, there is a tremendous opportunity for people to learn how to process and apply as they see you doing this.  The quote, “More is caught than taught” is so true!  Whenever I’m asked to speak at a women’s retreat or to a group I find it so helpful to keep this in mind.  My goal isn’t to teach but to share my journey, yes, even the ugly parts when it will be of help for them to hear, and what’s been helping me.

2.  Listening & Asking Questions, Then Listening More

In James 1:19 we are instructed, “Everyone should be quick to listen…”  Is this ever vitally important to remember when you are facilitating a group discussion.  There is nothing like listening to someone share their heart or their thoughts to make them feel loved and cared for.  This creates a wonderful environment where growth can happen.

And is the second part of that verse, “slow to speak…” ever key for facilitators to remember.  When I’m speaking I’m in control.  So if I’m scared it’s so easy for that to be my default.  Even if someone in the group asks a question, well, the natural response is to answer right away.  But what a difference it can make if you first ask if anyone else in the group would like to respond.  Creating a learning community, where you are all sharing your journeys together is so much more powerful and life changing than a quick correct answer being given.  You want to be able to engage with each other as well as the material.  Can that ever do wonders to help people grow as this takes place.

Now it can really help to identify whether the women in your group are internal or external processors.  Those who process externally will usually be the first to share and sometimes the internal processors can get left out, so it takes extra intention to listen to them.  I’ve found it can be so helpful to provide an opportunity for them to first process on their own and then listen and ask questions.

For example, when I’m facilitating a group discussion after a speaker has shared, I will often start our time encouraging them to first write down on a notecard what stood out to them in the message or draw a quick picture representing this.  Even extroverts benefit from this opportunity to collect their thoughts (because writing is also a form of external processing) so when they share it tends to be more focused. But this is so key to being able to “listen” to internal processors.  I can’t tell you how many times this makes it possible to listen to what’s going on inside them.  Women who ordinarily would never share in a group will often open up when the group is conducted this way.

And it really is amazing how much more people are helped when we listen and ask questions, than when we just give answers!

3.  Introducing different ways to process


As mentioned above, this can be as simple as having your group draw a picture or write a word or short paragraph that summarizes the key thing that stood out to them either from the message they just heard or from their Bible study that week.  Or if you’re reading the scriptures together and then discussing, it can be giving colored pencils and having them underline what stands out to them or circle key words.  Or it can be as involved as having the group art journal a page reflecting what they learned and then sharing it afterwards with the group (more information on this and examples are available at

All of these means help people focus in on the key thing that stood out to them, narrowing down what they heard so they can more easily come up with an application.  That really is where the rubber meets the road.  It can be so powerful when people have time to process together for helping them come up with an application and then for the group to provide an opportunity for accountability – it doesn’t even have to be like drill sergeants checking up on you ~ just knowing someone is going to ask “how did it go this week?”  or “What did you experience as you sought to live out what you learned last week?” can be a powerful motivator for actually doing what’s on your heart to do.

Remember the difference between the wise and foolish builder isn’t a matter of hearing the Word!  The difference is what they do in response to it.  And it wasn’t that the wise builder got more gold stars – no!  By responding to what he heard, by actively seeking to do it, to live it out, he was laying a solid foundation for when the storms of life came.  And note it’s not “If” they come but “when!”

Yes, there can be times when it is appropriate to give advice, but I like to filter that through Ephesians 4:29 speaking “only what is helpful for building others up, according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”  Be sure to ask yourself – is this really helping them become wise?  Helping them process what they’ve already heard and move towards application?  Or am I just providing opportunity for them to “hear” more?

Whether you’re meeting one on one with someone or facilitating a group it can be so wise to keep asking yourself how much time am I talking?  And what is happening as a result?

Best part of this?  Does it ever take the pressure off you as a facilitator, discipler or mentor!  You don’t have to have all the answers!  And since no one does (according to I Corinthians 13:12 in this life we only know in part) what a relief!  All you have to do is join in with what Jesus is doing, helping them learn to listen to him – not just hear him, but respond to him and yield to him as He guides them.  And in the process, instead of remaining babes dependent on you they are learning how to walk with him and abide with him for life!

“I don’t like Jesus!”

I’d only planned to read through the Bible in a year once.  But after hearing me share highlights from doing this over and over, friends begged me to do it again and host a discussion group so they could do it too.  When we were in the middle of Leviticus two sisters started coming who didn’t know Jesus.  I thought, “Oh no!  What a place to start!”  But they kept coming and it wasn’t long until one of them entered into a relationship with the Lord!  Her sister, a legal secretary, stated, “I’m going to wait until I finish reading the whole thing!”  And sure enough, soon as we finished, she surrendered her life to the Lord!  Their lives, and all of our lives, were radically changed as a result.  Truly it was an amazing year experiencing the truth of 2 Timothy 3:16 “All scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable…!”

But I’ll never forget, after we finally started reading the New Testament, one friend showed up exclaiming, “I don’t like Jesus!”  She’d never read much of the Bible and was appalled by some of the things Jesus said.  As we continued reading we discovered she wasn’t the first to feel this way!  In John 6:60 even Jesus’ disciples said, “This is a hard teaching!” and at that point many of them turned away and stopped following Him.

But note when Jesus asks the twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?”  Peter replies, “Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed and have come to know that you are the holy one of God.”

You get a whole different perspective when hard things are taken in the context of relationship and knowing who God is!

Jesus came from the Father full of grace and truth (John 1:14).  If you separate one from the other, especially focusing on truth without the context of grace, can truth ever seem harsh, cold, unappealing!

In my quiet time this past week I was reading in 1 Kings 20 where a certain man of the sons of the prophets said to his fellow at the command of the LORD, “Strike me please.”  And we aren’t just talking about getting hit.  This strike left this guy noticeably wounded and what wounds come without pain?  And I realized as I read this “sometimes to do God’s work we need to be willing to be wounded.”


Can that ever sound harsh!   Especially if you aren’t remembering the context – and I don’t just mean the rest of 1 Kings 20!  But the entire Bible and what it reveals about who the Lord is!


A murderer and a surgeon may both stab you.  But one does it for life!  Context makes all the difference!

Now I’ll be honest.  There are times when the Lord allows hard things in my life I’m not happy about.  In a broken and fallen world, this happens far more than I’d like!  And yes, it often happens in the context of ministry.  Some of my deepest wounds have been inflicted by other believers I’ve been co-laboring with (sadly that’s not just true for me – the responses to my post on “friendly fire” attest to this).  It is so vital we help those we are discipling learn to run to the Lord and seek His perspective whenever they are wounded, taking time to process (for me, art journaling really helps, though I’m obviously not an artist!), letting Him provide a greater context for considering what they are going through.

However you best process, it’s so key to consider, “what has the Lord revealed in His Word that applies to what I’m going through?”

The enemy is only too happy to provide you with a context that puts the Lord in a bad light!  He desires to get us to go from “I don’t like what’s happening in my life” to “I don’t like the One who is allowing these things to happen in my life!” so we’ll avoid running to the Lord  using such reasoning as, “God can do anything and yet He’s letting you go through this?!  Obviously He doesn’t care about you!”  But that is such a lie!  Yet it’s amazing how that lie can fester and impact us and our relationship with the Lord if we don’t take the time to confront it head on and process in the presence of the Lord.

But when we do, not only do we gain a true perspective that can help us weather the worst storm but our relationship with the Lord is strengthened and we grow!!!  This really is where the rubber meets the road!

The Power of Processing

I’ve never been much of a scrapbooker.  I made one when Jim and I were dating, but that was years before Creative Memories and it was a rather simple affair.  But one of the girls I was meeting with loved to do this!  And as I was praying, asking the Lord what He’d like for us to do during our next time together, He gave me the idea to take her to a scrapbooking store and let her pick out materials to make one page summarizing the key thing the Lord recently was teaching her.  Little did I realize the treasure we were both in for!

She was soooo excited!  We started our time praying asking the Lord to guide us, to bring to mind what He wanted us focusing on and to help us create a picture that represented this.  It turned out most of our time that week was used just selecting supplies so I asked if she’d complete her page during the coming week and then share it with me at our next one on one and I decided I’d create one too.

Now at first I was bummed that our entire time was taken up by the selection of materials – what kind of one on one was this?  But you know, it was amazing how we both experienced the Lord even through the process of deciding what to use as well as when we had to think through the lessons we’d been learning to select one.  And then as we started putting our pages together it was like the Lord was right there with us, not only helping us create a picture of what He’d been teaching us, but the actual process of creating helped us further process and internalize that lesson even more!  And what a powerful time we experienced the next week when we shared our creations!

Shortly after this a friend shared with me how he’d been reading all the verses in the Bible that talk about remembering – and realized how incredibly key it is to take time for this.

Numbers 15:40 ESV

So you shall remember and do all my commandments, and be holy to your God.

Deuteronomy 8:2 ESV

And you shall remember the whole way that the LORD your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not.

Deuteronomy 8:18 ESV

You shall remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day.

Deuteronomy 16:12 ESV

You shall remember that you were a slave in Egypt; and you shall be careful to observe these statutes.

Deuteronomy 32:7 ESV

Remember the days of old; consider the years of many generations; ask your father, and he will show you, your elders, and they will tell you.

(And that’s but a taste!  The  word “remember” occurs 162 times in the ESV Bible!)  

Prior to this when I thought about spending time one on one with someone I was always forward focused – what’s going to help her move forward and press on in her walk with God?  But this experience really highlighted for me how vital it is we periodically take time to intentionally remember, and process deeper what the Lord is teaching us.  The irony is, taking time to look back, process and remember, really can spur us on even more!

Fast forward a few years to our sabbatical last summer.  I asked the Lord if He’d give me a creative way to remember the lessons He’d be teaching me throughout it.  That’s when He led me to art journaling.  Again I was blown away at how taking time to create a picture of what He’s teaching me helps me learn on a deeper level – and sometimes even figure out what’s going on in my heart!

And you know, this takes place in a format I actually enjoy looking back through and praying through – which only serves to help me remember even more!  (I’m a very messy writer and an external processor who writes volumes every day just to think and pray – I would never want to go back and read all of that!  But I love to look at these pictures!)**

Recently a friend asked if her Bible study could come over and art journal with me.  We paired up and shared a quiet time in Psalm 139 and then took time to create an art journal page illustrating what the Lord laid on our hearts. It was so precious to hear each woman share and “see” what she was learning!  I cannot recommend highly enough doing this!

So now, when I meet one on one with someone I will periodically take time for us to actively, creatively process what the Lord’s been teaching us.  At the end of a semester, the end of the year, the end of a Bible study ~ these are all great times to do this.

In fact, at the end of one summer training program after we’d inductively studied the book of Genesis, as a way of further processing what we’d learned I encouraged the students to go back and draw a quick sketch or do word art, featuring on an index card the main thing from each chapter that stood out to them.  Talk about a fun and insightful way to review and help summarize when finishing a Bible study!

As it says in Ecclesiastes 7:8, “The end of a matter is better than it’s beginning…”  Don’t miss out on the best part by rushing onto the next thing!  Taking time to further process and remember can enrich and deepen your relationship with the Lord, and with those you are discipling!

(**NOTE:  you can find examples of this art journaling at ~ I put this together for friends who wanted to “see” what I was doing during my sabbatical last year :0)