how to study the Bible for yourself: my quiet time routine

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Since I have started my blog, the single most asked question I get through Instagram or email is “how do you study the Bible?” So here it is. It’s nothing fancy or extravagant. I’ll share with you some of the tools I use and others I find helpful.

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First-let’s get real. Life gets busy and sometimes quiet time can tend to slide to the back burner. I have found, however, that when I schedule my day around my time with The Lord, no matter how busy I may be, instead of scheduling my time with the Lord around my day, I find myself refreshed, renewed, and strengthened. Let’s also be real about what it all looks like. My quiet time isn’t typically perfectly pictured with coffee and a journal and the lighting looking just right. No, most mornings I’m in my closet with verses taped on the walls studying in there with absolutely nothing to distract me because I’m like a little kid-if I don’t eliminate every distraction I don’t get anywhere. Pretty Instagram and blog pictures are great and all but the real stuff looks a little different.

All I can accomplish in one day doesn’t compare to time spent with my King, because it’s in that time that I find the strength to live each day. He’s the one who has given every breath, and I have found that giving back the first part of my day draws me closer to Him and sets my heart straight. Your mind might be more focused at night, or in the middle of the day, find the time where you can give The Lord as much of your attention and focus and energy as possible-bring Him the best part of your day. It’s not a chore-it’s an incredible privilege. When you start to see it as the best part of your day, His Word comes alive in new ways.

This world isn’t easy on you and it isn’t easy to get through a single day without being distracted about 500 times. So fix it in your mind that no matter how small the amount of time may be, spend it with Him. It may be five minutes, or fifty, but it all matters. Don’t let your enemy convince you that because you can’t sit down and spend an hour in the Word, you shouldn’t spend ten minutes. Quality matters over quantity. There isn’t a time of day that’s “right.” There isn’t an exact plan that is universal and should always be followed. But there is room for grace, and God sees our small little attempts to get to know Him and blesses them. Come running to Him every. single. day. Even if it’s a childlike crawling to His feet for a few minutes-don’t let one day pass that you don’t come to Him to find the sustaining power you need.

So join me today as I walk you through what my mornings look like. Yours may be entirely different-and that’s ok-we’re pressing on to know the same King, but our journeys will look different.

The first thing I do when I open the Word to study is pray. Typically my Bible study in the morning involves praying through the Word. I’ve found for me that I need to audibly “preach” to myself in the mornings–that’s why I spend them in my closet. It has to be just me and the Lord so I can talk to Him out loud. You might find you write your prayers better, or that the quiet front porch where you can just be silent is the spot for you. Find that spot. Find what works–and then pursue Him like crazy.

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I learned a little acronym from one of John Piper’s book, “IOUS,” that has stuck with me and I usually find myself praying through it as I begin to open the Word.

I-Incline my heart to long for you, Lord. Give me a desire to know you more and to make your name known.

O-Open. Lord God open my eyes to behold your Word! Open my eyes to see new things and to learn new truths.

U-Unite. Unite my heart to fear your name. Join my mind to my body so that I would live out the Word that I study today.

S-Satisfy. Oh Lord satisfy my heart in you alone! Not in anything this world has to offer, but in your truth and by your Holy Spirit, through your Word today.

Then I read through a passage and typically go verse by verse. Lately I’ve been studying Hosea using a study by Kristin Schmucker. What I love about this study is that it offers some commentary while also allowing you to soak up the Word and study it for yourself. In a passage I’m going through, I’ll typically pick a few verses that stand out to me and write them in my “Be Still” journal-another great tool from Kristin Schmucker. I’ll go through those few verses and paraphrase what the author is saying and how the Holy Spirit is speaking through them.

Next I’ll look up cross references for these passages. Often times this leads me to many other verses that are related. If you don’t have a study Bible a concordance is also great for this. Ask yourself questions about the setting of the passage. Look for and pick out similarities between the people in the story and yourself. Identify with them. Don’t rush through it. Soak it in. Put yourself in their shoes and walk through the journey with them. Then ask the Lord how he would have you apply this to your life.

Don’t end your time with Him without learning one thing you can carry with you through the day.

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It’s not fancy. It’s just a verse-by-verse walk through, writing down things that stick out to me and truths I want to press into my heart. Ask the Holy Spirit to be your guide and rely on Him. I truly believe He meets our weakness in an incredibly unique way when we open the Word.

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I usually finish out my time with The Lord in prayer. Sometimes I’ll also pick a Bible verse from my study to memorize using this cool memory trick. One of the greatest resources I’ve found for constructing a powerful prayer strategy is the book Fervent by Priscilla Shirer. If you haven’t read it-you should! {Also read this if you’re looking for some book suggestions}

love & grace,

M

a few words if you feel like you can’t make the cut

When it’s just you and Him and you can hear the sound of the rain slowly falling on the roof. When the house is empty and it’s early in the morning and there’s nothing on your mind but Him-

yeah, that’s just a taste of His presence, counted as nothing by this world but the greatest deliverance from a world that’s tugging on your heart.

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It pulls you apart, I know.

Echos of lies telling you that you can’t make the cut, rating you an 8/10 and letting you know you’re not really getting anywhere. You want to throw in the towel and you’re tired. You’re worn down because no matter how hard you try to control your life how you want it, you always seem to be walking a different path than the one you told God you wanted. It’s funny how nothing is ever quite like we expected.

And you fear that if you stop-you’ll fall more behind than you already are. I don’t know where you are and who you are but what I’m about to say is on my heart for you today, so I have to write it.

This little jumble of words I’m writing to you now, it’s an invitation to be still. To put the lies on airplane mode and allow the truth of your King to rain down over the whispers of your soul’s enemy.

Come out of the world’s sun and heat for a minute and let the breeze of his grace blow your hair in the wind.

He declares beauty over your heart today. Not this kind of fleeting beauty that the world puts up on a pedestal and bows down to, but a deep, abiding beauty that comes when His joy runs through your veins.

He declares purpose over your heart today. Not a purpose of giving you everything you want but a stunning story of Him giving you everything He wants for you.

He declares love over your heart today. Nothing you do could make Him love you more and nothing you don’t do could make Him love you less. You haven’t slipped His mind, and you haven’t let Him down, because He’s looking at what His Son has done, not what you did.

He declares an identity over your heart today. This identity is flawlessly enough to fill you with the strength you need. It reaches to the core of who you are and says, “no matter what mistakes you may make, I still love you.” 

It’s a deep identity, it’s a raw kind of love. The strengthening kind of love because it lifts you up to soar. It enables you to do hard things. It labels you strong in weakness and enough when you feel insufficient.

Nothing can shake the identity that you have through Him. It is flawlessly enough for you and calls you beloved. He would have you believe this. I know He would.

& if you would have Him, He’d have you surrender. He’d have you give over every part of your heart. The beauty of His presence would invade and the things that hurt you once would fall away. You’d start to see every rejection as a blessing, every “no” as His protection, every disappointment as a deliverance, and every day as a new chance to give it all back to Him.

Hear it yet? The rain falling or the breeze brushing through the trees. If you listen closely enough your heart will hear the refrain,

I can stop trying to be loved and live from the abundant truth that I am loved.

I can stop trying to be enough and live from the reality that I am enough.

& I can stop hiking up a mountain of expectations that just keeps climbing and climbing,

I can come sit at His feet and just be, because He loves me for who I am,

and nothing will ever change that.

& you-yes you-

you make the cut.

 

how I edit my photos | @beautiefullthings

In the past 18 months, I have been able to grow my Instagram by 10 thousand + followers. While content is extremely important for gaining an audience and reaching people, your visual appeal is extremely important. I get a lot of questions regarding how I edit my photos so I wanted to share some tips with you, and my favorite editing tools. I keep it simple, and typically use my iPhone 6 for most of my photos.

vscoVSCO is hands down my favorite app. I’ve purchased a few different presets which give me the exact look I’m going for. It’s extremely important to create a cohesive theme and brand for your page. I’ve heard a lot of the attacks on Instagram about bloggers whose pictures don’t look like real life. For me, my Instagram feed is a form of art. I work hard to create a cohesive feel. It’s not about making my life look perfect or attracting a ton of followers and likes. Photography is a way I’ve found to express myself, and if others catch on and like it, even better! But it’s not about making my life look perfect, trust me, my life is far from it. It’s a way to capture a moment I love or share something that inspires me.

My second favorite photo editing tool is airbrush. I primarily use this app for the filters, adjusting them for slight alterations. My favorite filters include Rosegold and NYC. When you open the photo in the app, click “filter” and then select a preset that matches your brand. In order to avoid a photo looking overly-filtered and edited, you can scroll your finger up and down to adjust the strength of the filter. I usually reduce these to 2 or 3 instead of the original strength (10). This allows your photos to look clean, crisp, and fairly natural.

I’ve developed a fairly regular routine for editing my photos to cohesively match my
brand. Here’s an example of a step-by-step example of a photo edit using the VSCO and Airbrush apps.The first photo was taken with my iPhone 6 in natural lighting. Typically the best way to do this is to take your photos near a window or natural light source. Experiment with different angles, props, and backgrounds to create the feel you want.

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Step one: apply VSCO preset A6 (A5 and A6 are my two favorites) After:

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Next, I took the photo into Airbrush and applied the Rosegold filter, reducing it to 2, and the NYC filter, reducing it to 2. Here’s the final photo:

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3 steps-2 apps. That’s it. Remember to take your photos in natural light and experiment with different backgrounds and colors. Let your photos be an expression of your own brand and style. I’m not walking you through this to have you do the same thing as me-although you might-but to show you tools to achieve your brand’s look.

In this past year as I’ve personally grown and realized who I am, it’s influenced my social media platforms and network interactions. Don’t try to change your style and who you are to gain approval in the form of likes and followers. Find your niche and share that with the world. The greatest power you have is that no one can do it just like you. You have something unique to offer to the world. Don’t copy other successful bloggers, “Instagrammers”, or photographers, own your own style and become the one others want to copy.

Other photo editing apps that I love include ColorStory and Afterlight.

love,

madyson grace

dear nicaragua: what you taught me

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you taught me that you can love someone the day you meet them.

you taught me that life could be a whole lot more beautiful and full, if I walk with simple faith.

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you taught me that joy isn’t dependent on what you have, but on where your heart is.

you taught me that trying something new can be scary at first, but that it’s worth the risk every single time.

so pack light and love heavy / give it all your heart and soul / so in the end, you won’t regret one thing -aaron watson “bluebonnets”

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you taught me to dance like no one is watching, and to live that way too.

you taught me to raise my hands and worship. you taught me to bring my best to God–not my leftovers.

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you taught me not to judge people so quickly like we’re prone to here. you taught me to love them right where they are.

you taught me to welcome people with an open heart. with kindness and joy and hospitality. you taught me to risk my heart on loving people, because that’s the thing about the greatest things in this life: they’re always on the other side of a risk.

you taught me to live with passion.

you taught me to pray with passion.

you taught me to live in unashamed love of my God.

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Lord God-you taught me that I am so small, and that it’s not all about me.

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you taught me that there is abundant life on the other side of fear.

you taught me that joy can be found in the darkest of places, because Your face, God, shines the light of joy. & no matter where you go, no matter the place on this globe, no matter the language, no matter the culture-God, you are there.

your presence fills every place, God.

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Nicaragua,

you took a piece of my heart-

and taught me that all the best things do.

because if you don’t risk a little bit of who you are, are you really living?

I gave it all away, and now my heart is full -dave rawlings machine