For the better part of my adult life I've had a small journal, covered with a delicate little flower print, that I've used to collect meaningful quotes. The first entry was posted in 1985 and from that time until now, I've accumulated some gems. It's no surprise that the majority of the passages are biblical, I've always found the most meaningful counsel from scripture.
Being a natural born worry wart, a few years after I started the journal, I found the perfect medicine to remove my unsightly anxiety, Philippians 4:6-7 "Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done. For it is then that you will know true peace in Christ." (New Living Translation) Down it went, in black ink, on one of the little three by five inch pages, and I've used it time and again to calm my stress.
Even for simple, day to day needs I've captured words of encouragement and instruction. Take being over-tired, for example. Who among us hasn't been over-tired at some point in our work week? That's the common human condition in our fast pace, nonstop culture. Our days sometimes seem endless and our work burdensome. Whether it's getting the house clean before you have to get the kids ready and out the door for sports practices, or finishing that time sensitive project at work, we have overwhelming schedules that drain us of our strength. That's when I turn to the wisdom of Hebrews, chapter twelve. As I'm climbing the stairs at work, weighed down by a heavy camera bag, (a tool of my trade,) and my knees feel the pressure of too much weight on my shoulders, and I think I can't go another step, I repeat verse twelve, "So take a new grip with your tired hands and strengthen your weak knees." (New Living Translation) Saying the words from Hebrews 12:12 then leads me to Philippians 4:13, "I can do all things through Him who strengthens me." (English Standard Version Bible) And before I know it, I feel strong and ready to take on the rest of my day. Granted, there are some days when I have to repeat those two verses several times to make it through, but each time it works.
Another favorite from a more recent page is the universally applicable First Corinthians Chapter 12, Verse 7. I've shared this passage with each of my children as a sort of a road map. It especially came in handy when my son Sean, a musical maven, was looking for colleges. He insisted he should get a degree in business or something that would make him marketable after graduation. His father and I disagreed and told him he should pursue the musical gifts God gave him as a career. With much cajoling, we convinced him to attend Berklee College of Music in Boston and he graduated with a degree in Scoring for Film. He's currently working sound design for two Disney video games and couldn't be happier. He's living proof of 1 Corinthians 12:7, "To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good." (English Standard Version) Sincerely seeking to develop the gifts God gives us, will help us live not only a life fulfilled, but one that's of service as well.
There is one page in the book that holds my mantra for desperate times. A prayer I repeat again and again in times of great fear. A simple line that narrows the rushing torrent of my panic down to a single stream of consciousness - God is in charge and He is merciful. I wrote the scripture passage down in 1988, the year our daughter, Shannon, was born. When I found it, I was infused with an immediate peace and knew I'd landed on a touchstone, "Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever." Psalm 118:1 (New International Version)
Over the years, I've edited the verse and recite, "Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, His love and mercy endure forever." I do that because I was compelled, in one of my darkest hours, to repeat those words and God heard my anguish. Sean came along the year after Shannon was born. He was a strong baby, able to turn his head back and forth in the bassinet at the hospital, we marveled at our little Herculean boy. On our first full day home from the hospital, my husband, Kevin, took him to the basement to try to keep our unusually alert infant quiet and occupied so I could sleep. Shortly after they were down there, I heard a sickening thud and a long pause, followed by an unearthly howl. I ran down the stairs to see the baby, red and ridged with pain, laying on the floor. While pacing to keep him soothed, Sean had lurched out of Kevin's arms and plummeted, head first, to the concrete surface. I scooped him up and we rushed to the emergency room. It's interesting how people react in times of great trial. Something inside instructed me not to talk, to only pray. And the words of 118th Psalm came to me in my edited version. I must have repeated them a thousand times. We spent the entire night at the hospital with test after test being done on my little man. In the morning light, the doctor finally came out with Sean, his head twice it's size because of the massive lump, and said, "It doesn't make sense but it appears all he has wrong with him is a giant goose egg." The follow-up to the pediatrician's office the next day summed it up for us, the first thing he said when he examined him was, "God was merciful." Indeed He was, and His words gave me the faith I needed to replace my fear.
The final scripture on my hit parade list from the little floral journal is my all-time favorite. It's the stuff miracles are made of, several of them, as a matter of a fact. Too many to share here, but one in particular stands out.
The passage originally came to me on the evening of September 23rd, many years ago, (a date and number that have been profoundly significant in my life.) I was reading a devotional magazine that had a daily message and scripture reference. When I finished reading the thought for the day, I looked down at the scripture passage at the bottom of the page. It was Mark 9:23, "...All things are possible to him who believes." (New American Standard Bible)
Every few years something extraordinary happened around that number, and seeing the corresponding scripture helped me understand why; it was believing, plain and simple. One of the most miraculous things happened while I was working to build a non-profit production company with a group of artistic and gifted women. It seemed like every time I drove to one of our planning sessions, I would see the license plate number 923 on a car in front of me. It was a recurring confirmation that if I believed in my dream, it was possible. Around that same time, my husband, who was tired of sharing our only set of wheels, decided to buy me a secondhand car of my own. It was the perfect opportunity to order vanity plates, with Mark 923, to bookend my sweet ride, a powder blue, 77 Nova. That is, until I realized how expensive it was and felt the extravagance wasn't justifiable. By that time, our third child, Little Kevin, had come along and although we couldn't have been happier about our expanding family, money was tight. So, I let the idea go, and figured I'd let the numbers fall where they may. We went to pick up the new plates and Kevin waited in the car with the kids. I walked into the motor vehicle location and slid into the shortest line. In a matter of minutes an officious clerk handed me a bundle with what appeared to be my new license plates, wrapped (and this is no exaggeration,) in tissue paper and a separate plastic bag, that was taped shut. My limited experience with new plates had always been a no frills, here's your plates, don't let the door hit you on the way out approach. Metal slabs directly off the assembly line. This pristinely wrapped and sealed offering was new territory. So I waited until I was outside in the alley between the front of the building and the back parking lot to open my neatly bundled package. I slid the plates out of the plastic and pulled back the tissue paper. Without the ability to stay firmly planted on my feet, my body fell hard against the brick wall of the alley when I saw the number 923. What are the odds? My heart was pounding out of my chest. An overwhelming sense of gratitude washed over me and I paused in awe. Even if I couldn't afford the reminder of my favorite scripture to identify my car, God could. For those who believe, all things are possible.
Some people say life doesn't come with a manual. I'd have to disagree, the quintessential guidebook for life can be found in the pages of the bible. There's a reason it's called, The Good Book. For every problem that arises, or difficult decision that needs to be made, for every moral conundrum that crops up in life, or just a simple lesson in love, there's valuable instruction in the scriptures. And a few of those gems can also be found in a little flowered journal.