HOW I STARTED STUDYING SCRIPTURE DAILY + HOW I'VE KEPT THE HABIT ALIVE

Tuesday, June 14, 2016
Preface
I'm asked a little question from time to time: "How do you read the scriptures? And when?" This post is the A to that Q, and actually, everything after this "preface" here has been patiently waiting as a draft since February - that's why the photos down below look like they're from VA and not our present SD. They were snapped candidly one Saturday morning by my Ry when I started working on this post. Clearly I thought the post would be published way back then, but for whatever reasons, it's screen time is now. Better late than never. :)

I wrote this one in more of a "story" fashion, so take a seat and enjoy a good read. I hope my story with how I started studying scripture + how I've kept the habit going can help a fellow traveler out there. Even more so, how I hope that the girls will look back at this to see, hear, and feel that I love the scriptures - and that it took me years to foster that love. Literally years. But I started early - as you'll see, thanks to my inspired Grandfather and later, my Dad. And so, to my darling little girls...

Start studying your scriptures now. I don't know how old you are as you really read this, but wherever you are in life, whatever you are doing (be it "good" or "bad" -- I do not care) pick up the good word and personally welcome Him into your life. You will know Him that way, and you will know that He knows you - in a very special, special way. And by knowing each other - you and God - nothing can stand in your way. 

With all my love, 
Your mother
///

I started studying scripture daily when I was eight-years-old -- but only because my maternal grandfather asked me to. "Jeni, will you read from your scriptures every single day?" Yes. I could do that (how could I disappoint my amazing grandpa?). That very night, I read five verses of scripture. The rest has been a formative history. 
Seems like I blinked twice and suddenly I was 10-years-old. One evening, my dad challenged me to move my scripture study up a notch: "Jeni, you're 10-years-old now, and I bet you can read your scriptures for 10 minutes a night. Can you do that?" Yes. I could do that. 

Starting then, I read my scriptures for ten minutes every night. But again, mostly because Dad asked me to. However, I soon started to see the scriptures for what they were - a big story, made up of individual people's experiences with God - and I began to fall for the good word. I saw these people coming head-to-head with trials and their faith: would they choose to believe or not? I saw that when they chose to believe in God - often when logical reasoning told them not to and when up against every kind of odd - God put them on top. Via their examples, I remember telling myself then, as a little 10-year-old, that I would always choose faith. I would be a believer, too. I felt my first personal connection to scripture then, and consequentially, for the first time in two years, I started studying for myself.



By the time I was 14, I was studying first thing every morning. Considering Paul's counsel from Ephesians 6:11-17I saw it as my time to spiritually suit up:

"Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. Stand, therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God." 

Paul makes it explicitly clear there at the end: pick up the sword of the Spirit - the sharpest, most divine and pervasive weapon imaginable - "which is the word of God." It seemed only right that I study in the morning, grabbing my sword in order to face the wild world every day. :)

I added two key elements to my study routine when I was 14: prayer and journaling (some of my journals are stacked there below). Before studying, I would kneel in prayer and ask, "Will you please speak to me today? I'd love to hear something from you. I'd love most of all to just feel your love." I started to end my studies with a prayer of thanks, because inevitably (which was a miraculous thing to me), I would feel His love somehow, in some way, through whatever I had read.
Every day, I wrote something down from my study that I could potentially teach someone else. Taking notes in that approach taught me how to put scripture into my own words. Writing down my thoughts also opened up my heart. It was a beautiful phenomena that did not come with any forewarning: as I wrote my thoughts down, I could feel more as I read - more about who I really am, more from my dear God. 

I can still see teenager Jeni sitting back one summer day at home, post scripture study, just after I had moved from my hometown to a brand new city. I'd been devastated by the change and was more than vulnerable. But in a moment there, I remember absolutely feeling that God's hand had been at play in my life, that I was supposed to be there, and that He would not be leaving my side any time soon. I felt close to God. I knew He was real. I knew that He had plans for me in that new place. Scripture study opened the front door of my heart, inviting Him in to bring me that timely confidence and peace.

I maintained that culture of daily scripture study for the next eight years. I grew up in the gospel and closer and closer to God. Then something happened. I became a mother.
One of life's ironies is that as heaven comes to your arms via a perfect newborn baby, a new mother's closeness to the Spirit and to God in her mind and heart has the potential to wane. You're exhausted. You have to sleep (but you never sleep). You're busy. You have to get up and work for that sweet, little child. When - how - could I possibly wake up before my baby, sit down, and read my scriptures?? I felt kind of helpless toward taking care of my spirit and testimony for the first weeks of Olivia's life. Carving out time to spiritually feast just seemed impossible. 

Thank heaven for the spiritually life-saving epiphany that soon struck me. After three weeks of trying to survive with little-to-no scripture study, an idea hit loud and clear: "read with Olivia. Can you do that?" 

Yes. I could do that. 
I shook off my former life's standard for studying and I started anew. After waking up and taking care of Olivia, we'd hit the floor where I'd crack the scriptures and read aloud. She would listen in, kicking there on her blanket. Then I'd speak my thoughts while jotting them down in my journal. All this happened with Olivia right there. 

Nearly four years have passed since I started studying with Olivia. As y'all well know, we added another sister to the party, our Claire, and still, I often study with my girls. I've kept the key, transformative elements of studying scripture very much alive in this mother-daughter approach: studying as soon as I can every day, praying before I start, writing feelings out, and praying in thanks when I end. 
Studying as soon as I can in the day means that it's typically done after the girls are dressed and eating at the kitchen table. If it doesn't happen during breakfast, then up to the nursery we go. I read while they play. You don't even have to ask -- yes. The situation gets messy at times. 

Olivia has commandeered the back pages of my journal where she "writes"; Claire is following suit. They (duh!) have constant needs and requests, but because I'm reading and thinking and learning aloud right there with the girls, there are actually more questions about Christ's gospel from three-year-old Olivia than anything. "Why did they get baptized?" "What's a commandment?" "What does 'repent' mean?" "Where is Heavenly Father right now?" "Why do we die?" "What is a prophet?" "Why are those people so mean to Jesus?!" Thus far in my life, the person that has questioned what I believe and why has been my tiny toddler. Her sister will follow suit. It is a beautiful thing. 
I share all of this to, first, let it can be known that studying scripture has changed my life. Time with His direct counsel and counsel through His prophets - from the Bible through the New Testament and beyond - has made my life. I believe with my whole soul that studying scripture opens the windows of heaven. My best ideas - for businesses, strengthening relationships, being the best version of myself - are direct results of accessing Heavenly Father's ideas through opening and reading His word. My best qualities as Jeni and as a woman are totally enhanced when I connect with Him, and the most direct way to that connection, I've found, is through reading His word.

I also aim to offer you hope here, my friend, wherever you may be in you spiritual journey. Your demanded-of-day is absolutely real and tight and hard, and on its surface there is no time for Him via His words. But trust me. You can make time with Him work. Look for cracks of time in your day. Let go of little things that suck your time in big ways. Ask Him in a prayer to help you make scripture study happen! For now, and I think for the next long while, I'll be studying with my girls. This works unbelievably well for me (for all of us!) -- you find a sincere study works that for you. Pray, think, and document your thoughts as part of your routine. And then pray some more. Those components of study are tried-and-true; they did not start with me. The scriptures are hard-and-fast proof that God wants you to write down His word + accompanying impressions. Our honest, personal thoughts may well, one day, be the answer to another person's prayer.

The power you'll gain from His words will change your life forever + indefinitely for the better. So can you do it? Especially you, my girls, can you give Him some of your time and find hope in + confidence through His word? 

Absolutely, you can do it! 

Onward, ever onward, soldier. :)

Over and out. XO

7 comments:

  1. First of all, you are so amazing and just the cutest mom ever! I loved this post and it was just exactly what I needed to read today. It is so hard as moms to find time for ourselves, I LOVE that you read WITH your kids. What a genius idea and wonderful example you are being to them. I'm totally going to try this. Thank you again for sharing such a beautiful testimony of your love for the Savior and His gospel.

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    1. Girl the thanks for that genius idea goes right to heaven. I'll be forever grateful for it, too. :) Love you for the friend you've been to me, Mindy. Thank you for being here and for being sooo good! XOX

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  2. I have to tell you that I was very impressed and touched by your desire to do what is right and to be a good example. You definitely are that. Your husband must love you to death and your children. What an incredible story...it just made my day. My dream since I was a little girl was to be a Mother and have 8 to 10 children. Well...unfortunately that dream never came true. I was unable to have children so therefore I was never a Mother. I've never adjusted or accepted that it is an impossibility but at 70 years I know it is an impossibility of this earth. Hopefully someday I will be blessed with the honor and privilege to give birth to some sweet babies. Bless your heart, I love your blog and I hope your dear husband will always know and believe you are the one that Heavenly Father intended to be eternally sealed together. I pray that life will be sweet amongst the challenges and always remember, "You are truly a Daughter of God". Love, Kay

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    1. Oh Kay, what a special woman you are. Thank you so much for taking the time to comment here and for openly sharing your feelings + faith. I admire you immensely for your hope -- "I've never adjusted or accepted that it is an impossibility...Hopefully someday I will be blessed with the honor.." You WILL get that blessing. And what a blessed bunch your babies will be (oh that will be such a beautiful day)! Thank you for the reminder to be grateful for what we have + your example of believing in good things to come. So grateful that you're here! xoxo

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    1. You're welcome, Holly. <3 Thank you for reading + being here! All my love. XO

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  4. Thank you so much for writing this, Jeni :) It's just what I needed to hear!

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