How Sketch Are Your Notes?

Taking visual notes: no art experience necessary

One of my first creative endeavors was building forts.  My sister and I would gather kitchen bar stools, couch cushions, our favorite striped blue blanket, Nana’s rainbow knit one too, and pretty soon, poof! …a fort of amazingness.  I didn’t realize at the time there was an art to fort building. I was not interested in building the perfect fort, just putting pieces together to get the job done.   Kitchen chairs were our staples – sometimes we added different blankets, pillows, or couch cushions.   These were precious times long before the inner critic inside of me would determine how “good” something I created turned out.  So what does a fort have to do with visual note taking? The same concepts that apply to fort building apply to note “building.” When taking visual notes you can ask yourself, what are my staples? Just like my kitchen chairs were often the starting place for my forts, I have staples – things I tend to lean into – when taking visual notes.  Here are three tips to help you find your note taking staples and develop new ones along the way:

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Princess Series Part 3: Belle, the Perfect Princess?

A few months back I started on a quest to discover what a princess could teach me about growing stronger in my walk with God.  March brings me to Belle. Ahh, Belle! An old soul with graceful beauty.  Independent.  Smart.  This girl is no pushover, a modern girl’s princess.  She is a historical figure (most likely 18th century France) which provides her an air of sophistication, and to top it off Disney gave this Beauty an attractive feminist twist.  The juxtaposition between classic and contemporary got me curious. Belle, what faults if any do you even have?

Princess Post Part 3: Is Belle the Perfect Princess?Even if she’s not your favorite princess, you might identify with some or a lot of what makes her tick. Let’s consider a few more of her traits – educated, avid reader, doesn’t flaunt her beauty, sacrificial love and respect for her father.  And though she does have a slight tendency to view the people around her as ‘small town’, is it really a fault to want a little adventure with interesting and inspiring people? Other than Belle’s wistful longing to shake the dust off her feet and blow the pop stand of provincial living, she really is quite a lovely leading lady.

In our last princess post, The Ariel Effect, pitfalls were closer to the surface and easier to find. Today we have to dig a bit deeper. Belle’s lessons lie beneath a layer of respectable desires.

Longing for adventure.
Sometimes the journey God tPrincess Post Part 3: Is Belle the Perfect Princess?akes us is on is not the ‘adventure’ we longed for.  There is a literal and figurative way to look at this.   God can literally place us in a geographical location that appears to limit us.  Whether it is isolating, away from friends and family, boring, or culturally shocking, life can look bleak from our perspective and we can get a good dose of “stuck” real fast.  Another scenario is that feeling we get when we just don’t gel with people in our sphere.  There are just not enough interesting opportunities at the time, and just not enough to look forward to.  You start to feel trapped in your own skin.   Have you ever felt like you’re stuck in the small town, with small town people, or how about a small town season?

Sometimes God literally locks us up in a trial to teach us something.
Remember when our heroine Belle sacrificed her freedom in exchange for her father’s and ended up imprisoned with only the Beast and some friendly house ware to keep her company?  Are there people in your life that are beastly? …The boss at work, or the mean girls, or the friends that don’t need you as much as you need them on a Saturday night.  God often takes His time to teach us, and His timing is perfect.  God is gracious in times when I have no one else to turn to, and He alone comforts better than anyone.  In these times His Spirit speaks softly of sufficiency I can learn to rely on.

Whenever we learn something from God, we can view it as a gift, even if in that time it feels a bit like prison.  Or exactly like prison.   Remember Joseph in Egypt?  The apostle Paul? Jonah in the whale?  I don’t anticipate you will ever experience being swallowed by a great fish, or perhapsPrincess Post Part 3: Is Belle the Perfect Princess? even encounter a false accusation that lands you behind bars, but figuratively, a trial can feel imprisoning. At a recent retreat with our college group we learned that longing for escape, or for a trial to end can become an idol.  Our sanctification is in fact a gift, it is the process that makes us more like Christ, and often God does this work through suffering and trials.  Do you see your trials as gifts?

Seeing double and triple.  “There’s something there.”  This is a line from one of the songs Belle sings. She still needed to learn to see beyond the surface with people. That can take time.  At first glance many of the people in her life seemed simpleminded, arrogant, and beastly, not nearly as exciting as the characters in her books.  She was right. Real life proved irritating and lacking.

Can I be honest and say this is where the story line gets awfully familiar?  Because here is where I am Belle.  God has been teaching me sometimes in very humbling ways to see the people in my life with fresh eyes.  Some are beastly.  But I am beastly. And sometimes I see them as beastly not because of their beastliness, but because of mine.

When God reveals a selfish or impatient heart, I see the beast in the the mirror, and my knee jerk reaction is to rage against what I see, which is usually followed by Princess Post Part 3: Is Belle the Perfect Princess?despair.  I can picture Beast in the movie cringing and lowering his beastly head.  This is me – sometimes at work, with friends, or at home.  Then I remember the Lord disciplines those He loves. Those He loves. It is the job of His Spirit to hold that mirror up to our lives and root out the ugly so we can slowly transform to reflect more of the Prince.  (For more about our Prince, refer back the first post in this series.)

I have to see twofold to love – first to really look and see people, and second to see what role God has for me in their life. This requires a threefold intentionality:

1. Prayer for the heart desire to want to God to bring whoever He wants into my life.Princess Post Part 3: Is Belle the Perfect Princess?

2. Prayer to see the people God puts before me.

3. Ongoing commitment to prayer to see the everyday opportunities that push me out of myself and into service for them, not with ‘feel good’ motives, but in sacrifice to God, for His glory.

See the pattern?  Prayer helps me recover when I’ve been battling my beast for awhile.    Prayer is powerful.  A friend recently sent me this quote from Max Lucado.  I hope you find it a welcome refreshment like I did.  “Our prayers may be awkward.  Our attempts may be feeble.  But since the power of prayer is in the One who hears it and not in the one who says it, our prayers do make a difference.”

Please Share: What locations does God have you safely locked up in right now?  What might He want to teach you there?

Screen Shot 2015-09-29 at 7.49.49 AMRenee is a single Christian woman who serves as mentor staff in the college ministry at her local church. She works as a literacy coach for a school district in San Ramon, California. Her hobbies include: boating, wake boarding, Zumba, riding roller coasters, and watching classic movies.

Princess Series Part 2: The Ariel Effect

One of my favorite childhood memories involves my sister, a coffee table, and various versions of performer outfits ranging from ski hats and swim masks to mom’s and dad’s bathrobes, which trailed behind us like the perfect princess train. Our coffee table transformed into the perfect stage as we belted out our favorite songs.  Here we could be wild and free, and well…epic.  Eventually we outgrew the coffee table and moved the venue to car trips or the occasional sleep over when we came home from college for the holidays. Now we take great pleasure in teaching my nephew to sing our classic tunes – one favorite is Part Of Your World from Disney’s The Little Mermaid.

In the first Princess post, I pondered what I could learn from studying these characters in a biblical context.  In my job as a literacy coach one strategy I teach readers to think deeper about a text is to lift a line and say more about it. As I tried this on with my little mermaid’s bittersweet ballad, I realized her lyrics could teach me a lot about common pitfalls I find myself tripping over in my journey toward being a woman after God’s heart.

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The Princess Effect: Who Are You Most Like?


Recently  I took one of those Facebook polls that tells you your closest Disney relative. I’m not sure what exactly I do when I learn I’m just like Baloo from the Jungle Book, but it got me thinking.  Are there any life lessons, better yet, any spiritual wisdom to be gained from examining ourselves and our Disney character counterparts?

I grew up with a dad who took his daughters to Disneyland every year and to see every movie Disney ever made, so these characters remain near and dear to me.  As a grown woman, I still get a kick out of experiencing their magic, though I see them through different eyes. I imagine just about every girl has at least one hidden princess lurking around inside.  I wondered, what exactly can these beauties teach me in my journey toward biblical womanhood?

As I sat down to pen The Snow White Effect,  the first of my Princess Effect series,  I predicted cautionary tales of avoiding too many thought patterns that include “Someday My Prince Will Come,” and of finding purpose in loving the people around you, rather than simply putting your life on hold or waiting for prince charming to jump start it.  But God had other plans for me.  In my quest to uncover Snow White’s life lessons, I stumbled upon a greater truth.

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Walking Single Toward A Winter Wonderland

‘Tis the season to be jolly, right? winter3I remember talking with a friend once in late October about considering online dating, and she advised me to consider waiting until until January.  I had expressed to her numerous times before that online dating didn’t feel like a natural fit for me.  “Why wait ’til January?” I’d asked.  She told me, “Just wait until after the holiday season and see if you feel the same way.  And don’t be surprised if you change your mind.” Continue reading

Is Your Christian Walk Showing Up To Work?

conference-table-593355__180 What exactly does the bible say about how to work?  Colossians 3:23 says, “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men.”   What does hearty work for the Lord look like in a secular environment that values performance above all else?   I’ve found that answers lie in where we put our trust, and what we know about the fear of the Lord.  This kind of fear is quite the opposite of being afraid.  Fearing God is about the wisdom that comes from respecting, obeying, and submitting to Him – especially at work.  The word hearty translates as work that comes from out of our soul. Let’s look closer at three ways to bring your soul to work. Continue reading