What does it mean to follow Christ in my everyday life?

Ready to start reading your Bible? Not quite sure how or where to start? You’re in the right place!

I’ve been in your shoes and I’ve since turned the corner and now help thousands of others learn how to begin reading and studying the Bible … and how to keep going.

How to Start Reading the Bible – A Beginner’s Guide

I know you want to open your Bible, read what’s on the page, and understand it immediately. Yet there are many barriers that keep us from doing just that.

1. Choose the right Bible for you

This goes without saying, but you need to get a copy of the Bible in order to read it. You probably already have one, but it may not be the best fit for you. There are a bunch of different Bibles on the shelves at the Christian bookstore and it can be super-overwhelming to know the difference between them all. Here is a post all about the different types and versions, if you are interested. But the bottom line is this: use a version you can read easily. If you’ve had a Bible for years, but the reading level is way over your head, consider grabbing a version that is easier to read. The New Living Translation Full Disclosure: At no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase. Thanks for your support! (NLT) or the NET Bible Full Disclosure: At no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase. Thanks for your support!  are both very readable and great for beginners.

If money is tight, I’m sure your local church has copies on hand they would love to give you. Alternately, check your local thrift shop and/or bookstore for inexpensive copies. I often see $5 deals at LifeWay or through online promotions. There are also loads of free apps you can grab. (My favorite is the ESV Bible app.)

2. Start building the habit of reading your Bible

Habit —> Understanding —> Worship

Probably the most common barrier to reading and understanding the Bible is a lack of habit. In fact, I often have to go back to this step, even after decades of reading and studying the Bible. Because I cannot gain more understanding without a regular routine of opening my Bible. Until we have established the habit of regular Bible reading, understanding is going to be hard to come by. Why? Because without the habit, you’ll start off strong but fizzle out by the end of the week. How do I know? Been there. Done that. My guess is, you have to.

Here are a few thoughts to consider as you embark on creating a rhythm of regular time in the Bible.

  • Start small. Choose something that will give you the get the quick win!
  • Schedule a date with God. Don’t worry about finding that perfect time, simply look at your schedule for tomorrow and pick out the best 10 minute slot. Put it on your calendar and get ready for it like it is any other appointment.
  • Make it enjoyable! Grab a new coffee mug or some yummy hot chocolate reserved only for your time with God. Buy a new blanket to cozy up with, or a pretty basket to keep your Bible in. I like to keep tissues and sticky-notes with my favorite pens Full Disclosure: At no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase. Thanks for your support!  handy in case I need to jot down something I need to remember to do later.
  • Keep going. Don’t give in to the paralysis of perfectionism. Resist the thought that reading for 5 minutes isn’t enough. Five minutes of reading one Bible verse is better than none read at all!
  • Invite a friend to read the same plan and consider meeting up in a week or so to talk through what you’ve read. If you are not sure who to invite, consider an online Bible study group.

Once you are in a regular rhythm of Bible reading then you can begin to focus on understanding what you see in the pages of Scripture.

3.  Know where to start reading the Bible

There is no one “best place” to read the Bible, but there are certainly some places that will be easier to understand right away, more than others. By and large, most people pick up the Bible and begin reading it from cover to cover … and get stuck somewhere in Leviticus. God’s Word doesn’t have to be read “in order.”

Here are a few favorites that many love to read through again and again:

A few things to keep in mind:

  • You are not going to understand everything you read. The Bible is a deep, complex masterpiece. There are certainly many truths we can easily see on the surface, but there is much more below than can be mined. It takes time to put all the pieces together.
  • The Spirit of God lives within you. Though you may not comprehend everything right away, if you are a Christian, you have the very presence of God within you to guide and teach you as you read!
  • Remember the end goal of Bible study. It’s not simply to gain knowledge. The end goal of Bible study is worship. Bible study is about getting to know our magnificent God! Opening your Bible with a heart of expectation is an act of drawing near to Him. Even if you walk away scratching your head about what you just read, it is still an act of worship. A step closer to experiencing God in your everyday.
  • Look into investing in a good study Bible. The helpful notes and charts found throughout are invaluable in helping with understanding what you are reading. Here is a post all about my favorite study Bible.

4. Engage in two needed viewpoints: Bird’s Eye View and Bug’s Life

There are two main lanes of Bible study that will help us begin to understand the Bible: the “bird’s-eye-view” and the “bug’s life.” Both perspectives are important elements in our journey toward comprehension.

A bird’s-eye-view of the Bible provides a big picture perspective and helps us connect the dots between all the different pieces. I learned many Bible stories in my early years, but I lacked a basic timeline and understanding of how all the characters are associated. Reading plans through a book of the Bible and reading through the Bible chronologically are an excellent way to gain this critical viewpoint.

There is much to be gained from that big-picture vantage point, but we can also learn from the details the “bug’s life” can provide. When we dig deeper into a passage—zoom in to a small portion of Scripture and take our time while we are there—we begin to see details we never noticed on a quick read-through. And these details can be seen in as little as 15 minutes a day through these Bible studies for busy women.

Both are lanes of Bible study are necessary. Both help us enjoy the Word. Both help us see God more clearly and worship Him better.

5. Connect with your local church for resources

God created us for community. Specifically, His will is for each of us to be a member of and involved in a local church. Most local churches have some sort of small group Bible study option. Finding a church home and a small group will be a great step towards experiencing God daily.

6. Pray

You don’t have to have all the right words. It can be in your head, spoken out loud, or written out in a journal. Simply express to God your desire to know Him better through His Word. He desires the same. It’s His will for you to experience a deep and enjoyable time in the Bible. If you ask Him to help you create the habit in order to understand what you encounter and worship Him better, then you make consistent choices toward that end, He will answer that prayer! Without fail.

What other questions do you have about getting started in regular Bible reading?

Many stages of life have found me struggling to figure out who I am and what I am called to do with my life. As a single 20-something, I was convinced it was pouring my life into ministry with Campus Crusade for Christ. After marrying, my calling eventually merged with my husband’s as we shifted away from campus ministry to serve the local church. We also started having babies. It was a struggle for me to lose the title of Campus Minister. I loved my job with Cru and after leaving staff, I found myself as “just a mom” and “just a wife.” I missed the excitement and purpose of the campus ministry I loved and I grieved that loss in secret. Suddenly, I didn’t know who I was anymore.

Determinedly, I pushed myself out of that purposeless funk and poured my life into those babies. I spent hours of research and hard work to provide them with homemade baby food, the best sleep-wake cycle, and all Baby Einstein had to offer. As they grew, their little lives held a well-rounded calendar filled with playdates, library events, trips to the zoo, and free time at the park.  My life’s call was their well-being. My purpose was to give them all of me.

However, with the addition of baby #3, I was officially sunk. I could no longer keep up with the ideals of motherhood—the work I had poured my life into for 5 years—my idealism and work ethic were suddenly weapons of mass destruction. My identity as the SAHM (who had it all together and loved her life) was shattered. I was bone-weary, depressed, and 3-Kid-Katie kept looking back at Had-It-All-Together-Katie with longing, guilt, and an innate pressure to perform. Finally, I surrendered and quit trying. With this came a shattering of who I thought I was and who I thought I would continue be.

With this surrender and subsequent shattering came healing and clarity. I realized that I had idealized and idolized the pursuit of the stay-at-home mom, and subsequently had been ignoring who God made me to be. Healing came as I sought medical help and went back to work a few days a week (at the behest of my husband). In walking forward to follow God’s clear leading, I found a part of me that had been smothered and silenced. As that missing girl emerged, something mysterious happened: I enjoyed my time with my kids more. The productive and creative energy that had left long ago returned.

That was 8 years ago, and life has been a juggling act since then, as I seek to fulfill my callings both at home and out of it. Every year has been a bit different, but each year my callings become clearer and the implications of those callings easier. Learning from the mistakes of my past, there are several general principles that have been fruitful as I attempt to follow God’s specific plan for my specific family.

Read the rest of this post—6 Lessons on Following God’s Calling—over at Women and Work.

There are seasons that are hard. I just don’t feel right. Discouragement comes easy. The dark cloud looms and lingers.

I begin searching for what’s missing. Maybe if I start running, or eat better I will feel better about myself? Or, am I lonely and just need to find a new friend? Get more sleep? A better schedule? Time alone? A date night?

I’ll try a few things, and when the newness wears off I turn to what energize me. Teaching the Word, blogging, time with good friends, time alone to plan. While they do help recharge me, they will never be enough.

bible verses discouragement

9 Bible verses for discouragement

Only God’s word brings me life.

  • My soul clings to the dust; give me life according to your word! Psalm 119:25
  • Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways. Psalm 119:37

In uncertainty, His word alone is my good counsel.

  • Your testimonies are my delight; they are my counselors. Psalm 119:24
  • Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. Psalm 119:105

When my soul cries out, His promises alone bring comfort.

  • This is my comfort in my affliction, that your promise gives me life. Psalm 119:50
  • Great peace have those who love your law; nothing can make them stumble. Psalm 119:165

Though there are moments of overwhelming sorrow, His word under-girds with strength.

  • My soul melts away for sorrow; strengthen me according to your word! Psalm 119:28

His mercy and grace is what I truly need. Not a smaller jeans size, or a better organized house. Not a new friendship or time to myself. He is my missing piece.

  • Let your mercy come to me, that I may live; for your law is my delight. Psalm 119:77
  • Turn to me and be gracious to me, as is your way with those who love your name. Psalm 119:132

Which verses do you cling to when the dark cloud looms?

Advent is right around the corner and this is a great time for us to set our minds on Jesus, you know, the reason for the season! I’ve collected many advent plans and studies along the years. Here’s a list of studies I’ve done—or have wanted to do!

If you’re like me, and do better with accountability and community, don’t miss the online bible study group going through the new 12-day Adore Him reading plan. This plan is geared toward busy women (I mean, who isn’t busy this time of the year!). Starts December 1. All the details are at the end of this post. Join us!

Advent Bible studies for women

Love Comes Near Full Disclosure: At no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase. Thanks for your support!

  • 25-day Bible study from Jenni Keller
  • Includes a bonus Family Advent Experience
  • Learn more about Love Comes Near Full Disclosure: At no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase. Thanks for your support!

He Is Full Disclosure: At no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase. Thanks for your support!

  • An Advent Bible study from Becky Kiser
  • 20 Bible Study days on the attributes of God written by 20 guest writers (including me!)
  • Includes a 5 Advent Candle Bible Study and Instruction days
  • Learn more about He Is Full Disclosure: At no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase. Thanks for your support!

Then Came Jesus Full Disclosure: At no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase. Thanks for your support!

  • A 4-week Bible study by Lara Williams
  • Each week organized into a 5-day study plan
  • Suggested Scripture memory passages for each week
  • Each day includes an optional “Family Idea”
  • Learn more about Then Came Jesus Full Disclosure: At no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase. Thanks for your support!

advent bible studies for women

free advent reading plans for women

Adore Him Reading Plan

Advent Reading Plan

Born Is The King

  • A free 28 Day reading plan from She Reads Truth
  • Starts on the first Sunday of Advent
  • Learn more

Christ Was Born for This 

  • A free 29 Day reading plan from She Reads Truth
  • Starts on the first Sunday of Advent
  • Learn more

Joy to the World

  • A free 29 Day reading plan from She Reads Truth
  • Starts on the first Sunday of Advent
  • Learn more

advent reading plans free

kids advent calendars

Kid’s Advent Calendar and Reading Plan

  • This looks like a load of fun!
  • A 24 day reading plan and activity guide for families from Not Consumed
  • Learn more

Advent with the Jesus Storybook Bible

  • A 24 day plan through the Jesus Storybook Bible Full Disclosure: At no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase. Thanks for your support! (our fav!!)
  • Includes Bible verses to read alongside the Jesus Storybook Bible Full Disclosure: At no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase. Thanks for your support!
  • Simply grab your copy of  Jesus Storybook Bible Full Disclosure: At no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase. Thanks for your support! and download her free reading plan!

The Littlest Watchman – Advent Calendar Full Disclosure: At no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase. Thanks for your support!

  • Includes an Advent Calendar and Devotional Booklet Full Disclosure: At no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase. Thanks for your support!
  • Gives suggestions on how to make your own “Jesse tree”
  • Has an accompanying book: The Littlest Watchman: Watching and Waiting for the Very First Christmas Full Disclosure: At no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase. Thanks for your support!
  • We used this last year and enjoyed it!
  • Order your copy here Full Disclosure: At no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase. Thanks for your support!

kids advent calendars


Looking for online bible studies for women?online bible studies for women

Below is an excerpt of one of my monthly posts at LifeWay Voices.


Five years ago this month, I lost my 29 year old brother to a drug overdose. The moment I heard the devastating news will be etched on my soul forever. The last time I saw my brother James alive was in July of that year. That hot summer day I never would have guessed the next time I laid eyes on him he would be lying lifeless—cold in a casket. Up until that moment, the news of his death felt like nightmare I would wake up from soon. Surreal. Yet, when I walked into the funeral parlor with my parents and remaining two siblings, we saw the proof of his departure. Death indeed had come. All that remained of James was his decaying physical body.

As we stare down our fifth Thanksgiving without James, the loss is still present and the sting of death lingers. However there is much hope—even in my deep grief—to hold on to. The hope we can experience through trials and loss is directly attached to our view of God. If our view of God is big, the reality of our hope will be big, too. Here are six truths about God we can cling to as we walk through the holidays with grief in our hearts.

I vividly remember my first shopping trip to purchase my first “real” Bible. I gathered up all my babysitting money and excitedly entered my local Christian book store. My balloon filled with enthusiasm promptly popped when I made it to the Bibles section. There were so many choices! After staring at them all, and haphazardly picking up samples to look through, I hesitantly chose a big black leather-like Bible—mainly because it looked studious and super-spiritual. I did not end up using that Bible much. In hindsight, it was a poor fit for me for many reasons.

You see, I was a toddler in the faith—actually not quite yet walking. I crawled around desiring to grow up and become closer to God. I just knew that getting a brand-new Bible would be the answer. But the version and type I chose was all wrong for me. This particular Bible lacked the simplicity and extra helps I really needed at that point in my spiritual journey. Plus, behind the study notes were beliefs that were a far cry from my own. This led to even more frustration and confusion. If I could go back and stand beside my former self, I would help past-Katie narrow down her choices in order to find a Bible that would fuel her burgeoning desire for the Bible and arm her with the basics of the Bible she needed.

That was in 1996, and the options today are much more numerous than they were then. So if you are in the market for a new Bible today, you might be just a bit overwhelmed! Past-Katie certainly would have been. She might have just walked out of that bookstore and given up on this walking-with-God thing.

So how do you know which one is going to be the best purchase for you? Before you go dropping dough on a Bible, you need to know the answers to three questions.

Why are there sooo many different Bibles for sale in the Christian book store?

The Bible was not originally written in English. Duh, right? But I won’t tell you how old I was when that fact finally dawned on me. I guess I just never really thought about it. It is important to recognize this fact because it will help us understand why there are so many different versions of the Bible (it can also help us with Bible study later on). Specifically, it is useful to understand that each publisher that has produced a new Bible has a purpose and a target audience. Some of them want to provide an accessible Bible that is super-readable to the everyday public. Others want to remain as true to the original text as possible, providing a better version for study. Therefore, each team of translators choose between “thought-for-thought” and “word-for-word” approaches, depending on what their end goal is.

If you are new to the Bible and/or want to do mostly Bible reading, I suggest you stick with one of the “thought-for-thought” translations below.  If you want study the Bible, a “word-for-word” translation is going to be most helpful. I think a healthy mix of using both types over time is ideal. There are loads of free Bible apps and websites that allow you to toggle between translations. I’m not super-familiar with all of the translations out there, but here are several I’ve had experience with. Those closer to “word-for-word” are listed first and as we move down the list, we migrate more and more towards “thought-for-thought” translations.

Common translations of the Bible for sale in the Christian book store:

  • New American Standard Bible Full Disclosure: At no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase. Thanks for your support! (NASB) – I grew up on this version and it was the primary version I used for study until the ESV came along.
  • English Standard Version Full Disclosure: At no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase. Thanks for your support! (ESV) – This is the translation I’ve used since 2005 for all my deep studies and most of my Scripture memory.
  • King James Version Full Disclosure: At no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase. Thanks for your support! (KJV) – I’ve never used this much, but it is certainly a popular version.
  • New King James Version Full Disclosure: At no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase. Thanks for your support! (NKJV) – I used this for a little while but it never stuck with me.
  • Christian Standard Bible Full Disclosure: At no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase. Thanks for your support! (CBS) – My husband and I have several new Bibles in this version, and have been trying them out for the past year or so. It claims to be the “optimal blend of accuracy and readability.” We like it.
  • New International Version Full Disclosure: At no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase. Thanks for your support! (NIV) – I’ve never been a huge fan of this version either.
  • New Living Translation Full Disclosure: At no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase. Thanks for your support! (NLT) – I enjoy this as fresh look at familiar verses.
  • The Message Full Disclosure: At no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase. Thanks for your support! – This is technically not a translation, it’s a paraphrase. So it is definitely a “thought-for-thought” and can be helpful if you find yourself completely unable to understand what a passage is saying. (Keep in mind, however, this is only one man’s thoughts on the passage.)

The Mardel book store has a super-helpful chart of all of the above translations, alongside several others, and how they rank on the scale of readability and accuracy, as well as loads of other helpful information.

Why are there so many different types of each Bible version at the Christian book store?

Once you’ve narrowed down your preferred Bible versions (translations), you need to understand the different types of Bible you want/need. For each translation, you will find several different types available, thus a myriad of combinations of Bibles for sale at your local Bible book store.

The main types of Bibles for sale in the Christian book store:

  • A Bible – This is just a plain ol’, regular Bible. There might be a few textual notes in the bottom margin, but typically these contain only the book titles (Genesis, Ephesians, etc.), maybe a few headings throughout each book, and the chapter and verse references. These are often referred to gift edition, slimline, compact, or thinline Bibles. One example is this pretty “Premium Gift” teal Bible Full Disclosure: At no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase. Thanks for your support! .
  • Study Bible – These are typically very thick Bibles, filled with loads of helpful information. Most include important info like the author, audience, and aim of each book, commentary (teaching and explanation by the really smart people who have studied the Bible in an academic setting and know what they are talking about), charts, and maps interspersed throughout—all geared toward helping you understand what you are reading/studying. Many study Bibles are geared around a certain Bible study method or even a theme, which often means the commentary provided will be mostly within that subject. Study Bible examples: ESV Study Bible Full Disclosure: At no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase. Thanks for your support! , CSB Study Bible Full Disclosure: At no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase. Thanks for your support! , Inductive Study Bible Full Disclosure: At no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase. Thanks for your support!
  • Devotional Bible – Typically geared toward a certain group of people (women, men, students, children, etc.), these Bibles contain short devotional thoughts and stories throughout each book of the Bible. You can think of them like a devotional book all split up and appropriately placed into the Bible for you. Examples include the (in)courage Devotional Bible Full Disclosure: At no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase. Thanks for your support! (I contributed to this one!), She Reads Truth Bible Full Disclosure: At no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase. Thanks for your support! FamilyLife Marriage Bible Full Disclosure: At no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase. Thanks for your support! ESV Men’s Devotional Bible Full Disclosure: At no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase. Thanks for your support! , The Message Devotional Bible Full Disclosure: At no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase. Thanks for your support! and many, many more.
  • Journaling Bible – These Bibles are laid out to give you white space for note-taking or art journaling. Some provide designations in the title of where the journaling space is, such as single column, double column, interleaved (where every other page is blank), and whether or not it is lined. If not in the title, you’ll want to be sure to check the description or look for an opened sample so you purchase your prefered layout. Examples:  ESV Journaling Bible, Interleaved Edition Full Disclosure: At no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase. Thanks for your support! ESV Single Column Journaling Bible Full Disclosure: At no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase. Thanks for your support! .

How are you going to use this new Bible?

This may seem like a silly question, but it is important. Another way to ask this question is, “What do you primarily need from this Bible?” Room for sermon notes? Teaching on what a verse means? Space to record prayers and/or what you are learning? You might have your eyes on a stunning journaling Bible, but what you really need is a solid study Bible. Maybe you have a well-loved study Bible, but need room to record your study notes. You might be like me—continually forgetting to pack your Bible and favorite pens Full Disclosure: At no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase. Thanks for your support! —so having a Sunday morning bag like this Full Disclosure: At no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase. Thanks for your support!  with a dedicated Bible and pens for recording sermon notes is just what the doctor ordered.

Generally speaking, a solid study Bible is going to be a great first investment I recommend the ( ESV Study Bible Full Disclosure: At no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase. Thanks for your support! ), especially if you are new to the Bible. Here’s the key though: you need to use it! Study Bibles can be pretty overwhelming at first, but the charts, book info, and study notes are invaluable guides as you begin to explore Scripture.

Though ill-fitting, I’m glad I did pick out a Bible way-back-when. It was a choice of obedience for me. A determined step in the right direction. Though it wasn’t a perfect choice, God used my frustration with not understanding what I was reading to draw me even closer to Himself and also to seek help from others. So if you are still feeling a bit stymied by all the options of Bibles for sale at the Christian book store, I encourage you to step out, regardless. His Word is alive (every version and type!), our God is in control, and He can guide you even through an eeny, meeny, miny, moe approach. Narrow it down by version, type, and something you can afford, then take action … pick one!

It’s pastor appreciation month, and while baked goods, tie trinkets, and gift cards are usually welcomed (though not expected!) your pastor may be blessed by something a bit out of the box this year.

My husband, Chris, is a senior pastor and I have seen the best and worst sides of church people. We have been blessed beyond measure (a trip to Paris!) and wounded more deeply than I knew was possible, both through the actions and inactions of people in the pews. Although there can be difficult, unstable, and/or power-hungry people within the walls of the church, most of the heart-level hits a pastor receives are from the “everyday” church member: Words spoken or not spoken. Actions taken or not taken. Groups forming or splitting. All in the name of what they think is best for the church.

Chris and I have loads of pastor friends and I reached out to some pastor’s wives this week to help me with this post. Because as wives, we see what no one else sees. We know what church ministry does to our husbands. How it continues to forever change them and shape them—for good and for ill. As I submit this post, the comments from my pastor’s wife friends are still pouring in. With over 30 wives contributing, the thoughts below are a collaborative effort. Just like any wife would, we long to stand up for our husband, but because he is the pastor we often feel we can’t. It just seems self-serving. We each want to help our husband and support him in a public way but, selfishly, we usually lay low out of fear of putting our own conduct in the cross-hairs, if it is not already.

If you love your pastor and want to bless him this month (and beyond), we urge you to prayerfully consider these three deliberate choices:

CONTINUE READING at LifeWay Voices …

Some may say I’ve “let myself go” lately. My toenails have been bare for months, my gray roots are showing, and I’m at the heaviest (non-pregnant) weight of my life. Yet, I’m surprisingly OK with it all (most days). I’ve been on a slow but steady journey to undo what I’ve been told is beautiful—the unachievable ideal that I must be actively pursuing lest I be labeled as one who’s given up.

For me, personal beautification began in junior high. One day in class, a guy friend brought it to my attention that I had a mustache. Years later in high school, one boy suggested I “put some color on those naked toes!” Another winner (this one a boyfriend) told me that he and his best friend had decided that I would be the prettiest girl in school … if I wasn’t so white. In each instance (and in countless others), I immediately put together a plan of action to remedy my beauty faux pas. And so I began the pursuit of physical perfection.

Twenty-five years later, I am still affected deeply by my appearance (and the comments I receive from others about it). It is a constant fight to stay in an emotionally healthy place and to hold it all in the light of eternity. For way too long, I have been guilty of paying more attention to the way I look outwardly, with little-to-no efforts spent toward my spiritual life. And I know I’m not alone in this struggle.

However, what we look like does matter. If we stopped showering and roamed around in our pajamas all the time, it would certainly hinder our gospel-productivity. There is a stewardship involved when it comes to our bodies—and the older I get, the more I see and feel the implications of neglecting my physical body.

So, where’s the line? Where does taking care of myself cross over into vanity? When does a holy pursuit to discipline my body for useful service to God turn into a resource-wasting obsession to stay as young-looking and beautiful as possible?

I am far from having this figured out, but I am deliberately taking more and more steps to free myself from the chains of beauty—without completely letting myself go. Here are a few questions I am being more intentional in asking when it comes to my actions in this area.

Read the rest over at LifeWay Voices …

So, I’m going back to school.

This turning 40 thing has been fun. It’s as if the road to my purpose and calling has been finally paved and I’m ready to run. I’ve said for years that I would love to take seminary classes. This summer at the Southern Baptist Convention—specifically at the Women and Work panel—I was spurred on by hearing from those women chasing after their dreams—even amidst the crazy seasons of life. It was freeing to hear of one who’d been taking classes over a decade and is about to reach the finish line of her degree. For some reason I’d had it in my head that I needed to wait until life’s waters were completely calm before I could dive head first into school. So, yes, it may also take me a decade, but I’m going to start now.

I received my acceptance letter last week (yay!) to New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary to pursue a Masters of Arts in Discipleship at the Orlando extension center—just 45 minutes away from my house! This is actually the same extension center my husband Chris started his MDiv 10 years ago. So fun, right?

Part of the application process was submitting my conversion and calling story. I thought I’d share them with you! It was fun to process this and look back on God’s faithful, patient calling on my life. I’m so grateful.

Explain your conversion experience. Include age and details.

With vague memories of a decision made at VBS, I spent most of my childhood believing I was a Christian. Through both Catholic and Protestant private schools, I learned much about the Bible and the characteristics of what a good religious person looks like. However, I primarily saw God as a distant, cosmic parent who primarily just wanted me to be good. So, I was good. I could readily articulate the reality of Christ’s sacrifice for the sake of mankind, but I thought it was enough to simply know about it and believe that it had happened.

Though I cannot remember the exact date (I was in junior high), I vividly remember the moment I recognized my personal need for Jesus. It was a simple afternoon at home in my bedroom when reality hit me of my distance from God and the fact that—although I knew about Jesus—I didn’t know Him personally or trust Him for salvation. Immediately, I confessed my need for Christ and my desire to follow Him with my entire being. I had been trusting in my goodness instead of His grace and I have no doubt that it was in that moment my new spiritual life in Christ began. It would be a long time before I found myself in any sort of a groove when it came to walking with Christ. God still seemed distant and there was much about grace I needed to grasp, but in His goodness I did begin to grow from that point on.

Discuss your call to ministry. How do you define a divine call? In what ways has your call to ministry been affirmed?

Though I didn’t recognize it at the time, I can see God’s hand and calling toward leading other women in the Word as far back as my freshman year at Auburn University (1996). I was still a toddler in Christ—just beginning to see that there is more to Christianity than the do’s and don’ts. I had been attending Campus Crusade for Christ, joined a freshman Bible study, and found myself surrounded by young women who talked about Jesus like they just had coffee with them. They didn’t just know about Jesus—they knew Jesus. They loved His Word and studied it eagerly and faithfully. Through their example and the discipleship of the upperclassmen and Cru staff, I began to learn about the how’s and the why’s of Christianity: How to study my Bible. How to pray. How to share my faith. How to live the Spirit-filled life; as well as why all these actions are so vitally important to our everyday experience of God’s power and presence.

The commands I’d heard all my life suddenly became more than a checklist. They became fuel and nourishment for my growth in Christ because someone finally took the time to train and teach me how to do these spiritual disciplines. I flourished under the Cru ministry, and it was just a few months in to my new-found growth in Christ, that God began to call me into ministry. The head RA of my 6-floor-dormitory knocked on my door one evening. She told me she had noticed I had verses pinned on my door, and was wondering if I would be willing to lead a Bible study in the dorm. She wanted to see one start up, but was not allowed to lead one herself. Out of all the hundreds of girls in that dorm, she challenged me to lead. I had no idea where to start or what to do, and I had only just begun to walk with Christ, but I can clearly see the beginning of God’s continual and specific invitation to step out and lead women in the Word.

The next year, at a Campus Crusade for Christ Christmas Conference, I committed my life to God’s purposes for my life. I didn’t yet know the specifics, but I knew that God had called me to serve Him in full-time Christian work. After graduating, I joined Cru staff, where I served in Campus Ministry for 6 years. I met my husband through the Cru ministry at the University of North Florida, and he joined staff after we married. I continued to serve on campus through evangelism and discipleship, even as our family grew. I absolutely loved campus ministry and the ability to pour into students (just as others had done for me) during such a key time of their lives.

In 2008, we left staff with Cru for my husband, Chris, to begin seminary and church ministry. We both loved our time with Cru, but it was becoming more and more evident that Chris was called to and built for pastoral ministry within the local church. My call to disciple and teach has been a natural fit alongside Chris, and I have continued to use my gifts and fulfill my calling through the local churches that God has called our family.

Additionally, for the past 8 years, I have led thousands of women through various online opportunities. What started out as a simple Bible study blog has bloomed into a very unlikely publishing career and speaking/teaching ministry, both of which I never originally set out to achieve. God continues to draw me out and into spheres of influence I never dreamed of. This call to pour my life into the lives of women—both locally and globally—is continually affirmed through both the fulfillment and joy I receive through the use of my gifts, as well as the fruit and opportunities God continues to bring my way. My husband and I are in continual evaluation of how I spend my time and to how my calling to minister outside of the home coincides with my call as a wife, mother, and the pastor’s wife. 

We all have divine callings, spelled out clearly in Scripture. I like to call them our “Big C” callings. The call to work toward the fulfillment of the Great Commission, the call to be a vital part of the local church, the call to worship and honor God with our time, talents, and resources, etc. But we each also have individual “little c” callings. These are the specific and unique purposes God has for each individual. These are also divine callings and can be for seasons or a lifetime. They often morph over time as our capacities change and they lead to both internal and external fruit. I often walk into a mid-week Bible study exhausted, yet leave rejuvenated by the life-giving obedience to God’s call on my life to teach and disciple women. 


I’d love to hear about your conversion and calling! Even if you don’t leave a comment below, I encourage you to take some time to look back and reflect on God’s call on your life—both into the rest of His salvation and the work of His specific purposes for your life.

I’m a goal-setter. Idea slinger. Persistent achiever.

Those last two don’t always mix well. My brain and heart are filled with concepts and plans to keep me busy for eternity. Thankfully, God has also given me a capacity to juggle several projects and responsibilities at once. (He’s also gifted me with a husband who cooks, kids who do their own laundry, and a family with a high tolerance for a messy house. Score!)

However, I’m also a perfectionist.

And Perfect Katie is always lingering around the corner, ready to show me all the places that are not quite right. The hyper-critical gaze of Perfect Katie can paralyze me from moving forward. Perfect Katie’s constant pressure makes me want to throw up my hands and give up. Perfect Katie often keeps me from setting out to begin with.

Perfectionism stymies me from making progress toward my goals

Take these blog posts, for instance. My goal was to write 40 posts in 40 days. If you’re counting at home, you’ll recognize that it’s been two weeks since I last wrote a post—and Perfect Katie’s been berating me about it. Life hit, I chose people over tasks, and the goal to write everyday was missed. And she wants me to quit, take down all the posts, and any evidence that a goal was unsuccessfully attempted. (Although, I did compromise with her, and change the challenge to 40 posts for 40 years, instead of in 40 days.)

But what Perfect Katie forgets is that perfection was not the end goal. The purpose of this self-imposed challenge was to get back to placing meaningful words on this screen, to begin using the writing muscles that have been given an intentional rest, and to have a reason for writing whatever was on my heart for that day. And I’ve loved it!

The temptation to just stop trying is strong, but when I take a step back and look at what has already been accomplished, I can see that the goal, in many ways, has already been met. And 11 posts that otherwise would not have been have made it into the archives.

Perfectionism keeps me from pursuing my dreams

I love to learn, and I love God’s Word. I’ve said for years and years that I’d love to go to seminary one day. But I’ve realized that Perfect Katie has allowed me to define “one day” as the unattainable season where my kids don’t need me, our church is on autopilot, I’ve finally figured out how to keep our household running without hiccups, and …

It hit me this summer that the perfect time to go back to school is never going to arrive. Life is always going to be busy, and I don’t have to take the suggested load to complete it quickly. I can take classes in my own timing and plan. So, I began the application process about a month ago, and yesterday I received my acceptance! It may take me 10 years to complete, but slowly and surely, I will pursue this dream.

Perfectionism stunts my growth

When I teach the Too Busy for Bible Study? FOCUSed15 training course, I share about this struggle of perfectionism with my “quiet times.” I’ve traveled all over the nation and spoken to thousands of women, most of who I see nodding their heads at and fervently jotting down in their journals this reality: We must let go of the lie, “If I can’t do it right, than I shouldn’t do it at all.”

Because 5 minutes of reading one Bible verse is better than none read at all. A half-read reading plan is progress made that wouldn’t have been made if the plan had not been attempted. Instead of hyper-focusing on what we haven’t done or aren’t doing, we need to deliberately look for and celebrate what we have accomplished and how we have grown.

There are a bazillion other examples and areas of our lives that we allow perfectionism to take over and rule us. And where we do, we stop growing. Perfectionism actually keeps our imperfections from being brought to light and changed. Perfectionism whispers the lies that we don’t need God’s help. We can do this on our own. We can keep things under control.

So, today in the pursuit of growth and goals and intimacy with God, I’m telling Perfect Katie to take a hike.