I Write in My Books

important disclaimer: I am fully aware of the fact that I am, have always been, and likely will always be a geek.

I couldn’t wait for college.

All the usual reasons — getting away from the small town I lived in and my parents and all the people who thought they had a right to know my business. But it wasn’t just about running away — it was about running to. To new friends, new knowledge, and new experiences. Oh, and also because I’d heard you could write in your books.

Until then, writing in books had always been forbidden, probably because the books didn’t belong to me. I rented from the school, borrowed from the library. Everything had to be taken care of. In college, though, I got to buy my own textbooks. Some of them were used, already filled with other people’s notes, and some were immaculate. I bought the pristine ones and then, somewhat giddily, filled them with my own marks. Highlights in multiple hues. Notes in the margins, stars, arrows, circles. It wasn’t just because I was an art major and liked to draw in pretty colors. It was because it was a way of interacting with the material, a way to remember it, to come to understand it, to acknowledge and process what was important.

A way to make it mine. 

I liked being able to flip through and, at a glance, see what mattered. I could remember that, even if I didn’t remember all the specific details, I’d put a big green asterisk right next to the paragraph, so I could skim through and — voila! — find what I needed.

I’m the same way with my Bible. Yes, of course it is a holy book, worthy of respect. But don’t be mistaken and think, just because my favorite copy is dog-eared, somewhat crumpled and covered in marks going every which way in the margins, that it shows less-than-proper respect. Au contraire! I can hardly read any book, especially the Good Book, without a pen in my hand anymore. If something touches me, I mark it. If something isn’t clear, I question it. If something reminds me of or refers me to something else, I circle it, draw arrows to connect the sections. If something I read speaks to my current situation, I date it. If someone else teaches me something about it, I put their name next to my notes.

By doing all these things, I’m attempting to imprint the ideas into my soul.

I’m hoping to become physically involved, not remain aloof and separate. I’m hoping to wrestle with it, as David did. I’m hoping to be consumed by it, changed by it, inspired by it, touched by it. I’m hoping to make it mine.

Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart.

~Proverbs 3:3 NIV

Heavenly Father, Every time I make a mark in my Bible — circle, underline, make a star, write in the margins —I pray that you will mark the same words on my heart. Inscribe in me your love and goodness and faithfulness and mercy. When people see the tablet of my heart, may they only see your words, your character, and your unmistakable presence. Amen.

ICDevos is THRILLED to share that Kelly’s book, Praying Upside Down, will be featured HERE next month!! While she’s putting the finishing touches on the launch, we are praying for her. 

Kelly Stanley

Kelly O’Dell Stanley is the author of Praying Upside Down and Designed to Pray. A graphic designer who writes (or is it a writer who designs?), she is also a redhead who’s pretty good at controlling her temper, a believer in doing everything to excess, and a professional wrestler of doubt and faith. She blogs at kellyostanley.com and calls small-town Indiana her home.

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  1. Good thoughts, Kelly! Yes, Lord, write on the tablets of our hearts with Your Word!!

  2. I write in my books too. I think my scribbling in my bible will be part of the legacy to my children – a tiny glimpse into my life. As I get more books on my KIndle though, I miss the writing in the margins. I know you can bookmark, make notes and underline but it is just not the same.. Good thoughts here today!

    • I agree, Jean, which is why, even tho I love my iPad with the Kindle and Nook apps, I still buy paper forms of books which I expect to be greatly marked up. You can print the notes through Kindle/Amazon’s website, which is helpful, but not the same. And even though there are awesome Bible apps, I strongly prefer the real thing :-). Hope you are well…

  3. Awesome article, Kelly. I loved it from the first “I …. to the Amen!” Some wow and memorable phrases, but most of all, I can relate. When I taught, I had so many notes that the kids would stop and ask, “I have a question, do you have a notation for that?” My whole soul would go into each story, and as I read it the next year, I’d stop two or three times to make notes and tell the students about something else that popped into my mind about the story OR I often made notes about something the kids would bring up. When I read a story for a book club, the whole book is full of thoughts. I can relate and that in itself makes your story super-dee-duper as Barney would say 🙂 Great job!

  4. I love this, Kelly. I was raised Jewish, and God’s Word is revered TONS – you would NEVER write in a prayer book or your Bible, or the Torah. In fact, if you drop a prayer book, you’re supposed to kiss it before putting it back.

    It took me several YEARS until I was comfortable writing in a Bible (thanks, Kay Arthur Bible study LOL). But now I LOVE it. Helps so much.

  5. Appreciated your thoughts and really liked the prayer you wrote at the end!
    Thank you!

  6. I so agree, may every mark in His Word stand for something.

  7. I can retain the information better if I write it down and or in books.. What type of bible is displayed? I’m interested in a really good study bible.

  8. Thanks for everyone’s comments. Marge, it’s an NIV Life Application Study Bible. I love it. Joanne, I’m fascinated by many of the Jewish traditions and rituals. I think there’s so much there, such a richness of heritage. And I confess there have been times I’ve kissed my Bible, too. Glad you enjoyed the article… happy marking!

  9. Hello Friend!
    As always, this speaks to me in ways only you can. From this day forward, whenever I write in my Bible, I will remember your words. And to Joanne, I know what you mean. Our family attends Church on Sundays and Synagogue on Friday night and Saturday’s (a Messanic Service)our Rabbi still ascribes to the fact that we are not to write in our Bibles.

  10. So encouring to hear your words & read your mind …and to know that I am not the only geek that dribbles in the good word!


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