How I Study the Bible + My Church Background

Before I even start to explain how I study my Bible, I thought it was only fair that I explain my church background, from the start.

How To Study The Bible

I grew up in an Episcopal church. This was your classic old church with old pews and hymns and the whole shabang. However, I sort of saw this as a checkmark in our weekly routine. I was a child, after all, so I didn't really have a choice. I didn't learn much about Jesus' story, other than the basics.

We moved cities when I was eight which meant finding a new church. As a family, we tried to find an Episcopal church that fit our needs but never really found a 'good' one. So then we sort of fell off the bandwagon (Dear mom and dad, I get it. Life gets in the way! I don't blame you!). Obviously, I was still a kid, so it's not like I was begging to go to church anyway.

I began going to a youth group in when I was a little older, but it was definitely due to the social aspect. It was the cool thing to do (pizza and rock climbing?! yes plz). I also went to a handful of church camps during my younger summers, also for social reasons. However, ironically, this was the first time I remember feeling the presence of Jesus in my life. He truly shows himself when you don't expect it!

In high school, I really didn't do much of anything religious, and even when looking at colleges and deciding on Texas Christian University for my next four years, religion wasn't really a deciding factor.

But when I got to college, things started changing. I had never been surrounded by so many Christians in my life. My friends from high school were of all different religions, so this was a whole new experience. I joined a sorority that was full of awesome, God-fearing Christians and I wanted to try out the whole Christian thing again with these girls.

I started going to Bible studies and youth groups and such with my sorority sisters and it was great! But looking back on it, I was still doing it as a social thing. It felt like the right thing to do, to fit in with my sorority. And guess what: I fell off the wagon again.

How To Study The Bible

Fast-forward to senior year (aka now). I genuinely don't know what got me "back on the wagon." One of my very best friends suggested to all of our friends to watch a specific sermon series from a local church and I loved it. I wanted more. So we started going to that. Then we started going to church (you know, on Sundays). I was still hungry for more. I knew the best way to do that was through the Bible, so that's just what I did.

Obviously, I've read the Bible before. I've even owned two or three over the years but mine was currently gathering dust on a shelf in my bedroom. I think it was fear holding me back. What if I did it wrong? What if I interpret something incorrectly? It's funny looking back at those fears now because I realize that God totally leads you to what you need to know. You might not realize it at the time, but maybe a few days later something happens in your life and you're like, dang I remember reading a passage about this! It's a pretty cool feeling and it definitely leads you to want more.

So what did I do first? I probably went to Pinterest. That's usually my immediate reaction when I start something new. But I didn't really love what I was reading. I realized I wanted something physical, so I could get off technology and really dive into the Bible without notifications distracting me. So I went to my favorite faith resource, She Reads Truth. I've followed them on Instagram and really love how they share the word, so I figured it was time to buy a little somethin'. I purchased Open Your Bible because that's exactly what I needed to do. It's essentially a Bible study for those who don't know where to start. The book also includes some group work if you want to study it with a group of women!

How To Study The Bible

I did Open Your Bible for a few weeks until I had a weird thought: I'd been flipping around from (biblical) book to book and verse to verse, I had basically no context of what was going on in the verses I was reading. I wanted to feel immersed in the story and know what was going on around prophets, Jesus and the disciples. I'm not saying the She Reads Truth was bad (it was good), I just wanted a little something else at the moment.

So, that's when I started reading the New Testament from the beginning. I had recently discovered Soul Scripts (probably on Pinterest, tbh) and was intrigued. She had posted a video on how she studies the Bible and I found it really interesting. I've already figured out that when I highlight textbooks/articles for school, I retain them better, so why not do that with the most important book, too? The only problem was that my Bible had almost no room to write in (BUMMER) but I did a little research and found a journaling Bible in my favorite translation (NIV) that looked perfect. It was right around Christmas so I put in on my wishlist and was so excited when it was under the tree!

How To Study The Bible

The great part about the Soul Scripts method is that there's no need for anything fancy. She jokes about using some random pen she found lying around the house, but I prefer to use the Papermate InkJoy pens because they're "no-smear" (I tend to drag my hand across pages!). I also bought some Bible highlighters because they don't bleed through! (You could also buy any gel highlighters- like these) A weird thing that I specifically do is use two Bibles. That's right people, two. Why? Remember that Bible I talked about above, the one that was gathering dust? Well that Bible is a study Bible which means it explains so much of what's going on, cross-references, and life connections, in the footnotes. I didn't want to lose this awesome resource, so I decided, why not use both? Every morning I crack open both Bibles and lay them out next to each other. I don't want to totally steal Jordan from Soul Scripts' thunder so you can go watch her video here about the "brighten your Bible study" method, but I'll explain what I do when I read the Bible!

How To Study The Bible

1. Eliminate Distractions
I'm sure I'm not the first to tell you how distracting our phones are. I especially did not want this distraction during my quiet time, so every morning I'll put my phone on Do Not Disturb so I won't get distracted by notifications and whatnot. I also tried listening to worship music during this time, but I found that even that was too distracting for me. I realized that quiet time needed to be exactly that: quiet.

2. Begin at the Beginning
In one of Jordan's posts, she suggests starting at the beginning. I loved this idea because like I mentioned above, I really wanted to know the context of what I was reading. Like most people, I was overwhelmed by the thought of starting with the Old Testament, so I opted to start with Matthew, at the beginning of the New Testament.

3. Take Yo' Time
I never set a time limit or even a chapter limit on my reading. This stemmed from a blog post I read once (dang, I can't remember what it was though) that said to only read the Bible until you get three takeaways. The reasoning behind this is to not force yourself to read too much. I began with this method (it's so much less overwhelming) but now I've begun reading more. I usually stop when I get to the point where I can tell I'm getting distracted by my own thoughts or when I realize I'm simply skimming the page. For me, this is about 20-30 minutes. For you, it might be more, it might be less!

4. Make It Yours
It's super easy to get caught up in the beautiful Bible journaling on Pinterest or doing things "just right." I realized that that's absolutely not the point of reading the Bible. You're there to connect with God. I finally let go of perfectionism and did whatever I felt was right. I highlight verses that mean something to me. I make notes about things relevant to my life. It's so much more freeing when you connect the word with yourself. I know a lot of people love doing a color-coded Bible study, where a certain color of highlighter or pen means something, but I realized that didn't work for me, so I just use whatever color I feel. This way, I'm thinking way less about the physical aspect of studying and more about the words on the page.

5. Pray
Don't forget that reading the Bible is one way to connect with God. Prayer is essential in this process whether you do it before, during, or after your study! Prayer doesn't just have to be asking God for something. You can chit chat with him about your day or about your worries or anything really. God wants a relationship with you!

"The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. He fulfills the desire of those who fear him, he also hears their cry and saves them."
Psalm 145: 18-19

My most recent Bible study "favorite" is watching the sermon series on the book of Mark from my home church back in Kansas City! Senior Pastor Adam Hamilton preaches from the Holy Land and does an amazing job of combining history and theology in an easily ingestible way. If you're in the KC area and are looking for a new church home I cannot stress how amazing Church of the Resurrection is. I don't want this post to get too controversial by any means, but my favorite part about COR is how welcoming and loving they are of everyone. They truly embody what Jesus was all about and I love it! (P.S. while they are a "mega church" they love each an every member just as much as a tiny neighborhood chapel) Okay, that's enough promoting for now!

I'm always looking for ways to improve my Bible study! In fact, I just ordered this book and can't wait to see how it works for me! But I'm curious about y'all! How do you read God's word? Were you as scared as I was! Drop me a comment below or DM me on Instagram to talk more! I hope y'all have an amazing week, Happy Almost Easter!

What I'm Loving Right Now

Today I thought I'd share a quick post about what I'm loving right now! These are all so random and loved for different reasons, but just like I would share this stuff with my BFFs, I wanted to share it with y'all!

What I'm Loving Right Now

one// traceless hair elastics: I was at Ulta recently to get my brows waxed (PSA the Benefit counter at Ulta does an amazing job at taming the brows) so naturally I had to wander around the store. Ulta is like my second kryptonite (right after Target, of course) because I always find too much stuff I "need." I ended up seeing these hair ties (aka elastics aka ponytail holders, will we ever agree on the true name?!) and I've been wanting to try them for a while, so I thought, why not, and threw them in my basket. I'm so glad I did. They kept my hair in a messy bun for almost 24 hours straight, which is a feat in itself. They also aren't too tight when I wear them on my wrist which was a huge bonus. The only issue was that my hair got a little tangled in them when I took them out, so if you have wild, curly hair, I would stray away.

two// amazon firestick: if you follow me on Instagram, you know I'm obsessed with my Amazon Firestick. It was a Christmas gift from my brother and it has truly changed the game. Before the Firestick, my house here in Fort Worth was using an old Apple TV (like, 1st generation Apple TV) that was on its last life. Watching anything on it was a pain because it would always lag or even restart in the middle of something, so we would usually avoid watching anything on it (which I guess, when you think about it, is a good thing but whatever). But now with the Firestick, we can watch Netflix, Hulu, ESPN, you name it, without any issues whatsoever! (You pay for the subscriptions and/or cable provider separately) One of my favorite features is the ability to play Spotify directly through the TV, without having to deal with a Bluetooth speaker or anything! It's so easy!

three// caffeine-free tea: I've always heard of the benefits of tea, especially mint tea, from one of my favorites, Lauryn Evarts, but I've never been a tea gal... until now. I bit the bullet and bought a variety pack of caffeine-free tea from Target on one of my grocery trips and now I'm drinking tea almost every night! I love the mint one, but I recently tried the lemon zinger flavor and it's so yummy!

four// bluetooth headphones: another Christmas gift, this time from my parents! I am so in love with these headphones. I've always been an Apple headphones kinda girl. You know, the ones that literally come with your iPhone? I'd tried bigger headphones like these before and didn't like the way they felt. What I didn't realize was that it's because I was trying the wrong kind. I had always tried on on-ear headphones instead of over-the-ear headphones. The difference is astounding. I can wear these headphones for hours without any discomfort. They're super noise-canceling that someone can be talking in my face and I could have no idea (super great way to ignore people!!). Don't worry, the sound quality is amazing, obviously. I could go on all day about these bad boys, so if you're interested in knowing more, shoot me a comment below and I'll tell ya everything you need to know!

five// l'oreal voluminous base + benefit rollerlash mascara: I (currently) refuse to get lash extensions. I know it's all the rage right now, but for the cost and upkeep required to keep them looking good, I'd rather just spend a few minutes using mascara every day... My favorite technique right now starts with a lash curler, then I apply this L'Oreal Voluminous Base. It comes out white, then dries slowly to clear. I wait about 30 seconds after applying the base, then I go through with the Benefit Rollerlash Mascara and do a couple layers, making sure to get the tips of my lashes to make them look even longer.

I love writing little posts like these! Hopefully I'll have more in the future. I have a few exciting posts planned, and I'm still on track with my blogging goal I mentioned in this post! Whoohoo! In the meantime, head over to Instagram and follow me here!

Target Sugarfix Sale

I know I just did a sale post for the giant Old Navy sale, but I couldn't not post about this awesome sale Target is having! Sugarfix is one of my favorite Target brands and right now, all of it is 20% off! Many of you probably know, Baublebar and also probably know that it's not totally in the college girl's budget. However, Sugarfix is also a Baublebar brand, meaning it's the same great style, but an awesome price.

These adorable ball drop earrings could not be more perfect for spring. I think the pink would be so cute for Valentine's Day, but they also come in black/white, cobalt, light blue, teal, mint, white, fuschia and a black/white/fuschia mix!

Tassel Drop Earrings $12.99 $10.39
I love a good tassel earring! Gives me major Audrey Hepburn a la Breakfast at Tiffany's vibes! These tassels would be so perf with a simple white top this spring! They also come in cobalt and light pink!

Tassel Hoop Earrings $12.99 $10.39
These unique hoops are so cool! I can totally see these perfectly in Mexico paired with a big white maxi, relaxing on the beach! Now I'm wishing I had a margarita... (They also come in cobalt and mint!)

Letter Necklace $10.00 $5.00 (save an extra 20% with code SAVEBIG making this just $4.00!) 
Okay people do I even need to convince you to grab this FOUR DOLLAR NECKLACE?! I sure hope not. It's so simple and perfect for layering. Grabbing all three of your initials will only set you back twelve stinkin' bucks so why the heck not?!
Hoop Earrings - $9.99 $7.99
If you've seen many of my instas/OOTDs, you know I love a good, gold hoop earring. It's basically my go-to accessory (tbh I'm not much of a necklace or bracelet girl). I am loving this twist on your classic hoop earring. They look so chic! 

Okay, that's it for today's quick post! Obviously, there are so many other items I didn't post but I wanted to give you lovely people a little peek at the options! This Sugarfix sale is going on from today until February 14th, giving you plenty of time to go grab all of your favorite goodies! You also might've noticed above that all apparel, accessories, and shoes on clearance are an extra 20% off! Use the code SAVEBIG online to snag this deal!

TBH, I might go to Target later today... you know... for some "necessities." (wink wink). If you aren't already a Target REDCard holder, you need one. Like seriously. This is technically an affiliate link but I've been telling everyone about the REDCard way before I was an affiliate. Seriously. Just ask my roommates. 

Alsooooo, y'all need the new Target app. Seriously. This one is not even an affiliate link because I love it that much. I'm planning on doing a post solely about it sometime soon. Let me know in the comments below if you'd read it!

Remember to follow me on Instagram for more updates!

Old Navy Sale Favorites

Y'all there is a huge sale going on at Old Navy right now aka one of my favorite places to shop. Y'all probably know I hate spending more than I need to on clothes (aka why I always shop at Target), which is why I'm so excited about this sale. Not only is there a huge clearance event going on, but when you buy 5+ clearance items, you get an extra 10% off! And today only you get another 20% off your entire order. I'm not a genius but that means you're basically getting them for free, right?! The only bad news is that a lot of the cutest colors and some sizes are already sold out (and I assume will not be restocked because it's a clearance event), so bear with me!

To ease you of browsing pages and pages of deals, I've rounded up my favorites here! Feel free to click and shop away!

Loving this tunic! It's currently on sale for $9.97, originally $22.99! This would look perfect with some leggings and cute sneakers!

Who doesn't need a super soft basic long-sleeve tee?! I'm def in need of a white one, but there are currently seven colors in stock. Some are $12 (originally $19.99) and some are $7.97 (originally $19.99).

Okayyyy this pullover looks so comfy! I know half of the country has not thawed out yet from all of the snow, so go snag this while you can! It was originally $39.99 but now is just $19.97 and also comes in an oatmeal color!

I've seriously been on the hunt for herringbone leggings like these and I was so excited to see them in the sale! Bonus for my tall girlies: they come in tall options! Originally $32.99, these babies are on sale for just $19.97, get them before they're completely sold out!

OMG these booties!! I'm seriously in love. They would be so perfect with skinnies or even a mini skirt. Maybe it's just the Texas in me but these "western" boots are to die for. Originally $44.99, they're now just $27.97 and as of right now, all of the sizes are still in stock! HURRY!! (They also come in black, but those are almost sold out!)

There are a ton of fun sweatshirts on sale, but this one is def my favorite! It was originally $32.99 but is now just $12.97! The other colors/graphics vary in price but they're all such a score!

Raise your hand if you're still attempting to keep up with your New Year's resolutions and workout!! This pullover is the perfect addition when it's still a little nippy outside! It comes in petite, tall and regular sizes and in white, black and navy! Originally $26.99, the white is now just $12.97!

This french terry top has me dreaming of spring break! How perf would this be over a swimsuit to head down to the beach? It's now $19.97, originally $32.99!

I've been totally obsessing over flute-sleeve (is that what the kids are calling them??) dresses and tops lately and this dress is to die for! It would be perfect for a date night or if you're living the #singlelife like me, a fun night out or even for work! So versatile! It was originally $34.99, but is now just $22.97!

Ummmm, yes please! These little ankle boots are so fun! All of the sizes are still in stock and they're on sale from $44.99 to just $29.97! If you're looking for a less dramatic look, they also come in black.

If you're not obsessed with faux fur this season, idk what you're doing but you need this faux fur coat ASAP! It's only slightly discounted to $65.97 but that is still a steal in my book! Don't forget about the extra discounts I mentioned at the top of the post!

Still facing snow? This coat will be your new best friend. Or if you're really on top of the game, stock up for next season! You'll be thanking me you did! This beaut is on sale for $39.97 and also comes in white and black!

Velvet doesn't have to just be for winter, people! This velvet top would be so cute for a fun valentines dinner with some skinnies and heels! It's on sale for $9.97 (!!!) and also comes in yellow and wine!

This top is so perfect for spring! Just imagine it with a cute little mini skirt or some skinnies and tennies (LOL that rhyme thoughhhh). It comes in seriously so many colors and is available in regular, tall and petite sizes! Did I mention it's only $14.97?! You need this top (I need this top).

The fact that I actually need to start shopping for work clothes is kind of hitting me.... this top would be perfect though! I love how they styled it with this statement necklace. It's only $19.97!

How comfy does this hoodie look? I have this thing for soft grey sweats... but really who doesn't? Bonus: it's on sale for only $14.97!

Don't worry, y'all, there are plenty of accessories on sale, like this animal print belt! This belt would make any outfit instantly more fun, and it's on sale for $9.97! It also comes in the more classic tan and brown leopard print!

I'm not kidding when I say I only shared a fraction of the sale. There is seriously so much to shop from, y'all! Don't forget, you get an extra 10% off if you buy 5+ items, so fill that cart up! Shop all the women's options here and shop the men's here!

Do you like posts like these? I rarely do them but they're kind of fun! Comment below if you want to see more! (I know of a pretty exciting Target sale coming up that y'all won't want to miss!)

How to Come Back From an Extended Blogging Break

If you look at the dates of my last two published blog posts you’ll notice there was a bit of an, ummmmmmm, gap? Just a little teeney tiny one. Only like five months. Not that bad! Just kidding- that sucks. But it happens. Bloggers are people, too, and people get busy and make mistakes. To be honest, those of you who have read my blog for a while know that this isn’t the first time this has happened. I have this nasty habit of getting busy with school and my internship (how dare she!!) that I put my blog aside for months at a time. Any blogger knows the number one rule is consistency. And clearly I have broken this rule.

I’ve realized that I will never be able to be that blogger that posts every day, or even just M-W-F. At least not yet. I have so many things going on that make that so unrealistic, which is just alright with me. However, this doesn’t mean I can’t post at a consistent interval that works for me! This is why I decided that one of my new year’s resolutions/goals/promises to myself is to post on STS at least once a month. This doesn’t seem like a ton at all, but it’s better than nothing. This also makes the bar extremely low for myself, so if I happen to post two or three times in one month, I’m like hell yeah go Emma! There is one stipulation. I need help from y’all! I need to be held accountable for this, so I need y’all to keep me in line. If I haven’t posted in a while, DM me, email me, whatever and remind me of my goal! This way, I’ll know I have at least a handful of readers counting on me!

So a few weeks ago, when I was trying to get myself back into blogging, I looked for some posts on how other bloggers had done this in the past and found almost nothing. This discouraged me even more because it had me thinking, I guess I’m the only one that slacked at blogging and no one needs tips because they’re better bloggers! Both of these thoughts are totally false, but I was feeding myself lies. These are a few of the reasons why I knew I needed to post about how I came back my extended blogging break!

Browse A While

The first thing I do after every blogging break is slowly easing into the “blog world” by browsing, but not posting. I’ll read some favorite blogs on Bloglovin’, read through my Twitter feed, and if I’m feeling really adventurous, I’ll scope out my Instagram feed. Often times, reading all of these will inspire a post, or inspire me to improve something on my blog. Once I’m inspired there’s no stopping me.

Learn From Others

I know for me, and for many other bloggers, blogging breaks come because you feel like you’re not a good enough blogger or you don’t have enough followers, etc. I’ve found that one way to combat this negative mindset is to go way back on some of my favorite blogs to see that even the bloggers with hundreds of thousands of followers on Instagram had to start somewhere. Just the other night, I was scrolling through my favorite blog, Brighton the Day, and decided to try this exercise. I simply changed the URL at the top to /page/100 and hoped it would take me back quite a ways. Of course, Brighton blogs so much that this only took me to about 2015. Not enough. So then I went to /page/200 and made it to 2013. I could tell already that her posts were less professional, she didn’t have a professional photographer and she probably still had a full-time job at that point. I was immediately relieved because, no offense Brighton, but you’ve come a long way. I would highly suggest doing this if you’re constantly comparing yourself to big-time bloggers!

Figure Out What Stopped You Last Time

For me, not only was it the blog comparison that stopped me, but it was actually the pressure of Instagram of all things. I felt inadequate because I didn’t have a photographer boyfriend (I’m taking boyfriend applications here) or a photographer BFF, so the only pictures I had were pretty crappy quality or weren’t relevant to my material. I also felt like I couldn’t keep up with an aesthetic that looked good. Instagram is the ultimate comparison platform but I learned recently that there’s always another solution. I have a new tripod I stole got from my Dad that I can basically place anywhere without the need of a BF (#singlelife am I right people) and I’m planning on buying a “selfie light” like this so that I can take really well-lit pictures no matter the time of day (I always feel like I forget to take pictures during well-lit hours!). I’ve also convinced my BFF to take pictures of me occasionally, so that will also add to my feed! I found ways around my road-block and you can, too!

Rip the Band-Aid Off

If you follow me on Twitter, you saw me tweet that I was pretty insecure about my last post. I didn’t feel like it was the best thing I’d ever written and I knew it wouldn’t get a lot of engagement. However, I knew that if I didn’t just rip the Band-Aid off and post something, I never would. And it totally worked. Look at me now. Posting for the second time in less than five months! Now that’s what I call progress people!!

The blogging world can be the ultimate trigger for comparison. It’s hard. I get it. Especially if you’re wanting to make money from blogging. But being a “good” blogger takes time and practice, much like everything else in life. Breaks don’t mean you’re a bad blogger. Breaks just mean you need to focus on other aspects of your life for the time being. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

If you’re coming back from a break: you can do it. Take your time and keep hustlin’!