Interview with Claudia Barba :: Dwelling Richly

Dwelling Richly Series

Today’s interview is with a speaker, author, encourager, and family friend. I suppose I first met Claudia Barba when I was a child, but was able to re-meet her a couple years ago when she and her husband Dave served at my church for several months. As the mother of 3 grown children, Claudia knows what it’s like to seek God through the busy years of little ones. When I contacted her about participating in this series, her primary concern was that she didn’t want to cause guilt for young moms since she’s in a vastly different stage of life as an empty nester. I told her that knowing she was even concerned about that potential made her the exact person I wanted to interview!

I was richly encouraged through this interview with Claudia – I trust you will be as well!

What's your regular routine for Bible study-

“As soon as I’m awake, I talk to the Lord, give thanks for sleep, safety and life, hand Him control of the day, and ask Him to fill me with His Spirit. Often a scrap of scripture will pop into my mind or the words of a song will start floating through my head, and I know the Holy Spirit is speaking to me. I love those early moments, and they make me want to get up and hear more.

I pour coffee and sit down in my prayer closet (recliner). Then I stick my nose in the Word and leave it there. I normally plow through Bible books, though I have occasionally done topical studies. As I read, I mark and underline in my Bible and make notes in the margins. If a passage is especially needed, or I am studying to memorize or teach it, I copy its verses into my journal, search out the original meanings of the words (I use Power Bible for this) and amplify the passage, paraphrasing it for myself. I’m always writing as I read.

I look at notes in a study Bible or commentaries (also in Power Bible) for applications or explanations and add favorites to my journal. As I finish, I usually write a sentence prayer based on what I’ve learned. I learn best by writing things down, and when I use this method, the scripture opens itself up to me, and it becomes mine.

As I have time, I also read books on spiritual topics—usually whatever my husband is just finishing and passes along to me. I read Spurgeon’s Morning & Evening and Bagster’s Daily Light, and Valley of Vision is always handy. I have and use a MacArthur Study Bible, a Life Application Bible, a Pilgrim Study Bible, and a Jeremiah Study Bible. Power Bible is my computer resource, and I use it constantly. It’s simple enough for me and doesn’t overwhelm me with two much information.”

How do you personally cultivate a desire to be in the Word-

“The desire comes when I get started, and I get started because it’s a habit to do nothing else first.

If I start out feeling anxious or cold at heart, I sing to the Lord one of the worship hymns in my prayer notebook (silently, for my husband’s sake). That calms me down and warms me up.”

What has been your driest time spiritually and how did you overcome that period-

“My driest times of Bible study are during heavy trials. Strange, because it’s also the time when Scripture means the most to me. But when I hurt, I find it hard to focus and absorb what I am reading. Too distracted, I guess. So I interrupt whatever study routine I’m in at the time to wallow in the Psalms or meditate on chapters that I have hidden in my heart.

During trials it’s also hard for me to pray except for the specific problem at hand, and that easily turns into worrying instead, so instead of trying to get new insights from the Word, or praying widely for all the needs in the world, I quiet my heart by quoting God’s promises to Him. My sister calls that “showing God His handwriting.””

Any recommendations for Scripture memory- Meditation-

“Long ago Beneth Jones recommended that I memorize scripture by chapters like she does, and this has changed my life by changing my thinking. I began with Psalm 103 and have kept up the habit for a couple of decades. Those chapters have added up to books and those books have become precious to me. (I have thanked her over and over.)

I copy/paste each chapter into a Word file, separating it into paragraphs and working on a paragraph at a time, which makes more sense to me than fretting about verse numbers. I keep the chapters in a notebook that’s divided into 30 sections, one for each day of the month, so I’m always reviewing. Of course I forget and have to re-learn, but the encouraging thing is that the ones I recall best are the ones I memorized the longest time ago. It’s a lifetime project. I hope that when I’m senile and forget my own name, I’ll still remember those words.

Mediation comes most naturally when I’m driving or too sick to read or simply trying to fall asleep. In the night, especially if I wake up troubled about something, I start reviewing a chapter, and peace comes back. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve fallen asleep like this . . .“Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, to the saints who are in … and faithful in Christ Jesus. Grace to you and . . . . “ zzzzzzzzzz

When I am working on new chapters, they become the focus of my Bible study. I want to really understand what I am learning.”

Are there any non-essentials that you love to have during your study time

“I write a lot while I study. I use Pilot Precise V5 black pens (because I love way the ink flows) and pretty, quality Bible-size journals that my husband knows I love and gives me as gifts.”

How did you make time for Bible study when your children were little-

“I did pretty much the same things but downsized. I still read and wrote down what I learned. My time wasn’t early morning, though. It was during nap time, if they cooperated. If not, I would leave my Bible open on the kitchen counter and grab verses as I could, to chew on and think about while I handled their needs. (That idea came from Ruth Bell Graham, who had 5 children and a husband who traveled for weeks at a time.)

I remember how I cherished church services. It was sometimes the only time I could sit down all day long. I learned to leave the children in nurseries without guilt so I could feed my soul. And I also learned to be gentle with myself when I came a long way from reaching my goals for studying the Bible. My husband used to remind me to think of life like a washing machine with different cycles—I wouldn’t always be stuck on agitate. Later there would be time for soak. He was right. It’s something to look forward to. Reject false guilt and do what you can.”

claudia barba
Claudia Barba is the author of three Bible study books for women: Refresh Your Heart, When Christ Was Here, and The Role of a Lifetime, as well as The Monday Morning Club, an encouraging book for women in ministry.

Claudia speaks to women’s meetings and retreats all over the USA and continues to write for women who want to know God through knowing His Word. You can find more of Claudia’s writings here.

Thank you, Claudia, for sharing your heart and time with us!



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Find all the Dwelling Richly interviews right here!

The 12 Questions for the Dwelling Richly Series

Dwelling Richly Series

On Monday, I shared this introduction to the Dwelling Richly series. In the process, I mentioned that each participant was given a list of 12 questions focusing on their relationship with the Word. Some of you expressed an interest in reading all 12 questions, so I decided to share them today with hopes that they will:
1) help you think through your time in the Word &
2) cause excitement as you think of other women answering these questions.

Here they are below, in the order they were presented:

  • What’s your regular routine for Bible study?
  • How do you personally cultivate a desire to be in the Word?
  • What has been your driest time spiritually and how did you overcome that period?
  • Are there any non-essentials that you love to have during your study time (fave writing utensils, drinks, journals, etc)?
  • What resources have influenced you the most in giving you a desire and tools for dwelling in the Word?
  • Is there a favorite Bible study method you use?
  • Do you/have you ever used accountability in the area of time in the Word? How? Did you find this profitable?
  • Have you ever taken time for a personal spiritual retreat? If so, how?
  • Any recommendations for Scripture memory? Meditation?
  • Do you have ways to make your time in church more personally enriching?
  • How do you {or how did you} make time for Bible study when your children were little?
  • How did you encourage a love for God’s Word in your children? Did you have a method for helping them learn how to study for themselves?

So thanks for the idea! How ’bout you share all your good ideas with me? Then I can pretend like I’m an amazing idea generator when really it’s just you guys. Mkay, sounds good.

In other non-arrogant news, I created a landing page for this series. You can find it by going to the top of this site, hovering over the “SERIES” word and clicking the “Dwelling Richly” tab. Additionally, you could also click here. The page contains a nutshell intro, pictures of each contributor, and either links to the interview or shows the date for when each interview will be posted. I think it’s dandy. & helpful. & I’m excited to share the rest of these interviews with you.

Finally, there are 2 lovely days left for you to enter the giveaway for these beauties below.

dwelling richly giveaway

There will be 4 winners, which makes me so excited because it means more chances. I wish I could say you’re all winners.
And you are.
In God’s eyes.
But not with this giveaway.
So go enter. 😉

I’ve been in a rare mood while writing this post, partially because I’m eating a chocolate chip cookie dipped in dirty chai. I’ll try not to make this a regular occurrence.
Ok. That’s all I got for ya. Gotta re-warm my chai because it’s lukewarm. No bueno.

Interview with Jen Wilkin :: Dwelling Richly

Dwelling Richly Series

In 2014, I received a book entitled Women of the Word. Although I grew up in a Christian home with parents who taught me how to read and study the Bible, the Lord used this book to open my eyes to a “whole book approach” in Bible study. This has not only changed my approach to studying the Bible, but also given me an increased desire to truly know and learn the Word of God.

I immediately began sharing this book with my friends and anyone else I thought might be interested. I’ve lent my copy to so many different people, given copies to others (never fear, I paid amazon for the copies instead of utilizing the copier. although that’s tempting.), and wrote a review to encourage you all to read it. I’m incredibly thankful for the way God has used this resource to point me closer to Him & His Word.

For these reasons, Jen Wilkin (author of Women of the Word) was on my short list of people to contact for the Dwelling Richly interview series. I trust God will use this interview to point you closer to Him & His Word!

What's your regular routine for Bible study-

I study as part of my preparation to write and teach FMWBS. I teach to learn, and I see myself as a co-learner with the women in my studies. Teaching is something I enjoy and have an aptitude for, but it is also a form of accountability for me.

Are there any non-essentials that you love to have during your study time

Black coffee, colored pens, double spaced copy of the text, Bible Gateway so I can compare translations, yoga pants.
I usually have my two pugs in the armchair with me, which can be a balancing act with the laptop and the coffee.

What resources have influenced you the most in giving you a desire and tools for dwelling in the Word-

The Knowledge of the Holy by A.W. Tozer
The Attributes of God by A.W. Pink
The LifeChange Bible studies by NavPress
Kay Arthur’s method and Beth Moore’s relatability have influenced how/why I do what I do.
R.C. Sproul modeled for me how to communicate complex truths in simple language.

Is there a favorite Bible study method you use-

Yes, I’m a firm believer in studying entire books of the Bible from start to finish. It’s an approach that focuses on long-term versus short-term yields. Repetitive reading in context, annotating and paraphrasing, cross referencing, all the basic tools for being a good reader of any book (particularly an ancient one) are essential to building Bible literacy. On the surface, it sounds like it would be a dry way to approach God’s Word, but it isn’t at all. Taking the text on its own terms allows it to yield far more riches than a ten minute devotional.

Any recommendations for Scripture memory- Meditation-

Repetitive reading helps me with scripture memory and meditation.
I strongly recommend that meditation be done only after we try to “get into the skin” of the text’s original hearers and spend adequate time grasping the passage’s interpretation. Meditation is often seen as a mystical practice in which the Holy Spirit just gives us insights when we sit and think about a verse or verses. It is far more than that.

We cannot properly explore “what this verse means to me” until we have earnestly sought to discover “what this verse means.” So, be leery of any “listening practice” that does not start with looking for the objective meaning of a passage.

How did you make time for Bible study when your children were little-

I had four children in four years, so I can say with confidence that “the struggle is real.”
I can also say that we make time for the things we care most about.

With that in mind, I encourage young moms to ask God for an increased desire to study. I also encourage them to get in a group for structure and accountability. If doing a group study is not a possiblilty and your hair is falling out in patches, maybe just see this as a season during which you will simply read the Bible versus trying to study. You do get your brain back eventually, and God is aware of your season of life and its limitations. There is grace for you during the Crazy Years. Just remind yourself that once they begin to fade into the past, Bible study is a habit you will want to return to.

Jen Wilkin is a wife, mom to 4 great kids, and an advocate for women to love God with their minds through the faithful study of His Word. She writes, speaks, and teaches women the Bible.

She has written 2 books – Women of the Word: How to Study the Bible with Both Our Hearts & Our Minds and a brand spankin’ new one entitled None Like You: 10 Ways God is Different From Us (& Why That’s a Good Thing) releasing in April 2016! You can find here on twitter and her blog.

Jen, thank you so much for sharing your time and heart with us!


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Dwelling Richly Series

I am thoroughly delighted to finally introduce this series:

Dwelling Richly Series

The Dwelling Richly title is taken from this passage:

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly,
teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom,
singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs,
with thankfulness in your hearts to God.

My goal for this series is to
encourage you to get in the Bible
and personally experience the power of God’s living Word
in your day to day life.

As I began brainstorming for this series, I thought about the women who have influenced me and given me a greater passion to know God through His Word. Wouldn’t it be awesome to learn from their experience of walking with God? Definitely! And so this series is built around interviews with women – some I know very well (like my Mom!), some have influenced me through their writings (like Jen Wilkin & Gloria Furman) & others I have learned from by reading their blog, following them via social media, or hearing them speak at conferences.

I created a list of 12 questions focused on their relationship with the Word and asked each woman to answer 5-7 of them. As I read through their answers, I was immensely encouraged by their study of God’s Word as well as the different ways they’ve made that study time happen. I know this series will be an encouragement to your heart just as it has been to mine! I’ll post a new interview each Wednesday, beginning this week with Jen Wilkin, author of Women of the Word.

But before we plunge in to the series, I have a fantastic giveaway for you!

dwelling richly giveaway

Luke 1:45 print // Live Upon It print // Women of the Word // Women’s ESV Devotional Bible

I own 3/4 of these items and absolutely love them so I know you will too! I am praying that these prizes would go to 4 ladies who need a little extra encouragement in their lives right now. The Lord can work even through little things like “random” giveaways, right?

I’ll pick FOUR winners for this giveaway so there are more chances for you to win something. I’m using Rafflecopter to run the giveaway just to keep things random + fair, so the prizes will be distributed in this manner:
#1 – Bible.
#2 – book.
#3 – Live Upon It print.
#4 – Luke 1:45 print.

I’ll email the winners next Monday & post it on facebook as well. If you’re reading this by email, click here to enter! Otherwise, you can enter below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway



Five years ago today, I began posting on this little site called Brown Sugar Toast. 800 posts later, here I am – still pecking away at the keyboard.

There are many things I’ve learned through these five years, but the biggest one is this:

If you don’t know your why, you’ll give up.
(and the nerdy part of me wants to say “you’ll give up and die” because it rhymes, but I’ll refrain.
except I just said it.)

Here’s the tricky thing: a lot of times your “why” changes over time. When I began, my “why” was mainly because my husband encouraged me to do it and I thought it sounded like fun. Fast forward 5 years + 800 posts + 2 more kids + a husband in seminary. The “it sounds like fun!” argument rarely holds up water around here anymore. Yes, it may sound like fun, but why else should you do it?

That’s one of the main lessons blogging has taught me. Besides that, I’ve spent a whole lotta time writing, designing, creating, photographing, social media-ing, and giving myself headaches over html coding. I’ve learned more than I realize. And this becomes evident when people ask me questions about blogging and I realize there’s a lot of learning that’s gone on in the past 5 years. There have been tears involved, but I think the blood and sweat have been kept to a minimum, thanks to the fact that most of my hours involve sitting in a climate controlled room in front of a computer.

And you know what? All this would be without purpose if it weren’t for you. So thanks. Thanks for reading, sharing, emailing, commenting, liking, pinning, and all that. You guys have been a blessing to me through this journey and really? I wouldn’t be here without you. So imagine a heart-eyes emoji here just for you.

Happy 5 years, Brown Sugar Toast. Here’s to another 5.