Being a teacher, I get all sorts of questions, commentaries and suggestions on what to do with “all that time off” that I am blessed with each year (and of course, I also receive my fair share of eye rolls, sighs and “must be nice”). No matter how I choose to spend these two glorious months, without fail, they always go quickly and every year I seem to blink and it’s already September.

I have the added bonus of being a teacher with a summer birthday, so my plans always include some amount of festivity and celebration (what’s the point of never having to work on your birthday if you don’t celebrate in style?). With this year’s birthday being somewhat of a milestone (I won’t tell you how old I’m turning; but hint: I’m entering a new decade and starting to wonder if I can continue to be considered a “young” adult), I gave some thought and prayer to what I could do to mark the occasion.

I came up with the idea with memorizing one Bible verse for each year of my life (okay: it’s easier if I just say the number – 30 – rather than skipping around it this whole post). The question was now, could I find a passage that was exactly 30 verses, or should I memorize a couple of shorter passages that add up to 30, or what…?

After more thinking, praying, and scriptural perusal I found myself looking at Isaiah chapter 40. This book is pretty special to me, as the very first verse I ever memorized was Isaiah 40:8 (The grass withers, the flowers fade, but the word of God stands forever) waaaaaay back when I was just a tiny tot. I looked at the book, come to find out it has 31 verses. Meaning that if I subtracted the one I already knew, I’d have 30 verses to work with – pretty cool, right? Nothing better than throwing it back to where it all began.

Now that I had my verses, how did I go about tackling them all? I’m glad you asked. Full disclosure: still a work in progress. My birthday comes up on August the 18th, and as of this writing at the end of July, I am just over 50% there. While I hope to be done by the big day, I am giving myself permission to take the whole summer if necessary. Below I’m going to share some of my tips, and also, reasons why YOU should try memorizing big chunks of scripture too.

Use the app! I am a big fan of YouVersion on my phone/iPad. This makes it so easy to work on my verses literally wherever I am. If I’m waiting in line somewhere, having a coffee, or sitting in my backyard, I can pull out my phone and go over the verses, even just for a minute or two. And this is so much more meaningful than the mindless social media scrolling I usually do to kill downtime.

Enlist accountability buddies! I have not been shy about sharing my quest with family members and friends. I asked my covcom girls to pray for me, and have several friends that will check in via text as well. If I had kept this quest a secret, it would be way easier to bail than it is now that I know I have friends to answer to.

Break it down. If you are working on a longer passage, find the natural breaks or divisions in it. Pick a couple verses at a time that have a natural end point, and work on them bit by bit. This is way easier than staring down 30 verses and just trying to go top to bottom.

All day, every day. Work on your verses often. Tip number 1 (Bible app) makes this possible. Although it’s way easier for me right now since I’m not working, even the busiest person can pull out their phone for 3-5 minutes at a time to do a verse check-in. I try to do this multiple times a day, so my mind is constantly seeing the passage I’m working on.

Loud and proud. Say your verses out loud, both when you’re reading them and from memory. If I get in the car by myself, before turning the radio on, I will recite from start to finish what I’ve memorized so far. After my alarm goes off in the morning, I practice out loud. I’ve even experimented with recording myself and listening to it (a strategy learned from my undergraduate days when I had lists of French vocabulary to memorize. Spoiler alert: you WILL hate the sound of your own voice).

Mini goals, deadlines, rewards. Obviously the big goal is to memorize 30 verses by the end of the summer. But I was finding that a couple of weeks in, my mojo was flagging a bit and I needed to light a fire under my butt. So I looked at the passage, picked a target for end of July, and gave myself every girl’s favourite reward (a new outfit) as an incentive. And it worked! I’m happy to say that I get to go shopping soon! 🙂

So you might be reading this and thinking “that’s all well and good for you Hilary, awesome that you’re doing this for your thirtieth birthday, but I’m not good at memorizing/30 verses is too much for me.” Sorry, I’m not letting you off that easily. Why should you memorize a lengthier passage too…?

Because it’s hard. I’ll be honest: I don’t always want to sit down, open up my phone, and practice my verses. You know that social media scrolling I was talking about? It may be mindless, but it’s fun. Memorizing scripture is work, and it is a discipline. Hmm…spiritual disciplines; that sounds familiar…aren’t those supposed to be a thing? Just because something is hard doesn’t mean you should skip it. In fact, I’ve often found in life that the hardest things are sometimes the most worth doing. And probably more time in scripture and less in social media isn’t a bad thing.

It trains your brain. This is totally outside of a “spiritual benefit,” but speaking of being hard, memorizing scripture is like working out for your mind. Given that social media scrolling is inherently mindless, I’m thinking that the mental benefits of scripture memorization must be a lot greater. After all, as you and I age, we need to work out not only our bodies, but our brains.

It steeps your mind in something awesome. Memorizing this much scripture is a big time commitment. A lot of mental energy and thought processes are dedicated to it. Therefore, it would follow that you spend less mental energy on more trivial matters. And if reading/reciting the Bible is an insight into the mind of God, well, you see where I’m going here right? It’s never going to be a bad thing to spend MORE time thinking about God’s word.

So for all of you who are wondering what teachers do on their summer vacation, I can’t speak for everyone else, but this is (a large portion of) what I’m doing this year. If you want to hear some of Isaiah 40, I welcome you to hit me up on a Sunday morning (or any other time you run into me) and get me to put my money where my mouth is (AWANA flashbacks anyone? Bonus points if you wear a red vest or gray shirt). In return, I challenge YOU to take a look through your Bible, spend some time in prayer, and see if there are any longer passages you can tackle. It might be hard, but I am pretty sure you won’t regret it.

P.S. …if you decide to step up to the challenge, and are looking for an accountability buddy, I’m game!

*if you enjoyed this post, read more of Hilary’s thoughts over at her personal blog: the girl who dared.