Spiritual Disciplines: Journaling

I LOVE starting a new journal.  It’s quite possible that my favorite days of the year are the days that I get to start a new journal.  I often share pictures of these exciting days.

 

And occasionally I’ve gotten the question,

“Why do you journal?”

I have learned there is no wrong or right way to journal.  I’m not overly artsy – I can’t really draw a picture to save my life.  But I love “dressing” things up with stickers or markers, or exploring word art and doodling different thoughts.  There’s something almost magical that happens in your brain when you connect the pen to page and write down or copy thoughts from others.  Things stick in  your brain longer.

I love to journal.  But to really explain why I journal and how I got to where I’m at, I think I have to start at the beginning.

I started journaling in 10th grade.  I had a hand me down journal and I remember thinking, now I’m like the other girls and have a place to just write down everything in my mind.  There was nothing to the journalling and no purpose to it other than to write down my thoughts and feelings, my frustrations with boys, what things were like at home, etc.  I had read many books about girls who journaled and to me it seemed like the thing to do, so I did.

I found the journal to be a safe place.  Eventually, it evolved to writing down prayers.  I have always had trouble focusing when I have to listen, or when I’m praying in my mind, I wander.  So, to write them down, I was able to focus better.

Then I realized I loved taking notes, so I started a journal for taking notes at church.  I would carry around several journals.  One for sermon notes, one for journaling thoughts, one for prayers, one for book quotes.  The list could have been endless.  Until one day, mom said, “why are you carrying around so many journals?  It just takes up room in your suitcase!  Put everything in one place!”  Honestly, this was hard for me.  I love to keep things separate, and I didn’t want to mix everything together.  But I gave it a shot anyway.

As I tried writing everything in my journal, I realized I needed a way to separate the things that I was writing.  So everything became color coded.  Sermon notes get one color, books are each assigned their own color (also because if I go back for a second read in a book I use a different color than the first time I read it so that I can see the things that I thought differently), and Bible studies each have their own color.  This means I carry around a bag of pens, but that in addition to one journal is much less than carrying around 4-5 different journals each time I travel!

And now, I realize that there is beauty in writing everything down in one place.  I can see how God is moving through the books I’m reading, the sermons that I’m listening to, and the way that I’m processing the things going on in my life.

When I first started writing, it was more of a “dear diary” idea.  However now, I just realize that anything and everything I write is just communication with God.  I don’t title my journal entries other than to put a date at the top.  But I know that everything I write is being read by God.  He knows my deepest thoughts and fear and prayers and for me, the best way to get everything out in a focused manner is to write them down.

I can go back to what I’ve written and reread where I was at.  I don’t believe in editing my journals.  I don’t go back and correct the writing.  It’s my safe place.  There’s no judgment from God in what I’m writing.  There’s no one critiquing my thoughts or telling me that there’s a better way to say things.

I am one of those people who goes back to books for references, and I have even gone back to my journals for sermon notes or thoughts or ideas that God has given me in the past.

In college, my journals contained pictures of friends and family and other interesting things from my environment.  Now, I don’t focus on that so much, though I do use stickers to highlight certain points or add a bit more creativity to a page.  I might get out my fancy calligraphy pens and write out a verse or thought or song lyric on an entire page to remind me of the significance of it.

To me, there’s no wrong or right way of journaling.  I do it because I have to get the thoughts in my head out of my head.  I am definitely a better at processing things when I write.  Sometimes I will start a thought with one conclusion only to write something completely different in the end because God has changed my thinking just by taking pen to paper.

I keep all my journals.  I have the very first journal I ever wrote in.  And I would take a picture to share that journey in writing with you, but they are all still packed away in boxes (there are at least 3 boxes of journals) waiting for our someday bookshelves to be built.

Why do I journal?

Because God has shown me that for me, that is the best way to share my life, my world, my ever-cluttered brain with him.

Because I like to preserve favorite quotes, verses and song lyrics.

Because that journal shares my life.  It honestly knows me better than anyone else on the planet.

Because I believe I need a safe and sacred place to land when I’m struggling or hurt or even excited and need to share the joy.

Because journaling is a place of no judgment.  Of freedom.  Of solidarity

Because my journal accepts me for who I am and where I am at unconditionally.  But I know that if I want to keep on writing, I can’t remain the same that I was.

I have learned there is no wrong or right way to journal.  I’m not overly artsy – I can’t really draw a picture to save my life.  But I love “dressing” things up with stickers or markers, or exploring word art and doodling different thoughts.  There’s something almost magical that happens in your brain when you connect the pen to page and write down or copy thoughts from others.  Things stick in  your brain longer.

That’s a bit about the why and how of my journals.

Amy

How do you journal?

What works best for you?

 

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