God gave me a special gift this past December: three weeks of illness! A gift? Yes, because most of the time I still could read and think, and could go through another pile of gifts: past journals—in the most extensive diary search and seizure I’d ever done.


In three entries of last December’s journal, I wrote about it (as shared below). I highly recommend it to all other journal-ers…



… heard Dr. David Jeremiah encouraging journaling as a spiritual discipline—especially journaling the working of God in your days. His role model for this was his never-married eccentric uncle, who visited sometimes for a stretch of days. At the dinner table he’d ask if anyone knew what had happened on “this date” for the previous seven years.

Jeremiah spoke much on journaling’s value [for] 1) remembering what God has done, 2) connecting with Him more intimately, 3) getting real with God—it’s hard to be phony for long in a private personal journal…


I think to do what the eccentric uncle talked about: …see what was going on in and around me, on and around today’s date for the past seven years.


I look first at 2009 because I’ve been reading that, and what I see there in myself is abhorrent to me right now, especially after focusing this morning on the actual commands of Romans 12-15—and the lack of [my following] them [evidenced] in certain passages… I am shamefaced with embarrassment, repent “in dust and ashes,” and only leave the odious… pages in the journal to stay honest and see in present and future review the repulsive mindset they exhibit. It’s a vain and self-focused mindset and a kind of disgusting pride. Ugh! God forgive me and cleanse me!

Doing more foraging in old journals around this day of this month [previous years] I am chagrined to see myself wringing my hands over the same uncertainties… It’s pathetic! And it has to end. I am determined not to continue in this same doing of something while I have no certainty that it’s God’s will for me.

I felt so disgusted with myself and this pathetic rerun-after-rerun, I decided I’d better try to find something in which I’d grown over those years. Searching now, remembering a few things, too…



People really do go around in circles when lost, in woods or deserts, at least under cloudy skies, although no one’s been able to figure out why.

I’ve deeply grieved that my last 7 years’ journals show me doing the same thing in life—going in the same circles yearly—for 7 years (or more)! I had no idea I’d repeated my folly so long!

When lost in the woods, or deserts, or mountains and valleys of life, the wisest thing to do is stop right where you are and be still. Send up signals for rescue and wait to be found. Do what you can right where you are, as wisely as possible. Don’t try to head out, even if you think you know which way to go…

[Also] I’ve repeated so many mistakes and feel so discouraged to discover this… that I really need to note anything I’ve done that was not a mistake, especially if it was a new tactic/practice. At first I felt I wouldn’t find any, but I did…

[And for the next full page I list them:]

“It was not a mistake to…”

[Later I find more…]

Just a few values of journaling. And of reading and considering the journaling you’ve done in the past!


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18 thoughts on “On Journaling in Circles

  1. I like to go back to my old journals, too. It’s interesting to see where I’ve been and how I’ve changed/grown….or as you mentioned, stayed the same. It’s a good barometer to let me know how I’m doing. If I’m still stuck in the same place on something I can see that it’s time to “get serious” about changing the pattern.

    Thanks for sharing your journal and insights. 🙂

    1. Hi Stacy,
      It’s really important to use our journals this way, isn’t it? Taking several years’ journal entries for December was really revelatory this way for me, showing me more than just a look at the last year would have. Seems I can miss the truth about how much I’m going in life-wasting circles with just one year’s review. I think this finally did the trick re one pursuit I need to just plain quit entirely!
      Thanks for commenting!

  2. Oh, my this blesses me…thank you so much for joining in!

    I used to say I would have a journal burning party for the before Him years…but I have found seeing who I am without him so instrumental to my faith I dare not. Also, even as I am being conformed the journals still reveal pockets of pride, areas that need tending, pruning. even that make me cringe in the foolishness! But His grace keeps me and covers my shame with forgiveness…love the wisdom of your honesty, and David Jeremiah. One of the best parts of having RJD is so that we regularly look at those journals and see Him in our journey, in so many ways.

    Loved your pics and your courage. Happy New Year! Hope to see you next month!

    1. And your comment comforts me, Dawn—because I feel exactly the same about a journal burning party (of one!) I keep hanging onto the whole shelf-load of them, though, for the same reason as yours. Their practical value for my life lies in the revelations that come from their review, and I certainly haven’t grown beyond my need for those. I often think, what if I suddenly died or became incapacitated and left all these? Things can get misinterpreted, for one thing, and for another, well, they’re just pIain *personal*! I always have written my journals just for me, and largely to help me grow. It would be nice if God would give us fair warning: “Okay! Now it’s time to burn the journals!” Don’t think He will though, do you? (heh) (I am just remembering that D. Jeremiah said he’s instructed his wife to burn all his journaling at his death. Maybe we could put it in a living will??)
      So glad I finally got the right Friday for RJD linkup! Thanks for hosting it!

  3. Circles–
    I always think about this in terms of walking around the same mountains that I never seem to conquer. This is hard to face. Thanks for being vulnerable. Sometimes, though, there’s a glimmer of the top of that mountain. And a sense of real growth. And I LOVE that He gives that. Don’t you?

    1. Hi Carolyn. Your comment is reminding me of a post I wrote about circling a mountain—this one:
      And I see Laurie refers to it in the next comment. I might just repost it again, since we seem to have a group conversation going here on this. Thank you so much for your contribution to it! And yes, I surely do love when He gives that glimmer, and sense of growth. He is, after all, growing us up in Him even when we just see our own inabilities and blunders. Such a God of Grace and Mercy! 🙂

  4. Until my most recent journal–started in July 2012–I never filled one up–but I would start and start and when I find an old attempt, usually undated–yes it has the same laments–same stumblings, so discouraging to think “have I not grown?”….certainly circles, but remember the spiraling you wrote about? Let us pray that in our circling we will continue to look up, to be drawn up….

    1. Yep, Laurie, I thought about that “spiraling” post, especially after Carolyn, above, brought up the picture of mountains. So I included a link to it in my reply, right before your comment. I am even thinking of reposting it (again) because it’s a perspective we need to remember, especially if we tend to beat up on ourselves!
      I gotta say, if I’m destined to go around in circles, at least it’s a blessing to do it with good friends! The conversation is encouraging on the journey!

  5. As I think you know, Sylvie, I’m passionate about journaling. Thank you for this raw, honest post. I feel your angst. I just read in God’s Word today about how He told the Israelites that they had “circled this mountain long enough.” I so often feel that I, too, am running (or dragging) around in circles, not accomplinging God’s greater purposes for my life. I am committing the same sins and mistakes. I know this, because my journal tells me so. It’s really easy to forget, otherwise. And wow, is it discouraging. And yet, I reread entries, and found that at times I have surrendered to the Lord and let Him work in and through me. And like you, I’ve been encouraged. Mostly, I am grateful and humbled by His faithfulness when I most assuredly am not. When I am tempted to forget that He has been patient with me, my journals attest otherwise. Thank you for a wonderful post. I surely hope you are feeling better. Happy 2014.

    1. Yes, so right, Lynn, that we need to recognize the positive along with the negative. Also take a peek at the post linked above in my reply to Carolyn, because it’s right in tune with your lament about circling the same old mountain! (And it does catch a glimpse of a “glimmer”on the mountain.)

  6. Sylvie, I”d meant to ask…..what day did Jeremiah talk about journaling? I’ve heard him before, but I’d love the resource. Thank you.
    Also, nosey me looked at your handwritten journal pages. Might I add one suggestion? It has really helped me not just to list the day and date, but the time, the place, and often the weather. I find that the more specific I can be in giving context to my writing, it helps me to remember exactly where I was in life when I wrote and it helps evoke the feelings with which I wrote, as well. Even a gorgeous, sparkling day can affect my frame of mind. And btw, I also love rain. So often God will use Nature to cause me to write praises to Him. Just a thought….

    1. Lynn, I think that Jeremiah broadcast was on the 10th of December. If not, it must have been the day before.
      Good ideas, Lynn. I often do put the time, especially if I’ve written more than once in a day. I usually write my “thankses” in the mornings, and lately I’m trying to make a practice of reviewing my day, come evening, to record the evidence of God’s presence and working in the day. The weather is a good thing to note, and also state of bodily health, because they both can influence the way we see things and therefore what sort of tone our day’s writing might take on. (BTW, snowfall usually makes me smile, and the sound of rain on the roof… yes, and anything in the weather that makes things sparkle…)

  7. As a young child I kept a diary until my sister decided to read it. Thus I never journaled after that. I blog instead and it is for the world to view! Excellent post here

    1. Hazel, I’m not brave enough for that! (Blogging my diary-only thoughts.) Besides there are lots of things about people in and around my life that it would not be right to share so publicly. That’s a shame that your sister spoiled your diary writing for you!

  8. Sylvia- Thank you for sharing the benefits of journal keeping…I love your metaphor of walking in circles …but I also hear your resolve in the midst of your “disgust” to break the cycle…your December illness bore good fruit for all of us…not that I want to be ill, but I would appreciate the time to journey back in time and see what lessons I’ve failed to learn and the changes God has wrought… I think I will pencil in a journal journey with God this month! Thanks for sharing-Kel

    1. So glad to see you here, Kel. You have been an inspiration giver to me in the area of collage as a means of expression—and a means of “finding oneself,” one’s heart—art to enhance any journal. (It really is interesting what can come into light in making a collage that speaks one’s heart.
      I’ll pray for God to open the way for you to get that time (without the illness, or injury!) It’s a good think to pencil in. I think I’ll pencil in a mini one to try to review my *January* journals now over the last several years. Hope I see some progress!

  9. Oh, I so loved reading this post and the wonderful discussion in the comments. I am also glad that you have joined our little journal gathering! The mountain-spiral thing came to my mind as I read this post too, and as I read my old journals. But I remind myself that new unseen layers may be being repaired or improved as I “go around again”. At least I hope so!
    I am about to turn 59 and since my mother’s passing 2 years ago I have thought often about destroying my lifetime of journals…but I just cannot…yet. Currently they are fuel for a book and of course for the next Random Journal Days!

  10. Susie,
    I so love when comments turn into a lively positive discussion group like this, too! And I’m also glad I joined your little journal gathering. Looking forward to many future interactions, now that I’ve finally gotten correct in my mind which day to hook up!

    I think, yes, if we’re looking up toward Him as we spiral round the mountain, we will find that though we seem to have arrived back at the same spots repeatedly, we’re really a little higher up the mountain each time, a little closer to Him.

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