I’m excited and honored to be featured today on Random Journal Day. My featured post follows…
“How do I know what I think until I see what I say?” -E. M. Forster
That quote explains why I journal. From my first locked little diary full of now-lost secrets, till today, journal-keeping has enabled me to sift my thoughts and feelings, “journalize”* my way through dilemmas, discover surprising truths and blessings, and safeguard insights to benefit my future self.
My journals certainly have evolved from their lowly grade-school start.
Through high school I did little diary-keeping, and none during college. Required reading and writing crowded it out. But I did write quirky letters home. These, in a way, formed a sort-of journal, giving running commentary on my life’s happenings. Sometimes I jazzed them up with pictures and cartoons cut from magazines, to give the text punch. Not your usual letter home, more a picto-journal newsletter. (Like a blog post, long before blog posts?)
Decades later, the value of this journal-type writing as a reality check hit me bolt-like. Clearing out the attic after Mom and Dad died, my oldest brother and I happened upon our college letters. Sitting on that splintery floor in the dusty light, reading through them, we kept gaping at each other, repeating, “That’s not how I remembered it!” If we hadn’t clearly recognized our own handwriting, we would have thought someone else had made up all that stuff! Evidently nostalgic memories aren’t too accurate; time and intervening experiences distort how we “remember.” But journals freeze our perceptions just as they were.
Sometime after college I began journaling in earnest, if sporadically. Just when, I’m not sure. I suspect it was when certain problems began to overwhelm me. I felt I had no human I could talk to. But my journal would “listen” as I poured out woes in clear black and white. (Who was it that called her journal “Dear paper psychiatrist”? Well, that’s what this was.)
But, sadly, I think most of my journaling at this point just moaned and complained. I can’t be sure, because I threw it all out—probably because reading it never gave me much wisdom but only depressed me.
Then I found the reality of Christ, and hope.
The journal I have from this time of dawning shows my thoughts taking new direction, lining up with God’s wisdom and promises, recognizing His presence and involvement in my life. Here, one day (following a deep disappointment), I began to counter discouragement by journaling thanks, listing 25 genuine “gratitudes.” In days to follow I added to the list till the thank-You’s numbered 56. Reading through them now I see a definite upturn in spirit.
Since then I’ve often included five “new” thanksgivings daily—both for things I like and ones I’m not ecstatic about, especially if I detect a negative attitude sprouting. Lately I’ve been naming the top “Gift of the Day” (a fun, revealing thing to do!) All this helps keep me tuned in to blessings and aware of God’s goodness and help. Sometimes I’ve made journals of just “Thanks” lists, like this self-crafted one.
Another practice started then: jotting down words, phrases, whole paragraphs that jumped out and “grabbed” me from scripture or other writings—to ponder in ink and relate to my life. I also left blank pages with “UAQ’s” (unanswered questions) at the top, to add insights from scripture as I happened upon them.
Some journal pages talk to my future self, some to God. Occasionally I turn a journal upside down, to treat last page as first, and list prayer requests, and outcomes.
Lately I’ve been “journey journaling” through an issue that’s been plaguing me, making a sort of personal pilgrimage. And I’m amazed at how marking just one past journal with color-coded flags has clarified truth and finally given me certainty about what direction I should be taking.
Finally, I have to tell how reviewing my journals to write this piece has affected me: Wet eyelids, lump in throat, at seeing so much evidence of God loving and helping and growing me through both the good and “bad,” and of how He’s used journals to do it. And guess what? He’s still doing that!
*”journalizing”- wonderful term someone in community here coined, though I couldn’t determine who and where.