One of my favorite spiritual disciplines is journaling. There is something about writing out prayers, defeats, milestones, and improvements that draws my heart closer to His. Therapeutically, there is research that shows writing by hand is good for long-term memory and helps us deal with our “stuff” better. I think writing is also just something God designed me to enjoy.
When I was a little girl I used to write little books constantly. Each semester, my mom brought extra blue books home that her students used to write their finals. I was always thrilled to have these little pre-made books in which I could write stories. (Not to worry though, in between finals I still managed to find ways to make my own booklets. As I got a little older, I even remember dictating stories to my very patient mom and having her type them…Not surprisingly, I was forced to learn to type on my own pretty quickly.)
Currently, most of my writing is consumed by counseling and theology papers, but journaling is still a discipline I enjoy and try to do each day. Most of my journaling is prayers written out (which transformed my prayer life), but I’ve discovered a few new journaling techniques while being in New Orleans. I’ll share with you the ones I like that I’ve seen here and in Oklahoma:
1. Journaling for a disciple: a PhD student here recently shared her journey of discipling a young lady from the time she was ten until she graduated high school. This amazing woman kept a journal for her disciple for eight years and gave it to her as a graduation gift. She journaled spiritual milestones and interactions with this sweet girl. I cannot imagine how meaningful this gift was for both parties. What an awesome addition to discipleship that I wish I’d implemented for several girls I’ve discipled! This idea also made me think that it might be fun to journal with a disciple or have her write a journal for you as you write one for her.
2. Journaling BIG dreams: The same PhD student that put everyone to shame with her discipleship journal also keeps a journal of BIG dreams. You know, those dreams that seem unattainable that we all have. I suppose it could also be somewhat like a bucket list. (One of the things I love most about journaling is there are no rules!) I wouldn’t necessarily want to encourage fantasizing, but I think there’s a benefit to writing dreams down. The dreams that are accomplished could be written about in the journal and the dreams that aren’t could be released in the journal. I also can’t help but think of Tangled when Repunzel tells Flynn Rider that he’s her new dream. I think there’s a benefit to acknowledging God’s bigger plans for us when our dreams don’t turn out how we expect or they change.
3. Journaling BIG ideas: I think the notes on my phone have mostly replaced this type of middle-of-the night, big idea journaling that nightstand notepads used to fulfill. Yet, wouldn’t it be awesome if these ideas were actually kept or organized? Not only could it serve as a good laugh when the ideas are utterly ridiculous, but it could show patterns of different passions throughout a person’s life. I wish my grandparents had kept journals like this. I would love to know their ideas and see the creative working of their minds, not just the basic facts that are kept in family records and scrapbooks.
4. Journaling prayer needs: I tend to just cram each aspect of journaling into one journal, but the times I’ve tried to actually keep a separate journal for prayer needs has been so enlightening. I love seeing a list of prayer needs and the column that shows how the prayers are answered. It’s such a neat visual to see how God uses us in this way. I’ve also met with a prayer partner before and kept a journal of our prayer requests. After about a year, I went back and wrote the answers to those prayers. It gave me goosebumps to see God’s hand on each of those needs.
5. Journaling praises: Ann Voskamp is the author that really drove this point home for me. Her book, 1000 gifts, showed me how transforming literal praise reports can be. I also had a friend in college that journaled before bed each night all the good things the Lord had done that day, making sure she at least came up with some sort of list. The morning person in me struggles deeply with any nighttime discipline, but I think this type of journaling would help me fall asleep reminded of God’s love. I also think this type of journaling could be used to help my attitude after a long day of work or school when I come home to a hall filled with girls or a house filled with family.
Some of these ideas can seem daunting, especially when you’re not a writer or you’re just getting started. A tip I’ve heard over and over again is to just write something each day. Even a sentence or a paragraph can be a great discipline to reflect on God’s goodness. I also like to write notes by verses in my Bible and on the notecards where I have written verses to memorize. Each of these activities reminds me of how intimate our relationship with the Lord can be. Our journeys are personal and unique. I think journaling helps me remember that, and causes me to “be still and know that [He] is God” (Psalm 46:10).
I’m sure there are hundreds of other journaling ideas and I’d love to hear some of your’s!