Journaling the Journey

This week has been filled with much false labor, multiple bucket list items being checked off of our Ultimate Summer Bucket List, and preparations for our celebration of Independence Day tomorrow.  As a result, I’m taking this opportunity to bring a post that was originally published on Over the Big Moon back in January, Journaling the Journey, and including it here on my blog.  I was particularly grateful to give this post a re-read, as I have been desperately lacking in my journal entries.

Perhaps it’s pregnancy that makes me more reflective or embarking on a new year, but I found myself wanting to look back at previous posts on my family blog.  As I was reading through it, gratitude filled my heart for the time I had set aside to write blog posts over the past seven years.  I recall it feeling like a chore at times to do so, particularly during the more difficult periods in my life.  Re-reading the ups and downs and pondering how I’ve grown and changed brought me peace.

I was once encouraged to keep a record of my personal faith-promoting experiences.  It was not just to be for posterity sake, but it was supposed to serve as a reminder to me when perhaps my faith was lacking.  I can’t tell you how valuable that suggestion has been in my life.  I’m not always the best about writing in my personal journal, but I do make a greater effort to do so when it comes to the things that I know I’ll need to remember during the more tumultuous times.  It’s been immensely helpful to re-read my own experiences instead of relying solely on other’s faith-promoting moments.  I love how Helen Keller, who was both blind and deaf, once put it: “I don’t want to live in a hand-me-down world of others’ experiences.  I want to write about me, my discoveries, my fears, my feelings, about me.”

I realize writing is not a favorite past-time for a lot of people.  There are many who would love to have a journal to look back on but aren’t up for taking the time to write it out now.  In these circumstances, it may be best to tailor something to your specific situation.  Perhaps create a private blog so that you can type up your thoughts quicker on a weekly basis?  Or maybe your feelings are equally effective when expressed through drawings?  In that case, grab yourself a sketch book and jot down the date, a picture, and maybe a few key words to describe how things are at that moment in your life.  Maybe taking video and pictures comes easily to you?  An option might be to save these files in chronological order with very specific titles for each video or picture (e.g., “Hubbies first time trying octopus”).  I am a strong supporter of the action of putting pen to paper, but do whatever works for you.  If conventional journaling prevents you from doing any aspect of it, then take baby steps for now.

If you are feeling so bold as to do conventional journal writing, but feel like you don’t know what to write, here are a couple suggestions.  One would be to get your hands on a Journal Jar.  Perhaps you’ve seen or heard of these before.  My cousin gave me a Journal Jar, as shown below, stuffed with journal topics.  Some examples are: Share a principle you have learned or taught; Tell about how you feel about water – playing in it, seeing it, using it; What instrument do you play or wish you could play?  Why?; Did you and your Mother share an interest in any special activity?; How did your Father spend his time?; and so on.  Another option for the unsure journal writer is to simply begin by putting pen to paper.  Half the time when I write in my personal journal I don’t know what it is I want to say.  Oftentimes, I haven’t even figured out what I’m feeling at the moment until I find where my pen leads me.  This was particularly helpful in my teenage years when I was trying to understand all the feelings and changes I was going through.  Journaling helped me sort my mind out.

Which brings me to the last aspect I wanted to bring up regarding journaling: start young.  Teach your children the importance of writing in a journal now.  A couple weeks ago, I chatted with my girls about journal writing.  I have a daughter who is in the second grade and one in Kindergarten.  Both are capable of putting words together.  I encouraged my Kindergartner to use pictures when she didn’t know what to write.  It was fun to see what they chose to share in their first entries.  I can only imagine how fun it will be for them to look back and see how far they’ve come, not just in their thoughts and ideas, but in their writing also.  If your children are now grown and you would like to encourage them to journal, perhaps making a Journal Jar as a gift for their next birthday would be a fun idea.  StoryCorps has a great list of questions to help make your jar possible and motivate your children at any age to get journaling!

I’m grateful for the example my parents set for me on this matter.  My Dad has always been a dedicated journal writer.  He even gifts a “Year in Review” to my Step-Mom each Christmas with the highlights of their past year that he’s pulled from his personal journal.  It’s a gift my Step-Mom looks forward to every year.  My Mom was not as consistent with her journaling as my Dad.  But I treasure the entries she did leave behind for us.  Upon her passing, it was fun to read through her journals.  She would always note what she ate for all of her meals.  It might seem so trivial to write, but I love reading of her adventures in cottage cheese and pineapple.  As noted before, the process of journaling is as much of a blessing to ourselves as it will be to our posterity.

I actually jot my thoughts, memories and feelings down in various places.  One of my favorites is a little journal where I only keep memories of things my kids are currently doing or saying.  It’s an absolute blast to look back and remember how they used to pronounce certain words when they were first learning to talk.  We think we’ll never forget these precious moments with our children but they slip by all too quickly and, sadly, our memories tend to slip away with them.  I confirmed this as I was re-reading blog posts from years prior.  I could hardly believe how small my kids looked in the pictures and videos posted.  Now is the time to write and capture the moments in whatever manner works for you.

In my exercise of reflection through re-reading my family blog, I reaffirmed that my blog, journals, pictures and videos are invaluable.  Not only did I grow in the process of writing it all down in the first place, but I’ve grown in re-reading it and bringing back to my mind all the ways that I have received tender mercies and grown over the years.  My belief is that journaling blesses our lives in the moment, in our future, and in our children’s future.

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