five methods for keeping a journal

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On the subject of keeping a journal, some people can’t do without it, some couldn’t care less, and some aren’t sure how to journal. Thankfully, writing a journal is something that’s hard to do wrong, which tends to be a reason for me to enjoy the art.  The past five years have transformed my personal journaling style from a monotonous transcription of my days into a thoughtful practice of growth. Today, I wanted to share my five most frequent methods for keeping a journal.

Record The Day

This is probably what most people think of when they consider writing a journal. In this technique, the main objective is to keep a record of the events of your life, with as much or as little detail as you desire. I never regret being able to look back and read about the specific days, circumstances, and events in my life and especially the people that filled them. Recording the days we live helps us look back to remember what God is doing in our hearts, understand the beauty and struggle of life, and appreciate the human beings whose lives are impacting our own.

Observe God’s Work

John Piper once said, “God is always doing 10,000 things in your life and you may be aware of three of them.” In an effort to keep my eyes open and heart mindful of God’s work, I dedicate pages of my journal to bullet-point lists of anything I see God doing. It’s simple and practical: Start with a blank journal page and designate it as a page to remember what God is doing. Whenever you see God work–in those “random coincidences,” answered prayer, visible intervention, etc.–write the date and a sentence summary of what you observed. When the page is finally full of observations, start a new page. I love sitting down and reading through the filled “God’s Work” pages in my journal. It never fails to be a huge encouragement.

Journal From Scripture

I can’t talk about this method highly enough. If I didn’t journal from Scripture, I may have never stuck with journaling at all by the time I reached adulthood. Credit for learning this method goes to a dear sister from church who’s example of faithfulness in Scripture journaling never fails to inspire me.

Begin with a passage of Scripture (usually, I’m meditating through a book or passage, so I’ll just use the next verses in line wherever I’m at) and meditate on them in your journal. Depending on the length of the passage I may transcribe the passage first, or simply note the reference. From there, journal your thought processes, insights, takeaways, and applications. This can go so many directions and never grows old. The biggest benefit is meditating on the Scripture–but it also helps to remember those meditations, follow thought trains that may have felt insignificant and been ignored, and take thoughts captive to Christ.

Write Your Prayers 

I admit this one can sometimes feel awkward if you aren’t in the habit, but the best cure for that is to get in the habit! Writing down prayers helps me focus and think clearly about what I’m really saying to God rather than meandering across the place. I specifically like to write down prayers from significant seasons in my life or significant dates (e.g. a prayer at each year’s end) and during seasons when I’m particularly praying over and over for the same thing. It’s also helpful for identifying the honest state of my heart and observing things that arise as frequent struggles or burdens.

Express The Truth
Psalm

My journal is filled with a multitude of artwork including sketches, full drawings, and hand-lettered quotes or verses. I admit, this has a lot to do with the fact that art is my “thing” and the visual effect is amazingly helpful to my processing thoughts. Still, I think there’s a deeper purpose here: taking the time to process in a slow and reflective way highlights the importance of the Truth that we’re handling. It also means that particularly meaningful thoughts will stand out to me over and over when I flip through my journal.

I view my journal as an ongoing work of art–honest, heartfelt, and truthful–made beautiful because it is an expression of God’s handiwork in my life. Above everything else, though, I journal because it aids growth in the Lord by remembering.

“…They should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God, but keep His commandments.”
-Psalm 78:7

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