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

on being unique and authentic

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I have two overarching thoughts about the fashion industry. First of all, individualistic people shop at thrift stores. For all the hype about being unique, it makes no sense to me how people shop by trends. Like I heard once, “If it comes in Small, Medium, and Large, it’s not unique; it’s commercial.” Regardless of what the fashion industry says, they aren’t helping us gain authenticity. They’re selling us something. There’s a big difference in that.

Secondly, why the big deal with being unique? The hard reality of it is that people stand out in society not by being different but by doing what everyone else does–just doing it better. This uniqueness- your genuine self shining through (i.e. authenticity) becomes not about being real or even being different, but about being better.

We desire authenticity because it should bring us closer to the people around us. It ought to deepen and strengthen our relationships, and help us grow. Sadly, I find that a prevalent “authenticity” of our society–the “authenticity” that draws attention to itself and follows the latest trends–is doing pretty much the opposite.

There’s a danger of commercializing ourselves in quest for authenticity. In putting our own lives on display and subjecting them to the standards of strangers, we have done nothing to deepen our relationships; but we may face more temptation to fit in and conform to a standard that holds no significance. We may face greater temptation to be visible and affirmed by people who have little bearing on our lives. And we will face the temptation to be absent from our personal reality in the quest to be seen by a wider audience.  

Perhaps it would be helpful to remember in our search for authenticity that we do not have to be unique. Honest and real, yes; but uniqueness does not matter. I think what we’ll find is when we let go of being unique, we will actually become unique. Unique, not for trying, but for letting our authenticity shine through.

Do you see the difference? We are not to be unique in an effort to be authentic. That’s a focus on the outward: a desire to impress, to be seen, to fit in and simultaneously to stand out. Our authenticity–the genuine honesty of our lives–is the thing that is unique, in and of itself. There is no need to be enhanced or promoted, which would cause our authenticity to lose its reality.

It is freeing to put aside the goals of authenticity that society presents, and instead strive for authenticity as a trait of Godly living. Jesus left us the best example of living a genuine life- honest not only before people, but also honest before His God. He lived by a standard higher than His society and experienced a deeper life as a result. He interacted with society in a way that certainly attracted attention, but not for the sake of attention. When there was opportunity, He slipped away to what mattered most, the privacy and personal connection with His Father.

Don’t aim for an authenticity that cheapens what’s real, seeks to prove your worth, or places you on display. Aim for hidden authenticity–like Jesus.

authenticity

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Society craves authenticity, as if honest living alongside our fellow humanity is a lost treasure. I remember the first time I realized someone asking me, “How are you?” was nothing more than an acknowledgement of my presence rather than a legitimate inquiry. They don’t really intend for me to answer that. We want open, honest living together because among so many people it doesn’t exist.

To me, the word “authenticity” has a beautiful ring to it, and yet I can’t help but cringe when I hear it in conversation. It’s been overused and cheapened, same as words like unique and awesome. What do words like these even mean anymore?

The word “authentic” basically means genuine.  You would think, of all things, at least being genuine would come naturally. The reality of the matter is we lost our authenticity at the fall. Sinful deception and shame, hand in hand, shattered the open and honest beauty of life as God created it. Sin and shame brought into existence hiding, excuses, and mis-representations of ourselves. Today our world is still in bondage to these enemies, and as a result authenticity is not the given we might expect.

Do you want to be authentic? That’s a good thing. God created humanity to live honestly before Him and alongside one another. We ought to strive for authenticity, that genuine honesty in our day-to-day lives around those we come in contact with. 

I strongly believe that authenticity matters even, or perhaps especially, in this fallen world. But our society does not seem to attain it. The harder many try, the more distinctly out of reach it becomes for them.

Why? In part, because many people have lost sight of what authenticity even is. To many people authenticity means something along the lines of “being seen for who I am.” Authenticity–that honest living alongside others–has been reduced instead to a striving for being seen by others. People want to be seen: to be seen as individualistic, unique, expressive, valuable, deserving, and the list goes on. In the name of authenticity, people will go great lengths to portray these positive images of themselves. In part this is why we have selfies, and social media. This skewed focus of authenticity also gives people a perceived license to boldly flaunt their sin- and “no one can say anything because this is just the real me.” We need authenticity. But when it comes down to it, we do not need to be more readily seen, but more real and more honest about the truth of who we are. 

[more about authenticity in the future. thanks for reading!]