Journal On

I considered removing the previous three pages from my journal recently. My voice sounds rambling and irritated and my thoughts wander around like whiny children needing a nap. Over my years of journaling, I have discovered that agitation and irritation are sure-fire catalysts for filling up the pages.

This is not the case every night, of course. A survey of my journals would find descriptions of marvelous moments–like the birth of a child or grandchild—familiar to journal-keepers everywhere. I think with my pencil (my preferred writing instrument) through a passage of scripture. I pray on paper.

However, there has been a recurring question in the back of my mind as to whether I will leave this lifetime of soul-searching for posterity. It would be a blessed thing if a son or daughter or grandchild found these pages profound in observation, a treasure trove of life lessons. However, I rather worry that they might simply be seen as the messy ramblings of a generally dissatisfied woman.

But life is messy. It can be messy and irksome and frequently bound up in tragedy and sorrow. It is also predictable and comforting in the quotidian offerings of family and work and myriad responsibilities. And sometimes, when we rise early enough or pause at day’s end long enough to actually see, there is sunrise and moonrise and the rhythmic drift of constellations. A journal maintained with any degree of honesty will chronicle a life both mundane and exhilarating, routine and wondrous.

And overarching each day’s journey is the love of the Savior. Somehow we rest simultaneously under the shadow of heavenly wings and upon the strength of everlasting arms. Through it all, we learn to trust Him. We trust that our repentant hearts will always find mercy, that our broken ones will be mended – all within the sure purposes of God.

Hopefully, within the pages of my journals, there is a sense of journey, of the dogged and often painful working out of faith. I question God. He is, as my sister in the middle of chemotherapy used to say, big enough to take it. If Abraham and Moses are any examples, He actually seems to relish an occasional confrontation with serious individuals thinking seriously about their straitened circumstances.

For a writer, journals can be a dynamic source of material for publication. Devotional publications want first-person experiences. Magazines are filled with articles designed around events in the writer’s life. We should never underestimate the power of personal testimony.

The process of taking an experience and shaping it into an article or devotion is valuable. Here are three field-tested journaling practices you may find helpful in getting started:

Make the effort to write something each week. For some of us, journaling is a daily practice. For others, it is wildly sporadic. But putting something down at least once a week creates a good linear thread and helps impose discipline on your personal narrative.

Resist making your journal simply a chronicle of events. Describe your thoughts about the things that have materialized—the expected and the unexpected. How we process the things that occur in our lives can change dramatically over time. Writing down how we are sifting through those various experiences as we mature can help us get to know ourselves better in any season of life. Should you choose to shape it into an article or devotional, it can make a significant impact on the reader.

Avoid too much emoting. Yes, it is your journal and you can emote all over the place if you want to. However, you are likely not going to appreciate the thinking-less quality of those pages when you re-read them in the future. (Take this from someone who knows.) This applies to even the very difficult things that each of us encounters in life. Instead, consider writing down what you prayed and how you prayed. God has marvelous ways of meeting us on the page during those painful seasons as His Word pours a balm over our hurting spirits.

Hopefully, our words spilling over page after page, or crafted into submittable form,  will testify of men and women who walked through life with a Lord who loved them, who read it all, and in the end smiled and said, “Well done.”

About Debra Celovsky 1 Article
Debra Celovsky serves with her husband as Elder Pastors in their church. She is also on the board of Inspire Christian Writers . In addition to teaching the Bible in women’s small groups, and 4th-6th graders in Sunday school, she works as a freelance writer and blogs at debracelovsky.com.

2 Comments

  1. I love that as a writer you “pray on paper” through a passage of scripture. I have found this type of journaling to be so helpful to me as a person and as a writer.

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