journalling. it's like therapy. but geekier. and cheaper.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

I'm about to start a new journal!

Hello to first-blank-page anxiety. Must make it look beautiful. Or profound. Or both. Preferably both.

I've been keeping journals on and off since I was a kid, but I had the good sense to destroy them no longer have them. Most recently, I've been writing in pretty notebooks since ... November 2010. Coming up for four years now. I have filled seven notebooks/journals. That sounds like I've been constantly writing, but some of it is just great big quotes I've photocopied and stuck in. Or big red letters saying I CAN'T COPE WITH THIS RIGHT NOW. Or, you know, pictures 'n stuff.

Also there's a few almost blank pages that just have times of appointments on. And little shopping lists. And cryptic notes.

But what could it MEAN?!

It started because my (beautiful, amazing, wonderful) friend Sam came over and showed me hers (yes, yes, oo-err). We were talking about the Bible, and she showed me this gorgeous journal filled with beautiful scriptures in lovely colours and I just thought: wow, this is what's missing from my life. It occurred to me that I hadn't written in some sort of journal since before we got married, when I kept an extremely extensive account about wedding preparation (obviously), and that maybe now would be a good time to start again. Sam being Sam, all it took was me mildly expressing my interest for her to rush off to the shop to buy me one, writing a heartfelt prayer on the front page before giving it to me.

And so it began.

Back when I had time in the day to do relaxing activities (or any activity really) I would spend ages painting and prettifying my journals because it seemed, to me, to be such a nice way to just calm down, get all my thoughts out, and then be quiet.

Here are a few reasons why journalling has improved my life and is, therefore, a groovy wicked-cool activity:

  1. Journalling keeps track of important life events in a more descriptive way.
    So by now you may have realised how much of a recording-life person I am. I take photographs of everything and I start to panic when I realise the baby has been doing something for a while and I haven't captured it in some way. For me, having tangible memories to look back on is important. In reality, I rarely look back at my journals, but it's nice to know that I have written down how I felt during different stages of my life, and that there might be little details in there that I forgot. When I do look back on them, it's a nice trip down memory lane. This is obviously extra important now I have a baby, and a lot of my most recent journal is just hurried scribbles along the lines of 'Baby now pulling herself up to stand. So cute.'
  2. Journalling helps me to see how much I've grown.
    I am brutally honest in my journals, much moreso than I am on my blog, which is all lies and exaggeration (joke, obvs). My journals bear the brunt of me: the ugliest, most horrible bits, so you don't have to see it. That makes it sound like I have some weird dark side. But you know what I mean? All those things that everyone struggles with. The journal gets it. And then when I look back, I can see that God has brought me out of a particular struggle, or that I have become much more mature in a certain area.
  3. Journalling is a nice way to be arty without having to actually be able to draw.
    See above pictures for evidence of this.
  4. Journalling is a way to capture how scripture has spoken to me.
    Often I have just pages full of prettily drawn scripture. I don't remember them. I'm not good at memorizing scripture, or indeed, anything (I'd struggle to even remember my husband's phone number if prompted. I do love him though. I promise!). But sometimes those important scriptures take root in my heart and when I look at them, I feel this rush of familiarity, and I realise that they've been there in my heart somewhere.
  5. Journalling makes me stop and think.
    Sometimes life gets so busy that you barely have time to sit down; journalling is a way of forcing me to pause, reflect, and then, if necessary (which is often) realign my priorities. It makes me consider what I've actually been doing over the past few weeks and if anything can be cut out to make more time to be spent with people I love. It helps me to see when I've been lazy, or when I've been working too hard and not allowing myself to do things I enjoy.
  6. Journalling helps me to see how I'm falling short. 
    This sounds harsh, but sometimes I need pulling up on certain things, and writing it down helps me to remember. Sometimes I make the same mistakes again and again and again, and over time I can see a pattern emerging, which I can then pray about and deal with.
  7. Journalling helps me to see the good in people. 
    Sometimes I just write stuff I like about other people. Not just people I feel particularly loving towards, either. If I'm writing about a good friend, I can think of a million ways in which they are lovely. If I'm writing about someone that's hurt me, well, that's different. Also, if I'm writing a prayer (more of that below), sometimes God turns me around, and I go from really hating that person to being able to ask for them to be blessed, and then I have that as a reminder of how God loves everyone, not just the people I like, and I am much nicer if I try to see it His way.
  8. Journalling is a nice way to pray.
    Sometimes I find prayer really hard (more of that another time). I waffle on, or I just lapse into silence. I find the balance between reverence and using fake religious language really difficult. I want to be real, but I also want to be respectful. Sometimes when I'm worrying too much about this, I write prayers instead, and I find that helps.
  9. Journalling is a way of dealing with wounds.
    This is when the 'journalling is like therapy' part comes in. I sometimes find it hard to say to people what I actually feel. Even if I'm asked outright 'have I upset you?' I can't just say yes and be done with it, because I am socially awkward and I hate confrontation. Plus, when I'm angry I can't speak properly. I just cry. And then people feel sorry for me. And then I get even angrier because I hate it when people feel sorry for me. So I cry some more. Not so with journalling. Hurt and anguish and pain and fear come spilling out, and it's like sucking poison from a wound, and then I am clear. Usually shuddering and snorting like a pig because I've been crying, but clearer, at least, to think properly. And being clear-headed is usually a good place to start to find a resolution.
  10. Journalling shows healing and redemption.
    There has been a few times in my life now when I've thought: I don't get it. I don't get why this is happening. I don't get why I'm going through this. This hurt seems pointless. And when I look back on it, I think 'Aha! That's why.' Sometimes problems and pain make you stronger and more capable, and usually I can't see that when I'm in the midst of it. Having a record helps me to see.

    Also, I'm pretty sure I've talked about this a lot, but I believe that God can use any situation for good. He can turn scars into a thing of beauty. Redemption is a theme that runs heavily through my journals, and that's because I am walking a blessed, if somewhat wobbly, walk with God. I can see the beauty that has come from pain. The deliverance that comes out of darkness. And the reassuring present-ness of Him, even when at the time I couldn't see.

I hope that helps someone! Obviously I realise that journalling isn't for everyone, and for some people the thought of writing for hours on end would be like a form of torture. I'd like to hear other people's ideas of creative expression. I have a friend, for example, who expresses herself beautifully through dance, in a way that is amazing and completely beyond me, as the only emotion my dancing will ever prompt is embarrassment.

I'd be interested to hear from you too if you do journal, or if you have done in the past, or maybe you're thinking about starting. Leave me a comment here, or on Facebook. I have opened up my comments on my blog now, so you don't have to have a fancy-schmancy Google account to leave messages. You can now leave messages with abandon. Yay!

(Also if you're interested in art journalling at all, I'd recommend this book, 1000 Artist Journal Pages, for inspiration. Chris bought me this a few years ago and some of the pages are breathtakingly beautiful. It did have the unfortunate side effect of making some of my efforts look like a child's collage, but still, I am more inspired by it than I am humiliated. I'm not selling it, am I? Just go look at the book, it's good. Forget the bit I said before.)


  1. LOVE!!!!!

    As a fellow-journaller (is that a word?) who has just rediscovered the art of keeping a journal this just got me really excited and reignited that passion. I love any form of creative expression (I guess that's how God made me)...drawing, writing, reading, dancing (not so much singing). Like you I struggle with conventional prayer, bible study etc, so I like to use creative methods to help me engage and express myself in a more 'me' way. I also believe that God delights in what makes us smile, so when I draw or write to him or dance before Him, I really do feel closer to Him, like we're enjoying this activity together.

    Basically, great post! Thanks lovely xx

    1. Thank you Adele :) did you pick up on the reference to you at the end? I was remembering your 'Breathe Me' dance when I wrote this.

      Totally agree, I think it is a way to worship and pray ... and to just 'be' with God. I never used to see it that way, because I could never move away from the idea of conventional prayer and worship (sitting still with my eyes closed!). When I look back on all the time I spent drawing I realise it was a way of drawing being with Him.

      Thank you for commenting, I'm glad you enjoyed it xx


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