In college, I had a friend named Rachel (pictured here; please ignore how terrible I look). She was an English major (a rare breed at our college), and one of the things that Rachel absolutely loved to do was to journal. She loved it so much it became quite a point of good-natured joking in our friendship. I mean, this girl was obsessed. She journaled every day. I have no idea what she wrote or how that process worked with her; all I know is that there were probably seasons of Rachel’s life that could be summed up as eat, read, sleep, journal, repeat.
Once she posted a picture on my Facebook wall of all her old journals in her bookshelf. A whole bookshelf. Crazy.
I, on the other hand, have never been much of a journaler. Several times, I’ve tried to keep a personal blog going, only to fail. I guess that my life really isn’t that interesting or something. But if I can’t keep a blog going, surely a journal… well, that’s never going to work.
There are just too many obstacles, it seems like. For one, I hate physically writing. In college, we had to take blue book tests. You probably know the ones I’m talking about; the professor gives you a couple essay questions, you choose 2 out of 3 or something like that, and then you’re expected to fill an entire small notebook with your thoughts on said question. If I could type my answers on a computer, I would have loved them. But I’m a slow writer, and writing hurts my hand. Plus, I’m left-handed, so I’d always smudge my pencil lead or ink all over my hand as I write (#lefthandedprobs). But beyond actually writing, it’s time-consuming. And then there’s always the matter of content. No offense to you journalers out there, but I never know quite how to write. It seems I can never escape the image of the teenage girl sitting down to write in her diary about all the latest school gossip or the cute boy she likes or whatever else teenage girls care about (who knows?).
Then, three things entered my life. First, something called the Daily. It’s this email devotional I receive Monday through Friday in my email inbox. It’s generally got a short passage of Scripture to read, a few thoughts, and then some sort of response question (it also has a chapter from the New Testament to read each day, should you choose). I enjoyed doing it, mostly because it would connect me with God each day. That’s always good. But I’d kind of feel bad because I’d always just think my answer to the response question, which usually meant I would try to think my answer but get distracted by my grocery list, how busy the day in front of me would be, what I was going to wear to work that day, or whatever else.
Second, I discovered a little app for my Mac, iPhone, and iPad called DayOne. It’s a journaling app. I liked it because it looked nice, was easy to use, and most importantly it would let me write thoughts down without having to physically write. I still didn’t like journaling, but I’d use DayOne every once and a while as a method to pray. Sometimes when my prayer life feels a little stale, I’ll take a brief season to write down prayers instead of saying them aloud. So I’d use the app for that sometimes.
The third thing that entered my life, though, was a conviction. As I mentioned earlier, I wasn’t doing so great at reflecting on thoughts and stuff from my daily email devotion. What’s more, I felt like oftentimes I just read the Bible to read it; I wasn’t actually thinking about what I was reading. I was really just checking off a box on my “to do” list. I like to read books on Christian living as well by guys like Pete Wilson, Craig Groschel, Tim Keller, Andy Stanley, and those kind of guys, and when I’d read, I felt like there was a lot of material that I was just missing because I wouldn’t stop and take time to reflect.
And that’s when the light bulb went off. I could journal!
Okay, I didn’t call it journaling. I basically started using my DayOne app like a blue book for a test. Each day, I’d write a new entry and answer a reflection question or bullet some thoughts there, just to get my thinking down on paper. That’s helpful for me. And then after a week or two of this, a realization dawned on me… I was journaling. (Gasp!)
Fast-forward to e100. We have two questions a day, right? Guess what I do? Each day, I open my Bible and read. When I finish, I jot down my answer to the two “Hear from God Everyday” questions, pray, and then get going on the rest of my day. Like I said, I’m not a journaler. In fact, I make fun of journalers. But it’s been really helpful for me. Even if you’re not a journaler, I think it’d be helpful for you, too. So give it a shot!
How about you? Any best practices for journaling? How does it help you?