Dear Diary – Journaling

Below is a blog entry from last December. As I read it this morning, I was reminded how therapeutic writing can be. If you are struggling with emotional upheaval or holiday stress or spiritual matters and need an outlet, write the stress away. Pour your feelings out so they aren’t bottled up. Find relief by letting it go.

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The New Year is fast approaching and as long as I can remember, even as a child, I have welcomed the New Year with a new journal or notebook or diary in hand. It brings me a special sense of delight to write January 1 on that first blank page and begin again. I can’t say I’ve ever been faithful to write every single day of any year, but I’ve written many days of most years. I usually write in conversational form, often as if I’m penning a letter to my Father. More likely than not these entries take on the form of a prayer as I ask the Lord to do what only He can do in the situation or struggle that I face.

I find such writing, journaling, to be healing and therapeutic. It seems that as the words leave my fingertips, they lessen my stress and the load I am carrying. Some things, once written, are saved and treasured as a remembrance of times past, victories won, struggles had. A few never see the light of day and are destroyed once they have been spilled out on paper. Others are shared in the hopes of encouraging another person traveling the same path I once traversed.

The impact of the written word is far reaching. Not only does it release the writer emotionally, it has the potential of inspiring the reader. Whether that reader is a friend, a stranger or a child of your own that will one day read your words years down the road, the written words has a unique strength.

At one time I had the opportunity to do some teaching at the women’s state prison here in Alabama and one of the messages stands out above all the others in my mind when I think of my time ministering there. I called it, “Being a Mother, Once Removed”. The vast majority of these women were mothers and every single one of them, behind bars, were removed from daily interaction with their children (and other family members).

As I taught them we considered the feelings of hopelessness that they experienced when it came to these relationships. Some of the children were in foster care and some were with relatives. Many times, they had so severely damaged the relationship with the caregiver of their children, they had no opportunity to maintain any contact. In small groups, women would weep with remorse that it was too late. They weren’t able to communicate with their children and they grieved to think their children would never know they cared.

This was the identified need that led me to my teaching mentioned above. How could they be a mother, once removed? They had no real authority, no consistent interaction, not even the foundation of trust to build upon. I introduced to them the concept of journaling. I offered them the hope that if they wrote regularly concerning their children, their thoughts, their prayers, their hopes, that one day they would possibly be able to share these journals with their loved ones as proof of their genuine care and concern.

This is exactly what I’d like to suggest to you today. I don’t know exactly why you may be ‘removed’ from a relationship. Whatever the situation is, consider writing your heart out on paper (or electronically if you desire) and lessen the emotional load you are carrying. Be brutally honest with yourself and your Lord. Tell Him all about it, burn it later if you need to. Allow the healing to begin. You don’t have to be eloquent or use perfect grammar. Record the moments of praise, the times of fear, the days of struggle, the seasons of rejoicing. One day you may be able to encourage somebody. That somebody may even be you as you read your own words at a later date.

I’ll be challenging my own children to start fresh diaries on January 1st with a new journal and a nice pen to make the experience fun. Ours will be a spiritual journal. Each day we will write a prayer or praise and possibly a scripture from our devotions. They won’t be elaborate but, they will be treasures.

There are books written on the subject if you need a little guidance. I saw many articles when I googled journaling. I saw 31 day challenges if the thought of a year is a bit much for you. Keeping a journal can be a meaningful spiritual experience, a safe place to record your most intimate of thoughts, a healing spring that you slip into when you’re feeling a bit battered and bruised.

I like to do my journaling first thing during my personal devotion time. It helps me get my thoughts straight and my priorities in order for the day. During tough times of emotional struggle, I will write at any time I can, even during the middle of the night. I don’t have to be concerned that I’ll be judged or misunderstood as I pour my heart out before the one who knows my heart better than any other.

Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge. (Psalm 62:8 NIV)20131207-042951.jpg

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