I’m off and on with journaling. I know it’s beneficial, but it doesn’t always come easily.
But as I read David Mathis’s newest book, Habits of Grace, he’s inspiring me to continue on with at least the small amount of journaling I do. (Full book review to come soon.)
Mathis reminds us that journaling isn’t just about recording the past, but also about preparing for the future. And also about deepening our joy in the present.
“There is always more going on in us and around us than we can appreciate at the time. Journaling is a way of slowing life down for just a few moments, and trying to process at least a sliver of it for the glory of God, our own growth and development, and our enjoyment of the details.”
Here are five of his tips (rephrased in my words) to journal better.
- One sentence is fine
Mathis suggests keeping it simple. Just write something—even if it’s just one sentence—during our daily devotions. I know that works for me; only expecting one sentence from myself is doable. And often leads to more. But if not, that’s fine, too.
- Gaps are okay
Don’t worry if you miss a few days. Mathis says that “The best of lifelong journals are ‘incomplete’ in that they can’t possibly hold everything of significance.” While it’s hard for me to leave gaps between days, I know it’s better to let go of perfectionism or else I’ll stop altogether.
- Your words are private
Do you think your journals will go public one day? Think your kids will read them when you’re gone? Mathis says settle this question now: No. It’s unlikely anyone will ever read what you’re writing. The sooner you make peace with that, the clearer and more honest your journals will become. (I’ve already asked Jeff to destroy my journals once I’m gone.)
- Preach to yourself
Take a tip from the master psalmist King David: start out with your honest despair, but close with hope by reminding yourself of God’s promises and his truths of love.
- Stick with it
Journaling may disappear for seasons in your life, but do return to it when you think of it again. The benefits may be visible quickly, or may only come later. But when they do appear, you’ll be glad that you didn’t give up after the newness wore off.
Your journaling practices may ebb and flow, and may change forms through the years. That’s okay. Remember there’s no right or wrong way to journal (and it’s certainly never a requirement). The best way for you to journal is simply the one you will do.
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Do you journal? How do you do it? Please share in the comments.
- The Why, What, and How of Bible Journaling
- More from David Mathis:
Five Ways to Flourish in Journaling
- How do you prepare for Easter?
- “Breaking Busy” by Alli Worthington – Book Review