Monday, August 25, 2014

This Mom's Journals

This Mom’s Journals

Do you journal?  If not, do you want to start?

I am a word and idea lover, so of course I do! I have actually used journals on and off for over 35 years, ever since Aunt Kathy gave me one for Christmas when I was 15. There were years when I didn't write much at all, and years where I blitzed through several out of desperation. No matter how consistently (or not) I have kept them, my journals have been a vital part of my well-being.

Here are several kinds of journals I have kept…

Daily Life Journals: I write about what is going on in my life and what I think about it. I have done this both in bound books actually designed as journals, as well as in loose leaf notebooks. Using a bound journal is generally more pleasant for me because it feels more real and journal-ly. However, the advantage of a notebook is that you can insert other items, such as articles printed off the Internet, pictures, memorabilia, letters received, handouts from  workshops, etc. I have even used plastic page protectors for certain items that I didn't want to hole punch. With a notebook, you can also easily remove pages when you mess up or decide later that some information is too private to be there.

Daily Journal App: This past spring, I downloaded an inexpensive app called Ordinary Days to jot down a brief recollection of each day on my iPod Touch. This could be a full paragraph with my feelings, a single sentence summing up the main event of the day, a simple caption for a photo (easily imported from my camera roll), or a list of what I did that day (which gives me a sense of accomplishment). Believe it or not, I have an entry for every single day for nearly six months, making this my most consistent journal ever. Sometimes I have to go back and fill in a few days, but I at least have something!

Bible Study & Prayer Journals: I usually read through a book of the Bible, copy key verses, and jot down my own reflections. I might also write out prayers or make a list of things to pray about regularly.  I usually do not use Bible study workbooks as they are not my style at all, but I do have a Psalms reflection journal with room for writing, which I talked about here: Sanctuary.

Sermon Note Journal: This is the one I take to church each Sunday. It is small enough to fit in my purse. I do not include sermon notes in my other journals because I don’t want to risk leaving personal information behind where someone else can find them. So sermon notes are separate.

Book Note Journals: When I am reading a book that I want to fully absorb, I take notes on it. I have one leather journal (a gift from my daughter) where I am currently working through How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci: Seven Steps to Genius Every Day. The book has a lot of question to answer, so this is a good replace to record my responses. Breath for the Bones - Art, Imagination and Spirit: Reflections on Creativity and Faith by Luci Shaw is another book that called me into written reflection. I usually keep my book journal in a tote bag with whatever book I am reading. I can easily grab it and go when I know I am going to have to wait somewhere for a while.

Life Goals / Therapy Journals: This my most private journal, and I don't leave it around. I use it for counseling appointment notes, goals and plans for the future, angst venting, and trying to figure out answers to the more thorny issues I am facing.

Blogs: You might not think of blogging as journaling, but for me it is. This is how I keep track of my life in pictures, prose, and poetry. So I blog about life events, our road trips, things I've learned, my reaction to what’s going on in the world, and more. Writing for others helps me clarify what is in my own mind. What is most memorable? Important? Inspirational?

More questions about my journaling?

When? I don’t have a strict regimen of journaling. I just pull out the appropriate one whenever I feel like it. I may go weeks between writing in my daily life journal, whereas during various seasons of life, I was writing a few times a day just to make it through. Though I read or think about the Bible every day, I don’t sit down for a formal written study every day. Another when to consider is “later” – because I can always come back days, weeks, months, years, decades later and read what I have written. That has been a huge blessing to me, to see where I was, where I have come, and what I have become, good or bad.

Where?  I almost always sit in the easy chair in my bedroom to write in my life and devotional journals. This is where my soul is most comfortable and at rest. It is also the most private place in the house. I store some of my journals on my desk, and others out of sight. J

Who? Me, of course!  My journals are mine, mine, all mine. They are not meant to be read by others, though I will occasionally include an excerpt on my blog.

How? I write whatever comes to mind on my chosen topic, and give myself permission to branch out onto bunny trails whenever I want. There are no rules, except that I always date my entries and try to write neatly. I do like to use a nice pen when I am journaling, and try to keep a private stash of them where my kids can’t walk away with them.

So that's the scoop on how I journal. Interested in more information on my journals, as well as some excerpts? Here are links to my other posts:

Process of Journaling and Blogging:

Life & Therapeutic Journaling:
Bible & Sermon Journals:

Friday, August 22, 2014

The Gift of Solitude

The Gift of Solitude

A week ago, I had a gift of solitude for the better part of a day…

Summer break is over, so last week four of my children started their public school year. The only one doing home school this year is my youngest daughter, who is 9.  It’s a lot quieter around the house during the day!  One of my adult daughters offered to take her little sister to Disney World as a belated birthday present. (As an employee, she can take her in for free.)

Wow! A day to myself with no kids around the house! I know how quickly those can get squandered so I tried to plan out my day ahead of time. Maybe I would spend half the day cleaning house and half the day reading and writing. Or, better yet, maybe I could go away for a little silent retreat to a quiet place with no Internet or clutter or people to distract me? Unfortunately, I didn’t know of a place I could do that. That is, until another adult daughter called and asked if I could babysit her three month old son for several hours. Ah, that was it! She has a lovely apartment, and I would be there by myself with a napping baby. So there we have it.

I arrived around 9:30 AM after running some errands, including buying myself some goodies for snacks and lunch.  My grandson didn’t really wake up until the afternoon, and even then he was a pretty chill kid and ready to cuddle. 

I had about four hours to read my Bible, write in my journal, pray, and call a mentor. Before I started, I texted a handful of friends and asked them to pray for me that my time would be fruitful. They were all delighted to participate.

I marveled at how things worked out just right, and I thanked God for the gift of solitude to this tired mom who still wants to grow.

At the top of a journal page, I wrote, “Clarity and Wisdom Retreat.” That was my goal – to hear from God and get guidance for the coming days and years. As it turned out, I spent most of my time reading and reflecting on Psalms 50-63 about being responsive and reverent to God.

“Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you and you will honor me… He who sacrifices thank offerings honors me, and he prepares the way so that I may show him the salvation of God.” Psalm 50:15, 23

“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit in me… Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit to sustain me.” Psalm 51:10,12

“But I am like an olive tree flourishing in the house of God. I trust in God’s unfailing love forever and ever. I will praise you forever for what you have done; in your name I will hope, for your name is good. I will praise you in the presence of your saints.” Psalm 52:8-9

“Cast your cares upon the Lord, and he will sustain you…”  Psalm 55:22a

“For you have delivered my soul from death and my feet from stumbling, that I may walk before God in the light of life.” Psalm 56:13

“For great is your love, reaching to the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the skies.” Psalm 57:10

“Their venom is like the venom of a snake, like that of a cobra that has stopped its ears, that will not heed the tune of the charmer, however skillful the enchanter may be.” Psalm 58:4-5

“For the sins of their mouths, for the words of their lips, let them be caught in their pride… But I will sing of your strength, in the morning I will sing of your love; for you are my fortress, my refuge in times of trouble.” Psalm 59:12, 18

“For you have heard my vows, O God; you have given me the heritage of those who fear your name.” Psalm 61:5

“O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water. I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory. Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you.” Psalm 63:1-3

Did my whole life become clear for me? Not hardly. But I feel like I have enough light for the path right in front of me, and enough faith to keep following Jesus. That's enough for me.

More on solitude and reflection? Read these...

Virginia Knowles

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Stones of Hope and Joy

"May the God of hope
fill you with joy and peace
in your faith,
that by the power
of the Holy Spirit,
your whole life and outlook
may be radiant with hope."
Romans 15:13 Phillips

A text conversation with my teenage daughter...

Naomi: When are you going to be back, Momma?

Me: 20 minutes. I stopped at Ten Thousand Villages for rocks.    

Naomi: Oh, I love that store. Why do you need rocks?

Me: Joy and hope to go with wisdom and strength.

Naomi: Oh cool! See you soon. Focus on the road.


Why do I need engraved rocks? Sometimes I just appreciate a touchable reminder of vital words in my life to help me "focus on the road" ahead. I squeeze these smooth stones tightly in the palms of my hands on days when the strength, wisdom, joy, and hope don't come on their own but the tears and fears do. I don't know why that helps, but it does. I see them every day on my desk, too. Memorial stones. Perhaps someday I shall have 12 of them, like Joshua gathered in the dry riverbed when the waters miraculously parted, and then piled on the banks of the Jordan for a remembrance? 

I already had stones for strength and wisdom. Now I have them for joy and hope, too. I think of hope as looking toward the future, but it still keeps me going right now. Brighter days will come, so I can press on. I think of joy as flowing from within, from what God is doing inside me, not what is going on around me. 

May I see the miracle of a way made through the deep and murky water, then pillars of fire and smoke to guide me through the wilderness. May I gather these memories of grace in my heart. May I pile up my dreams of hope and joy for the future.

I hope the same for you, too.

More posts on joy and hope and my rock collection:

For hope and joy,
Virginia Knowles


Inspire wall rack
V.I.P.S. (Very Important Post Script) I bought the rocks at Ten Thousand Villages, a store on Park Avenue in Winter Park, Florida. It may be in the ritzy section of town, but its real heartbeat is for the poor around the globe. What are their hopes and dreams? Safe communities? Clean water? Health clinics? Literacy and job training? A micro-loan to start a small business? A creative way to eke out a living for their families? Ten Thousand Villages partners with the Mennonite Central Committee to give opportunities to artisans and entrepreneurs around the world. It's a hand up, not a hand out. 
Twist of Fate necklace and
butterfly pin
Three of my four stones (strengthhope,and joy) were crafted in India by TTV partner TARA Projects, a fair trade program for community development and business. 

You can find beautiful jewelry and home decor on the Ten Thousand Villages web site. (I own several pieces, thanks to my kind daughters.) My other posts that mention Ten Thousand Villages:

What can you do to bring joy and hope to our neighbors around the globe?