Journaling: More Than a Diary

“Today we went to Hobby Lobby. My mom got 2 new lamps. It took her 30 MINUTES to choose which ones she wanted! I got a little birdcage for my dollhouse. We went to Marco’s for dinner then to Kroger. They now have a checking counter you can do yourself!” ~Me, 12 years old

My first journal is full of entries like this: “dear diary” entries recounting my day and how I felt about it. I recorded everything from how God was answering my prayers, to what my friends and I scored in putt-putt. Ha!

Don’t get me wrong, it’s fun rereading my pre-teen thoughts.  (Especially now that I have often spent over 30 minutes being indecisive about decor and that self-checkouts are standard in many stores.)  But chronicling your life is not the only function a journal can serve; those blank pages can be used in so many other ways!

In a sermon about how to have a quiet time, our former pastor would include a photocopied page from his journal. It was so helpful to have a tangible example of what it looked like to engage with God. Something that once seemed daunting and unknown became attainable. It is for this same reason that I share some pages from my own journals.  I hope this will get the creative juices flowing as you consider what it could look like for you to engage with God and seek Him with all your heart.  Below are some functions your journal can serve.

TAKING THOUGHTS CAPTIVE
“We are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.” (2 Corin 10:5) The first step in capturing wayward thoughts is first identifying what they are. Sometimes this is hard for me, specifically in highly emotional or stressful situations. I may have a general sense of anger, hurt, or anxiety, but am unable to discern what the root of that emotion is.

Using my journal as a tool, I write out all the reasons I might be angry. Sometimes that practice alone is sufficient to help me figure it out. Other times I ask God for help: “Search me, O God, and know my heart” (Ps 139:23) In time, He usually brings clarity. I am then able to “make these thoughts obedient” through specific actions made clear through this exercise, whether repenting, forgiving or having a conversation.

Many times simply writing out untrue thoughts strips them of power, especially when coupling them with truth.

lies

DIGESTING SCRIPTURE.
If you read my last couple posts, you will see that Bible reading is invaluable to me. I am a different person primarily because of the hours I have spending in the pages of this Living Book. But gaining knowledge is not enough; we must learn to be doers of this Truth. For me, this process starts in my journal. My Bible reading is like tasting and my journaling is like digesting; it is the transitional phrase between learning and life-change.  Here are a few examples.

While reading the story of Mary and Martha in Luke 10, I decided to make a comparison chart to help me see in more detail what it looks like to love the presence of God more than doing things for Him.  Comparison charts have become one of my favorite things to do as I read the Bible.

Mary Martha Chart

When I finish a book of the Bible, I’ll often write out what I have learned from the book and what was most striking to me.  This helps me remember what I read and apply that knowledge to how I live.

rev notes

In a difficult season of life, I inserted myself into the story of Bartimaeus the blind beggar in Mark 10:46-52. This practice gave me a different perspective on this story and how Bartimaeus might have felt in that moment.

bartimaeus

While reading John, I decided to keep a list of all the times Jesus says “Truly, truly, I say to you…” to see what He emphasized during His ministry.  List-making as you read can be very eye-opening. There are other books of the Bible with repetitive elements (Judges, 1&2 Kings, Leviticus) to list.  Or you could list prophecies about Jesus through the book of Isaiah.  Or keep a running descriptive list of who Jesus is as our High Priest through the book of Hebrews.

truly truly statements

My journal also contains notes on word studies and other research.  Here is a study on the word “silence” as well as notes on the concept of being deceived throughout the Bible.

psalm 62

self deceit.jpg

SCRIPTURE MEMORIZATION
The first step I take in memorizing scripture is writing it down. Copying verses word-for-word forces me to think about the words purposely and slowly, while seeing how they visually look together.

psalm 119 memorization

Sometimes I write out verses from my daily reading that stuck out to me. Even if I don’t intend to memorize them, it is a way to meditate on them and get them in my heart.

hosea verses  

MEDITATION
To meditate is to think deeply or carefully about something. As I read the Bible, I will often sense that God wants to massage a specific truth into my heart. Meditating is a way I can respond to that prompting, instead of rushing quickly into my day.  My journal becomes a place to mull over verses or sections of scripture, to look at them from different angles, or to think on them for extended periods of time. Sometimes this looks like doodling a verse as I think about it.

doodling verse

doodle phil 3

Other times it’s putting certain concepts into picture form.

spirit led obedience drawing

old new self chart

PRAYER
I find it helpful to pray out loud or to write my prayers out. When I try to “pray in my head,” I usually just end up thinking about something else and do little talking to God.  My journal is a tool to keep my mind focused on God and the subject I am praying about.

KEEPING RECORDS
My journals hold a record of the most significant days of my life: days when God’s presence was nearly tangible, the day we got engaged, days we saw God’s extravagant provision, significant dreams I had. How often I have referenced these records and how quickly my soul is strengthened by remembering His faithfulness over the years. This is invaluable.  Below is a simple example of recording God’s grace during our 3rd anniversary vacation.

thank you list

PRACTICAL THINGS
I also use my journal for sermon notes, to-do lists, and prayer requests. Since most of my journal is directed prayerfully to God, what a better place to keep to-do lists? It reminds me to serve God instead of my to-do list, always submitting my plans to Him.  I often find myself assaulted by random tasks I need to remember during my time with God.  My journal is a place to write them down and then continue my conversation with God undistracted.

to do list

MAKE IT PERSONAL
I love journals that inspire me! If I like the cover and feel of the pages, I am more likely to use it.  Not only that, I have sometimes bought journals to reflect the season I am in.  Jimmy, on the other hand, has used the same 5-star notebooks since he was in high school.  We are all different and will engage with God in different ways.  Please don’t feel obligated to implement every idea here.  Use what works for you and throw out what doesn’t.  Come up with entirely new uses for your journal!  My hope is to inspire you by showing some of the many options you have in journaling.

journals

How do you journal?  Any other ideas for using this versatile tool? If you currently don’t keep a journal, will you consider starting today?

 

 

16 Comments

  1. Reblogged this on My Beloved is mine and I am His and commented:
    Wow! This kind of journaling looks really exciting to me and I’m going to start doing it this way! 🙂

    Thanks Kelly for posting this. God bless you more!

  2. Lisa

    Great article! Funny how similar to my own ways of journaling.
    My question is, do you use one ongoing journal for all your writing,
    or do you have different journals for each way you journal?
    (like one for your bible meditation, one for daily happenings or gratitude.

  3. This is a huge blessing! Thank you! It’s super creative while also pushing for one to get deeper into the word. I love it.

  4. […] as an outlet to sift through the craziness in my head.  Even before I knew it was a thing.  Kelly Needham wrote a blog posting a few weeks back about the benefits of journaling.  She uses hers for lists […]

  5. Ruth

    This is SO SO SO rich. Thankful Jesus has allowed you to go through many many seasons where he’s taught you to learn how to spend time with him. And where he’s moved your creativity juices to dwell just on Him. Thank you for this! Completely motivated by this.

  6. Hello from Toronto Canada!

    I ran into your post via Pinterest and SO glad I did! Being a frequent writer in my journal has been such a wonderful tool in helping me reflect on my thoughts. And being Christian as well, I’m excited to try some of your methods into my prayer journal to deepen my understanding of God’s personal message to me. So thank you for this!!

    God bless you :’)

  7. Karis

    Thank you so much for sharing such a personal and intimate part with God with us! I personally have tried very similar things you shared. It’s so refreshing to know a sister in Christ whom I never met connect with God in such a similar fashion. One thing I also noticed is that you addressed God as “You” in your journal which I also do. I started journaling journaling with “He” about 15 years ago and one day realizing that I can re-set my attitude, refocus and connect with God so much better by simply adjusting the pronoun! If I can find something from my old journals that I want to privately message you, how may I do so?

    Thanks again, Kelly!

  8. I use to keep journals when I was younger but stopped. I’ve tried to start again but fail to write each day. I’ve learned so much through writing; about my self, my circumstances, how faithful my heavenly Father is. Sometimes I can truly say I fall in love with my words and thoughts and other times not so much. I love writing so I gain self acceptance from just writing. It’s hard to explain. Just today I started a 365 word journal to help motivate me to make it a habit once more. Each day has its word to get the creative juices flowing. Your blog reaffirmed the importance or journaling. Thank you and great examples. You’ve given me some great ideas to help with studying God’s word.

  9. Nicole

    This was so eye opening and refreshing! I always feel like there’s a certain way to journal especially with God so I always became lazy about it. But reading this, I see there is a plethora of ways to journal and you do it so freely! I’m inspired, thank you so much for sharing your journal pages. I know it couldn’t have been easy since generally things we write in our journals are so personal. I appreciate it and has shown me a new way to deepened my relationship with God as well as receiving a full understanding of the Word.

  10. I too have journaled since I was about 12. I am 20 now and have found it absolutely invaluable to processing very difficult times and to deepening my intimacy in my walk. I love all of these ideas and can’t wait to implement them! Thanks for taking the time to share 🙂

  11. Rachel Kazanski

    This is awesome! I am going to try to make the list you suggested for Hebrews! I also use my journal for writing exercises like writing poems and telling stories.

  12. Hi! This is a great blog, Kelly Needham! Really! ..I hope you will take a minute to tell your talented husband, that he really did change lives and moved us, when he was in Norway at UL. I keep listening to his songs and thinking about his story with God. It really helped me. Please thank him from us all!

    1. I will definitely pass along your kind words to him today! I am glad to hear of the how God used Jimmy while he was there. I was praying for that!

  13. Thank you for all your suggestions! Honestly, I really see you as an example of a Christian woman I want to become. 🙂 And it’s funny that you’re writing about that topic because I just started enjoying journalling so much. I’m studying in Germany and thought that I wouldn’t have enough time for writing but it’s really great to see what we really CAN do with our time if we set priorities. Be blessed and greetings!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s