Monday, July 24, 2017

Finding Hidden Treasure in a Stack of Journals

When LaShay Blansett asked me to speak to the West Jackson Street Baptist Church women about prayer journaling, I wondered if I knew enough on the topic to speak. I had journals, but were they prayer journals? 

I read through all my little books. As it turns out, they're more than prayer journals. They're troves of hidden treasure. 

My first journal, from 1989, is filled with quotes and water color illustrations. The next one, undated, was from the early 1990's and it's more accurately called a prayer journal. By that time, I'd begun to make notes about my daily Bible study, write out prayers, express my feelings on paper, and detail the events of the day. 

A lot of hurt is inscribed on those pages, but there's a lot of joy, too. Instead of scrapbooking, like many of the mothers of children my son's age, I wrote the stories of events throughout Ryan's childhood. Some of those stories eventually became magazine articles and blog posts. There are still many that didn't. 

I found nearly 30 years of pain, sorrow, joy, hope, prayers, pleas, struggles, and growth. As I read through those pages, I realized there'd been a time when I was an angry, unhappy woman, stressed beyond words by the responsibilities I faced. 

The only place I knew to get help was God Himself. It took a while, because I was slow to change, but eventually, I became a different woman. Much more calm, content, joyful, peaceful. I couldn't make those changes on my own. God, working in me, gradually accomplished the impossible.

I found a theme of fear woven through many of those years. Fear of failure, financial disaster, loss, and overwhelming shame. Over and over, I begged God to take my fear and, somewhere between 1989 and now, He did. 

I read the accounts of my fears and marveled that the woman of fear was now the woman who roamed all over Jerusalem alone and, while rambling, stopped to eat a picnic lunch with a Palestinian Muslim stranger at the foot of the Eastern gate. That adventure would've been unthinkable 30 years ago. 

I begged God to teach me to change my priorities, manage my money, and impact my world, and He did all of that, too.

I found forgotten stories of sweet times with Ryan as a boy and conversations that would've been lost if I hadn't recorded them in my journal. 

I didn't know I was doing anything special at the time, but I'm so grateful for those journals. They document growth, commemorate special times, and demonstrate the faithfulness of God in big and small ways. 

If you're not prayer journaling, I encourage you to start. All you need is a pen and paper. A fancy, leather-bound journal is not necessary. Even a spiral-bound notebook will do. 

The best journal is the one you write in. 

You need one more thing. Discipline. Be consistent. Even if you don't write every day, write a few times a week. 

We've become such a digital society that we've lost the art of writing. We send emails instead of hand-written letters, texts instead of notes. Journal writing has become adult-coloring and drawing. There's no substitute, however, for an honest, intimate journal, kept faithfully over decades.  

As I prepared to talk, I paused to wonder if God had anything to say about the discipline. In fact, He does. "Forget not all His benefits" means we make a purposeful effort to remember all the things God does for us. If we want to remember, we have to record it in some way. Write it down. It's a discipline straight from the pages of Psalms.

If I hadn't bought the first little journal and made the first entry, I wouldn't have the treasure of today. So make a start. Build a treasure. Start writing. Twenty years from now, you'll be glad you did. 

"Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget none of His benefits." Psalm 103:2 
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In case you missed it, here's the link to yesterday's post:The Race Cows and the Sparkly Top

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Or you can mail your check or money order to: Global Outreach/ PO Box 1, Tupelo MS 38802. Be sure to put Account 4841 in the "for" line