This is day eleven of twenty-one days of posts between January 10th and January 30th of 2021. Hello again to those who read previous days, and hello to those of you who may have stumbled across this post “out of order”. You should go back and read from Day 1, for a few reasons. It explains why I am doing this. It is the first one, and I may make reference to something in it in this post or a later one. It also has a list with each day’s post (once they are available) and you can jump to whatever topic you are interested in. Thanks for reading!
Part of my 21 day fast includes entering thoughts into a journal every day. I’ve tried to journal in the past, but never did very well. I figured the best way to get into some kind of habit would be to make it part of my fast. So here I am, and I’ve discovered why I haven’t succeeded in the past with journaling.
Journaling is hard.
Part of the difficulty is the format I’ve selected to journal in. I have very specific items to record for every day.
- My mood.
- A verse of the day.
- A daily affirmation.
- A single thought for the day.
- What would make today great?
- What I am grateful for.
- An amazing thing that happened.
- How could the day have been better?
All of this, along with a free form section for actual thoughts is…daunting.
My mood usually changes throughout the day. I tend to only record how I feel at the moment I journal, unless there was a particularly sad, exciting, confusing or frustrating event during the day.
For my verse of the day, I usually fall back to a verse from my devotion or even just the verse of the day in the YouVersion Bible app. Unfortunately, there is not enough of the Bible in my head for me to simply choose a pertinent or appropriate verse. I’ll sometimes drop a partial verse into the search on the Bible.com webpage to find a good verse.
I pretty much despise daily affirmations and trying to come up with a single thought for the day. Most of my affirmations are silly, nonsensical, and apply only to a specific issue for that day. Narrowing down my thoughts, plural, to one single thought for the day is maddening. I usually put something related to my affirmation or maybe the verse of the day.
I usually have no idea what’s going to make my day great, which is good and bad. Bad, because I’m supposed to at least attempt to predict this, and good, because sometimes it is simply the surprise or novelty of an event during the day that makes it “what makes my day great”. I also usually have no idea what I am grateful for, or can’t narrow it down. This item gets the short straw a lot, as I am glad for all the things I have and some of the answers that come to mind seem either petty or trite.
Sometimes, nothing amazing happens. It’s just a fact of life. Miracles happen every day, but not always around me. My amazing thing is sometimes…pithy. Just as I don’t know what will make my day great, I also don’t usually know what would have made the day better. I have plenty of pat answers, like “didn’t have to go to work”, or “won a million dollars”, or some other thing that is just NOT going to happen. Truly knowing or deciding what might have made the day better is…an art, rather than a science.
After I have agonized over all of these items on my journal page, I then have the big blank space in the middle where I am supposed to fill in my thoughts, my observations, my stream of consciousness, or my rant. This is where the real journaling part comes in. This is what most people call journaling, especially if it is in some expensive notebook with an equally expensive pen. “Now that’s journaling,” they would say. They are not wrong. Filling this blank space with thoughts, usually fairly random thoughts at that, is hard. Everything or nothing tumbles out onto the page. As my typing skills are rough, when everything spills out, I am unable to keep up, so things get forgotten before they are recorded. It is what it is.
Hard. Journaling is hard. I’m sure some of you reading this are nodding your head. At least, I hope some of you are. I don’t want to be the only writer out there who can’t journal. I want to be able to pour out my thoughts, organized or random, and record them for my future self.
King David had no problem pouring out his thoughts in his psalms. Time after time you can see psalms that start out with him agonizing over some threat to him, but the end of the psalm displays his triumphant faith in God. The reverse is also true. Even better are the psalms that start out with beautiful language, praising God, but by the end of the psalm, the tone and tenor of the psalm turns dark and violent.
One of the best examples of this is psalm 63. David’s declaration that God’s “…love is better than life” is nestled among vivid pictures of how much he longs for God. Yet in the ninth verse of the eleven verse psalm, he is declaring that “those who want to kill me will be destroyed” and “given over to the sword”. Quite the change, but it is no more discordant than my thoughts in some of my journal entries.
Regardless, journaling is hard. Thoughts tumble out, or don’t. It’s kind of like when you are asked to pray in a group setting, right? You hope you don’t sound ridiculous, but the key to it all is to realize that God knows what you need to pray for.
Lord, thank you for knowing my thoughts, especially those that I need to pray about. Help me to order and express my thoughts with eloquence and coherence.