I started journaling in my quiet times several years ago and have been amazed at how helpful it is. It helps me maintain (or regain) my focus, flesh out my fleeting thoughts, and record the things God is saying to me. Going back through my journals months or years later gives me an important perspective on how God is growing me and reminds me why I had made the decisions that I had.
I encourage everyone to give it a shot. Journaling may feel like a discipline at first. However, the first times you do anything are always the hardest. So, keep doing it and the discipline will turn into a habit and the habit will become a passion.
If you don’t often write with a pen or pencil, you’ll find your hand tires quickly- I know mine did. But after a few days of practice, your hand muscles adjust. If you can’t stand it, you may want to try to type your journal. I have a deep love of physical paper but I know many people who keep their journals on their computer and love the advantages of zero shelf storage space and the ability to have the computer search their writings for key words. I, however, am too easily distracted by email and Facebook to do that.
If you are going to use paper, consider using a three ring binder. While the beautiful leather-bound, silver edged journals still make me swoon, I’ve discovered that I much prefer my binder system. Allow me to sell you on it because, the benefits are numerous:
- You can carry a few sheets of paper with you to Starbucks, church or a weekend retreat and then add it to your binder when you get home.
- If there are handouts, you can add those too.
- Often times I’ll even end up with something written on a scrap of paper or even a napkin that I want to keep. I’ll just punch it and add it in.
- I also love that I can organize my notes: book notes behind one tab, prayers behind another, and sketches behind a third.
- When your journal outgrows your binder, you can reorganize into separate binders instead of separate tabs.
- I happen to LOVE writing on decorative paper, so I’ve drawn pretty things, scanned them, and then print them with lines onto blank paper. (These little things mean a lot to me!) Of course, they’re for sale in my shop- go take a look!
- Office Supply stores and big box stores all sell really pretty binders for $3-$5. Many of them also sell really nice masculine binders too. They really are just as beautiful as any bound journal.
- Almost any store that sells office supplies will also usually sell binders made for 8½ x 5½ paper. I really prefer this size. Conveniently, this is the exactly half of an 8½ x 11 piece of paper. So, you can buy regular lined 8½ x 5½ filler paper at the same stores OR you can just cut a blank piece of 8½ x 11 printer paper in half and three-hole punch it. (Yep, I sell a lot of files for this ‘half-size’ binder too!) Most of the examples you’ll see here are in this half size because this is what I usually use. I prefer it because the paper fits in my purse and it’s easier to manage a smaller clip board when taking notes on my lap, but it’s still easy to find binders and accessories that fit it.
Now, what do you write in your new journal? The thing about journaling is that there are no rules. This is all about your personal growth and your relationship with God. Once you get started, you’ll find yourself doing all sorts of things with your journal that you never thought you’d do. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
Write Out Your Prayers
- This is how most people start their journal. Its especially nice if you’re getting distracted while praying or trying to pray when you’re a little sleepy. Writing helps you keep your train of thought, or at least get back to it after you’ve wondered off. If writing out complete sentences doesn’t allow your hand to keep up with your brain, try just writing out some key words, names, or topics
- Journaling prayers is also a great way to keep a record of what you’ve been asking God. I like to underline, star or highlight the specific requests I’ve made. Then I will occasionally go back and see how faithful God has been and praise Him all the more for those answered prayers. I also tend to write in all caps the things I feel like God is saying to me. I find I go back and read those things more than any others.
Write Out Scriptures
- There’s something about writing out a scripture that helps it sink deeper into the soul. Try writing it out once and thinking about each word as you inscribe it, or try writing it 3-5 times to help you memorize it.
- Mapping a scripture is very similar to writing it, but you leave a lot of space around the margins and maybe even in between sentences. Then after you’ve written it, you spend time thinking about each phrase and journaling in the margins whatever God revels to you about it. I like to use different colors to help organize it. For example, I’ll write the scripture in black ink and then write my notes in blue ink.
Hand Letter Scriptures or Quotes
- This is also similar to writing out scriptures, but with a few twists. This time, write some words big and others small. Add a picture or a silly face. Write each word in a different color or mix two fonts. As an artist, this one works really well for me. It gives me a literal visual picture of the verses I’m trying to memorize. I also love doing this in the margins of my journalling bible, as you see here.
Take Notes on Books
- I love to read devotionals and other Christian books during my quiet time as well. I’ve found that if I’ll take a few notes as I go, the information will stick in my brain much longer. So, I include these notes in a separate section of my journal. These notes are also awesome when I want to go back and review the book but not re-read the whole thing. If you get a lot of your books from the library, these kinds of notes are perfect for retaining some of the book without needing to keep the whole thing on your shelf.
- Often devotionals and Christian books will have questions at the end of each chapter designed to help you integrate the material into your everyday life or go deeper with the concept. I will answer those questions in my journal as well. This is especially helpful if I’m sharing a book with my husband, who can’t stand to read a book with anything written in the margins!
Do you have any tips for journalling? What’s worked well for you? If you’ve never tried it, what seems to be holding you back?