I received my first journal from my Gammi, my maternal grandmother, when I was 9 years old. It was red with some kind of blue and yellow shapes on it. Medium-size. Wide rule.
My first entry was written while taking off in an airplane from the Atlanta airport en route to Geneva, Switzerland, for two years living abroad in France with my family. I believe it included the line: “Up, up into the clouds we go!” I’ve always been a more literal writer than creative.
That red journal with the thin fabric covering became the means through which I chronicled the following year in my big curly scrawl, with important family updates such as who got stuck having to sit in the middle backseat of the car (hint: me), newspaper clippings about various French groups going on strike (still one of the country’s favorite pastimes), and “admit one” tickets to museums, castles, and chocolate and cheese factories (living in Europe as a kid, by the way, was awesome).
It also became the first of more than 20 subsequent journals that would be with me throughout the remainder of my childhood and into my adolescence, college and young-adult years.
I faithfully titled my entries “Dear Journal,” proceeding to capture events and emotions as they happened. As I continued to write, however, my tone gradually began to change. The content became less a chronicling of events and more a thoughtful reflection on them. They became written prayer.
This transformation really took place during hours of adoration in front of the Blessed Sacrament. It was there that “Dear Journal” became officially “Dear God,” and I began using my journaling as a way to pour out my adoration, thanksgiving, confession and supplication to the Lord.
Writing, for me, became a way to connect to Jesus through prayer — to put things in perspective, to find clarity, to find hope, to find direction. It became a way for me to try make sense of this life and of God’s will for it.
Over the past few years, I have, unintentionally yet regrettably, stopped journaling. Other things seemed always to be more pressing, and my time became more limited. But I was reminded of its great power the other night when I started jotting down a list of memories and milestones that I didn’t want to forget about my son’s infancy. Trying to capture snippets of the past six months turned into an exercise that made me reflect, made me smile and made me grow in wonder and gratitude for the great gift that God has given us.
So many people today are looking for a way to connect — a way to find authenticity, clarity and a better way to communicate to the Lord. Writing won’t be the answer for everyone. We each have our own gifts and interests. The most important thing we can do is to be attentive to how God is calling us to him. And then, with an open heart, to respond.