Creative Journaling

Creative Journaling

by Ervina Yoder | March 1, 2013

They sit on the bottom shelf of a dark cherry bookshelf, stacks of leather and moleskin and spiral-bound. Collections from the years. Stories of my life. Tributes to my God. It was during the early years of school that my homeschooling mother introduced me to the concept of creative journaling. At first, I wrote because it was an academic requirement, then I wrote to use up pretty journals given to me as birthday gifts, and then I wrote because it became a way for me to process life as I articulated my prayers in written vulnerability before God. 

Although to some, journaling may seem dauntingly time-consuming, boring, or simply unnecessary, I have found several excellent reasons to consistently keep a journal in my walk with Christ. Along with copying a verse or two from my personal devotional time each morning and applying it to my day, stories of God’s provision, goodness, and intimate involvement in the most personal details of my life are woven throughout the pages in testimonies I would have otherwise forgotten. My favorite way to describe the purpose of intentional journaling is the challenge found in Don Whitney’s Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life: "Consider journaling, not only 'for the purpose of godliness,' but also as a way to raise up 'a monument of God’s faithfulness' in your life."

Here are just a few inspiring reasons to put this discipline into practice in your own life:

To Remember Prayer Needs

Every so often in her journal, my sister has a page dedicated to prayer burdens the Lord is pressing upon her. As they come, she lists the name of a person along with a short description, and then highlights it after the need has been answered. Over and over, I have been challenged by her diligence, and motivated to keep a similar record of God's specific responses in my life.

To Collect Spiritual Quotes

The ever-classic, always-relevant words and poems of Elisabeth Elliot, Amy Carmichael, A. W. Tozer, George Mueller, Hannah Whitall Smith, and many others are scripted in various styles throughout my pages. Often they relate to a particular situation in my life or an area in which I am praying for victory. I refer back to them when needing a fresh challenge for the day, extra emphasis for a Bible study I am teaching, or something special to include in a note to a friend.

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To Capture Special Events

Scattered throughout recent journals are pictures printed out on cheap printer paper, taped-in stubs from memorable events, airline tickets from an international flight, glued sugar packets from a cafe where I prepared a Bible study, music ripped out from an old hymnal, pieces of maps from a foreign city, encouraging notes from friends, business cards from a restaurant that rescued women caught in human trafficking, an anklet woven for me by a precious little girl whose language I barely speak, and a sketching of the rooftop view from my summer home in Cambodia.

To Keep a Watch On Your Soul

Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks…or the pen. What things do you spend most of your time thinking about? How is your character straying from or looking more like that of Christ? Where is your heart focused? Does it lean more toward the things of the world or the things of His Word? Is Jesus the focal point or are your emotions dominating the pages? Even if  it started with good intentions, journaling can quickly become more like a diary – a place to vent, a means of uncorking, or brewing over things and introspecting. Our inmost thoughts, desires, temptations, hurts, and disappointments get written down. Pages can fill with lonely, romantic blather. This is neither healthy nor wise; many of these inmost thoughts should be ignored instead of being immortalized. Spending hours reflecting upon yourself and dumpster-diving into your soul is not wise. Proverbs 15:14 says, "...the mouth of fools feeds on foolishness." Realize that journaling requires discipline; beware the subtle undertones of self and be careful not to allow its expression to overtake the expression of the work the Lord wants to do in you.

To Remember the Faithfulness of God

How has He proven His goodness to you lately? What prayers has He specifically answered? What Scriptures have been highlighting your everyday life? The Bible is overflowing with teaching on many subjects, including how we should use our words. Journal-keeping can be a positive way to use words if the journal-keeper is wise. My favorite example from Scripture is David and his one hundred and forty-one Psalms. We catch an intimate glimpse of this man’s friendship with God through the way he articulated his heart in song and poetry. In chapter 107, he wrote what I think is the best biblical motivation for keeping record of spiritual victories:

“Oh, that men would praise [and confess to] the Lord for His goodness and loving-kindness and His wonderful works to the children of men! And let them sacrifice the sacrifices of thanksgiving and rehearse His deeds with shouts of joy and singing!” (Psalm 107:21-22 AMP)

“Rehearsing His deeds” is what I want my journaling to center around and focus on. It is what I want most obviously exuding from hundreds of pages’ worth of handwritten words. I don't want to look back and read trivial affections and self-centered expression; I want books full of creativity and overflowing with shouts of joy! The works of Christ in my life are so many more than I will ever deserve or will ever be able to write down. I want to record far more victory than defeat, far more joy than discouragement, far more Jesus than Ervina. Yes, it is my life and I do not want to sugarcoat the most personal details of it, but never do I want the focus to move from who my God is to who I am. 

When I read back over years of emotion and stories and decisions and memories and growth, I see a subtly-changing tone from the ten-year-old who wrote of birthday parties and sister annoyances to the twenty-three-year-old who more fully realizes the glory of God and the sacred purpose of life. I find that there are so many times I would have forgotten how God’s mercy played into this exact situation, or how certain verses particularly impacted me in that season, or how a relationship was redeemed in response to those prayers. Chronicling the past twelve years reveals the joy of realizing I am not the same person now as I was then – not even close – as the Lord has gently and ever-so-intentionally drawn me into deeper places with Him. And if that is not cause enough to continue, in another dozen years I pray that I will see even more of His fullness in my life. There is always room for more rehearsing and greater celebration of our God proving Himself unfailingly faithful. Does not His faithfulness deserve a monument in each of our lives?*