This Simple Practice Has Life-Changing Affects

Since my last post, the world has literally gone mad.

I’ve struggled to make sense of the suffering, the anger, and the outrage.

And in the process, I’ve asked myself if this is really the time to talk about holy leisure? Does it feel like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic?

Maybe to some.

But, I certainly want to stay afloat in these distressing times, don’t you?

So I’m offering one of those deck chairs as a flotation device in these uncharted waters we find ourselves.

I know of no better, or more practical way to process, cope, celebrate, mourn, and diagnose my own heart, than through the practice of journaling.

Journaling as Holy Leisure

Journaling is one of my favorite ways to practice holy leisure (or otium sanctum).

Otium Sanctum is the pursuit of balance in life, an ability to be at peace throughout the activities of the day, an ability to rest, and take time to enjoy beauty, an ability to pace ourselves. 

If you’ve rolled your eyes at journaling because it reminds you of your 5th-grade language arts class, or you’re just not sure how journaling would serve you…I submit the following 10 reasons why you should give it fresh consideration. 

Why Journal?

“I can shake off everything as I write; my sorrows disappear, my courage is reborn.”

Anne Frank

  1. Journaling helps us to learn more about ourselves.

In our fast-paced, overstimulating world, we need space to be quiet and contemplative. When we journal we’re able to cut through the noise and distill our own thoughts. When we’re unclear on something or something doesn’t sit right, journaling brings clarity. After I word vomit all the stuff inside of me, 9 times out of 10, I’ll feel better. As I read back over past entries, I’m able to see patterns in my life and the meaning I assign to the events of my life.

  1. Journaling sets realistic expectations for pace and change.

Often my journal entries are prayers and pleas for change. “Oh God, please change this circumstance, or please change him, or please change me!” When I read through those entries I see that change is (usually) a slow process. Journaling sets realistic expectations for the pace at which life and change happens. If everything we ever wanted was instantly given to us, we wouldn’t understand or appreciate the journey we undertook, or the work of sanctification it took to get us to where we are today. 

  1. Journaling is a tool for future trials.

“Write hard and clear about what hurts.”

Ernest Hemingway

When we journal through hard times we give ourselves a faith-building resource for the future. I recently reread my journal from a few years ago when the Lord was taking us through a particularly difficult season. Being on the other side of that trial, I’m able to see the Lord’s overarching faithfulness through all my heartbreak, worries, questions, and fears. Now I see where I once couldn’t see, and my faith is stronger because of it. This gives me more faith for future trials.

  1. Journaling helps us remember details.

Not only does journaling remind us of the Lord’s faithfulness, but it’s also a reminder of details we often forget. A recent journal entry reminded me of a situation where I needed daily minute-by-minute reminders of God’s help. The further distance we get from something the easier it is to forget all the myriad of ways the Lord answers. When I reread my entries, I was reminded what it felt like to be in those moments of expectant waiting. This too, builds my faith for the areas in which I’m waiting today. 

  1. Journaling keeps us present.

Have you ever noticed how much we practice escaping our lives? I often find myself mindlessly scrolling through social media or playing a puzzle game to distract myself from my thoughts. This isn’t always a “bad” thing, but so often we don’t deal with what we’re feeling in the moment. Journaling quiets our minds from distractions and helps us live more presently RIGHT NOW. For many of us, we’re not used to silence and stillness. Our schedules are filled with so much activity that we don’t notice the sights and sounds around us. Write about them and how they make you feel. Slow down, enjoy this moment and breathe!  

  1. Journaling helps us to find our way.

Are you overwhelmed by a big project or a significant change you want to make in your life? Journaling helps you identify where you are and where you want to be. Once you’ve done the honest work of identifying where you’re at, you can start taking the necessary steps to get to where you want to go. Then document your steps on your journey (all of them, the good, the bad, and the ugly). What an amazing resource you’ll have when you’re done!

  1. Journaling helps us slow down.

Journaling is supposed to slow you down. I can type a whole lot faster than I can write in my journal. But I can also read a text, scan the news, stir the mac n’ cheese, and dictate an email all at the same time. That doesn’t mean I should do all those things at once. When I’m spread too thin, I’m not mindful of any one thing. Writing things down with an actual pen forces you to slow down. This gives your mind a chance to think complete uninterrupted thoughts. It’s amazing how much more we can accomplish when we focus on one thing instead of trying to do a million things all at once.

  1. Journaling brings clarity where there’s confusion.

“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” 

Flannery O’Connor

Are you unsure what to do next in a certain situation? Are you unclear about what something means? I don’t know how it works, but there is something magical about the process of writing those things down. When you put into words what might be floating around in concepts and fragments in your mind, you often see things in a new light. The best part is once you’ve been able to identify the problem, you’re also more aware and alert for potential solutions you might not have seen before. I told you it’s magical.

  1. Journaling is non-judgmental

Doesn’t it seem like our lives have more rules than ever? When we feel constrained by so many do’s and don’ts, a journal is a welcoming place of freedom, acceptance, and brutal honesty. Inside the pages of your journal, you make the rules, and you can’t do it wrong. You decide what works for you, and whatever works for you is solely YOURS. If you have privacy concerns, make sure you hide or password-protect, or hold a bonfire, if need be. (Beth Moore has told her daughters to burn her journals upon her death.) Even if you intend to destroy your journals, the benefits you’ll gain from the practice still make it worth the effort.

  1. Journaling helps you maintain new changes

Consistency is key. We all know this proverb is true for changes we want to make in life. My journal has helped me cement in the habit of daily quiet time with the Lord. For years, I struggled and felt guilty because I couldn’t find a consistent time to pray and study. It wasn’t until I started journaling that my struggle for this daily time with the Lord became infinitely easier. For some reason, it flipped a switch in my brain, and I no longer struggled to “find the time” to be with the Lord. Instead, I created the time and got up earlier each day. I’ve enjoyed the process of journaling my prayers and discoveries in the Word so much, I never want to go back to my old ways.  

What Results Will You Experience?

Journaling is a unique experience for everyone. This list only scratches the surface of how journaling can change your outlook on life, help you discover new evidence of God’s faithfulness, and document your journey.

Journaling is a window, a mirror, a scalpel, and a salve.

Wanna change your life?

Start journaling.

How has journaling changed your life? Leave a comment below!

5 Responses

  1. I absolutely love this article!! I have filled many journals in my day and I don’t want to imagine trying to face this life without one in hand. For me, it is especially helpful to slow down my thoughts (to the pace that I can write with a pen) and clear my head to the point where I can finally hear God speak. Invaluable, I tell you, invaluable!
    (Plus, I store all my favorite notes in the pages from my husband or kiddos and even press meaningful flowers – my journal is my happy place and I can take it anywhere I go!)

    1. Thanks so much, Carolyn! I love your ideas of putting notes and flowers in your journals too. 🙂 Yes, I agree 100% these are invaluable tools in our walks of faith.

  2. Thank you Cara..this is the best piece I’ve ever read on the value of journaling. I absolutely need to start..I’ve held off in fear of facing my own reality and emotions honesty..keep it all at bay and I can keep on trudging forward. Ha! We know how that goes right! So hear I go..thank you for helping me be brave enough to start.
    Love you Cara!

    1. I’m so glad this was helpful for you, Amy! It can be a confronting exercise, but worth it in the end! Love you too! ♥️

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