Dear Diary…

When I was little I got my first diary. It was white with different colored hearts all over it and there was a lock on it, like a real metal lock which functioned more like a buckle because there wasn’t a key for it, just a buckle type latch.

I can’t remember how old I was, definitely in elementary school, but I started writing in my little diary and have kept a diary/journal ever since.  I am not sure when we stop calling it a diary and start calling it a journal. Keeping a diary kind of sounds wimpy but journaling sounds scholarly, right?

I didn’t always keep nice “hard cover” journals. I switched over to your basic, run of the mill, spiral notebook in the teen years and stuck with that until 1998 when my dear friend Shannon gave me my first “official” hard cover journal as I headed off to work as a summer staffer for World Changers, a mission trip for youth groups.

I have kept a nice hard cover or leather bound journal ever since.  Which means I have 15 years of journals in a large bin that I have since lugged around with me, from Jackson, to Memphis, to Atlanta, back to Memphis, to DC, to Tysons Corner, to Leesburg, where I now have amassed nearly 50 journals.

We are preparing to move in a few weeks, and my dear husband encouraged me to downsize my journals. They are heavy to move, take up alot of space (something we never have enough of) and honestly, I am not sure I want some of the ghosts of years past haunting me from a bin under my bed.

So I began reading through them, one by one. This was fun at times, but in large part EXHAUSTING. I don’t know about you, but for me, journaling means processing life events, and more often than not, my journals are full of my fears, worries, struggles, and painful things. Sure I wrote about the fun times too, but the hard times beat out the fun times two to one and reading through them now I am not so sure I want to keep a record of these trials or that I want anyone reading about them — especially my kids. So I proceeded to use a Sharpie to redact sections as if they were classified CIA documents, because to me, they are quite literally for MY “Eyes-Only.”

I will admit, there is something epically romantic about the discovery of old journals and reading the innermost thoughts of a younger version of yourself. There are definitely some journals that I would love for my kids to read some day. Discoveries about God, life, love, friendship, courage and conquering those worries and fears to achieve hopes and dreams. On the other hand, I used my journals to process my thoughts and feelings with abandon. No holds barred.  Some of these journals are raw, unfiltered, knee-jerk reactions to both people and experiences I have had along the way. If I may slip into “christian-ese” for a moment, many of these pages contain the response of my sinful nature, the “flesh” speaking apart from the Spirit of God I have as a born again believer in Jesus.

I honestly believe God used my journals as the primary tool to speak to me, teach, train and instruct me. You see, these were really prayer journals. Each entry starts with “Dear God” and I then proceed to pour our my heart to the Lord. Confessing sin, asking for guidance, being completely honest about things. This has helped me in so many profound ways; to learn, overcome, and become the person I am now, and the person I am becoming as the Bible so often reminds us, sanctification is a life-long process.  Now can you see why I don’t want anyone reading some of these pages?

So why am I writing about this on my blog? Well, I wanted to pose a question to you, my friends, and ask you:

1. Do you journal?

2. Why do you journal?

3. Do you feel a need to censor what you write as your write? (To me, this makes journaling a complete waste of time, but wonder if any of you do it and find benefit?)

Here, I will go first:

1. Do you journal?
My answer: Kind of. I struggle to find time to journal. About 5 years ago I started doing a bit of journaling in google docs. Some I would save, some became entries for this blog, and others died at the hand of command-a-delete. Typing is faster and literally less painful (no hand cramps). My fingers do better keeping up with my thoughts while typing them rather than writing them. But when I actually do the work of writing out my thoughts and prayers, I find it to be more therapeutic than typing. There must be some science behind that but I don’t know what it is. Most recently, I have stopped journaling because I have been in this process of reading, redacting, ripping out pages and in some case completely tossing journals into the “burn box.” So I am having a hard time adding journals to the pile when I am struggling to know if I should even be keeping one.

2. Why do you journal?
I journal because I find it therapeutic. It helps me process my feelings and emotions in a safe way, and helps me to have healthier responses to my experiences. I journal because it helps me concentrate my prayers and ensures I have covered everything I want to cover, rather than rambling on and on and on (which I tend to do when talking). There is a small part of me over the years that journaled to leave a legacy. By God’s grace, I have done some pretty cool things, and I would like to preserve those memories. Its also encouraging to go back and see how God has answered the multitude of prayers I have prayed, and I can say most assuredly that he answered each and every one. I think there is a certain level of significance to having these “Ebenezer Stones” to remember God is faithful, that God always keeps his promises. I just wish I had left out some of the explicit detail!

3. Do you feel a need to censor what you write as you write?
Now, I do. But it feels completely useless to me to censor what I am writing. I am the kind of person who benefits greatly from “getting it all out” and not keeping things bottled up inside. Censoring what I write feels like bottling things. One of the main reasons I journal is to not bury things but to process them out and move on. To me, censoring what I write inhibits that process.

I am so torn over all of this. I really believe journaling helps me alot, and I don’t want to give it up. But I also dont want to worry about what I write and who may read it, and I dont want to lug around several decades (and pounds) of good and bad memories for the rest of my life. At times I look a these journals as treasures worth remembering and at others I see them as the kind of “baggage” you wish you didn’t bring with you into new experiences and relationships.

So talk to me people? Do you write? What do you write? Why do you write? Do you keep your journals? Do you censor as you go? Do you go back and redact certain sections (as I have in recent days, with a Sharipe!) Or do you just toss them in a box and plan a bonfire (as I have also done, bonfire coming very soon.)

The reality as I currently see it is that there is both great value and great danger in keeping journals. And right now I cannot discern if the risk is greater than the reward. I want to remember how God has brought me through life’s trials, but I dont want my kids to read all the gory details.

To be continued…

“Then Samuel took a stone, and set it between Mizpeh and Shen, and called the name of it Ebenezer, saying, Hitherto hath the Lord helped us.” 1 Samuel 7:12

“Let the remembrance of our sorrows also inspire us with a profounder thankfulness while we erect the stone of Ebenezer… as it had been the spot of their defeat, their sin, their sorrow, so now before the victory, it was the place of their repentance… It was there that they saw God’s hand and were led to say, “Hitherto hath the Lord helped us”…but “hitherto” is not the end, there is yet a distance to be traversed. More trials, more joys; more temptations, more triumphs; more prayers, more answers; more toils, more strength; more fights, more victories; more slanders, more comforts; more hons and bears to be fought, more tearings of the hon for God’s Davids, more deep waters, more high mountains; more troops of devils, more hosts of angels yet. And then come sickness, old age, disease, death. Is it over now? No, no, no! We will raise one stone more when we get into the river, we will shout Ebenezer there: “hitherto the Lord hath helped us,” for there is more to come. An awakening in his likeness, climbing of starry spheres, harps, songs, palms, white raiment, the face of Jesus, the society of saints, the glory of God, the fullness of eternity, the infinity of bliss. Yes, as sure as God has helped so far as to-day, he will help us to the close. “I will never leave thee, I will never forsake thee; I have been with thee, and I will be with thee to the end.” Courage, brethren, then; and as we pile the stones, saying, “Hitherto the Lord hath helped us,” let us just gird up the loins of our mind, and be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be revealed in us, for as it has been, so it shall be world without end.” Charles Spurgeon 

9 Comments Add yours

  1. The Head Chef says:

    I cant answer because I don’t journal. However I used to. I wrote until a finger on my right hand was calloused. Just like you, i poured out my heart and soul, completely raw and honest. Then in high school my mom was worried about my behavior and read my journals and threw it all in my face. I have never so much as scratched out a word of emotion on paper since that day. It is sad to me because writing was so cathartic, but now writing brings feelings of betrayal. For this, i will never, no matter what, under no circumstance do this to my children if they journal.

    1. AnnieLaurie says:

      Melissa that is terrible!!! I agree, no matter what I will never read my kid’s journals.

  2. Because we once had a pact to destroy each others journals in case of emergency, you know that I journal, too. I haven’t done it consistently since I got married and even less since I started blogging. I miss it so much. I think my soul is much kinder when I word purge b/c like you I also write prayers. I almost started writing – by hand – today again when I woke up and was reading a devotional. I didn’t; I logged on to FB instead. But, this has inspired me. I would totes be up for a journal challenge through the new year with you…..?

    1. AnnieLaurie says:

      Patra I like how you think! Maybe we should do it!!

  3. Shannon D. Stewart says:

    I do journal. But not in the traditional sense as I used to. I too have a HUGE box of those journals (in my attic) from days gone by. And I hope that no one ever has to read them. I think I may go upstairs today during nap time and get them and put them in a trash bag and take them to the curb…but not till I read them all again and tear out some pages. The pages I would tear out would be the ones that would be considered to be my “ebenezner” moments. That leads me to where I am now in my journaling journey. I don’t journal every day. I do have a notebook/journal that I keep with my bible and jot down notes in when what I am reading speaks to me. I take my sermon notes in the same notebook/journal. I also jot down conversations with Jon, my girls, and my friends/family. I ALWAYS put the date. We also have a family “ebenezer” journal. I jot down the date and make a note in it of something that happened that day in our family. It’s not a journal like you think. It is a jar with stones in the bottom with strips of paper. Jill Garrett Clark gave it to me as a gift earlier this year. She made the jar from an old jar, wrapped it in fabric and twine, and on the front has pinned the word “blessings. I keep it out on our china cabinet. I try to write a blessing/memory at least once a week. I have learned in my 36 years of life, that some things really matter. I used to think that how I “felt” about someone/something was the most important part of journaling. Now (because I am SO wise in my old age!!!) I realize that those “ebenezer” moments are the ones that are most important. Examples of what I have written recently: 10.2012-Stella and Adelaide move to big girl beds! 6.19.12-CH is thankful for love. 6.10.12-Sunday lunch after church with friends. 5.28.12 quiet moments on the back deck watching Jon paint 3 sets of little girl toes.

    You see, not really anything major or life shattering, but things I want to remember. As I just read through those I have memories of those days and am thankful for those moments.

    I think I may have to add this one today: 11.24.12- a reminder from a sweet friend to cherish moments and to write them down! No gory details necessary!

    1. AnnieLaurie says:

      Love you Shannon! I did that with a ministry I was a part of a few years ago, we called them “Manna Moments” but in the same way we filled a jar for every answered prayer. Its such a great idea. We may do this in the future. I like how your jounraling has “matured” with you. That may be a better way to go for me, and save the mental venting for a word doc command-a-delete!

  4. Jill says:

    Hi, I have just seen your post and it so much relates me I feel I need to comment. I have also read your further post on how you are journalling now. I have been going through the same dilemma as yourself, I had ten years worth of hardbacked journals in which I had poured out my heart and also did a lot of venting in it, not something I would want anyone to read. Like you I found reading them back was exhausting. Some entries I wanted to keep but it was difficult to weed them out from the ones I wanted to destroy so my solution was to have them scanned and put onto an external hard drive and encrypted with a password – now I know those journals are safe and I feel better about that. However, there is the issue of what to do for a journal now? Like you I still need to journal but I also don’t want to keep all those ramblings for prosterity. I hit on the idea of using a spiral bound notebook where I can write and tear out pages if needs be. I only tend to journal when I feel the urge to and then its about things I need to deal with (which are often negative). I have started writing in the notepad but there are not very many entries yet. I do keep scouring the stationery shops and am tempted by lovely hard backed journals. I even caved in and bought one but then told myself I didn’t really want to go back there again with the storage of hardbacked books so the book remains unused. My friend came up with an idea at the beginning of the year of us keeping a visual diary that we can share with each other. I am finding this interesting. I keep it in an exercise book, they may well pile up but they don’t take up much room), I stick photos and ticket stubs in and record things that have happened but don’t put my feelings in there. It is so not private that I keep it on my coffee table, something I could never do with a journal. So my dilemma is still, should I start the hardbacked journals again for venting my feelings and if they pile up again I can always have them scanned again (but that costs money and is tedious to do it myself). I still need to journal but I also like keeping the scrapbook type diary. The ideal thing would be to journal in this notepad and rip out pages that I don’t want to keep. Or journal on the computer but I have tried that and don’t find it as satisfying. Would welcome your thoughts and news on how your journalling is now going.

    1. AnnieLaurie says:

      Hi Jill! Thanks for your comment! I like the idea of scanning pages into an external hard drive. But can also see how that would be very time consuming. So for me, I went through a little more than half of my journals and separated them into “keep” and “burn” 🙂 In the keepers I got a sharpie and redacted some parts that I didnt want read. However we have since moved into a temporary living situation so all these journals are still sitting in a box in my friend’s basement. I honestly think that at this point I may just dispose of all of them. I didnt write those journals to be read. I wrote them for me. And even though there are some great memories in some of them, for the most part, the journals have served their purpose. Moving forward I may consider keeping journals intentionally for the purpose of someone else reading them someday, but the ones I currently have I am trashing.

      I also went the way of the spiral bound note book as of late and that has been helpful. I also ripped out some pages 🙂 And I dont feel as bad about trashing a notebook from Target as I do some of these nicer journals. I also have used google drive as a place to hammer through some things. Sometimes I save the docs and sometimes I just COMMAND-A-DELETE everything after Im done.

      At the end of the day, I have decided that it is not worth it to keep the old journals b/c the bad very likely outweighs the good and its not worth it to me to have people unearth some of whats in there! But I will try to keep journals for the purpose of being read so that my family has things to read in time, sort of legacy building stuff. Also now that I have two kids I want to have some writings to leave for them to read one day.

      This is a rambling response! BUt I hope it helps. Would love to hear what you decide as well!

  5. Jill says:

    Hi Annie, thank you for your reply. I feel we are both on the same wavelength with this issue. I feel exactly the same way as you about keeping old journals. Whilst I like the thought of having them there physically, the thought of them being read and taken out of context seems to outweigh the advantages of keeping them. They feel safer on the hard drive, though I still wonder how often I shall actually go back and read them but I know they are there.

    You say you are going to keep journals now for people to read, will you keep these in hard backed books? Will you still keep journals where you work through your feelings and then dispose of them later or are you doing those on the computer?

    I am now very much into the idea of the visual diary I am doing with my friend, I have no worries of this being seen and it is nice to look back on but I still need to write down my feelings, so I think I will do that in the notepad that isn’t permanent. Somehow journalling has always helped me and made things seem not as bad. I really don’t know how I will feel writing something if I know I am going to destroy it straight away, it might not have the same meaning somehow but I will try it and see. I certainly don’t want the rambling journals to build up again. As you say they are important at the time but not so much once you have moved on from the problem. I just like to think of them as being permanent when I write but I could keep them for so long (locked away maybe) and then destroy them later before they get chance to overwhelm me. I even worry about them being seen before I destroy them.

    Another thing I’d like to ask, do you keep appointment diaries and planners and do you keep these once they are full? I now keep my appointment diary on my mobile phone but have diaries from the past few years when I kept a paper one, they don’t take up much room, they are slimline and some are Filofax inserts but they do provide memories when I look back on them, though that isn’t often. I don’t know whether to keep them and let this visual diary be an extension of those or just dump them and start over again with the visual diary (those I feel I will want to keep).

    Sorry to ramble on but there seems a lot to talk about on this subject 🙂

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