Why I journal.

on March 29, 2012 in Gal Stuff with 26 comments by

Earlier this week, I was hanging with two of the girls from my Cross Point small group, talking about school and dudes and Lent and gal stuff. You know, just some chicks cluckin’ about life.

I kinda half-mentioned that the girls should bring their journals to small group that night.

And to my utter shock, neither of them had a journal.

It took me a minute to remember that

  1. they are freshman in college
  2. I started journaling as a freshman in college
  3. They are not my age
  4. I am a full 13 years older than these people
And then I got all giggly because one of the JOYS of leading a small group is introducing the girls to spiritual disciplines or life lessons or skillz that they may not already know.
[Example: how to cook with a crockpot. You are welcome, lay-deez.]

So that night, when they came over for small group, I pulled out this box. My box of journals.

This is every journal I have written in, scribbled on,Β and cried over for the last 14 years. I read a few carefully selected excerpts to the girls and I told them what to do with my journals whenever I die. [Burn them all. No reading them. Seriously.]

They loved it. Honestly, so did I. I loved sharing my history with them. It was sweet.

I challenged them to start now. Start writing what they were learning, experiencing, praying.

I know not everyone loves writing, I get that. But I think journaling in some form or fashion is super important- whether that is a pen to paper, writing a song, making lists on your computer, writing a blog post, whatever.

You need to journal because you need to be recording God’s faithfulness in your life.Β 

You need to have a place where important verses are collected. You need to have a spot where you hurt, then wrestle with God, and survive it. You need to write the prayers that seem to never get answered. You need to write the ones that do.

I don’t journal every day. But I don’t feel guilty about that either. When I sit down with my journal, it’s cathartic for me. It slows down my mind to write, instead of type, my thoughts. My prayers are more intentional when I’m scripting out every word.

One of the sweetest entries for me, to date, is when I wrote out my prayers in the Amsterdam airport on my first trip to Scotland in 2011. I just had no idea. I didn’t know how Scotland would beautifully scar me for life. So all those fears and innocent questions that I posed that day are recorded forever and so sweet to read on the other side.

When it is so easy for me to forget how many times God has saved the day, or feel like He has forgotten me, I have my journals to remind me that He has ALWAYS been FOR me.

. . . . .

Do you journal?

Why do you find this to be a good discipline in your Christian walk?

We want to make some journals before they go home for the summer. Do you have any cool crafty journal ideas to share that are pretty cheap?


  1. posted on Mar 29, 2012 at 4:50 AM  |  reply

    Hi Annie. Admittedly, reading back my journals is hard in the sense that I feel so embarrassed by my thoughts! I would wonder why in the world was I so hung up by this idea of how life should be, or over a guy I had a huge crush on. I’m glad the journals show me I have grown older and wiser in many ways.

    Nowadays, instead of journalling my feelings (no more hormonal rages, I wish the zits would go away though), I journal what I learn in my devotions and my prayer. I have been doing it for the past six years and it is less embarrassing to read. πŸ™‚

    As for crafty journal ideas, I’ve actually gone on to blog instead.

  2. posted on Mar 29, 2012 at 6:09 AM  |  reply

    Burn them. I completely understand. Since I started blogging I don’t journal as much as I used to which is sad. I still go back and look at my journals from years ago. I like to date prayer requests and then go back and put the date the prayer was answered and how. It’s such an encouragement to see how God has moved in my live and in the lives of others.

    As for journal ideas, years ago we made journals in American Girls Club. I can’t find that one, but it was similar to this tutorial: http://voices.yahoo.com/make-inexpensive-journal-hour-8723453.html You can make them any size you like.

  3. posted on Mar 29, 2012 at 6:10 AM  |  reply


  4. posted on Mar 29, 2012 at 9:21 AM  |  reply

    Oh, I am such a journaler. And I have given my roommate strict instructions that the little book case full of journals is to be burned if anything ever happens to me!

    I have a small group of high school seniors. We’ve made journals a couple of times. I always buy the cheapo composition notebooks from Target or Walmart and some cute scrapbook paper/accesories. Sometimes even a stack of magazines. Cover the whole surface with fun, cutesy things and then instead of modge podge, I like to cover it with strips of clear packing tape – I think it lasts longer. It’s been a favorite project. πŸ™‚

  5. caren
    posted on Mar 29, 2012 at 11:11 AM  |  reply

    If those journals could talk…! Remember when we used to play the journal game?! What were we thinking? And I love introducing college women to journaling too! It’s amazing!! Ps- what do we do with our journals when we die? I think we need to include this in our pact of who gets what of our stuff!

  6. Cari
    posted on Mar 29, 2012 at 11:30 AM  |  reply

    Something I began doing in the past 6 months or so is to journal the times when I feel God is revealing Himself to me. An awesome verse to go along with this:
    And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. – Jeremiah 29:13 (NKJV)
    God Bless

  7. merideth
    posted on Mar 29, 2012 at 11:34 AM  |  reply

    I actually don’t think I started journaling until my last 2 years of college, which was when I got to Athens and Wesley. What’s kinda funny is I didn’t use my computer initially. I actually wrote in a regular journal. I couldn’t read what I was writing of course, but the idea was that it got stuff out of my head, and writing things down somehow helps me remember them and process. My handwriting is so ilegible that no one will ever be able to read them. I have the idea that someday when I’m long gone people are going to try and read them and they will think they say one thing when really I was writing something completely different, and my life story will end up getting all messed up. I think I need to instruct my family to burn mine, too, for that reason. Now, I journal on the computer so I can actually go back and read what I write. I actually do it for theraputic reasons a lot of times. As a counselor, I think journaling is good to do to help process whatever we may be struggling with. Not just our spiritual lives, but anything. It gets stuff out of a person’s head and that can help sort through the junk a lot of times, as well as take some power away emotionally. You can let out all those feelings on paper, and that just somehow gets rid of it and helps you deal with the situation better.

  8. posted on Mar 29, 2012 at 11:35 AM  |  reply

    I love this post!!! I do enjoy blogging, but there’s something about actually putting a pen (or Sharpie in my case) to paper. I’ve introduces/encouraged journaling to every woman I’ve discipled since college. I think it’s a great way to see God’s faithfulness; I tend to forget to thank God for all the *little* things. I now help equip others for long-term service overseas and I challenge them to keep one specifically during this journey to revisit those “stones of remembrances” (those promises, verses, ways the Lord confirmed this calling) on the tough days when it seems crazy and foolish to leave their comfortable American life.

    Keeping a journal helps me keep my vision and dreams in front of me, writing down God’s whispers of truth and rereading them when the enemy fills my mind with doubt/fear. It helps me stay courageously on course when quitting seems easiest.

    Recently I started buying journals without lines. I’m a rule follower by nature and I find that no lines gives me creative freedom to web, write sideways, upside-down, scribble, doddle. (I also love your 4th chair idea–I’m going to try this here in Fort Collins.) πŸ™‚

  9. posted on Mar 29, 2012 at 12:02 PM  |  reply

    I’ve always journaled, but only recently have I started journaling about my faith. I have a journal full of verses and notes about them, and I have another full of prayer requests, written prayers and things I’m struggling with. It’s incredibly cathartic for me, too. A friend encouraged me to journal after bible study or quiet time, and it has really been a blessing.

    Sometimes, I feel like Kathleen when I go back and read the old stuff. Embarrassing is a good word. Even though it seems mundane reading old journals, at the time it was my struggle no matter how simplistic it seems now. He’s always been there, even for the little, simple things.

  10. Niki
    posted on Mar 29, 2012 at 12:02 PM  |  reply

    Hi Annie!

    I am so glad you decided to write about the importance of writing. I write usually several times a day and in different forms. Sometimes it’s a prayer, sometimes it’s a thought I’m trying to get rid of, sometimes it a song. I’m not sure that it is for everyone, but I know that for me, it is essential in sorting out my thoughts, reminding myself that there is progress in pain, and as you said, being very intentional with my prayers.

    I hope that the girls in your small group can use journaling as a tool to learn how to better express themselves, as a means of purging toxic emotions, and writing their prayers so that they’ll always be able to remind themselves how far they’ve come.

    I’m so glad you share my love for journaling. Thanks again for another beautiful post.

  11. Amadna
    posted on Mar 29, 2012 at 12:03 PM  |  reply

    Journaling is my bread and butter. I loved seeing your Rubbermaid tub of journals. It made me feel so normal. πŸ™‚ I’ve got two and something like a zippered body-bag looking thing under my bed as we speak (that’s creepy now that I see it writing).

    I’m 24 and in grad school now but I’ve been journaling since I learned to write. I accepted Jesus as Savior at a young age, so my earliest journals are filled with prayers that mommy would buy me a bicycle and that my friends would be friends forever.

    Thankfully, I can see God growing me over the years and the journal entries grew to include everything from deciding on a college to song lyrics that He used to change me. Being an introvert who keeps (probably too many of) my thoughts to myself, it has helped to write out how I really feel about things and see the Lord’s response to them. So to answer the question, yes. Yes, I journal. And I love it.

  12. Niki
    posted on Mar 29, 2012 at 12:05 PM  |  reply

    PS- there’s an Apple app that I use to do most of my journaling, especially good for girls who are always on the go. πŸ™‚ I have it on my laptop and my phone. It’s called Day One. Hope this helps!

  13. Erin
    posted on Mar 29, 2012 at 12:16 PM  |  reply

    Annie, I love this! I love journaling and have recently realized how fruitful it has been. It has been so great to go back through and read my journals and see what God was doing in my life, or how the thing I’m romanticizing in my head was actually much more painful at the time. Also (cheesiness alert) sometimes I like to write prayers out in my journal and go back and highlight them when they’re answered so I won’t believe the lie that God doesn’t answer prayers.

  14. posted on Mar 29, 2012 at 12:31 PM  |  reply

    I’m a journaler as well…have since I was in 6th grade…so I guess that’s 15 years. Crazy! I try to instill in all of my high schoolers the importance of keeping a journal as well. Printing this post off to show them I’m not the only one.

  15. posted on Mar 29, 2012 at 12:43 PM  |  reply

    I started journaling when I was 12 or 13. It’s amazing to read through those old entries and see how far I’ve come. I don’t journal nearly as often as I used to (perhaps blogging takes care of some of that itch, though the journal gets anything not worthy of public consumption.) It is such a good discipline and creative outlet though.

  16. posted on Mar 29, 2012 at 12:50 PM  |  reply

    What a great post.
    I totally understand journaling; I’m 18 and have kept journals since fourth grade.
    Now that I’m older, my journaling has carried over into my prayer life and it is amazing to see how God answers prayer and does work in my life when I have a documented work of it.
    Not sure what I’m going to do with them, though. I think it’d be kind of cool to pass them down to the next generations, but burning them is the next best option! πŸ™‚

  17. posted on Mar 29, 2012 at 1:29 PM  |  reply

    I have years of journals and I agree having verses and things God is saying in one place is so good to be able to refer back to. I especially love it when over a number of days or weeks the same theme comes up again and again and you can follow the development. My tip is to use different coloured pens. I do one colour for my thoughts, a colour for verses, a colour for quotes by other people and a colour for words I feel God is saying directly. It’s really helpful when you flick back through trying to find something.

  18. posted on Mar 29, 2012 at 1:39 PM  |  reply

    I have kept a journal a long time now. one thing I am trying to do is make a list in the front of each journal, kinda like a table of contents of the life events..to make them easier to look back through, find a particular answered prayer out struggle if I want to write about it or share it with someone.

    I just saw this for making your own ! Hope it helps! you could probably punch holes and use ring binder things instead of thread too. http://abeautifulmess.typepad.com/my_weblog/2012/03/mini-magazine-notebook-diy.html

  19. Louise
    posted on Mar 29, 2012 at 4:20 PM  |  reply

    I keep a factual diary of what I’ve done. But last year I did start a faith journal- seduced by the gorgeous notebooks in Paperchase which always see me parting with some cash! Every couple of days I’ll pick it up and write out some prayers and my thoughts on what I’m reading in the Bible. I like that I can read it back and see how my faith is changing.

  20. Christine
    posted on Mar 29, 2012 at 8:23 PM  |  reply

    hi annie! i really like following your blog, and espescially this post about journalling. I agree that journalling is therapeautic, it’s so relaxing for me. I’m so ocd that my journalling takes 3 forms-my daily planner, my daily journal, and my “God” journal. In my spriritual journal, I write down verses, prayers, sermon notes, thoughts from my scripture readings, etc. It is so good for me to look back on old entries and see how God has answered prayers or helped me in different areas of my life. I would not remember his great faithfulness in my life unless I wrote it down. And I like to buy cute journals that inspire me and are small enough to carry with me in purse or whatever. another thing i have done is take a notebook and cover it with scrapbook paper or a picture. just an idea πŸ™‚

  21. ann
    posted on Mar 30, 2012 at 10:02 AM  |  reply

    i love to see those blank pages or rows filling up. i have two journals i carry everywhere i travel now. one is my thankfullness journal which i started right when i was having some health problems and has been a real encouragement. another is a prayer journal and like many i date it and love to see those prayers answered. i also use that same journal to sometimes write whatever i’m feeling. i have another blank journal and i’m not sure if i’ll start another type of journal or wait until one of these is full! i started journaling since i was 9 and have always needed to have something to write on, even if it was a scrap of paper. and no matter how i intend to write any journal, they all somehow end up as letters to my Father God. that seems to help give me the write perspective on whatever it is i’m thinking about…

  22. posted on Mar 31, 2012 at 1:28 PM  |  reply

    I do journal, not consistently. I feel God has layed on my heart to do this recently. Thanks for writing about this.

  23. posted on Apr 02, 2012 at 12:25 AM  |  reply

    Ann Ortlund – Disciplines of a Beautiful Woman

    Great book. Most practical book about being a woman that I’ve ever read. And anne loves journaling. Her “notebook” is legendary. πŸ™‚

    The book is old school – some things in there might make us modern independent girls cringe. And that’s not necessarily a good thing. But I found it very valuable.

    I’ve journaled since I could write as well. But she changed how I keep my journal / notebook.

  24. Emily
    posted on Apr 03, 2012 at 3:15 PM  |  reply

    Unfortunately, I don’t journal consistently. I’ve always regretted it, but never seem to make time for it. Reading this makes me think there’s no time like the present. And I definitely want to check out the book that was mentioned above. Thanks, Annie!

  25. Amanda
    posted on Apr 06, 2012 at 10:06 PM  |  reply

    I’ve been journaling (prayers specifically…actually exclusively) for about 6 years now and it is just so important in my walk. To be able to go back and read those and see God’s work in my life and His answers is faith building. Those journals are my personal little Ebenezers…priceless to me.

  26. posted on Apr 13, 2012 at 7:11 AM  |  reply

    […] “Why I Journal” I’ve been following Annie Downs for over a year and this is just one of many posts that are […]

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