3 Reasons to Keep a Journal + 33 Prompts

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When I first learned what it meant to keep a diary, my idea of writing was making squiggles. Still, I wanted a journal and my mom indulged me with a flowery pink one. I quickly filled it with doodles and scribbles that I would interpret for my family. My next diary came when I had discovered how to pen real words, but still had a lot to learn about spelling. In round, childish letters, I covered those pages with stories about play dates, Sunday school, my pet, my Christmas list and what I had for lunch.

Journals I have filled, from first grade on :)
Journals I have filled, from first grade onward 🙂

From first grade onward, I always kept a diary of some sort. By junior high, the books had evolved from records of my life’s events to collections of my deepest thoughts, fears and dreams. Journaling went from a wordy scrapbook to a necessary way for me to process life.

It may not be for everyone, but if you’ve been thinking of starting a journal, here are three reasons I recommend it. Since they all happen to start with the letter R, I like to think of them as the 3 R’s of journaling.

1. Release. When I go too long without a journal entry, my thoughts pile up and make it harder for my brain to work. Putting all those jumbled ideas on paper helps clear my head. The other night, I scrawled two dozen pages with a hodgepodge of feelings. Even though the situations I wrote about didn’t change, my personal feelings did once they found a release. It doesn’t matter if it makes sense- in fact, it probably won’t. But there’s something freeing about pouring all your bottled up emotions onto the pages. Keeping a journal means you don’t have to keep everything inside. 

2. Reflect. After all the emotions are in ink, I can sift through the mental clutter to find what’s important. Thesaurus.com lists “deal with” and “examine” as synonyms for reflect. That seems appropriate to me. When I journal, it’s not just about spilling my heart. It’s about sorting through the heap of emotions and information, and using it to learn about myself. It’s not a comfortable process. It requires me to be raw and real, which sometimes makes me squirm. A lot of the time, I don’t like what I see. Messy handwriting aside, those words force me to admit what I’m afraid of; what I’ve fallen short in; what I desperately desire. Examining all of that, though, gives me the power to change it. By writing and then reflecting, I’ve been able to recognize my thought patterns, potential growth areas, and also my past successes. Keeping a journal keeps me accountable. In turn, it helps with self-examination and discovery. Journaling is about honesty, which is the first step to growth. 

3. Remember. While journaling is a tool for change, it’s also a great way to record it. I love pulling out my diaries from a year or six years ago, and reminiscing over them. It amazes me to see how far God has brought me. I especially love reading the entries where I wondered how things could possibly work out, but looking back, I can see the Lord’s hand at work. Keeping a journal is like keeping a record of your life. And even though we all have things we’d like to forget, our experiences make us who we are. My old entries remind me of where I have been and give me hope for where I am going. Keeping a journal allows you to keep your memories preserved.  

Do you keep a journal? If so, what other reasons do you have? If not, what reasons might make you consider it?

Whether you’re new to keeping a journal or have been doing it for years, here are some prompts to get your journaling juices flowing!

  1. Past, present, or future: Which one would you prefer to be living in right now? Why?
  2. If you could master one character trait (such as honesty, loyalty, generosity, etc.) what would it be? Why?
  3. Define love.
  4. Define friendship.
  5. Did you ever have an imaginary friend?
  6. Who are your closest friends? What do you value about each of them?
  7. What could you do to be a better friend? (I think this is the one I’m going to write about tonight.)
  8. What is something you feel God is teaching you?
  9. List three of your proudest accomplishments.
  10. Write about what makes you feel successful, or what would make you feel successful.
  11. Write about a time you felt you had failed. (Note: Failing does not mean you’re a failure. Just thought I’d mention that. 🙂 )
  12. What is confusing you right now?
  13. What are you completely sure of?
  14. Who are you? Describe yourself in five words.
  15. List five words that are the opposite of you.
  16. Your seven best qualities are…
  17. Your three worst qualities are…
  18. How do you respond to stress?
  19. What usually stresses you out?
  20. Do you like to think about the future?
  21. What are your top two interests?
  22. If you could make a career out of anything, what would it be? (doing nothing doesn’t count. 😉 )
  23. How do you spend most of your free time?
  24. Are you good at keeping track of time?
  25. What was the last thing you lost?
  26. Have you ever felt lost, or been truly lost?
  27. Are you good at making decisions?
  28. What was the last difficult choice you had to make?
  29. Is it harder for you to be gentle or honest?
  30. Define loyalty.
  31. How trusting are you?
  32. Has anyone ever broken your trust?
  33. Who do you trust most?

In case you’d like to keep this list with your journal, here is a printable version for you to download. Let me know which prompts are your favorites or if you can think of any additional ones!

Happy journaling!

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New Year’s Symphony

My final post for the year. Already, it has come to this. In a matter of minutes, everything will bear the date of 2015. That’s hard to believe, especially considering I wrote 2013 on something just last month. I was finally getting used to writing 2014, and now I have to readjust again.

I didn’t accomplish everything I planned to in 2014. In fact, most of my plans were turned upside down or torn up completely. Most of my accomplishments were entirely unplanned. In some ways, I’ve changed dramatically, and in others I still have a great deal of growing to do. Still, I don’t feel totally like the girl who crossed from 2013 into 2014, and I know I have the chance to change entering 2015. No matter how many resolutions I failed in the past, something about a brand new year fills me with hope: Hope to do more, see more, be more. To change more and make more.

For a girl who typically resists change, I tend to stack too much of it on the brink of each New Year.  I once made a dozen resolutions, only to forget them all by Valentine’s Day.

So this year, even though I have goals, I don’t want to make them the center of my plans. After all, if there’s one thing I have learned this year, it’s that plans change. I’m tired of making long lists where I either quit and feel like a failure, or succeed yet still feel empty. My desire is for 2015 to be a deeper year, one of true growth. I don’t want to measure my success this year by how much I produce or earn, but by the person I become.

Yes, I’m still going to try the usual things, like getting healthier and becoming more organized. What I really want, though, is to change my way of living. I don’t want this to be another year where I miss the miracles around me, where I go through each day and forget about the One who gave me those days.

I found these beautiful words from William Ellery Channing a while ago, but I’ve adopted them as my mantra for 2015.

 To live content with small means, 
To seek elegance rather than luxury, 
    and refinement rather than fashion. 
To be worthy not respectable, and wealthy not rich. 
To study hard, think quietly, talk gently, act frankly,
to listen to stars, birds, babes, and sages with open heart,
to bear all cheerfully, do all bravely, await occasions, hurry never. 
In a word, to let the spiritual, unbidden and unconscious, 
    grow up through the common.
This is to be my symphony. 

– William Ellery Channing, “My Symphony”

To remind me of this each day, I made some simple quote prints. Each time I see them, I hope I’ll remember that life is a miraculous gift. 2014 was a gift, despite coming in an assorted box of good and bad, and 2015 will be the same way.

Symphony bird printSymphony tree print

If you would like to share that reminder, you can download the free prints in 8×10 size here, or in postcard format here. For the 8×10 size, there is a design with birds, a text-only one, and one featuring trees. The postcards are printed with either birds or trees. 

As the final notes of this year fade into silence, and the symphony begins to play for 2015, I hope our new songs will be beautiful. No matter what changes come- both in our control and out of it- I pray we will have courage and strength. I pray that when we don’t, we will allow ourselves to be carried and comforted by God’s unfailing love, and covered in His grace.

Most of all, I pray we will make the most of every new beginning. Of our fresh year, and each fresh day in it.

Happy New Year, dears! May your days in 2015 be filled with unsinkable joy, unshakable peace, and unwavering hope.

I’m looking forward to sharing another year with you.

Blog SignatureP. S. Be sure to check out these inspiring New Years Posts from a couple of my favorite bloggers, as well. 🙂

2014 Going on 2015 from Rana at the Villain Authoress 

Turn to Face the New Year from Miriam at Wishful Thinking