Tag Archives: memories

A Look at How I Journal

Standard

old journal stackWhen most people find out that I keep a journal, their response is along the lines of: “Wow, that’s impressive; every time I’ve tried to keep a journal it just hasn’t worked.” It’s always an interesting response to me, because I don’t believe a person can “fail” at journaling. It’s something you do for yourself: recording whatever you want to, however you want to, whenever you want to. There shouldn’t be any pressure to make your journal anything but the space you want it to be for you.

In the spirit of that, I wanted to share how I personally use my journal. Not simply to give you ideas, but also to encourage you about how limitless, personal, and valuable a practice it can be in your life.

What I Write

There are a few things I (currently) record in my journal through words and writing.

Gratitude lists. If you’ve known me for nearly any length of time, you know that I don’t shut up about gratitude [and if you didn’t know that, you can read this]. Cultivating a grateful heart has completely changed my life in the best ways. The only thing that is a guarantee for me to journal every day is a list of the things I’m grateful for throughout the day. Writing these lists is the highest form of self-care for me, and re-reading them over time is a delight all over again.

When I wake up, I write the day’s date, pen the words “Thank you for:” in the corner, and start bullet points down the side of the page. I fill in the list as things come, or in a moment when I need to focus on building up the good. Sometimes the list will fill the page, other times I’ll draw a dotted line to make it a separate column from something else I’m putting in. I don’t have a minimum or maximum daily count; I just let it happen naturally and allow myself to be pleasantly surprised.DSC00314

Scripture reading log. I don’t follow a reading plan. I tried to in the past, and sometimes it worked for me, but often the plan would ask me to read too much in one sitting, or would make studying scripture feel like something to check off my to-do list instead of something to pour myself into. Right now, I simply read one chapter of the Bible a day. There are some days I don’t read the Bible, such as when I had pulled a near-all-nighter doing homework in college and could feel my eyes closing but was still reaching for my Bible when I heard clearly in my spirit: ‘Tessa– go to bed. Your mental health matters to me. We talked today, it’s fine.”

I decide which book to read by alternating between the Old Testament and New Testament in their orders. Recently I finished reading Numbers, and I am now reading Matthew; next I will read Deuteronomy, then Mark, and so on. If it’s a more difficult book to read, such as the books of the Law, I will also read a Psalm.

In terms of recording my scripture study, I pen a bracket and the name of the book and chapter I’m reading that day. As I read, if something stands out to me, if I have thoughts, or if something confused me and I did some research, I will write notes on those things or even process them through writing. Once I’m done, I pen the other bracket at the end. Sometimes, there are days I read the chapter and simply don’t have anything to say about it. In those cases, I will still pen the other bracket after the book name and chapter, so I remember I read it. It’s okay to not “get something” out of scripture every time you read it; desire to learn is already a delight to Him.

“Proper” journal entries. When I have a lot of feelings I need to sort through or when something happens in my life that I want to remember, I write a journal entry that resembles what most people probably think of when they picture journaling: straight up writing, stream-of-consciousness.

I think what intimidates most people about keeping a journal, what makes them feel like they’ve “failed” to keep theirs, is that they imagine they need to write entries like this every day. I definitely don’t write entries like this every day; I only write them when I want to, when I have something to say or process. If I tried to write entries like this every day, I would probably start getting discouraged and feel like my life was boring! They’re helpful and enjoyable when they’re written out of desire rather than duty. I just write what I care about; it isn’t for anyone but myself, so there’s no pressure.

Drafts. Occasionally, if I want to write something for my blog but am unsure about how much of my personal story and feelings to include, I’ll write the first draft in my journal. Sometimes it truly is a first draft. But sometimes, once I’ve gotten it all out in my journal, that’s where it stays, because that ends up being the best place for it to live. Starting blog posts in my journal has become a healthy habit for me because, to be honest, I’ve probably avoided some conflicts by doing it.flowers and journal

Book notes. Every once in a while, I will read a book so impactful that I want to take notes on it. When that’s the case, I write the name and author of the book, then below that I’ll record quotes or what I’m learning. When I stop reading for that sitting, I might write down which chapter(s) I read in case I want to find something in context again. I draw a little swirly line to separate my book notes from any other journal entry that might go on that page. It’s interesting to re-read later and see how my book notes have similar themes to my regular journal entries and scripture studies from the same timeframe.

Beginning-of-the-year thoughts. I don’t really set goals at the beginning of the year, but I do like to dedicate the first page of the year to writing out a few hopes for it. If I start a new journal in the middle of the year (which is a guarantee for me because I fill them with so much), I rewrite those hopes on the first page of the journal as a reminder.

Calendar notes. I have a calendar on my desk and do not at all ask my journal to function that way, but I do like to make a note of holidays, birthdays, and milestones next to the day’s date, just so I can easily remember if I look back.

[I also use a prayer journal and a poetry journal, but I like to keep those separate from the rest of my writing.]

How I Decorate

A colorful, thrown-together journal might not work for everyone, but it adds some extra sunshine to my life to be able to decorate my pages. Most of my decorations end up serving a purpose, too! I use a few different things.

Quotes. I’ve always collected quotes from anywhere I find them, so incorporating them into my journal pages makes a lot of sense for me, and also makes it a bit easier to find one if I want to go back to it.

I write them on any blank spot on the page I’m currently using. I prefer to use fun gel pens or markers, but if I only have my simple black pen with me I don’t mind using that, either. Cursive hand lettering looks pretty regardless of the pen you’re using.

I don’t really go looking for quotes to add in, because I regularly find a good amount that leave an impression on me in everyday life– from songs I hear, tweets, Pinterest, books or blog posts I read (I don’t often take notes on whole books like I mentioned earlier, but sometimes there are just lovely lines, aren’t there?), movies I watch, Tyler Knott Gregson’s poetry blog (swoon), and anything else relevant for me at the time.

Photos. At the end of every month, I look through my photos and print out a few highlights from that month to make a page or two into a mini scrapbook. I write “[Month] Moments” at the top of the page, arrange the photos to my liking, attach them with regular scotch tape rolled on the back, then add any little commentary I want to below the photos. Sometimes I won’t have a photo from something that happened, so I’ll bullet point those moments somewhere on the page. If there are photos from a particular event and I also have a little memento from it, such as a concert ticket or wristband, I like to pair those together.DSC00457DSC00323

If I have strips from a photo booth, I like to add those into my journal, too, but I probably wouldn’t wait until the end of the month. I would instead just add them when I got them, on the journal page from that day. I do the same with movie tickets.

Apart from my monthly scrapbook page, I regularly add in a random photo or two to most of my journal pages, simply because it brings me a little burst of joy; I’m very visual and love having lovely images around me. These random photos aren’t usually my own, instead I scroll through my Pinterest and find a handful that I want to print out. I print them wallet-sized on regular office paper from my home printer and save them in an envelope I’ve attached to the back page of my journal (if the journal doesn’t have a built-in pocket) until I want to use one. Sometimes the photo fills in an empty space on the page, other times I add the photo first and work around it. How I execute all my creative journal additions depends on my mood, which I like, because my feelings seem to be reflected on the page visually even if I didn’t write a journal entry about how I felt.journal spread photos

Washi tape, doodles, & stickers. These things generally serve as space fillers and just add a nice bit of color and interest to the pages.oooooooooooooo

I hope you enjoyed this glimpse into my journal, and that maybe you’ve even found a spark of inspiration for your own. Don’t succumb to any pressure you feel to be a daily writer, or make every page a work of art, or do anything a certain way. Just do it for you.

Do you journal? What works well for you? What about it makes you happy?

On Reading My Life’s Story

Standard

journal and cpr shelfI have this strange habit of staying up until at least midnight because I want to see the memories Facebook saved for me in the “On This Day” app. I’ve been using Facebook since I was about fourteen, so there’s some cringey gold to be found.

But I was also deeply depressed for a little more than two years in high school. And Facebook reminds me of that, too.

Except those things aren’t memories. That’s the wild thing about depression: I am aware, because of photos and journal entries, of the things that happened to me. But I don’t actually remember them. Reading my journal is like reading a novel. I sympathize with my younger self on a human level, but I can’t remember what those moments felt like; I just remember the constant despair or numbness I carried. Looking at photos from that time is like looking at photos of a sweet, familiar teenage girl; it’s like I was friends with her once. Those years are like stories to me, instead of memories. I know they’re my stories. I try to take good care of them.

Lately, the memories showing up in the app have been inside those stories. A song I didn’t remember existed was there yesterday, from when I was sixteen. When I clicked the link and listened to it, I knew every word. It was a song speaking of light, and it had a joyous air in it. Pride for the girl who listened to that song in the dark swelled up in me. I don’t know what made her do it, but I want to be like her when I grow up.

Today, the memory was from three years ago. Three years ago today, I was rejected from the creative arts program at the college I knew the Lord wanted me to attend. I’d auditioned through a video, the first time for me to sing a solo for anyone. A few weeks later, I received a phone call informing me my voice was “underveloped.” I’d been accepted to the college, but not the program I hoped for. I knew I was supposed to go to the school, so I was glad to be accepted there, at least. Yet I also knew I was supposed to make music. Suddenly I didn’t know how those callings could exist together anymore.

I had been scrolling through Facebook when I received that phone call. I don’t vent about personal situations on the internet, but I didn’t know what to do with the news I’d just received. So I typed through my tears:

Didn’t get accepted into the Creative Arts program; my voice is underveloped. Crushed.

People came beside me and exhorted me. Months later, I would go to that college. But my sense of hope in my dreams of making music was gone. My heart was broken over this twist in my story, and my dreams now felt like burdens I’d have to uselessly carry for the rest of my life. It took a long time to heal from this.

Three years ago, I didn’t know that I wouldn’t finish college; that the Lord would lead me to living at home, figuring out how to make music on my own. I didn’t know that my story was to be even more unconventional and wild.

And I didn’t know that I’d eventually love my story that way.

I love that my Father knows me. He knows an easy, conventional story wouldn’t suit me. “Tessa is my unconventional shining star of a daughter.” He declared when He dreamed me up. “She doesn’t do things the way everyone expects her to; she finds new, creative ways that feed her soul and the souls of others like her. She needs a life that reflects that. It’s going to be so unique, such a delight to unfold.”

He’s crafted all of it. Just like He’s crafted me.

I never thought I’d be thankful for that rejection. But I am. I’m grateful for my crazy, messy, gorgeous story full of twists no one can anticipate. All of it is connected, matters, has purpose. I can trust Him with the hardest parts, knowing they’ll make sense to me someday. I can dream again, because He gives me His eyes when I do. Nothing is irredeemable or immovable– not the darkness, not my mistakes, not my circumstances, not my broken heart. It all matters.

It’s all part of the story. The one He made to fit me just right.

On The Lifestyle of Forgiveness

Standard

flower walk, pear treeA random, harmless little event caused me to run somewhere I could be alone and shake with tears. I didn’t understand why.

I began writing to my counselor-friend about what happened, asking her questions the same time I asked them of myself. By the time I hit send on that e-mail, I understood why that small moment broke me apart: I had been wounded by similar means as a child. I’d blocked it out, but I remembered now. And it felt like large hands were squeezing life from my heart.

She e-mailed back, said I was on the right track. She also suggested that a good next step would be to list “what the locusts had eaten” so I could recognize the restoration– and that I should write a forgiveness letter and burn it. I wrote the list almost immediately, but the letter… I told myself I’d write it soon. “Soon” became over a month and a half later.

I didn’t even plan on writing it when I did. But a song came on that day, one that made tears spill out when I tried to sing along. It made me think of the person who hurt me. I began to write, teardrops splashing on the page. And when I was done… I loved.

Before I wrote the letter, I knew I might not feel my forgiveness toward them, that forgiveness was a choice instead of a feeling, so I’d resolved to be okay with however I felt. I didn’t think I’d feel the forgiveness. But I did. I did feel it. And it had wings.

I loved what the letter had done for me, and when I remembered I was supposed to burn it, I didn’t want to. But two days later, when I tried to read it again… something in me just couldn’t. The forgiveness was completed, it was all done. So I burned the letter. It crumbled slowly and blew away to nothing.

It was finished.

Jesus uttered the words, “It is finished” when He died for the forgiveness of humanity. After forgiving someone who might never be different, but whom I choose to love still… it started to mean something more to me. He wasn’t just saying, “There, you’re forgiven, I did what I had to do.” When Jesus said it was finished, He was saying, “We don’t have revisit it. I forgave you. It’s done. I just love you.”

Two months later, when the same person hurt me in the same way as before, I had to forgive them again.

And I didn’t want to.

I’d forgiven them for the past, for the thing that I thought was over. But could I forgive them for something they were still doing? Something they might never stop doing? I felt anger envelop me like a heavy cloak, because I knew I didn’t deserve what they did.

But the bitterness was eating me up inside. No matter what they did to me, I still loved them in my depths. I was hurting every single day, but I didn’t realize it wasn’t entirely because I was unjustly treated… it was mostly because I didn’t want to be bitter at someone I loved.

It took time to make the choice to forgive a second time. But when I finally did, it was like I had been given permission walk again. I hadn’t been aware of how confined and constrained the bitterness had made me. This time, I didn’t feel forgiving. But I possessed love. So I forgave anyway.

I didn’t forgive them because they deserved it; I forgave them because I didn’t deserve it, either.

I didn’t deserve to be treated that way. But I also didn’t deserve to let my bitterness eat me from the inside because of it. I forgave them because of love, but I also forgave them to begin the healing process for myself.

My Father forgave me when I didn’t deserve it. No one here gets what they deserve– we all get grace. That is how my Father’s family does things. And I love this a whole lot better than the way others have been doing things.

I am learning this person has influenced me in so many ways, over such a length of time, that forgiveness is something that must be a daily practice for me. I often find myself using a flawed thought process they taught me, or believing a lie they unknowingly told me, or maneuvering an obstacle they placed in front of me. And when that happens, I stop everything for a moment and make a strong-willed statement inside myself: “I forgive you for ______.” I name it. I forgive them for it. And I begin walking forward, away from it. Every day, I do this. And when the anger begins to bubble up, making a specific statement of forgiveness changes me.

It reminds me we’re all just doing the best we can. And there’s grace for all of us.

Because We Love You

Standard

Today has just been one of the hard days internally, and that’s okay. There are hard days, and there are beautiful people who make me laugh and give me hugs and rejoice in life for me when I forget to. Life is a great thing. Wow, it is.

And I know it’s probably really cheesy… but I randomly looked this song up yesterday.

[Listen]

I remembered hearing it on one of those cd sample machines in Target when I was a lot younger, and finally decided to see if it was as warming as I remembered. Normally I hear a song from childhood and find I got the melody and lyrics almost completely wrong, but this song? I remembered. I only heard it once in passing, and I remembered.

“Lalala la lala/ it’s a beautiful world/ we’re all here/”

I’ve never stopped singing this one line to myself when I feel joy or when I want joy; that one moment in Target, of pushing a music sample on a machine no one ever uses, mattered. And it makes me think that all these little things I’m living in– laughter, hugs, games of Frisbee, art projects, study groups, afternoon hikes, singing often– they matter. They’ll stick. They’ll be with me for a long time.

I don’t know what’s in tomorrow. I thought I knew what was going to be in today and I was wrong. But I once heard someone say, “The best things in life are unexpected, because there were no expectations.” I think about that a lot. And maybe instead of placing hope in what I want to happen or who I want to be with or what I want to feel or where I want to go… maybe I should just remember that He is my hope, and I have Him, and I’ll never lose Him. And maybe I should keep singing:

“Lalala la lala/ it’s a beautiful world/ we’re all here/”

I have such beautiful people in my life. I just want to talk about them all the time. They remind me who I am, that it’s okay to be her– that it’s wondrous to be her, actually. They pray with me and for me, and help me hear His voice. I used to think that I didn’t need people; that if I had Jesus I didn’t need to talk to others about my heart or rely on them for anything. But I do. He’s here with us; He’s the reason we’re together. He teaches me about His love by teaching me that I can be loved by people I think are amazing. It’s hard for me to truly believe, down in my soul, in the love that exists for me. But it was harder before I had these people. And that is something I never knew I’d be able to say.

Today… today, I don’t need to know where I’m going. I don’t need to have it all together and I don’t need to impress anyone with how okay I am emotionally. I’m a bit sad today. But I was with some beautiful people today, and they lifted me up and just existed with me and treated me like Tessa.

“Lalala la lala/ it’s a beautiful world/ we’re all here/”

Tomorrow… tomorrow, I don’t need to be afraid of how I look to other people or how they feel about me. I don’t need to do anything out of character or have excellent answers to anyone’s questions. I don’t need to be an amazingly productive person who gets everything done quickly and easily. I don’t know how I’ll feel tomorrow or what will happen; anything can come for me. Pain? Joy? I truly don’t know. But this I know:

“Lalala la lala/ it’s a beautiful world/ we’re all here/”

I am loved. This world is beautiful and I get to be in it with people I couldn’t dream I would have in my life. I never expected them, but now I feel the weight of my deep love for them in my chest. And being present in this world with them, living in it and riding the wind through it together, I am finding my heart softening. And spending time with Jesus– just being with Him as I drive to school and work on homework and paint and write– that’s when I know I’m okay. He never fails to make me carry faith in how safe I am with Him.

The past few days… I’ve dared to hope that my soul is learning to believe in how loved she really is.

“Your winter skin/ warming in the summer sun/ we know within/ you will stay forever young/ you fell asleep under the/ starlit sea/ it’s time to wake up, the moon is high above you/ we’re all here ’cause we love you/ and when you finally open your eyes and ears/ you’ll see and you’ll hear us sing// Lalala la lala/ it’s a beautiful world/ we’re all here/”

My Christmas Playlist

Standard

I love music and I love Christmastime, so naturally I have a love for Christmas music. It triggers emotions of bliss because of the delightful memories inside each song. Because I love sharing what’s inside me, I decided to put together this list of memories for you. Some songs have been with me as I’ve grown up, some are newer to me but just too good to keep to myself. It’s a little long, but. . . it has to be! I hope you find some that trigger emotions in you.taken December 24, 2008

If I’ve left out your absolute favorite Christmas song, let me know! I’m always up for recommendations (hint: I’m on the hunt for an exceptional version of “O Come All Ye Faithful”). Have a wonderful Christmas season and give to all you meet, even if you don’t have anything physical for them!