Dana and I have written several posts about the practice of keeping a gratitude diary and on understanding the value of contentment. In 2015, I kept a gratitude diary pretty consistently for a long while, but then something happened — to tell the truth I don’t remember what, but I’m sure it was just a normal season of busyness. Skipping one day turned into two and then three and suddenly a whole month had passed without writing down those daily blessings.
I hope that losing the practice of the gratitude journal hasn’t introduced ungratefulness into my heart and life, but I do know that it’s possible. I wrote in one blog post at the time, “The simple process of being actively grateful is making it easier to recognize all I have to be thankful for.” I imagine the opposite would be true as well.
Even though I let go of the discipline of the daily practice of writing down the items for which I am thankful, I have tried to keep thankfulness at the forefront of my mind. Yesterday, I ran across a snapshot on my phone. It’s a screen capture from a book I read a while back. I don’t even know which book it was, but I kept the photo as a reminder. I even emailed it to myself with the subject line: “Do this!”
The photo shows my underlining of a passage where the author suggests that before lunchtime each day we should ask the people we interact with to list one thing that’s happened that day for which they are grateful. The idea is that encouraging gratefulness in others encourages it in ourselves. Also, it can help the person we’re talking to refocus their day by noticing something good.
It’s a practical application of Philippians 4:8: And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. That’s the New Living Translation, by the way.
Reembracing the Discipline of Journaling
Our pastor preached one Sunday about the importance of establishing memorials so that we can look back and reflect on important spiritual moments in our lives. The memorials are important, he added, because “Our forgetter works better than our rememberer.”
So, it becomes important to keep notes — or as I heard them once described “spiritual signposts” — so that when we get further down the road we can look back on the blessings. We store them up today as provisions to carry us through unknown tomorrows.
Recently, I’ve been rereading Priscilla Shirer’s book Fervent, which is “a woman’s battle plan for serious, specific and strategic prayer.” I highly recommend the book and the intentional approach to prayer that she recommends. One of the strategies she suggests is writing down our prayers and prayer requests so that we can remember.
We need to remember not only to pray in the first place but also as a written reminder of how God answers and has answered our prayers.
In keeping with her advice – and my own from those blog posts of yesteryear, I have once again taken up the habit of writing down. Now, rather than a gratitude journal, I am keeping a prayer journal.
In a pretty notebook that was a Christmas gift from our niece, I write names and notes and sometimes whole conversations with God. There are praises and pleas mingled on the pages with thanksgiving. As the pages quickly fill, I see the work of the great Artist in my life. I see God’s hand leading me gently beside quiet waters and as He calms stormy seas (and skies). And that reflection leads to even more gratitude, but it is deeper than the note about being thankful for cold medicine I scribbled one fall evening.
The good thing about developing habits of self-care and self-nurturing is that they can grow and adapt with us as we enter different seasons of our lives. My well-loved gratitude journal served an important purpose and lives on in a 2.0 version of itself.
Have you seen one of your favorite self-care practices grow or change through the years? We’d love to hear about it in the comments below.