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The Practice of Journaling

As we explore the ways that we can learn again to experience our feelings this Advent, the practice of journaling requires the least specialized skill or supplies, but the blank page can be daunting. I can’t even count the number of times that I have tried to begin the practice of journaling but stopped because I could not decide what to write.

A friend recently shared this technique for journaling-

Event - Memory - Feeling - Gift - Desire 

With that scary and foreboding blank page before you, simply rest in the day that is past and think of one event. Describe the details of the event in your journal. As the details emerge on the page, engage the memories that the event evokes. Probe into the details and the memories until you can name the emotions that you felt (or avoided) at the time and the emotions that you are feeling now. Take a little time to experience and not judge these emotions. While there are some emotions that we might enjoy more than others, there are not necessarily good emotions and bad emotions. Each of our emotions are a gift that provides insight into ourselves. By welcoming and experiencing these emotions, we begin to recognize our desires. We can see the ways in which we attempt to satisfy these desires in things other than God, and we can see the ways in which God truly satisfies these desires.

A journal entry might look something like this:

I stopped today for ice cream. I don’t often stop for ice cream without some excuse, especially not alone, but today, I dropped by Dairy Queen for a peppermint hot cocoa blizzard. I was reminded of the stops we have made as a family on road trips for blizzards. The peppermint and chocolate brought forth memories of various Christmas seasons. I felt and savored the love and comfort of family, but something else was there as well. I could hear in the back of my mind, “People will disappoint you but ice cream will never disappoint you.” I felt the disappointment, hurt, and betrayal (real and imagined) that often accompanies the stress and unmet expectations of the holiday season. While I want to hide these feelings in the ice cream, instead, I struggle to welcome them and experience them in full. I find the gift of both the feelings of love and comfort as well as the feelings of hurt, betrayal, and disappointment as I recognize my desire for meaning and belonging in community. I can see the ways in which God meets this desire in times of worship, prayer, and in unexpected graces. I can also see the ways in which I expect to manufacture meaning and belonging. 

What might you find awaiting you on that blank page?

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