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February 2017

The Adventure of Journaling

Hello!

How are you? I ask with sincerity because I pray for you each morning. I know God knows who reads this blog and I seek blessings and peace on your behalf. I know I need as much peace and blessings in my life as God’s willing to give me so I figure you do, too!

Today’s post is about the practice of journaling and the creative uses and benefits of the practice. Yes, I know you don’t need one more “thing” to do but you might be surprised at how simple it is to journal. And, the benefits truly out-weigh the cost of your time and effort. It’s a great form of stress management. Journaling can help rewire your brain toward optimism and hope. It’s a fun, creative way to address problems, find solutions, and connect with our inner most self. You benefit physically, emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually. Whether it’s prayers, praise or anything else you want to share with God—it’s what we’re invited to do. God wants you and I to pour out our hearts to him, bringing hopes and dreams, anxieties and worries, and requests and gratitude (Philippians 4:6, Psalm 62:8, Psalm 66:19-20, 1 Peter 3:12). Journaling is a great format for doing so. Let’s dive into the purpose of journals, the benefits of journaling, and the various types of journals you can create.

Journal pic 1

Purpose of Journaling

  • Journaling is a practice of self-care. You can be authentic and free to express in a safe manner all the feelings and thoughts that you can’t express in other ways.
  • Journaling is an activity where you move the thoughts and emotions held within your heart and mind and place these in an alternative format. The format is determined by you to utilize the best expression of those thoughts and emotions. It can take any form such as a map, a list, as art, as narrative, or freeform streaming of thoughts and emotions.
  • Your journal is a mirror to your mind and soul. You express what is within and this helps you to view your authentic self. Healing, growth, creativity, passion, dreams and more can be experienced and/or revealed.
  • Journaling is a process that frees up your mind. As thoughts and feelings are realized in an alternative format, the process opens pathways that were blocked or clogged with the concern, issue, or emotional turmoil. Your mind is free to take a rest.
  • Your journal is a memoir. As you place your inner most self in a tangible format (released from your heart and mind), you have an opportunity to take the position like that of a third party or observer. Observing yourself, as if from a distance, may help you understand with increased clarity and perspective. New insights may be revealed.
  • Journaling helps you to track habitual thoughts and emotions that may be unproductive or unhealthy. It brings the subconscious to your awareness so you can take charge of what and why of thoughts and feelings.

Benefits of Journaling

  • Did you know that studies on journaling revealed we benefit physically from the practice of journaling? Physical benefits include enhanced immune system, improved memory function, reduced anxiety and stress, decreased blood pressure, increased capacity to cope with distressing issues and concerns, better sleep, increased healing of the body particularly the skin.
  • There are spiritual benefits when you engage in journaling. Spiritual benefits include peace of mind, peace of heart, enhanced awareness of God’s active presence, a deepened belief and trust in the promises of God, and it helps you track God’s faithfulness in your life.
  • Journaling promotes a mindfulness of what we are thinking and feeling. Bringing awareness to your thoughts, thought patterns, emotional responses is one of the ways you can manage stress and your response to the events that happen to you and around you.
  • Journaling brings your focus to the positive aspects of your day and your life.

Journal pic 2

Types of Journals

Below are descriptions of a few types of journals you can create. You can have one journal that has two or three focus sections or two or more separate journals. There are many different templates for journaling available on the internet. Some examples include: Penzu.com/diary-template, Microsoft Word Diary Templates, or Evernote. You can have a writing journal or an art journal like me. The journal is to support you not to burden you. The journal should be part of your of practice of self-care and not an obligation. The purpose of your journal will be unique to what you need and want. I don’t write or draw in my journals every day. My journals are a creative outlet and it helps me connect with God. I have an art journal, a notebook where I write prayers to God, and I have a “word from God” journal. I encourage you to try the practice of journaling by using one of the ideas below.

Gratitude Journal

I love the gratitude journal! There is so much for me to be grateful for. But too often I fail to be in a mode of gratitude. For example, it’s not until I’m sick with a virus or other malaise that I recognize how grateful I am for my overall good physical health. When I write down what I’m grateful for this act keeps me in a mode of thankfulness. It moves me away from a heart and mind that dwells only on what isn’t right, what isn’t happening, and getting stuck in a cycle of criticism and negativity.

Brainstorm Journal (or Mind Map)

The brainstorm journal is great when you have a project or a passion that you are trying to bring to reality. The reason I love this journal is because it can be completely disorganized. I’m organized in every aspect of my life but this allows me to be the opposite. This journal has you place at the center of your Word doc or piece of paper an idea, a passion, a project, or even a problem. With the main concept in the center, you move from the center outward and place the words and/or images that come to mind around the center focus. For example, I brainstormed (mind mapped) my blog. At the center of my Word doc was the word BLOG and a stick figure of me. Then I pasted cloud images all around the word BLOG and filled each cloud with those ideas that would help me realize my project. For another example, go to the navigation bar on the blog site and find “I Get To…” This is an example of a Mind Map but is similar  to a Brainstorm Journal.

Scripture Journal

The Scripture Journal is a wonderful way to imbed impactful verses of the Bible into your heart and mind. I’m such a visual person and there are times when I read a particular verse I get an image in my mind. One day I was reading Sarah Young’s book, Jesus Calling, and was on day January 19. The writing said, “I am like a supersaturated cloud, showering Peace into the pool of your mind.” Well, immediately I imagined a cloud over my body gently raining drops of peace on my head and body. That image brought such a peace into my heart that I decided I needed to draw it. I didn’t want to lose that image. My scripture journal is an art journal of those verses that evoke an image in my mind that I want to remember because I believe it deepens my unique way of being in relationship with God. (I use high quality stick figures—you don’t have to be an artist is what I’m implying.)

Mindful Awareness Journal (Mindful Journal)

A Mindful Awareness Journal can have several purposes. For the journal to be effective you need to engage in the act of being mindful--being present and experiencing the present with full awareness. Here’s an example of being mindfully aware: I find a place to sit in quiet indoors or outdoors. I am purposefully aware and very present in the moment. I deliberately quiet my mind and body allowing my senses to become fully active. I let my senses have precedence over the movement of mind and body. I slow down to take in the details—sound, sight, smell, touch, taste. I focus on sounds and images present before me. I breathe in deeply the air making note of any scents. This very present awareness places me in a state of being able to receive. Receive what? The rhythm of nature, the peace of God, the presence of those with me. I use the Mindful journal to track whatever I experience or receive during my time in quiet awareness. Later, even weeks or months, I’m able to go back to what I perceived or experienced. Another use for the Mindful Journal is monitoring and document the ebb and flow of your emotions. Acknowledging what you’re feeling and allowing those feelings to surface has important health benefits. Yet another use for the Mindful Journal is related to food and diet. It can help you identify triggers for specific eating habits as you document what you eat, when you eat it, and what you’re thinking about before and during food intake.

Journal pic 3
Well Done Journal

A Well Done Journal is a fantastic way to capture your best self. In this journal, you congratulate yourself for what you have accomplished, goals achieved or achieving, mountains climbed figuratively or literally, or any small or big hurdle you have successfully conquered. You do so much good in your life and it often gets unacknowledged by you. Why do we need to congratulate our self? It’s great for us! Acknowledging what you do well keeps you motivated and encouraged. It’s promotes your confidence and feeds your soul. You are of such great worth to God and you are gifted by Him! When you recognize your unique contributions, it chases away self-condemning thoughts, internal criticism of self, and discouragement.

Faithfulness Journal or Prayer Tracker Journal

A Faithfulness Journal is where you capture God’s history of faithfulness, goodness, or presence in your life. This journal can double as a Prayer Tracker Journal as well. I started a journal documenting all the ways God had provided for me, sustained me in the past. I went all the way back to my birth. It was enlightening to go back through events hand in hand with God asking to be shown how He was there with me. At the time of those events I couldn’t see or understand God’s purpose and presence, but in reflection I saw with incredible clarity what I couldn’t see then—His nearness and His presence with me. I live in greater faith and trust because I invested the time to delve into God’s history of faithfulness to me. It’s that history that enables me to refuse to play with worst case scenario thinking and other non-productive thoughts. The Prayer Tracker also tracks God’s involvement in our lives. This journal involves documenting your prayers and then following up on these prayers with the status, response, or result. Regardless of the status of the prayers, answered or yet to be answered, it is good to track what we have brought before God because it can help to increase your focus on the active presence of God in your life.

If you have a type of journal that you find impactful and helps you live well, please share in Comments. I’d love to hear to from you. As always you can email me directly at heartsencouragedministry@gmail.com.

Thanks for reading! Terri

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References

Barbara Montgomery Dossey and Lynn Keegan, Holistic Journal of Nursing, Sixth Edition (Sudbury: Jones & Bartlett Learning, 2013), 254.

Brian Luke Seward, Managing Stress: principles and strategies for health and well-being  (Sudbury: Jones and Bartlett Publishing, 2006), 215.

Cyndie Koopsen and Caroline Young, Spirituality, Health, and Healing and Integrative Health: A Holistic Approach for Health Professionals (Sudbury: Jones and Bartlett Publishing, 2011).

Kate Thompson, Therapeutic Journal Writing: an introduction for professionals (London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2011).

www.samuelthomasdavies.com/journaling-template


Experiencing God's Presence

Hello!

It is a great privilege to write to you and I hope this blog post peaks your interest in God’s presence. In the Soul Focus we’ll explore the benefits of having a greater awareness of God’s presence. I hope you’ll be encouraged to believe that He is near you. Beside you. Always close.

Soul Focus

Experiencing God’s Presence

Though it’s a challenging topic, I feel passionate about increasing an awareness of the nearness of God. My main reason for this passion is I don’t want us to miss out on what God has for us. I know the Bible states many things about God’s involvement in our lives and of God’s nearness. I know that each of us experience God’s presence in a unique manner. And, I know I’m missing out on the benefits that come when I don’t acknowledge His presence with me. Let’s explore the possibilities of increasing our awareness.

There are various ways we can envision God. One way is a picture of God as being over all because of His nature as all knowing, all seeing, and all powerful. God is on His throne, majestic, holy, the Master of everything. Another vision we may see in our mind is Jesus on the cross. Perhaps it’s seeing Jesus, when he was on earth, in a home, on a path, in the storm, walking and talking with the disciples. Yet, when I take these views of God it places Him far from me, dwelling in the past, but not near and by my side. It’s easy for me to view God and Jesus in these ways, but it’s not so easy to live believing that He is so very near, here present with me.

Too often, His presence with me is not always at the forefront of my mind. I forget. And believe me, I don’t want to forget that He’s near. I need Him and I’m okay with needing Him. But that’s not all I forget. I forget that He hears my voice among all the voices on this earth. I forget that I’m not lost in the crowd. Too often I let myself be lulled into a false sense of aloneness forgetting that my Heavenly Father truly knows my heart. I forget that He sees the state of my heart with the turmoil, the hurt, the anger, the hopes, and the dreams. I forget that He truly knows me, Terri, more than anyone else. If I believe God is truly by my side, then what am I missing out on by not acknowledging His presence with me?

Aloneness

If my dominate image of God is that of Him distantly monitoring my choices and thoughts and how I’ve followed His ways or not, this sets me up for trouble and my thoughts becoming tangled. Why? Because I jump to assumptions as to God’s attitude toward me. I envision God as a critical reviewer of my heart and mind and our relationship becomes skewed. I step into a frame of mind of self-criticism and judgment. But, everything changes when I choose to view God beside me, near to me. Something changes within me. I am able to see God and I are doing life together—He’s guiding me, leading me, comforting me, teaching me, loving me, correcting me, delighting in me. Believing God is that close to me is the hard part. Sure, I have many days when I’m absolutely certain of His nearness. I’m so amazed and filled with gratitude over His care of me. I can hold onto that for hours and days. But there are other times when I can’t seem to feel, sense or believe God is near. Part of it has to do with forgetting to remember God’s promises within His Word and standing firm in my trust in those promises regardless of what I feel or don't feel.   Come near to God

Come near to God and He will come near to you -- James 4:8

God is near. God is present in my life. God always hears me. God is not affected by my doubts, tentativeness, or forgetfulness. The one that is affected is me. I am immensely affected. In my opinion, I believe the doubt, lack of trust, lack of confidence in His intimate nature gets in the way of my ability to experience the fullness of His presence.

There are so many situations and circumstances that have the capacity to overwhelm me. My desire is to choose to be overwhelmed by the presence of God in those times. My desire is to immediately call, reach, and seek God with such confidence that I can immediately be affected by His presence. Do you know why I want this? Because when I’ve asked God to draw near, He has. And when I’ve asked with an expectation of experiencing of His presence, I received it completely. I have chosen the word completely because, beyond forgetting, I can do other things that block my ability to experience God’s fullness of presence.

BarrierYou and I can set up barriers keeping us from experiencing the closeness of God. Here are a few examples: self-condemnation, self-judgment, comparisons, assumptions as to how God perceives you, experiences of rejection, striving to show your worthiness, doubt in the depth of God’s love, and more. When I started my journey with God, there were set in place plenty of barriers between Him and I. God has and continues to guide me to an awareness of what keeps me from experiencing the fullness of His presence. By giving God full access to my heart, He and I assess for any barriers and I do the work of tearing these down. Even today, I have a couple very stubborn default barriers. God’s word is the power tool of choice when knocking down or removing specific barriers between you and God. Other important tools can include professional counseling and prayer.

God is my helper; the Lord is the sustainer of my life. 

Psalm 54:4 HSB

God has made a promise to us through Jesus. And, Jesus made this promise to His people, “I am always with you” (Matthew 28:20). Jesus proclaimed that he lets nothing comes between us and him and no one snatches us away from God (John 15:4; John 10:28-29). The barriers to experiencing the fullness of God’s presence are often within our control. One barrier that we have substantial control over is related to our capacity to be present in His presence.

I love God’s word and it has the power to encourage us and lead us to truth. Let’s encourage ourselves. Take a moment to read the verses below and let these resonate within your heart. Allow the words to become an image in your mind. Place yourself at the center of the image and experience it as real. Let the image and the words root in the garden of your heart.

Sunrise-165094_640For He will give His angels orders concerning you, to protect you in all your ways.

Psalm 91:11 HSB

…I will turn darkness to light in front of them and rough places into level ground.

This is what I will do for them, and I will not forsake them.

Isaiah 42:16 HSB

Be gracious to me, God, be gracious to me, for I take refuge in You. I will seek refuge in the shadow of Your wings until danger passes. I call to God Most High, to God who fulfills His purpose for me. He reaches down from heaven and saves me, challenging the one who tramples me. God sends His faithful love and truth. 

Psalm 57:1-3 HSB

The Lord your God is with you, he is might to save. He will take great delight in you,

he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.

Zephaniah 3:17 NIV

I hope your imagination gifted you with an experience of God’s delight and a quietness of heart and mind. I hope you imagined God commanding on your behalf, being your shelter, and battling for you. For me, it took the extra effort of taking God’s words from the page and imagining these as truth. I hope this post encouraged you to discover the increasing depth at which we can experience God’s presence in your life. If you're willing, please comment and share how you experience God's presence. Or, you can always email me directly at heartsencouragedministry@gmail.com. Thanks so much for reading! Terri