I LOVE journals. I love them lined and ordered or full of blank pages awaiting the freedom found by a pen with few limits. I love them adorned with beautiful printed fronts or simple leather covers. Spiral bound or bound like a book. Notebook size or pocket sized. I love them all.
But here is the thing. I love journals, but I don’t actually like to journal. I’ve tried to like it many times. It is a practice that is so appealing to me and feels like a really good discipline to have, but it just never sticks. And if I liked to journal then I would get to purchase journals. I had to cut myself off from wandering through the journal sections at bookstores and paper shops for I would purchase a journal with the greatest intention of turning over a new leaf and grooming a deep love for the art of recording my days and my thoughts. It would last for a day or two, and then the beautiful journal that I was so drawn to would sit on my shelf and slowly begin to gather dust, never to live up to its full potential, for I am truly not one who journals.
However, about 5 years ago I read an article about a woman who has made a practice out of writing down 5 things everyday that she was grateful for. I decided to give it a go, and in the process found a journaling practice that was more my speed. And along with making an intentional space for more gratitude in my life, I was also reunited with the pleasure of purchasing a journal from time to time. It was a win – win.
At times the things I am grateful for at the end of my day are extremely specific. Answers to prayers. Conflicts that have been resolved. Unexpected blessings. Often the items on my list are repeated. My husband. My kids. Amazing community. A church community I love. And then there are those mundane days or those days filled with one struggle and annoyance after another. On those days I often find that I write down those things in my life that are so often taken for granted. My health. More than enough food on the table. A warm bed to sleep in at night. The promise that God’s mercies are new every morning.
This practice of mine has ebbed and flowed through the years, but it is one that I continually come back to. It is good for my soul and helps me to slow down and center myself. And while I don’t have pages upon pages of proses to look back on of my life, I do love flipping back through and reading those five daily bullet points throughout different seasons and remembering where life has taken me. And that even in days that are difficult or seasons filled with doubt or situations wrought with hardship it is good and right to seek out that which I can be thankful for.
I had been in a bit of a slump in this practice but was reminded of how important it is once again when we attended Missionary Connection Event in August. Curt Peterson, who was Executive Director of Covenant World Mission at the time, had us participate in a few activities to cultivate gratitude in our lives. And I was reminded once again of how good it is for me to set aside time and space everyday to take pen to paper and give thanks.
Along with my deep love of journals, I do find that I also am so drawn to stationary and to interesting and fun postal stamps. Curling up with a mug of tea and a stack of thank you notes to write has become one of my favorite tasks during this season, but not just because great paper goods bring me so much joy. But because I get to practice and be reminded that there is so much to be thankful for in this process and that we have a vast and deep community journeying with us. As we have now reached the 80% mark of our fundraising goal and we work to close that gap together, I am looking forward to finding out what names will be on the envelopes in our outgoing mail in the weeks to come.
In this season I have been given a gift through a different practice of thanksgiving. Taking pen to paper yet again, I have written hundreds of thank you notes over the past nine months. Letters of gratitude to friends and family. To pastors and folks willing to host us in their home. To people who are advocating for us and the Ecuadorian Covenant Church in their own communities and to church congregations committed to walking this road with us. To folks we knew we could count on for support and to people we have never met. To one time supporters and to others who have committed to journey with us and the church in Ecuador for the long haul. To say we are grateful for you doesn’t really begin to cover it. Going forward, I know you all will continue to be a bullet point on my list in the months and years to come.