I often have trouble sticking with a task, like exercising or some other new activity that requires a regular, even a daily, practice. “I’m too busy today…,” is my frequent response, then by the next day, the practice is forgotten. But as athletes and other focused people know, continuing a practice develops it into habit. But I am surprised to find that I have been pretty successful at journaling through this Advent season. Is it worth the few minutes of time that I’ve spent each day (having missed only two days since starting)? Definitely! Developing a habit is much easier when the activity is joyful!
When we travel, we often focus so much on the fun we’ll have at the end that we miss what we’re passing by on the journey itself. In her blog, Pastor Mary Jane wrote about how her parents would try to distract the kids when they were traveling when she was young so they would quit asking, “Are we there yet?” The “find the letters of the alphabet” game, or how many different state license plates can you find, or other such games were fun when we were children, but as adults, we often weary of the trip, maybe even feel the aches in our bodies from sitting too long, and feel that anxiousness to arrive at our destination. “Enjoy the journey itself” is advice given so frequently that it has become almost trite. But as I look back through what I’ve written, I see that it really does focus my thoughts and senses to pay attention and appreciate each day of this Advent journey. For all of us, mixed among the joys of anticipation of Christmas and the pleasure of gatherings with friends around tables of food (like last Sunday’s fellowship dinner) as is so common in this season, we’ve experienced the horror and grief of the tragedies in a number of places over the past week, especially in Newtown, Connecticut. Obviously, my reactions get recorded in the journal, along with the more mundane events and thoughts closer to home.
As I go back and read through the journal, “listening” for what I’ve written, patterns are emerging. For one, each of my journal entries ends with a prayer. I’m not very good at consistently praying, especially from my heart, but there on the page are prayers that start my day. Other patterns are too personal to share here, but they are also good to note.
One general pattern that I notice is that I have written lots of questions – difficult, deep ones – and these are often repeated over the pages of several days. So far, these have not been answered, but I’m writing with a deeper hope that they will be. I am rereading “Writing Down Your Soul” by Janet Conner, and in the book, she says that “listening” – rereading and paying attention – to what has been written and what is flowing from your pen – is fairly easy to do. This has been my experience. But she writes about the patience that is required to dig deeper, and for truly getting to “the story behind the story” as one writes from the soul. This writing from as deep a place as you can reach, from the “source” within, takes weeks and months of writing to fully experience. I’m not there yet, but enjoying the journey!