Sometime in 2010, I stopped journaling. That year began with my departure from the foreign mission field in Mexico, continued through transitioning into a a stateside admin role and international discipleship via phone and chat services, and ended with work as a full-time nanny to triplet preemie infants. Woven throughout those milestones was an online seminary class, work as an assistant to a wedding florist, deeply destructive and ongoing church conflict, and the surfacing of old, very deep wounds that had either been left dormant or finally needed to be identified. Re-entry from the mission field was hard—harder than I was capable of realizing at the time—and it was complicated by the fact that I was still grieving the loss of my precious grandmother and feeling at loose ends after the end of a meaningful relationship with a precious mentor (it was a temporary end, but I didn’t know that yet). I was drowning, and the words simply dried up. The emotions and thoughts swirling around inside me were too complex, too dimensional, and too nebulous to condense down into comprehensible word nuggets. I couldn’t even talk them out, let alone write about them.
In October 2014, in my first or second therapy session after experiencing an emotional breakdown, my therapist told me I needed to journal—that the journey would be long and hard and I needed a place to vent that off outside of our sessions. She was persistent, and it took me a couple of months to comply, but on December 16, 2014, I began to journal again in a beautiful green journal (my fave color) that had on the cover a gold-embossed design and the phrase Sing Your Song. I was a writer (though I didn’t know it yet) and a singer who had lost her voice, her words, her song, so that phrase resonated with me deeply. And over the last three years, that journal has been a safe place to rediscover all of those things again.
I wrote my last entry in that green journal on October 30, 2017—the day before beginning NaNoWriMo (perhaps I’ll write more about that later, but suffice it to say, I’m working on a book). So much writing—or mental and emotional effort toward that end—was happening for my book during that month of November that I did not attempt to journal that experience. At the time, however, I figured I’d pick it back up at some point before the end of the year and finish out the few pages that were left in it. That never happened. I simply had no urge to write or chronicle. Rather, I think I just needed to let my mind sit in the events of this fall and soak them up, take its time processing it all.
But now it is the first day of a new year, and the urge to write is returning. But that old journal is no longer the right place for the new journey I know lies before me. Now I have a story to tell and a voice with which to tell it. The old journal made space for the finding, but now it’s time for a journal that celebrates the telling.
When my bestie, Hannah, came to visit me back in March, she surprised me with a gift: a Novel Journal! She’d stumbled upon it in an airport bookstore while looking for something to read during her flight. Little did she know, I was already familiar with these journals and thought them marvelous. The lines on the pages are actually the full text of classic novels—this one is from Anne of Green Gables, my favorite book/series, the protagonist of which happens to be my literary heroine. This is my new journal.
I am excited to chronicle my journey on the foundation laid by that of Anne Shirley. She may be fictional, but there is so much about her story that resonates with mine, and I see beauty in the commingling of fiction and reality on the pages where I now chronicle my own journey.
The last entry in my green journal included a quoted passage of Scripture (Micah 7:7-9, 11, HCSB) that hit me deeply right as I was about to dive headfirst into the terrifying endeavor of writing a novel:
But I will look to the Lord;
I will wait for the God of my salvation.
My God will hear me.
Do not rejoice over me, my enemy!
Though I have fallen, I will stand up;
though I sit in darkness,
the Lord will be my light. . .
He will bring me into the light;
I will see His salvation. . .
A day will come for rebuilding your walls;
on that day your boundary will be extended.
This morning I received a devotional for creative entrepreneurs in my email, and it began by quoting one of my all-time favorite promises from Isaiah (43:19-20, NLT):
“For I am about to do something new.
See, I have already begun! Do you not see it?
I will make a pathway through the wilderness.
I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.
The wild animals in the fields will thank me,
the jackals and owls, too,
for giving them water in the desert.
Yes, I will make rivers in the dry wasteland
so my chosen people can be refreshed.”
I wrote this passage into today’s entry—the first entry—in this new journal, and I went on to write about the poetry of the last two months being bookended by those two passages. I feel as though I’m inhabiting the space between these two promises—coming out of various shades of darkness, standing up aftar an extended season of falling down, ready to rebuild after extensive destruction, conscious that the future is bright with new glories, yet still uncertain of where to walk, how to build, which horizons to chase down.
I feel as though I am past the mourning but not yet ready to dance.
One thing I do know, though, is that I want 2018 to be a year of intentionality—in the waiting, in the sifting, in the observing, in the absorbing. I want to do less and live more. I want to be all the way awake, pressing in and engaged—truly experiencing my days, be they mundane or glorious—and I want to treasure the small moments, not just the grand ones.
Already 2018 feels pregnant with new possibility and potential. It is terrifying to contemplate what that could mean, but I suppose that means that whatever this year holds, it will be significant in ways I likely cannot even fathom right now. So, here’s to the new year. May we all experience joy as we bear the pangs of bringing it all to life!