Looking Deeply Inside Myself (The beautiful work of journaling)

Mackenzie Chester artwork, Heidi in the sun, watercolor pen drawing, journal entry, journaling

5:17 a.m. My eyes open in bed. I had a dream that woke first my mind, then my body. My face is pressed against a sweet, softly-sleeping baby. In the dark I lift him up and carry him across the room to place him gently in his crib. He doesn’t wake. A small miracle.

I walk back over to my bed, stepping over baskets of yesterday’s laundry. I check the time. 5:19. While still in motion, for a split-second, I think about my soft pillow, and how without the baby I will be able to sleep in any position I want. But before I can even sit on the edge of the bed to decide if I am going to get up or go back to sleep, I make my move. My sleepy, unsuspecting body follows as I grab my sweater and my glasses and walk into the kitchen, pour water into the kettle, and open up my journal.

I write.

I write about being sleepy and the fragrance of tea. I write about the dream of my beautiful mother and the ache I still feel when I wake and remember she is gone. I write about the baby, whose life is a balm to my soul. I write about the early wren who is singing in the dark and how that surely means something. I write a list of all the things I need to do today, knowing that not even half will get done. I write about my children. Their musical voices, their explosive creativity, their unquenchable thirst to learn. Their strengths and weaknesses. My strengths and weaknesses. The way Heidi looked in her beautiful blue dress, her bright eyes shining and her auburn hair softly shimmering in the sunlight. How that image in my mind represents a depth of feeling I can never say in words. How I hope I am doing this right. How raising these souls is such a one-shot deal. How they are growing up right before my eyes. I write a prayer that God will give me vision. That He will show me how to meet these needs that rise up, one by one, like ocean waves. That I will not drown in them. But that He will give me love and joy and peace and patience and kindness and goodness and gentleness and faith-fulness and self-control by the power of His Spirit which lives within me. I write about how utterly helpless I am without Him.

I write about the last of the bleeding hearts, strung out like beads on the vine in my Daddy’s garden. I would wear them around my neck if they would last. And about the way water pools in perfect, crystal-pearls in the center of the nasturtium leaves. And how I hope today will be the first day I see their jeweled blooms. I write the details of my life, which feel so much more significant when they are put on paper.

6:10 a.m. I am wide awake. In the pages of this blank book, I learn what I think and feel. I read the words as I write them. And I am often surprised, shocked, touched, embarrassed, humbled, and/or overjoyed by what I find when I read my story. The simple practice of showing up and writing my thoughts, day after day in every season, has transformed my life like nothing else. As I force thoughts into words, which move through my brain into my arm and shake out of the ink in this pen onto the page, I learn who I am. I look at these words on the paper. I search them out like someone looking for buried treasure. Surely there is something of value that can be mined up from the vast landscape of my life.

The house is beginning to stir. It is almost time to put all these thoughts away and get focused on the needs that will rise to meet me all day long. But at 6:47 a.m., I am facing them head-on. Through the act of showing up, writing down my thoughts and offering them up to God, I am yielding my life to His purpose for me. I have prayed for vision, and I know that every small ritual of my existence is bound up in that. I can give myself more fully to the day because my life means something. I can give myself more fully to others because I have looked deeply inside myself and I know that I am part of a story.

It is a story I am both reading and writing at the same time. This is the beautiful work of journaling. And I am never ever sorry that I took the time to just show up, sit down, and write.

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