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How Journaling Can Help You Focus
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How Journaling Can Help You Focus

Using Pen and Paper to Center Your Heart and Mind
Arianna Li

For the longest time, the word “journaling” made me think of a seven-year-old Arianna wielding a fuzzy pink notebook and sparkly pen. I’ve gone through a variety of phases of incorporating journaling into my adult life, be it for reflective purposes or simply trying to foster creativity. Most prevalently, I’ve loved journaling as an element of my quiet times. Not everyone is a “writing person”, and it isn’t always a component of my quiet times. However, as someone whose mind can often be described as a bustling train station with many thoughts shuffling about it, I’ve found journaling to be an incredibly helpful tool in centering my focus. 
Writing has helped to center my focus during quiet times because it takes my full attention. Like many of us in this modern age, I am incredibly guilty of multitasking. Why just brush your teeth when you could simultaneously clean out your email inbox? (Bad habit, I know.) Nevertheless, getting my full attention in one place is a task that takes intentional effort. Journaling is a mind-body task that requires my full attention. Something about the act of physically writing, as opposed to just saying my prayers in my head or reading scripture to myself, is incredibly helpful in making sure my mind is fully zoned in on what I’m wanting to learn about or say to God. 
Journaling can look different for everyone. While some of us find comfort in long-form writing, penning paragraph after paragraph, others may prefer fill-in-the-blank style notebooks, like the Quiet Time Companion. I dabble in both, depending on the day. No matter the form it comes in, I’ve found there’s a particular magic in putting my thoughts and prayers down to paper. 
Here are some “Arianna types of journaling” that I rotate through as options for my quiet times: 

“What’s On My Heart”
When I’m journaling in this way, I imagine I’m explaining my feelings to a friend. I write sentences in a conversational, casual format to Jesus, similar to how I would explain a situation I was experiencing to a friend. I try to be as candid with the Lord as possible and will often ask Him open-ended questions.  This form of journaling has helped me tremendously when I’ve wrestled with unknowns and uncertainties. 

“List It Out” 
Sometimes all my type-A brain needs is a good ole’ dose of organization…especially when it comes to processing my feelings with Jesus. When I am “list journaling”, I’ll create very simple categories and just make simple bulleted lists of things that I want to learn, pray about, or am thinking about. For example, when wanting to search more into what a character of a Godly wife looks like I made a “Traits of a Godly Wife” list and I added to it as I did my quiet time that day. These lists can be helpful for what I like to call theological-wisdom-pursuit quiet times when I’m on a mission and hunting through the Bible to find some answers. 

“Scripture Specific” 
When reading a section of scripture, I often love to re-write verses that I want to memorize or focus on. I’ll then write out the themes of the passage that stuck out to me, often elaborating with thoughts that the Lord has brought to my mind as I’m reflecting on the passage. 

Now you may be wondering: what journal do I use? This is where the fun comes in! I think that finding a beautiful journal that brings you joy and makes you want to write in it can be incredibly helpful in encouraging the habit of daily quiet times. I’ve shamelessly invested quite a bit in journals over the last few years. As somewhat of a notebook connoisseur, I can report that I have landed on owning just two at a time. Yes! Just two. Here’s what you’ll find on my coffee table: one linen-bound, initial-embroidered lined notebook (the Tailored Journal from Sugar Paper if you were curious), and of course, my quiet time companion. I love and use both for different reasons. The lined notebook without structure provides a great option for longer journaling sessions, diagram drawing, and scripture study sessions where I’m wanting to write more elaborate details. However, the quiet time companion provides a game-changing structure that helps me beautifully organize my daily quiet times. If you’re struggling with structuring your quiet times, I highly suggest the quiet time companion as it has helped me to flow through my time with the Lord with more direction. 

I hope this week you are able to take some time to try out journaling and see how it can bless your quiet times. Some of my most cherished moments of intimacy with the Lord have come from connecting with Him through pen and paper. Happy writing!

  Arianna Li lives with her husband in Nashville, TN. She currently works as a teacher in a homeschool co-op, has a strong passion for community building, and is regularly involved in her church. Arianna can also be found hosting friends for dinner, baking for loved ones, and going on neighborhood walks.

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