Many years back, I stumbled upon a box of my old journals, diaries I’d kept from childhood to young adulthood. The sentiments I’d recorded inside, at the time, had seemed so critical, so central to my life, that I’d deemed them significant enough to pack them up in boxes, move them from house to house, city to city, province to province, all in the effort to preserve this important, and carefully-documented, archive of my early life.
And then I read them.
Years later, the platitudes that I had expressed in the pages of my numerous diaries were not significant, insightful, or profound, as I thought they’d be, though they certainly tried to sound it. What I read were the words of a girl/young woman who, so focused on her own emotions (how she felt when so-and-so did this, how such-and-such a thing made her feel), that she wasn’t seeing things as they really were, and wasn’t seeing things from anyone’s point of view but her own.
I immediately bought a paper shredder and fed the diary pages straight through it, and I didn’t journal again for a very long time.
And when I did start journaling again, I did things very differently.
Finding God in all things is one of the core principles on which Ignatian spirituality is founded, and it’s with this attitude of awareness that I approach journaling today. In my youth, I was focused on recording my thoughts, my emotions, my experience, and as a result, I saw everything in my life through the lens of me. Today, I journal not to record, analyze, and process my perspective of my experience, but as a way of paying attention to how God might be working and moving in my life and, consequently, calling me to a fresh, divine perspective of who I am and who He is calling me to be.
Instead of pages and pages of prose about how I feel, my journal looks more like this: what I am grateful for, what I am praying for, what God has shown me through the Gospel, and how I’ve resolved to act on His inspiration (and whether or not I’ve actually done it).
Finding God in all things, through prayer-journaling, means seeing everything and everyone in my life as a movement of the Spirit, who is actively working in my life. And writing it down, so that years later (or months later, or simply days), His hand is more apparent, and His perspective more clear.
To register for Holly’s prayer journaling retreat this Saturday, November 16, at Christ the King parish, e-mail secretarychristtheking [dot] ca.
To book a prayer journaling retreat for your group or parish, e-mail Holly at h [dot] gustafsonsasktel [dot] net.
Holly Gustafson lives with her husband, James, and their five children, in Regina, where they attend Christ the King Parish. Holly received her Masters in Linguistics at the University of Manitoba, and now pursues her love of language through art, writing, public speaking, and unsolicited grammatical advice. The best advice she ever received was from her spiritual friend, St. Faustina, who told her that when in doubt, "Always ask Love. It advises best."
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