Documenting Your Christian Journey
The benefits of keeping a journal about your Christian journey, with Barbara Brabec’s special journaling tips and excerpts from her Christian journals to inspire you to document your own journey.
I WAS IN MY MID-THIRTIES when I realized I’d been a writer all my life, starting the day when I was in grade school and Mother gave me a little diary with a key. Long before I published my first article, I’d been putting my secret thoughts and dreams on paper in the form of letters to my mother, sisters, and friends, in handwritten notebooks, and later in journals I kept on computer. Long before I’d written my first book, I found it amusing to think that if I ever decided to write my autobiography, I wouldn’t be at a loss for material.
I will never forget a story I once read about a woman who lost her memory of fifteen years of life with her husband and children, and how difficult it was for her to pick up the pieces of her life and move on. As I read the article, I kept thinking that if this woman had only kept a diary or journal of her life as I had done, it would have been so helpful to her and might even have enabled her to get her memory back.
The serious documentation of my life began when I left my small home town of Buckley, Illinois at the age of eighteen to make a life of my own in the big city of Chicago. I began to write letters to Mother every week telling her everything I was doing and thinking about at the time. Twenty-five years later, she gave back to me all the letters I’d written to her. I can’t tell you how fascinating it was to me to get to know myself all over again in middle age. There was a special joy in rediscovering people I’d once known briefly and then forgotten, as well as lessons to be learned from how I had reacted to various people and situations in my life.
The sad part was seeing how much of myself I’d lost in the confines of marriage, how many things I wanted to do, but didn’t. I saw how, year by year, I had changed to accommodate my husband’s wishes and how, in later years, I would often pour out my anger or frustration in my private journal. Looking back, I could see that this was a healthy way to vent my steam, and it was certainly less expensive than seeing a psychiatrist.
Don’t get me wrong. It wasn’t that Harry was a demanding husband; only a professional musician with entirely different dreams and goals than mine, a man who lived by the clock who married a woman who preferred to “go with the flow.” (Of course I had to eventually write the story of our lives, and I sure had a lot of material to work with, thanks to all my journals and Harry’s writings too.)
Journaling My Christian Journey
I’D BEEN RAISED to love and revere God. I attended church and loved Bible School in the summer. My folks often gave me and my sisters advice and guidance that was biblically sound . . . but I was nearly sixty years old before I finally heard God’s voice and “saw the light.” (Yes, it takes some of us longer than others to learn the difference between loving and revering God and having a personal relationship with Christ.)
I responded at once, eager to accept Christ as my Lord and Savior. But I had so many questions, and it wasn’t long before I began to understand that the journey of a Christian is not an easy one. Once again, I turned to writing to help me thorough this special period of my life, and it didn’t take me long to see the benefits of documenting my spiritual adventure in great detail.
Each time I reread some of what I wrote in those years, I learn something new about the way God was always working in my life. It has been fascinating to see how I’ve grown in my faith as I responded to various “trials and tribulations.” Although I didn’t welcome them at the time, I now see that each experience was a test designed to increase my faith and draw me closer to the Lord.
How to Document Your Walk with Christ
HAVING LEARNED the value of documenting my spiritual journey, I want to encourage others to do the same. Anyone who can write a letter can document their own walk with the Lord and later glean valuable lessons from what they’ve written. Don’t worry about your writing style or grammar because you may be the only person who ever reads what you’ve written. Except God, of course, and you will please Him simply by writing from your heart. On the other hand, you may want to write your journal with the thought in mind that others will read it after you’re gone and perhaps come to faith because of your words. Here are ideas for how to get started with this kind of writing with excerpts from my journals (in italics) to illustrate my points:
• Each day, record your special prayers to God and the answers you have received to earlier prayers:
Before going to bed last night, I prayed that God would let me know what he wanted me to do with the rest of my life. He woke me up exactly at 6:30, just in time to turn on my bedside radio to hear a very special message by Pastor Greg Laurie. It was on how to know God’s will and recognize the gifts He has given us. I suddenly saw that I don’t have to ‘preach the gospel’ to reach people—all I have to do is continue to be myself, sharing what I’m learning in life and motivating others to follow in my footsteps by putting their faith in Jesus Christ.
• Note those “flashes of insight” when some important truth suddenly comes home to you:
I’m reflecting this month on the truth of Romans 8:28 (NLT):“And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.”
At the time I got breast cancer, it seemed like just another problem to overwhelm me, just another expense I couldn’t afford. But even then, when I was not yet a Christian, God was working in my life; I just didn’t know it at the time. Although I forgot Him in the middle years of my life, clearly I was not forgotten by the Lord. I now see that my various trials and tribulations were only tests of character, and each has strengthened me for the task ahead: the good work I might now accomplish for God’s glory.
• Document the encouraging, faith-building experiences and miracle stories shared by Christian friends:
In chatting on the phone with Dan, a new Christian friend, I shared one of my “‘little miracle stories” and he countered with a faith-building story of his own. He recalled the time his brother felt certain God had spoken to him. He was at a ballgame but his mind was on trying to decide whether or not he should go into the ministry. As he prayed to God there in the bleachers, asking for a sign, a batter hit a ball directly into his lap. Dan said, “I got the message and entered the ministry.”
• Record your own “little miracle” stories that gave you special encouragement:
I’ve had another one of those ‘little miracles’ which I find so encouraging. It’s as though God grants these little blessings in my life because He’s working on the big picture and that’s going to take some time; so to keep me from getting too discouraged while I wait on Him, He gives me these “little miracles.” This month I’ve begun to think I ought to write an article titled “God: Finder of Lost Objects” because this is the third time I’ve lost something that was found in an interesting way. (And then I documented several small miracles that I’d experienced.)
• Include your reflections on what you’re learning from a study of God’s Word, and note any questions you’d like answers to:
I feel there is a reason for this intense desire on my part to know the Word, but I keep wondering what I’m supposed to do with the knowledge I’m gaining and how long I will need to study before I’ll be ready to really use all these lessons? Lord, please help me to be content in the knowledge that You are directing everything in my life and will let me know what to do when the time comes.
• Copy uplifting passages from books and magazines that speak to your heart. Here is an example of one that made an impact on me many years ago:
“Each one grows the way God planned for us to grow, depending upon what He had in mind for each of us. What is it, then, that God has in mind? Perhaps we will never know. Nor is it important that we know. What is important is that we leave ourselves open to God each day so He can use us as He sees fit.” – Joseph F. Girzone (from a Guideposts article titled “Never Alone”
Capture Your Life in Words
AFTER SHARING some of my writing with a very special sister in Christ, she commented that I had “an album of my life captured in words,” adding that I was “like a photographer who takes pictures with the stroke of a key.” I found this a lovely and very uplifting thought, and it’s the one I want to leave with you now as I encourage you to begin to document your own Christian journey. Whether you’re a “baby Christian” or a lifelong follower of Christ, you will immediately benefit from creating your own “word album.”
To encourage you further, I’m sharing my Testimony for Christ on this website. You can download this PDF document and share it with others if you like.
Christian Encouragement T/C
See also articles for writers in the Writing &-Publishing T/C