Saturday, August 17, 2013

Why I Keep a Journal (and Why You Should Too)

     On January 1, 1991, I decided to start writing in a journal. Don't know what compelled me. Nobody suggested or modeled it to me, I just grabbed a spiral bound notebook, wrote the word "Journal" at the top and went for it. Twenty two and a half years later, I am on my 56th journal. Though I kind of stumbled on to this pastime, I think it is one of the best endeavors I have ever undertaken.
     My initial entries were very blase': "Woke up, went to class, went to chapel, saw Scott, had lunch..." Reading those early musings you'd think a caveman picked up a pen. Yet, each entry was concluded with a sincere prayer to God. I read those prayers now and am humbled at the desperation that young 22 year old guy had for God and his heart cries for more of Him in his life. Many times I pick up a past journal and marvel at the growth that has happened in my life. I see a different person back then, and I'm glad I'm not the same.
     I honed my writing skills, observed how others penned their books and articles, and learned to not just keep a log of the day. I can record my feelings about an incident whether personal, national or global. Future generations of my kin will be able to pick up the volume that holds my exact thoughts on September 11, 2001. I still write out my prayers. I record the amusing and poignant things my kids have said over the years. I detail milestones and victories and hardships. But the real motivating factor in keeping a journal these days is I want to leave my legacy.
     A few years ago I read a book called Letters From Dad. The author tells about when his dad died and all he inherited from him was an old tackle box with some rather insignificant items inside. That was it. So he began a project of writing letters to his kids over the years and on various occasions, and one day he would present them so they could have them after he was gone.
     I want my kids to have more insight into my life than vagueness. Both of my parents are gone, and with them the answers to questions I have about my extended family. I only had one grandparent, my mom's mom. The others passed before I was born. I just discovered that my dad's father's name was Leon Algernon Couch. Dad only referred to him as "Pappy." I want my grandkids to know so much more about me than just my name.
     One day my kids will inherit my journals. I imagine all of them staying at one of my children's homes, probably my eldest's, and once Julia has read the first journal, she will then pass it on to Ella either by mail or teleportation (it could happen by then), or my preference would be in person as they get together on a regular basis. And once Ella finishes that volume, she'll pass it on to Max. And my kids will get to know me and hopefully have answers to questions that I can no longer answer in person. I'm  not afraid of what they'll find in those pages. I have always written as if someone anywhere could pick up my journal and start reading. There is some code at times and I've used discretion for the most part, but my heart is definitely splattered all over those books. They'll definitely see that I wasn't perfect, but I hope they'll also see a man who's heart was after God and growth was a constant in my life.
     In his book, The Circle Maker, Mark Batterson writes, "... journaling is one of the most overlooked and under-appreciated spiritual disciplines. Journaling is the difference between learning and remembering. It's also the difference between forgetting and fulfilling our goals." Goals! Another great reason to journal.
     Go grab a journal and start leaving your legacy.

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