Tag Archives: journaling


Trying to live mindfully

I try to live mindfully, which can be challenging, partly because of my job as the executive director of a non-profit organization. There is so much to do, and I have difficulty saying “no.”

So I practice in little ways. For example, when I am standing in line at the grocery store, I take a few deep breaths, and I find myself feeling more patient. When someone comes to talk to me at work, I set aside what I had been doing so I can listen deeply. I walk at a park along the lake.

One of the practices recommended at the Center for Mind Body Medicine workshop I attended last month was to write a prescription for self-care (these are medical people, so they think in terms of prescriptions). I chuckled to myself as the doctor/presenter explained the process, because this is something I have been doing as long as I have been journaling. My version is called “things that bring me joy.”joy-mindfulness-faithAt the beginning of each year, and every time I start a new journal, I review and update my list of things I love to do. The list hasn’t changed that much over the years. I still love to bake, read, cook and sew. I love going to museums and poking around in little shops in quaint towns.

But, I learned to knit in my late thirties, and added that to my list. Twenty years ago, I bought my first home and planted a flower garden—and then added gardening to the list.

Running changed to walking after an ankle injury fifteen years ago. Writing for blogs was added about ten years ago.

Walking by the lake the other day, I thought back over the past few months to see how I was doing in the “joy” department, and I realized there were some gaps. I had not baked or knitted for at least three months!

So I came home and baked chocolate chip cookies and blueberry coffee cake; I immediately felt happier.

How is it possible that something so simple can bring me such joy? And knowing that it does, why do I not do more?

To be fair, the past few weeks have seen me in the yard clearing out flower beds and planting annuals. But, I notice that my evenings have been spent watching mindless television—and not even knitting while I am sitting there.

That awareness leaves me feeling unsettled and even a bit discouraged. Why am I resisting doing something that brings me joy?

After a particularly discouraging day at work, and an evening of watching mindless television, I had an active dream night—I think my subconscious is busy repairing the discord of my waking life.joy-mindfulness-faithThe next morning, St. Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 4:16 spoke directly to me: “Therefore, we are not discouraged.”

Living mindfully requires paying attention to the everyday moments of my life, focusing on what brings me joy, and letting go of what is discouraging.





Pins in my journal

Seeking a new knitting pattern, my sister suggested I look on Pinterest. I had signed up for Pinterest several years ago, but found the site overwhelming. Things seem to appear and then disappear for no discernable reason. It was beyond me.

“You have to create boards and then pin things you like on the boards,” my sister counseled. “Otherwise, you may never find them again,” she added. That had certainly been my experience.

So I created a board (called “Knitting”) and began pinning patterns I liked.

Once demystified, I can now visit Pinterest with confidence. The secret is to recognize when something catches my attention—even briefly—and “pin” it to a board.

This method of adding things of interest to Pinterest boards reminds me of praying lectio divina—that prayer method that invites me to notice the words or phrases in Scripture that catch my attention and then to spend some time in prayer with the images and ideas generated by those words. My journal is where I “pin” my Scripture ideas.

I write in my journal every morning, reviewing the previous day and recording thoughts and actions. I also record night dreams and day dreams, and I write whatever catches my attention during my morning prayer. At the beginning of the year, I write plans and goals for the year, and at the end of the year, I re-read my journals from that year. Before meeting with my spiritual director each month, I read what I have written since my last meeting with her.

I interact with my journal frequently. It is much more low-tech than Pinterest, but it is the system that works for me.

It would be easy for me to get hooked on Pinterest. Each click leads to something else of interest and is an invitation to keep exploring and collecting pins.

I think Scripture is like that, too. Each reading invites me to go deeper and collect bits of insight and wisdom. Each reading leads me to a deeper understanding of how to be more loving and forgiving. Spending time in prayer reminds me of God’s love and offers direction for my life.

Yesterday, before I met with my spiritual director, I reviewed my journal for the last month, and noticed a theme of growth. The words of Scripture that caught my attention had to do with watered gardens and gurgling springs (Isaiah 58:11) and cultivating the ground (Luke 13:8). On several occasions, I had written about moving beyond shoulds and oughts and being the person God created me to me—no matter how outrageous she may be.

The words of Scripture encourage me to keep growing, and give me hope that God does really call me His “delight” (Isaiah 62:4). I want to be that person—God’s delight—and keep “pinning” God’s promises in my journal and on my heart.

The gift of my journal

Even though it has been more than two years since I moved to Michigan, I can sometimes still feel as though I am in transition and not completely settled in. It may be because the move piled grief on top of grief or because there has been transition within transition since the move—or both.

In my prayer, I have been asking what God has planned for me and I wonder if, for some reason, I am missing something—some new opportunity that will help me feel more settled. What I know for sure is that my life here does not look like my life did in Pennsylvania.

It occurs to me, though, that the primary reason for moving to Michigan was to be near my family, so it was inevitable that my new life would not look like my old one. I had no family in Pennsylvania.

Here, though, I have both planned get-togethers with my family (holidays, birthdays, weddings, etc.) and also those wonderful, unexpected encounters that can happen because I live nearby.

Last week, I was at the car dealership waiting for my car to get serviced when one of my nephews walked in. He, too, was having his car serviced there. It was a total surprise to see him, and the time we spent together in casual conversation was pure gift.

Last summer, another nephew was working on a road construction project near my home and I stopped to chat with him when I happened to pass by on my bike.

Another day last summer, when a friend was visiting from Pennsylvania, we stopped for lunch at a restaurant in Detroit and there sat one of my sisters and her husband. “That could never happen in Philadelphia,” my friend said. “No,” I agreed, “it could not.”

Yet here, the possibility for chance encounters exists, and each encounter delights me. Every one of these chance meetings affirms that moving here was right for me and reminds me how blessed I am to be here.

My New Year’s Eve tradition is to read my journal from the past year. This year, I was amazed at how many times my family appeared in my journal. Monthly sisters’ dinners, watching my niece figure skate, kayaking with my brother and sister-in-law, attending bridal and baby showers, another niece’s wedding, and many more family events fill the pages of my journal and filled my heart with gratitude as I reflected on them.

I don’t know why I could not see it before, but I am grateful for the lens that my journal offered me. Through it, I can see how my family connections and interactions have helped shape my new life and added a dimension that was unfamiliar to me. I can now see that I am actually quite settled and that I have the life I hoped for when I moved here.