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Writing To Remember

By Kristen Hartman | June 10, 2020

I’m a word person, but I’ve never been a good journal-er. It feels so formal and final to write with a pen in a journal. It leaves no room for me to mull and play with words and re-write, which is more my preferred style. In fact, the only times I’ve journaled daily have been on trips — six weeks backpacking in Europe when I was 20 and ten days in Israel when I was 33. I knew then — in those new places with days packed full of new experiences, new sights, new aha moments of history coming alive — that I needed a detailed written record because as unbelievably memorable as everything was . . . it was too much. My memory wasn’t good enough to hold it all. And so I wrote.

When the safer-at-home orders came out in March, a friend at church asked me to keep a daily journal chronicling this season. I assumed we were talking about a few weeks, so I said yes. More than 80 days in, you might think I regret that yes, but I don’t! Some days I bemoan that I simply have no words left and my life looks remarkably the same every single day, but I keep at it. Why? Because in between the what ifs and the new bird sightings are names of neighbors I’ve met and lessons learned and conversations that I might have forgotten about if I hadn’t written them down. Each day as I reflect, I’m amazed at what surfaces to write about.

God’s fingerprints of faithfulness are all over my journal. And His fingerprints are all over my days too, but I might not have seen them if I hadn’t been looking. And I wouldn’t have been looking if I didn’t need something to write in my journal. The discipline of writing every day has turned into an adventure of seeing God at work.

I see the irony of journaling only when I travel to now journaling daily when I’m only home: my world is as small as it’s ever been, or at least my daily footprint in the world is. And yet, I know now — in this familiar place with days packed full of new experiences (staying put, doing life together at a distance), new sights (seeing inside friends’ homes over Zoom), new aha moments of history being lived (tracking the numbers and stories of the pandemic, wondering if these protests will bring lasting change) — that I need a daily written record because as unbelievably memorable as everything is . . . it is too much. My memory isn’t good enough to hold it all. And so I write.

As I keep journaling through this seemingless endless season I’m grateful for the growing record of God’s activity. Maybe you might want to pick up a pen or a keyboard and start writing, too.

Kristen Hartman