To an outsider, it looks like an ordinary school notebook. But my friend Birdie McKenzie treasures the journal she and her parents kept together while on a missions trip when she was eight. "I can read how our faith grew on that trip," Birdie says today. "When I see all the exciting things we did, it builds my faith even now. I plan on sharing it with my daughter as she grows, and starting our own journal."
A family spiritual journal like Birdie's is a great way to record your journey as a family. Unlike conventional diaries that chronicle individual ups and downs, this kind of diary charts God's presence in your life together. It's where you can record prayers you've prayed as a family, meaningful insights you've uncovered, or answers you were given to situations you worried over. As your family rereads the lessons you record between its covers, you'll be encouraged to face each new adventure God places before you.
A Simple Start
Our journal began with a single entry from me when my first daughter was only weeks old. I wrote my prayers for her life before I underwent a surgery I feared I might not survive. Thankfully, I didand after her baby dedication, I added to that prayer the words people prayed over her and the verses God led people to share with us.
As our daughter's grown and developed in her faith, we've encouraged her to record her reflections on God. Her first entries were little more than scribbles with my translations below, but now they've grown into involved drawings and simple sentence prayers of thanksgiving and petition.
While some of our entries may look unimportant to an outsider's eye, all are special to our family. In it is my daughter's first answered prayerfor a parking space for our car on a busy shopping day. She really felt God's provision for our family that day and wanted to record it.
Each entry is dated so we see our journey's progression. There's an entry for her sister's birth, for prayers for her unsaved friends, and more recently, her favorite prayer requestsfor a pink bedroom and a horse. We've tucked in evidence of special faith memories, such as our airplane tickets to Taiwan when we felt God lead us there for workand our tickets home, when we left during the SARS crisis.
The Tough with the Tender
Not all our family entries are about victories. We've charted our disappointments so we see the growth we experience in the valleys. For instance, last fall my husband was laid off his job. While he added prayers for God's guidance in our little book, my children added prayers of thanksgiving! Daddy losing his job meant he wouldn't have to travel away from home so often. Our combined responses helped us catch a glimpse of God's plan for all our family, and as a result, my husband decided to become self-employed so he could spend more time with us.
Sarah and Tim Holster find that keeping a family journal is a great way to track their growth as a family of new believers. Since coming to know God within weeks of each other two years ago, they've faced a difficult relocation, loneliness, and illness. Their journal chronicles their journey from a family of new, tentative Christians to a family that's now walking confidently in their faith. Their daughter, now ten, has begun her own journal filled with pictures and stories about her desire to serve God.
A Game Plan for Growth
The growth Sarah and Tim see in their daughter is what we aim for in ours. Already I see how our family journal has helped my children realize how incredibly interested God is in their thoughts, dreams, and passions, and that he listens to their prayerseven if he doesn't always answer right away or in the way they'd wanted.
By recording our family journey, we see more clearly how he's directing us. And as we chronicle the ways each of us is growing in faith, we're better grounded in the knowledge that God loves us and that he's building an inheritance our children can some day pass on to their children. tcw
Rachel Goodchild, a freelance writer and parenting columnist, lives in New Zealand.
1. CHOOSE A BOOK in which you all can write. We use one that alternates lined with unlined pages so toddlers can draw their "stories."
2. SET ASIDE A REGULAR TIME at least once a week to record what God's doing in your family. Encourage honesty from everyone. Some of our biggest family breakthroughs have been when we've prayed together for God's provision.
3. LET YOUR CHILDREN WRITE their stories their way; this isn't the time to teach spelling or correct grammar. Besides, you can always add a translation at the bottom!
4. DATE ALL ENTRIES so you see your family's spiritual growth over weeks and years.
5. RECORD ANSWERED PRAYERS and celebrate them. We celebrate in simple ways, by going to the park or inviting a family over for a meal.
6. ENCOURAGE YOUR KIDS to begin their own journals when interested. Model this practice by having your own. R.G.
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July/August 2006, Vol. 28, No. 4, Page 26