Journaling has been an important part of my life for almost thirty years – off and on. I clarify the ‘off and on’ part because although I’ve journaled consistently for months and years at a time – I’ve also gotten ‘busy with life’ and neglected this aspect of introspection for months and years at a time also.

One thing I will admit – I do feel better about life, I feel more proactive and positive, and I feel like I get to know myself better when I consistently journal.

My journaling over the years usually takes one of three forms.

Inner Thoughts and Wonderings – To be honest, this type of journaling is what brings me closer to my inner self – the one that likes to hide from truth and light sometimes. But I have discovered that the older I get, the less prone I am to put these thoughts down on paper. Sometimes the thought crosses my mind – Do I want my children to read these thoughts and inner struggles after I’m gone? And as much as I ADORE finding old diaries, journals, and letters from people from the past…I don’t know if I want to be one leaving these written fragments of my life for others to discover years from now.

Another characteristic of this type of journaling that bothers me from time to time is that I find when I’m in this mode, I usually am writing in a negative frame of mind. It’s everything that’s wrong or not working in my life at the moment. And often I find that I steer away from this because I want to see things from a more optimistic point of view.

Affirmations – Often, instead of journaling inner thoughts and feelings, I turn to writing affirmations. Over and over and over. Repetitive words to better my life, improve my attitude, and focus on the more positive side of life. Unfortunately, I find that I can do this daily for short spurts of time, but eventually I become bored and end up stopping.

Gratitude – What has become my most favorite form of journaling is a gratitude journal. I know you’ve all seen people promoting this at one time or another. Write down three things you’re thankful for, five things, or ten things. Every day. Every morning. Every night. The basic instructions vary a little from one person to the next, but it’s generally the same.

The only downside I discovered with this type of journaling is the repetitive rut that I find myself falling into much too quickly. Five things a day. I start with the same basic ones.

  • I’m thankful I woke up.
  • I’m thankful I have a job.
  • I’m thankful for the food in the pantry and refrigerator.
  • I’m thankful for…

And the next day I write my list again. And without fail, it’s almost always virtually the same. Minor tweaks here and there. Small differences if something major happened that day. A call from a grandson. A text from a son. An acceptance on a submission. But typically…it becomes the same-ole-same-ole.

To counteract this problem, I began collecting tips and techniques to help make my gratitude journaling deeper and more reflective of my true appreciation for the blessings that fill my life. Last year, as we were deep in the midst of Covid, I put together some of this information, along with blank journaling pages into two journals. My Gratitude Journal and My Blessings Journal. My blessings journal is more faith-based in nature, sharing inspirational Bible verses and other quotes to inspire, prompt, and lead into a more reflective gratitude.

Here’s a snippet with some gratitude prompts from My Gratitude Journal:

Gratitude Prompts

In the same vein as the Lists of Ten, these prompts are here to encourage you in thinking of all the many different things you have to be thankful for. When you’re feeling stuck, or you’re struggling to come up with specific items that vary from entry to entry, browse the list of prompts below and see if any spark new ideas of appreciation.

People in Your Life

Who would you be unable to live without?

Can you think of a teacher that influenced you in a positive way?

Who is the most inspirational person you know?

How do you feel about your closest friends?

Who was the last person you hugged?

Who did you last say ‘I love you’ to?

Who provides you with a valuable service?

What color makes you feel happiest?

How does it make you feel when you give someone a gift?

Who do you appreciate?

What have others done in your life that you are thankful for?

Who taught you something that you are grateful for?

Who is the one friend you can always rely on?

What is one lesson you learn from rude people?

What is one small, everyday thing that you enjoy with a special person in your life?

What do you like most about your oldest friend?

Your Senses

What sounds can you hear in this present moment?

What five things do you see around you?

What are your favorite foods to eat?

What is your favorite dessert?

How does an ice cream cone on a hot day taste?

How does a gentle breeze brushing across you feel?

What is your favorite texture to feel?

What fragrance do you enjoy smelling the most?

What sounds would you miss if you couldn’t hear them?

What is your favorite sight?

What is your favorite taste?

What is your favorite sensation?

Memories and the Past

What traditions did you enjoy as a child?

What was your favorite childhood vacation?

Did you have a favorite pet growing up?

What is the best gift you’ve received?

Is there a memorable holiday that you will always remember?

What is your favorite memory of a parent?

What is a favorite memory of a grandparent?

What is a favorite memory of growing up with your siblings?

What is a family tradition that you are thankful for?

What is the biggest lesson you learned in childhood?

What is a weird family tradition that you love?

When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Opportunities and Blessings

What quote changed your life in some way?

What opportunities have changed your life for the better?

What kindnesses have you experienced?

What material possessions are you thankful for?

Who is associated with something you’re thankful for? (For example, for a nice meal there are the farmers who grew the produce, the truckers that transported it, the grocery workers that got it to your shopping basket, etc.)

What is your favorite charity and why do you support it?

My Dad’s Books

My Dad’s Books

Every day I sit at my desk and glance up at a shelf filled with treasures. Among the many items there – a stack of aprons Mom made, candy dishes from Grandma Jones, a clock Grandpa Jones made, a puppy vase from Genevieve, a purple candy dish from Bea and Pauline – are three of my Dad’s books.

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I brought them home a few years when my sister and I were visiting him in Arkansas. He’d been doing a cleanup of his office and was getting rid of some things. He graciously let my sister and I pick through what we wanted, as we also enjoyed the morning looking at all of his old photographs of him as a young boy and from his time in the service. No, we didn’t get the chance to bring the photos home, but we had so many other goodies that we weren’t complaining.

I brought these three home. I could have brought a lot more home. If anyone walks in my office and sees that there are five burgeoning book cases and books are still overflowing with no room to give them a proper place, they might think I’ve hit book overload and shouldn’t get any more. But, no. I am a mere apprentice in the book arena. I learned from a master book collector – my dad.

Now these three books aren’t ones I chose because I wanted to read them. They weren’t on my ‘To Be Read’ list. I wouldn’t have gone looking for them. But they were my dad’s. The Star Book for Ministers (1957), The Simple Life (1904), and Fishers of Men, (1904). Inside each there’s small address labels, claiming the books as his, from the home I grew up in until we moved in 1969.

The reason I chose two of the books, is because of the little white letter on them. An ‘M’ and a ‘G.’ Those two letters so carefully painted on the base of the spine, throw me right back to childhood. I look at those and I’m transported back to Glendora, California. Dad built a huge bookcase in the living room. Huge to me at the time, but a mere shadow of the bookcases he has in his large office now.

We children had a small section on the bottom shelf where our books and Highlights magazines went. There was a hardcover series or two that we had at the time. I only remember my favorite book about Indians. The encyclopedias were near our books, and made for great reading, opening up fascinating new worlds. Once I learned to read I devoured books, and haven’t stopped yet.

But my favorite part of these early memories is the letters that Dad painstakingly added to his books. He had his own filing system, keeping books in order by categories, and these little white letters were the key to his organization.

Now I know they don’t pertain to titles or authors. Fishers of Men by Rev. B. T. Roberts has an ‘M.’ And the Star Book for Ministers, by Edward Hiscox has a ‘G.’ Dad must have grouped his books by certain subject matters. Maybe Ministry and Gospel? That’s just a guess. (And yes, Dad, if you’re reading this…you’ll be getting a phone call!)

Fortunately my Dad is still alive and I can call him and ask. Or email. Or ask when I visit him in a few months. Sometimes though, we don’t have the chance to go back and ask questions like this. I remember all the times I’d listen to stories from Grandma Jones – much too often tuning her out because my mind was on the kids, or I needed to wash a load of diapers, or what was happening at work. Yeah, yeah, yeah…I’ve heard that before. And now that Grandma’s gone, what I would do to have one more day with her, to ask her questions and just listen to her stories.

That’s part of the reason why I created three new journals. My Family Heirloom Journal is a place to record information and stories about different treasured pieces. I want to write things like this down, recording the memories in a place where my boys and grandchildren and read them later – years down the line when maybe they’d be wishing I were around to tell one more tale. Once I’m not here to tell them about their Grandpa organizing his books and the letters he’d put on them, or about my Grandpa Jones making a clock and the memories of watching him work in his small garage workshop, it can all be written down here.

Hmmm…maybe this isn’t such a good thing though. Now my boys really won’t be wanting to listen to my stories one more time. They’ll just wait for the printed version that they can scan through later.

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Books from Dad, candy dish from Grandma Jones, clock from Grandpa Jones, hand-towels with crocheted edge from Mom, quilt in background from Grandma Cline.


My Family Heirloom Journal, along with My Museum Journal and My Historic Homes Journal, have a pre-publication sale during February. Until February 10th, you can get them for $6.99 each (regularly priced $10.99), or all three for $20. After the 10th, they’ll still be on sale – each one $7.99 or all three or $23. If you’d like one, now’s your chance to grab one (or all three) and save!

January 2023

Past blogs