Stay connected to your family through journalsWritten by Danny Huerta
There is an epidemic of loneliness in a culture filled with opportunities for connections. In fact, recent research from the University of California Berkley and Cigna estimate that close to 50 per cent of American adults report feeling alone (46 per cent) or left out (47 per cent), and the former surgeon general, Dr. Vivek Murthy, calls loneliness the silent crisis in our nation. What about families? Many times, loneliness is a matter of how moments are filtered and interpreted.
In our crazy, hectic world, with all the different things family members are involved in, it can seem almost impossible to stay connected and encourage each other in meaningful ways. However, the Bible tells us to encourage one another and build each other up (1 Thessalonians 5:11). God’s Word to the church applies to our families as well. Even though it can be hard to stay connected to your family, it is important. As a family counsellor, loneliness and connectedness are two very frequent topics.
With that in mind, one way my family stays connected is by journaling – not for ourselves, but to and for each other. We speak nuggets of truth to one another to help reset the mental filter of life and to help each of us experience connectedness in our home. Words are powerful!
Contributor journals help connect the family
My kids, like yours perhaps, participate in sports, school-related events and other activities. It is hard to find time to be together. We have to “hit the brakes” often to find creative ways to connect. Keeping a contributor journal for each member of our family helps us to be intentional and imaginative in our efforts to connect to each other.
A contributor journal is a basic journal we use to write quick messages to one another. These can include a note of encouragement, an inspiring quote, a riddle, a joke, a Bible verse, a quick blessing, or a word of gratitude for what that person means to us.
Therefore, our journals sit at the kitchen table so they can be easily written in.
Before we head out for the day, each of us can look at what’s been written to us. My daughter sometimes takes hers to school to read later. My son reads his before he leaves. My wife loves our notes and will read her journal at any time. And I like taking mine to work, and sometimes on business trips.
While we’re not a perfect family and we may not write every day, we do our best to write in the journals. Still, we always enjoy receiving these notes from one another and our family feels more connected when we do.
Connect the family with great verses and quotes
There is nothing like the Scripture to speak to the soul. I love searching for verses from the Bible that are relevant for wherever my kids or wife are on their journey and asking the Holy Spirit to guide me toward the words they may need for that day. Also, I like to include a brief note to let them know I love them, or draw a quick cartoon picture. These are some of the verses that I’ve used:
- Psalm 46:1 – “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”
- Proverbs 18:10 – “The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe.”
- Ephesians 2:10 – “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
- Psalm 63:1 – “O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.”
- Psalm 62:1-2 – “For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation. He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken.”
- Isaiah 26:3-4 – “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.
- Lamentations 3:22-23 – “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”
Similarly, including a quote in your journal message is a fantastic idea too. And they are easy to find on the Internet. Here’s one I found for my daughter, from Max Lucado: “You are valuable because you exist, not because of what you do or what you have done, but simply because you are.” Great writers, poets, historical figures, inspiring men and women of faith, can all provide the words to help you convey the right thoughts your family may need to hear to feel connected. You can look for quotes from a particular person or a general search under inspiring Christian quotes.
Connect the family with love and encouragement
Recently, my daughter took a Polaroid picture of us together and included it with a note for me. She wrote, “Dad, I luv you” on it. Such a simple message, but it’s one of the pages in my journal I go to often.
Another time, before one of my business trips, my daughter wrote, “You were born an original work of art. Stay original always.” She went on, “Dad, you are unique in your own way. Always stay original and be you. I would never want a fake copy of you. So be confident in yourself! I Love You – You are God’s masterpiece.”
Notes of love like these help me pause and remember that God is with me (Psalm 46:10) as the Lord uses my daughter’s words to encourage me. In a world filled with imitations, pressures and comparisons, my daughter’s words are a great reminder for me to be myself. Her words help me be okay with the possibility of disappointment, imperfection and failure in my personal journal.
As I “spend time” writing notes to my family, I realize the effort or the spend is worth it. Feelings of love help form stronger connections in our family to the Lord and each other.
Connect the family through a blessing
Have you ever received a word of blessing from someone, a message that speaks God’s love and goodness over you in a way that helps you know your true worth? Even if you’ve never received a blessing from your own parents, your kids desperately need one from you. A contributor journal gives you a great opportunity to offer a life-giving word at the right time. For example, some concepts that could be used in a blessing are:
- Philippians 4:7 – “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
- Romans 15:13 – “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.”
- 2 Thessalonians 3:5 – “May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ.”
- Revelation 17:14 – Those who are with the Lord are “called and chosen and faithful.”
- 1 Peter 2:9 – “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of the darkness and into His marvelous light.”
- Jude 1b – “beloved in God the Father.”
- Jeremiah 1:5 – “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you…”
Each of your family members is a gift from God to the world. Take a moment in your son or daughter or spouse’s journal to offer a word of blessing over them. Blessings can help reset the mind toward an eternal perspective and connect the family.
Getting a mental “reset”
We can all get in a place in our heads where negative thinking crowds out truth. A nice thing about keeping contributor journals is that they can be a great way to give each other a quick mental “reset.” The words we use to lift each other up can be just the thing needed to get our thoughts headed in the right direction.
These journals are also an opportunity to think beyond ourselves, to consider what each person is encountering in their life. After all, connecting as a family is about pressing pause on our own lives and looking into another person’s experience or world.
In conclusion, with all the demands on our time, keeping contributor journals can be tricky. With some creativity, you can use them to weave together memories and inspiration that will bear fruit through the many seasons of life. I recommend you give contributor journals a try and see what a difference they can make in connecting to your family relationships. Be patient and have lots of fun as you contribute to each other’s life story!
Danny Huerta is a licensed counsellor and the director of parenting and youth at Focus on the Family in the U.S.
© 2019 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. Used with permission. Originally published at FocusOnTheFamily.com.
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