It was just a few weeks ago that I spent an entire afternoon sorting the books on my shelves. I reached my breaking point when I went searching for the zillionth book “I knew I had” …but somehow couldn’t find.
As I sorted & sorted & sorted, I discovered a full shelf worth was simply journals. Thin floral Rifle Paper Co. sets, a fabric-covered notebook I made before traveling on one of my favorite international adventures, one boasting an antique map of the world (though somehow missing Australia…), and a host of simple brown, leather bound pages.
I watched the stack of journals grow in the sorting process, and I finally gave in to the inviting distraction. As I took a seat on my shaggy, grayish brown Ikea rug, I grabbed a random journal and flipped right to the middle, pulled immediately into the joys and woes of my college freshman heart.
One of my favorite practices has long been rereading through old journals to recall the prayers and petitions that have filled my heart and mind throughout the years. It is both humbling and humorous to recount the boys that caught my eye, the internships I hoped for, and the conflict that led to restlessness and late night prayers.
I opened one after another, only to find an earlier date than the one before it. “When did I start doing this?” I probed my mind. It really hasn’t seemed like long, but as I opened the two-toned brown journal with the imprint of a cross, I found the answer when a date jumped off the page:
Ten years of dreaming. Ten years of joy & hurt & celebration & sorrow.
I flipped and flipped through the pages of that first journal, and of the ones that followed. They carry so much. The loss of loved ones and the growth of treasured friendships. Stories of serving overseas, graduations, and moving across the country. It holds desperate cries, remnants of a broken heart, and lots & lots of hope.
Ten years of a faithful God listening to my fickle heart. Ten years of forgetful wanderings that always, somehow, eventually led me back to him.
There are prayers for which I remember every detail – where I was sitting and what I was feeling when the words first flowed onto the pages. There are others full of emotion for which I have zero recollection, causing me to giggle at how such a trial could simply not be remembered.
There are prayers I thank the good Lord for not answering and things I wanted that God so graciously denied (like that boy my 17 year old heart desired). There are others about which I still wonder why they’ve gone unanswered, prayers that have remained consistent now for a decade. And there are prayers I have long forgotten I once prayed as a teenager that my sweet Jesus has poured out in abundance.
There are prayers for people that I love with a fierceness words on a page could never express and there I names I struggle to remember, reciting the month and year of the prayer aloud, as if timing will help recall the names of people once significant to me.
There are pages with words smeared from the overflow of tears. There are some smeared with water I spit out, laughing unexpectedly at how this little life of mine has turned out. There are even more with coffee stains; each flaw I find simply delightful.
In all the memories and stirrings of my heart, perhaps the sweetest thing of all is the promise that my King has been listening with intention and waiting in anticipation for me to come before his throne and simply ask, seek, & knock.
I forget so easily.
Recounting old hopes and requests is a good practice for this heart of mine. I’m sadly no stranger to doubt and questioning, and I can’t but thank God for his abundant grace when these pages were filled only with why’s and when’s and how’s.
Our hearts need reminders and sometimes the faithfulness of God in the lives of the people around us just isn’t enough. Sometimes we need to remember a time in our own life, a time where we saw him fight for us. A time when we saw him lead and heard him speak just to us.
May I remind you of something? He loves to hear from you. He loves when you come full of messy desire. He loves when you come with a bold petition. He loves when you come just to say “thanks.” And whether those words are ever recorded on a page, I really believe he just delights when you come.
And I really think he loves to remind you in seasons of silence that he has not forgotten. You have not been overlooked. You’ll be fought for, even still. You’ll be taken care of and protected.
It is both terrifying and thrilling to imagine the prayers that I will pray over the next ten years. The nations I will visit, the trials I will face, and the people I will love. Standing on the brink of a new decade full of empty pages, I hope I’m always stirred by the significance of words and all they represent.
Do you have pages to look back on? Are there prayers you’ve forgotten you prayed or answers you’ve forgotten to thank Jesus for? The more you record the more you can remember.. so take a minute today to process on paper whatever season Jesus sovereignly has you in. The decade older version of yourself will be super thankful.
May we fight to be people that speak to our King. People that record the woes and the glories. And maybe most importantly, may we be people committed to looking back and remembering. It’s a sweet practice and so worthy of our time.
“I remember the days of old; I meditate on all that you have done; I ponder the work of your hands.” Psalm 143:5