The summer of 2001 was notable for a number of reasons.
I had just graduated college and was working as a camp counselor while also doing my best to prepare for a move to St. Louis to begin my seminary studies.
It was clear to me even as this summer was playing out that one's final months before moving 500 miles away from your fiancee, family, and friends shouldn't be spent working in a remote location that barely allows you to spend time with any of them before you go. It was a lonely and sad time leading up to a massive life transition.
That summer was also the first time I attended the UCC's General Synod, which was a memorable experience that I've recently written about. Part of that experience, however, was that it was even further away from home. This only amplified my feelings of being alone even more.
While at Synod, I picked up A New Kind of Christian by Brian McLaren. In this biographical novel, the protagonist--a stand-in for McLaren himself--uses Mead Composition notebooks for journals, and often records his new findings in them throughout the story.
As meaningful as I found other parts of the book, this detail stuck with me. It occurred to me that in this season of my life--one full of change and steeped in emotion--I might need an outlet of some kind to help get me through it. So before trudging back to camp, I stopped by a store to pick up a Mead Composition book of my own, christening it my first journal.
My first entry is dated July 29, 2001. Those earliest writings are about my time at camp, moving into my seminary apartment, and my first semester of classes. Over the years I'd move on from the Mead books to Moleskine, and most recently to Zequenz. They include reflections on family and ministry experiences, ideas for sermons and blog posts and books, notes from conferences and podcasts, and so much more.
I needed a companion 20 years ago, and it has stuck around for that long. I didn't expect it to, but it has become an invaluable practice for processing, remembering, brainstorming, note-taking, discerning, and praying. The late Michael Spencer once referred to his Moleskine notebook as an annex of his brain, and that's not far off from how I view my journals.
I'm grateful for this practice, and look forward to another 20 years with this companion by my side.
Last year I wrote about journaling as a spiritual practice. If you're interested in starting this for yourself, this is one possible way to approach it.