Ten Years of Memories and How They Change Me

On the first day of classes, I taught on memory—why it’s important and what it does to us and for us. Lately, I feel like I can’t remember anything—lack of sleep with a three-month-old and a toddler will do that to you. But I was reminded of the transformative power of my ten-year journal. It changes me, even when my circumstances remain the same.

My friend gave it to me when I started the long journey of a PhD program, mostly because someone had given her one and she loved it so much. Each page is one date—say January 1, and there are ten entries on the page, one for each year (they need to be short).

I try to write in it monthly. I take my IPhone calendar and my other journal and head somewhere quiet (a coffeeshop, the porch, or my bed after dark). Then I take stock of what the last month has looked like.

I don’t know about you, but I tend to be hard on myself. When I feel tired, I need a reason, and if I can’t think of one, I decide to push myself harder. If I’m feeling down, I need a reason, and if I can’t think of one, I berate myself for my lack of joy in life. If I feel overwhelmed, I need a reason, and if I can’t think of one, I call myself weak and try to be stronger.

When I sit with my ten-year journal to remember my life, I often find the reasons and become more kind.

I go back through the month and re-experience the days of hard work, the times of relaxation with family, the illness, the special outing with friends. As I take the long view, self-mercy increases and I sit back, more content and peaceful.

As I take the long view, self-mercy increases and I sit back, more content and peaceful. Click To Tweet

More than that, I look at previous years. Not every day has an entry, but I remember births and birthdays, dates, breakups, and a marriage, grief, answered prayer, vacation, and promotions. I begin to feel full where I felt empty, loved where I felt lonely, fortunate where I felt unlucky. If the anniversary of a sadness passed, I realize why I’ve been inexplicably down, yet am thankful that the sadness is a little bit less each passing year.

As I look forward to completing the last entry at the end of 2016,* it’s rather bittersweet. Though it will still be on my shelf, that first ten-year journal will no longer be my monthly friend. These last ten years have been eventful—international trips, PhD classes, exams, dissertation and graduation, dating, engagement, marriage, first baby and one more, gains and losses at the job. . .

Maybe I’ll lug both with me to the coffeeshop so I can really take the long view of things.

My memories are those altars God told the Israelites to build in the places where God had acted on their behalf. When I’m feeling hopeless, I walk past the memory-altar of God bringing hope, and I ask God to do it again. My hope is renewed, even when my circumstances haven’t changed.

“Memories are those altars God told the Israelites to build in the places where God had acted.” Click To Tweet

When I’m feeling like a failure, I walk past the memory-altar of a past success, and I ask God to do it again. My perspective is bettered, even when my circumstances haven’t changed.

And isn’t that what we do when we come to the memory-altar of the Lord’s table? We remember the life-giving blood shed for us, remember our cleansing and renewal, and ask God to do it again.

More and more, I’m convinced that faith is remembering our past into our future. Remembering is a spiritual discipline that strengthens our faith and gives us courage to face tomorrow. If God was faithful once, God will be faithful again.

Remembering is a spiritual discipline that strengthens faith and gives courage to face tomorrow. Click To Tweet

My ten-year journal helps me remember.

*I wrote this last fall, but am only publishing it now.

(Interested in hearing more from me? Check out my book, The Book of Womanhood)

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