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Gratitude Day by Day

A couple of weeks ago, a friend suggested keeping a gratitude journal. After I wrote entries for several days, I wished I’d started at the beginning of the year. So I decided to go back to January and hit the highlights:
January—
*We had a New Year’s Day lunch with family.
*I saw Once with Anna.
*We had several beautiful snows.

February—
*I attended a BSF retreat in Florida.
*Karen started cleaning the downstairs for me.
*We attended a classical music night at Meredith College.
*Lane passed his methacholene challenge!

March–
*I traveled to Pittsburgh to meet with my literary agent, Jim Hart, and connected with dear, old friends, Nancy, Emily, Jill, and Colleen.
*We attended Parent/Plebe Weekend with Quinn at West Point, and I wore a designer gown created especially for me by Anna!

April—
*Kevin and I traveled to London to visit Hattie! We met her delightful host family and spent a wonderful week in England.

May—
*Lane finished his first year at UNC.
*Hattie came home from London.
*Quinn enjoyed a long weekend at home.
*I began writing my third book.

June—
*We enjoyed seeing friends at Deer Valley.
*We hosted a beautiful wedding at our pond.
*I rode in a helicopter.
*Summer Story Time began to great success.
*We hosted the Thompson family reunion.

July—
*The history committee for Princeton Baptist Church’s 125th celebration began planning.
*I interviewed Sheriff Steve Bizzell and Deputy Charlotte Fournier.
*Quinn came home a day early.
*I signed my first book contract for Mars…With Venus Rising.
*Amy and Jake Paterline visited—just like old times on Woodhill Drive.
*Lane read A Prayer for Owen Meany and laughed out loud from his perch on the couch.

August—
*I signed a book contract for Irish Encounter.
*I enjoyed a birthday breakfast with family, including my parents.
*Kevin and I enjoyed a delicious 26th anniversary supper at The Chef and The Farmer with Anna and Hattie.
*We celebrated Aunt Janice’s 80th birthday with the family.

September—
*I attended the Writers’ Police Academy and learned how sheltered a life I lead.
*Princeton Baptist Church celebrated 125 years of serving God.
*I attended the American Christian Writers’ Conference and met more great people.

Now I’m caught up to October when I began writing the gratitude journal every day. I hit the high spots for the previous nine months which sort of short changed the way God provided daily gifts throughout this year, so I’m glad for the chance to remember all the sweet ways God touches my life many, many times every single day.

Journaling Then and Now

While Quinn has been enduring Cadet Basic Training for the past five weeks, he’s shared with us the pages of his journal. We receive an update about once a week. We treasure all the details of his new life as a “soldier scholar.”

I’ve kept journals sporadically all my life. I wish I’d been more faithful to writing them. It’d be fun to look back at them now that my memory is fading little by little.

Both Anna and Hattie have kept wonderful travel journals starting when they were nine and seven and we took our first home exchange. The summer after that trip, we read theirs and mine at dinner every night to recreate the trip and prompt discussion of memories.

Lane and Quinn keep prayer journals and have for years.

Quinn has kept a journal since he was five years old. He started with a journal from Disney World.
We’d given them ten dollars to spend any way they wanted. During a shopping excursions, Quinn approached me with a notebook. The cover was as cool as a notebook could be with Winnie the Pooh’s face embedded in soft, gold fur on the front. Solid fur on the back. Beautiful.

I flipped it over and admired it but gasped when I spied the price tag. Nine dollars. Pretty much his entire spending money.

“Quinn,” I said, “This is a nice notebook, but we can get one for about fifty cents at home, and you can buy something else.”

“No. I want to keep a journal in it, and I want to start today.”

How could my English teacher/sporadic writer self refuse that argument?

He bought the book and started writing that night. “Day 1. The worst day of the week. It rained and rain.(sic)

His only stipulation to writing was his entry was something different each day. “Day 36. Today I lost a tooth at school!” My journal entry might have read, “Thank Goodness I didn’t have to pull it out.”

“Day 93. Today I got a duck!” This duck business happened because I was experiencing moving guilt and hoping the ducks—one for each child—would somehow help the transition.

He was faithful to keeping a journal for one thousand days. That day fell on Christmas Day 2004. After the Christmas presents had been explored, the breakfast casserole eaten, we gave Quinn a special gift for completing such a tremendous feat, a box set of C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia.

Today his entries are different. “Today I qualified as a sharp shooter, making 33 out of 40 targets.” That’s with an M16.

“We stood in formation at parade rest for 2 1/2 hours waiting for a urine test.”

“Today we got to sleep late to 5:15. Yay sleep!!!”

The entries are quite different, but I am thankful for them. They’re precious and give us insight to what he’s experiencing.

Thank Goodness for that Winnie the Pooh journal that started him on a journaling life.

Journaling a Childhood

Preserving memories is important, but I’m not a scrapbooker. Most of our pictures wait for my attention in a box, an archivally sound box but a box nonetheless. Our traditional baby books contain more blanks than milestones. One thing I did do to record precious moments from my children’s lives, however, is keep a journal for each one of them.

The idea isn’t original to me. A sitcom mom in a TV program I watched years before I met my future husband inspired me to journal memories for my future children.

Six months after Anna was born, when she finally napped on a regular schedule, I opened a blank book with a rose on the front cover and wrote as much as I could before her big brown eyes blinked the end of naptime.

I never wrote every day. Sometimes I managed once a month. Later, when she acquired three siblings and soccer, dance, gymnastics, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, and church groups filled our days and nights, I might write only once a year during our vacation, writing from notes that filled in spotty memory gaps.

I wrote the journals directly to the owner of the book as if I were having a conversation. “You can say, ‘Mama’, ‘Dada’, ‘off’, ‘eye’, ‘mine,’ and ‘no’” You’re so excited to go to pre-school.” “Woo hooooo! New driver in the house! Good job!”

I tried to cover major events like birthdays, holidays, and soccer goals, but it was important to me to get in everyday normal happenings also. “Your sense of humor is continuing to develop. You walk by and jab me in the side to make me jump.” “You had a tough school year, but you made it through with much, much prayer. Mrs. Xxxx might be happier in a different profession, but we are finished with her and happy to be so.”

 Writing these journals gave me great joy. I loved putting my take on what was happening in their lives and making sure they knew how much I adored them and treasured being their mother. Encouraging words were also an important theme like, “God has something special for you whenever He denies your request”—a paraphrase from my current Bible study for Lane’s most recent entry.

I have just a few months left to keep the last of the journals because Lane and Quinn are high school seniors this year. So, like I did with their sisters, I’ll finish my entries and leave them as gifts when we move the boys into their college dorms.

Maybe then I can be more faithful to my own journal…, but it probaaly won’t be as much fun.