Keep a Journal

Medium Madeleine L Engle

Hello. My name is Anna and I am an addict. A journal addict.

I got my first diary when I was ten. I’ve sporadically journaled ever since. Sometimes I’d get busy and not do anything for a few years, then I’d pick it up again and fill notebooks with words.

I heard about this new form of journal-keeping called a ‘bullet journal’. You write short statements about what you need to do, what you’ve accomplished, how you feel about it. It’s short, concise, and uses few words. It does not work for me. Apparently, the thing that draws me to journaling is its verbosity. I need to spill words all over paper. Sometimes I need to share raw emotion, hurts, joys, pain, excitement, fears, goals, ambition. Other times I just record events for posterity. My memory is terrible. If I don’t write it down, I’m liable to forget it.

So, because there isn’t one perfect way to journal — just do whatever works for you; some people even make voice recordings or videos— I thought I’d show you some of my journals. The last few I’ve used have been unique and special.

When we first arrived in Africa, I was using a journal my best friend, Rachel, had gotten me in Russia. The next journal I used was a journal she made for me. It has one of my life verses on the front, which is appropriate, considering the journal is filled with events from our life in Africa.

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I got the journal I’m using now in Egypt at Abd-Elzaher Bookshop and Binding. I like the Arabic word ‘life’ on the front since, when I’m journaling, I’m writing about just that: real life with all its ups and downs.

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Abd-Elzaher’s a tiny store up a road that resembles an alley or a footpath. A car passed us on this road and we had to squeeze against the side with all the other pedestrians.


Inside the store, you can see a workshop where someone binds the books. They have a small reading room, and shelves and shelves of their hand-bound journals. I went journal crazy there and got three for myself. We walked past its nondescript door the first time. But, Oh! the wonder inside! It even smells wonderful — like paper and leather and ink. 

Since then, my friend Toni at Red Pen Travelers introduced me to the travel journal. She sells hand-made leather journals and inserts (bought separately) in a variety of sizes. I have the passport size in this journal: 

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I’ve always thought Rosie the Riveter was cool. Muscular. A woman forced to take a man’s job in a time when men were off fighting a terrible war. I love this journal with Rosie on the front in my favorite color. I also have Toni’s Hearts for Africa notebook. (I believe my reason for loving this is self-explanatory. 😉 )

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The best part about the Red Pen Traveler notebooks is that I can change out the journal insert and the cover will last for a long time. Even better — I can buy inserts for them in Africa.

My goal for journaling? Write at least once a week. 52 journal entries in 52 weeks. Sometimes I get more than that, and sometimes I struggle to keep up. Either way, my thoughts, feelings, opinions, worries, and so much more are written down so I can look back on them and remember all that God has done for us.

(I covered the second and third things on Madeleine L’Engle’s list here and here.) 


Friday Funny

I’ve never been brave enough to try this Chinese tea we can get in Africa. Its name seems contradictory. Noxious emissions beauty keeping tea? How does that work exactly?

Product placement being what it is, I found it ironic these two were shelved together. Seems one is designed to make noxious emissions and the other is to prevent them. I’ll let you decide which is which.

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Hello again



Anyone there?

It’s me. Anna. 

I’m finally back from hiatus.

Why the hiatus? Let me explain.

I had grand hopes for the year. Blog posts I wanted to write. Series of posts. I tried, really I did.

But the internet got to be such a hostile place, I needed a break. So I took one.

That’s the short version. Now for the long one.

Last year, our family went through two elections, both of them messy. The first was in Uganda. Yes, we were safe both while it happened and once it was over. Emotions ran high. I can’t say much because I don’t want to jeopardize our status in the country but suffice it to say next election we’re planning a trip outside Uganda. Just in case.

Our election in the US wasn’t much better. I have Facebook friends from all sides of the argument, and I tolerated all the rhetoric because we live in the good old US of A where free speech is a right and privilege we all enjoy. In fact, hearing a variety of viewpoints keeps me sharp and helps me understand where others are coming from. They’d limited free speech during the election in Uganda. So I stuck it out on principle.

After the election and then the inauguration, the nastiness just exploded. From both sides. I’d already tolerated as much as I could from everyone and was hoping things would settle down. After all, it was over. Not so. 

So I took a break. I had drafts of blog posts I left in the folder and never finished. I was too emotionally drained and sick at heart watching people I admire and love say hurtful things to one another.

The first two weeks I stayed off the internet entirely. Sweet freedom! Then I peeked back in and found I could handle certain news sites, but social media was still a mess. I checked social media about once a week for the next couple months. Little by little, the furor from everywhere has died down. People seem to be more social on social media.

As a happy result of avoiding the internet, I’m almost half-way through my reading goal for the year. We traded in our aging iPads for Kindles. I’ve found the smaller sized Kindle is easier to carry everywhere. I still have several weighty books I need to get through so I’ll need all the buffer I can get.

I’ve also managed to get a decent second draft out of the worst book I’ve ever written. Sometimes I’ve come across sentences in this thing that left me shaking my head. What entity had taken over my body and influenced me to write like that? That said, I’ve read final drafts of books worse than the rough draft of this. When I feel like drowning my sorrows in a pot of coffee and thereby staying up all night, I remind myself of that.

Anyway, thanks for listening. It’s good to be back. 😀