Detailed Journaling

“Life is full of beauty. Notice it. Notice the bumble bee, the small child, and the smiling faces. Smell the rain, and feel the wind. Live your life to the fullest potential, and fight for your dreams.”
-- Ashley Smith

What I love about this quote is the reminder to notice the details. I always use a lot of detail in my journal entries, as that's what makes the story come alive, and what makes it easy to remember when re-reading.

Next time you write, include DETAIL from each of the 5 Senses -- what did you hear, smell, see, taste, touch/feel? Include food, colors, weather, sensations, music or sounds and watch your writing come alive.


17 things i'm loving... {st. patrick's day}

1. daffodils & tulips

2. puffy white clouds

3. colored sky behind black tree & building silhouettes

4. bookstores

5. coffee shops

 6. being a family

7. my red laptop, affectionally called rouge

8. the pacific ocean

9. canson wirebound 7x10 journals

10. my live art.fully necklace, made by fabulous jewelry designer & blogger, lisa leonard.

11. kelle hampton's blog Enjoying the Small Things. kelle is a mother of 2 darling girls, professional photographer and writer. she blogs about the beauty in every day.

12. the growing journaling community on our live art.fully facebook fan page. become a fan and be a part of the discussions & inspiration.

13. hazelnut coffee creamer

14. lounge pants

15. the sound of the pouring rain late at night

16. pandora. register for free and type in your favorite song or artist. pandora creates a radio station based on what you entered. it's a great way to discover new artists.

17. a couple of green-clad girls, who are part irish.

what are you loving? 


[Guest Post] Cassandra Frear

Today I am excited to feature a guest post on journaling, written by Cassandra Frear. Cassandra blogs at The MoonBoat Cafe. Thanks, Cassandra!

All men's miseries derive from not being able to sit in a quiet room alone.

- Blaise Pascal

The place where my soul rests is a private world. I step into it whenever I shed the noise of the world outside with it's labors and concerns. Like Alice stepping through the looking glass, I find here a world that is reflective of the real one, but a world that rests only in my mind. Or does it? Is there more to it than that?

For here are memories as vivid as the day they happened. Here are ideas which rise up before me as real as flesh and blood. Here is the Lord Himself, present with me. Thoughts, addressed directly to me, appear in my mind -- thoughts I know I did not create for myself. Here is the still, small whisper of the Designer of the Universe, so sought after and so hard to hear in other places. Here beauty fills the very air around me. Majesty enfolds me. Storms are stilled.

Here I find my strength, and I find rest for my soul.

My heart, which I hardly notice elsewhere, moves within me as a vibrant, living thing. I notice how it is. I see what I have been doing with new eyes. I see the world within my world, and how the choices I make, the actions I take, come from the very center of my being. There are reasons why I struggle, and why I win victories. Here, I know that the very wellspring of life flows through and from that secret, invisible self who lives and breathes with my every move.

Who am I when no one watches? Where do I go when the day around me hushes, deep in the evening? What does my mind do when my hands rest? It matters. For nothing of worth happens apart from my soul. No real victories, no real work, can be done apart from the center.

There is nothing more essential to a life well-lived than a vibrant, inner world.

But it must be cultivated, it must be grown, lovingly and carefully over time. Here lies the secret of secret places that few understand: you can create, over time, the inner world that inspires, that comforts, that endures, by choosing well what you place there. You make your private world, and then, over the years, it makes you.

Through ministry, I've had the privilege of observing many lives from an intimate perspective. The biggest lesson I have learned from others is this: a rich, private world creates a meaningful and beautiful life. There are no exceptions to this rule. Without a private world that has been cultivated, it is impossible to remain fully alive amidst the pressures of a fallen world. We cannot gain strength and depth and vitality by borrowing it from someone else. We cannot obtain it by purchasing interesting things and experiences. Other lives can inspire. Experiences can instruct. But we must learn to be still with our own souls, to choose our place of rest, to tend to our thoughts.

Without this, we will become empty. We will live, without ever having truly lived, and we will pass from this life with profound regret.


Our modern culture does not encourage us to sit still, to reflect. If anything, it pulls us away from meditation. The sheer variety and level of noise in our lives often keeps us from being quiet. A lack of experience creates uncertainty. How to do it? Where to start? Many of us have trouble just sitting still, alone, for a few minutes.

For me, a personal journal has been the gateway into a vibrant private world. It's been the tool I needed to find my own soul. There is something about the written word. We were made for it and it for us. With page and pen, I was able to be still and to pour my soul out and see it. I was able to hear my own voice and the voice of my Savior coming back to me in simple thoughts and ideas. There had been a conversation happening for some time, but I did not notice, did not attend, did not respond.

When I began writing, it came to me in black and white, and that changed everything.

Copyright 2010 by Cassandra Frear.


Finding Sacredness in My Corner of the World

I was thinking today about how content I am, doing just what I do in my life right now. I start the day snuggling two little girls, who are more awake than I am, in my chair the color of chocolate. I make a pot of coffee and take pleasure in watching the steam rise in curls out of a teal mug. I cook a pot of oatmeal or griddle up some chocolate chip pancakes. I pack lunch in a purple monkey box and help my little blonde firstborn pick out her outfit for school. I smooth tangled locks into cornsilk pigtails and pontails. I inspect brushed teeth, and check to see if shoes are on the right feet. I make sure homework sheets are completed, reading sheets are ready to hand in, and check the calendar so I can give Hannah a heads-up of what's happening at school.

I grab my bag and a lanky 3 year-old wearing her favorite brown boots, and we're out the door with Hannah running ahead, her bright blue Tinkerbell backpack bouncing. Sometimes we're happy and sometimes we're frazzled. Sometimes Natalie's still in pajamas, and I'm yelling, "C'mon, c'mon, we're late!" Sometimes we're early and have time to, literally, stop and smell the [daffodils].

We drive to school, talking about the day or about Hannah's classmates, or about afterschool plans. Sometimes one of the girls makes a special song request. When we've started the day off in not the best way, I ask Hannah to say a prayer on the way to school. And she does. And I reach back and squeeze her little hand in mine, and tell her I love her.

I make a point, no matter how the morning began, to hug her tightly in front of her school and tell her, "I love you. I'm so proud of you. I'll see you at 3 o'clock." The other day, she said, "I love you too," and dashed to the front door, before turning back to holler, "Don't forget!"

These are the moments I know that I am loved. These are the affirmations that so unexpectedly crop up to erase the uncertainties. Do they know I love them? Does she know that I'm so proud of her? Am I telling them enough, and showing them enough, that they are precious? Will she grow to be confident and walk tall? Am I building them up or squashing them?

I desire, so strongly, to love well. Anybody can love, but to love well takes effort. It takes intention and planning and quality time.

Natalie & I drive home to our little red house where we do things like start a load of laundry, tidy up the kitchen, cuddle on the couch, and play in the playroom. She finds me unloading the dishwasher, and says, "I could help you!" in her chirpy little voice that is like music.

It may not sound like much, but it's wonderful. From a young age, my biggest wishes were to be married and be a mother. As I grew up I added "writer" to my list of dreams. Throughout the years, there were obstacles that loomed so large I feared my dreams were unattainable.

But they weren't.

I met a man who is an impeccable model of loving well. He has loved me whether I was sick or well, "thick" or thin, happy or sad, thriving or just surviving. He has never wavered, not even for a moment, in his commitment to me.

And then we made a family... this beautiful duo of silky-haired little women who giggle and run and squabble and color (sometimes on the walls) while Natalie chirps, "I art-ing, Mama!"

This life, small as it may be, is what great things are made of.

Another Great Post on Encouraging Words for Writers

Encouraging Words for Writers: Dear Mommies and Daddies,

Drop over to Bonita's blog and read her thoughts on relishing your children while they're still at home.


Rainbow after the Storm

We were thrilled to be expecting another baby. My doctor told me that he would order an ultrasound at 6 weeks, the soonest a fetal heartbeat can generally be seen on ultrasound. He was very sensitive to the fact that being pregnant again would be an anxious time for me. He was right.

In the days before the 6 week scan, I nearly vibrated with anxiety. I was so worried that we would lose the new baby; so afraid to bond, lest this baby die too. All I could do the day before the appointment was pray and repeat mantras like "Faith over Fear." There is a wonderful song written by Donald Lawrence and performed by Janna Long (of Contemporary Christian group Avalon) called "Somebody Loves You". I listened to that song on repeat for days before the ultrasound, and on the drive to the hospital that morning.

I see you standin' there all alone / Feelin' like all hope is gone / You cry yourself to sleep every night / Nothin' ever turns out right / Well, I'd like to encourage you / Just to let you know you'll get through / There's a light on you from above / Oh, don't you know.../ Somebody sees / Somebody knows / Somebody sits high and looks low / Somebody's watching / You're not alone / Somebody loves you so / Well, I know you don't understand / Just how you fit into the plan / Life has been so unfair / Sent you problems too hard to bear / Well, I'd like to encourage you / Just to let you know you'll get through / You gotta stand tall and be strong / Oh don't you know.../ Somebody sees / Somebody knows / Somebody sits high and looks low / Somebody's watching / You're not alone / Somebody loves you so/ Don't you know somebody loves you / Don't you dare give up the fight / Just reach deep down inside you / Oh, my God is there to guide you / And when you really need a friend / Don't hesitate to call him / He will be there to answer your prayer

I finally came to the conclusion, after listening to the song dozens of times, that no matter what happened with this pregnancy, God would get me through it. I couldn't bear the thought of losing another baby, but I was reassured that God saw me, He cared, He loved me so much, and He had a plan...

As soon as the tech began the scan, we saw a tiny baby. Soon after, we saw a flashing heartbeat. Seeing that sign of life was wonderful. The baby was measuring on track; the heartbeat was nice and strong. The tech printed me an ultrasound photo with the words I HAVE A HEARTBEAT typed on it. I walked out of the hospital with a permanent smile -- couldn't help it. The sun was shining, it was spring and our baby had a heartbeat!

There were several things that got me through the pregnancy, anxiety-wise. Losing a baby stripped me of naivety. I knew now that not only do people die, babies die, mine included. A few weeks after the ultrasound, I rented a Doppler online. From about 10 weeks along until I could feel the baby move regularly, I kept it, and when I felt myself being sucked into that spiraling vortex of fear I would check for the heartbeat.

From early on in the pregnancy, I began having pain and it would continue...

When I was beginning the second trimester, the due date for the baby we lost came and went. Two of my friends remembered me. One sent a beautiful e-card, and the other left me a voicemail saying she was thinking of me and hoping I was ok. It was touching to me, that even though I was expecting a new baby, the one we had lost had not been forgotten.

As we got closer to the halfway point, and the big level II ultrasound that could also reveal gender, we grew more and more excited to know more about the baby. Jonathan thought it was a girl. My journal from that time reveals my thoughts, "I really don't care which we're having -- losing [our baby] has made me less picky. I just want a healthy baby."

At 19 weeks 3 days, we had the ultrasound. Jonathan & I went together. Right away we saw the heart, still beating away (a sight I never became unaffected by), and little girl parts. She weighed 12 ounces and measured about 9" crown to rump. She had a cute little nose and little stick-out ears like Mommy and big sister Hannah. She looked perfect -- spine, brain, legs, feet, hands, elbow, shoulder and stomach. Her dates were right on track. We were so beyond thrilled and excited for Hannah to have a sister, and to be expecting a healthy baby.

We chose the name Natalie Kate.

As the pregnancy went on, Hannah became increasingly excited about her baby sister. At 22 weeks, we went to the county fair, where 2.5 year-old Hannah went on her first (kiddie) fair ride with Daddy. I waved to her from outside the little fence, and she held out her hand like a traffic controller, hollering, "Stay there, Mommy! You won't fit!"

At 24 weeks, she was resting with her head in my lap when my stomach made a sound. She leapt up, alarmed, and exclaimed, "OH! Nally, you scared me!"

Jonathan asked her, "What did Natalie do?"

"She burped, with her tiny mouth, in my ear."

Big sisterhood appeared in other ways, too. Hannah spent time talking to my belly, and singing "Jesus Loves Me", personalizing it to Natalie with the words "Jesus loves Nally so..." At one point she told Natalie, "Don't come out yet, Nally, the doctor's gonna help you."

By the beginning of the third trimester I was experiencing so much pain, it was difficult to function. I had a break-down at an OB appointment and for the remainder of my pregnancy I took prescription pain meds (safe for the baby), and used a heating pad to help with the pain. I also went to see a chiropractor and began having regular adjustments. Chiropractic care helped a lot and I was able to take less pain medication.

The last several weeks of the pregnancy were difficult. I felt like she would never come. I was huge and heavy and hurting, and trying to chase a very active toddler was nearly impossible.  But finally, 1 year and 2 weeks after losing our previous baby to miscarriage, I went into labor.

Natalie Kate was born on a chilly Wednesday in November about noon. She came into the world healthy and hearty, weighing 9 lbs and 8 oz. As soon as she was born she began crying. The nurse wiped her off and handed her to me, and as I held her, I said, "It's okay. Mommy's here." She recognized the sound of my voice and stopped crying. I looked into her slate blue eyes (that have since changed to brown) and her gaze met mine. She trusted me. She knew she was safe.

It had been such a long journey to hold this healthy baby in my arms, and I was unbelievably grateful. She was born just a few days after Thanksgiving, which was exactly how she was welcomed into our family ... with great thanksgiving.


"The Life of Me & Nally" by guest blogger, Hannah (age 6)

This day was a good day.

On Saturday, is the best day, sort of... This Saturday I get to go to Grama's house.

This was 2 nights ago. This was the first day that I had my pajamas that I'm wearing in this picture. I love the pajamas. Last night, I weared them. I got them dirty because I spilled some tea on them this morning. Daddy didn't give it to me; I got into the tea myself. It was Valentime's tea. I knew how to make tea. It was yummy. I putted 4 cubes of sugar in it, and that was as yummy as it got.

Today so far has been the best day of my life. And it's pretty fun, because I'm going to have to change 4 times today. So I just like today, because it's a good day. And that would be the end of my blog.


Love Your Little People

Yesterday evening, curled up with Hannah, she asked me to read her my blog story about when she was born. Near the end, I had to pause and smile for a minute, before saying, "I'm going to cry, Hannah." I finished the story, and she was very quiet. I peered around at her face and there she was, weeping silent little tears. I asked her why she was crying, and she replied, "It just makes me so happy."

I was moved that just taking the time to read to Hannah about her story -- my pregnancy with her, the night she was born, who she is now, at 6 years old, all the little things I remember about her babyhood -- moved her to tears. Our kids need to know we love them. They need to feel our love to the tips of their toes and clear up to their ears.

To all my friends who are parents: Don't just love your children, show them! Make certain that they know you adore them more than anything. Tell them and retell them and then tell them again. And keep on showing them.

These are the moments...

Take time to stop and smell the daffodils
We only get to live today once.

I only get today that my firstborn is this small. Tomorrow she will be older.

This is one of the last few months she'll be in Kindergarten.
One of the last few months I'll hug her and say, "I love you. I'll see you at 3 o'clock."
One of the last few months I'll watch her walk into her school -- so big and yet so small...
Walk into the world, to learn & to grow.

Have you taken any time lately to capture the best parts of your life? Whether that's with a camera or a pen, don't forget to make time. Things change so fast, and your memory will not hold onto the details you think it will.


Thoughts on Family

Today I am feeling tired. I miss Jonathan & Hannah and can't wait until about 5:30 when we're all together again. Dinner, stories, family togetherness.....

I was out getting groceries when Jonathan came home for lunch. When I got home I found his "footprints" flashing across my laptop screensaver: "You are Amazing!"

Natalie keeps plopping in my lap and squeezing me tightly around the neck. She says, "I love you because you give me so many kisses."

This morning, I looked Hannah straight in her gold-flecked blue eyes and told her, "I adore you." I told her that the lucky thing about being her Mama is that I get to adore her more than anyone else in the whole world does. She said, "You don't adore me most." I asked her who could possibly adore her more than I do, and she replied with a little impish grin, "Jesus."

I'm off to make this cake for dessert tonight, when the four of us are all under one roof again. It's no one's birthday today, but just being a family is reason enough to celebrate.


Invest in Yourself -- How to Start Journaling

Journaling is an investment. Not a financial one, per se, but an investment in yourself. Taking the time to write down dreams and goals helps make them a reality. Writing in times of illness and stress helps to heal and calm. Writing through grief gives an outlet for your feelings. Organizing feelings and emotions on the page detangles them.

Journaling is a valuable tool for personal growth. When you write things down, there is space between yourself and your feelings. Space for perspective. Space for realization. Space for awareness of not only what you think and how you feel, but what the next step should be.

Are you journaling yet? Have you purchased a journal and it's still sitting empty? Pick it up and start today. Baby steps, Baby!

Write your name on the first page and the date you are beginning your journal. Add a sketch, some stickers, or some form of decoration if you like. This will be your title page.

Turn the page and start. Like this, for example:

Write the date, day & time. ("Wednesday, 3.03.10, 12 noon") Write where you are ("I'm sitting in my brown chair by the window..."), what the weather's like or something about the season ("The rain has stopped, but it's still grey..."), write how you're feeling physically ("I'm tired today and my back is aching..."), and finally, start writing about your thoughts, feeling, emotions, or what's on your mind. Sometimes I like to write about the day's events and then segue into how I feel about them. ("Yesterday I did more work on the girls' playroom. I bought a rug and some new toy bins. I'm excited that they'll have a comfy place to sit and play, a play where they can dress up and read stories and build towers and dream. I want them always to dream.")

Now it's your turn. Go get a pen and your journal (new and still empty, or worn and almost full), and write. If you're afraid to start, or overwhelmed, set a timer for 10 minutes, and commit to writing for that long. You may find that once you start, you don't want to stop after 10 minutes. In that case, keep going!

Happy journaling!


My Miscarriage Story -- Part IV

Three days after my daughter’s 2nd birthday party, I was in surgery again.

My ovary had twisted for the second time. The surgery went well, and Jonathan took me home later that day. It was a gorgeous January afternoon, and I felt hopeful -- the sun was out, the surgery was over, surely now I could heal and move on. This time I had been discharged with some challenging post-op instructions: to sleep upright for 6 weeks to prevent the ovary from torsing yet again. The first night I spent in a pink recliner that had once belonged to my grandmother. Given my height and long legs, sleeping in a recliner is laughable as my legs hang off the footrest. We knew that six weeks of sleep called for a better option, so my husband brought home an electric hospital bed and he and my dad set it up in the living room of the mobile home. One of my job responsibilities at the time was verifying medical benefits, and I had to laugh as I phoned insurance companies from a hospital bed during Hannah’s naps.

Physically I felt better – weak and chronically tired from poor sleep sitting upright and everything my body had been through in the last two-and-a-half months – but in less pain. The most challenging part was the orders to not lift anything as heavy as a gallon of milk (that ruled out Hannah), and to sleep upright.

The other challenging part was my worry about Hannah’s well-being. Her new phrases, recorded in my journal, gave a glimpse of what was on her mind: “So bad”, “Hannah scared”, Come here, Mama”, “I coming, Mommy”, “Hannah cry”, “Mommy sore.”

One night she couldn’t go to sleep. I finally asked her, while rocking her in the pink recliner, “Are you worried about something? Is something on your mind?” Without a pause, Hannah, barely two years old, blurted out, “Yes! Mommy’s tummy.” Speaking soothingly, I told her that the doctor had fixed Mommy’s owie, and now my tummy was much, much better and she didn’t need to worry anymore. Sighing, she settled down, and the rocking lulled her to sleep.

My parents had made plans for a vacation long before my chain of events began, and shortly after my surgery they reluctantly departed. My sister made arrangements to miss school, and came from college to help us for five days. It was such a relief having help with getting Hannah in and out of her crib and the bathtub, and to have her Auntie Sissy around to pick her up and carry her. It was also so wonderful to have my sister to talk to.

The doctor cleared me to carry Hannah again, at my two week post-op appointment.

My sister went back to school.

My grandfather, special to both Hannah and me, died after a long illness.

I went back to sleeping in my normal bed.

And finally, three-and-a-half months after my D&C we moved into our new house, and symbolically, our future, as we were soon expecting another baby.
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