Journaling with Frances

Lunchtime Conversations

A few weeks ago I was sitting in a cozy restaurant, enjoying lunch with a few church friends. I had brought along a few old B&W photographs that had been shot some 30 years ago – photos of some of our Primary children – who’d been taking part in a church nativity rehearsal. I needed a few of the children identified. I’d failed to add any detail to those images, though some of the children were easily identifiable as the men and women that they are now.

As they were passed round the table there was immediate interest, and most of the children soon had names added to them. But something else happened. Before we knew it, we were back in the past, remembering places, people, events. We talked, we laughed, we reminisced…

But we were doing something else too…we were journaling…verbally. Nothing was written down, and in a way, it was an opportunity lost.  The old B&W photographs acted as triggers and brought back memories – events buried in our minds that we were now remembering, of people and places from many years ago.


Our memories deserve to be documented, because they’re part of who we are – and no matter how mundane we think our lives might be – each of us is unique. We owe it to ourselves as well as our family, to leave behind our own, personal history. Within that history will be the stories that our descendants will treasure; who will read it and know who we were.201609-frances-39-of-72

Why are we so hesitant to journal? Do we think we can’t write a story? Do we feel a bit silly if we try to express ourselves on paper? Do we convince ourselves we don’t have time? Do we think it’s not important?

If we remember an event, and have the ability to share it with a friend, either verbally, or in an email, or a text message, then we also have the ability to write it in a journal. It’s as simple as that.


One person who always inspires me with her journaling expertise is Frances. Frances has been journaling since she was 12 years old, and if you looked through her well-organised collection of journals and scrapbooks, you would probably find yourself in there somewhere! Many of us have know Frances for a long time, and know that she records her own history – relating events, telling where she was, and who she was with.


Photographs evoke so many emotions and memories, but do we cherish them? If we could choose only 20 photographs to keep though our lifetime, would we care for them more? Below, Frances ponders one of her wedding photographs as she prepares to add her thoughts to one of her journals.


The journal that Frances is writing in (below) has memory prompts on each page. It’s not intended to be a day-to-day journal – the prompts are designed to activate memories that happened somewhere in the past. What would you think about if you saw the prompt ‘1st day at school’, or ‘a very scary journey’? If a memory is flooding back…write about it, now, before it vanishes again.


Another, great, long-established way of activating often long-forgotten events is to use a journal jar. Sometimes it can be hard to think of something to say – especially if you’ve had a fairly dull day. Fill your jar with little strips of paper, each one with a journal prompt printed on it (you can find loads of journal jar ideas online) and just see what happens! Choose one, and within minutes you’ll be writing or typing so fast that your hands will hardly be able to keep up with your brain!

Alternatively keep sheets of journal prompts in a little wallet or album…or use both.


As I’m writing this, I’m on a train that’s speeding towards Aberdeen. It’s a bright, sunny day and the scenery through my window is, of course, spectacular.

The train is making good time, and we have just passed alongside the cliffs above Stonehaven. A few brave sheep are dotted about the steep, but not always sheer, sides of the cliff top, while below, the waves are pounding the rocks with considerable force. There’s a glimpse of a lonely ruined church with its cemetery, and the golf course that slopes right to the cliff edge; I wonder how many golf balls end up in the North Sea.

But now I can see Aberdeen ahead, so it’s time for me to pack up and get ready to meet my daughter at the station.

Perhaps I’ll journal about my train journey tonight…

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