Inspiration for Sharing Your Spiritual Autobiography
“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.” ― Ursula K. Le Guin
Get Ready to Share Your Spiritual Memoir
Getting ready to share your spiritual memoir is a process. You can learn about how to start, and finish, this process by using a spiritual journal to share your spiritual autobiography. This site is about how to share your story to encourage, give hope, and empower yourself and others. If you have been keeping a spiritual journal, you have probably discovered that God’s greatest story telling is often shared within the context of an ordinary life. This page will give you some ideas about the powerful role of the ordinary life in spiritual autobiography.
I believe God really does incredible things with an ordinary life. I know this is true because of the simple ways the rhythms and realities of the lives of others have been life saving for me. I know few things more incredible than the ways the lives of others have breathed life into my very soul. God is truly the king of the ordinary and the author of the extraordinary. He uses our ordinary lives to do His greatest work. It is my prayer that He has used mine and will also use yours. It is why I have told my story. It is why I have shared my Journey on Canvas.
I’ve not just invited you to receive my journey. I’ve encouraged you to begin sharing your story as well. Perhaps you have arrived at a place where you can begin to offer your story to others? When we tell our story, we reveal the truth that ordinary lives are covered with the fingerprints of God. Release the power of spiritual autobiography. Tell your story. Find and offer unexpected hope.
King Of The Ordinary
Your hand in every life-
Your purpose in every moment-
Lord of the extraordinary-
King of the ordinary-
Our awesome God.
Tools for Sharing
Keeping a spiritual journal is different from keeping a traditional journal. Spiritual journaling keeps account of how a person experiences spirituality in common everyday experiences and in life changing events. The spiritual journaler may keep accounts of seemingly mundane events while excluding the more monumental moments of life. The spiritual journal keeps account of what has made a spiritual impact; the beauty of freshly fallen snow, the sound of a baby laughing or the warmth of the sun shining on one’s face. Seemingly insignificant moments can be the trail markers for spiritual journaling.
Gaining an understanding of the ways your spiritual journal will differ from a traditional journal is a first step you may take as a spiritual journaler. This understanding helps free the journal keeper from preconceived notions regarding this spiritual practice. You don’t need to have done something remarkable, or have achieved some level of fame or notoriety, to embark on this journaling journey. This is a journey anyone can take. All you need is a notebook, a pen and a willing heart.
Once you have decided that you would like to start a spiritual journal it’s time to gather some materials. Firstly, you want to find a journal that fits your spiritual style. Do you want a sketchbook, a leather bound journal, or a binder with tabbed sections and loose-leaf? Remember that you will likely want to keep your spiritual journal for a long time to come, so make a choice that allows for permanence. Also, make sure you are excited about the journal you have chosen. This is not the place to cut corners or make a split decision. Allow yourself the time and resources to choose well.
Additional materials require consideration as you prepare to begin spiritual journaling. Will you use pencil or erasable pen? Will a good set of colored pencils get you excited about keeping some sketches and special notes inside your journal? Perhaps highlighters, a set of colored pens or some crayons fit with your journaling plans? Give thought to what materials you choose for this special journal journey. Spiritual journals are worth the time and investment.
Now that you are prepared to write your first entry, remember these few helpful hints. Keep the date! You may desire to re-read your journal and knowing the time frame for each entry becomes a great asset. Also, make mistakes! Erase, cross out and rewrite! Remember that your goal is spiritual exploration not perfection! Finally, don’t worry about grammar, punctuation or writing quality. Your journal is for your eyes only. No one is grading your entries. Your journal is just a place for personal reflection and understanding.
After you have made the necessary preparations, it is time to write and share. You can write down your feelings, sketch a childhood memory, or simply keep an account of your daily experiences through spiritual journal writing. You can also search the internet for spiritual journaling prompts or buy a workbook on spiritual journaling that includes leads for writing. Some use two different colored pens. One color is used to express your thoughts and feelings, and the second color is used to write down what God is speaking back to you. The beauty of keeping a spiritual journal is freedom. There are no rules here. Whatever you choose to do or say is right! Whatever you hear can be pondered without fear of judgement. Let your journal be a safe place to understand your story.
Sharing Your Journey
We all have a spiritual story. When we write down our story we can call it our spiritual autobiography or our spiritual memoir. We can share our story in different ways. The ambitious story tellers might write a book about their spiritual journey. But for many, the spiritual story can be captured on the pages of a spiritual journal.
A spiritual journal lets us capture the truth about our journey. Some think that they should only write down their successes and high points. Some question the value of writing down their struggles, their low points and their personal failures. The truth is that our spiritual journey has highs and lows and there is value in sharing both the ups and downs. Your spiritual autobiography is incomplete if you skip the difficult parts. A spiritual memoir is a story about a real person with real problems and real challenges.
The challenge of a spiritual journal is sharing your whole story. Having the guts to explore all the aspects of one’s spiritual life can be daunting. The beauty of a spiritual journal is its audience. You control who sees what you write. Perhaps your spiritual autobiography is simply between you and God? Realizing that no one ever needs to see what you write can be liberating. If you choose to keep you spiritual memoir a private matter you have nothing to fear! Your spelling can be terrible, you can write something that seems terrifically silly, and all your pent up rage can spill out on the page. Who cares is you can spell or if your words are unclear. What difference does it make if you don’t write a prize winning story? Your journal is a private for you to explore your story and it can be for your eyes only. It’s your choice to share.
A common challenge of spiritual journaling is figuring our what to write about. A great way to get over this hurdle is to think of journaling as a conversation between you and God. Write down a concern, a problem or something you are praying about. Then, ask God about what you have written and pause to hear His answer. Write down what you hear. You will soon discover that you are not alone.
Some spiritual journalers use two different colored pens when they journal. One color is for their own thoughts and the other color is for keeping track of what God is speaking to them. This type of exchange makes the journaling experience richer. Now the journal is more than a log of events. It is an interaction. It’s personal. It’s a conversation.
Memories Help Share Your Story
My spiritual memoir includes my bittersweet moments: the sadness mixed with the blessings. Writing in my journal helps me to seek the blessings in spite of the challenges of my life. It is my place to find hope. My 27th Christmas was bittersweet. The sad part was that Christmas was going to be different soon. Once Craig and I were married, we would share holidays. Sometimes, I knew I wouldn’t even be with my mom and dad on Christmas day. Instead, I’d be celebrating with Craig’s family. I knew this was all a natural part of spending your life with someone. That didn’t change the fact that I was still sad that some of my good things would have to change.
I have always loved Christmas in my parents’ home. We would always start the celebration with the little things. We’d take barrels of ornaments down from the attic. The tree would be chosen and left outside waiting. A few preliminary decorations were set about before the big day: colored lights were put around the kitchen window, stockings were placed in front of the fire place, mistletoe was hung above the French doors leading to the dining room, and the green, bell shaped music box with the silky tassel was hung from the living room door knob. The electric train came out to serve as a child’s much needed diversion in a sea of mounting excitement. Everyone would be eager. It was a wonderful time. Christmas has always been full of wonder and delight. My memories of this day are both wonderful and bittersweet. The splendid moments, of the past and the future to come, shape my story.
Sharing My Journey
As children, we were sent to bed before the final Christmas touches were put in place. Now that I’m an adult I get to help with the very last details. My nephews are sleeping. We’re all excited to wake them so we can see their faces as they look upon the fully decorated tree, and its ocean of gifts, for the first time. We wake my little nephews. They come downstairs and see it all. We delight in their delight. Then, we sing. We sing even though we can’t sing well. Together, we stand before the tree, fully loaded with blessings, and we sing about that silent night. We just sing one song, but it’s the best song. It’s a song that brings nostalgia mixed with hope. Hope that one holy night, when all was calm and unsuspecting, Jesus came. I feel indescribable peace. The fire crackles, our voices sing out of key, and I know why this night is so splendid. I am surrounded by the people I love the most, and I am certain that He is real. Every other good thing I can imagine pales in comparison, and all that matters to me is joined together in one glorious moment. Love surrounds us all and is all. Life, for one moment, is perfectly good.
Sharing Your Journey
Make a list of all the things that matter to you inside your journal. Circle what’s most important to you. Rank these items in order of importance. What do these choices say about what you value? How are they a reflection of your spirituality?
Consider thankfulness as an aspect of your own spiritual story. How can gratefulness become a part of your spiritual autobiography? Are thankfulness and gratefulness a theme or a sidebar? Write down your thoughts in your journal.
Experiences Help Tell Our Spiritual Autobiography
You can learn how to use spiritual memoir to learn about yourself. Spiritual autobiography can give you unexpected insight.
The events that flame your spiritual development are often the unexpected ones. I remember my role as the Resident Director on my college campus. It was ironic that I became the Resident Director. Two hundred freshman students lived in the dorm with me. I was supposed to bring them stability, safety and predictability. It was amazing that I managed to do my job so well. I was so young and had so much to learn. It was a miracle that my life was any good for anyone.
Eventually I learned that I had much to offer my younger classmates. In high school everyone acted like they were perfect. Few people let their troubles be seen. At Pratt people were honest about their lives and they were not afraid to share. People knew all about my troubles, challenges and lack of experience. This didn’t stop them from coming to me for support. We shared life honestly. Sometimes, I found that I was the one who was holding things together. This happened even on the days when I felt like I had nothing to offer.
Being the Resident Director changed my life. I learned that I didn’t have to be perfect to matter. I learned that I could be imperfect and still make a difference in the world. I discovered that God would still use me in spite of my limitations. From this experience grew much spiritual development.
Spiritual journeys are influenced by many factors. What experiences changed your life and became a source of spiritual development? What experiences changed and shaped your self-perception? How has God used you through these experiences and taught you things you needed to know to grow? What have you learned from being brave enough to explore your story?
Sharing My Journey
Being the R.D., my room has been strategically placed by the freshman boys’ community bathroom. I’m supposed to keep my ears open to head off drunken behavior and bathroom brawls. The boys are loud in the bathroom twenty-four hours a day. The noise makes sleeping through the night so much harder.
I’m really tired. I drink the cold medicine that comes in the freshman welcome pack. It makes me tired at first and I fall asleep, but I don’t sleep for very long. I wake up a few hours later with my heart racing. I’m feeling sick, I’m exhausted, and I’m on overdrive. It’s useless to go back to bed. I’m too revved up.
I turn on a lamp and I work on a painting, I paint myself playing the flute. I wanted to learn how to play the flute so my parents got me one for my birthday. A friend gives me flute lessons in the chapel once a week. Sometimes I play songs from a hymnal. I can’t sing very well so the flute is my voice. I try to paint how I feel when I’m playing hymns on my flute. I feel like I’m playing a song just for God and He’s watching me. I feel like He likes what He sees.
Sharing Your Journey
Experiences, and the emotions they arouse in us, can thwart spiritual development. These same experiences can change our spiritual journeys and become an impetus for spiritual growth. What happens to us and inside of us, good or bad, can have an important place in our spiritual autobiographies. And, for most of us, life experiences are connected to how we feel and think. It’s all a part of our story.
What experiences have changed you the most? Think of your biggest life defining moments and life changing experiences. Write them down in your journal. Rank each event according to its influence. Ask God to guide you as you decide which event has had the greatest impact on you. Think about the feelings that surround this event and list them. Journal about this important experience.
Change Helps Tell Your Story
Learn how to change your life through spiritual autobiography, or spiritual memoir. You can begin by sharing how life changes are part of your story. This page will help you share these important changes within your spiritual journal.
One of my big life changes became a big life changer for me. My first job, as an elementary school teacher, influenced my spiritual path in powerful ways. I remember how I loved my job as an elementary school teacher, but I was exhausted when I got home. I had an hour commute to work and my work day didn’t end until 6pm when the after school program ended. I got back home to my parent’s house at 7pm, ate, graded some papers and got to bed to rest up for another busy day.
My life as a woman in her twenties was not very different from my life in my teens. Some things just hadn’t changed. Some things that needed to change had become more problematic. I could see the need for change in my life, but I wasn’t sure how to bring this change about. I wanted my life, and some parts of myself, to change in big ways. I was searching for a way to better balance in my life, but I couldn’t find it. I needed a solution.
I saw the need for change in my life but I didn’t know where to begin. Fortunately, I had someone to guide me toward needed change: a God who wanted me to find my way out of the place I was in. He was the constant in my life. He was the force behind my spiritual autobiography long before I even realized I had a story to tell.
The challenges in our lives can become the fuel for our stories. What seems to be pulling us down, properly managed, can become a gift that gives us and others hope. Spiritual autobiography is an opportunity for us to share our journeys (including the good, the bad and the ugly) so that others like us will find hope and encouragement. Don’t be afraid of the force behind your spiritual autobiography. Light can be found in the darkness. Hope is often found where we least expect it. Change someone else’s life. Change your life. Tell your story.
Sharing My Journey
At my parents’ home I have a bed. It looks quaint and unassuming. Really, it’s a place of torment. Strange, disturbing and horrible dreams are my nighttime reality. In my dream world I’m often helpless. Sometimes it feels like I’m drowning or suffocating. My dreams have been odd like this since I was little kid. I’ve always had weird dreams.
Nothing has changed in my nighttime world except that things have gotten worse. I still fall asleep quickly, and frequently, but I don’t stay asleep. I often wake up screaming and sweating. My heart will be pounding within my chest making it impossible for me to fall back asleep. Until my heart stops racing it’s not even worth bothering to try closing my eyes. Sometimes I’ll stay awake until the sun comes up. I’m too afraid to go back to bed because I know the nightmares will keep coming if I do. These are the worst nights because exhaustion hits early and with a heaviness that stays with me right through the next day. When the next night comes there’s no guarantee that rest will come. In fact, it almost never comes.
I need a change. I can’t live my life like this anymore. I need to get some help. There’s got to be a reason why I’m awake all night long. There’s got to be a reason for my terrible dreams. I’m reaching out for help. There have to be answers. Today, I’ve decided, is the day I’m going to find them. Today is the day my life is going to change.
Sharing Your Journey
We are not the same people we once were, and spirituality can move us toward change despite our circumstances.
Throughout your life you have changed in many ways. At the same time, some things about you have remained constant. Are you happy with this consistency? Why or why not? Record your thoughts within your journal. Invite God to help you where change is needed.
Find a place for change within your spiritual story. Celebrate the wonderful ways you are different than you once were. Allow your spiritual autobiography to tell others about how you have changed and still hope to change. Expect others to hear your story and find that they are not alone. Don’t be surprised if you inspire someone to change!
Share Life Challenges
Journaling can help you examine your life from different angles. As you reflect in your journal, you will likely make discoveries that surprise you. You will likely find that the “darker times” of your journey have a place in your journal and in your story.
What realities have you struggled with? Consider how your story might be more honest and powerful through your brave act of communicating both the ups and downs of your journey. You can change a life through your story. A honest and open story can be hope for your life and the lives of others.
Sharing My Journey
I thank God for my living angels. They’re all the people I love. They’re all the people who have loved me. When the chips are down they don’t fold. In my crazy, random world they have become my royal flush. They’re the very best hand I’ve been dealt, and it’s a hand I’ve decided that I’m willing to bet my life on. They are, when all else fails, my hope. They are God’s voice when I can’t hear Him anymore.
Today my angels wear roulette wheel dresses. I use playing cards to give voice to some particularly disturbing possibilities. One is no more or less likely than the other. They’re all random and undesirable. My angels speak. They say, “Pick a card, any card.” They don’t give me answers. All they offer are more questions.
My life is full of difficult realities. Accepting my powerlessness over my present situation may seem depressing, but that isn’t the case for me. Disturbing possibilities are laid out before me and I have more questions than answers BUT knowing I am powerless over it all is actually a relief. It’s a strange gift that’s wrapped in a strange package, and I accept it.
Sharing Your Journey
Spiritual autobiography, or spiritual memoir, connects our memories and experiences to our spirituality. My spiritual autobiography, Dancing in the Doghouse, is an exploration and celebration of memories, blessings, and life experiences despite the challenges of my life. Connections between the past and the present helped me see how God was tangibly present on my spiritual journey. Telling my story solidified my faith and gave me an opportunity to be thankful despite life’s challenges.
What are the greatest gifts and blessings you have received? Draw a rectangle on a page in your journal. Imagine that this rectangle is a gift box where you can recall all sorts of good memories. Fill it with all the good things in your life. When you are finished filling your box, consider what you have remembered. How do you feel about what you see? What do these feelings say about your spirituality? Write your answers to these questions in your journal. .
Share Disappointments as You Tell Your Story
You can overcome life’s disappointments through spiritual autobiography. This page can help you use a spiritual journal to understand the role of disappointments in your spiritual story. Everyone can disappoint us. We don’t like to think about the people who have fallen short, but our story is not complete if we only look at the champions in our lives. If this is our focus, we might find we have an awfully short story to tell.
I have tried to look at more than just the champions in my life. But, it’s good to have a place for someone extraordinary in my story: someone who is usually not a disappointment. My dad has always played the truth and fairness game pretty well. He’s never been the type to get angry for no reason. He rarely tries to make me feel guilty. My dad doesn’t usually manipulate or lie. He’s a good man and a righteous one. This is a good part of the reason I’ve always felt safe with him. I don’t do well with “Job people.” Truthful and fair people are what I prefer. I prefer people who see who I now am instead of what I once feared I was. I prefer people who pull me out of the darkness and into the light. I prefer people who don’t put me “in the doghouse” when it’s not fair. I prefer people who are truthful about their anger and their feelings. I hate the blame game.
I have to accept that no one is one hundred percent truthful and one hundred percent fair all of the time. Sooner or later, everyone messes up and is dishonest or unfair at some point. There’s no place on earth to go where everything will consistently be as it should be. The blame game is a reality of life. Always knowing how, or when, to avoid getting hurt is impossible. It’s out of our control. Eventually, even the people we love and trust the most will disappoint and hurt us.
The disappointments of life can leave us feeling powerless and defeated. It’s especially disappointing when our story is filled with people who haven’t loved us like we had hoped they would. Instead, even our “safest” people mess up pretty badly sometimes. The powerlessness we feel is real: we can’t control what other people say, do and think. The only power we have is to change what we can, let go of what we cannot and seek the “wisdom to know the difference.” If we fight the reality of our powerlessness we can wind up pretty depleted. The key to freedom from what we can’t control is realizing that we can’t control it. Once we determine the difference between what we can and can’t control we have “wisdom” to share with others who are struggling. Now, we have a powerful story to share: our story of how we found power in powerlessness and then found freedom.
How have you been hurt and disappointed by the dishonesty and unfairness of others? Where do you go to be safe from life’s pains and disappointments? Where do you go to escape what can’t be changed? Consider how God has helped you come to terms with life’s disappointments inside your journal.
Sharing Your Journey
What we can and can’t change is part of our story. Whether we choose to accept this doesn’t change the reality that we are not in control. We can choose to accept our life challenges and disappointments. We can do what we can to overcome them. We don’t have to lose hope.
Our journal becomes a place where we can explore life’s challenges and disappointments. Our journal becomes a place where we can begin to share.
Divide a page in your journal into two columns. Title one column “Power to Change” and the other column “Need to Accept.” Consider situations in your life that you’d love to breathe change into and write them down in the proper column. How can “changing” and “accepting” change you spiritually? Pray for the strength to make needed change and find peace in the face of disappointments.
Read a Spiritual Memoir
Dad never considered himself an artist, but his scientific research is full of detailed drawings of cells. I like thinking that I made “Dad’s Cells” with my father. Look and you will see his cell drawings hidden throughout this canvas. This creative act supports my process of letting him go.
Watching the news pains me. I am beginning to understand just how heavily we are divided as a nation and as a world. It has been a long time since I have experienced such a lack of connectedness with my family, friends, and community. I see that we are struggling to get back to a place where we are united by a common vision. I fear our joined prayers are weak: not strong enough to even begin to reach the place where they can be heard. Still, I hold fast to the idea that we can join together.
Imagine that somehow our prayers make a noise that reaches the heavens. Consider the possibility that as more voices join together, the greater the sound, and the more likely our petitions will reach the feet of God. Joined Together is about our united prayers being strong enough to reach God’s ears. Nothing is required but the simple, peaceful act of holding hands, joining together and asking for help.
This God I speak of “joining with” is not my God. He is everyone’s God. In my heart, He does not divide by ethnicity, faith, sex, social status or political view. This God is OUR shared hope. Joined Together with Him I imagine a world where our prayers are not silent. I hear a sound loud enough to change the world.
Click on these Spiritual Autobiography Links:
The Price That’s Paid,
I begin a new painting. I play with perspective. Some like my skewed views and others criticize them. They say I’m technically immature, or they say I’m advanced beyond my years. I decide it’s not a good idea for me to pay attention to what “they” think. Vitality could be lost in an attempt to make every line do what it’s supposed to do. If I copy what I see and I copy it well, but it’s not passionate, then what have I achieved?
I’m tired of pleasing others and that’s a miracle. If there’s one place I’m not going to satisfy everyone else it’s on my canvas. I have a place where there are no rules and no people I care to appease. It’s the one place where I feel completely free. It’s the place where only what I want matters. I’m impervious to judgments and criticisms. Think or say what you want about what I create. I don’t care. You can’t touch me here.
My “Womb Series” is a reflection on my connection with the life growing within me. I create differently. I’m dabbling in abstraction. I mix sand in my paints to add texture. I use vibrant colors against dark outlines. Flowing shapes fill the rectangular frame. I work quickly and boldly. Along with the new life growing inside me I find a new way to express things. I feel like everything is completely different and completely new. I want my art to resonate of the change that is happening in me and to me.
I’d always rejected the idea that there is a subconscious element to what I create. Now that I look back on what I’ve been making, I realize that what I’ve made is a series of paintings that echo the shape and form of a womb. It’s somewhat embarrassing how obvious it is. I realize just how unconscious I am. I laugh at myself and my foolishness. I really believed that everything I created was completely conscious and deliberate. My “Womb Series” betrays my pride. I see there is more to my interior world than I can understand. There is so little about myself that I actually comprehend.
My foolishness aside, I enjoy my new creations. They mark a time of expectation. I’m excited to have my little girl. Yet, I know that right now she is closer to Heaven than she will be again until she passes on. She’s warm inside of me and she’s with me all the time. She has everything she needs and knows nothing of longing or pain. Her world is perfect and I am her world. I’m glad I have my paintings, so I won’t forget how wonderful it has been to carry my first child inside of me. I’m glad I have them so I won’t forget the time when I could be everything my little girl needed and could keep her perfectly sheltered and safe. Being pregnant has been a wonderful mystery. I am abundantly grateful.
"I Can" Work
Orange Skittle Collage, Age 46
I grab a button and I stick it on. I paint it bright orange. It looks like a Skittle. I leave it there. Humorous. And, I can. So I do.
Yarn Swirl and Skittle Collage, Age 46
More and more the pleasure comes from doing what I want and not caring what anyone else thinks. It’s funny how many times people have tried to redirect me when they see my art. Mostly, they try to get me to go back to the style of art I was asked to produce in my first years of college: representational art from the times I was being taught how to draw and paint. Why should I go back to that now? I could prove to the world that I can do it. I can do it: make art that looks real. But, that wouldn’t make me happy. A swirl of yarn and a button made to look like a Skittle is what makes my art today. Maybe that doesn’t make you happy but I am. I am happy.