Reading Between the Lines

Behold, I am doing a new thing; . . . I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert (Isaiah 43:19).

For months, I eyed the quiet shelf in my office closet, the one holding a lifetime of journals and prayer notebooks arranged in order by date. Over the years I’d moved them from place to place as we repurposed and rearranged, but seldom did I crack one open to read the chronicles within.

In my quest to downsize and simplify, I’ve been highly motivated by my desire to spare my children the weight of it all. It’s one thing to toss old catalogs and donate VHS documentaries and no-longer-relevant books, but it’s quite another to decide what to do with decades of handwritten stories. Stories about family, events, celebrations, school days, worries, fears, regrets, and life lessons. Memories recorded in black and white, someday to be remembered in living color.

Finally, I mustered up the courage to pick up the first journal. I read page after written page and often caught myself smiling—like the time one of the girls danced around the house singing, “I can read! I can read!” Or when said daughter somehow got her head stuck in a chair at school. Another of them dressed up like Polly Pepper, and at Thanksgiving, a native American, complete with fringe and papoose.

I found the record of when we paid off our house and the season we harvested 49 quarts of strawberries. I noted the day when Patches the guinea pig died and how Daddy helped bury him in the garden under a stone painted yellow. I leafed through the celebratory stories of birthdays and end-of-the-school-year-parties, prayers and baptisms, swimming lessons and family outings.

My eyes also traveled over pages of weary fatigue, frustration, busyness, uncertainty, and desperate prayers for wisdom and guidance. I found where I had scribbled, “God, where are you? I’m trying so hard. Why does it seem I will never be enough?” and where I’d prayed, “Please take care of my children.” Tears sprang to my eyes as I laid the book down.

Can you relate?

I mentioned my bittersweet experience to a friend who parroted back to me what she and I had talked about in times past. “What is true?” she reminded me. “Read your journals as an act of worship as you recall God’s work in your life. Let go of the pages that are no longer beneficial.”

An act of worship. Letting go of the if onlys leaves room for us to read the grace of God between the lines. His unfailing presence. His steadfast love. His promise of redemption. He brought us through those days . . . the learning days . . . the growing days . . . all for His glory.

It’s been good for me to review my life through my own pen. Humbling, really. Words have a way of representing a more accurate picture than memory. All these years later, I find myself worshiping God with a sweeter appreciation for His faithfulness . . . and for His readiness to listen to the broken, hopeful prayers of a mother’s heart.

Sarah Lynn Phillips

Sarah Lynn Phillips shares the inspiring story of her family’s near-fatal car crash in her award-winning book, Penned Without Ink: Trusting God to Write Your Story. For individual or group study, she has also written a companion Leader’s Guide with reproducible study sheets. Her articles, devotions, and poems have appeared in numerous online and print publications. Through her writing and speaking, Sarah offers a vision of hope in the hard times. She has three adult daughters and four delightful grandchildren. Reading, quilting, and tending her garden are among Sarah’s hobbies.

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  1. I am always touched by your writing. So, thank you for sharing. You have a special place in my heart. May our Lord continue to bless your life as you write for Him.

    1. Thanks so much for your encouragement….God always shows His faithfulness…even when we can’t see it until years later…Blessings to you…

  2. Thank you Sarah for sharing! What a great idea to use your journals to worship God and His faithfulnes????

  3. I love this Sarah! I want to use the idea of worshipping God for His faithfulness as I recall the past and trust Him for the new things He’s dong in my life.

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