Connect Powerfully With a Co-Journal

Ready for a fun idea that will deepen the relationships in your family?

We got the idea many years ago from an other couple. Eighteen years ago, when Matt and I were first together, I saw a cute journal on our friend’s coffee table and asked if it was hers. She explained that it was journal she and her husband kept together. In it, they would write each other love notes, share ideas, dreams, pictures, and so on.

I went out right away and got Matt and I our own co-journal, and wrote the first entry explaining how it would work. We added a fun twist by hiding it for each other to find. It was thrilling to be right in the middle of my day and suddenly stumble upon the little book.

In our co-journal, we would write about our dreams for the future or the things that scared us or made us happy or made us cry. We’d leave each other sweet love notes and tape in movie tickets from our date nights.Over time, it became a kind of record of the early days of our relationship.

When kids came along, our journaling habits gave way to dirty diapers and weekly menus and new parent to-do lists.

One day I told Jody about our co-journal, and she thought it would be a cool thing to do  with her girls. She bought each of them a journal, wrote a note in the front of each one explaining how it works, and placed them someplace for the girls to find. Then, it was their turn to write back and hide the journals for Jody to discover.

I loved that idea, so I started doing it with my kids, and they ate it up! Over the years, that have used the co-journal to talk about what they want to do in the summer. They’ve written about dreams they had. They’ve asked questions and told me how much they love me…and how mad they are at me. I’ve used it to tell them how awesome they are and to tell them funny jokes and share little stories about when I was a kid, and we have often taped in little gifts in it for each other. The co-journal has opened a new door to their hearts and has allowed me to see fresh perspectives and new sides of their personalities.

The hiding part is fun…and sometimes comical. Our son Seth’s book is smaller than the average journal and can be tricky to find. One night, I had gotten out of bed to use the bathroom. On my way back in, I thought a nice breeze might cool off the room a bit, so I turned on the ceiling fan. Imagine my surprise when something came flying off! Seth thought it was hilarious.

Watching the kids have so much fun with the co-journal even inspired a recent Mother’s Day gift. After following a little scavenger hunt, I found a beautiful journal in the mailbox. In it was a note from my sweet husband, inspiring us to begin a new journal together.

Try it in your family, or give a beautiful journal as a gift to a young couple.

Let us know it goes…

Jenni Stahlmann

Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of six kids (ages 4 to 18) with #7 due in August and one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly syndicated radio show, write a weekly newspaper column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about parenting on purpose.

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POP Parenting

POP Parenting is our new catch phrase. It stands for Parenting on Purpose, and it covers the three basic jobs of every parent — loving, training and then releasing our kids.

Just about everything that we talk about here on the blog and on our weekly radio show and in the various articles and we write and the talks we give, is covered in these three words: Loving, Training, Releasing.

We are on mission to empower and equip parenting on purpose with an emphasis on strong family relationships (loving), raising teachable kids (training), and pointing kids toward their passion and purpose (releasing).

Loving

When it comes to parenting, everything is built on relationship. The family is a child’s first experience with intimate connections and will determine a lot about how they view God and other people later in life. We’ve got to make this our top priority.

POP Parenting resources include tools for developing:

  • Healthy  communication

  • Emotional intelligence

  • Strong parent-child relationships

  • Strong sibling relationships

  • Family culture

Training

Our ultimate goal is not to produce outwardly obediently kids who may or not be rebellious on the inside. Our goal is to train our kids at a heart level so that ultimately, we raise teachable individuals who want to make right choices and strive for excellence.

POP Parenting resources include tools for:

  • Behavior management

  • Character training

  • Conflict stewardship

  • Establishing routines

  • Teaching kids organization skills

  • Teaching time management skills

  • Instilling a sense of excellence

  • Spiritual training

  • Grooming leadership skills

  • Developing creativity

  • Cultivating entrepreneurship

  • Coaching kids through friendships

  • Making education choices

  • Homeschooling and Unschooling

  • Teaching Christian worldview

Releasing

One of our greatest roles as parents is to help our kids find their own lane and run in it with excellence. It’s our job to parent with the end result in mind and prepare our kids for a powerful adulthood.

POP Parenting resources include tools for helping kids:

  • Find their passion

  • Discover their calling

  • Gain critical life skills

  • Adopt a debt free mindset

  • Develop mature interpersonal skills

  • Find their role in the church

  • Cultivate a sense of civic responsibility

  • Understand our government and economy and their role in it

  • Prepare for their future role as a spouse and parent

Now that we’ve got some focus to what we’re doing here, look for changes to the blog in the coming weeks, and invite your friends to come over and check us out.

By the way, if you are not signed up to receive blog updates right to your email inbox, look at the top right corner of this post, and sign up today!

Jenni and Jody

Jenni and Jody

Jenni and Jody are Christian, homeschooling moms with ten kids between them (ages 5 to 29), including one on the autism spectrum, plus one baby grandchild. Together they host a weekly syndicated parenting radio show, write a weekly newspaper column, freelance for a variety of publications, teach parenting and homeschooling workshops and seminars, speak at conventions and conferences and coach individual families. They are passionate about encouraging and equipping families to Parent On Purpose (POP) with the end result in mind.

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Okay…So Now What?

Originally posted in April 2011 at A Gentle Answer Ministries 

Early Intervention specialists flooded our life with eleven therapy appointments a week. Occasionally they’d suggest we meet with a neurologist, but I just thought it was a casual recommendation. As educators and social workers, they were not allowed to offer medical opinions. In other words, they couldn’t come right out say they suspected Griffyn was autistic.  So truly, I had no clue.

When someone first said the word autism, it sounded ridiculous to me. I had never met a 2-year-old autistic child. My only exposure to it was from the movie “Rainman” with Dustin Hoffman and Tom Cruise. Certainly my two-year-old was nothing like that. But as it turns out, the only reason he was nothing like Rainman was because he was a baby and Rainman was an adult. Had the movie shown Rainman at two, the character might have behaved exactly like my son. Now, at 13, he’s very much like Rainman.

As the months of therapy followed, I noticed more and more how profoundly different Griffyn was from other kids his age. One day, I asked one of his therapists, “You don’t think Griffyn is autistic, right?” Silence, and then a slow, hesitating response.  “Well…the thought has crossed my mind.” What? I was stunned!

I don’t think I’ll ever forget the day we got the diagnosis. It was March 17, 2000, a cold and rainy day. The doctor spent a good half-hour just observing Griffyn, and then he conducted an extensive interview with me. When he was done, he leaned back in his big leather chair, crossed his legs, and closed the portfolio containing his observations of my precious little boy.

Perhaps he’d said the same words a dozen times a week. I was told he was one of the most sought after experts in the tri-state region. Maybe the repetition of this experience made him forget that all my hopes and dreams were sitting on the floor of his office that morning. It’s not that he was apathetic or even unkind, he just seemed completely unaware of the fear that was squeezing my heart. At that moment, it seemed as if my entire life hinged on the next few words that would come out of this man’s mouth. Perhaps in some ways that turned out to be true; I just didn’t realize then that there was nothing to fear.

The doctor was entirely aloof as he stretched his arms up, crossed his hands behind his head and assumed a position of relaxation. His work was done. “Well,” he said with a certain finality, “the diagnosis is clear. This is autism.”

In a moment I felt as if an avalanche had dumped on me, the weight of it dulling my senses. Had it lasted more than a fraction of a second, I would have been consumed with panic, clawing desperately through the swirling thoughts that filled my mind and clouded my ability to respond.

But in that fraction of a second, something amazing happened. God, the Creator of the universe, the very One who knit my son together in the depths of my womb, reached out with His amazing grace and poured it over me a like gentle waterfall, washing away the fear and the hurt and the desperation. In my own strength, left to my own thoughts, I would have crumbled. That fleeting moment of panic let me know that I was not able to manage this on my own. But in the power of God’s grace, I was suddenly bathed in peace. This is what the book of Philippians is referring to when it describes “the peace that passes all understanding.”

I breathed in His strength and leaned forward, and in that pivotal moment I looked the doctor soberly in the eye. God had pointed me in a new direction, and with great determination and focus, I said, “Okay…so now what?”

When our children are first born, they hold so much promise and mystery, and in our flesh it is tempting to imagine their future. When our son was diagnosed with autism, God showed me that I would need to let go of my ideas of what I thought he should be. Until I fully released my agenda into God’s hands, I would not be able to receive all the blessings that God intended to bring through this special child. And although God had guarded my heart and mind against despair, there was still a process that had to happen, a shifting and refocusing.

One morning a few years ago, as I was writing at my desk, my daughter brought me a 3-D picture to see if I could find the image. I held it close to my nose and let my eyes relax. As I slowly pulled it away, the image became clear. In relaxing, even allowing my eyes to go blurry for a time, my perspective was transformed. Once my focus shifted, the new picture was easy to spot. Instead of seeing the mish-mosh of seemingly random patterns, I could clearly see the crisp outline of a horse emerge from the page.

What a great metaphor! When we relax and allow God to refocus the eyes of our heart, a new image clearly emerges. Things may be confusing at first—blurry—but soon the events and circumstances of our life don’t seem so random, and instead of asking why, we are left asking how. Instead of crying out to God for answers, we cry out to God for wisdom and direction.

During my season of refocusing on Griffyn’s diagnosis, God gave me this verse: “I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed.  But if it dies, it produces many seeds.”  (John 12:24) Once I let go of the child I thought I had, the one I’d created in my own imagination, I could open myself to so many new possibilities. God has so many riches in store for those who are willing let their own agendas die and trust Him for the harvest.

Jenni Stahlmann

Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of six kids (ages 4 to 18) with #7 due in August and one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly syndicated radio show, write a weekly newspaper column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about parenting on purpose.

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