It was fun, at first.
Hundreds of pictures are stacked in piles and lined up in chronological order: the highlights of 2018 spread before me. My gold striped picture album lay open, and the coordinating scrapbook paper is standing at the ready. I’d missed papercrafting and so I dove right in, arranging pictures, writing a few captions, and reminiscing about birthdays gone by, special vacations, and visiting family.
I have big goals: arrange over 400 pictures to complete the scrapbook by the end of the week, before school starts. I use every available time I have, ignoring the housework, setting aside my writing, and letting the boys watch too much TV. By hour eight on day three, my initial delight at the task has faded into a resigned dread. I set page goals for myself, and rush to meet them in an effort to get it all over with.
Why bother keeping memories?
At low moments, I think back to great grandma Betty who we spent time with over the summer. My husband and I marveled over her detailed scrapbooks, wondering why she kept this receipt for a goat (five dollars), asking questions about the time my father-in-law rode down main street on a donkey, thumbing through birthday cards from 1965. These memories are valuable: artifacts from days gone by serve as a reminder of who we were and how far we’ve come. Documenting the good times as well as the hard times gives us reason to pause and reflect on what God has done in our lives and inspires in us a reason for gratitude.
From fear to faith
I started documenting my own life when I was in sixth grade, keeping journals and picture albums, but my efforts really turned serious after I saw the movie “The Notebook.” Part of me was terrified I was going to forget everything important about my life once I reached old age so I doubled down, saving letters, printing out emails, keeping five year journals, and blogging about my teaching career.
A different kind of urgency prompts me now, as a mother, seeing how quickly the last seven years of child-rearing has flown by. I keep scrapbooks and journals as a way to honor all the hard and beautiful days that have led up to this point. I construct my own stone altar in these pages – a testament to God’s goodness and faithfulness. When I look back on these memories I’ve kept, years – even decades from now, I want to remember all the joys and trials in the life of our family. In so doing, I will be able to look forward to the future with more faith and assurance that God will provide, just as he always has.
Never too late
It’s never too late to start documenting your days, and there are many ways to do it! If you aren’t a sentimental pack-rat by nature (like I am), don’t be overwhelmed at the thought of starting at the beginning. Just start with this day, this season of life, this year.
If you’re working with pictures, digital is easiest, and there are dozens of places you can make high quality picture books for your family, from Costco to Blurb to Mixbook. If you’re active on Instagram, check out Chatbooks photo book series, which will create and send you a book for every 60 pictures you post! If you have a lot of printed pictures in shoe boxes, consider a regular picture album or something a bit more fancy like Project Life!
Your words are just as important as your pictures! I’m a big fan of One Line a Day Five year journals, like this one. It only takes me two minutes to write in it before going to bed, and I love having a more detailed record of the highlights and low points of my days.
If you’d rather do that digitally, I’ve been impressed with the Journey App that lets you record pictures and words you want to remember on a daily basis.
One of my favorite new ways to preserve your family’s stories and memories is the Hope and Reason course, which turns your words and pictures from the prompts into a beautiful hardbound journal.
Get creative! I’ve heard of people who start a brand new email account for each child that they have. They send notes to this email address over the years: things they want to remember, things the child has said, pictures of their kindergarten artwork, reflections on being their parent. On the child’s 18th birthday, they give them the email address and password. I love this idea!
Your future self will thank you
As I slip yet another picture into its sleeve, I picture my boys all grown up, flipping through this scrapbook. “Look how young mom and dad are here!” they’ll say. I see my future self, poring over pictures of my grown-up children as chubby-cheeked mischief-makers, laughing and tearing up at seasons gone by. And I’ll know that all the time and effort I spent on documenting our memories was worth it.
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