When we learned that we were expecting our first child, we Made the Announcement, scheduled appointments, wrung hands, and rejoiced. We contemplated, with an ecstatic sort of sobriety, the fact that our lives would never be the same again.

And then I bought a notebook.

Why We Keep a Family Journal | Little Book, Big Story

Thus began the first in a three-volume set of notebooks chronicling the first months—or years—of each of our daughters’ lives. They bore witness to first teeth, first words, and first steps, but more than that, they contain a steadily evolving picture of what our family was then when each of the girls was small. In them, I dropped stories of missed naps and meltdowns, overheard conversations between siblings, favorite bedtime stories. But I also dropped my own perspective into them—that couldn’t be helped—and so essays like this one, or this one, sprouted from my musings upon life then as a mother of one daughter, two daughters, three.

I became the family historian.

On Keeping a Family Journal | Little Book, Big Story

On Keeping a Family Journal | Little Book, Big Story

Sarah’s notebook is the only one still active and a part of me feels bad about that (poor middle child!). Her babyhood is a slim notch on the timeline of that book, but of the three children she will have, I think, the richest, most complete picture of our family life captured in time lapse over the course of four years. But her notebook is almost full. What then?

We don’t know yet if that will be the last volume in that set, or if there will be other children for whom to keep other books (update: I’ve started a new one!). But I had begun to wonder about a place to keep a family history, one that is open to everybody and that will contain a little of everyone’s story—a braided work, with room to include the small moments of the next few decades.

On Keeping a Family Journal | Little Book, Big Story

And then!

The day after I posted my review of Songs for Saplings, Dana Dirksen emailed me. That is how that sentence sounded in my head, but when I said it aloud to my husband, I think it came out of my mouth like this: “DANA DIRKSEN EMAILED ME.” And in case that wasn’t clear, I clarified: “She sent me an email! In my inbox. There is an email from Dana Dirksen.”

On Keeping a Family Journal | Little Book, Big Story

I’m not used to having the authors and musicians I review notice my reviews, let alone contact me and thank me for them. But Dana noticed. And her email was really very nice. There was more in that email that shall be revealed in the fullness of time, but for this story, the important part was that she sent me a package to thank me for loving her music so much that I wanted to share it with all of you.

In that package was, among other things, the Songs for Saplings Family Journal: beautiful, hand-bound, smelling of leather and travel and memories in the making.

Songs for Saplings Family Journal | Little Book, Big Story

And now is when I pause and inform you of my unofficial policy on solicited reviews: I don’t write them. People can send me free stuff if they want to, but I can’t guarantee them a review. Because this blog is about you and me and our shared love of books, I like to think that we’ve built up a certain amount of trust over the years: you come to me for book recommendations and I give you a library of carefully curated recommendations of books that I love—not books I wanted to love because they were free and I felt beholden to authors or publishers. Perhaps that policy will change one day, I don’t know. But that’s what it is right now.

I’ve never said that on this blog before, but there it is. I say it now because I want you to know that Dana sent me the journal as a thank you gift, understanding that I was not obligated to post about it on my blog. I am posting about it now because I do love it.

Songs for Saplings Family Journal | Little Book, Big Story

The Family Journal features the full text of the catechism as adapted for the Songs for Saplings albums, along with related Scripture and—this, my friends, is the clincher—blank pages in which to make notes on the conversations you and your children have about the topics covered.

I’m still feeling my way around that part, getting the hang of what I want to record and how to go about recording it, but already I find that having a place sent aside for recording little steps in our spiritual growth as a family causes me to pause and take note of moments like these: the child too shy to pray aloud finally piped up at dinner. The child with a lie on her conscience came to me unprompted and sought forgiveness. The child who struggled with fearfulness at night announced that she is not alone, not really, because God is always with her. The baby made “Amen!” one of her first ten words.

Songs for Saplings Family Journal | Little Book, Big Story

These moments are stones in the road our daughters travel toward faith, and I expect that recording them in our journal will not only keep us looking forward toward the day when each of us will stand before Christ and, I pray, hear the words, “Well done,” but will keep us looking back at the sins overcome, the prayers answered, the victories won by grace.

I continue to be the family historian. And this is our new chapter.

Songs for Saplings Family Journal | Little Book, Big Story


If you’re interested in purchasing the Family Journal, you have two options: you can buy it through the Songs for Saplings store at full price for (gulp!) $90 (that’s when I remind you that it is hand-bound, leather, beautiful, and smells like memories), or you can get one for free by becoming a monthly supporter of Songs for Saplings for whatever amount feels comfortable to you. If you’re not sure why you should be a supporter of Songs for Saplings, read on.

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