'tis the season...

Even though this time of year in the Pacific Northwest brings cold rain, short days and long nights, there are things I love about the season. It is a time of looking back, celebrating holidays of gratitude, the gift of God’s presence, and relationships of friends and family. It is also a time of looking forward. One thing I love about this time of year is the finishing my yearly journal and breaking open a new one, pristine and full of possibility. The treasure hunt of my word of the year is underway and with it comes new creative ideas to explore.

I want to share with you from my heart. For the past year it has been harder for me to write blog posts. I had been consistent to write nearly every week for six years. The blog, readership and interest grew. Then a year ago, when my beautiful new website was created, I decided to move my blog from Blogger to my website. In the move, links and followers were lost. During that time I was also struggling physically and emotionally, so I gave myself the freedom not to write each week, to pull back a bit, tend to my family and personal care. In the past year, there was a premature death, premature birth, another death of a loved one, and another high-risk pregnancy and birth in our family. On this side of all that, I am profoundly grateful for answered prayer, healthy babies, and the deepening of relationships we have experienced. I think because I gave myself the freedom to take breaks, I have renewed enthusiasm and creativity to revisit my blog and connections.

At first, none of what was going on in my life seemed to connect to my word of the year for 2017: Free/Freedom. I thought maybe my word should have been something like “Unexpected.”

Looking back, I realize Freedom was the right word for 2017. It just didn’t look like I thought it would a year ago. I am more free than I was a year ago…

More free to let go of things that no longer serve me well

Free not to “should” on myself

Free to play with my grandchildren and be fully present in the moment

Free to have things not be perfect and be content

Free from needing to accomplish something all the time

Free from ambition

Free to focus on the person in front of me

Free of judgment

Free to write or not write

Free to create what is in my heart

Free with my time with God to just be together

Free to Be and have that be enough

For the past four years, at the beginning of each month I make a calendar page for that month. It feels like a fresh start. I will definitely be continuing that for 2018.

There are some other things in my 2017 journal I really enjoyed. One of my goals was to use Washi tape in my journal. I did that and it was really fun. I didn’t do as much drawing on my calendar pages, but the Washi tape gave me the opportunity to experiment with mixing patterns and colors in creative ways on the pages. The other thing I did was use banners for the names of the months and some other headings. I forgot to make a banner for August, but my new-found freedom allowed me to smile and move on. My everyday calendar journal continues to be a great way to process my life, thoughts, feelings, creativity, and learning. As I prepare the new journal and wrap up the old one, I am looking forward to connecting with you in this coming year.

With my new sense of freedom, I decided not to have a list of goals for this coming year, not even ideas of what I could finish etc. Instead I am going to have a page dedicated to Interests & Ideas. I will list my current interests and if I do something with those interests and ideas, I will likely share about it in a blogpost. Since research is like treasure hunting for me, this way of looking at possibilities for 2018 excites me, and I feel an enthusiasm and motivation rising.

Do you keep a calendar journal? Do you have a word of the year?


  1. Hi Valerie…thank you for your vulnerability in your posts. I have been following you for a few years, bought your online classes and recently bought your Stencil Girl Stencils. I love your artwork and have used your calendar format myself over the years. I, too, select a word each year and love how you incorporate symbols and bible verses for support and reflection both in your posts and in your art journaling. I believe that I will be using “begin” as my word for 2018. Already I am scouring the bible for ways that this word will inspire and support me in the months ahead. I don’t normally post on blogs but felt that I needed to let you know that your blog and posts have inspired me in my own walk and that I am grateful for you. Blessings to you and your family.

    • Hi Lisa, I really appreciate you writing, especially today. Your comment comes as a direct answer to prayer. I’m happy to hear you have your word “begin” and am seeking inspiration. I am too and it is encouraging to know I’m in good company. Thank you for following the prompting to post on my blog. You inspired me today and I am thankful. Blessings of more creative joy and vision to you today Lisa! Love, Valerie

  2. Dear Valerie-I faithfully read your blog and realize I haven’t taken the time to write to you and tell you how much it means to me. When you wrote that you would dedicate a page to “Interests and Ideas”, something clicked for me.
    I said the words to myself and then noticed how I felt. It felt really good, and I have told others about your site.
    I facilitate a couple of groups and let them know of this phrase. I love how you show your supplies on your posts, too!
    I have a journal started, and hope to keep it up-that’s where I fall down on this habit. Do you save a certain time of day for journaling or just do it when you can? I need some discipline!
    Many thanks to you and may your holidays be peaceful and blessed!

    • Dear Sandy, Thank you for writing. It means a lot to me. I’m glad something “clicked” for you with the “Interests and Ideas.” It is helping me approach journaling and accomplishing things in a new, more freeing way. When I was really busy with kids at home, working, school etc. I did set aside time to journal with my time spent with God (quiet time.) I’ve always needed that time to listen, pray etc. Now I do it when I can and don’t put any pressure on myself. That is why I like making my own calendar in the journal. That way there are no blank pages staring at me, telling me I didn’t do something I should’ve. It may be different for everyone, but for me I do more journal writing the less I put pressure on myself and look for the enjoyment of writing, doodling etc. Blessings of joy and hope this Christmas season!

  3. I have journaled about a word for the year each year for the past 6 years and have really enjoyed it. In 2017, however, while I connected very deeply with my word (whole) I just didn’t do much in the journal I had dedicated to my word. Also over the past years I have connected to Advent through art journaling and Bible study and the experience has been very healing and has taken me deeper with God in the season. So I have decided to continue the experience I had with Advent and follow the Christian year doing art journaling and Bible study plus a little study on church history. SO I am picking a phrase for the year – sacred time. I always enjoy seeing what you do with your word, Valerie!

  4. I also agree with Kimberly – your post was exactly what I needed right now. Looks like my word for 2018 will be “change”….because of health issues I must sell my home in the beautiful Pacific NW and move close to my daughter in Arizona (God be close to my heart). Thank you so much for your inspiration and encouragement in your posts. Hugs and blessings

    • Hi Elaine, Living in the Pacific NW myself, I can imagine some of the challenges to moving to a very different place like Arizona, and know I would need to journal through the transition. It sounds like you have just the right word for 2018 and what you are going through. There are so many possibilities with that word. The thing I love about journaling is that when there are so many new and unknown things going on around me, it is a safe place to express the deep things of my heart. Right now I pray hope and peace for you in the process of this life change. Love, Valerie

  5. I loved reading this post ! And can agree with Kimberly.
    Unfortunately I did nothing journalwise over the past year, though I think that part of it has to do with having some penpals with whom writing feels like a sort of journal.
    I was wondering, seeing the beautiful pages you create; how much time does it take you to create one page ? ( as maybe my expectations in that area are way too unrealistic, causing frustration.. ? )

    • Hi Jose, Thank you for writing. It is so great that you have people to correspond with in a way that feels like journaling. What great connections! As far as the time spent on my pages, it varies greatly. Honestly, most of my pages are filled with just regular journal writing with a small simple banner that says the day/date. I do a monthly calendar page and tab, and some titled pages I decorate with banner headings, pen, and color. The monthly calendar takes me about a movie length to do including drawing the heading and calendar, cutting papers, gluing and adding tape etc. At the end of each month I bring my supplies in from the studio and make my calendar as I watch a favorite film. I spend the most time on the art part of my journal at the beginning of the year, and/or the end of the year just before the new year begins. It is when I ask and receive a new word of the year as a focus. Because having a new word feels like a treasure hunt to me, I love looking up the meaning of the word, verses, and experimenting with imagery that reflects the word. I realize this might not be for everyone but it has encouraged me immensely since I’ve started doing it. Over the years, I have narrowed what works for me in the journal and then am free expand into other creative pages as I have time and inspiration. The thing I like most about it is I do the journal and calendar on the next available page so there are no blank dates or pages staring at me, and no pressure. Including the Washi tape is a way to add design, color and pattern without having to draw.

      • Thank you for your eleborate answer ! It really is of much help, with this I sould be able to start a journal next year. I think it will be good to have one, to track back to certain things, for that is the only ‘problem’ with letters in that aspect – you send them away..

  6. Sister! This blog was absolutely fantastic! You just gave ME freedom to be okay where I am at in my creative journey, my goals, those unfinished projects that loom over me that actually can wait, and in due time will get accomplished. I want more time to devote to God in quiet moments I must carve out so I can hear Him.
    Thank you for sharing your life with all of us. I love you always and forever! Your Sis

  7. I did keep an annual journal for several years. I enjoyed it, miss it, and refer back to dates in them frequently. I just haven’t done it for a couple years and don’t know why. Maybe this year. Yours is a real inspiration to get going! We also had a year full of doctors, hospitals, and deep worries about health and will be glad that 2017 is coming to an end. So happy to hear that you are filled with ‘new beginnings’ also and have a loving family around to keep that feeling going.

    • Oh Mary, when you comment I often feel we have a lot in common. Thank you for writing. Having a journal for the year has been my most consistent place for processing through life, exploring ideas and keeping track of the important things that go on during the year. Like you it helps to look back on the dates on the calendar pages and I’ve referred to my previous journals for ideas often. If you find yourself thinking about having a journal for 2018, I would encourage you to do it. It has helped me to have a word of the year to start with. May you be blessed with new creative vision and your family be blessed with health and hope the rest of 2017 and 2018! Love, Valerie

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