journaling the Spirit’s stirring

A couple summers ago, a peek into the journals of Artist Paul Soupiset rocked my world. It happened during a Disciple Project field trip to his studio in San Antonio. During his talk, Paul placed his journals on the table and graciously invited us to look inside.

As I flipped through the images, a conversation was going on inside my head, “You should do this.” Page after page inspired me, “I could do this. Well, not his this, but I could do my own this.” Journal after journal convinced me to declare with my heart, soul, mind and strength, “Okay, I’m going to do this.”

I wasn’t being a very good listener and don’t remember much of what Paul said. For me what mattered was that his journals showed us his practice, the discipline in which he engaged. I could see it… art was simply something he did daily. And I vowed that my first step would be taking a stab at illustrated sermon notes the next Sunday.

On taking sermon notes

It took me four Sundays of “pump faking,” taking my journal and markers, but being too chicken to take them out of my purse. I cannot tell you the increasing disappointment I felt after every Sunday’s failure. So much so, that on the fifth Sunday, I told myself to forget it and I left the supplies at home.

And then it happened. I could not not do it. With the back of a to-do list and a ball point pen, I scribbled out my first page of sermon notes. As I left church that day, I showed the page to my pastor, telling him that I would be sending him these notes every week, but he didn’t have to do anything. No comments or responses were necessary. I just needed some accountability.

That’s how it started… sort of. I can look back and see other pieces, practices and especially people in my life who have also been part of this journey. But really, just like Frosty with that old silk hat, when the artist tools were placed in my hands, I began to “dance around.” 

The process

People sometimes ask about the process of my journaling. Do the words or colors come first? Do  I produce the notes real-time or afterwards? My answer is most assuredly “yes.” There are times I start with a blank slate; there are times when the creative conversation has already begun on the page. How? Sometimes ink bleeds through; sometimes refilling markers creates drops and spills. However it happens, that starter ink guides what’s going to happen next. And as far as timing goes, every so often, notes are in their ready-to-be-shared state right away. Most times, though, further reflection helps me process what I heard.

Reflection is one of the profound gifts that journaling offers me. Perhaps you may have this experience, too? Listening with just my ears often is not enough for me to understand. When I engage in journaling while I’m listening, I get to express not only how I’m hearing the words, but also what the message is stirring in me. Maybe there’s a metaphor, song lyrics, a Bible verse, a question that the Spirit is prompting. I try to notice that stuff.



Reflection is an interesting word. I’ve done it inwardly most of my life… from my childhood days of pondering the treasures of pine cones deep in the woods to my current wandering while at our cabin in the Lost Pines. Yesterday it dawned on me as I was admiring the reflection on a lake that journaling gives me the opportunity to share outwardly so others may get glimpses of what I’m experiencing inwardly. It stirs my soul even more to consider that my journaling is a gift of myself poured out for the world.


And there you go

Recently I met San Antonio Artist Enedina Casarez Vasquez of Ene Art and was enchanted by a journal she created during seminary. She showed me the page that marked a transformation in her creativity. It fascinated me that the language she used and the stories she shared felt so much like home to me. She says that creating is like breathing for her. I get that.

Enedina took a look at my journals, too. She talked about flow and color, moving her hands as she was describing what happened in her while looking at my images. Much to my delight, she made a final hand-sweeping motion and announced, “And there you go.”

“And there you go” is pretty much what I say every time I release an image. In the world of social media, I don’t know who is going to see it. Plus, there are different kinds of seeing, which is even more mysterious to me.


Discipline and Dessert

I am so very grateful for the discipline of spiritual journaling. I was part of an online group that journaled for 28 weeks together through Pastor Rich Nelson’s Following the Way study. What a gift it was to listen in community to what others notice and to see transformation through our creativity. In the fall, I facilitated an online group journaling experience through Richard Rohr’s Immortal Diamond. Oh, words cannot express how excited I am for that fall course.

Let me back up a bit. Did I say ‘discipline?’ It really doesn’t feel at all like a discipline.  It is definitely the dessert in my day.

About Vonda

Vonda Drees uses her artistic gifts and passion for art journaling to create images and stories that she freely shares with others through her blog and through LEAD resources that support faith practices for individuals and congregations. Vonda is a connector between leaders across the world using collaborative art projects to teach and inspire. Vonda is also a popular retreat leader, walking beside participants as they embark on their own journaling journeys. In Vonda’s own words:

Art journaling is a way for me to process the Spirit’s stirring via scripture, reflections, poetry, and music. If it catches my attention, I do my best to listen and respond.

To see more of Vonda’s work, visit:

Vonda’s work is also featured throughout the LEAD website and in the following:

The Sacred Valley by Peggy Hahn

Seasonal resources including Following the StarAdvent Prayer, and Lenten Resources