When life is so relentlessly fast-paced and future-facing, it’s all too easy to feel overwhelmed; it can be difficult to carve out time to rest, reflect and refocus.

So I was absolutely delighted to accept an invitation to speak, just recently, at a writers’ retreat in north Wales – with a wonderful group of aspiring and established authors.

Collectively called ‘Kingdom Story Writers’, we came together to encourage each other, learn from each other, and cheer each other on. All of us believe that we’ve been given the gift of being able to write stories, some fictional, others real life, which are inspired by the Holy Spirit, raise faith, honour God and point people to Jesus.

Put simply, our books are ones that help to grow God’s Kingdom.

As so often happens at this sort of event, my time was not my own, and I found myself pouring out into others. While this was a genuine privilege, and I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way, it severely depleted my inner reserves and I came away feeling utterly spent.

So I decided to stay on in north Wales to rest, recover and recalibrate – and it was during this time, while walking part of the Welsh coastal path, that something caught my eye, got me thinking and inspired this ‘thought for the month’ for June …



It was as I came around a beautiful headland, looking out across a vast expanse of sand towards the sea, I found myself heading down into a pretty little village encircling a harbour.

The tide was out and a handful of boats were adrift amidst the mud. But I found a bench to sit on, soaked in the view and started looking around me.

And there, just behind me, in the midst of the higgledy-piggledy row of houses, sat an old Welsh chapel. Drab, grey and modestly built, it wasn’t a particularly impressive building. But then I noticed an insignia, high in its façade, inscribed with the words: ‘Ebenezer, AD 1880‘.

1880 was mid-way between two great Welsh revivals. The first had occurred 21 years earlier, in 1859; the second would follow, 24 years later, in 1904.

But at this particular point in time, the people of this village would only have known the past; they could not have foreseen the future.

So there, on their little Welsh chapel, they simply wrote: ‘Ebenezer‘.



In Hebrew, “Ebenezer” means “stone of help”. (It comes from two words: eben meaning stone, and ezer meaning help.)

In the Bible, we first read about an Ebenezer stone in 1 Samuel 7:12, which says: Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer saying, “Thus far the Lord has helped us.”

In the lead up to this verse, the people of God have been unfaithful. Their enemies are approaching and they do not deserve God’s deliverance, but Samuel urges them to humble themselves before the Lord, they obey, and God intervenes to help rescue them.

Samuel, like all of us, didn’t know what the future might hold for the people. All he knew was God’s faithfulness up to that particular moment in time, and so he declared: “Thus far the Lord has helped us.

Samuel set up the Ebenezer stone because he wanted the people to remember how God had come to their rescue. He wanted them to have a visual reminder, prompting them to recall God’s goodness. He wanted them to recall God’s faithfulness, not just for a few weeks, months, years, or even decades – but for generations to come.



We need a modern-day equivalent of the Ebenezer stone. We need a visual reminder, prompting us to recall God’s goodness. We need a way to remember God’s goodness, to recall his faithfulness – and to recalibrate our focus back onto the one who rescues and delivers us, over and over again.

For me, I do this through journaling. It’s a spiritual practice that I’ve practised for decades.

As I scribble my words onto the paper, I find clarity comes to my jumbled thoughts and feelings. I find release from the worries I’m wrestling with, the concerns I’m carrying, the dreams I’m struggling to articulate. I find myself praying ‘out loud’, as I record the things God has been revealing to me and the lessons I’ve been learning.

I also hear his voice through my pen.

But what I most appreciate about journaling is re-reading what I wrote months or even years ago. It’s only when I look back, from the perspective of today, that I can see how much progress I’ve made. It’s only with the benefit of hindsight that I’m reminded afresh of God’s goodness and faithfulness.

Remembering is a spiritual practice that opens our hearts to gratitude. It asks us to pause and recall what God has done for us. It invites us to be intentional in appreciating and thanking him.  

It reminds us, like the congregation of that little Welsh chapel in 1880, to simply say: “Thus far the Lord has helped us.


As you reflect on this with me, I’ve got two lines of thought for you:

Firstly: How do you intentionally recall and remember God’s goodness and faithfulness? It might be through journaling, or it might be in some other way, but how could you create a modern-day equivalent of an Ebenezer stone?  

Secondly: In what ways can you say, “Thus far the Lord has helped us”? Maybe it was something he did for you months or even years ago, or maybe it was something much more recent. Whenever it happened, why don’t you take time today to thank him for how far he has brought you?

As ever, constructive comments are welcome below!

(Please note: This is my ‘thought for the month’ reflection for June. You can find all my ‘thought for the month’ reflections here.)

Photo from Sean Stratton via Unsplash



    • Joanna Watson Reply

      Thanks for sharing Joy! I always love hearing about those who share my love of journaling!

  1. Elizabeth Gyfford Reply

    I love the idea of giving yourself a way to remember. All too often we forget what God has done, almost as if Satan puts a curtain around the blessing to put it “out of sight, out of mind”. You’ve got me thinking now about my “Ebenezer” stones, where I placed them and what they remind me of …

    • Joanna Watson Reply

      Thank you Elizabeth. The image of the curtain is a powerful one. We just need to keep drawing it back, and looking to see what’s behind it!

  2. Esther Wintringham Reply

    I too have practised journaling for many years. I don’t write every day but certainly do when the Lord gives me something specific to write about. It is good to go back over the past and see how things He has told me have come to pass, sometimes very unexpectedly.

    • Joanna Watson Reply

      Thank you Esther! I’m so pleased to hear how journaling has helped you see how the things God has spoken to you have come to pass. That’s such a blessing!

  3. Sarah Joy Holden Reply

    Very powerful blog. In answer to your first question, it definitely has been journaling, which I was encouraged to do after my breakdown in 2016, which has helped me remember. There, God gave me the gift of writing poetry and, since the retreat in North Wales, I’ve dabbled in story writing. It is also about learning to be in the precious moments with God. For me, this comes in my passion for walking; at the retreat, God sat me down on the beach and I did nothing for two hours. I get bored very easily; I’m always doing, so this was a real breakthrough. Your blog today has hugely encouraged me, at the end of an unexpected time off. God knew I needed it. You and the team at the retreat gave so much love and encouragement, thank you. I want to end by encouraging you in scripture. Philemon 1:1-7, Psalm 121, Numbers 6:24-26. God bless you in your ministry.

    • Joanna Watson Reply

      I’m so glad to hear how the retreat encouraged and blessed you, Sarah Joy. Thank you for coming, and for commenting here.

Write A Comment