What to do When Your Circumstances aren’t Perfect

This week on The Whole House Podcast I spoke of what do when your circumstances aren’t perfect. Obviously, we have imperfect circumstances right now due to COVID 19 and all economic, physical, emotional, and other side effects. Let’s face it, life is imperfect and it was before all of this happened.

This is a great pivotal point for all of us, we can pivot towards the Lord and wait expectantly for Him to show up or we can shut down, let fear win out, and seek only our personal comfort. I know. There are days I want to hunker down with a book and coffee and just tune out the world. That’s okay for a short while, but God is asking us to trust Him. We need to trust Him to be our strength when we are exhausted with carrying the weight (and the wait) of the world on our shoulders. If you are a creative with a burden bearing personality, you know what I’m talking about. We feel as if we are carrying the burdens of our family, friends, and sometimes the whole world. It’s just to heavy. We can’t expect ourselves to carry the circumstances. We can expect God. Just EXPECT Him.

On the podcast I break down Isaiah 30: 18:

And therefore the Lord [earnestly] waits [expecting, looking, and longing] to be gracious to you; and therefore He lifts Himself up, that He may have mercy on you and show loving-kindness to you. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed (happy, fortunate, to be envied) are all those who [earnestly] wait for Him, who expect and look and long for Him [for His victory, His favor, His love, His peace, His joy, and His matchless, unbroken companionship.”

PERSONAL PEACE AND COMFORT

Our society is big on personal peace. I’m not talking about not engaging in a war or conflict. Frances Schaeffer speaks of this concept in How Should We Then Live? It’s the ideology of peace and affluence for oneself. We live in an age when many of us have every earthly item we need to make us comfortable. We can hunker down with our Netflix, our Keurig, some chocolate, and all the toilet paper we have (if we were lucky enough to get any). All of our comforts give us a false sense of sufficiency. Of course, for many of us, the foundation of sufficiency is tottering like an old dead tree, ready to fall in the slightest gust of wind.

WHAT DO WE DO?

Our circumstances aren’t perfect. We don’t have complete control. How do we handle things when things feel out of control? The truth is much of our life isn’t in our control, to begin with. We practice a sort of pseudo control, making lists, planning our days, checking items off our list, and taking credit for it along the way. Some days that works just fine, but what about the days that we have no say. We don’t know how to move forward and we are stuck in survival mode.

I share many more tips on the podcast, you can listen below, but let me leave you with this – if you are a control freak (like me), there is something in your control – your expectations. When you expect God to intervene, to guide you, to comfort you, and you seek relationship instead of personal comfort, He promises to show up. Not only does He promise to show up, but He’s also been expecting, waiting, longing,  to be gracious to you. He wants to give you grace!

Create a Mind Map

This is the final installment in the month of journal series! If you have followed along, thank you! And YAY you.

Yesterday, we focused on putting together an article, beginning a novel, and starting a blog. We covered a lot of information! Just remember, these assignments are like little seeds, the ones you plant, cultivate, and work on the most will grow.

Mind Mapping

This last day may seem as if it should have been posted a few days ago. Shouldn’t we have a map first? Some people prefer to mind map before they choose a theme. I choose a theme first.

“A mind map is a tool for the brain that captures the thinking that goes on inside your head. Mind mapping helps you think, collect knowledge, remember and create ideas. Most likely it will make you a better thinker.” – simplemind.eu

Here’s a great article to get you started on the basics of mind mapping. Simplemind uses a birthday party example, all you need to do is tweak it to your theme. Have fun with it. Draw or write your theme in the middle of the page and then, if you are writing a novel, you can do characters, plot, subplot, plot twists, etc. If you are writing an article, your theme can be your topic such as “How to Keep Your House Organized in Three Easy Steps.” Use lines to list your steps, a personal story, a quote or two from other sources, and there you go. You’re ready to write!

While I was packing up my office closet, I found one of my old mind maps for the novel, Defining Home. I had actually gotten to the point of doing a mind map per chapter. Here are some random words from my mind map. 

Chapter 1 – Theme – New Beginnings

  • Adelina meets prospective parents
  • Inciting incident – newcomer – Cecylia
  • Daria – Acting strangely, new boyfriend, adoption failing
  • Sabilia – social worker
  • Adelina and Cecylia form some sort of bond.

You Will Not Use Everything on Your Board

Your mind map is a brainstorming session. You will not use everything! It’s okay. There is no grade on this project. This is to get your brain warmed up. If you are one of those people who think the book will write itself, or you have to be in the mood to write, or some voice will speak to you and tell you what to write, without any forethought or planning, good luck with that. Sure, there are rare occasions when someone just puts it all down on paper. I’ve never had one of those. Writing takes preplanning, perseverance, and proactivity.

If you (like me) are a perfectionist and don’t feel as if you can let an idea go, I hear you. Take a deep breath. Get some feedback from another writer, not just a random person on social media. I changed names, habits, outcomes, and even decided not to let someone die in a book because my revision team advised me against it. They were right, that character was actually needed in the sequel! 

I’ve thrown a lot of random information at you today, so I’m going to leave you with a few simple instructions and some resource suggestions. First, get a white board or poster board out and try a mind map. Follow the instructions here. 

Second, if you want to pursue some more writing, here are a few resource suggestions!

Speed Writing For NonFiction Writers by Ryan Healy

Also, if you are serious about a writing career, and you want to be an indie writer (self-publish), Joanna Penn is your go-to person. I linked her website yesterday. Gone are the days of self-publishing when you print to order and have a garage full of books that you sell only to your aunt, uncle, and grandma. Indie writers can make a living from their writing (as well or better than) traditional published writers. Are you a doubter? I was. Then I found Joanna Penn, bought her books, listened to her podcasts, read and reread her articles and changed my mindset! Check out her website for more info!

Journaling a Book or a Story

The same guidelines for planning out an article apply to a nonfiction book. Like I said the other day, my book 25 Days of Thriving Through Christmas started with my own need, and then grew into a series of articles, and then into a book. If you want to write a nonfiction book, it’s a great idea to think of it as a process instead of something you can do in a day, a week, or even a year. The same applies to  novels. 

Get some education and encouragement

Obviously, these last two days of a month of journaling is only to get you started on your journey. If you plan to continue, let this be your springboard, not your landing. There are plenty of podcasts, articles, freebies, just waiting for you on the internet. Just a warning. Don’t get so caught up in learning everything that you never start. You have to start somewhere.

Several years ago, after teaching a novel writing curriculum to my son, my desire to write one was rekindled. As I watched the videos with him, did the assignments, and read the textbook, I had all sorts of ideas. I started by writing them down. I wove those together with places I had been (Poland), the orphanage my kids had lived in, a cause close to my heart -ending human trafficking. As my son did his work, I copied worksheets for myself and did the work alongside him. The point is – it’s okay to use resources and frameworks to get you started. I see so many people who want to write a book start it forty million times and never finish, not because they aren’t disciplined, but because they need help organizing. It’s okay to need help.

And the moral of the story is…

The phrase “the moral of the story” is one I used often when homeschooling my kiddos. It’s another way of saying, “What’s the theme of this book/story?” You must have a theme. Don’t believe people who say that some books have no moral or underlying message. Every book has a theme. It’s important to know your theme before you write. Here are some themes:

  • Encouraging women
  • Advocating for or against something such as human rights
  • Instructional – such as writing self-help or a how to
  • Overcoming – how the main character (or you) overcame difficulty
  • The reluctant hero – A novel or nonfiction about a hero 

This is a short list. You can find more including the common ones – man against man, man against nature, man against God, etc. with a simple google.

Your assignment today? Write a theme you would like to pursue. Go through your journal for some clues as to what you would like to pursue. Also, if you are serious about writing, check out some of the resources below.

Expect Opposition

One last warning. It’s pretty much a given. You make a pot of coffee, sit down on your couch or in your office with your laptop and your phone rings, your computer won’t start, the children need you or fill in the blank. Expect opposition and don’t give up. Opposition is not a sign that you shouldn’t write. It may be just the opposite. When I finally decided to write my first novel, after combatting some things were said to me about my writing ability, I sat down to work. And guess what? My computer died. Like deader than Marley in A Christmas Carol.  I didn’t have the funds to buy a new computer so I pulled out a typewriter. I typed my whole first novel on it, plunking away every evening after I cleaned up from dinner. Take a minute right now and brainstorm some ways you can handle opposition. I don’t know what sorts of interruptions and opposition you face, you do. Think to yourself, if this happens, I will do this. Make a plan to run into roadblocks and then plan how to get around them! You can do this!

Some Resources

You are a Writer (so START acting like one) by Jeff Goins

Write His Answer by Marlene Bagnull

Thecreativepenn.com

Joanna Penn has a podcast, freebies, including an author blueprint!

Journaling an Article – Write Out Your Main Points

What main points?

If you are one of those people who didn’t like outlining in college or high school, you may have slept through this section. Maybe you just never saw the need to put down main points because you already know what you want to say. I get that. You may be one of those people who needs to do this assignment backwards. Write out your whole article and then go back and pick out your main points. It may be that you HAVE main points, you just don’t know what they are until you get it down on paper. I struggle with this some times. I know what I want to say. I just don’t know my what my headlines are. Kristin often helps me with this through a discussion or actually editing my articles. Find someone to help you if you need it! Don’t let this step deter you from writing! If you don’t know what your main points are, write your article anyway!

Dig through your journal

The best articles are from a need you had or something you had to overcome. If you have something in mind, then dig through your journal and find some scriptures, prayers, or practical things you have overcome. For example, I knew I needed to give up sugar for a month and let my gut get back in order. The articles/teachings/podcasts that helped me the most were the ones with scripture and practical tips. Isabel Price suggested to replacing the desire to eat sugary treats with a walk. That was practical. I could walk up and down the stairs a few times.

Think of the articles that have helped you the most. Emulate their formula. There’s a reason the article helped you. It met a need. Maybe it gave practical suggestions and encouragement. If you are serious about writing articles and hosting a blog, print off a few of your favorite articles and dissect them. Hi-light them. Maybe actually cut them up (I have). Find the formula that you are drawn to and use it as your framework.

Once you have Your Main Points

Once you have your main points, think of a personal example, maybe a story from your own life. People are more likely to connect and retain your info if you first connect with them on an emotional level. You could use teeny assignments within your article to get them connected. Here’s an example from one of my articles (which became part of a book, How to Have Peace When Your Kids are in Chaos):

We must make sense of our past to be fully present for our kids. 

We parents often believe that our past — that is, the way we were raised — is just a book on a shelf of memories. It’s not. Triggers are where the past and present intersect. We can’t assume our past is not affecting our present parenting.

Take a minute right now and think about the last chaotic interaction with your child. Did you see your child as rebellious, contentious, and constantly pushing your buttons on purpose? Are you looking through the lens of your past? Does each interaction take you back to your childhood and the way Mom or Dad responded to you, or are you looking through the lens of the child’s past? Are you seeing how their former caregivers/bio parents responded to them (not to judge them or their past, but to better understand them). 

Often our daily tussles are not about our kids at all — they are about us. That’s not to say that our kids from hard places don’t have a past. It just means our past is running interference on the play.

See the question? That question is intended to help the reader connect with the information on a personal level. When you a read series of questions, does it make you immediately answer them in your mind. Good. That’s what they are for.

When your reader has a personal connection, now is the time to offer some encouragement and practical suggestions. You can pepper them throughout your article or make a list and talk about each suggestion. Just remember, people will spend an average of 37 seconds reading an article. Some people just skim, so use headlines to help them decide what is important!

Want to start a blog?

I don’t claim to be an expert in this field. AT ALL. I’m just one of the 6.7 million people who still post on a blog regularly. Another 12 million do the same via social media (if you want to write shorter posts and don’t care if your content disappears in the feed, this is an option). Read more statistics about blogging here. Here’s the thing. If you want to start a blog and write articles on a regular basis, there are experts out there who can help you. I used to belong to a blogging group that met in person. I’m not sure if anyone does that anymore. A great place to start is with Ruth Soukup’s freebies! Start with “How to Start a Blog.” Then don’t forget to download her freebie – “Blog Structure Blueprint.” It’s in the article linked.

Coming up with an Idea

LIke I said yesterday -I’m super excited about this week! If you did all three weeks of assignments, YAY YOU!

I’m proud of you for priming the pump yesterday. Did you get all sorts of things on paper? Are you ready to come up with an idea for an article?

How do you come up with an idea for an article? 

The best way to come up with an idea for an article is to find something you struggle with yourself. Your topic can be something you have overcome (even if you have setbacks) or something you want to overcome publicly, such as a health challenge. If you think all the people who write about time management never struggled with it themselves, you’re wrong. Most people write, teach, or speak about struggles they have overcome, not practices they have always been perfectly performing. So, if you are thinking, I can’t write about anything because I have too many problems. Problems are the inception of overcoming. If you have nothing to overcome, you can’t be an overcomer. 

Here’s one way to find a topic:

Look through your journal. Find something you have written about a lot. One reoccurring theme in my journal when I had seven kiddos at home was my rising early for morning prayer time. I wrote about it a lot. I prayed about it a lot. I wrote down scriptures. It became a huge “overcoming” project. 

Do I get up early now? Yes, I usually get up at 5 am to pray, study the Bible and then write. Do I do it perfectly well every day? Nope. Do I do it well most of the time? Yep. Was it a struggle for me. Totally. I cried big hot tears on the days I missed my Bible and prayer time. It was a need for me that I had the power to meet and didn’t many times. Would I consider myself an overcomer in this area? Yes! Did I do it myself? No, way. I am only able to do what I do because I am self-sufficient in Christ’s sufficiency.

What’s one thing you have struggled with?

Find something in your journal or think about something you have talked about to your friends a lot. It doesn’t have to be theologically deep. Maybe it’s like (one of my examples) making breakfast, or giving up drinking soda, or doing something fun with your family once a week. Ruth Soukup calls this your “felt need.” Guess what, if you feel it, then someone else out there does too!

Once you narrow down what felt need you’re going to explore in your blog post, then it’s time to give practical, and easy to follow, advice addressing and hopefully solving that need. If your post gets them closer to their desired result, then they will remember you forever as an expert of the topic at hand. The thing is, learning something is what drives people to read blog posts in the first place, so why not entertain but also educate your readers at the same time. Doling out easy-to-follow, practical advice, that addresses your readers felt need is just one element each post needs to incorporate.

Ruth Soukup

Is your brain working now? Has an idea popped into your head?  Once you have something in your head, write it down. Write down all the thoughts you have about it whether it flows or makes sense or not. Do a complete brain dump!