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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.
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!
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!
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.
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!
Joanna Penn has a podcast, freebies, including an author blueprint!
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.
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!
I’m super excited about this week! If you did all three weeks of assignments, YAY YOU!
I’m proud of you! Last week was pretty brutal, especially if you have never faced your past before. This week is more fun. In fact, this week can be about using your past to help others (if you are ready to).
Journaling is a gateway to writing articles and books.
When I was struggling with my kids melting down during the Advent season, my struggles converted to journal writing, then a series on our website, and finally, an Advent book – 25 Days of Thriving Through Christmas. Did it happen overnight? Nope. Did I have it accomplished in a day? Nope.
Stop right here and capture your thought. Are you thinking I could never do that! Or I don’t have anything to say! Or that’s just too much work and I don’t have time. Imagine those thoughts are locked in a room. You don’t have to listen to them. You can replace them. They are not your friends. They are your enemies. They come from fear and God hasn’t given you a spirit of fear. He has given you a disciplined mind. Say that right now – I have a disciplined mind. I am self-sufficient in Christ’s sufficiency. I can do what He has called me to do.
What do Thoughts Have to Do with It?
Wait. Why are we talking about thoughts? I thought this was about writing an article or a book. It is. Guess what. Every idea starts in your mind. Then what happens is the cares of this world, negative self-talk, or fear takes over (and we let it, raising my hand here). In order to write, we have to overcome in our mind first, we have to tear down strongholds. We have to hold one another accountable. That’s why I’m writing this! We need each other.
If I can do it, so can you. That’s not, “I did it na, na, na (sticks out tongue).” That’s if God can help me write, He will help you too. I’ve had so many people tell me they want to write a book, start a blog, host a group on social media to encourage others then the reasons, the excuses they can’t do it.
Right now, take those thoughts and kick them out. If you have ever wanted to do any of the above, then this week is for you. It’s only a short snippet of what you need to know, but it’s a beginning and every good story needs a beginning. Consider this week your inciting incident.
The inciting incident is an episode, plot point or event that hooks the reader into the story. This particular moment is when an event thrusts the protagonist into the main action of the story. Screenwriting guru Syd Field describes it as ‘setting the story in motion’.– Nownovel.com
Be the hero of your own story!!
Have you had a book or article idea brewing in your mind? Maybe you have characters swimming around in your head that you would like to become a book. Maybe you have a passion for a topic and you want to educate, encourage, and equip others. Today, do some free writing. Write down what you want to write about it. Don’t hold back. It’s not going to be graded or edited. This is just priming the pump writing. Once you do this exercise, you’ll be in a better place to put together an article, story, or start plotting a book! Go YOU!
Love is Enough
“Love is enough” is a common misconception among parents in general, but even more so with kids who have experienced trauma. Kids who have had trauma seem to have a built-in button-locating radar. They find our buttons and push them over and over. It’s natural that we parents may think they are pushing our buttons or misbehaving to make us mad.
In reality, their behavior stems from early trauma and its effect on them. Most children that come into foster care, orphanages, or other institutions are disorganized in their attachment and stuck in dis-integration. The people who were supposed to care for them hurt them. This sets off a constant warning bell in the brains of these children. We call the result a stress-shaped brain.
Early Life Experience
Early life experience has shaped their brains to expect the worst and be on high alert all the time. This response is known as hypervigilance. The hypervigilant child jerks at every sound. They don’t recognize their body’s own signals of hunger, thirst, and rest.
Normally, parents seamlessly teach regulation. When the child is hungry, the mother feeds him. If he is cold, she wraps him in a blanket. If he is tired, she rocks him to sleep. This pattern continues, with the mother regulating for the child until he begins to regulate for himself. He asks for a drink when he is thirsty. He puts on his sweater when he is cold, or grabs his blankie when he’s ready for bed.
Kids who haven’t had this early regulation don’t know how to regulate. This doesn’t just apply to hunger and thirst, though those are the biggies. It also applies to behavior. Behavior is what we see externally, but it’s not the whole picture. We need to learn to watch the external behaviors as a clue to whether the child can regulate internally or not.
“Tantrums, meltdowns, aggression, and most other challenging experiences of parenting – and life- are a result of a loss of integration, also known as dis-integration.”– The Whole-Brain Child
Neurons that fire together wire together. In plain English, the more a behavior is acted out or a trigger is acted upon, the more it becomes a pattern in the brain. It is as if the road is dug out, graveled, and paved by repeated experiences. The paved road then becomes the primary travel route.
Adoption is messy. Children who are adopted from hard places have trouble verbalizing their feelings. They struggle with self-regulation and want to control everything and everyone around them. Trouble is, if we parents aren’t careful, we end up focusing on the behavior instead of digging deeper into the root of the problem. It’s quick and easy to think the child is misbehaving to get on our last nerve. We tend to think the child wants to make us angry.
The poor choices in behavior speak what the child is unable to state verbally.
Put Yourself in Your Child’s Shoes
Have you ever been in a situation when you felt anxious or afraid for no apparent or logical reason? Instead of considering a situation your child was in, think of a situation that you have been in. Think of a time when you should have felt safe but instead you felt anxious. Go back to that feeling for a minute, and as terrible as it is, let it wash over you. Imagine feeling like that all the time. That may be how your child is feeling.
Five Bs Affected by Trauma
Science says there are five Bs affected by trauma, and we cannot overlook them. In kids from hard places, behavioral disorders are a symptom of the effect trauma has had on their development.
Negative behaviors will be taken care of once a child is securely attached. To achieve that, we must start with the five Bs and work our way out from there. Take a few minutes and read about the Five Bs – start here. Listen to the podcast series on each B. There is a lot of information to read/listen to. Take your time. It will still be available long after this series is over. Maybe start with one B. Armed with this information, write down some of your child’s triggers with this information as your foundation.
*This is an excerpt from the course How to Have Peace When Your Kids are in Chaos.
Interested in the course? Read more about it and try a free module!
Journaling Your Child’s Triggers Part 1
Children who have been traumatized in infancy and early childhood cannot be expected to behave or respond to stimuli in the same way as children who have not.
Key to remember– As Dr. Purvis reminds us, our children were harmed in and through relationships, and they will find healing in and through nurturing relationships.
Trauma is much more far-reaching than we assumed in the past. We have always been told that children are resilient and they are, but there are effects that trauma leaves behind. It affects every area of life for a child.
Trauma harms the brain. Its footprint can be seen in these areas: Social, learning, behavior problems (regulation), physical development
Dr. Purvis calls children who have had trauma in their lives “children from hard places.”
“The passage of time for these little ones does not in itself reduce trauma’s impact to a bearable level. The trauma contaminates the meaning of life and is part of early personality formation. Neurobiologically, trauma shapes the developing brain.”-Deborah Gray, Nurturing Adoptions
Today, take some time to think about your child’s history. This will help you begin to recognize the triggers. Write down the risk factors she encountered before coming home to you. Take some time to pray and process how these things can be affecting her behavior.
We’ll cover more on this topic tomorrow. Feel free to comment, share, or ask a question!
*This is an excerpt from the course How to Have Peace When Your Kids are in Chaos.
Interested in the course? Read more about it and try a free module!
Change Begins With Us
The change we desire for our children must begin with us.
“If we’re willing to piece together our stories and see the relationship between what happened then and what’s happening now, we get to make choices about what happens next.”– Tell Me a Story
It’s difficult to make choices in the heat of the moment. This is why it is important to take some time and revisit our past, make sense of it, and begin healing.
While we are healing, we can put some proactive responses into place. In other words, you can decide how you are going to respond ahead of time. If you know that when your child steals candy out of the secret stash, it triggers a memory in you of your Aunt Verna whipping you with a switch until your behind was raw, develop a pre-planned, go-to response.
Separate yourself from the situation. Avoid saying things like, “If I had done that, my mother would have…” Instead, tend to the situation at hand logically. The child took the candy; therefore, he can’t have any after dinner — or whatever you decide is a natural consequence.
As Andy Stanley writes in Deep & Wide, “the past is only the past for a time. It has a way of clawing its way into our future. And if you don’t recognize it for what it is, the results can be devastating.” If we don’t recognize our past and its overwhelming power to invade our “now,” we will remain stuck. If we come to terms with our past and work through it, we can gain a new outlook on it.
Your Past Can Be a Gift
I honestly never thought I would view the trauma in my past as a gift. I had years of anger, bitterness, and a reoccuring theme of “Why me?”
I don’t feel that way anymore. I realized a long time ago that empathy is a superpower that is only earned by going through trauma. Sympathy can only reaches the boundaries of understanding someone else’s pain. Empathy feels that pain.
I’m not saying you should be grateful that someone molested you or did horrible things to you. But you can be grateful for the gift of empathy.
“We are assured and know that [God being a partner in their labor] all things work together and are [fitting into a plan] for good to and for those who love God and are called according to [His] design and purpose.”(Romans 8:28)
God takes our pain, our past, and our experiences and fits them into a plan to help others. I’ve spoken with a multitude of adoptive/foster parents over the years. They all seem to have a common denominator: at least one half of the couple experienced early trauma.
I’ve talked to foster parents who spent years in and out of group homes, were raised in a foster home, were raised by alcoholics or drug addicts, or had moms who worked as prostitutes. I’m not mentioning these things to shame their past or their parents, but to let you know that if you experienced early trauma, you are not alone.
Maybe you identify. Maybe you didn’t have the greatest childhood. Maybe this whole module has been excruciatingly painful for you. I get it. So let’s not end on the trauma — let’s end on the gift it has given to you.
Here’s something you can do right now: Take a deep breath and go do something fun with your kid. While you are having fun, respond to them the way you wish someone had responded to you at that age. Smile. Laugh. Praise them. Don’t make it complicated. Find joy in the small things.
Journal Your triggers
Today, take a little time and journal one of your triggers. One of mine is riding in the back of a car. It’s linked to times my father came to pick us kiddos up for a visit (after my parent’s divorce). He lived in a different state every year.We often drove for days without anyone telling me where we were going. As soon as we got in the car, my anxiety took over. Today, as you write up a trigger, also write a new predetermined response. Mine is – God is with me wherever I go, He will never leave me no forsake me. It’s my go-to when traveling. Also, as much as possible, I find the route to where I am going. What can you do to conquer your trigger?
*This is an excerpt from the course How to Have Peace When Your Kids are in Chaos.