When Jamie Harmon first sat down to write her children’s life stories, she had no intention of writing a book, let alone publishing one.
Jamie shares what inspired her to write My Divine Identity, “I didn’t set out to write a guided journal for girls. I started writing for my children. I wasn’t able to physically have children, and I wanted more than anything to be a mom. So my husband Jeff and I gathered our family together through adoption. We adopted four children, and they are truly miracles. The process of adoption is difficult, it’s a roller-coaster, but I know God’s hand led me to each one of them specifically; for me, it was not a random process.”
Children who are adopted often ask, ‘Why didn’t my birth parents want me?’ And, although it is hard to believe, sometimes they are asked that same question by others. “That question just kills me. I’ve sat with four birth moms, and some birth dads, in the hospital as they sob and hand me their child. These kids were wanted and loved, and this decision was such a wrestle with God to place these kids into a loving home with two parents.” It’s a struggle to keep her emotions at bay, but Jamie continues, “I’m sure there are a few cases out there where some birth parents have had a crazy life, and maybe they didn’t want them, but that has not been my experience — not at all — it’s been the opposite. In my experience, these birth parents are so courageous to make that decision, and I have nothing but respect for them. I started writing so that my kids would know just how much they were wanted and loved, not only by us — their parents, but also by God and their birth parents, grandparents, cousins, and friends.”
While writing for her children, Jamie had a sort of epiphany, “I wanted the writing to be good, so I went to a lot of writing conferences and took classes. During this process, I thought if I can strengthen my adopted kids’ identity, then I think I could help other girls and young women strengthen their identity, and that’s how the idea for the guided journal came about.” The idea to write for others would turn into much more and change Jamie and her family’s life. She explains, “I thought this is so great for our family and our children, and I wanted to do more. So I started writing personal experiences from my life, and I started noticing some themes of the things that I struggled with. Things like negative self-talk. For decades I had negative chatter in my brain, I was so harsh, and I would tear myself down.” Jamie chuckles as she recalls, “I was in my thirties when I started to recognize that I needed to change that about myself. And, my husband was the one who pointed it out.” Jamie tells the story of a particular night when their boys were still very young, and before they adopted their girls. The couple was getting ready to go out on a date. Jeff paid Jamie a compliment, and she responded with a negative comment. She recalls, “Jeff asked, ‘If we are finally able to adopt our daughters, do you want them to speak to themselves like that?’ I thought, of course I don’t. I didn’t want my sons to talk to themselves that way either.” Jamie thought about that question all evening and decided to make a change. “I want my children to understand that positive self-talk is so important, and that you need to treat yourself kindly, and be your own best friend.”
Maybe you’ve heard the phrase: Things are caught — not taught. Well, Jamie has worked hard through the years to make sure that her children caught her being kind to herself, and caught her speaking positively about herself — even if she didn’t always feel like it. Sure, she’d forget, and negative words would slip out (she is human after all), but she would quickly catch herself. While researching this principle for her book idea, Jamie decided to put what she was learning into practice. Jeff and Jamie had their children create posters that included positive and encouraging words for them to read out loud each day. Jamie wasn’t always a believer in words of affirmation, but then her daughter shared an experience with her. Jamie shares, “We adopted our youngest daughter from China. One day, when she was in the second grade, a boy was making fun of her eyes and the way she looked. My daughter told me, ‘Mom, he was being really mean, but you know what Mom? I know that you’ve been talking about this a lot, and about how we should be kind to ourselves. I had to go to the bathroom, and when I was washing my hands, I looked in the mirror and I said, I’m not going to believe him. I’m going to believe what my mom and dad say about me and what God thinks about me; that I’m beautiful.’ She was in second grade, and she got it — amazing right?! A negative comment like that can stick with you for life, but because we’d been saying, what my daughter called her words of truth, every night before they went to bed, well, they worked! I was like this is such an important skill to learn and teach.” And that was all the prodding Jamie needed. She was no longer going to just think about writing a book; she was going to write a book.
Jamie is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and has worked with young women ages 8-18. She says she felt inspired to write the journal for that age group. She shares, “I want girls to start learning these principles at a much younger age than I learned them. I want them to internalize them and understand them at a very young age. With social media, and all the comparison, and all the voices in the world, it’s very easy to get lost in the noise. They need a strong sense of self and who they are, now more than ever. One of my goals for this book is to empower girls to be strong, confident, and powerful, and to believe in themselves because the stakes are high these days. They have a lot going on.”
As she put pen to paper, she realized that writing to a targeted audience about very specific things was not going to be easy. But she was up to the task — until she slipped and allowed some old habits to worm their way in. She explains, “I did have a moment where I was like, ‘Who am I to write a book? Why am I doing this?’ I tossed my laptop to the side, and threw my books aside, and said, ‘I’m done. Who’s going to say, yes, we’d love to publish this?’ My good husband heard this and was concerned. He was going out of town the next day and offered to give me a blessing. In that blessing, he said that inspiration would flow, and that I’d be guided. After the blessing, I thought, well, that’s nice, but I think that I’m done. He left the next day, and I picked up my laptop and started writing, because initially, I was thinking of writing it like a memoir. And then, just all of a sudden, I had this thought. I could do a guided journal for girls; I wrote the seven principles down in an outline in probably five minutes. I feel like it was downloaded from heaven. So I have to give credit to God.” She chuckles as she continues, “Yet, at the same time, I had to work my butt off because you have to put in the work.”
The guided journal is divided into seven chapters, one for each principle. Each chapter also features a variety of activities, stories, and writing prompts. Although the journal does talk about the beliefs of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the principles taught are universal. Jamie explains, “The first chapter is about, Identity: Who Are You?; the second is, Choose Happy: Practice Gratitude; the third is Sunny Thoughts: Embracing Truths and Dismissing Lies, which is about managing your thoughts; principle four is, Be My Own Best Friend: Positive Self-Talk; five is, It Takes Time: Turn Trials into Triumphs; six is, Be Still: Calming the Soul, in this chapter, I do go into calming breathing exercises and strategies to help with anxiety, and when girls are smack in the middle of a trial and need a moment to calm down. Then the last principle is, Words of Truth: Affirmation.”
From start to finish, it took Jamie six years to see her efforts pay off. While still just a rough draft, she took her outline to Storymakers, a popular writing conference in Provo, Utah. While there, she had an opportunity to meet with an editor who gave her the extra bit of motivation she needed. Jamie says, “The editor told me, ‘I have a 13-year-old niece who needs this right now, you should write this.’” Jamie finished the book, and when she returned to Storymakers, for the third consecutive year, she met Samantha Millburn, managing editor at Covenant Communications, and 18 months later, My Divine Identity: A Guided Journal for Girls hit the bookshelves in stores across the country.
Since the journal was published in 2022, Jamie has wanted to connect with her audience in a more personal way. This summer, she decided to host a few mother and daughter workshops in Midway, Utah and one for girls 8-18 in Meridian, Idaho. She shares, “I wanted these girls, these women, to come and meet and talk and learn about the principles in the book.” Jamie also created crafts and activities for the workshops that coincide with each principle. For example, bracelets that help remind them of who they are, a My Words of Truth poster, and a BFF box, which was one of the more difficult, but rewarding, activities. The girls were given a box to decorate and then asked to write down ten things they like about themselves and one or two things they like about their bodies — now — not a future ideal body. Jamie says it was a very powerful experience.
As Jamie looks toward the future she shares, “I would love to grow the retreats — that would be amazing. I would love to write a non-denominational guided journal, and one for women. Actually, I’ve written one for women, but it needs some work.” When asked if she has considered writing one for boys, she replies, “I’ve had that question a lot. My husband and I have talked about writing one for boys as well. They need it. They need it just as much!” I believe we don’t talk about our boys and their self-esteem as much as we should, and Jamie agrees. But that will be another story for after she publishes that book too!
Until then, we can all benefit from performing a little self-care. We can start by: strengthening our identity; practicing gratitude; managing our thoughts; being our own best friend; turning trials into triumphs; being still, and finding our words of truth. Because the truth is, we are all wonderfully unique individuals with a divine identity.