When words are a hobby and a business. {Perspectives on Motherhood and Writing}

What started as a desire for encouragement and advice as I struggled to balance my passion for writing and my new normal as a mom became this Perspectives on Motherhood and Writing series I’ve so loved hosting on my blog. Twenty amazing women took time to fill this space with grace and the gift of their words. It’s been a privilege to learn from them.

I’m pretty sure this blog would not be up and running in its current state without Gretchen Louise, our last Motherhood and Writing guest. Her techno savvy and endless patience has kept me from throwing my computer out the window and giving up blogging altogether. She is an old soul when it comes to the blog world and a fount of knowledge!

If you’re new to the series, check out the archives for all 20 posts!

Perspectives GretchenWhy do you write/blog?

I can’t not write. I process everything through the written word. Maybe it was the influence of Anne Shirley and Laura Ingalls Wilder in my early years of voracious reading. Maybe it is the fact that I am a visual learner (with a good bit of kinesthetic) and must read and write anything I need to know and remember. But writing has been an intrinsic part of my personality for as long as I can remember.

When my husband and I were teenagers, he began writing me letters (the old-fashioned kind sent to my mailbox). Soon, I began to view my days through the lens of how I would describe the happenings to him in a letter. I looked at everything through the filter of the written word.

In my early days of motherhood, writing literally became my lifeline. It was how I processed everything. The schedule or lack thereof. The sleepless nights. The frustration of how little I really knew about this thing called being a mom. Sharing the funny stories about my day with my children helped me to realize all I had to be thankful for, even in my sleep-deprived state. Soon, that blank screen became symbolic of being still before the Lord, waiting for Him to speak to me. And He did. Whether it was in a Five-Minute Friday writing prompt that week or a simple childish illustration I began to share, He used what I typed to speak to me.

How long have you been blogging/writing?

I’ve been writing as long as I can remember—outrageous stories in my early grade school years, countless letters to my cousins and numerous pen pals, and a newsletter for a girls’ club I started when I was young. In my teens, that newsletter took a more serious and professional turn, becoming a magazine I edited and published. I think that’s when I knew writing wasn’t just about letters or school, but a lifelong love.

That magazine got a website in 1998 (the same year we got the internet), created on a free host by one of our readers. I fell in love with all things web as I took over that website and started creating my own. But it wasn’t until 2001 that I started blogging on what would become a shared Blogspot blog, an extension of what is now known as Kindred Grace. That was back before there were comments, before I understood RSS feeds or how people found new posts. Indeed, it was before anyone knew what the word “blog” meant. Little did I know how it would change my world.

In those days, I treated my blog like I now treat Facebook or Twitter: it was a quick way to share a brief link or thought without much effort. But as I read longer form posts and explored other forms of private blogging (anyone remember LiveJournal and Diary-X?), my posts gradually moved from informal personal updates to essays shared with friends. The world of blogging was constantly changing, but I was thrilled to be along for the ride.

How has your current season of life impacted your writing/blogging?

When I was a teenager, I thought I had life pretty well figured out. And I wrote about it. Whether it was my firmly held beliefs about the way relationships should happen or my political stance that year, it found its way onto my blog. I shudder now to re-read some of those old posts. I’ve long since made them private so only I can see them, but I keep them as a reminder for myself. It gets lonely up there on a soapbox, and not even the choir really wants to hear a sermon from one of its own members. While there is always a time and place on the internet and in life for firmly held convictions, I learned the hard way that controversy divides and pride polarizes.

All I ever wanted to be was a wife and a mom. And being 12 years old when my younger siblings started coming along, I felt like I knew how to raise children. But no amount of babysitting or changing diapers for my siblings prepared me for the actual role and responsibility of motherhood. Coming to the end of myself and having nothing to hold onto except for my Savior brought me to a point of a lot more honesty and humility in my writing. It’s still not easy to admit I don’t have it all together, but being real has brought me a lot more true fellowship than having noisy opinions ever did.

Gretchen LouiseHow has this season of life changed your writing habits?

I miss naptime. I think with fondness of those long stretches of quiet in both the morning and the afternoon. I remember when I wrote most of my posts while juggling a nursing baby. Those days are long gone. My children are 7, 5, and 3, with another little one kicking in my belly as I type this. Sleeping in isn’t something that happens in our house. Quiet is not a word that defines our home except for some of the hours between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m.

I made a commitment when I was still single that I would always go to bed at the same time as my husband each night. And with a few exceptions of sickness or special projects, I’ve kept that resolution. But that means I don’t write late into the night. Nor is it the season of my life when I can get up any earlier. Each time I try it, I’m exhausted by the end of the day. And no early-morning writing accomplishment is worth being tired and grumpy the rest of the day. So I write through the noise, in the in between hours—not always perfectly, not always patiently, but He meets me there.

I’ve also spent the last four years building up a business of coding WordPress websites for other bloggers and authors. That’s provided a unique challenge as I learn the balancing act of assisting others while not neglecting my own writing. It would be easy to permanently push my own projects aside in lieu of those with instant payment. And often, there are weeks or even months where client projects do become my priority.

But I don’t want to forget my own passion while helping others. So I’m learning to manage my energy and write while I’m fresh. Sometimes that means not checking email until I’ve sat down to write. Others that means putting off a simple coding job for the afternoon so I can get my words organized while I’m a bit more rested.

Because those long hours of peace and quiet are gone, I’ve learned to multi-task. I brainstorm post ideas while I’m in the shower. I compose my opening paragraph while I do dishes. I mentally edit and rearrange the words until they are just right in my head. Then, whenever I do get a chance to sit down at the computer, the words are there, on the tip of my tongue, ready to fly out of my fingers onto the keyboard. Except for the times they are not. And then I assume that God had something different for me to say than what I had so carefully composed. So I sit in front of that blank screen and listen again for Him.

What is your blogging/writing battle cry?

My tagline is “connoisseur of words and code”, encompassing the two sections of my blog. One is my personal blog where I share the life lessons I’m learning about faith and trust, motherhood and marriage. This is where I share the things my children show me, the trust that farming teaches us. And being the bibliophile I am, my blog never goes long without a book review or two.

I write to the other moms like me who are in the midst of the up-all-night with crying babies and sick toddlers. I want us to remember to laugh at the crazy antics and funny sayings of our children. I want us to take time to write those letters to our children, to capture those moments that are so quickly forgotten. My prayer is that I’m reminding other moms (even as I remind myself!) to slow down, to cherish the moment. Because truly, the days are long, but the years are short.

The other area of my blog is composed of tips for authors and bloggers. I write about everything from managing your email inbox to blogging in community through mastermind groups. In my work with writers, I realize how often we feel alone with our words on this side of the computer screen. It’s easy to get discouraged. To get overwhelmed with all the technical details. To feel like no one is reading the words we write.

I want to encourage the weary, lonely blogger. Even if we can’t have a cup of coffee together at the local coffee shop (while I tweak some settings on her blog and give her a few pointers on her newsletter), I want to give her the next best thing. I want to provide the education to understand how her blog functions, the courage to put her words out there, the power that comes with developing her own community.

I want to encourage others. Over and over again. As long as it is called “today”. (Hebrews 3:13)

I want to become a connoisseur of life giving glory to the Creator of life. To take time to taste and see that the Lord is good. (Psalm 34:8)

How does faith, writing, and motherhood intersect in your daily life?

As a stay-at-home mom who works part-time from home, part-time in the family business, it’s a constant juggling act to balance my callings and my responsibilities. Words are the thread that link together all of my roles: the gift of writing is the skill I use in both work and homeschooling, the gift of creativity is one I draw on every day in my jobs and my homemaking. I know He made me for a purpose, and writing is an intrinsic part of that purpose. To borrow a phrase from Eric Liddell, when I write, I feel His pleasure.

gretchen louiseGretchen Louise is a farmer’s wife and mommy to three curly-haired children. When she’s not working in the family business, hanging out laundry, or washing dishes, she writes in CSS, HTML, PHP—and English. Gretchen loves to brainstorm about everything to do with websites and WordPress, and is passionate about helping others navigate the social media jungle.

You’ll also find her blogging at Adornabelle, sharing blogging tips with the Inland Northwest Christian Writers, and managing the community over at Kindred Grace.

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half-way healthy chocolate chip cookies

Half-way healthy Chocolate chip cookie

This was not the recipe I planned to share today, but when you have a (rare) baking experiment success, you change your plans immediately so other people can benefit. Plus, I’m in a celebratory mood because my little man turns one in a few days. Who doesn’t like to celebrate with cookies?

A recent Table Topics question revealed that both Tim and I have the same all-time favorite dessert… chocolate chip cookies! Not a huge surprise given the endless variations I’ve pinned on Pinterest and the fact that Tim has memorized the recipe for a single serving microwave cookie.

half-way healthy chocolate chip cookie

Our default cookie recipe is from my Auntie Lo. She concocted a recipe that makes a huge batch of soft, chewy cookies without fail. I introduced Tim to these dreamy cookies while we were dating and I now trust his AL Cookie making ability to let him make them himself (we’ve made them that often). But I digress from the cookie at hand.

We had a very savory dinner last night and wanted to cap off our night on the sweet side. Despite having just been to the grocery store, we didn’t have any Crisco (part of what makes AL Cookies so fluffy) so our default was out. I’ve been trying to eat as sugar-free as possible lately and have been waiting for an opportunity to try a less fatty mc fat fat cookie recipe.

half-way healthy chocolate chip cookie

I’m not anti butter but I remembered making coconut oil chocolate chip cookies last year and liking them, so I decided to start there. I love the precision required in baking. It’s part of the reason I prefer baking to cooking. If you follow the recipe, the product generally turns out perfectly. I’m not sure what happened last night, but I was making changes all over the place and *cue the angel chorus* the cookies turned out wonderfully!

These cookies aren’t sugar-free, but they’ve earned the title half-way healthy because they are made with whole wheat flour and a nutrient dense fat. The cookies are soft and beautifully domed with a lightly crisp exterior.  Chocolate and the faint hint of coconut contrast perfectly with the warm brown sugar and nutty whole wheat flour.

half-way healthy chocolate chip cookieA note about the ingredients/tools:

  • Coconut oil – The benefit of having pantry storage that is the same temperature as the rest of our house is that my coconut oil stays in a soft, scoopable state. Make sure your coconut oil is room temperature ish, not melted.
  • Whole wheat flour – I’ve been baking with 100% whole wheat flour for awhile. I love the hearty taste, but for whole wheat newbies, it may be jarring when you don’t bite into a white flour cookie. Try white whole wheat if you want a more traditional white flour taste.
  • Milk –  I used 2% since that’s what we drink. Any type of dairy (soy, almond, whole) will work.
  • Cookie scoop – If you make cookies with any frequency, you NEED a cookie scoop. They insure consistent size and a nice domed top. I used a large cookie scoop for these cookies, 1.5″ in diameter.
  • Silicone baking mat – I love my Silpat. Even, non-stick baking at its finest.  Parchment is a good substitute.
  • AirBake cookie sheet – Just in case you were wondering what kind of cookie sheet I use….

half-way healthy chocolate chip cookie

Half-way Healthy Chocolate Chip Cookies
Print
Author:
Serves: 22-24 cookies
Soft, chewy chocolate chip cookies with the health benefits of whole wheat flour and coconut oil.
Ingredients
  • ½ cup coconut oil, softened but not melted
  • ⅔ cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1½ cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 cup (heaping) semi-sweet chocolate chips
Instructions
  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the coconut oil, brown sugar, egg, and vanilla until light and fluffy.
  2. Add in the flour, cornstarch, baking soda, and salt. Mix until just combined. The dough will be a little crumbly.
  3. Add milk and chocolate chips. Mix until the chips are evenly dispersed.
  4. Scoop dough into balls using a large cookie scoop. Place dough balls on a plate. Put plate of dough balls in the freezer for 30 minutes.
  5. Bake frozen cookie dough balls at 350 degrees F for 11 minutes, util the edges are just turning golden brown. The tops will appear a little undercooked.
  6. Cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes (You will be tempted to do otherwise, but don't skip this!) then move to cooling rack.
  7. Store in an airtight container.

 

Mom-guilt, self-care, and creativity. {Perspectives on Motherhood and Writing}

Happy Tuesday! Today’s guest is the über creative and talented Amanda Medlin. (Check out her beautiful home…) She shares about self-care, finding her way as a mother, and teaching your children to be creative. I loved her thoughts about being gentle and gracious with yourself as you grow into the person God created you to be. 

Want to read about more women balancing motherhood and writing? Check out the Perspectives on Motherhood and Writing archives for 20 other interviews.

Amanda Medlin

Why do you write/blog?

Writing helps me pay attention and really process what is going on in my life. I have journals filled with scribbled notes, scriptures, prayers, lists, quotes, struggles, and dreams. I have always been an avid reader, but I hated grammar in school, so English was not one of my favorite subjects. But when I went to college, I took a creative writing class and realized that writing was something that I really enjoyed and was actually good at.

Blogging gives me a space and an ongoing prompt to write. I enjoy it as a creative outlet and as a form of self-care. If I have time to myself, I prefer to use it crafting, reading, or writing. Sometimes I feel mommy-guilt for taking time to do these things, but I have to remember that this time actually makes me a better mom because I am a lot more fun to be around when I am taking care of myself and being the whole person that God created and called me to be.

How long have you been writing/blogging?

I started blogging over four years ago, right after my second son was born. My blog started out being about my journey to finding my own way as a mother, and over the years it has changed and evolved as I have written out whatever season I have found myself in.

How has your current season of life impacted your writing/blogging?

Funny you should ask. I actually just came back to blogging after an unplanned 10 month hiatus. In November 2013, I gave birth to my third child, posted once or twice after she was born, and then went silent. It was a season where I was busy taking care of my home and my family and didn’t make self-care a priority, which meant no blogging and not much reading or crafting or anything else. I think most moms go through a similar season after giving birth, but it always seems to last a bit longer for me. Thankfully I have learned to show myself grace.

I recently felt a shifting of seasons and a stirring of some passions and dreams that had been lying dormant, so now I am trying to find the balance of taking a little time for myself to write and be creative and pursue those dreams while still loving and serving my family as my number one passion and priority.

Amanda Medlin

How has this season of life changed your writing habits?

This season is not an easy one to find the time to write. I am a stay-at-home mom of 3 (ages 6, 4, and 1) and I homeschool, so I am with my kids all day, every day. Most of my writing takes place when my husband makes me leave the house for a few hours so that I can have a little time to myself. This usually happens once a week or so as our schedule allows. A lot of the other aspects of blogging, like editing posts, adding photos, blog maintenance, and social media usually take place at the kitchen counter, in between making dinner and folding laundry, with a napping baby on my back.

What is your writing/blogging battle cry?

Although my blog has evolved and changed over the years, I feel like the underlying theme has always been about my journey toward embracing the unique woman God created and called me to be, and I hope that my writing encourages other women to do the same.

How does faith, writing, and motherhood intersect in your daily life?

I think that one of the most effective ways that I can teach my children something is to model it for them. If I want them to be creative, they need to see me being creative. If I want them to be intentional, they need to see me being intentional. And if I want them to be faithful in all that the Father has called them to do, they need to see me being faithful to my callings as I use my talents and creativity and personality and voice for His glory.

Amanda MedlinAmanda Medlin is wife to Phillip and homeschooling mama to Jack, Aidan, and Kate. She is passionate about living with authenticity, intention, and grace. She is an old, creative soul who loves to read the classics, knit, sew, paint furniture, and is currently learning calligraphy. Most days you will find her at home with her little ones, reading aloud and leading messy art projects, while gently tending to the soil of their hearts. She writes about living at the intersection of faith, motherhood, and creativity at her blog Always Amanda.

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My favorite books of 2014

One of things on my 2015 Manifesto is to read more than I watch. Aside from last weekend when Tim and I watched an alarming amount of Frasier, I’ve been sticking to that guideline. The books on my to-read list are constantly elbowing each other for a better place in line, but I’d love to know what’s at the front of your reading list this year!

I’m in the middle of two books (Give Them Grace and Jesus Prom), so I don’t have much to report for January book reviews. In their stead, I give you a wrap-up of my reading habits and my favorites from 2014.

favorite books

Books by the numbers:

  • 29 books in total
  • 16 non-fiction, 12 fiction
  • 15 books by authors I hadn’t read before
  • 4 by male authors
  • 2 books abandoned
  • 1 re-read (Bittersweet by Shauna Niequist – so good!)

Favorite books of 2014:

Katherine Reay is a standout author – my favorite from 2014. Dear Mr. Knightley is a rich and readable story with subtle spiritual themes. It is sure to get you busting out your college English syllabus and dropping your favorite Austen quips in everyday conversation. Mrs. Reay cleverly integrates classic literature into a nuanced plot that is both charming and poignant. Veins of social justice, faith, and romance add to the literature steeped narrative. It’s a must read.

Reay’s sophomore novel did not disappoint. Lizzy & Jane centers around a tense sibling relationship, complicated by cancer and career trouble. There’s love and food and grace in there too. I didn’t want it to end.

This one has a special place in my heart because I, too, was surprised by motherhood. Lisa-Jo documents her journey to motherhood in a heartwarming and poignant narrative that had me crying, laughing, and amening.

I’m actually still working my way through this book, but it deserves to be on the favorites list this year. Reading Pursue the Intentional Life is like reading Jean Fleming’s journal. She documents the importance of making our God-ordained years matter by sharing own journey, her own pursuit of an intentional life. Her words are both sobering and encouraging.

The Rosie Project is a fun read. Graeme Simsion’s narrative is told via Don, a genetics professor with Aspergers who doesn’t realize he’s on the autism spectrum. Don comes up with the Wife Project to help him find true love. The escapades that follow are off-beat and charming. There’s a reason so many people recommended this book last year.

Fun fashion advice combined with an encouraging and realistic look at the way a woman’s body changes during pregnancy and motherhood. I needed this fresh perspective on beauty! Read the longer review for more on my journey with motherhood and beauty. My interview with Trina has more insight on her writing process and her daily beauty routines.

Somewhere Safe with Somebody Good was a wonderful way to end my reading year. If you’ve never picked up a Mitford book, you’re missing out on engaging dialogue and lovable characters. Jan Karon has a way with words that makes everyday life seem interesting.

Tim and I read this aloud to each other on long drives. I don’t find myself in many meetings or reading business fiction very often, but I found Death by Meeting fascinating and applicable to family life (which I said I was going to write about and still intend to!). Patrick Lencioni crafts a leadership fable that illustrates his model for better meetings.

Honorable Mentions:

Can I Ask That? 8 Hard Questions About God and Faith by Jim Candy, Brad Griffin, and Kara Powell and A Modern Girls Guide to Bible Study by Jen Hatmaker.

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Priming the pump. {Perspectives on Motherhood and Writing}

You know how people have mentors they’ve never met? The kind that aren’t some agreed upon relationship where you get coffee every week, but mentor through example and words. Sometimes the mentor is even deceased. But you learn and grow by watching and listening and reading.

Trina Holden is a mentor like that for me. I admire the way Trina navigates marriage, motherhood, writing, beauty, food, and faith. She is a wonderful example of grace and hope.

Since I know you’ll love her, here’s another interview I did with her about one of her four books, Embracing Beauty.

Two more weeks of Perspectives on Motherhood and Writing! Don’t miss the other 18 perspectives in the archives.

Trina Holden

Why do you write/blog?

I write because I can’t not. I spent many years in bondage to a debilitating anxiety disorder and then the Lord healed and freed me. Since then I’ve had a strong passion to encourage others to find freedom and the joy of a thriving life. A blog is an efficient way that I can do that while still keeping up with my other roles as wife and mother.

How long have you been writing/blogging?

I’ve been blogging since my first born was a baby–or, 8 years. But I’ve been writing since my mom gave me my first journal at 8.

How has your current season of life impacted your writing/blogging?

Currently I have 4 children, 3 I’m homeschooling, and one who is schooling me in the art of living through sleep deprivation–she’s almost a year and we go back and forth between days where I have no margin, and days where I might get an hour to write or blog (or maybe both!)

This season has forced me to shed all unnecessary obligations and expectations that I or the blogging world puts on my words, and prioritize writing the stuff I’m most passionate about. This means I break many blogging rules–I don’t engage in many of the traditional ways to connect and get my words to a broader audience. If I did that, I’d have no time to write, and I’m called to write. Sometimes I don’t even put a graphic in my posts (gasp!) but that is because the Lord keeps reminding me that I’m called to be a writer. So, motherhood has forced me to hone in on my passion and ditch everything that distracts.

How has this season of life changed your writing habits?

I would love to learn to write in the little moments I have throughout the day, to write amidst the hubbub that is four children living life and a husband who often works from home. Alas, that is a skill I have yet to develop. I’d love to follow the advice to have a set time and place to court the muse. I love formulas and schedules and checklists. Instead, my writing happens sporadically, when quiet and a charged laptop and a baby’s sleep schedule somehow align. When that happens, I can’t afford to waste it, so I’m learning strategies to make the most of surprise writing opportunities.

I’ve learned to sit down and just write–about anything. I call this priming the pump. I cannot often sit down and write my next post or book chapter on demand. Forcing myself to produce on a certain topic is a recipe for tears and frustration. As much as I wish one could, one cannot force art. So, I just let myself write what sounds like a journal entry–a brain dump, basically. Until a thought or an idea of something I want to share comes, then I switch tenses and begin to write outward–or for an audience. It’s not always on the topic that I have a post due on (sigh) but, at least I’m writing.

This sounds undisicplined and haphhazard, but those forced to write in stolen moments or not at all know how hard it is, and how worth the effort. Even with all the challenges to maintaining a writing habit in this season, I’ve still managed to write and publish my 4th book, and about 4 blog posts a month.

Trina Holden

What is your writing/blogging battle cry?

My battle cry is freedom. I lived in bondage for so many years–not even knowing I was in chains to anxiety and fear of man and the lust for approval and acceptance. When freedom was finally offered to me, and I caught a taste of what life was like outside my prison, I ran toward the gates. I want to blog authentically and transparently so people can catch a glimpse of what God has done for me, and what He wants to do for all His children: set them free so they can thrive as who He created us to be, and thus bring Him glory.

Because learning to nourish my body well is a large part of what helps me to thrive, I also blog about real food. If I had a tagline, it might be “fuel for a thriving life…because we were made to thrive.” But I think that’s too long for a tagline. I’m still waiting for that to mature.

How does faith, writing, and motherhood intersect in your daily life?

It takes faith to trust that God will provide the grace to fulfill all He has called me to. I often think that if I was *just* a mom, or *just* a wife, or *just* a writer, I could totally handle it.
But John Piper recently reminded me, “If you are sufficient for your task it’s too small.” The passion to write while also fulfilling my roles as wife and mother has driven me to my knees time and again. It is not something I can do in my own strength, and I am grateful for how it’s drawn me closer to the only One who can sustain me.

I’m also grateful for the accountability that writing publicly has provided for this season. So often the topic I’m assigned to write about for one of the blogs I contribute to, or the post God puts on my heart that week ends up being an area my own heart needs encouragement. I write the words in a moment of clarity or victory, and the next moment I have to go back and read my own words and ask God to help learn and apply all over again. Many of the posts on my own blog function as altars of remembrance–keeping me from forgetting an important lesson or work He did in my heart.

Writing both drives and draws me closer to my Savior. It is a yoke only made light when I trust Him for the time to write and the fruit from my efforts.

Trina HoldenTrina Holden is a modern-day gypsy, currently parked in Alabama where she and her husband run a business encouraging families to thrive through real food cookbooks, classes, and consulting. Together they homeschool their four children, drink gallons of raw milk, and dream of their next road trip. She is the author of 4 books and writes about freedom and other ingredients for a thriving life at trinaholden.com

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