Second guesses and sweet tea. {Perspectives on Motherhood and Writing}

“Wonder of wonders, miracle of miracles…” I’m channeling my inner Tevye (Fiddler on the Roof reference, for those non-musical people) because I haven’t posted anything in these here parts for months. Sweet Scarlett Berg did this interview at the beginning of the year and I’m just now getting it out to y’all. Blogger. Fail.

This Perspectives on Motherhood and Writing series officially wrapped up in January, but I wanted to sprinkle a few more here and there because I always need this type of encouragement. Scarlett is the author of All Dressed Up (Robin Jones Gunn meets America’s Next Top Model), a fun read perfect for the last few beach days of Summer.  I connected with her through Katie Eller, a previous Perspectives participant.

I read Scarlett’s book earlier this year and enjoyed it. I’m hoping to do a recap of all my reading since my February Quick Lit post soon, but in the meantime, enjoy what this author-momma has to say!

And if you’re new to the series, check out the archives for all 21 interviews!

Perspectives ScarlettWhy do you write/blog?

I’ve had a desire to journal for as long as I can remember. My journaling over the years became more a part of my prayer life and continues that way today, yet it’s only been fairly recently that I discovered that I like to write fiction stories, also. I think this passion grew out of a need to escape some of my own personal struggles. At the time I began to write creatively, my father had been diagnosed with terminal cancer and my husband and I were also facing what was to be a long road of infertility battles. Writing became a daily distraction to the intensity of my own day-to-day pain of struggling with loss and disappointment. I had never even thought about writing a novel. As I wrote each day, the unfolding story became a place I wanted to visit, and I became increasingly invested in the characters as the story continued to expand. It, truly, became a fun process and has now grown into a deeper passion for me.

How long have you been blogging/writing?

I’ve been “journaling” for over 20 years, but writing creatively around six-seven years.

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

This season of my life is the most amazing, wonderful, chaotic and utterly exhausting time I’ve ever experienced. I never realized how much one little person can change your life. Andrew, our son, came to us through the precious gift of adoption.  Often times I find I want to lavishly express my joy and love for him through writing. There are also days that I’m so overwhelmed by all that God has done for me that I’m speechless to write anything.

Scarlett Berg

How has this season of life changed your writing habits?

In addition to being a wife and a mother to an extremely active toddler, I also continue to work full-time as a registered dietitian.  My day is packed with regular employment responsibilities and activities, and just finding time to write can be difficult.  I find, now, I write more in segments than with fluidity of thought.  I’ll type notes or jot down a thought on whatever I can find—computer, paper, grocery list, and even my trusty little iPhone.  It seems these days there is a phone app for just about anything, and I’ve found that to be true for writing as well.  I often use the app on my phone to compose notes or even to write potential new story ideas.

What is your blogging/writing battle cry?

God’s perfect love casts out all fear (1 John 4:18). It’s been easy to second guess my writing skills at times because my educational background is not in language arts, creative writing or English, rather in nutrition.  I had to let go of the fear of failing in my own limited perfection and remember the truth of God’s love for me.  He gently reminds me that I can accomplish anything that He has purposed in my heart to do!

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

My faith is the substance of all I hope to be and it is the driving force of my life. Writing is an expression of the creativity and love God has placed deep in my heart. Motherhood—a miraculous gift of God’s goodness and favor! The three interweaved together have given me great joy and remind me that all things are possible with Christ.

Scarlett BergA Southern girl, North Carolina is where Scarlett Berg calls home. She attended college in the beautiful mountains of Appalachian State University. Her favorite things are snuggling with her precious little boy and sharing tender laughs with her husband.  Being raised in church, you could say that she’s known Christ all her life, yet still discovering His fathomless grace and immeasurable depths of love. One thing she knows is true, when God is the center of her heart there is nothing they can’t accomplish together.

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What I’m Reading {February 2015}

Thanks to free audio books on OverDrive, I did pretty good on my reading this month! I’m still making my way through Keep Your Love On: Connection, Communication, and Boundaries and You and Me Forever: Marriage in Light of Eternity.

I always like to know what you’re reading so chime in in the comments! Here’s what I’ve finished so far this year:

Jesus Prom by Jon Weece

I haven’t read Love Does yet (It’s on my shelf.), but I’d imagine this is similar. I guess that’s a no brainer since Bob Goff wrote the introduction… Jon is a pastor of a large church in Kentucky and a darn good story teller. He uses that skill to champion the importance of love in the life and ministry of believers in Christ. Bonus: the book has a grammar theme (makes more sense when you read it, but think verbs, nouns, adverbs in relation to love). I cried and underlined my way through the stories and will probably read it again. It’s the kind of book that you almost wish you hadn’t read because it necessitates change and action.

Give Them Grace by Elyse M. Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson

I won this in a giveaway and was pleasantly surprised when it came in audio format. Though I whole heartedly believe the message delivered in this book, I can’t picture myself actually saying any of the suggested responses for teachable moments. I know they’re examples and not meant to be repeated verbatim, but it’s the practical part of showing your kids grace that is difficult and that’s where I disconnected from the book. It did challenge me to consider if I was practicing grace in my own personal life.

The Art of Whimsical Lettering by Joanne Sharpe

I mentioned a couple weeks ago that I’ve gotten hooked on Bible journaling. It’s reawakened my love of lettering. This was a fun and inspirational book that majors on making your own handwriting into something special. I loved the exercises Joanne lays out to get you practicing.

Zenspirations: Letters & Patterning by Joanne Fink

Not much instruction in this little book, but I especially enjoyed the monogram inspiration. The ideas in this book are based on the Zentangle Method of drawing. Joanne translates that into lettering in a fun and easy to follow guide.

Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear

Sarah Kerner had recommended Maisie Dobbs and while scrolling the OverDrive audio books I ran into the first in this mystery series. It’s part Sherlock Holmes, part All Quiet on The Western Front, part Downton Abbey. Maisie is maid turned nurse turned personal investigator. There was suspense and intrigue but nothing that kept me up at night. I listened obsessively and then downloaded the next two books in the series.

The Secret Life of Book Club by Heather Woodhaven

Heather contacted me to see if I’d like to review her new book and I’m so glad she did. I don’t think I’ve ever read anything in the Chick Lit genre, unless you count novels by Meg Cabot read in early high school, and those would be more Chickie Lit… Well, this was Chick Lit and it was a quick, enjoyable read. Four gals in a book club embark on a alphabetical challenge to try new things. The challenge effects each woman (and her family) differently.  The characters are likable, the plot convincing. Bonus: the Kindle version is only $3.99.

Birds of a Feather by Jacqueline Winspear

A suicide, two murders, and a missing person. Is there a link between them? Maisie Dobbs is the woman to find out. The second in the Maisie Dobbs mystery series is more Psych then Sherlock, but her methods didn’t bother me. The series doesn’t need to be read in order, but I would read the first one to get her back story before skipping around. Bonus to this one, her love life develops.

Pardonable Lies by Jacqueline Winspear

I was sad to realize the third installment of the Maisie Dobbs series was the last available on audio via OverDrive… They all had different readers which took a little getting used to. Pardonable Lies was another enjoyable mystery focusing on the aftermath of WWI. Maisie is investigating the death of a fighter pilot who went down across enemy lines in France. There are 11 books in the series so far. I’m interested to see if/how Winspear handles WWII.

Light in the Wilderness by Jane Kirkpatrick

Light in the Wilderness is a fictionalized true story about Letitia Carson, a free slave who travels the Oregon Trail with her non-legal, white husband. Not only was this a well crafted and engaging story, I’m related to Letitia’s husband, Davey! I’m going to geek out genealogically for a second about this book… I’m the fourth great granddaughter of Smith P. Carson (mentioned a couple times in the book), the brother of Davey Carson. Which means, I’m the fourth great grand niece of Davey. It was so neat to read about my own relatives! My grandparents are genealogy buffs and some of their research was used in the book. My grandma (Lila Hyder) is mentioned in the acknowledgements. Okay, geeking out is over. Bottom line – it’s a good read.

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It’s complicated…

It' complicated

Four years and 2,700 miles separate the top two photos and the bottom two photos. The top photos (I just realized Tim is wearing the same shirt – ha!) were taken while Tim and I were dating – one at the Flower Fields in Carlsbad, CA and the other in Yosemite. The bottom two photos were taken this Winter after we moved to Pennsylvania.

This little collage holds an ocean of emotions in its four boxes. There’s joy, gratitude, anticipation and love mixed with exhaustion, anxiety and fear. Sometimes I have a hard time looking back at photos from when Tim and I were dating. Not because they bring back bad memories; quite the contrary. I look at that carefree couple and envy their stage of life.

Their weight of responsibility was lighter. Less of life’s worries filled their minds. (And, because I’m particularly missing California right now, they had the beach at their fingertips.)

But that couple was just two pieces of rope inching closer and closer together. Their connection was just beginning. With every bill they paid together, with every move they made, with every tough decision, and who gets the car today discussion, those two ropes made a knot. Knot upon knot have made those two people closer, albeit more complicated, couple.

Every little thing that makes this stage of life complicated makes our relationship stronger, deeper. I’m over on Kindred Grace sharing about the power of complicated…

Since I didn’t date much before I met my husband (and by much, I mean barely at all), that particular season in our relationship has always been a favorite. Dating was fun. The thrill of getting to know someone can be intoxicating.

I’m not a naturally talkative person, but I loved staying up late discussing our families, our college experiences, and our faith. I also loved the doing of dating. We had season passes to Disneyland, so if we weren’t exploring our favorite beaches, roaming Barnes & Noble, or eating frozen yogurt, we were making memories at the Happiest Place on Earth. It was a fun and easy time, punctuated by increasing depth of attachment and possibility.

Continue reading The Power of Complicated

What I’m Into – January 2015

We’ve been in Pennsylvania for two months and it feels like we are finally getting in the groove. All of my clothes boxes are unpacked (It took almost the entire two months *insert embarrassed emoji here*) and there are things hanging on the walls. I love the proximity to my family and our new church family is wonderful. I joined MOPS which has been a fun way to meet new friends,too.

February is already looking like it’s going to be packed, but here’s a look back at January.

Linking up with What I’m Into at Leigh Kramer!

Birthday Hat Collage

I love that our family gets to celebrate a birthday in January. It helps banish some of the Winter blues that set in after Christmas. My parents and brother were able to come in for James’ 1st birthday, and though we made it a pretty mellow day, we did spend his birthday eve crafting these awesome party hats out of kraft paper. A huge roll is 7 bucks at Walmart and I have an endless supply of scrapbook papers, pens and other crafty ephemera.

Books

This is a glimpse at what I’ve been reading. I do my book reviews in the middle of the month, so check back for my thoughts on these and a couple more.

Jone's Sausage

We are a bacon family. But, over the Thanksgiving holiday, my mom introduced us to Jones sausage. Game. Changer. They live in the freezer section. No filler or icky chemicals, just pure, sausagey goodness. I avoid our local Walmart at all costs, but I make an exception to purchase these mondo bags of sausage so we don’t run out. We had breakfast for dinner seven times in January and they all included this sausage.

Sugar Paper

I love planners and calendars of all sorts. They feed my inner organizational diva. This year, I’m loving these beauties from Sugar Paper (via Target). I got the large one on the left for Christmas and then purchased a smaller one to complete my calendar needs.

The larger planner has a month at a glance layout before the individual days. I use the month page to record what we had for dinner, anything I made (yogurt, bread, granola, etc.), and dinner guests. I like to have a record of our eating habits and as we continue our real food journey, It’s helpful to have a visual guide of how long our homemade staples last. I record Bible reading, exercise, and prayers in the individual days.

I bought the smaller planner for the blog. It’s slim with just a single double page spread for each month, but it’s just enough to record the posts that went live and jot down ideas for future posts. There are several pages in the back for bigger picture dreaming and brainstorming.

Bible Journaling

I got a text from my mom on January 2nd telling me all about Bible Journaling and that she had Amazoned (absolutely a verb) me an ESV journaling Bible that would be arriving the next day. I am no artist, but everything about Bible journaling thrills me. The practice of turning what I’ve read into something visual helps me mediate and remember what God has shown me. I’ve filled my Instagram and Pinterest feed with Bible journaling inspiration and I just can’t wait to fill my Bible. Shanna Noel is an amazing resource as well.

I decided to read the Bible chronologically this year. (Job was tough… I’m back in Genesis now.) Crossway has an amazing list of Bible reading plans in various formats. You can have the day’s reading sent to your email, put in your iCal or print it out!

I got Tim an Aeropress and milk frother for Christmas. It’s been the gift that keeps on giving… My $30 investment replaced our cheapy espresso machine and it gets used everyday. I’ve been getting up at 6 to do my devotions and, more often than not, it’s the thought of a homemade honey latte that gets me out from underneath my warm covers.

Frying Dutchman

We like to explore a place through its food. One of our recent explorations was The Frying Dutchman in Kutztown, PA that makes and tops your donuts to order. If you’re local and haven’t been – it’s a must. Having worked at The Donut Man I have a very high standard for donuts. These definitely pass with flying colors. (Top to bottom: French Toast, PBJ, S’more, Powdered Sugar, PB Cup, Honey Graham). Pretty sure this will be a weekly tradition. And, yes, Tim and I ate all of these.

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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