Kids, cancer, and time (what’s that?). {Perspectives on Motherhood and Writing}

It’s Tuesday, and another round of Perspectives on Motherhood and Writing. I loved learning more about Lesley Miller through this interview and I know you will too. 

Check out more Perspectives on Motherhood and Writing post on the PMW archives page!

Perspectives Lesley MillerWhy do you write/blog?

Writing brings me a lot of joy, and it has since I was a young girl. My parents had to encourage me to go outside and play because my nose was always in a book. When I discovered I could write my own stories a whole new world opened up. Had they not threatened me to leave the house, I’d probably still be stuck in my bean bag chair penning teen romance novels.

Writing still brings me a lot of joy as an adult. It also provides me a way to process and rest. I’m an introvert so I love the (rare) moments when the only noise in my house is the clicking of my keyboard.

How long have you been writing/blogging?

I’ve been writing almost my whole life, but during my high school and college years I decided I wasn’t very good at the craft. I filled journals with my prayers, and I wrote term papers that didn’t always receive very good grades. I think, because of the way our education system works, that because I didn’t feel validated or encouraged by teachers then, perhaps, I wasn’t very good at writing. As a kid I wanted to be an author but by 19 years old I decided to pursue other things instead. I graduated with a communication studies degree and decided to try marketing.

I began blogging in 2006 on a trip to China, and then I quickly started my current blog, Barefoot on 45th, to keep our long distance family informed about our life. At first, blogging was a way to simply share factual information about the day-to-day.

In fall 2006 I took an evening writing course at our community college. It was called “Writing for Publication.” My instructor was the first person (besides my parents) to say, “You’re good at this!” In fact, I remember him writing on my last paper of the year: “You have talent. Please find a way to continue writing as you build your family.” At the time, children weren’t even on my radar. I thought his comment was nice, but also a little odd.

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

We had Anna in 2011 and the first year of her life was extremely difficult. I thought I’d “work from home” as a freelance writer and marketing consultant, but when my husband was diagnosed with cancer that same year, I put everything on hold. My sweet newborn wasn’t sleeping much, and my husband needed me too. Being tired and stressed makes it hard to stay creative. During that year I began to learn that our lives as moms have seasons. Some seasons are much busier and more stressful than others. During my stressful season, writing was an outlet I didn’t want to make public. I blogged less and went to my journal instead.

When my daughter turned one, I spent the next year working on a book proposal and publishing articles around the web. A friend and I swapped babysitting once a week and I also hired a babysitter one morning a week. Between these times and her naps, I had enough time to pursue regular writing. It felt amazing to pursue dreams I’d put on hold for awhile.

In 2013 we welcomed another baby, who rocked the next 8 months of my life. He is a high maintenance little guy and my writing took a big hit. Here’s a funny story. I remember going to a writer’s event one night when Owen was about 6 months old. I was catching up with another woman who didn’t have children and I told her that I wasn’t writing much because I didn’t have any time. She said, essentially, if you want to be a writer then you need to get rid of all your excuses. “I get up at 5:30am and write for an hour every morning before I go to work,” she said. I tried not to snap back, “Oh yeah? Well I’m up from about 4:00am to 5:00am with a fussy baby, so that hour of the morning doesn’t work for me.”

Needless to say, I’m blogging much less than I used to because I simply don’t have the time I once did. I’m also stalled on the book project I’m pursuing, because I’m just not sure where to find time in my day.

Lesley Miller

How has this season of life changed your writing habits?

My writing habits have changed because it’s become harder and harder for me to justify writing for “free.” While I’d love to grow my blog, write a book and publish on various Christian websites, it’s hard to fit these projects into our current life.

I got really lucky earlier this year when I was pursued for a paid position as Editor of Kidaround Magazine, a regional bi-monthly publication in Sacramento, CA. I am now working 10 hours a week doing all sorts of fun things I never thought I’d get to do. Because I’m being paid, I’m able to hire a babysitter to watch the kids about 8 hours a week, with the other few hours done at nap time or evenings. By the time I pay a babysitter I don’t make much money, but it’s working for us and I feel very thankful.

What is your writing/blogging battle cry?

While I write about a lot of different topics (from the mundane “this is what we did today” posts to essays on cancer) my hope is that people feel encouraged after they read something I write. My main audience is women and I truly do write to inspire their hearts, build up their spirits and show them the love of Jesus.

While I don’t always think it’s appropriate to share every facet of my life, I also try to be vulnerable, honest and open with my readers. I don’t want my life to appear perfect, because it’s not, and I find that many women can easily make assumptions about another person’s life and then feel they aren’t doing enough or being enough because they’ve played the comparison game. By being honest about my own failings, I can remind people that we’re all just doing our best and Jesus can take care of the rest.

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

For a long time, my professor’s charge to pursue writing felt like a curse more than a blessing. In the years leading up to my first pregnancy I struggled deeply with the word “calling.” I felt that motherhood might prevent me from pursing my dreams to write, and I put unnecessary pressure on myself to figure out how I could be a mom and a writer at the same time. (Should I stay at home with my kids full time? Did I even want to stay at home with my kids? Could I afford to pursue writing?)

After a lot of prayer, reading and talking to wise women in my life, I’ve come to the conclusion that my calling is not to write, but to encourage other women wherever they’re at in their faith and/or motherhood journeys. Writing is a BIG way that I choose to encourage others, but it’s not the only way. I can also do so during play dates, at my MOPS table, over coffee with friends, and through speaking.

Motherhood is a wonderfully taxing, stretching and amazing job. I will always be a mom but my children won’t always need me in the abundant ways they do right now. I believe that God will have me write more in the future, but in the meantime I choose to be satisfied with the small bits and pieces I have. It’s important I continue to practice and pursue my craft, but I’m also learning that my children are only young once. Everyday I have to remind myself that my job is to raise my children to know Jesus, to love my husband well, to encourage the women God places around me, and to write when He gives me opportunities.

Lesley MillerLesley Miller is a wife to Jonathan, and mama to Anna (3) and Owen (1). They live in Santa Barbara, California in a little house with a huge avocado tree. Lesley is a slow runner, a fast eater, and a big fan of morning walks on the beach, and she believes that even busy mamas should make time to read and pursue friendships with other women.

 

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What I’m Reading – December 2014

The title should really be: What I’m reading – September, October, November, December… It’s been a while since I’ve shared the books I’ve been reading. These past few months haven’t been optimal for lots of reading. However, my podcast listening has increased, so I’ll share my favorites at the end of this post!


Girl at the End of the World by Elizabeth Esther

This wasn’t my favorite spiritual memoir (a genre I enjoy reading), but it was good. I wish I could add an audible description of my feelings for this book since saying it was decent doesn’t do it justice. So, imagine me saying, “It was decent!” with a positive, cheerful tone and that would give you a sense of my overall opinion.

Elizabeth Esther writes with heart about her experiences growing up in a well-known Fundamentalist cult. I was saddened by her spankings, angered by the dishonesty of her family, panicked by her flashbacks, and pleased by her healing. Esther is skilled at communicating her feelings, which are complicated throughout the book. I enjoyed getting a more casual sense of Esther’s opinions via the interview at the back of the book. There are other spiritual memoirs that had a more personal impact/effect on me (like When We Were On Fire), but Girl at the End of the World was worth reading.

A Modern Girl’s Guide To Bible Study by Jen Hatmaker

It’s easy to get into ruts and routines (at least it is for me!) when it comes to Bible study. This book has been true to its tagline – simply refreshing. It’s tough to beat Jen Hatmaker’s sense of humor + learning new ways to read God’s Word. Many thanks to whoever dropped this off at the thrift store and into my hands.

The Grace and Truth Paradox: Responding with Christlike Balance by Randy Alcorn

This was a departure from the Randy Alcorn I’ve read (Deadline and The Ishbane Conspiracy, both of which I highly recommend!). I thumbed through Grace and Truth at my parent’s house in October and had wished I had my own copy to underline. Alcorn clearly lays out the conflict between grace and truth and begins to make sense of how the two can coexist in Christ. It’s small size would make this an excellent stocking stuffer!

Books That Cook: The Making of a Literary Meal

During college, my dream job was being a food writer or cookbook editor. It was fun to reenter that genre with this collection of essays arranged like a cookbook, starting with and invitation to the table and ending with pieces about dessert. Essays range from book excerpts that have food as the focal point to food history and recipes. I approached the book like a smorgasbord, picking and choosing what sounded good, but you could read your way straight through like a multi-course meal. Some pieces were much more tasty than others and maybe I’ve been out of the food writing circuit for too long but I found an oddly high number of pieces about homosexuality. (I received this title free from NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion.)

Somewhere Safe with Somebody Good by Jan Karon

A delight. There’s no other way to describe it. Jan Karon has the ability to make everyday life so very interesting. The Mitford series is charming and real without being saccharine. I read the majority of the Mitford books in high school and was doubtful I would remember the characters or the plot lines in this recent addition to the series. Not a problem. Karon gently reminds readers of Esther’s fabled orange marmalade cake, Puny’s propensity for having twins, and the sweet relationship between Father Tim and Cynthia. It’s an easy book to pick up even if you only have a few spare moments to read.

Unwrapping The Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp

We are going through this beautifully illustrated Advent celebration as a family. James enjoys all the colors and Tim and I have enjoyed the purposeful time to reflect on this season.

Podcasts

I love listening to podcasts. They keep me company on runs, while I’m cleaning, and when I’m home alone because Tim’s at youth group. Here’s what I’ve been listening to lately. (They all kind of interconnect, as you will see…)

Around The Table Podcast with Jacey and Maggie

I’ve been reading Jacey’s blog, The Balanced Wife, for awhile and was really excited when she started a podcast with her buddy Maggie. Plus, the food/community undertones to their podcast is so fun. They chat about a range of topics from food, intentional living, hospitality, relationships. It’s like having friends come hangout in your living room.

The Influence Podcast

The aforementioned Jacey works for Naptime Diaries whose owner co-created The Influence Network. (I’m fairly positive that’s a run-on sentence…). Jacey shares hosting duties of The Influence Network’s podcast, so I started to listen along. The podcast has interviews with inspiring and encouraging women who are making their online life mean something. Topics range from faith, blogging, and creative businesses.

The Happy Hour with Jamie Ivey

One of the early episodes of The Influence Podcast was with Jamie Ivey. I learned that Jamie has her own podcast and quickly listened through her entire archives. She’s fun and I love her Southern accent. Every episode Jamie talks to a different guest, discussing “anything and everything” as she describes it. I love hearing what her and her guests are reading. A couple of my favorite episodes have been with Annie Downs and Gloria Furman. I even got a little shout out in episode 24.

Serial hosted by Sarah Koenig

Oh. My. Goodness. Jamie Ivey and a guest were talking about Serial last week and I was so intrigued. I listened to 10 episodes in three days. Serial follows a story – a true story – over the course of the whole season. The story happens to be that of Adnan Syed, a 17-year old convicted of murdering his ex-girlfriend Hae Min Lee in 1999. Adnan has now served 15 years in prison, but continues to claim his innocence. A family friend of Adnan’s reached out to Sarah Koenig, a journalist and public radio personality, to dig into his case. It’s absolutely fascinating and I’m both excited and bummed that this week wraps up the story.

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When blogging is the first thing to go. {Perspectives on Motherhood and Writing)

I’ve had the pleasure of meeting today’s Perspectives on Motherhood and Writing guest in person. She brought me delicious pasta salad and didn’t even flinch when James spit up on her white jacket. 

Rachel Zupke is a go-getter and I love that she channels her passion towards projects and subjects that have eternal significance. She’s a teacher at heart and I’ve learned many things by just observing her life.

Enjoy today’s post and check out the Motherhood and Writing archives for more inspiration and encouragement. 

Motherhood and Writing Rachel

Why do you write/blog?

I started blogging to keep family updated on what was going on with us, especially once we had the first grandchild on each side of the family. When I became a stay at home mom, blogging became an outlet for me since I was so used to having daily interaction with lots of people and subsequently lots of conversations. I still blog for that reason, but I also have found that God has me write things that, while I’d love for them to go viral, end up speaking right to the heart of a few key readers (and that is totally fine!). I also enjoy sharing recipes and how-tos.

Lastly, and most descriptive of what I feel my blog’s purpose is, I want to encourage people to live with what I call “mason jar values”: perseverance, passion, and purpose. Hopefully they’re encouraged to do this via what I write in an indirect way but also when I address them specifically.

I started Intimate Truths because there are too many [Christian] women who don’t talk about sex enough. Single or married, we need to redeem discussions of sex and take them back from what society has made them into.

How long have you been writing/blogging?

I started blogging back in April of 2012. I transitioned to self-hosted blogging in November of 2013. Then I launched Intimate Truths in July of 2014.

Perspectives Rachel

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

I definitely have WAY less time to write with a toddler. We’ve gone from 2 naps to 1 but that’s also increased the amount of things I have to write about! It’s amazing how much I’ve learned about being a woman, as well as a daughter of God, since becoming a mother two years ago (two years this week actually!). Now that we’re going to have another baby, I can only imagine I’ll lose more time but perhaps that will mean that I’ll be more purposeful with my writing time when I do get to sit down at the computer.

How has this season of life changed your writing habits?

I get to write sporadically throughout the week in 15 minute spurts here and there. Once a week, I set aside an hour or two to work on things for both my personal blog and Intimate Truths. Thankfully, my husband is supportive so that makes it a lot easier to find the time. When life gets too crazy, blogging is the first thing to get pushed aside but that’s how it goes!

What is your writing/blogging battle cry?

For Mason Jar Values (personal blog): I want to encourage people to live with the values of yesterday, things I tend to see less and less in my everyday interactions with others. Encourage you to live with thankfulness for the harvest? I’ll teach you to can summer fruit like peaches. Hard work and perseverance? I’ll encourage you to do things you never thought you could, like take your toddlers camping. Heritage and passion? I’ll recount things from my own life, like making and using cloth napkins, something I’ve done after learning from my mother and grandmother.

For Intimate Truths: It saddens me that sex is such a taboo subject among Christian women, even once they’re married. Even though it is a fairly private subject, there are too many struggles in intimate relationships to not have a buddy to bounce things off of with. I’m blessed to have a woman like that in my life but I’m sure that I’m one of the lucky ones. I’ve also given too many women their “talk” because all their parent(s) told them about sex was “sex is great but wait ’til you’re married.” They never learned how their period/cycle worked, the anatomy and physiology of sex and the pleasure cycle, or how to receive pleasure as a women (since so much of sex focuses on the man). The tagline for IT is “sex is sacred, not secret” implying that we should talk about it in a very respectful and forthright manner while maintaining privacy and honesty.

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

I feel incredibly blessed to have journeyed through both fun and difficult years of marriage, homemaking, out-of-the-home career work, adventuring, and motherhood. I am constantly amazed by what God has taught me through everyday experiences. He has revealed Himself in countless ways over the years and I am honored I even have the chance to share what I’ve learned the hard way, and the easy way, about how He wants me to live. And, of course, parenting is quite sanctifying. Sooooo much patience and perseverance needed with my spunky little gal!

Rachel ZupkeRachel Zupke is a stay at home mom to a toddler. Her husband brings home the big bucks as a high school science teacher and she helps out money-wise by coaching (basketball and rowing) and substitute teaching at her hubby’s high school (She taught HS science pre-baby). She writes about living with perseverance, passion, and purpose (what she’s deemed Mason Jar Values) over at rachelzupke.com. Rachel also runs Intimate Truths, a site that discusses sex as sacred rather than secret (intimatetruths.com). Life for her = faith and family, homemaking, real food and natural living, outdoor adventures with their Siberian Husky, and local happenings. (Rachel and her husband welcomed a baby boy to their family on Thanksgiving day!)

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Embracing Goodbye

Our recent life change occasioned an above average amount of goodbyes last month. I’ve never been one to relish partings (who does, really?), and these farewells were no different.

We said goodbye to a church body who had provided a livelihood and supported our ministry. We said goodbye to students who had become a very special part of our lives. We said goodbye to a small group of friends who acted as family in the absence of our own, who hosted baby showers, shared yard equipment, served and prayed with us.

Our transition had been in the works since September, but the finality of our move wasn’t real until we started saying those goodbyes. Despite looking forward to a new season in life and ministry, there was a bittersweet edge to each hug and handshake. Each explanation of our move held hope for the future and a bit of dismay at what, and who, would be left behind.

Embracing GoodbyeI wasn’t sure how to navigate the sadness and excitement without feeling disingenuous to one or the other. I’m ashamed to admit I snuck away from a couple of gatherings early to avoid the sadness of a last goodbye. When a goodbye was unavoidable, I assured myself right along with others that this wasn’t farewell forever. And though the likelihood of us visiting Coeur d’Alene again is high, the vague promise of seeing people again felt weak.

When faced with long-term goodbyes, it seemed easier on my heart to say, “see you soon.” I could avoid the well-spring of emotion attached to parting with certain people by assuring myself that this wasn’t going to be the last time I saw them. But, saying “see you soon,” left so much unsaid.

I didn’t tell some people just how much their generosity and service meant to our family. I didn’t tell some people how much our coffee dates brightened up my days. I didn’t tell some people how much I admired their intentionality and thoughtfulness. I didn’t tell some some people how much I appreciated their consistent prayers. Because I said “see you soon,” instead.

Embracing goodbye acknowledges that there are seasons in life. Some of the sweetest relationships I’ve had have only lasted a short while and I’ve struggled against that fact. People and places will come and go and our inability to accept their transience diminishes the lasting influence a seasonal circumstance or relationship can have.

Embracing goodbye helps acknowledge the impact people have made on your life; each goodbye a little pile of stones to remember what God did through that relationship. I have many little piles of stones from our time in Coeur d’Alene and I thank God for what He accomplished through each person those stones represent. I only wish I had embraced goodbye more wholeheartedly in person.

Living in the Holy Land. {Perspectives on Motherhood and Writing}

I’m slightly alarmed that it’s December already. It seems like November was gobbled up by our Idaho to Pennsylvania transition, and now I find myself in another home filled with boxes. At least this time I’m taking things out of those boxes. Maybe I could just wrap them up and use them as Christmas decor…

We will be joining our new church family at Come See The Tree (fireworks, a gigantic tree, and cookies? I’m sold), a community Christmas tree lighting later this week, which will further solidify that it is, indeed, December.

Today’s Perspectives on Motherhood and Writing guest is a new(ish) contributor to Kindred Grace and momma of two. I got chills reading about Callie Mitchell‘s heart for the nation where God has called her and her family to reside.

Catch up on past Perspectives on Motherhood and Writing posts here

Motherhood and Writing Callie

Why do you write/blog?

I write because I’m compelled to create. The first thing we learn about God in scripture is that He “created”. Being made in His image, we too are called to create. As I study the Bible and learn the power of words, I feel an even greater responsibility to share the truth of His love through personal testimonies. Its really an outlet of worship for me.

My educational training is in Architecture and Interior Design. Throughout my nine years worth of school, I could never sit down and begin drawing a space if I had not first written it. I find that writing is the foundation of all other creative outlets I enjoy. I really believe I write to sort out my ideas, to understand where I feel the Lord leading.

How long have you been writing/blogging?

I have had a blog for six years now, but I have been writing for as long as I’ve known how to write my alphabet. My grandmother bought a journal for me at age six. I still love to go back and read it. Most stories are about what we ate for lunch that day, riding my bike, or walking my dog.

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

Currently I am a mother in Israel. Being a mom, I love to write stories about my son to help bottle up memories of these precious days. Being in Israel, I feel a certain amount of responsibility to share the truth of our lived experience in this nation. After the first war that I experienced on Israeli soil, I went before the Lord with passion, asking Him to anoint my words with a spirit of revelation, so that all who read will know Him better.

It hit me hard that we are drawing near to His return, and the desire to wake a slumbering church has burned in my bones since. I hope these testimonies will also produce a lasting legacy in the lives of my children. I want them to know their mother was a fighter on her knees, for truth and holiness, first to be lived in our home, and then overflow into the nations. Whatever radical lives they might be called to in the future, I want them to look back and blame it on my prayers.

Perspectives Callie

How has this season of life changed your writing habits?

On most days, I wait until my son has gone to sleep for the night. In Israel, we keep Shabbat (Saturday) as a work free day, so I will often partition time to do some creative writing for my own expression of worship before the Lord.

What is your writing/blogging battle cry?

I want to communicate the gospel and the nearness of Jesus’ return to the earth.

Often times when I’m writing a piece, I’ll close my eyes and write as if I’m actually speaking to the Lord. Depending on what its intended purpose might be, it will either stay in that format or I’ll go in and adjust pronouns so that it is approachable for an audience. The Lord once whispered, “Speak to me inside of people”.

This practice started after meditating on what He might have meant by that. As I believe the Holy Spirit dwells in each believer, sometimes we need to be reminded of who we are. We’re called to conform to His image, so I often will write, even in emails, calling out that image in others.

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

I learned more about God’s unconditional love after I birthed my son than I was ever prepared for – both in giving love unconditionally to this tiny perfect person, but also through the grace he shows me when I fail to live up to my own expectations of motherhood. Even the smallest interactions with him can propel me deeper into the Father’s heart.

Sometimes it’s the larger moments as well, learning I was pregnant with a long awaited second baby on my son’s birthday, for example. The Lord used the timing to work out something special in my son’s life. Being a mom reminds me that my purpose and presence are greater than just me. He made me because He wants to do a work through me to bless others. Being a writer, I think, is what causes me to pause and take note of those moments, really thinking them through, processing them through His word.

Callie MitchellCallie Mitchell is the wife of Devin and the mother of Aviel and a girl baby on the way (arrived 11/12/14!). She is an architect by training, though her current practice mostly includes lego towers and wooden train track configurations, with a few actual free lance projects on the side. The Mitchells live in Jerusalem as a Messianic Jewish family, and are committed to seeing Salvation come to the people of this region.

Callie’s Blog