Hi friends! It’s time for anonther installment of FA&M!
I am so honored to have Amy Julia Becker on the blog today sharing with us. I think you will find a lot of inspiration, and food for thought in her words. I am already planning to create a poster out of one of her quotes. I hope you will take the time to read this interview and to share it with other creative momma’s out there who are struggling to balance all their passions and callings.
All About Amy Julia:
Website Name: www.amyjuliabecker.com
Art Form: Writer
Kids Names/ Ages: Penny, 9, William, almost 7, Marilee, 4
Relationship Status: Married
Expression of Faith: Protestant attending a Covenant Church
Where Do You Live? Rambling old house in a small town in western Connecticut
JG: How did you find your creative niche? Was this something you have always done, or did you fall into it by accident?
AJB: Both! I am embarrassed to admit that when I was in 8th grade I spent some time compiling my writing up to that point because I was so certain someone would want it for the national archives or some such place. But by the time I was graduating from college it didn’t cross my mind that I could be a professional writer, so I spent a few years in youth ministry and then applied to seminary with the hopes of becoming a high school chaplain. In the spring before I went to seminary, my mother-in-law was diagnosed with liver cancer. My husband and I became her primary caregivers, and during that time I journaled a lot. Within a few years, those journal entries had become the basis for my first book, and I redirected my seminary energies towards writing about faith.
JG: What a transformative event being a caretaker is. I love that your path to writing wasn’t a straight arrow. I think that will give readers hope! OK, so funny side story. My mother (who might be a bit of a conspiracy theory enthusiast –hi mom!) told me from a very young age never to write anything down that I didn’t want made public. So I too, as a kid, always imagined my journals and papers as being published as some sort of anthology or archived. Of course here I am 40, and I don’t even have a Wiki page. I think maybe I can relax.
JG: Where do you create? Office? Kitchen table?
AJB: It depends. When the kids are home, I retreat to the local library or a coffee shop. Otherwise, I have a desk in what used to be a walk-in closet of sorts.
JG: Do you create best in solitude or in the middle of chaos?
AJB: Definitely solitude.
JG: Sometimes I feel as if writing, parenting, and practicing my faith are all drawing from the same well inside me, that they tax the same part of my heart and the same source of energy. This means that sometimes I use up all of my resources pouring into just one of the three, leaving the other two wanting. Do you have this same issue, or is it just me?
AJB: Hmm. I would say that the writing gives me energy for parenting. I feel like I should say that the practice of faith gives me energy for both, and I think that’s probably true, but there are many days where I do more writing and parenting than I do anything to overtly practice my faith
JG: Amen sister.
JG: Others have said (and I agree) that these three areas also can inspire each other – do you find that to be true? If so, can you think of an example?
AJB: Pretty much everything I write about has some connection to our children, and even if it’s indirect, some connection to my faith. For example, I’m just starting a new book project about children and reading and families. There’s nothing explicitly Christian about it, but I’m thinking a lot about how as a Christian I believe there is a narrative structure to history and science and our individual lives. Reading with my children engages them in a theological way of seeing the world—as a story with a beginning, a middle, and an ending. And by ending, I as much mean a purpose as I do a final word. In other words, even this “secular” topic resonates with my life as a parent and as a Christian.
JG: I cannot wait to read this book! I think your statement “Reading with my children engages them in a theological way of seeing the world—as a story with a beginning, a middle, and an ending. And by ending, I as much mean a purpose as I do a final word,” needs to be made into a poster and hung on the wall in my office. That is a wonderfully profound and yet so accessible idea. My wheels are already turning.
JG: How does your creative process influence or enrich your faith or your parenting?
AJB: I’m certainly less cranky—or, to state it more positively, more patient—with our kids when I’m finding time to write. But I also hope that I’m modeling what it looks like to seek a balance between family and work, all under the umbrella of loving God and loving my neighbor.
JG: What do you do to recharge, or refill the well?
In your creative process?
AJB: I love getting together with other writers, whether in small groups or in larger conference settings. I also love reading good writing. It inspires me.
JG: Yes! I do not have a great writer support system here where I live, in my particular genre, but I have writer friends all over the country and I am forever filling their inboxes with questions. Conferences are an amazing source of connection for me, more than the speakers, I look forward to just being with others in the same field, who speak the same language as me.
In your parenting?
AJB: My husband and I go out for dinner once a week, one on one, which always feels like a mini vacation in the midst of otherwise very full days. We also go away for a few days a few times a year (yay for my mother and my aunt and a few devoted babysitters!), which also recharges me as a parent. I wrote elsewhere recently about having a “ministry of absence” for our kids, and I do believe it blesses us all when we take some time away!
JG: Yes, the “ministry of absence” is huge and so necessary and healthy for all involved. I was left with my grandparents, aunts, uncles, and friends all through the summers as a child, and my parents went on monthly overnight trips when I was in my teens, and both experiences were extremely formative in my maturity. Since my boys were really little we have been happy to send them off to the grandparents or have my sisters come stay with them. I love how they develop their own identities and relationships apart from me and my husband.
In the practicing of your faith?
AJB: I’m just getting back into the habit of “quiet times,” in which I read the Bible systematically and pray for myself and others. Those were impossible for me for many years as a mother of little ones, and I learned a lot in that time. But now that they are old enough to fend for themselves a bit in the morning, I’m really appreciating those spiritual disciplines. I’m also increasingly grateful for the church as I grow older. I used to see church as a chore, both as a young person and certainly as a mother of small children, but I’m starting to recognize the way it provides a spiritual rhythm to our lives, the way it teaches us to love one another, and they way it connects us to our community.
JG: Preach it. I have found that our world gets faster and more chaotic I appreciate the rhythm of the church year, and its blessed repetitiveness more and more.
JG: Do you have any advice for other mom’s out there who are also trying to learn how to live out their callings as artist, mothers and followers of Christ?
AJB: Motherhood will always involve sacrifice, and that will mean some degree of sacrificing your creative work. When I first started writing and was bemoaning how long it took me to write anything, my husband said, “I hope you will be writing books for the next fifty years. Keep the long view in mind.” So my first word of advice is to keep going, even if it’s in frustratingly small increments. But the second thing I would say is if you feel that creative piece of yourself just withering inside, figure out a way to create more often. Pray for help. Pay a babysitter. Do a childcare swap with a neighbor. Do whatever it takes to keep that piece of you alive.
JG: What is something you wish someone had told you earlier on about trying to juggle these areas?
AJB: I think people said helpful things to me but I just didn’t believe them! A number of people told me that it wouldn’t be long before more time became available, and to pay attention to the seasons of life and trust that they will change. I didn’t really want to heed the advice of slowing down.
JG: Oh yes. I have eaten a lot of crow. Listen to your elders friends! They do know what they are talking about!
JG: What are some specific challenges you are facing right now in all three of these areas?
AJB: Well, just this week I “completed” my blog of the past six years, and part of that decision had to do with not being able to balance writing and family life. I realized I hadn’t written anything longer than a blog post in over a year. It was time to let that go in order to work on larger and more sustained projects.
JG: Yes! I find it hard to switch between blog mode and book mode. Not everyone does, but I do. But I do hope you will find a blogging venue again eventually!
JG:If you could pick the brain of any other creative momma out there, who would you want to talk to?
AJB: Almost all of the women I most admire as writers aren’t juggling young children. In some cases they have never had children. Others have one child. I think of Anne Lamott, Kathleen Norris, Mary Karr, Marilynne Robinson. I have a number of friends who are writers with kids, so I feel like I already have access to the ones who are similar to me!
JG: Your list is very similar to mine 😉
JG: How can I, and my readers, pray for you?
AJB: I will always take prayer that my writing will bear fruit.
JG: Ah yes. I will always take those prayers as well!
Thank you so much Amy Julia for talking with me and for sharing your thoughts! I really, really, appreciate it!
If you want to read more from Amy Julia check out her latest book, Small Talk or any of her other works!
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Amy Julia Becker – Faith, Art, and Motherhood, An Interview