{Guest Post at The MOM Initiative:} The Done Vs. The Doing

{Guest Post at The MOM Initiative:} The Done Vs. The Doing

A few ladies gather around our little group of four at the end of the rows of tables. They oooooh and aaaah over our photos. They finger our ribbon and paper stacks. They stare curiously at the digital diecutting machine.

“Oh, I could never do this,” they say to us, and we laugh. We are scrapbookers, and to us –the minority here at this crafty ladies weekend retreat full of quilters – cropping photos and slicing paper is easy work. {On the other hand, we remain largely mystified by applique and seams.}

Yet, we find a common thread — if you’ll excuse the pun — in our work. It’s never done.

We quickly get around to commiserating about half-finished quilts, never-completed baby books, and the mass of daily life that piles up before we can get around to properly documenting it, or draping it in fabric.

But, is this obsession with getting the work done serving us well? Is the ambition to complete a list of projects, or play a constant game of catch-up even the point at all?

Join me over at The Mom Initiative for the rest of the story today?

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{Creativity Series} Spark Moms Interview

{Creativity Series} Spark Moms Interview

In May, I launched a blog series exploring the intersection of creativity, spirituality, and motherhood. As part of our journey together, I’m featuring interviews with fellow mom-artists.

This week, I’m talking with Melissa Aldrich, a sweet online friend of mine, talented blogger, professional photographer, and mom of three kids under four {including twins!}.

1. Have you always considered yourself a creative person? Why or why not? 

I think so. All of my memories seem to be of creative moments. Painting crafts in preschool. Writing stories. Organizing pageants and plays in the backyard. Photographing. Attempting to learn to paint. Filling journal after journal after journal with words and dreams and prayers. Singing in choirs. Stuffing my first sewing machine in the trunk of my Corolla.

2. When you became a mom, how did that affect your creativity? 

I have three children: 3.5 year old twins and a 1.5 year old son.

When I first became a mom with the twins I was just overwhelmed with the flood of motherhood. I changed diapers. I rocked. I nursed. They cried. I cried. I cherished the moments where we all fell asleep for more than 1 hour. I took showers on weekends. I felt alone and worthless and like a really bad mom. All the quilting, sewing, writing, and dreaming just sort of stopped for an awful season. I felt purposeless, but at the same time I knew part of my purpose was to raise these babies.

I didn’t create again until the girls were 9 months. By the time they were 16 months, I was surprisingly pregnant again and had a photography business that God had just dropped in my lap and a small group of women, both local and long distance, who encouraged my writing. I learned that although I was more tired, I felt more purposed in mothering and life when I sneaked moments away to knit or sew or photograph.

3. How do you find the time and space in your life for creative pursuits?

There is an enforced nap/quiet time at my house. It’s been shrinking lately since my twins are giving up actually sleeping most days. So I get about 1.5-2 hours mid-day to blog or edit or sew. I hire a babysitter who cares for the children in my house while I photograph newborns. My serving husband Derek will watch the girls for me to do sunset sessions with families.

But I’ve discovered two things about carving out time:

  • Moms need to set limits on their creative time. Motherhood is hard, and it’s especially tempting to just spend all day working on the creative stuff. Having clear limits on how many sessions I will take a month (just 3) and when I will work on creative pursuits makes it so my children will not blur into the background. After all, they’re more important.
  • Carving out time requires discipline. I’ve had those 2 hours (and it used to be 3 or more!) for years, but only recently have learned to utilize them all fully. I’m brain dead after 8:30 p.m., and I can never wake before my related-to-a-rooster son. So those 2 hours at nap are all I have. I recently discovered an app for ipad/iphone/ipod called 30/30. At the beginning of the week I sit down and label everything I want to accomplish during each day’s quiet time and assign an amount of time to do it. It takes a lot of discipline to start the app and also to make myself start the next task if I’m not “finished” with the first one, but the results are worth it. I even time showers or exercise if I know I need to do those during nap time :-p

4. What role does spirituality/your relationship with God play in your creativity?

I can’t write in a way that does any good without Christ. There are times I sit down and try… and I usually fail. And there are times when I write or photograph with the wrong motivation. But if my purpose is to glorify God, then I want to do that through creativity. Through writing down the hard stories and photographing grace and even sometimes being given the opportunity to tell the hard stories of others, I know that I am worshiping the God who created and orchestrated it all. Even so, I miss the mark on what I set out to do so often. But I’m learning more and more that my part is obedience to God’s call, and He’s responsible for the results whether in my heart, through my photography, through a gift, or through the telling of hard stories.

5. What is your biggest challenge at this season in your life, in pursuing your creative passions?

Having the discipline to make myself prioritize my creative pursuits. I have the time, we all do. It’s just utilizing that time that is so difficult! There’s also the temptation in me to research a subject to death. So I have to curb my tendency to research for the whole 20 minutes I’ve allotted for a task. I could read stories or articles all day long if I didn’t discipline myself.

6. By the way, what are your favorite creative pursuits?

Photography. Quilting. Sewing clothing for my children and myself. Knitting. Sometimes Embroidery.

7. When you do create, what is the payoff? How does it make you feel?

As an introvert, creativity recharges me because most of my creative pursuits are solitary. Being a professional photographer, there’s also this joy in being invited to capture the sacred everyday love and seeing my clients love their images. And as a writer, watching God use my words for that one person who may email me and say “That’s just what I needed.” Or watching Him use my words to recognize my own sin and begin to change my own heart for His glory.

8. What would you say to a mom who claims she’s just not a creative “type”?

You are! There’s creativity in so much you do. It doesn’t have to be Pinterest-perfect. There’s creativity in putting food on the table that’s not the same every night. There’s creativity in coloring the Care Bears coloring book with your 6-year-old while hearing tales of their day. There’s creativity in talking to another mom friend as you try to sort through recent struggles with your children. There’s creativity in rearranging a book shelf to make it functional and beautiful. There might even be creativity in how you organize and operate through the task of laundry.

I think it’s helpful to redefine “the creative type” in terms of what you love to do. If you love to dance or play soccer or pack lunches with little cheese animals or come up with the best knock-knock joke to wow your 2nd grader, then that’s your area of creativity. Or you might be like me and have creative pursuits all over the map. Look at what you do where you’re making beauty and feeling energized, and I bet that’s your area of creativity.

9. What advice would you give to a mom who says she can barely take a shower, so how can she find time to create?

There’s always time. There’s those wasted moments where suddenly the kiddos have all disappeared to play on their own where right now you’re sneaking on your phone to read this. You might not be able to paint a whole painting in those 20 minutes, but you can pull together all your supplies and organize your desk so that you can sneak a stroke or two in the next moment when the kids are surprisingly occupied. Oh, and showers are totally unneccesary: clean your armpits, spray on the perfume, and master the art of the messy updo. I’m joking… I think… :-p

10. What do you think God’s take is on creativity?

As a photographer/quilter/sewer/knitter, I’m taking all this raw material and just really reflecting what God has already done. Already made. I’m capturing on a sensor the lives of those he created or using cotton or wool or colors to bring about something beautiful.

God is creativity defined. He’s beauty defined. He created all of us unique. Have you ever studied the way the frog swims in the local pool? Or molecular biology? Or the reason a giraffe’s tongue is so dark? Or dove into a coral reef? All of these things are so startling different and perfectly designed. I’m astounded daily, at least once, by what He has done out of nothing! <— Tweet This!

My girls are identical twins. Same DNA. Same Parents. Same Environment. In a world engineered by mere evolution, my daughters should act, react, and express talents in the same way. They don’t. I have a compliant introverted and a strong-willed extrovert. One loves blue and the other pink. One likes her hair long and the other likes it shorter. One eats her sandwich each torn bite at a time and the other takes a bite right out of the middle of her sandwich. They’re different, and that’s because of some creative expression of God that I can’t even begin to understand.

So I think God is so skilled at combining beauty with perfect purpose in ways too varied to count. I hope my own created objects begin to reflect this part of His nature.


How about you? Have you always considered yourself creative? How do you find time to create?

{Creativity Series} Spark Moms Interview

{Creativity Series} Spark Moms Interview

In May, I launched a blog series exploring the intersection of creativity, spirituality, and motherhood. As part of our journey together, I’m featuring interviews with fellow mom-artists.

This week, I’m talking with Liz Lanza, a friend of mine in real life, and a talented food blogger {The Fresh Plate}, jewelry artisan {After Dinner Designs}, and mom of three boys.  Liz is offering the lovely handmade cuff bracelet pictured for one lucky reader {scroll down to learn how you can enter the giveaway}.

Q: When you became a mom, how did that affect your creativity?

When I became a mom, I found that I started funneling my creative energies through my  kids and their needs. As the boys have grown, I’ve spent countless hours planning themed birthday parties, cute school treats for their classes, and decorating their bedrooms based on their personalities. In the last sixteen years, I have gotten pretty good at it, and I truly enjoy it.

Q: How do you find the time and space in your life for creative pursuits?

I find the time to create when the kids are at school, and at night, after they’ve been put to bed. I usually reserve weeknights and weekends for family time, but I always make time for creating. I have a need to get in the studio and create, and I consciously make time for it.

Q:  What role does spirituality/your relationship with God play in your creativity?

God plays such a big role in my creativity. I struggled for many years with self-esteem, and because of that, there were years of dormant creativity. When I became a Christian, in my twenties, my outlook on myself changed dramatically. I realized that working with my hands and creating things brought me joy. I am so blessed to be able to stay at home with my kids and run a small business that allows me the time to be a wife and a mom first, while still being able to use my creativity on a daily basis.

Q: What is your biggest challenge at this season in your life, in pursuing your creative passions?

My biggest challenge has been trying to juggle marriage, parenthood, and friendships while trying to grow a business and continue to make quality products for my Etsy shop. I have had to learn to say no.

Q: What are your favorite creative pursuits?

I make broken-plate jewelry, accessories, and home decor from bits of recycled plates, cups, and saucers.  So, naturally, I love junking — going to flea markets and barn sales to look for unusual plates, cups, and saucers!

Q: When you do create, what is the payoff? How does it make you feel?

The payoff, for me, is that I get to use my creative energy and recreate pieces of jewelry from broken pieces of china that are unusable. And there is a satisfaction at the end of the day when I know my creations are being worn and loved by my clients.

Q: What would you say to a mom who claims she’s just not a creative “type”?

I think everyone is creative. You just have to believe in yourself and take that leap of faith to pursue whatever it is you love.

Q: What advice would you give to a mom who says she can barely take a shower, so how can she find time to create?

Like all aspects of motherhood, you have to make time. It’s easy to throw in the towel and say you just don’t have time or you are too tired. I do it sometimes too. But once I consciously make time to create, it becomes a part of my routine.

Q: What do you think God’s take is on creativity?

God made each of us with a creative spirit. We need to learn to channel it and ask Him to nurture it.

 Liz is a wife, mother, food blogger, and jewelry artisan who lives in Western Pennsylvania {though she has a move on the horizon!} with her husband and three sons. She has been featured in Edible Allegheny Magazine, Family Food & Fun Magazine, and will have a recipe in the new Gooseberry Patch Grilling cookbook coming out in January 2014.

To enter the giveaway, leave a comment below telling us how you fit creativity into your busy life and/or what role God plays in your creative pursuits. Earn an extra entry by visiting Liz’s Etsy shop and leaving a separate comment with your favorite After Dinner Designs shop item. The giveaway ends in one week {July 3, 2013}. 


{Creativity Series}  Guest Post: In Living Color

{Creativity Series} Guest Post: In Living Color

Today I am honored to welcome fellow Christian blogger Elise Daly Parker, who is sharing her personal creativity story. I would love to hear your story too! Post in the comments, or email me through my contact link.

* * *

When my friend Elizabeth Anne May said she was doing a “Creativity Series,” I thought, “Oh well, I’ll just sit this one out. I’m not creative…” But then I found myself thinking about it. And long-ago memories started nudging their way into my thoughts.

I recalled when I was about 13 years old. My mom loved garage sales, and so I tagged along from time to time. At one home, there were a number of unfinished paintings, canvases — and among them, a 3D unpainted plaster flower piece on a flat square of wood, like a canvas, about 2 ½ feet by 3 feet long. I asked my mother if I could have it …

I wanted the white plaster to come alive with color.

My mom said yes. We lugged the heavy plaster piece out to the car, then up to my 3rd-floor bedroom, where it sat for a few months. I didn’t really know how to finish it. But the desire to draw and paint and create grew as I imagined what I could do to transform this bland work of art.

All I wanted that Christmas was an easel, paint, and drawing and painting books. My parents fueled my dreams. I got just what I asked for that Christmas.

For about six months, I was fully engaged in learning to draw and paint. I don’t think I was very good at it, but it was new to me, and I was fascinated with it. I took that plaster, mixed paints into my own custom colors, and I transformed that white block into a glorious floral scene bursting with blossoms of deep rose-pink, creamsicle orange, and vibrant violet.

I felt so proud, so creative, so accomplished. 

And then, I was done. The easel was relegated to the back corner of the garage. Many years later, my mother, preparing to sell our family home, had a garage sale and sold my long-forgotten easel. But, the plaster painting is in the back of my garage today; it’s traveled with me for over 40 years!

* * *

One of the most devastating moments in my life was when my grandmother died.

She had lived with us for seven years, from the time I was seven to 14 … critical years. She was an amazing faithful woman who was an anchor of calm and peace and love throughout wildly tumultuous years. Not just because we were a pack of five growing, rowdy kids, but because my parents’ marriage was in the process of dissolving, day by day.

Suddenly, one day in June, Grandma had a serious stroke and died before the ambulance reached the emergency room.

It was one of the saddest days in our family’s lives. 

And so, when my college Freshman English teacher offered us the opportunity to substitute one of her assignments for a story of our choosing, I knew I had to write the story of my grandmother’s death, “It Happened in a Day.” I got an A.

And my dad, a medical publisher, was so proud of me he shared it all around the office. That summer, I worked in Dad’s office and an editor, Lilian, and I became fast friends. She complimented my story, my writing, and encouraged me to write more.

That Fall, I returned to college and added English to my already chosen major of Psychology.

I continued to work summers at my dad’s company. And when I graduated from college, I was hired by McCall’s Working Mother magazine, by one of the editors I had worked for in the summer. I’ve continued writing and editing, now more than 30 years!

I’ve dabbled in visual arts and arts and crafts over over the years.

I made muslin angels for my nieces one Christmas. I even hand-painted little wooden boxes that I sold to friends as teachers’ gifts, and through a little local crafts store. I’ve gone to a few local Historical Society classes and learned the art of tole painting, and how to make wreaths and boxwood centerpiece trees. I’ve stenciled walls and sponge-painted, made lovely curtains out of sheets. And I cherished doing all kinds of crafts with my kids — every single holiday, every season, was filled with baking and making all kinds of handmade projects.

Yet, I don’t consider myself creative.

Or at least I didn’t … until Elizabeth guided me back through this creativity series to see that I have created many things, lovely things. And as a mother, I’ve also modeled creativity and encouraged it.

And so, I’ve come to the conclusion that we really are all creative in our own way — we all have something creative to offer because we all are part of the One who created everything!

Maybe all we need is a little encouragement along the way.

Do you consider yourself creative? If you do, I’d love to hear what your creative passions are. And if you don’t think you’re creative, I challenge you to view yourself through God’s lens and claim your creative birthright! 


Elise Daly Parker has been married for 28 years and is mom to four mostly grown girls. She is a writer, editor, writing coach, blogger, and Executive Editor of Circles Of Faith. She believes we all have stories that matter–big life bios and small meaningful moments. Elise believes our stories are a reflection of God’s glory and are meant to be shared. They have the power to inform, reform, and transform. She loves God, family, friends…and really likes travel! Elise blogs at Our Stories, God’s Glory, tweets @EliseDalyParker, and would love to connect on Facebook at Our Stories, God’s Glory.