Part 1 of an interview with Wendy Speake and Kelli Stuart,
authors of Life Creative: Inspiration for Today’s Renaissance Mom
Creative moms often feel as though they must lay their passions down once the kids arrive, if for no other reason than there is no time. But God has something special in mind for creative women during this intense season of mothering. In Life Creative: Inspiration for Today’s Renaissance Mom (Kregel Publications) authors Wendy Speake and Kelli Stuart show that “a mother’s natural bent toward imagination doesn’t just wither and die with the birth of a child. This core component remains part of her intricate design.”
Q: Life Creative is a book written to encourage moms, but it is not your average parenting book on raising kids. Tell us about your new book and how its message is different.
Kelli Stuart: It’s not a how-to, self-help book about raising children, but rather a love letter to artistic mothers. We begin by calling attention to the unique renaissance of art exploding in the world today, fueled in great part by artistic mothers and social media. In this Pinterest age of handcrafted children's parties, Instagram photos of beautifully decorated homes and blogs filled with poetry and prose, clearly we are in the midst of a brand new artistic renaissance — not one born in Italian cathedrals or Harlem jazz clubs, but rather in kitchens, nurseries and living rooms around the world.
We answer the question, “What was God thinking when He created me creative and then gave me children?” Creative moms often feel as though they must lay their passions down. God had something special in mind for the creative woman during this intense season of mothering.
Wendy Speake: This is a book for moms, written by moms and including the stories of other moms. We’re all on a journey to embrace our God-given, creative design in the midst of motherhood! There are, however, some practical pieces of parenting advice tucked in between the stories about setting boundaries around sacred family gatherings, praying for wisdom and discernment and how to include your family in your business of art in the busyness of motherhood.
Q: As a new mom, did you feel like you needed to rein in your own creativity? If so, was it from expectations you put on yourself or was it a pressure you felt from society?
KS: I don’t know that I felt pressure from society so much as I just couldn’t figure out how to fit the art back in. Where once the moments of my day were entirely at my disposal, now I was at the beck and call of a tiny human being. At first I thought I had missed the boat, that I should have built a better career for myself before I had children. But as my children grew, I found I could still indulge in the creative parts of myself. It would just look different. I like the different.
WS: I find it ironic the last acting job I booked before conceiving my first child was playing a pregnant woman going into labor. It was an AT&T commercial. I don’t recall all of the details of the commercial, but looking back it seems like a profound send-off. I haven’t had a traditional acting audition since birthing that baby boy. However, something quite profound happened in the early days of motherhood for me. Just after my son was born I made 100 handcrafted birth announcements and stamped his little feet 100 on the cover of each one. I decorated his nursery with the most beautiful Hawaiian print baby bedding I’d ever seen. What I realized as I nursed my baby in that room, rocking and singing, was I wasn’t an actress as much as I was a creative woman who acted. Therefore, when the acting stopped, the creativity had to find another channel in which to flow out of my life.
Now that my children are a bit older, I am actually acting again. However, it looks different. Some moms I know are able to do more than I am. Some have flourishing creative businesses or creative ministries, but I’m only accountable to be the woman that God made me to be — as a wife, as a mother, and as an artist.
Q: What encouragement can you offer to the mom in what you describe as “the Dark Ages of motherhood,” or for whom the art and creativity seem to have been lost?
KS: Hold on, sweet mom. It really is true that the days are long, but the years are short. The children need so much of you in the early years, but days are coming when you’ll find yourself with more time in your days, and the inspiration will be there waiting for you. In the meantime, look for ways you can use your artistic gifts right where you are, inside the walls of your home with your children, your most beautiful creations.
WS: One of the earliest messages from the book is that everything begins at home, so start there. Color with your children, make up stories as you tuck them under their covers and bring your guitar out into the family room again. When there are opportunities in your local community that fit your skill set, pray about it, talk through it with your husband and see if you might take a few cautious steps beyond the confines of your home.
Q: What does the Great Commission have to do with women’s creative gifts?
WS: Motherhood often feels like a season of confinement. How in the world could we ever be part of taking God’s message of love and salvation out into the great big world? Home and our people take everything we have, right where we are! But when Jesus sent His disciples “to the end of the earth,” home is where it all began! In Acts 1:8, we read, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Jerusalem was home for the early church, Judea and Samaria her neighboring communities, and that’s where it all began — outward from there. So it is for moms at home today. Look for ways to let your light shine right where you are, then into your neighborhood, your cul-de-sac, school, church, and local mercy ministries, and from there out into the end of the earth.
Q: How can today’s busy moms authentically be involved in the “ends of the earth” part of the Great Commission from their homes without a plane ticket and a passport?
KS: Within the pages of Life Creative, we share the stories of many creative mothers who are blessing people around the world without ever leaving home. Women like Myquilin Smith (The Nester) and Melissa Michaels, both of whom are teaching women the art of hospitality through the embracing of home. There are photographers, jewelry makers and painters, all of whom showcase their art from their living rooms or dining room tables. A picture shared online has the power to bless someone half a world away. Mothers around the world are sharing their faith through their artistic talents, all without ever having to leave home. This is the beauty of living in our digital age.
WS: “Missionary” used to be a term reserved for the men, women and children who traveled to the underbelly of the globe to share Christ with others. Today we are all invited to live missional lives right where we are — in our homes and neighborhood. The more we catch the vision, the more passionate about sharing the Gospel we grow and the more we are propelled out into the world! I see it again and again, this outward moving force of the Great Commission call upon our lives. Kelli and I believe art can most definitely be an integral part of a woman’s calling into the world! For example, I have friends who have made and sold scarves, pieces of art to be hung on walls and hosted concerts in their homes to help them fund mission trips to the other side of the world.
Q: You offer wonderful advice in the book for creative moms venturing into the business world both online and in real life. What is the most important thing for these “mompreneurs” to keep in mind?
KS: How do I know if now is the right time? How can I know if this will work? What if I fail — or worse, what if I fail my family? These are common questions women ask themselves as they begin the process of dream chasing. Failure. It’s a fear that plagues us all when we prepare to step beyond the predictable routines of our motherly lives and head into the more uncharted territory of a working mom.
In this chapter of Life Creative, we recognize the creative mother looking to expand her hobby into a business won’t always be given a sign or hear an audible direction about where she should go next. In looking to pursue a business out of her art, she may find herself at a crossroads. Should she step forward and pursue her dreams or wait a little longer? While we can’t give specific answers to those questions, we do encourage these women to evaluate if pursuing a business endeavor is right for them. We offer several examples of how to know if the time is right and questions to help them know when and if to take the steps toward building a business.
Q: It’s a delicate task to balance art, faith and family. How can moms keep a balanced perspective when life seems anything but balanced?
KS: Wendy and I begin by acknowledging balance is fluid concept! What looks like “balance” for one person will look entirely different for the next. And there’s a reason for that — because balance is a myth. Finding balance is a bit like hunting for a unicorn. Maybe it’s out there, but nobody has ever actually seen it; they’ve only heard it exists.
WS: Kelli was a friend long before she was a writing partner, and one of the things she has taught me is balance was never meant to be achieved in the course of one 24-hour day. Some days it’s all house work; other days we spend the majority of it building Legos on the floor. There are days for running errands and having play dates, where we pick up a frozen pizza for dinner, and other days when we pull away to write, edit photos for a client or sell our wares at a local farmers market. In the midst of this very full life, something akin to balance can be found if you are intentional to love well and be gracious to yourself along the way.