A celebration of motherhood, creativity, and the faith that binds them
In our Pinterest age of handcrafted children's parties, artistic Instagram photos, tutorials for renovating old furniture into new treasures, and blogs filled with poetry, prose, and other creative expression, it is clear that a brand-new generation of creative women is rising up. It is a renaissance born not in Italian cathedrals or Harlem jazz clubs but in kitchens and nurseries and living rooms around the world. But when Christian women become mothers, they often feel expected to lay down their creative pursuits in order to properly parent.
Wendy Speake and Kelli Stuart know that struggle. While they acknowledge that some seasons of mothering require setting artistic pursuits aside, they also argue that these seasons don't have to last until empty nest time. Instead, mothers with creative gifts are called to actively use them in order to bless their families, their communities, and everyone they encounter.
Inspiring and encouraging, Life Creative celebrates the ways mothers can live their art in the midst of their mothering. They tell the stories of women such as author and speaker Angie Smith, recording artist Ellie Holcomb, and jewelry designer Lisa Leonard who do just that. By following God's leading to embrace His gifts, renaissance moms can model the joy of obedience for their families.
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About the Author
Kelli Stuart is the coauthor of Dare 2B Wise and has written for several brands including Disney, American Girl, and Short Fiction Break. She has served as editor-in-chief for the St. Louis Bloggers Guild and as a board member for the St. Louis Women in Media. In addition to her writing, Kelli has spent twenty years studying Ukranian culture. Kelli lives in Florida and blogs at KelliStuart.com.
Read an Excerpt
Inspiration for Today's Renaissance Mom
By Wendy Speake, Kelli Stuart
Kregel PublicationsCopyright © 2016 Wendy Speake and Kelli Stuart
All rights reserved.
A New Renaissance
People are moved to wonder by mountain peaks, by vast waves of the sea, by broad waterfalls on rivers, by the all-embracing extent of the ocean, by the revolutions of the stars. But in themselves they are uninterested.
Augustine, AD 399
I see you there awkwardly turning your wrist, trying to conceal the fact that you're uploading another artfully edited picture of your children to Instagram. Does your husband laugh, and do you blush? Have you convinced yourself that what you're doing is silly? Or are you halfway holding on to hope that each picture is an offering of something beautiful and worthy and encouraging? Because it is. And so are you.
You are an offering altogether beautiful, worthy, and wonderful. You, dear Mom, are the poster child of a brand new Renaissance! This movement is not coursing across Europe as it did in the 1500s, or blaring from the jazz clubs of Harlem, pumping out into the humid New York skyline of the 1920s. It is, instead, flowing out of homes, nurseries, kitchens, and living rooms around the world through cyberspace, uploaded and shared with friends and public circles, allowing this generation of Renaissance women to move faster than Michelangelo or Langston Hughes ever dreamed.
Here's the most amazing part: you're just being you — altogether beautiful you, amidst the chaotic rhythms of motherhood. Capturing great glimpses of glory with your camera at the sandlot over brown bag lunches. And when you lay your little ones down for naps, out it flows — the inspired offering of a creative woman. I'm here to tell you this is a worthy use of your life: both the grand offering of motherhood, and the smaller gifting of artistic self-expression. I hear you and see you, and am experiencing you as you pin your way through new recipes and craft ideas. As you redesign your child's room and paint her walls with murals, I stand in awe of your outpouring. This is the flow of a Renaissance mom.
Of course, it's not easy, is it? This glorious Renaissance most often happens in the quiet moments, many of them hidden in the dark of night after children are asleep, or early mornings before tiny feet pitter-patter to your side. You're sneaking it in, because life dictates that you do so. But I see you as you work.
I see the artistry eeking out of those slivers of silent moments ... stolen, sequestered, and sanctified. I've taken the time to consider the way you work dough, the way you fly that needle through fabric, plan a birthday party with handcrafted banners, and type out the poetry of your days into short blog posts. And I invite you to join me in this observation, to consider the way you were created creative. I offer this invitation with a warning, though. It's not uncommon for women to experience shame and embarrassment when they pause to focus on themselves, particularly when they are in the thick of this others-centered season. This book is a safe place where we seek out together what God might have intended when, just days after He hung the heavens and fixed the Earth in place, He fashioned us in His image — creative.
Some of you are stay-at-home moms, each day carving out those rare moments that you get to call your own. This book is for you, a love letter to your creative heart. Others of you are on-the-job moms, fitting your creativity into the packed places of work-life balance. Either way, consider me your cheerleader, shaking my pom-poms and shouting 2-4-6-8, because I appreciate you! And so do your children as you decorate their lives and keepsake their memories. Your husband, coworkers, and friends are grateful for the gift of your creativity and the marvelous meals served on the tablecloth of your hospitality.
You are the face of a brand-new Renaissance. Look in the mirror and take a deep breath, knowing you have been affirmed.
But let us also acknowledge that it's a dance, this creative life in the midst of mothering — a dance that threatens our balance. You understand balance as you hang your canvas upon the wall. You choose balance as you create a website to market your treasures, and balance again as you purposefully shut down your computer when it's time to join your family around the table. And in all the understanding and the choosing, you may just find that there is no such thing as balance after all. Some days it's all mothering, and other days you're lopsided the other way. Like dancing on a tightrope as it sways in the wind, one foot in front of the other, each creative step and mothering step, back and forth.
So read on, dear Renaissance Moms, not just to receive affirmation, but also to find encouragement and help in this dance between family, faith, and flourishing creativity.
* * *
Renaissance man (noun). A cultured man who is knowledgeable, educated, interested, and/or proficient in a wide range of subjects.
A Renaissance man or woman, or mom as the case may be, is a term reserved for one who is generally known to be talented in many different areas. "She bakes, she sews, she sings ... what a Renaissance woman!" Though most Renaissance men of the late Middle Ages were artistically gifted, the term was not relegated to the arts alone, but rather included a wide skill set. Leonardo DaVinci, for example, was a master painter and sculptor, but also studied the stars and charted the anatomy of man. DaVinci was both artist and scientist, a man who could seemingly do it all. And so can we, perhaps, but not all at once. And not all today.
* * *
During our college days, Jules smelled of citrus and cinnamon when everyone else smelled of Dr. Pepper and granola. She was altogether different and intriguing because she dared live off campus and make her own meals rather than join us in the cafeteria.
Jules was a poet, an actress, a dancer, and, I thought at the time, quite possibly a fairy.
She no longer performs onstage, but this doesn't mean her creative life has been lost. It's morphed out of the theater and into the home instead. Yet through the passage of time, one thing remains consistent — she still smells of exotic spices. These days, however, instead of keeping to herself in a small off-campus bungalow, Jules has swung open the doors of her family home in Los Angeles, feeding women from her kitchen with healthy meals and rich conversation. Her passion to blend art and life within her own four walls over a wooden cutting board has overflowed into lives the world over.
Knee deep in mothering, Jules creatively inspires women not only to feed their families healthy, beautiful meals but to nourish their own souls as well. Encouraging weary moms who have lost their passion for the kitchen to rediscover the joy, the art, and the honor of filling little bellies and hearts alike. Jules models this joy with recipes that read more like a conversation over a platter of persimmons, figs, and all sorts of vegetables straight from the earth. Blogging her way through farmers' markets as her children pull their wagon behind her, it's all swathed together into one inspiring picture of a Renaissance mom.
It was another Jules who helped coin the phrase Renaissance in literature. Jules Michelet's Histoire de France, in 1855, was one of the first to fashion a label upon the miracle of creativity that pushed through Europe from the fourteenth through seventeenth centuries. Art was being born again after the dark ages of European history.
The Dark Ages
Renaissance literally translates "rebirth." How appropriate, and how inspiring for mothers of young children, because there are indeed dark ages in our mothering as well. Dark years when long nights and overwhelming days roll ceaselessly together, and hormones swing out. Then suddenly our tears are tempered by the glory moments of beauty. Soft morning cuddles. Childlike faith taking root. The handprint art we frame, and the birthday dress that magically turns her into a real-life princess.
In these dark ages, amidst the unending flow of meeting everyone's needs, the arts seem to get lost for a season, as they did in the darkest chapters of world history. But here's an amazing truth about the literal Dark Ages and the Renaissance that followed: it was the church that protected much of the ancient writings when the world went black. It was the church that tucked them away alongside relics and artifacts. As though God Himself were holding the arts there in the dark. And when it was time for our world's creative rebirth, much of it flowed from the church.
Now implant that in your own heart on a personal level. In your darkest mothering days, when the hours stretch long and weary, and your time and energy leak out upon the never-ending list of chores, God Himself is holding on to those creative and seemingly lost parts of you. And when He Himself calls you to new life on the other side of this overwhelming season, He will give it all back — along with so much more.
If I say, "Surely the darkness will overwhelm me, And the light around me will be night," Even the darkness is not dark to You, And the night is as bright as the day. Darkness and light are alike to You. (Ps. 139:11–12)
Our darkest days are as light to Him. He sees us all illuminated, from beginning to end. He knows all, is over all, purposing each dark day to radically juxtapose the glory of the Renaissance to come. For God is the master of rebirth, reigning sovereign over the dark ages of our personal history. Yes, God is the author of this Renaissance!
* * *
I understand all of this well, the death and dying sensation of servitude. Even back when I prepared to say "I do," a small part of me cried out "I don't," because I could foresee the natural flow away from me and into them on the other side of marriage and children.
There we were in the pastor's office, young, naïve, and love-struck, counseling our way through the engagement as we planned the wedding. Thankfully, the pastor didn't just want a well-planned wedding for us. He saw ahead into our marriage and somehow perceived my fears, so he turned to me and asked, "What are you most afraid of?" I sputtered, stuttered, and stopped.
He let me think in the awkward quiet, and it grew hot as my future husband waited for an answer. Finally, "I'm afraid of losing myself" came from somewhere deeper than my conscious mind — a prophetic deep. And our counselor nodded and smiled, and waited for me to continue.
"Not right away, maybe, but over the years. Because I love this man, and want to pour myself out for him and into him; and one day I want to stay at home with our children, and pour myself out for them ... but what if I get all poured out and lose the stuff that makes me special? I don't even know what it might look like. But what if I do?"
He nodded again then shifted his gaze to my fiancé, to the one who had not yet done any wrong in my eyes. The older said to the younger, "Do you hear what she's saying? She's going to lay her life down to lift you up. But this is only going to work if you do the same for her." It was intense, with my man nodding emphatically like he understood, but neither of us really did because we hadn't lived it yet.
Now here we are fifteen years in, and while he's tried to lift me up and serve me back, it's not a simple equation where y = x, because his y chromosome doesn't always equal my x. So here I am, giving myself away for all these people that I'm head over heels in love with, and he's off working, laying his life down for us in a whole other sense, and all that good counseling has to find its way to application. So we try to figure it out late at night, once the children are in bed, and we meet up together in the dark.
But when he falls asleep, I'm still awake, and I see that my pre married fears were rooted in something real and common among women. Perhaps you also see yourself struggling in this lonely place, having laid it all down for the loved ones in your midst. Perhaps you too know these dark ages of mothering, where passion for life, ministry, and art seem lost.
If that's where you are, dear Mom, I urge you not to mourn the loss for more than a moment. This is not the end of who you are. As you pour yourself out to your beloveds, day after day, longing for time to create but not knowing where the moments will magically appear, I urge you to cling to the picture of Him holding your art with the same tenderness that He holds your eternal soul. Caressing each moment protectively in His palm, guarding it as you sacrificially give of yourself.
These dark ages are not the end of who He created you to be. They're the night before the dawn, the winter before spring, the labor before new life. Like the flip side of an Ecclesiastes coin, a time to plant and a time to reap, a time to rend and a time to mend; a time to pour into young souls, cultivating their roots, and a time to send them out with their own strong wings; a time to know death but also a time to know rebirth. Renaissance. This is our anthem song as we march through the dark: a time to lay our lives down, but also a time to be lifted up again. Look up expectantly — this is only the beginning!
There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven. (Eccl. 3:1)
His plans are for seasons and each season requires new plans. When our children are very young we inevitably find ourselves in a season of sacrifice. This sacrifice will look different for each of us. Some will sacrifice artistic careers to stay home with the children, filling the days with fantastic adventures, hectic trips to the grocery store, and more laundry than can possibly be tallied. Others may have to sacrifice time in the home along with creative expression in order to help make ends meet financially, dropping children off at day care, praying through traffic, wishing it were easier.
Make no mistake about it — sacrifice is never easy. I say this not as someone far removed from sacrificial loving but as someone presently living deep in the trenches. The monitor by my side hums with the white noise of a fan as I type this message out, reminding me of the newborn who's swaddled like an inchworm one room over. I know I should sleep myself, sinking into a few hours of slumber before her cries draw me to her side again. But this message calls, and so I sacrifice the sleep. Yes, I understand the hollow places of sacrifice, and I agree. It is difficult.
But then, if it weren't difficult, it wouldn't be a sacrifice.
Perhaps you're in the midst of a similarly constraining season of sacrifice. But these early mothering days do not define the length and width of your forever life. It is true that He made you a wife and a mother, but your timeline holds more from cradle to graduation to grave. More seasons and more facets to the jewel we call your abundant life. And part of your more is the fact that He created you creative.
Because of that masterful design, you ache today to live in the fullness of your nature: to sing or to write, to paint, to decorate, to sew, to build, or to bake. You have ideas, some of which keep you awake at night. You feel them calling and long to answer, but you're not sure how. You roll over to find your husband sleeping soundly in the dark, and perhaps feel a bit resentful. He knows his purpose; you wish that you could embrace your mission with the same gutsy pride.
Here's the charge: I believe you can. Though some days (or seasons) it's an awkward, bumpy ride, the creative in you is still there, in the dark perhaps, waiting for that coming time when you'll once again stretch your creative wings, and — yes, my friend — you just may fly.
There is freedom waiting for you,
On the breezes of the sky,
And you ask, "What if I fall?"
Oh but my darling,
What if you fly?
This Renaissance is the breeze to give you flight, but it all starts with the One who gave you wings. Rest fully in the knowledge that your creativity was not an accident, nor is your present circumstance of motherhood. They are both gifts from Him, both parts of a Master plan, woven and knit into beautiful you. God has a plan for your creativity, even in the seemingly dormant years — the dark ages before the dawning light.
* * *
When I think back to that day in our pastor's office, I'm moved by my prophetic fears. However, I believe that our counselor, though well intentioned, didn't get it quite right. While he encouraged my husband to support me, I've found that I can't depend on him to fill me and hold me up all the time. I need more — something more, Someone more.
During the hardest and darkest seasons of sacrifice, the only one able to lift us fully from the dark and give us renewed vision for life is our Savior. His Spirit and His life and His power holding us up as we lay it all down.
Excerpted from Life Creative by Wendy Speake, Kelli Stuart. Copyright © 2016 Wendy Speake and Kelli Stuart. Excerpted by permission of Kregel Publications.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
1 A New Renaissance 15
2 Confined Yet Unhindered 29
3 Beyond Jerusalem 39
4 Renaissance Faire 51
5 Our Most Beautiful Creations 63
6 Making Space 75
7 Renaissance Worship 87
8 The Art of Home 99
9 The Pull of the Tide 113
10 When God Calls a Mother 127
11 A Business of Art in the Busyness of Motherhood 141
12 Renaissance Mom in a Digital Age 155
13 When Art Turns a Profit 167
14 Renaissance Rising 181
15 Doxology 193
About the Authors 205
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I loved the encouragement in this inspiring book! I've been feeling like I've neglected many of my creative talents, and regretting it. The authors helped put things in perspective- the never ending balance of motherhood, work, and homemaking. They helped me see that my creative gifts are God-given and can be incorporated into my life as it is now, even if it's in small ways or through ministering to my children. They focus on the importance of using our creativity to inspire our faith, but I never felt a guilt-trip, rather immense understanding for the difficulties mothers face, especially those with young children. The topic is approached from various angles, and I especially appreciated the thought that women help lift each other since I feel a great connection to the friends in my life who are in similar circumstances. I am excited to embrace my new identity of Renaissance mom and sanctify some of my time to tap into the part of my soul that yearns to create. I highly recommend this book for all moms, especially those who are feeling the urge to become more creative! (Thank you to Litfuse Publicity for a copy of the book; this is my honest review)