Blessings and Adieu

Blessings and Adieu

Nine years ago, I started my first blog. Like a lot of people, I didn’t start off smoothly. It was a rough few months figuring out exactly what a blog should be, how to tell a story in a way that was interesting, how to share what was happening in our lives without oversharing.

Blogging filled a need for me. I was a writer, but I needed to practice the art of the written word, and I learned a lot in those early blogging days. I also had a lot of fun.

I walked a red carpet in Hollywood.

I covered the five year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.

I went to Toronto and interviewed Christine Baranski.

I went to Tanzania and saw first hand the impact that Compassion International has on families around the world.

I met some amazing people on this blogging journey, and I have friendships all around the world because of those early mornings spent typing out stories for the world to read.

Blogging made me a better writer, a better mom, a better wife, and a better person. Blogging helped me process a cross country move, the termination of our adoption, and the death of a parent.

Blogging gave me the opportunity to dissect the difference between Christian art and the Christian who makes art. My faith has been stretched and challenged as I’ve worked to live it out both privately and online.

And, ultimately, blogging led me down the path toward my ultimate goal – publishing books. You all rejoiced with me when I got my first publishing contract, and then my second.

I owe a world of gratitude to the blogging community and all it has offered me. This is why it’s sort of painful for me to step away from it, but more and more over the last few months I’ve felt that it was time for me to take a hiatus from the blogging world.

I’ve fought this decision. I didn’t want to stop blogging, and discontinuing my blog goes against all conventional wisdom for writing and marketing books, but the current life stage in which I find myself demands that I make some changes.

Right now, my heart’s desire is to continue to build my publishing career, and with four kids, homeschooling, taxiing said children to ALL THE SPORTING EVENTS IN THE WHOLE WIDE WORLD, and every other daily responsibility that falls on my shoulders, something has to give.

Right now, I can either write good books, or I can write good blog posts. But I can’t do both.

So I will be taking a hiatus from the blogging world. I don’t know if I’m stepping away forever or for a time – I just know I need to give myself the freedom to walk away so I can focus on writing my next novel, as well as the novella I’ve been mulling over. I’m also fleshing out an idea for a new nonfiction book.

My brain is spinning with ideas, and this is exciting!

So, while I’ll be stepping away from blogging, I’m not completely disappearing. I still want to connect with all of you! 

I’m going to start posting Facebook videos a couple of times a week on my Facebook page, and I would love to have you join me there. I’ll be discussing books I’m reading, talking about the writing process, telling funny stories – pretty much everything I would have done here only in short 2-5 minutes video bites.

Will you join me there?

You can also connect with me on Instagram where I’ll continue to share bits of my day to day life.

And of course, I still contribute regularly at Extraordinary Mommy, and occasionally at The Huffington Post. 

I will miss sharing my life in this medium, but for now this is the right decision. To whomever has hung on with me from the beginning (and there are a few of you!), I thank you for taking this life journey with me. You all have been such a blessing.

And for those of you who are new, I sure hope you’ll continue to follow along, because if I’ve learned anything during this blogging journey it’s that life is so much more fun when it’s shared!

Blessings and Adieu…for now.

*wink*

Profiting from Art: An Excerpt from Life Creative

As someone who has long desired, and worked toward, building a career out of her art, the struggle of charging for my work has never been one that I battled. It seemed only natural to charge for the time and effort I spent on projects, though perhaps I undercharged on occasion in an effort to gain exposure.

But whether or not to charge for creative skills offered is a surprising struggle for many women. I didn’t understand it until I started talking to moms about Life Creative.

The question of whether to charge, and how much to charge, is a real struggle for many women, particularly Christian women who view their work as an extension of ministry. With this is mind, Wendy and I set out to write a chapter in Life Creative that speaks specifically to this struggle.

Maybe you find yourself hashing through this very concept. You believe you have a discernible skill, and you’re offering beauty back to the world, but you’re unsure of whether to charge for it. This book is for you!

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The following excerpt from the book offers just a glance at the encouragement offered to the creative who wants to make a business out of her art. I hope it will encourage you as you move forward.

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When Art Turns a Profit: An excerpt from Life Creative: Inspiration for Today’s Renaissance Mom

Art is a valuable thing. Collectors of great masterpieces have bet their wealth on it, and if this is true, then we can naturally deduce that art- ists are valuable as well. We create beauty in a world that often feels ugly. When fires burn and terrorism reigns, we bring the healing light of hope through our artistic contributions.

Before we even talk about price tags and profit, let’s just grapple with this core component—we have something of worth to contribute to this world. Whether you create simply as an overflow and give your creations away freely, or you create with a long- ing to profit from your art, you, dear mom, bring value to this world. Rejoice in that! Yet for some reason as creatives, particularly creative women, we’re quick to shrug our shoulders and dismiss these gifts as frivolous, thereby undervaluing them before we even open shop. In this age that idolizes big platforms, bright lights, Internet fame, and viral success, these feelings of inadequacy lead us to question our small place in the online marketplace, and our worthiness to make a profit.

Dear creative friends, this must not be the case! You are a steward of talents. You may be familiar with the parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14–30, where one servant is given one talent, another two, and another five—according to their abililites. Knowing that their master is a hard man, the first servant buries his coin in the sand, so that he doesn’t lose it. The man with two talents invests his money wisely and makes an impressive return.

And the servant entrusted with five talents yields his master five more, due to his shrewd stewardship. Of course Jesus is talking about talents, as in coins, but we’re talking about artistic talents too, because isn’t everything He gives us ours to steward wisely for the greatest return? So all of this leads me to ask: What will you do with what the Master has entrusted to you?

Bury it?
Invest it?
Use it?
Charge for it?
Give it away?

In all labor there is profit,
But mere talk leads only to poverty.” Proverbs 14:23

Regardless of the choice you make, the gifts you possess, along with the hours in your day, are entirely yours to steward, so steward them well. If you’ve offered your dreams back to the Lord, and you’ve given Him your surrendered yes to follow where He leads, then the banner of His grace now rests upon each decision you make. And if you long to make a profit from your art, then this is what I want you to take away: attaching value to the hours you spend laboring over each handmade treasure isn’t unbiblical for the creative Christian.

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LC-BookCoverIf you haven’t yet grabbed your copy of Life Creative: Inspiration for Today’s Renaissance Mom, now is the time to do it!

Currently Amazon is (most unfortunately) out of books. We’re trying to figure out why and what we need to do to rectify that situation. You can still purchase the book from Amazon, but it may be several days before you receive it.

In the meantime, if you want to receive the book quicker, you can purchase it at Barnes and Noble.com, and ChristianBook.com.

Grab your copy of Life Creative today and see why women are calling it one of the most encouraging books they’ve read this year!

Business and Art: Treat It Like a Business

The Business of-2

 

When I first met my husband, he was freshly graduated from college, and he was in the prime of his glory days as a scholarship collegiate basketball player.

He had come down to Waco, TX to interview for the position of Area Director for a ministry called K-Life, for which I was a volunteer. I was nineteen, he was twenty-three. He sat with his back against the wall, a baseball cap pulled down low over his forehead, and I was immediately smitten.

Two years after that initial meeting, he and I were married. I had worked my magic and made him mine. *wink*

When we married, the only images I had of my husband were from our time in youth ministry. He was the guy who dunked a ball over three high school students at a three-on-three tournament.

He was the guy who dressed in ridiculous costumes and made junior high students howl with laughter.

He was spontaneous and funny and completely goofy, and I loved him for it.

But when we got married, he decided to enter the business world. As much as he loved youth ministry, it seemed he had some dreams outside of putting on skits. And suddenly, I didn’t know who he was.

Turns out, this man of mine had business savvy. A bit of a wanderer at heart, the business world allowed him to stretch his wings. It baffled me for a long time, because I had a hard time reconciling the business man with the basketball star. And his constant influx of business ideas often left me on edge.

Now, however, I see the brilliance, and even the creativity, in this forward thinking man of mine. And I’ve learned a lot about what it means to run a business just by watching him.

Before we were even married, my husband began closing deals not for himself, but for me. We met Joe White, the director and owner of Kanakuk Kamps in Branson, MO my senior year at Baylor and by the end of the evening, Lee had convinced him to hire me as the ghostwriter for his next book. I would end up co-authoring that book in 2004.

Lee has always been my cheerleader, pushing me to see the bigger picture of what I could do. And his advice is always the same: “Treat this like a business.”

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The key in taking our creative hobby and turning it into something more is to take it seriously enough to call it a business. An excerpt from my upcoming book explains more:

Several years ago as I began ramping up my career as a writer and editor, I took on a lot of jobs without pay. I rationalized this choice by convincing myself that I needed to build a name for myself, and show that I had experience. But as the work took off it became a lot to manage, and suddenly I found myself stressed over everything. That’s when my husband pulled me aside one evening after the kids were tucked into bed.

“You need to stop working for free,” he told me as we sat nestled on our wicker couch on the front porch, enjoying the cool, September air. “If you don’t value your time and skill, the people you’re working for won’t either.” I tried to defend my reasoning for offering free services, but he stopped me, and I knew it was time to listen. My husband is a successful businessman. I needed to hear his words and ingest them.

“I know that you’re gifted,” he said. “I know that you’re good at what you do. In fact, lots of people know it. But it’s time that you believe that you’re good enough to start charging for it.” That was a turning point for me professionally, but it wasn’t easy to retrain my thoughts. I was fearful that I would lose opportunity if I started charging, and I did on occasion. Some people simply couldn’t afford to pay me, and I had to walk away from those projects. But the people who were willing to pay agreed with the value I had placed on my time and skill, and I found that working with the promise of compensation gave me more confidence, thereby eliminating much of my stress, which in turn relieved some of the burden and stress from my family who had to live with me.

Friends, God has given you talents, and with them may come the opportunity to produce a financial blessing. Undervaluing the work that you do isn’t His desire, nor does He ask us to hide timidly in the shadows as we meekly hold our wares out to a waiting world. Instead, He invites us to work hard and to charge for our services. © Life Creative: Inspiration for Today’s Renaissance Mom: Wendy Speake and Kelli Stuart, Kregel Publications, 2016

Taking your creative hobby to the next level requires that you look at it like a business. It’s not just “something you do for fun.” You are providing value to a world that needs it. You’re making beauty in a world that often feels like it’s spinning out of control.

Making this change from hobby to business may take some time. You’ll likely have to retrain your thoughts to see what you do not as something on the side, but as a valuable contribution.

The Business of Art

Do you believe this? Do you see your gift as bringing value into the world?

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LC-BookCoverThis series is inspired by my upcoming book Life Creative: Inspiration for Today’s Renaissance Mom. *

Co-authored with Wendy Speake, this book is specifically for the creative mom who wonders why on earth God designed her creative, and then gave her children. It’s full of encouragement and stories of renaissance moms who are impacting the world with their art, oftentimes with little ones by their side.

As a special incentive, if you buy your copy by the end of September you will receive a free pdf downloadable that expands more on how to turn your creative hobby into a thriving business. Offering practical tools that will help you take your art to the next level, this is the encouragement you need to move forward toward your creative pursuits.

Purchase your copy of Life Creative now, then come back and fill out the form to receive your free pdf downloadable.

*affiliate link included

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Life Creative Order Bonus: 5 Steps To Turn Your Creative Hobby into a Thriving Business

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Business and Art: Invite Yourself to the Party

The Business of-2

*This is a continuation in my 5 Part series on how to turn your creative hobby into something more. To read the first post, click here.

On my second to last day at the conference, I was licking some wounds.

The night before, a popular band had come to perform and there was a floor open for dancing. One thing you should know about me is I love a good dance. Going to dance clubs in college provided me with some of my favorite memories, and one of my first official dates with my husband involved a dance floor.

Dancing is my favorite!

But again, I was at the conference alone, and I didn’t want to be the awkward girl shaking her tail feathers solo in the corner, so I determined to mingle a bit and make some new friends.

Immediately upon entering the ballroom, I encountered a group of women I’d met briefly before. They were women who all wrote for a popular site that I enjoyed, so I introduced myself, told them how much I appreciated their writing…then I stopped talking.

I’m not a good conversationalist. Ask my husband – it’s one of the things that drives my sanguine man crazy.

Now, these women are all lovely individuals. I have no reason to think they were purposely trying to push me out, but the fact of the matter is I tried to invite myself to their party and it simply wasn’t the right moment. We all stood in an awkward circle for a few minutes until the band started playing. They started dancing, and ever so slowly I found myself standing on the outside of their circle.

I was the awkward girl shaking her tail feathers solo in a corner. So I left.

The next morning, I walked into the courtyard with a little trepidation. I was meeting someone I’d only ever communicated with online. And what’s worse, I’d asked for the meeting. After the night before, I wasn’t sure I wanted to invite myself to anymore parties so I briefly considered running.

But then I saw him and he saw me, and there was no backing out.

I’d asked Shaun Groves if we could meet face to face and talk about Compassion International and the possibility of me taking a trip with one of their blogger teams. He graciously agreed, and as this conference was in his home town, we set the meeting up.

The conversation was uplifting, encouraging, and insightful. Shaun gave me his vision for the next few trips, and we talked about some action steps I could take to perhaps join them.

We parted agreeing to pray over whether or not I would be a good fit for a Compassion Bloggers trip. I walked back to my hotel room in a fog. The emotions of the weekend were beginning to swirl around me, and I suddenly felt exhausted.

The next morning, I heard my cell phone buzz. It was from Shaun. “We’re taking a blogging team to Tanzania in May. Want to join us?”

Three months later, I was on a plane with Compassion Bloggers to Tanzania. That was the week that changed everything. It changed how I viewed my work as a writer. It changed how I viewed the world. It was the catalyst that pushed my husband and I to start the adoption process – the adoption that would ultimately be terminated.

And the balm to my grief over the termination was writing. I finished my novel in the three months after our adoption fell through, words the only thing that kept me from spinning into depression.

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Taking your creative hobby to the next level will often be uncomfortable. You may have to invite yourself to a few parties. But just because you invite yourself in doesn’t mean you’re supposed to be there. You may face some rejection (in fact, it’s almost inevitable that you will), but if you’re willing to shake it off and move on to the next party, you just might find a place where you fit.

Starting a business or a ministry takes time, confidence, and loads of perseverance. We can’t cut ties and run every time we feel unwanted or uninvited. Sometimes we just have to step up and and let people know we’re here, and we bring value to the table.

The Business of Art

A few things to consider in this second step

1.) What value do you bring to the creative marketplace? What do you have to offer?

2.) Is there already a community that’s doing what you do, or something similar to what you do?

3.) How can you step into that community and become a part of it? The fact is, we’re all better with a support network, so where can you find support in your creative pursuit?

4.) What scares you most about inviting yourself to the party? Speak truth over your fears and insecurities, and cover them in prayer.

“Do not be anxious in anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God.” Phillippians 4:6

Join me the rest of September as we continue to discuss how to take your creative hobby to the next level. Subscribe to my blog in the box to the right so that these posts will appear directly in your inbox!

Read the first post in the series here.

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LC-BookCoverThis series is inspired by my upcoming book Life Creative: Inspiration for Today’s Renaissance Mom. *

Co-authored with Wendy Speake, this book is specifically for the creative mom who wonders why on earth God designed her creative, and then gave her children. It’s full of encouragement and stories of renaissance moms who are impacting the world with their art, oftentimes with little ones by their side.

As a special incentive, if you buy your copy by the end of September you will receive a free pdf downloadable that expands more on how to turn your creative hobby into a thriving business. Offering practical tools that will help you take your art to the next level, this is the encouragement you need to move forward toward your creative pursuits.

Purchase your copy of Life Creative now, then come back and fill out the form to receive your free pdf downloadable.

*affiliate link included

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Life Creative Order Bonus: 5 Steps To Turn Your Creative Hobby into a Thriving Business

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An Invitation to Celebrate a Life Creative

I was twenty years old, and I was living alone in Kiev, Ukraine.

Not totally alone, of course. I was living with a young, Ukrainian couple who spoke English (but often refused to speak it because they wanted me to become fluent in Russian), but I didn’t have any peers with me on the trip.

I was in Ukraine for two solid months before I even met another American. Looking back, I know this was a good thing. It forced me to adapt to the culture and the language, and it made me brave.

But I was lonely those four months. Trying to communicate in another language is exhausting. In the early days when I was completely alone, my only respite came from 3:00-4:00 in the afternoons after school.

I’d arrive home to an empty apartment and turn on the TV. Beverly Hills 90210 played weekday afternoons, and the translation lagged just enough behind the English that I could tune it out and listen to the show in my native tongue.

I never watched that show as a young girl, but I saw nearly every episode in Ukraine. I became well acquainted with Brandon, and Brenda, and Dillan, and Kelly, and all the others whose names I can’t remember now…

Outside of riveting television, though, I found my greatest comfort inside the pages of my journals. I wrote until my hand hurt, recording everything from the mundane moments of my days to the hysterical gaffes I made (I slipped on ice and fell on my butt more than once rushing to and from school).

After a weekend excursion to Prague, I came home with an English language copy of the book Jane Eyre, which I’d found in a little store near Charles Bridge. I devoured that book twice in my remaining months in Ukraine, and suddenly my journal pages were filled with poetic imagery. I used language like, “the leaves dance to the ground in a silent waltz,” and “the birds soar above my head on wings of freedom.”

WHO TALKS LIKE THAT?!

Twenty-Year-Olds who have too much alone time, that’s who.

It’s been 18 years since that life-changing experience. 18 years since I sat on a bench on a Ukrainian hillside overlooking the Dnieper River, and vowed to become a storyteller.

The book that began simmering and bubbling in my heart all those years ago is now receiving rave reviews, and I still can’t believe that dream came true.

But what’s even more amazing is that it was just the beginning. That was only the first spark in my creative journey. It’s been a slow burn, sometimes dimmed by the pressures of every day life.

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Motherhood slowed down the dream, but in a good way, because motherhood was a dream in and of itself. I’m living both dreams side-by-side, and it’s a messy little blending of the two. But I wouldn’t have it any other way, because this is better than anything I could have imagined 18 years ago as a lonely American student in Ukraine.

It’s also harder than I thought it would be.

Beautiful. Hard. Messy. Dream.

Those words all fit together in this puzzle of life. They’re tangled up, each piece getting its turn to take the spotlight.

In just one short month, my second book hits shelves.

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Life Creative: Inspiration for Today’s Renaissance Mom releases on September 27. This is a book written for moms who are walking the line between motherhood and art. It’s a book for moms who had dreams long before they had children, and they want to know if it’s possible to blend the two parts of themselves.

Would you like to read an early release copy of Life Creative: Inspiration for Today’s Renaissance Mom? The launch team is forming, and a PDF copy of the book is available for download for a limited time.

Click here to sign up for the launch team. You’ll be sent instructions on how to download the book, as well as how to join a private Facebook group for launch team members.

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Creative moms are coming together and linking arms, all of us agreeing that this life creative is equal parts grand and exhausting. We’d love to have you join us as we bring this encouraging message to all the moms who remember dreaming on a hillside so many years ago.

Join the Life Creative Launch Team today!

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