How to Write Books with Babies In Your Lap (Giveaway)

via Worth James Goddard on flickr

You don’t.

You don’t write books with babies in your lap, you don’t even check your email because four boys are honking your nose and pulling at your hair and coffee spills all over the overdue bills on your desk and you wonder again, why you said Yes.

Why you said you’d take in your friend’s two children when she called saying she couldn’t do it anymore, she couldn’t be a mom anymore. And rather than see that one-year-old and three-year-old go into the foster system you said you’d take them in, in addition to your six-month-old and his two-year-old brother.

Because some things are more important than sleep. Or a hot cup of coffee. Or that novel you’ve just been contracted to write because of course, you finally got a contract right after you took the boys in. Because God cares more about the least of these and he’ll reward you for it, too.

But it doesn’t feel like a reward. Especially when one of the boys forgets to lock the gate behind him and your six month old tumbles down the stairs in his walker and you grab him, weeping, you run with him to the office and close the door and hold your baby close to you and sob to God, I can’t do this.

Rock your baby and sobbing, and then somehow, God reminds you that you can. And you rise, open the door, turn on some music for the boys in the living room and they run dancing around the coffee table.

The story only gets written because you hire a nanny–a Dutch girl from your hamlet who makes homemade pasta noodles and laughs with all of her upper body and brings crafts to do with the boys. She brings her keyboard and songs fill the insides of your walls and she makes you mugs of tea and you call her Angel.

But even as the characters begin to form on the screen in your Word document, even as the plot thickens and you try to avoid those excessive adverbs and cliche descriptions, you hear the boys laughing outside the office door.

And you miss them. Your house is full of children but they’re no longer climbing all over you, they’re climbing all over somebody else, and you wonder if they aren’t the greatest story your life is writing?

These four boys whose noses and legs never stop running, who never get enough stories at bedtime, who always want more songs and more snuggles and more glasses of milk and more of you.

boys in the corn

All you’ve ever wanted is to be a published author and now you have the chance and you can’t help thinking, this isn’t what life is about.

It’s incredible to be able to make up stories but it’s even more incredible to live them. To hear the words tumbling from your child’s mouth as he talks about his favorite blue flashlight as you lie beside him in his bunk-bed. “Some flashlights are small, and some are big, and some are tiny and some are huge,” he says as he slips his hand into yours there in the dark.

Catherine Wallace writes, “Listen earnestly to anything your children want to tell you, no matter what. If you don’t listen eagerly to the little stuff when they are little, they won’t tell you the big stuff when they are big, because to them all of it has always been big stuff.”

Yes, I write books, but I don’t make a living from them. I make a living from being a mother and a wife, from nurturing life and love through the main characters of my story: the Dutch-German man I fell in love with back in Bible School, the one who converts his car to run off vegetable oil, who cans his own salsa and snowboards mountains. Who hikes up his pajama pants and dances for me in the middle of the living room, who throws his boys on the bed and eats their tummies, who downloads Parenthood for me and goes geocaching with me and kisses me like he means it.

And the two Filipino boys who now only visit us once a month because they’re back with their mama, and she thanks me every week for saving her life last year, and my biological sons–the ones I wasn’t supposed to be able to have–who make me feel famous every time I enter a room. Who squish my cheeks together in their dimpled hands and say, “I lah you Mama.”

This, friends–this is the story worth telling. The one we’re in.

novel ad

I am honored to be giving away my debut novel, A Promise in Pieces--which releases this month–today to you friends… it’s about a woman like me, named Clara, who loves passionately while struggling to believe she is loved.

From the back cover: “It’s been more than 50 years since Clara cared for injured WWII soldiers in the Women’s Army Corp. Fifty years since she promised to deliver a dying soldier’s last wish. And 50 years since that soldier’s young widow gave her the baby quilt—a grief-ridden gift that would provide hope to countless newborns in the years to come. On her way to the National World War II Museum in New Orleans, Clara decides it’s time to share her story. But when the trip doesn’t go as planned, Clara wonders if anyone will learn the great significance of the quilt—and the promise stitched inside it.”

If you want to win one of two copies, just leave a comment below and we’ll choose two winners within the week. Otherwise, you can download a free chapter and purchase the novel HERE.

This post is part of our series Finding Balance as a Busy Mom. 

Please check the series page for all of the posts! 

Finding Balance as a Busy Mom

Hope Runs {how God can change your life in the blink of an eye} ~ Giveaway!!

There is no way to know where your life will go.

We work and plan and love and learn and think we know what may happen in this world, and what God may put in our path. But His magic shows, again and again, that what we know is nothing, and what we live is His.

This is how my story changed:

I went to Africa to climb a mountain.

ClaireDiazOrtizAfricaBioImage

It was the end of a year of around-the-world travel. A year of running through Indian monsoons, and searching for Mexican food in Mongolia, and reading hundreds of books on any hammock I could find. A year of a strange kind of traveling bliss that overtook me.

In Kenya, a mountain beckoned, as it had before. I was a runner, and a hiker, and after climbing to the base camp of Mt. Everest several months before, I knew I wanted more. After a few days in Kenya’s capital, I headed to the guest house that had come recommended to me – a cheap place near the mountain, I had been told.

I arrived to find a stranger truth than I first understood.

This is what was true:

An orphanage owned this guest house, and the elders of the orphanage were inviting me to break bread with them. And then, life changed.

Because I felt God there, in that lunch, with those people. And I asked Him to help me see. To help me know if He had put this place – this orphanage, this home for 170 Kenyan children I had never thought to think of before – in my road to change me.

He had, of course.

To this day, I have never climbed Mt. Kenya. I lived in that orphanage for a year, starting a small running program that became a non-profit organization, Hope Runs, with a mission to help orphaned and vulnerable children.

sammy and claire low quality

And in that year of running, other things came to pass.

Because on that first day, in those first hours, I had a met a boy. A teen who looked nine or ten, but proved to be thirteen, and who had struck up a conversation with me that I couldn’t shake. Throughout my year living in that place, he was at my side.

When I left Kenya, I left with the intention to bring him home with me. And eventually, with hope and prayer and work and sweat, he made it here. And now, years have passed, and our lives are more wildly different than we ever imagined.

Hope Runs: An American Tourist, A Kenyan Boy, a Journey of Redemption is the story of our journey.

I believe in the power of story. Not just mine, but yours as well. In honor of the launch of Hope Runs, I’m giving away a free ebook, entitled, Share Your Story. Download it here.

Hope Runs Cover

 GIVEAWAY!!! Win one of 3 Copies of Hope Runs

To win a copy of Hope Runs enter via Rafflecopter below.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

————–>>>>>(Or, buy a copy of Hope Runs and get $150 in freebies.)

About Hope Runs:

Sammy Ikua Gachagua had lost his father to illness, his mother to abandonment, and his home to poverty. By age ten, he was living in a shack with seven other children and very little food. He entered an orphanage seeing it as a miracle with three meals a day, a bed to sleep in, and clothes on his back.

When Claire Diaz-Ortiz arrived in Kenya at the end of an around-the-world journey, she decided to stay the night, climb Mt. Kenya, then head back home. She entered an orphanage seeing it as little more than a free place to spend the night before her mountain trek. God had other plans.

Hope Runs is the emotional story of an American tourist, a Kenyan orphan, and the day that would change the course of both of their lives forever. It’s about what it means to live in the now when the world is falling down around you. It’s about what it means to hope for the things you cannot see. Most of all, it’s about how God can change your life in the blink of an eye.

About Claire Diaz-Ortiz:

Claire Diaz-Ortiz (@claire) is an author, speaker and Silicon Valley innovator who was an early employee at Twitter. Named one of the 100 Most Creative People in Business by Fast Company, she holds an MBA and other degrees from Stanford and Oxford and has been featured widely in print and broadcast media. She writes a popular blog at ClaireDiazOrtiz.com and is the author of the new book, Hope Runs: An American Tourist, a Kenyan Boy, a Journey of Redemption.

Balancing Ministry and Motherhood {Or Not}

Me with some of my Dee Gees on campus

Me with some of my Dee Gees on campus

She was four when I started taking her to the Delta Gamma house with me. My little tag along. Sometimes she would watch American Idol with the girls in the TV room. Sometimes she would sneak off to one of their rooms for a sweet treat. Sometimes she would join me for a chapter meeting or meet me with the girls at Starbucks. I was an advisor for the chapter and I really loved those girls. And so did Madison.

She knew I was more than just an advisor. She knew my heart was for them. She heard me give them boy advice; saw me start a Bible study with a few of them; joined me in praying for them; went with me to cookouts and other fun events with them. One time, I even overheard her in the TV room telling one of them that the dancer on American Idol needed to do a better job of “protecting her modesty.”

That season of life was a fun one for us – ministering to college women as a team.

It’s one I think back to often when women ask me about balancing motherhood and ministry.

To be honest, I don’t think there IS a great way to balance motherhood and ministry. Because I think we’re asking the wrong question when we go at it from that angle.

It assumes a few things. First, it assumes that ministry and motherhood are mutually exclusive. It also assumes that ministry is event- or building-centered. Lastly, it chops life up into categories.

I think all three of those are false assumptions.

Ministry is not a compartment in my life. Ministry is a way of life. A way of thinking. It’s not something I do. It’s an outworking of who I am.

Here’s why: I have been loved on by the God of the Universe. Me. I don’t deserve His love. Haven’t done a thing to merit His favor. In fact, I’ve done the opposite. I’ve thrown temper tantrums and rebelled against His ways and pretty much slapped Him in the face. And what did He do in response to my scorn? He scooped me up anyway, took all my junk on Himself, paid for the mess I had created, and adopted me into His family. He did that. For me.

And, what’s more. When He adopted me, He gave me a new identity and a new purpose. He gave me a reason for living that goes beyond my selfish vision. He lifted my head up and showed me a broken, hurting world full of more people that He’d like to adopt. People He’s been loving since the day He knit their tiny forms together in their mamas’ wombs. But, they are people who’ve never heard about His love and mercy and truth. They don’t know that Abba wants to scoop them up too – right in the middle of their mess. It’s never occurred to them that He rejoices over them and longs for them.

There’s nothing to “balance” about that. Because it’s not an activity. It’s my life. Ministry is telling other people about my wonderful Abba and helping them understand Him and grow closer to Him.

That can look a lot of different ways in a lot of different situations. Sometimes, that’s serving in the nursery on Sunday morning so that sweet babies can be held by people who love them and tired mamas can go be reminded of truth. Sometimes it’s serving at a local food pantry or sponsoring a child in Costa Rica. Sometimes it’s shoveling the driveway of an elderly neighbor or starting a Bible study with other ladies from your kids’ school. Sometimes it’s being a safe place for the kids in your neighborhood to hang out. Sometimes it’s just cleaning toilets so that home is a refuge for all who enter.

But, don’t assume it has to compete with motherhood.

Your kids need to see you giving your life away beyond the doors of your home.

Yes, your children are your ministry. But, they’re not your only ministry. Being a mom is part of what God has called you to. Once He adopted you, you became His representative in a desperate world. His ambassador and discipler. My kids are two of those disciples. They are the two I spend the most time with right now but they aren’t the only two people God has called me to love and serve.

Besides, I’m convinced that it’s good for our kids to know that life doesn’t revolve around them.

In fact, they can join us in ministry. Like Madison did when I went on campus. Don’t try to balance motherhood and ministry. Fold your kids into the ministry to which God has already called you. If it’s done with joy and vision, they might just want to do it too…

an Ambassador for my Abba,

@In a Mirror Dimly

This post is part of our series Finding Balance as a Busy Mom. 

Please check the series page for all of the posts! 

Finding Balance as a Busy Mom

Saying No To 100 Things

We all want to be the best mom, wife, employee, PERSON, we can be.

We all struggle with who creates that criterion.  As we walk through this month together trying to find balance as busy moms, I wonder if we can talk about why we’re so busy.  Who or what dictates what makes us best?

Am I the best mom if I attend PTA meetings?  What if I am room mom?  Does homeschooling give me extra points?  How about team mom?  What if I keep score at the baseball games?  How about leading AWANA?  Driving carpool both ways every week gets me something, right?

Do the best wives make dinner every night?  Do they keep the house clean?   Are they always at home?  Do they listen well?  Does attending couples Bible study count?  How about reading Power of a Praying Wife and then actually praying?

Being on time and having a good attitude puts me in the running for employee of the year, doesn’t it?  What if I bring snacks once a week for everyone?  Oh, twice a week?  I bet remembering all coworker’s birthdays will make everyone like me, right?  And what about volunteering for the projects no one else wants to work on?

I know many of these questions go through my head and they just make me tired.

focusNot only do NONE of those things make us the best mom/wife/employee, etc, but focusing on so many things makes us tired.  And spread thin.

Are we allowing God to tell us what makes us best or are we letting our society dictate what’s expected?

“The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O LORD, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of your hands.” Psalm 138:8

Steve Jobs gave a talk when he came back to Apple and turned their prospects around.  What he said can apply just as much to mothers as entrepreneurs:

People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully.

Our first order of business:  what is our focus?  Please hear me:  not every woman will have the same focus.

Some mothers have small babies, some have older children and need to think about schooling them at home or sending them to school.  Some families have all of their needs me by one income, but some women need to work – outside the home or from home.  Some children have special needs, bringing up a whole new focus for Mom.  Some families value athletics while some value academics.  The list is long and varied, so please understand that

your focus might not be the same as someone else’s, and that’s okay.

Here are some ideas for focuses:

  • God
  • family
  • work
  • home
  • church
  • children’s sports and activities
  • involvement at school
  • sleep
  • health
  • fitness
  • outdoor family time
  • indoor family time

Once we choose the focuses that matter to us, we start saying “no” to the things that get in our way.  Just because something sounds good, doesn’t mean it will help us attain what we’re focusing on.

Tell me, what things are getting in the way of your focus?  What should you start saying “no” to?

Ultimately, what makes me the best mom/wife/employee I can be is Jesus.  His guidance, His love, and His acceptance.

This post is part of our series Finding Balance as a Busy Mom. 

Please check the series page for all of the posts!

Finding Balance as a Busy Mom

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