Oh, friends: you are in for a TREAT. It’s author week here on the ol’ blog – I’ve got SEVEN authors (or co-authors) for you over the next SEVEN days, with SEVEN opportunities for you to win copies of their books. I can’t wait to introduce you to these women and their projects, so be sure to pay us a visit everyday this week and get to know these phenomenal authors. Spread the word!
We’ve got Catherine McNiel, author of Longs Days of Small Things, who’s also a friend and an internet-cheerleader to me. I’m so glad you’re here with us today! Tell us a bit about yourself, will you? Hi Cara! Thanks for having me here today. I’m a mom with three kids and a few part time jobs. I love to read and garden. I enjoy getting to know my neighbors and learning how different people see the world. I love to explore how theology impacts our real, physical lives…and how our real lives impact theology. I’m enamored by the creation of new life but find that working in the garden is less exhausting than pregnancy.
Let’s talk about your book: what, in a nutshell, is your book about anyway? Long Days of Small Things: Motherhood as a Spiritual Discipline is a book that looks at the real life work we do in our everyday lives, and finds God right here in the midst of it. It’s a book for moms (or dads…or grandparents…or caregivers…) who know they don’t have any extra time or energy, but still want a way to connect with God and discover how to find Him.
In each chapter I tell stories from our real lives—the seasons and stages of motherhood, pregnancy and delivery, infant days, sleepless nights, caring for children of all ages—and the tasks that fill them. I look at spiritual tools that already hide there—like sacrifice, surrender, service, perseverance, and celebration—and consider how we can open our eyes to the spiritual boot camp we walk through every day. Without adding anything extra to our live or to-do lists, we practice so many disciplines every moment of the day.
Do tell, what was the inspiration behind it? A few years ago I was a work-from-home mom with a baby, a toddler, and a preschooler. My life changed in every way, yet I heard only the same spiritual prescriptions I’d always heard: Find 30-60 minutes each day to be in silence and solitude before the Lord. As I considered the classic spiritual practices (which I love!)—prayer, worship, fasting, meditation, service, solitude, etc.—it became abundantly clear that the realities of motherhood meant I was likely to fail. Or opt out entirely.
But my spirit didn’t allow me to do that. I heard a lament rising in the hearts of the women around me—I have nothing left, nothing left to care for myself or give to God. But as I looked at the actual seasons and tasks of motherhood, I was convinced that there was no better “boot camp” for my soul. Each day we mothers create, we nurture. Each day we are pushed to the end of ourselves and must surrender, sacrifice, and persevere. Each day we serve, pouring ourselves out. We empty ourselves for those in our care—and isn’t this emptiness the very reliance on God that the spiritual disciplines are designed to produce?
I’m convinced that motherhood is doing an eternal work on my soul, even if I’m too exhausted and overwhelmed to notice just now.
How do you hope readers will be changed by reading your words? I told my publisher and editor so many times: I want the title, the cover, and every word to convey that I’m not saying you should do more. You are enough. You are seen. You are loved. You are doing so much already, and there is value here. God is here already. These long days of small things make us feel shunted to the side, second class, invisible.
But I’m certain of one thing: this is the very place God meets us. That’s why we practice spiritual disciplines—to arrive at this place. I’m confident that every flowing, bleeding, dripping, sticky, crying, dirty, wet, exhausted piece of motherhood is a piece that God made and loves, a place where He came, and place where He is.
If moms can hear me say that, and accept the invitation, and find Him there—I will be overjoyed.
Lest we forget to ask, how have YOU been changed by writing the book? What a great question! As a writer, I think frequently of the Apostle Paul saying “Not that I have already attained all this…” I think most authors are compelled to write their way through the very topics we struggle with ourselves. We don’t choose topics because we have already attained fullness in this area or that, but because the writing is the life-giving process by which we grow. For me, I wrote this book while my youngest was still at home as a preschooler. It was the sweet-spot, the last moments of these precious baby days. So I could write about the early days of motherhood while sleeping through the night yet so clearly seeing just around the corner when my life belonged entirely to the needs of my children. And each day of writing reminded me to seek out God’s presence right here in the midst of it.
Finally, a lot of my blog readers are also writers; since you just finished writing (and publishing!) a book, what encouragement or tips would you offer those who are just dipping their toes into the water, so to speak? I would say (and I have a feeling I’m not the first author to say so this week!) “Just keep writing.” Look for agents or editors if you’re ready, submit to a blog or a magazine if you want to. But whether you get yeses or nos in response, just keep writing. Writing itself is a discipline, a practice. Allow your own voice and life and direction to be formed by the words you write. I woke up one morning and realized I needed to write 500 words each day, even if I had nothing to say. Each day I sat down with nothing. But I never stopped at 500. By the time I got there, I had so much more to say. Before I knew it, an entire book had accumulated. Have you read the classic children’s picture book, Harold and the Purple Crayon? He’s never entirely sure where he’s going, but he picks up his crayon, and he draws the world and his path as he goes. So that’s my encouragement. Pick up your crayon and start moving forward. Who knows where you’ll end up!
Yup. It’s as good as it sounds. Head over to Catherine’s website and cheer her on – otherwise, go straight to your favorite bookseller and pick up a copy of Long Days of Small Things. Otherwise, leave a comment answering how your days are LONG and SMALL, all at the same time. Winner will be drawn on Wednesday, March 15th.
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