I have the pleasure today of hosting a fellow mom-writer, Kimberlee Conway Ireton. We met last fall at the Laity Lodge Writer's Retreat, and I was immediately drawn to her wit, intelligence, and talent. She was easy to be around, too--and obviously smitten with her hubby, books, and kids. :) A few weeks later, Kimberlee was kind enough to send me a copy of her book, The Circle of Seasons, and I've enjoyed it very, very much.
I think you will, too.
The Circle of Seasons is a well-written, thoughtful, and practical guide to the church year. Phyllis Tickle, compiler of The Divine Hours, calls it "a very accessible and enormously appealing overview of the Church’s liturgical year.” And Ann Voskamp says the book holds "beautiful words, deep thoughts…[which] speak my language of rhythm and liturgy and make me yearn for more God.”
I asked Kimberlee if I could interview her, and she graciously agreed. I pray our conversation encourages you, especially during this Lenten season:
--You're a mom and writer, and I connected with you right away because of that. It's a unique challenge to write when your kids are young. How do you find/make time to write with your kiddos and hubby, and other responsibilities?
I often write after the kids go to bed. It’s not ideal, but I can usually crank out a piece if I have to. For several years, I also hired a babysitter to come watch my kids a few hours each week, so I could write. But when we put our son in Tae Kwon Do and our daughter in piano lessons this fall, something in our budget had to go.
So now, I spend my Saturdays writing at a local coffee house or two, while my husband hangs out with the kids. It makes for a crazy life, but I hope it’s only for a season and that at some point I’ll again be able to hire childcare a few hours a week. Either that, or my kids will grow old enough that I can leave them home alone. :)
--I loved the personal feel of this book. Also, I didn't grow up in a denomination that celebrated the church year, but you made it very accessible. What would you say has been the most transformative part of celebrating the church year, for you? And why?
I didn’t grow up celebrating the church year, either. I came to the practice as an adult. What I love most about the church year is the way that, if we live it, it keeps pointing us back to Christ; the whole year revolves around the life of Christ and the life of the Church, which is Christ’s body.
The church year helps me remember that even in the ordinary details of my days, I am not my own. I have been bought with a price, and in life and in death I belong to God. When I am faithful to live the seasons, they provide depth and richness to my days, and a sense that I’m living in a larger story than the little all-about-me life I usually inhabit.
--I really liked the ideas you gave for living out the seasons of the church year in your home and family, whether or not your church celebrates it. Which is your favorite way to bring those traditions home?
In our home, every night before dinner we light a candle and say a short call-and-response litany (and yes, most weeks, we have dinner together every night). The color of the candle and the words of the litany change from season to season.
Right now, we’re in Ordinary Time, so our candle is green. Come Wednesday, when Lent begins, the candle will be purple. And then, on Good Friday and Holy Saturday, we don’t light the candle at all. It sits there, black-wicked, while we eat, to remind us that the Light has gone out of the world.
It’s a really simple thing, but it’s a touchstone for our days, and it keeps the church’s way of telling time prominent in our lives.
--Who have you been influenced by in your faith? In your writing?
Ooh, I love this question! My faith became real for me in sixth grade when I read In His Steps by Charles Sheldon. I’ve not read it since; I was telling my friend Susan the other day that I’m scared to, because I’m afraid I’ll think it’s cheesy or lame, and I don’t want to know that about the book that was the catalyst for my taking Christ seriously and basing the way I live on his claims. My best friend at the time also deeply influenced my growing faith.
Other people who have deeply influenced my faith are Mother Teresa, my dear friend Susan Forshey, two former pastors, my grad school professors (all but one of them Benedictines), my spiritual director, and my kids (because of them I lean hard on Jesus; there ain’t no way I can raise these four young souls on my own, even with my husband’s help; we are so not enough). Also, countless writers, starting with Charles Sheldon and continuing on to the Desert Fathers and Mothers, early Celtic Christians (and their contemporary interpreters), George MacDonald, C.S. Lewis, Madeleine L’Engle, Eugene Peterson, Wendy Wright, Lisa McMinn, Ann Voskamp—I could just keep going!
I also love older devotional literature like My Utmost for His Highest and Streams in the Desert. We just don’t write like that anymore. The words are often as beautiful as the ideas, and that makes my heart happy. I think it makes God’s heart happy, too. :)
As far as writing goes, every author I love has influenced me in some way, I’m sure. I’ve only taken one writing course in my life, my sophomore year in college, but I learned a great deal from that class and the professor, Fan Gates. Most of what I know about writing comes from copious reading.
I used to read a lot more writing books than I do now, though I still love to open Strunk & White’s Elements of Style and just read a paragraph or a page. My other favorite books on writing are all about water: Walking on Water by Madeleine L’Engle, Rumors of Water by L.L. Barkat, and A Syllable of Water, edited by Emilie Griffin.
--What are you reading right now?
I am always in the middle of at least three books. :) Right now I’m re-reading Eugene Peterson’s Answering God: The Psalms as Tools for Prayer. I just started Pilgrim’s Inn, a novel by Elizabeth Goudge, and I’m slowly making my way through Building the Christian Family You Never Had by Mary DeMuth, Joy Together by Lynne Baab, and The Writer Who Stayed by William Zinsser.
--Any final thoughts?
Oh, Dena, I’m sure I could always find more to say, but I think I’ve been long-winded enough for one evening. Thanks so much for these questions. It’s always helpful to remember why it is that I do what I do—whether it’s writing or parenting or living the church year—because so often in the doing, I lose sight of the reasons. Your questions gave me a chance to look at and articulate the why again. Thank you for that.
You're welcome. It was a treat to have you here!
Want to buy the book?
Copies of The Circle of Seasons are available on Amazon for as little as $9.98.
You can also purchase copies directly from Kimberlee for $7.99 each (including shipping). Simply email her the number of books you want, your mailing address, and if/to whom you’d like your book(s) inscribed. Bulk discounts are available for orders of 10 or more.