Julie Carr is a beautiful, unique, and talented soul. She’s a mother of eight, a newly published author, and one of the kindest humans I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing. It’s an honor to have her here today to talk about identity and love, and how you really can’t have one without the other.
Q: Tell me a little bit about your journey so far?
A: Let’s work from today backward. I’m a recently signed author with Zondervan with a book coming out in 2016. I’m a founder of a non-profit serving families with children with special needs. I’m an audiobook narrator. I’m a pastor. I’m a speaker. I’m a mom of twins. And another kid. And another. And so on, until you get all the way to eight kids. I’m the wife of Michael, the most beautiful man I know who has an incredible ability to listen and learn and soak up life in a way that is stunning. I’m a sister to my two best friends and brothers, Rob and Dave. I’m a daughter to a rocket scientist and an accountant, a creative who grew up in a house of accountability, goal-setting and spreadsheets. I’m a girl. I’m a dreamer. I’m a child. I’m loved by God. I’m a collection of designed cells and molecules and soul, infused with the echo of the Creator.
Q: What brought you to writing? How did you decide this was something you wanted to do?
A: I can’t remember a time I didn’t long to write. Words have always been my paint, my oils , my charcoals, my canvas. My parents let me start school early, at the age of four, because I longed to read and write. My mom still laughs about my disgust, when, after the first day of school, the teacher had not seemed to have been able to get the class up and reading that first day. I started writing stories, poems, music and very dramatic journal entries at an early age and inhaled Nancy Drew mysteries and the Laura Ingalls Wilder series in big gulps. But I can’t say that I thought of being ‘a writer’. Creative writing was a hobby, but through most of my schooling, it was writing essays and research papers that was ‘valuable’, the writing that garnered good grades. I received two degrees, one in pre-med with an emphasis in psychology, and the other in English literature, but ended up through a series of interesting events working in radio and television. It was in my media career that I found the gorgeous collision of reporting a story while painting with the full palette of literary device. Writing great copy, enjoying a twist of a phrase, and then narrating that copy on air, was in retrospect, my first professional writing gig. After the birth of my first daughter, the dream of being a writer really began. Twenty-three years ago, I typed up a bunch of chapters, put them in a big manila folder and mailed them off to a publisher. A few weeks later, the big manila folder showed back up in my mailbox, along with a letter rejecting my material. It stung…badly. But it also ignited something. Oddly, in the rejection, the writer in me rose up. It was a sense of feeling like, “But I am a writer. I am. And maybe one of these days, someone else will realize it too.”
Q: As a mom of eight how do you balance all the things you do?
A: This could be a discouragement to some, but I hope it actually is freeing; I’ve decided that balance, particularly if you believe in living life large, is a myth. I don’t get it all done, not even close. There are times when a project or a need in one of the kid’s lives is all-consuming. I used to mentally beat myself up, looking at all that ‘needed’ to be done and all the places I thought I was failing. But guess what? Kids do just fine having peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for dinner. I’m not more virtuous if the interior of my 15 passenger van is clean. And I’ve gotten okay with people teasing me about my messy house and the times that my youngest kid’s shoes don’t match. I’ve got just a few things now that I’ve decided are important. Laughter is important. Conversations are important. Chasing a creative trail is important. Loving people deeply and well is important. And my carpets and closets are not. Not right now, at least.
Q: Tell me about keeping your own identity in that kind of space? How do you not get lost?
A: Honestly, there were several years in there that I probably did lose a sense of my own identity within the context of a supersize family. When I was nursing little babies and wrangling toddlers and navigating teenage angst, all at the same time with the age spread of my kids, I moved from need to need to need of the kids. I always had such a longing to be a communicator, through word and photography and music. In the thick of the most urgent years of my parenting, when most of the kids were really little, I found creative outlet in sending out a weekly newsletter to the extended family and in photography. Most all of it centered around the children, the experiences in raising them. But I learned the discipline of crafting carefully. I learned to not just ‘chat’ in those newsletters, but to create a moment, to develop a voice. After our youngest children, the twins, were born, I began blogging, when blogging was still a fledging phenomenon. This may sound a bit strange, but a homeschooling mom of eight is assigned an identity culturally. People sometimes automatically assumed I was somehow more patient or noble or ethereal. I’d show up somewhere in five inch heels and big earrings and people would be shocked, not in a moral sense, but in that I wasn’t matching their assumption about who a mom of eight would be.
Q: With daughters, how do you combat the lies of identity that society offers them constantly?
A: We have five daughters and three sons. We are on guard, not just about what lies society tells girls, but also on guard for our sons as well, that they are aware of the unhealthy expectations of a commercial culture. But the first lesson, first and foremost, is that my girls~and my sons~ need to watch me live in the truth of being a woman. More than they need to be able to identify the lies, they need to experience a woman’s life lived in truth. I’m preparing to speak on a portion of identity in a few weeks and I’ll really be focusing on this: you can’t lead another person to freedom if you won’t abandon your own bondage. I could point out identity lies over and over to my children, but if I can’t seem to live free of those lies, the message won’t broadcast. So it makes me really intentional to be continually examining what I’m living by, where I could get tangled up, what mythology I have allowed to creep into my life.
Q: What do you hope your daughters always know about their identity?
A: Being a woman is awesome. You’re not ‘more’ complete if you’re a wife or a mom or a writer. And this: men are awesome. They are not the enemy. I’ve been the woman in the suit in front of the camera, I’ve been the pregnant mom in the maternity overalls with a slew of her homeschool kids tagging behind her, I’ve been the speaker in the podium, and I’ve been the shopper in Costco with two carts holding groceries that won’t last the week and it’s all good. It’s all beautiful. It’s all available. Not one of those roles is more valuable than another. They all have their season and their place. Each of those seasons is seen and cherished by God. Roles change with the seasons of life. It’s the essence of laughter and love and compassion wielded well that remain constant in identity.
Q: Any final thoughts?
A: Live large. Laugh loud. Love hard. Leave a lesson.
Julie is a disciple, reader, writer, runner, photographer, wife to Mike, mom to a bunch. She serves as the Pastor of LifeWomen Women’s Ministry at her home church of LifeAustin in Austin, Texas, where Randy Phillips of Phillips, Craig and Dean serves as Lead Pastor. She is also the Founder and Executive Director of Legacy of Hope Austin, a non-profit dedicated to serving families with children with special needs. Julie’s newest book will be released by Zondervan in August 2016.
To learn more about Julie Carr and to follow her on her writing journey visit her Blog
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