Monday, July 29, 2013

At the Intersection (Vol. 3)- Alison Chino

Today I am so happy to have my very good friend, Alison Chino, sharing today about the intersection of art, faith, and parenthood in her life.

If you have a copy of A Homemade Year, and have read the Michaelmas chapter, then you know all about how Alison and the other gals of  the "playgroup," helped rescue me from the dragon of loneliness and therefore will always hold a very special place in my heart.
In just a few short weeks Alison and her family will embark on a three year adventure in Aberdeen, Scotland. I really can't wrap my brain around this, and pretty much tear up each and every time I try. This is one of those times when I am so very grateful that I live in the age of blogging. Over the years I have managed to record quite a few sweet memories that include all the Chinos here on my blog, and through Alison's blogging, I  will be able keep up with my friend and her sweet family during this next chapter of their story.

So without any more rambling on my part, let's get to it:

(photo by Whitney Loibner)

Name: Alison Chino
Creative Endeavors: Making Dinner Yummy and Writing
Children's Ages: 16,14,12,7
Status: Married to Taido Chino, youth pastor turned PhD candidate
Job other than afore mentioned creative endeavours: Free lance copywriter/Caterer
Expression of Faith: Home church will always be Fellowship North in North Little Rock, Arkansas. I love it like my family. We are a broken, but beautiful community, constantly evolving to be called out followers of Jesus, a racially unified body in a world divided. 

Moving from Arkansas to Aberdeen


How did you find your creative niche? Was this something you have always done, or did you fall into it by accident?

I've always been a writer.  I started filling up notebooks as a little girl and I have boxes of journals saved from my need to write down Every Little Thing That Ever Happened.  I love memoirs because they are well-crafted journals.
Cooking did not come to me until I was married and had a home of my own.  I started writing down recipes when I was a young bride, working in a bookstore, and I fell in love with the process of creating fulfilling meals from scratch.  I love to start a meal all the way back to the most basic and natural of ingredients.  Somehow it makes me feel like I am creating something from nothing.  Or from very little. 

(photo by Whitney Loibner)

Where do you create? Office? Kitchen table? 
Do you create best in solitude or in the middle of chaos? 
I love most to be outside with my notebook or clipboard, but I can work almost anywhere that is quiet.  I prefer to be alone, and in silence.  I'm amazed by people who can study or work in the midst of a lot of noise.  Even when I'm cooking, I like for it to be quiet.  I can cook in chaos, but it's just not as fun to me.  Often I start dinner before my kids get home from school so I can enjoy the chopping or the kneading. 

How does your faith influence your creative process?
How does that process influence or enrich your faith?

It is hard for me to separate faith from my writing process.  Over half of my journal entries are prayers or answers to prayers.  I find that even if I am not phrasing my words as a prayer, I am often still pleading with God in my writing.  
Also, I feel like I wouldn't have anything to write about if God was not authoring my journey.  He leads me to the most amazing experiences and then I get to write about them.  I am overwhelmed when I think about all the gifts he's given me in my forty years on this earth.  If I never again left my house, I could write about all the ways God has been faithful to me so far.  

Sometimes I feel as if writing, parenting, and the practicing my faith are all drawing from the same well inside me, that they tax the same part of my heart. This means that quite often I find that I have depleted all of my resources pouring into just one of the three, leaving the other two wanting.  Do you have this same issue, or is it just me? What do you do to recharge, or refill the well,

In your creative process?

In writing, I just need time alone.  It's essential.  I get twitchy if I've been around people for too many days in a row. 
When I find that I am tired of cooking, it's time to try something new.  I go to a new restaurant and get inspired or look at magazines and cookbooks until I have a whole pile of new recipes I want to try.  I am fortunate to have a family that enjoys trying new foods! 

In your parenting?
When I am struggling as a parent, I need community.  Instead of being alone and all inside my own head, I need to be with other moms who understand what I am going through.  For as long as I've been a parent, I have had some other moms that I respect that I can go to and say, What about this?  I think I am doing it all wrong!  I remember one year that I was really struggling as a parent, I reached out to another mom with several children and asked her if she would study a parenting book with me?  I am not exaggerating when I say that the relationship with that mom has changed my life.  We have tons of practical, What Do You Do When...? conversations, but also, she reminds me that I am myself a child of God, covered in mercy and grace. And parenting is a journey.  When I fail, I can wake up and begin again tomorrow.  Often I need her to say out loud to me what I already know.

In the practicing of your faith?

Faith journeys are long and winding roads.  I believe that what recharges my faith is always the same and always changing.  What reawakens me to faith is to see God.  What changes is the way that I see Him. Some days I see Him most by studying His Word.  Other seasons seem to me marked by how I experience God in nature or in music.  Community continues to be a significant way I see the face of God in someone else's eyes.  Serving does this as well.  Sometimes I can't seem to connect with God unless it is quiet, and I am in prayer or meditation.  I've had a lot of Come To Jesus moments on my yoga mat.  Different years of my life seem to be characterized by a stronger emphasis on one of the ways God shows me Himself.  It encourages me to see that He is always meeting me.

Do you have any advice for other mom's out there who are also trying to learn how to live out their callings as artist, mothers and followers of Christ? What is something you wish someone had told you earlier on?

People told me early on to go easy on myself, but I didn't listen.  I am truly trying to give up the addiction of being a perfectionist.  It's a miserable, dead end road.  If you can let go early on in parenting and in art, you'll be the healthier for it!  Also, this may sound kind of silly, but I wish I had known about blogs when my kids were little.  They weren't really a "thing" yet, but I would love to have the same kind of online record of my older kids as I do my youngest.  It's such an accessible treasure, complete with pictures!  Sometimes I will go back and blog something from an old journal, just because I want it to be part of the story I'm telling on my blog.  Even if you keep your blog private or just for your family, it's a wonderful way to record and mark your life as a child of God. 

What are some specific challenges you are facing right now in all three of these areas? 

Again, I struggle with wanting everything to be perfect before I can let others in on my life or my writing.  I want to let go of this so I can be more free to create.  I want to give myself freedom to let go of some obligations or expectations of myself that are keeping me from writing more.

As a parent, I am shifting seasons.  Two of my kids are in high school now, and I still want to treat them like they are little ducklings under my wing.  I am daily learning to let go.  Even now, both of them are off in the world somewhere, away from me.  When it keeps me up at night, I try to remember to drop to my knees instead of wringing my hands. 

How can I, and my readers, pray for you?

Honestly, our whole world is being framed by this giant move to Scotland right now.  Most days, I am struggling to believe that it is all going to work out.  We have only a few weeks left to sell/rent our house, procure visas and tickets, pack up and move to the other side of the world with just what we can carry in our suitcases.  And then, where will we live?  How will we live?   There are more unknowns than answers right now and while that is exactly where I think God wants us to be, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little scared. 

Is there anything else you would like to share with my readers regarding the interplay of art, faith, and parenthood in your life? Any experiences or practices you would like to share?

One thing that I haven't mentioned is that travel is a huge part of my creative process, my faith journey and my parenting.
New places open up new parts of my brain and get my juices flowing.  It's great inspiration for writing and for cooking, because I try new things.  I also find that I have to rely more on God when I am pushed outside of my comfort zone and normal routines, and being dependent on God always grows my faith.

In parenting, travel provides the opportunity to be together as a family in a way that is completely different from being at home.  We are able to pay more attention to each other and we make these memories that are quintessentially us.  My strongest memories of my own childhood are the crazy trips we did with my family, so it's important to me to create those same experiences for my children.  Even when it seems impossible or crazy.  Like the summer we spent all together in a pop up camper traveling the Pacific Northwest or going backpacking in the Rocky Mountains this summer.  These journeys have not been without hiccups and challenges, but I hope that my kids are taking away that in faith and in life, what you learn and experience along the way is as important as the end result.  I'm praying that we will be able to say that about moving to Scotland as well!

I am by no means a journalist so if there are questions you would like me to ask future interviewees please leave them in the comments on this post.

Also, if anything Alison said struck a chord in you, please say so! The great thing about blogging is that we can encourage each other, right here in this little online space, from wherever we are, no need to even put on make-up or brush our hair. So please, leave Alison some love in the comments!

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