Last spring I was excited to begin a new series here on the blog called “Chat With An Orthodox Author.” I wanted readers to be able to connect to Orthodox women authors. While the passion and excitement for this series has remained strong, the pandemic and subsequent quarantine caused me to put it on the back burner.
Today, however, I am super excited to introduce you to Sarah Brangwynne. Let’s get started!
Chat With An Orthodox Author
Tell us a little about your most recent writing project. What is it about?
With one of my dearest friends, Sasha Rose (author of the Shepherding Our Little Flock blog on Ancient Faith), I am writing a book for new mothers called, Forty Days in the Wilderness: A Spiritual Journey for Mothers.
The book is a guide for the first forty days after childbirth, the traditional period of rest for new mothers and babies, but the information is really for all mothers as we navigate the day-to-day joys and struggles of raising children. We have a chapter on preparing well for the postpartum period and a reading for each of the 40 days that focuses on a spiritual virtue or passion and how it relates to motherhood. Throughout the chapters we offer prayers, exercises, and practices to help us grow in spiritual, mental and physical strength.
We are very excited to share our work and hope it brings hope, comfort, and help to families.
What inspired you to write this book?
When I first became a mother I was constantly in awe of how much I underestimated the all-encompassing (spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical) nature of caring for a child. I say this as someone who had siblings, and worked with kids and families professionally. With this background, I thought I knew what I was getting into. However, for me, having my own child was a whole new world.
In all my reading of pregnancy and baby books, I didn’t find very much about this, and certainly not from a Christian perspective. After having my third child, I felt so much more settled in my role, compared to when I first became a mother. I am still tested and growing daily, but feel much more prepared for the unknown to come. I kept thinking how different it was from my first experience and that I wished all mothers could go into motherhood with some help. I was inspired to share some of the experience and wisdom I’ve relied upon from our Orthodox faith. I wanted to write about this precious time from a spiritual understanding, because I think that motherhood truly is an undertaking towards salvation.
Tell us about your faith journey. Have you always been Orthodox? What drew you/ causes you to stay in the Faith?
My parents where baptised in the Orthodox church when my mother was pregnant with me. I was raised Orthodox and my faith was always a grounding and stable part of my life. Growing up, my church family was an extended family for me, as it is to this day. The stability and love my priest and his family showed me were true examples of the love we have from Christ.
I wouldn’t say my faith wavered while I was in college and grad school, but I definitely questioned and explored the truth of my own beliefs. Through this process I reaffirmed that Orthodoxy is the truth for me. Being a mother helps me to grow in faith as I am always learning more in order to teach my children. They teach me as well and following the church year with a young family is such a blessing. There is such richness to experience and each year I learn more and deepen my practical, historical, spiritual and theological understanding. This depth of ritual, practice, faith, and true love and worship of God that Orthodoxy offers only deepens over a lifetime.
What does your writing process look like?
I am a psychotherapist and dance/movement therapist by profession, but am currently home full time with my young family. As I wrote above, after having my third daughter, I was just filled with the desire to share with other mothers and write about how we can navigate motherhood. I did not think I had the space in my life to write a book, but piecing together every little spare crumb of time is making it happen. I am squeezing moments to write during nap, after bedtime, and in the rare moments I can carve out an hour or two with a babysitter. I wish I had more time to think deeply for uninterrupted writing, but this is a book about motherhood and lives in that reality. Most mothers do not have a lot of time for themselves and so we do what we can with the time we have.
One thing that I’ve done in writing is a lot of dictation. When I can’t get to pen and paper or my computer, I voice text myself. Ideas come at all times, in church, at the grocery store, before bed, or when nursing my daughter. I fear that if I don’t capture the essence of my thoughts, they will be gone. It’s happened a few times! My brain is so full of all the day-to-day details, I don’t have a lot of quiet focused time, so I try to capture the ideas until I can focus and write later. If you read the texts to myself, you’d have a very funny (some of the voice recognition words are way off!) disjointed version of the book.
Getting these idea nuggets down on paper helps my process as I can get stuck with a blank page. I like to get my thoughts down and go back and edit, write, edit, rewrite – until it flows. Sasha’s process is different so we go back and forth and I love having her sections to edit as well.
Co-writing with Sasha is such a gift. We had to have a lot of conversations early on about our process and the need to humble our own egos. We check-in a lot to make sure that we are both comfortable with how everything is going and we assign sections and then both edit. Having a co-writer is wonderful because sometimes I am struggling with a section and then she comes in and writes it beautifully. Writing together has really elevated both of our writing and ideas.
How does your faith influence you as a writer?
My faith is the undercurrent of my life and guides (at least I like to think) my decisions, actions, and how I live. In writing this book in particular, faith is the main focus. How can our faith guide us as mothers? What can we learn from the wisdom of the church, our saints, and holy figures to help us on our journey? These are the questions we have asked ourselves and the answers we have found are what we share throughout the book.
We’d love to know about your family! What can you tell us?
For the last 13 years I’ve been married to a very loving and hard-working man. We have 3 daughters, toddler to elemetary school aged. They are a lively bunch of girls and they keep my husband and I busy, entertained, and full of love.
Our family grew this past year, much to the delight of our children. We started our first flock of chickens and brought home our first family dog. He is a loving and lively pup, and we are all happy to have him.
Do you have any big plans or goals for 2020?
Publish our book!
If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go? Why?
My husband and I had the good fortune of traveling extensively and living in Europe before we had children. Since then, I’ve haven’t left the country. As my children get older I look forward to traveling with them. One place I’ve yet to travel to is the Holy Land. I hope to make the journey at some point. I’ve always pictured myself there as an older woman. I hope this means I am blessed both with old age and to visit the holy places.
In the near future I want to go to Britian, Scotland, and Wales. Both my husband and I have ancestors from this region. We named two of our children after English Saints and I’d like to do a pilgramage to the area. Plus, I just really love bagpipes and highland dancing.
What was your favorite book as a child?
I’ve been an avid reader since childhood. My friday night ritual in elementary school was to come home from school and read (outside under our big pine tree in nice weather or sneak away to my room) for the night. One book that has held my heart for decades is Anne of Green Gables. I loved Anne. I loved her spirit, her energy, her desire to do good and penchant for finding mischief. I cherished her bosom friendship with Diana. My romantic heart bloomed with the friendship and love that developed between Anne and Gilbert. Anne was someone I looked up to and wanted to be like.
My lifelong friend, Juliana, and I used to squabble over who got to play Anne and who played Diana. Neither of us had red hair and in the end, we had to take turns. Before I got married, she and I took a trip to Prince Edward Island and walked the roads and beaches near Lucy Maud Montgomery’s home, breathing in the beauty that filled her books.
What is one thing you are learning about/ growing in relating to your faith right now?
Trusting in God. Trusting that all things work for good for those who love Him. Even when I don’t understand. Even when it hurts. Being a parent helps a bit in understanding how growth comes from difficulty and how not getting what one wants can actually be for one’s benefit. Just as my children may not like my answers or understand my reasons, I am learning to accept what I can’t always understand. This is hard for me, but I am growing in my understanding of this as I am growing in my understanding of the importance of prayer in my life.
Sarah Brangwynne is an Orthodox Christian, mother, writer, and psychotherapist. She spends her days caring for her family and finding joy in the small moments while trying to stay present amid the tasks of daily life. Her book, Forty Days in the Wilderness: A Spiritual Guide for Mothers After the Birth of a Child is to be published by Ancient Faith Publishing next spring. You can find her at www.sarahbrangwynne.com.