When you lay hands on A Homemade Year: The Blessings of Cooking, Crafting, and Coming Together by Jerusalem Greer, prepare yourself to fall in love. This lovely woman’s enthusiasm will literally jump off the page and hug you, pulling you into a deep sense of “Hey, I can do this!” And let me say if I feel that way — as craft and homemade-impaired as a soul can be — this book is sure to be a hit with you! I hope you enjoy my interview conversation with Jerusalem Greer. Stay tuned later today for a special craft from the book!
Q: Jerusalem, congratulations on the publication of A Homemade Year: The Blessings of Cooking, Crafting, and Coming Together — I love the book! Please briefly introduce yourself and your family to our readers.
My name is Jerusalem Jackson Greer. I am a writer, crafter, nest-fluffer, speaker, urban farm-gal and author of A Homemade Year: The Blessings of Cooking, Crafting and Coming Together. During the week I have a full-time job at the school my children attended where I oversee what is called “the Book Room.” I am surrounded by great books and interesting kids all day, which is not a bad way to spend one’s time. My husband Nathan (aka Sweet Man on my blog) and I live with our two boys- Wylie age 13, and Miles, age 9, in a 1940s cottage in Central Arkansas with an ever-changing rotation of pets, including a hen house full of heritage chickens and a Hungarian Sheep Dog mutt. As a family, we are attempting to live a slower, more intentional version of modern life.
Q: Tell us about the book. It’s really amazing! How did you conceive of the project and how did you manage to pull together such a vast array of ideas and projects?
Wow! Thank you so much! The idea for the book was really a combination of three smaller ideas. First, I wrote the book I could never find. As someone who was raised in an evangelical home I did not have a lot of knowledge about the liturgical year, feast days, or traditions. When Nathan and I started our family I searched and searched for a book that would serve as reference for us as we tried to incorporated liturgical traditions and observances into our home. But I could never find a book that was both informative and well illustrated. Even though I am a writer, I am a very visual learner and processor. I need a lot of pretty pictures in my how-to books. Also, I knew that, much like Kathleen Kelly said so wisely in the movie, You’ve Got Mail, “Whatever else anything is, it ought to begin by being personal.” My most favorite books – even cooking and craft books – are those in which the author shares from his or her own personal story. I knew that I wanted to make that personal connection with my readers as well.
As far as pulling it all together – well I had little structures that I created. I knew I wanted at least one saints feast day for each of the four sections; I wanted at least one dinner party and one children’s party per section etc. I also tried to make sure I included a wide range of crafts and recipes – everything from sewing to paper crafting, and from grilling to baking. I wanted there to be something for every kind of crafter or home cook to find inspiration from.
Q: Enlighten those among us — primarily me — who are “craft impaired”. I know that there is much in this book beyond the gorgeous creations you’ve included. Is there hope if we’re hopeless with a glue gun?
Absolutely! A Homemade Year is a book is filled with crafts and recipes and entertaining ideas, (all of which my sister Judea Jackson made look extra lovely through her amazing photography) that I feel are user friendly for both adults and kids, for both the crafting or cooking novice, as well as for the experts. I really wanted the book to feel approachable and doable. I love Martha Stewart, but I do not have her money, her staff, or her resources. I am a working mother, living in Middle America, just trying to create a sacred rhythm to our home life by way of cooking, crafting, and pausing to celebrate both the big and little moments of life. I personally need the crafts and recipes that I tackle to be easy, and not overwhelming. Whenever I speak to groups – women’s bible study groups, conferences etc. – I always say that I wrote A Homemade Year to be an inspiration, not a standard. It is meant to be a place where readers can find encouragement and ideas that will help them find ways to tell the story of God in their home, all throughout the year – not just at Christmas or Easter. But that being said, I do not think everyone should do every activity in the book. If a reader just finds two or three that they love and that works for their family I think that is wonderful! My long-term dream is to be able to find a partnership with a company who could help me mass produce craft-kits to go along with the book. I would love to remove one more step for readers who are already juggling busy schedules, who may not have a craft closet full of supplies ready and waiting.
Q: How has sharing your faith in book format impacted upon your own family?
As is true for so many writers, I am never one hundred percent sure what I think or feel or even believe until I begin to flesh it out on paper. Writing about my faith has stirred some great conversations around our house, because as I work on a chapter or an article I talk about the questions I am wrestling with, or the discoveries I have made through research. I love finding connections in the bible that I never saw before, connections between Old Testament and New Testament passages, connections between my story and the stories of those in the great cloud of witnesses. I love bringing those connections into the light and examining them with my family. My husband Nathan is my biggest supporter and encourager, and our late night discussions of these sorts of things can sometimes cause me to be bleary eyed in the morning because I get so excited talking about how God is working in my heart and in our lives that I have a hard time falling asleep!
Q: What are readers and friends saying about the book?
I have been blown away by the sweet things people are saying. My favorite comments have to be the ones that talk about how honest and transparent I am in the narrative sections, how pretty the book is, and how encouraging the book is. That it doesn’t feel as if I am setting an impossible standard for “Christian Home Perfection.” All three of these things were very specific goals of mine. My deepest prayer for this book has always been that it would help erase loneliness in others. That readers would see bits of themselves and their struggles and desires in my story and therefore not feel as alone in those struggles, and I hoped that readers would feel encouraged in their pursuit to create honest, meaningful, and lovely traditions for their families.
Q: What are some of your favorite activities and recipes in the book?
That is a hard one! I love all the Advent activities because those are activities that I have been doing with my kids since they were very little. I also love the Holy Cross Pillow because I feel like it is an easy beginner-sewing craft, and makes a lovely gift for those who are going through something hard, like the loss of a loved one, a serious illness, or financial troubles. Sharing something as simple as this little pillow can be a visible reminder to lay our hearts -no matter how broken or hurting- at the foot of the cross, where we will find comfort and shelter.
Q: What’s next for you? How can our readers learn more about your work?
Well, fingers crossed, I am working on a proposal for book 2. I am not quite ready to talk about it yet, but I am really excited about the potential to dig into some new ideas if it works out. Also, readers can check in with me on my blog: http://jerusalemgreer.com. There you will find a mixture of all my interest – I talk about everything from faith to cooking to decorating to travel.
Q: Are there any additional thoughts or comments you’d like to share?
I think I have probably talked you and your reader’s ears off! I just would like to continue to encourage your readers to find ways to incorporate their faith into their home life. Our family is very aware and involved with several organizations that serve those in our community and around the world that need help – from the homeless, to single mothers, to orphans infected with HIV. But the impact we make on those around us is marginal compared to the impact we make on our kids at home. Martin Luther King Jr. said in his “I Have a Dream” speech that he wished his children would one day “live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” In scripture we read that if I “give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.” (1 Corinthians 13:3) I believe more and more that if we are going to raise a generation that will be Christ’s body on this earth and live as he lived – sharing meals with the poor, caring for the orphans, fighting injustice, and working to eradicate hatred and violence – then they must be raised in the love of Christ. They must understand their place in the story God is telling. Going to church is great, being involved in social justice causes are great, but if we are not rooting our families in Christ love and God’s story at home first, then we might as well be pushing a boulder uphill. And I am talking to myself now, first and foremost. We need to do this better in our home. But we cannot do it alone. Having a community of friends who are seeking the same sort of transformative home life is a huge encouragement for us. But I think we need to look also to those who have gone before us, elders in the faith who have forged the way, who have real life experiences that they have learned from and can pass on. I think modern Christians are perhaps the worst offenders when it comes to acting in haste and always reinventing the wheel. We have tons of guidance and knowledge sitting next to us in the pew, by way of older generations, many of whom did a great job of incorporating their faith into their home life. I would love to know what worked and what didn’t work for them! I am challenging myself this year to seek out this sort of mentorship at our church. I also hope that A Homemade Year can be an encouraging resource for families as they work to make their faith a vital component of their daily life. Obviously it is not a complete guide, but perhaps it can be a little jumping off place. An easy place to start.
Ok that is my soapbox for the day! Hope you will still buy my book. Thanks for inviting me to share.
Stay tuned later today for a great craft from Jerusalem Greer!
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Copyright 2013 Lisa M. Hendey