Meet Ellie Hunja: author interview

Last November, I was interviewed by about my writing journey, lessons learned, social media tips, and more. Here’s an excerpt below, and you can read the full interview here.

I’m an author, and I actually have the pandemic to thank for pushing me to pursue writing. Like so many others, 2020 took a toll on my mental health. I was wrestling with the collective grief of COVID and racial injustice, the challenge of parenting without the usual external supports, and the isolation that we all experienced.

On top of all that, my son had just been diagnosed as autistic, and the early days of trying to understand what that meant felt all-consuming. With all of this burdening my heart, I found myself in a mental fog – until I realized that a hobby I loved could really help with that.

Before last year, writing wasn’t even a hobby – more like a (very) occasional creative outlet. I have a Master’s in Social Work, and I work in fundraising and communications for an incredible nonprofit. I’m also a wife and mom of three (ages 8, 4, and a brand new bundle of joy!) so life is definitely full. But I’ve always loved to write – I’m an external processor, whether that’s verbally or through writing – so getting my fingers on the keyboard pulls tangled thoughts out of my brain and helps me make sense of my world.

But once my academic career was over and I became a parent, my writing became limited to an occasional long Facebook post on a social issue or a reflective Instagram caption about parenting. Without fail, though, beloved friends would always comment on those sporadic pieces of writing with: “so when is your book coming out?!”

I’m so grateful to have always had family and friends in my life (and my husband most of all!) who never let me lose sight of my identity and passions, even in the hectic season of parenting young kids. Thanks to their encouragement over the years, I decided to start my own website in the spring of 2021 – – where I post reflections on parenting, mental health, social justice, faith, our journey in understanding autism, and whatever else is on my mind.

Instead of feeling pressure to “niche down,” I simply chose different online publications to submit my work to based on the subject matter so I wouldn’t feel limited. (I’ve been published on Thought Catalog, The Mighty, Her View From Home, Medium, and more.)

What sets my work apart, I hope, is the way it is both vulnerable and practical. With my background in mental health, I know how important it is to be honest about our emotions and the challenges we face instead of sweeping them under the rug and embracing “toxic positivity”. At the same time, I always want to make sure my readers are taking away some kind of practical encouragement – even if that’s simply just feeling seen and validated in their current experiences. So I try to strike a balance of realness and hope, especially when it comes to parenting topics. I truly believe we can be authentic and cling to the joys of this stage of life at the same time!

One of the things I’m proudest of on this journey is staying committed to something that brings me life, when it would be easier to get bogged down by my other obligations. One of my favorite quotes is by Howard Thurman: “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” Writing excites and fulfills me in a unique way, and I’ve made the conscious decision to only choose projects that align with my passions. In less than two years, it’s already blossomed into something bigger than I could have imagined!

Read the full interview here.

Announcing my new book!

First of all, to my subscribers – thank you. I know you haven’t received an email with new writing from me in many months, but your support still means the world to me.

I took some time off from writing essays because, in July, I got a book deal with Zeitgeist Publishing, an imprint of Penguin Random House! It was a whirlwind process, and I spent the entire summer writing what is now “Blessings, New Mom: A Women’s Devotional”.

After that, it was a rush to finish edits and work obligations before my maternity leave began. We welcomed Baby Ezekiel into the world on October 31, 2022 and, of course, he has kept me busy since then.

I’ll be adding a couple of articles onto my website soon, so apologies in advance if you get a couple of emails in a row. And in the coming weeks, you’ll see a few blog posts featuring excerpts from my book in anticipation of its release on April 11th!

In the meantime, if you’d like to learn more about the book and pre-order a copy, you can do so here. I’ve also included a synopsis below. Thank you for your support!

Blessings, New Mom is a weekly devotional for new moms that provides grace and compassion for the first year of motherhood and beyond

Being a new mom and taking care of a newborn is a time filled with blessings, celebrations, and lessons that reveal God’s truths about life and motherhood. As a devoted mother of three and passionate leader in her church community, Ellie Hunja earnestly shares the joys and challenges of new motherhood and reaffirms that God is always by your side as you find your path in this special season. Filled with weekly scriptures, affirmations, devotions, and prayers, Blessings, New Mom is a beautiful reminder that no matter the moment—precious and delightful or overwhelming and difficult—God will meet you where you are.

I Was Waiting to Connect with My Autistic Son and I Almost Missed the Love that Was Already There

| 5 minute read |

When we’re exhausted and completely emptied by the demands of motherhood, the connection we feel with our little ones is our lifeline. They nestle in for a cuddle, murmur an “I love you,” and a divine transfer seems to occur, giving us the strength to go to bed, wake up, and do it all over again.

But what happens when connecting isn’t effortless, the way we may have expected?

We found out that our son is autistic just after his second birthday. In those early days, I often described him as being “in his own little world.” As long as he had a full tummy and a clean diaper, he was content to play with his favorite toys for hours on end, without any interaction from me. In the months that followed, we grew so much in our understanding of him. At the time, though, I felt like he didn’t need me, and my heart sunk at the thought.

Of course, when our kids have run us ragged and we’ve heard “Mommy! Mommy! Mommy!” more times than we can count, not being needed sounds heavenly. But when you long to hear your name called, it aches. While my fellow toddler moms were scouring the internet for the secret to independent play so they could get a moment of peace, I had the opposite problem. I silently wished for an invitation into my son’s world.

One day, I read a powerful statement that gave me pause. On Instagram, @nigh.functioning.autism wrote, “One of the toughest parts about being Autistic is realizing that how I exist in the world makes people I love feel lonely even when I’m around them.”

Click here to read the full piece at Her View From Home.

My Birth Story: Trying For A VBAC Meant Radically Trusting My Body

| 9 minute read |

I was a big, overdue baby, and my mom has never let me forget it. After enduring a heatwave and her 41st week of pregnancy, my mom finally delivered me via emergency C-section at a whopping 9lb, 8oz and 23 inches long.

Well, I should have predicted this would come back to bite me eventually. Here I was, three decades later, pregnant with my second child and feeling extra-extra-large. I had gained nearly 50 pounds during this pregnancy, and baby boy’s due date had come and gone with zero signs of action.

What had been action-packed was my pregnancy. Six months in, I broke my foot walking down our apartment stairs. A few weeks later, my incredible mother-in-law passed away. Fortunately, my husband flew ahead of us and made it to Kenya, his birthplace, in time to say goodbye. But then, to join him for the funeral, I had to pack our bags and somehow make it through a 24-hour flight across the ocean with my 3-year-old, my crutches, and my big belly in tow.

By the time we returned home together as a family, I felt strong. Navigating our grief together made us even more eager for the joy of our son’s arrival. And enduring these challenges left me feeling like anything was possible – even a VBAC.

Click here to read the full piece at Her View From Home.

4 Values that Foster Effective Marriage Communication

| 7 minute read |

Is it just me, or does navigating communication in marriage sometimes feel like being dropped into a foreign country with zero knowledge of the language?

Marriage is truly a collision of cultures, even if you and your spouse grew up in the same town.

Our families of origin, our life experiences, and our own unique wiring all impact our inner worlds, and we quickly learn in marriage that things we take for granted as “facts” or “common sense” are far more subjective than we once thought.

Conflicts stemming from communication in marriage are a universal experience, but there are four ways we can pursue more effective marriage communication:

  • Growing in understanding
  • Cultivating joy
  • Mutual vulnerability
  • Ongoing sanctification

Click here to read the full piece at Equipping Godly Women, which looks at each of these values in-depth to help us foster healthy, effective communication with our spouses.

How to Practice Christian Mindfulness: 3 Easy Tips for Moms (and Everyone!)

| 7 minute read |

Did you know that we spend 47% of our waking hours thinking about something other than what we’re currently doing?

When I look at my own life as a parent, that statistic – shocking as it sounds – is actually pretty realistic. Even as I write this article, I’ve placed a random order from Target and googled dinner options in the name of productivity. I run my to-do list through my mind while stacking blocks with my preschooler. I scroll Instagram while I’m watching a movie with my spouse.

I could call this “multitasking” but, honestly, it’s often a lack of presence and attunement. We’re a distracted culture, and our brains have nearly forgotten how to “single-task”. Yet, despite what we may think, we’re not actually getting more done this way: we’re less productive and less happy, which is clearly a lose-lose.

So how do we fix it?

Click here to read the full piece at Equipping Godly Women, which details three mindfulness practices that can help all of us feel more present and less overwhelmed in the midst of our days.

To the One Feeling Inadequate this Holiday Season

| 2 minute read |

I walked past these “tabletop trees” for sale the other day, and my heart was flooded with memories.

Visions of hot cocoa, warm blankets, and read-alouds of our favorite Christmas stories danced through my mind so vividly, I could almost hear “A Motown Christmas” playing in the background.

I remembered our little tree, perfectly perched on the coffee table of our apartment – our new (part-time) home with our mom after our parents’ divorce.

I could sense that my mom felt a bit discontent about our downsized Christmas, of which our little tree was an apt symbol. Maybe she had that nagging feeling that so many parents know well – the yearning to somehow be able to “do more” – as she navigated the holidays following this major shift in our reality.

Our new tradition was to wake up on the 24th as if it were Christmas morning with my mom, and then spend the 25th – “real Christmas” – with my dad. We even gave our Christmas with mom a self-deprecating name to inject a bit of humor into our new normal.

But when I look back, I don’t see our little tree and simple gifts as lacking – quite the opposite. In her annual gifts of new pajamas, new undergarments, and a new book for each of us, I see intentionality, steadiness, and love. I close my eyes and see the care with which she wrapped each one. I remember the magic and sparkle and anticipation of our “Christmas Eve” every December 23rd. 

Most of all, I remember a cozy sense of belonging – of “home” – that my mom cultivated with her warmth and sweetness and love.

So if you’re marking an unwanted “first” this holiday season, or feeling in any way inadequate, can I encourage you?

Whether they’re toddlers or tweens (like I was), your babies feel every ounce of the fierce love inside of you. That’s the magic – not the list of things you wish you could “do” for them this holiday season, but the love that wakes you up each morning and pushes you to simply try.

Whatever your energy levels or resources are this season, it’s enough. Your love for your babies is enough; it always has been.

And it’s what they’ll remember.

Trust me.

4 Ways to Cling to Your Identity in Christ as a Mom

| 7 minute read |

When I became a mom, it felt like a knife had sliced across my life, separating it—and me—into “before” and “after”.

The disconnect between the “old me” and the new one was jarring. How I spent my time, the things I cared about and prioritized, where I invested my emotional energy… all of it changed, leaving me dizzy in the process.

Don’t get me wrong—some of the change was beautiful. My heart’s capacity seemed to grow overnight, and I had a new sense of purpose and motivation. At the same time, though, I found myself grasping for pieces of my life that I wasn’t yet ready to part with.

Even seven years into parenting, I often feel like I’m losing touch with myself. To regain my footing, I have to fight to remember my identity in Christ—my spiritual adoption as a child of God, a reality that exists beneath every other layer of my identity.

Click here to read the full piece at Equipping Godly Women, which details four ways we can cling to our identity in Christ as moms: placing unhelpful labels to the side, focusing on purpose, remembering that you’re more than what you “do”, and seeing your motherhood journey as part of a grander narrative.

What Does Self-Care Really Mean for Parents of Disabled Kids?

| 8 minute read |

Is it just me, or have you been hearing the phrase “self-care” more than usual lately?

After the year-and-a-half we’ve all had, it seems we’ve gotten serious about finding ways to care for our needs and restore our weary souls – and I love to see it!

But I’ve also noticed some disagreement about what self-care for parents actually looks like. Does taking a shower count? What about a stroll through Target? Or what if I spend time doing something I love, but I have to bring my kids along?

Some feel that any break from childcare duties – even if you’re just grocery shopping solo – is a refreshing self-care outing. Others argue that this is setting the bar too low, and minimizes our true mental health needs.

But what if it’s not either-or?

Click here to read the full piece at Momme. It argues that what’s most important is building a sustainable lifestyle of validating your mental health struggles and nurturing your own mental wellness.

How to Practice Gratitude (and Reclaim your Joy!)

| 8 minute read |

Have you ever experienced a moment when your heart overflowed with gratitude?

The other day, I glanced up from my laptop screen and my eyes landed on a photo of my son as a newborn. My heart swelled with a sense of awe that pushed away every tired and frustrated feeling that my day had brought. As I basked in the glow of my blessings, I told myself: “Bottle up this feeling – you’ll need it later!”

Of course, life doesn’t work that way. We’re naturally forgetful people. If the Israelites were grumbling in the desert just days after God delivered them from slavery, then I’m certainly following in their footsteps every time I focus on a minor frustration and neglect the bigger picture of God’s incredible provision.

Click here to read the full piece at Equipping Godly Women, which includes practical tips and Bible verses to enrich your gratitude practice.