Category Archives: The Sage Ones-Faith Writers Over 50

#Sage One-Elizabeth Marshall

Elizabeth Marshall and I first met online years ago because of  our love of poetry and common Christian faith. Last April we finally hugged each other in person at a Christian writer’s conference but the time was much too brief. (There was an impending ice storm and everyone was scurrying to get home.)

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Elizabeth is a talented photographer with a stunning eye for beauty and weaves words on the page as well. As another #SageOne, a faith writer over 50, I am pleased for you to know her and discover her latest endeavor, the Peabiddies Podcast, Pursuing the Art of Noticing. Learning keeps us young, I’ve found, and Elizabeth proves it. In my (long distance) interview we talk about the challenges of a new frontier and how walking with Jesus looks different in every age and stage of life. (oh, and about peacocks!)

Please welcome Elizabeth Marshall.

  1. Tell us a little about your educational background, any degrees, and life experience.

    I earned a BA in History from Hollins University in Virginia in 1981. At the time I didn’t fully appreciate the fact that Annie Dillard, who is now a favorite writer of mine, had attended Hollins years earlier. My freshman dorm was named Tinker, which will have a familiar ring to it if you are at all familiar with Dillard’s work. She won the 1975 Pulitzer Prize for General Non-fiction for Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. Although I clearly cannot change the past, it would have been lovely to have majored in English so I could have walked a step or two that Dillard walked. When I make lists of favorite authors, she is at the top.
    2. What was your first career?
    After graduating from college, I headed to New York to work for Young & Rubicam advertising agency on Madison Avenue. I worked for Y&R as a media planner and media supervisor for close to five years. Since moving to South Carolina, I’ve worked for a magazine as the Advertising Director, I’ve owned a small business, and I’ve worked as a realtor. I look back and believe that while my time living in Manhattan in New York had its difficulties for this young woman from the South, it taught me invaluable lessons about life, business, and marketing.
    Although I enjoyed aspects of my life there, I certainly was cured of any desire for city life long term. Living here in a small shrimping village, one without a stoplight, provides the perfect antidote to that fast-paced season of my life. I believe everything that was challenging and difficult about that first career has provided threads to pull from in my life as a writer and creative. Perhaps it goes without saying, but I prefer the pace of this village in the South Carolina Lowcountry to Manhattan.
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    3. How and why did you decide to start a podcast? And tell us about the name “Peabiddies.”
    My decision to dive into podcasting was based on several factors. And honestly, the further I get into developing this project, the more clearly I see that it provides a valuable piece to the puzzle of my writing and creative life. Weaving together the music, my narration segments and monologues, as well as the interview portions with the show’s guests brings a dimension to my life as a writer that stretches and challenges me. The writing life, by definition, is often marked by periods of solitude as we dig down deep into our writing projects. The weekly podcast provides me an opportunity to pivot, shift gears and use a different part of my creative brain.
    The themes of my podcast, pursuing the art of noticing and discovering beauty, awe, and wonder, allow me to dovetail or underscore if you will,  themes found in my poetry and non-fiction work, all infused with the understanding of God in the midst.
    About the name: I have always loved the process of naming things. In this case I was looking for a podcast moniker which did not already exist in the podcast world, one that was unique, that I enjoyed repeating, and that had personal significance. (Perhaps it’s no surprise that there is alliteration in the title with the presence of three “p” words). My hope was there’d be many opportunities to say the name, so I’d need to be very fond of it. Finding something that was playful and whimsical was important too. One day I stumbled on the word “peabiddies” while reading a Flannery O’Connor book. Peabiddies are the chicks or baby peafowl of the peacock and peahen, and since I’ve always had a crazy love of peacocks, it seemed a perfect fit.  I hope Peabiddies stays around for a good long while.
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    4. Practical question–do you write your program content out first before you start recording? It sounds very well thought out!
    For now at least in these early stages, it’s best for me to type out most of what I want to record of my voice for Peabiddies. When I am interviewing guests, I type out my questions or have a guideline to follow. I want the podcast to evolve organically, to sound natural and to flow. I have a lot of work to do in all areas, that’s for sure. But my goal is for it to flow in such a way that the listener has the sense that he or she is listening to a conversation, or is a part of a conversation.
    The learning curve is fairly steep and I have tremendous room for improvement and for refinement. But I can say I am having fun and truly enjoying the process of learning all the nuances of the medium. The most important thing for me is for the listeners to enjoy what I am producing—find something of real value. My hope is that the podcast episodes are stimulating, interesting, fun, and draw the listeners in again and again. I want this to be a place that flings the door open in a hospitable way. Here is where my southern roots come in a bit with a graciousness that feels welcoming. As I said earlier, there is room for improvement as I build a library of episodes. Hopefully, the listener will see us grow and improve in what we offer as time goes on.
    5. Since you are a believer in Christ, how does your faith inform your work on the podcast, either behind the scenes or in front of the microphone?
    My faith certainly impacts my work. My hope and desire is for the two to be seamlessly connected. I believe it is important for me to pray over these words and these projects of mine, and to be continually seeking God’s guidance as I discern how to navigate my way through my creative life.
    I’m very fortunate to be in a small writers group where three women share a love of writing and our Christian faith and beliefs. We pray regularly for one another— over the writing projects we are involved with—providing encouragement and support for one another’s work. All of my creative projects are run through the sieve of my belief that God has called me to this life of being a writer and that He alone sustains me and gives me the passion for my work, my art.
    You can listen to Peabiddies Podcast – Pursue the Art of Noticing on iTunes, Anchor.fm,  Google podcasts or Stitcher radio.
    Elizabeth’s website is here.
    You can find her on Instagram at @peabiddiespodcast and @Elizabethwynnemarshall

#Sage One-Susan Mulder

I finally met Susan Mulder live and in person last April at a Christian writer’s gathering in Michigan. I’d been following her beautiful work on social media via Instagram and loved the vignettes she ‘painted’ with her camera. Susan is my first official interview for The Sage Ones–Christian women with wisdom and encouragement to pass on to the next generation, beautiful, varied examples of how to live out faith in Jesus with the gifts God has given us.

Susan’s recently embarked on a new endeavor–podcasting–fleshing out another adventure. Please welcome Susan Mulder.

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  1. I know you’re a trained artist and busy grandparent. Tell us about that balancing act.

I have a terminal degree in fine arts-which is a fancy way of saying I have an MFA with an emphasis in painting. I really see myself as more of creator because I work in multiple media ranging from oil painting, mixed media, performance, sculpture to where I am now, working with the written word. I have exhibited extensively and after a self-imposed (see below) break I have slowly re-entered the exhibition circuit showing this summer, with two exhibitions coming in the spring.

I am currently on a fast track program for grand-parenting. I’ve gone from three grands to six grands in the last 5 months and help care for them while their parents work. (Not all at the same time!)  When I walked away from my dream job teaching at the college level 4 years ago (long story and this is where the radical obedience part of what I do comes in) I committed to pouring into my family by helping care for these little ones. I take it very seriously-this is relational development at its foundational level. I have one opportunity with each of these littles to build something that will last a lifetime and I am all in.

Yes, Mother Said, 36″ x 36″, Oil, Acrylic, Spray Paint on Designer Fabric, S. Mulder

2. Now you’ve jumped into podcasting. Did you have any prior careers?

Yes, I have had several iterations occupationally. I’ve served as an educator both at the collegiate level and as an independent visual arts instructor at arts institutions and out of my home studio. I’ve presented at conferences, taught public speaking, and best business practices for artists. I also have experience in non-profit development and leadership with non-profit arts organization for marginalized youth and worked on organizational development within the church.

And just for fun, one of my favorite roles was as an assistant sushi chef. I love to try new things and say yes to new opportunities which has provided me with some very rich experiences!

  1. How and why did you decide to start Poet Kind podcast?

As I mentioned earlier, I see it as an act of radical obedience. I can tell you what I was doing, even what I was wearing when the words ‘you are finished here’ echoed internally and I knew God was telling me to leave my “dream job” that I had worked so hard for. As much as I wanted to shake it off, it became more and more apparent that my full attention and obedience was the only thing He would accept.  My entire being wanted to teach and leaving that position was one of the hardest things I have done. I felt like a monumental failure yet there was always the reassurance of that clear voice telling me otherwise.

As for starting Poet Kind-that was another prompting-but one of generation, not of letting go. The idea of doing a podcast had popped in and out of my mind but I never took it seriously, even when others suggested I do so. It seemed foolish to do something like a podcast with no platform, no built-in audience and no background. Then, there was another moment-the kind that requires an action, a stepping out, an obedience.  It seemed a little far-fetched that this was what God was suggesting; I have a hard enough time calling myself a poet and the idea of being a podcaster bordered on funny. However, I figured if He was going to ask me to step so far outside my little world that 1) He has a sense of humor, and 2) Why not? What was there to lose?

The learning curve has been steep but is more fun than I could have imagined. As long as I am confident I’m doing what I have been asked to do and there is joy present, I’ll keep it podcasting.   As for the title, Poet Kind, it came from a very light-hearted conversation; when asked what kind of podcast I would do, I jokingly said a “poet kind.”

4. How do you choose the poetry to feature on Poet Kind?

In choosing content I consider topics that come up in ordinary conversations, thinking perhaps if the people around me are wondering about these ideas maybe others are as well. Right now, the majority of what I read on the podcast comes from the public domain-which does limit my selections, but my hope is that I will have enough original content coming in, eventually, to feature and provide a platform for poets to get their work out there.

Poet Talk, which is a monthly feature on Poet Kind, is another way to offer poets a place to feature their work. It also gives listeners a chance to peek behind the curtain and learn more about the writers, their motivations and, and processes. I invite poets on the program the same way I select poetry to feature.  I do my best to get a feel for their work through their submission profile and the strength of their work. Does the work function on more than just surface, does it provoke thought beyond merely what it says?  Occasionally I reach out to specific poets because I am familiar with their writing and know that they would be a great fit.

  1. Since you are a believer in Christ, how does your faith inform your work on the podcast, either behind the scenes or in front of the microphone?

I have a deeply embedded philosophy when it comes to this. Though I do make very direct references to religious/spiritual ideas, concepts and questions in my writing that I wouldn’t make in my painting, I don’t call myself a Christian writer. I am a Christian who happens to be a writer and that faith enters into everything I do. The decisions I make for Poet Kind can’t help but be infused with my personal influences. What I read, what I know, and what I believe are integrated within the entire process. Were I to attempt to sift out any of those ingredients it wouldn’t be possible to offer something truly authentic. It is far from perfect, to be sure, and there is a lot of room for growth, but that is part of the process too!

When it comes to Poet Kind, I would hope the way I conduct myself reflects my beliefs. I want the podcast to be a place of hospitality, encouragement, maybe even a respite. Life is busy so if in a few minutes once a week, someone can find a place to take a deep breath or think differently just for a moment, then it’s a good thing.

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You can find Poet Kind podcast on  the Anchor app on your phone or tablet, as well as Google Podcasts, iTunes and Stitcher.

Here is a link to some of Susan’s artwork   and her thoughts on Christian art.

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“The Sage Ones”–Ten Faith Writers Over 50

After my April visit to the Festival of Faith and Writing at Calvin College (Grand Rapids MI), I came home resolved to do two things better with my small place on the internet. One of those resolutions is to champion the voices of women faith writers over the age of 50, vastly underrepresented in the webosphere, in my humble opinion. Of course, being over 50 (over 60) myself, I was keenly aware of the lack of more seasoned, experience writers speaking into the lives of younger people.
 
To that end, I reached out to 10 women whom I had either met in person over the years or whose work I had been following from afar. Each one graciously said “yes! count me in!”, sending me their photos and bios (told in first, second or third person, just to keep you on your toes.) 
 
May I present to you The Sage Ones–writers whose voices of experience, wisdom and wit are a much-needed commodity in our youth-obsessed culture. I hope you’ll look for their words online and connect via social media channels, Twitter, Instagram or Facebook. 
  1. Deidra Riggs                       Headshot 2018

I’m an author, speaker, and unashamed disco-lover. My husband and I are the happy inhabitants of an empty nest in Bloomfield, Connecticut. We are the proud parents of two adult children whom we love, practically to death, and Santana, our brilliant farm dog (we named her after Carlos, the musician), and Sasha Fierce, our high-maintenance Shi-Poo. 

My public writing and speaking most often seeks to gently nudge the status quo, introduce you to interesting people, and celebrate your right-now-right-here life, so that the best kind of love can take root in your soul.

I’m the author of two books: “Every Little Thing: Making a World of Difference Right Where You Are,” and “ONE: Unity in a Divided World.”

You can find Deidra online on her blog as well on Instagram.

  1. Diana Trautwein                     IMG_5651

You can call her Pastor Diana, Mom, Nana, Honey or ‘hey you, with the white hair,’ “all of them are who I am,” Diana says. Married to Richard for over 50 years, mom to three amazing adult kids (and MIL to three perfect partners for each), grandmother to 8 (ages 8-27), Pastor in two congregations after midlife, occasional blog writer, monthly essayist at SheLovesMagazine.com, writer of 2 e-books and a monthly newsletter/photo journal, Diana is retired from pastoral ministry and offers spiritual direction in her Northern California home and via Skype/FaceTime.

Diana’s words can be found at www.dianatrautwein.  She’s also on Instagram, Facebook and “very occasionally” Twitter @drgtrautwein.

  1. Elizabeth Stewart                       me

Elizabeth Stewart is a young at heart 60-year-old who is passionate about making the rest of her life the best of her life and encouraging others to do the same. She is a whole-hearted Jesus follower who has been married to her pastor husband for over 40 years. She has three wonderful daughters, three great sons-in-law, and six amazing grandchildren. Elizabeth is active in teaching God’s Word and mentoring others in her Portland-area church and through their various outreach ministries.

She writes regularly on her personal blog, justfollowingjesus.com and weekly for Woman to Woman ministries, and is pursuing her interest in writing, her love of photography, and her passion for all things creative and beautiful.

4. Karen Swallow Prior             drPrior-52-edit-b

Karen Swallow Prior is Professor of English at Liberty University in Virginia, where her academic focus is British literature, with a specialty in the eighteenth century. She loves this period for its emphasis on philosophy, ethics, aesthetics, and community, as well as its efforts at correcting the universal human impulse to gravitate toward extremes.

Her writing appears at Christianity TodayThe AtlanticThe Washington PostFirst ThingsVoxThink Christian, The Gospel Coalition, Books and Culture and other places. She is the author of Booked, Literature in the Soul of Me (T. S. Poetry Press, 2012), and Fierce Convictions: The Extraordinary Life of Hannah More–Poet, Reformer, Abolitionist (Thomas Nelson, 2014), and the forthcoming On Reading Well: Finding the Good Life through Great Literature (Brazos, 2018).

Karen and her husband live in rural Virginia with sundry dogs, horses, and chickens, where she is currently recuperating from being hit by a bus. That story is here. Although, judging from all her posts on Twitter, it hasn’t slowed her down much. 

5. Lancia Smith                                          Lancia 1 v6 4x6 fade

Lancia E. Smith is an author, photographer, teacher, and business owner based in northern Colorado. She is founder The Cultivating Project and editor-in-chief of Cultivating, the quarterly online magazine dedicated to encouraging and inspiring believers engaged in creative endeavors. A grateful lover of the Triune God and passionate about spiritual formation, Lancia teaches in conferences and workshops across the United States and in England.

She and her husband Peter run a thriving environmental and engineering firm and try to keep up with their rambling house and gardens in Colorado, called House on the Way. Lancia has been blogging and running websites since 2005 and writing since she could hold a pen.

6. Laurie Klein                              Laurie-Klein

Laurie Klein’s poetry and prose appear widely in Christian and secular journals, anthologies, audiobooks, music resources and recordings. She is the author of the classic praise chorus, “I Love You, Lord,” and the poetry collection, Where the Sky Opens (Poeima Poetry Series, Cascade). A past recipient of the Thomas Merton Prize for Poetry of the Sacred, Klein also served as co-founder/consulting editor for Rock & Sling: A Journal of Literature, Art and Faith (2003-2008).

These days, helping distracted, heart-weary people refocus on God in creative ways that spark hope and wholeness enlivens her, and inclusion in Jody’s company of women generates more grins than one aging face can hold.

Klein loves her life in the Pacific Northwest: family, friends, and an elderly Labrador, fierce crossword puzzles, too many books, gardening, travel, photography, exercise class, kayaking, collage, and calligraphy. Writing bios sharply reminds her that God works wonders, over time, through surrendered lives. Visit her at lauriekleinscribe.com.

7. Leslie Leyland Fields                         l l fields

Leslie Leyland Fields is the award-winning author/editor of ten books including the newest release, an anthology of essays, The Wonder Years: 40 Women Over 40 on Aging, Faith, Beauty and Strength.  She teaches and speaks around the world on writing, forgiveness, discipleship, parenting and faith.

Every September, she runs the Harvester Island Wilderness Workshop, a writing workshop on her island in Alaska, where this year she welcomes Ann Voskamp as her guest writer. Last year Leslie hit 60 and decided that age (along with her new neck wrinkles) is cause for humility, wonder, new friends and reckless joy! 

She blogs at leslieleylandfields.com where you can also find information about this September’s Workshop. 

8. Michele Morin                                  michele m

Michele Morin is a teacher, blogger, reader, and gardener in Maine who finds joy in sitting at a table surrounded by women with open Bibles.  She has been married to an unreasonably patient husband for nearly 30 years, and together they have four sons, two daughters-in-love, two grandchildren, and one lazy St. Bernard.

Michele loves hot tea and well-crafted sentences, poems that stop her in her tracks and days at the ocean with the whole family.  She laments biblical illiteracy and advocates for the prudent use of “little minutes.”

She blogs at Living Our Days because “the way we live our days will be, after all, the way we live our lives.”  

9. Nancy Ruegg                             Nancy R

Nancy is mother to three grown children and Nana to three granddaughters.  She is a former Elementary school teacher (26 years) and has been writing on her blog since November 2012.  Nancy loves interacting with other online writers, offering encouragement and becoming friends, especially meeting these friends face to face.

She is in the process of self-publishing a Bible study, Weaving a Tapestry of Worship. Another Bible study, Catching a Glimpse of God’s Glory, is in the wings. “Years ago” she authored a devotional booklet for Haven Ministries, Children of the Heavenly Father. More recently one of her stories was published in the anthology, Abba’s Promise (Cross River Media, 2016). Reading, writing, Bible study, playing with grandchildren, coffee with friends, and the occasional craft project fill the many happy hours of her present life-chapter called retirement.

       You can find Nancy’s blog From the Inside Out here.  

10. Shelly Hunt Wildman              shelly h wildman

Shelly Wildman is a former writing instructor at Wheaton College and author of First Ask Why: Raising Kids to Love God Through Intentional Discipleship (Kregel). Shelly holds degrees from Wheaton College (BA) and University of Illinois at Chicago (MA), but her most important life’s work has been raising her three adult daughters.

She and her husband, Brian have been married for 33 years and live in Wheaton, IL. Shelly speaks to women’s groups in the Chicago area and spends much of her free time mentoring young women. When she has time, she loves to cook, read, and travel.

        You can catch up with Shelly here.

5 Questions for…Sophfronia Scott

sophfronia2I  first met Sophfronia Scott at the Festival of Faith and Writing in Grand Rapids last April. I’d admired her writing work from afar, particularly an essay in Ruminate magazine about dancing in her kitchen. I knew she’d be speaking at the Festival and scanned the meeting places, looking for her beautiful dreadlocks and beaming smile. I noticed her at one of the hotel counters and taking gumption in hand, I introduced myself, told her what a fan I was of her writing and asked if I could interview her. She said “yes!” May I introduce Sophfronia Scott.

1) In your essay collection “Love’s Long Line” you begin by telling your readers about the tragedy at Sandy Hook elementary where your son Tain was attending 3rd grade. After this book, you went on to write a book with him, “This Child of Faith: Raising a Spiritual Child in a Secular World.” What was that process like, working with a young child who also happens to be your son?

First of all, your readers should know that the way our book is set up, I’ve written the main narrative but each chapter contains a section called “Tain’s Take” where he’s written his version of the story. I didn’t want a combined voice because Tain’s voice is really what got us here. I thought he should have his own space in the book. Working on that space wasn’t always easy. We recently spoke to the writing classes at his school, Newtown Middle School, and one of the things Tain told his fellow students was how frustrating it was because of the many times I would send his writing back to him because he hadn’t told a story fully or included enough details.

As we started to work I found it interesting how the questions Tain asked about the process and the issues I guided him through were the same ones I work on with my adult creative nonfiction students. Tain was concerned that he couldn’t remember exactly some of the events because he was younger, really another person, then. At the time he was 12 writing about when he was 5 to 9 years old. I taught him how he could research his own life, how there were clues to help him. He interviewed our minister and the Sunday school director at our church. It was hard work, especially as the deadline pressed upon us. But I’ll never forget the day when the finished book arrived and I put it on the passenger seat of my minivan for when I picked him up from school. When he saw it he said, “We did it!” and high-fived me. I loved that moment.

2) One of your essays in “Love’s Long Line” is about reading an old letter your father had written to you. You liken the process to “peeling off the emotion, lies and last of all, the story I’ve told myself about all those pieces just so I could endure them.”  Do you find you are still peeling those layers?

Yes. Not those layers specifically but I’m always peeling layers in general. We all have so many layers and I don’t think we’ll ever be done with them because we are still creating them all the time. There’s nothing wrong with that—it’s simply growth, just like the rings within a tree. But it’s good to peel back to get a sense of where I’ve come from and a hint of where I’m going.

3) Practical question: Your writing experience covers a gamut of genres and styles–fiction as well as non-fiction, and work as an author and editor. When and how did you make the change from being an editor at Time and People magazine to writing for yourself, so to speak?

It started while I was at People magazine. Working for those magazines was really a training ground for me because I went straight to Time out of college. As the years went on I could feel that apprenticeship ending and I began to think about what I wanted to write on my own. Eventually, while working at People, I fell in with a group of actors and being around their energy and creativity inspired me to get to work on my first novel.

4) Names are important, the spelling of them especially. I am constantly respelling my name–Jody with a ‘y’ not ‘i’–as are you, adding the ‘f’ in the middle of ‘Sophfronia.’ Tell us about your son’s name–Tain.

Here’s the story: When I was pregnant and learned I was having a boy I knew I wanted him to have an Irish name to represent my family’s Scotch-Irish ancestry. But back then there were so many Ryans and Aidans and Connors! One day my husband, a musician, told me about a jazz drummer, Jeff “Tain” Watts, and said Tain was a cool name. I agreed. It was simple yet different and elegant. Then a dear friend who happens to be well versed in Irish lore told me, “Tain is an Irish name!” and referenced a book, an epic called The Tain. It’s the story of a cattle raid. Tain means cattle or bull. The fact that the name suited both aspects of myself and my husband and so much felt like it was supposed to be Tain’s name made it easy for us to go with it.

5) The essays in “Love’s Long Line” weave in the theme of forgiveness, because, as you say, if we live with unforgiveness, we don’t tend to our families and our gifts, we forget how to experience joy. The Sandy Hook tragedy will always be a part of your experience–How do you and your family, especially your son Tain, “experience joy” in your everyday lives?

Tain reminds me daily how to experience joy because it arises so naturally from his very being. He sings and whistles to himself all the time. And when he’s doing something that he loves to do, like being with his friends or acting in a musical or playing his favorite video game, I can see he’s totally invested in the moment and enjoying it thoroughly. I think experiencing joy is about being open to the wonder of life and love that is so simply in front of us every moment of our lives. Sometimes there are obstacles, yes, especially when terrible things happen but I’m always seeking to learn about how to deal with them. Recently I’ve read The Book of Joy by the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu and found it both helpful and hopeful. I feel all that we need is ever near us, ever closer than we think. We have to notice it, and accept that joy and love, especially God’s love, is right there for us.

You can find Sophfronia’s book Love’s Long Line and the book she and Tain

co-authored, This Child of Faith: Raising a Spiritual Child in a Secular World

on her website.

5 Questions for…Deidra Riggs

I began following Deidra Riggs online way back in 2012; I enjoyed her honesty, her wisdom and her down-to-earth take on spiritual issues. We finally met in person at the 2014 Faith and Culture Writer’s Conference in Oregon and we’ve continued the conversation on and off line since. I so appreciate her voice in the world. Please meet Deidra.

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1)      You’ve worn many hats in the online Christian community—Managing Editor at the High Calling, TEDx talk speaker, blogger and author now of two books. Tell us about that journey.

​I believe strongly in going through the doors that open. It’s an approach that works well for me, because I’m not Type A, and I’m not much of a planner. So, I’ve never really had a “Five Year Plan” or anything like that. I live very much in the moment. For me, trying to chart a particular course is way to stressful. There are too many details to keep track of when I’m charting a course. Instead, I have found that, for me, life turns out best when I truly let God be in control of the details. In each of the life experiences you’ve mentioned — managing editor, doing a TEDx talk, speaking, blogging, and writing books — someone approached me. I never sought out these opportunities. However, they are opportunities that fit well with my strengths, my gifts, and my passions. There are things in life I’d like to do, like live in Manhattan or be a grandmother, but those doors have not opened for me. Maybe they will, at some point in the future, but for now, I have to trust the closed doors just as much as I trust the ones that open.​

2)      Speaking of journeys, you’ve moved from Detroit to Nebraska and now to Connecticut. What precipitated the moves and what has that been like?

​I was actually born in Germany and lived in many different places before we moved to Southfield, a suburb of Detroit. My dad was in the army, and that was the reason for my earlier moves. Later, I married my husband who was in seminary at the time, and so I moved to New York state to be with him. Then, as his ministry was beginning, we moved a few more times before living twelve years in Nebraska. Now, my husband serves as the Executive Minister of the American Baptist Churches of Connecticut, so here we are.

Moving is great for me, the non-planner. I’ve met wonderful people and had fantastic experiences — experiences I never could have had living in one place. But, for a long time, moving also made it difficult for me to “settle down.”​

​Whenever we moved, I couldn’t bring myself to put pictures on the walls or paint or make any lasting decorating decisions, because I didn’t really know what it meant to “stay.” We lived in Nebraska longer than I’ve lived anywhere. There, I learned how to stay. I learned how to put down roots. I learned how to invest in a place. And then, just when I’d decided I never really wanted to live anyplace else, a door opened for us to move to Connecticut. An entirely new chapter lies ahead of me, and I’m enjoying the experience of discovering what’s in store in the years to come.​

3)      As a self-described “missionary to white Evangelicals” you’ve put yourself in some tricky situations. Last month when we met at The Festival of Faith and Writing in Michigan, you said, “I have made a lot of rooms cringe, and I will continue to do so. We are all figuring this out together. Let’s not “other” the people who don’t yet see things the way we do. Let’s be patient and kind and give space for the journey, and let’s educate correctly whenever the opportunity arises. And when we get educated, let’s say “thank you” to the teacher. Yes. There will be times when the best option is to walk away, but grace and kindness can go further than we might sometimes imagine.”

Tell us about what led you to that decision.

​It wasn’t a decision I made. It was a door that opened to me. I first realized this was my calling about six years ago; a few years after I started blogging. I understand a lot about and have a deep love for white evangelicals. I also am very aware of white evangelicals’ collective “growing edges” because of my life experiences. So, when I first realized this was my call, it made complete sense. My calling is about love, racial justice, and reconciliation (although I only use that word because it’s not very threatening to white people. I don’t think we’re looking for reconciliation, because we’ve never had conciliatory relationships among the races in the U.S.), and John 17:21 is my anchoring scripture.

4)   Your two books—“Every Little Thing-Making a Difference Right Where You Are” and “One-Unity in a Divided World” seem to be very different. What were the challenges of writing each one?

​They aren’t really that different. ELT is about learning to accept the truth of God’s love for us — just as we are, where we are. It sounds like an easy lesson to grasp, but it’s harder than we understand it to be. We think we get it. We say we get it. But we really don’t. If we did, there wouldn’t be a need for ONE.​

​Jesus taught us to love our neighbor as ourselves. I know a lot of people feel this means to treat our neighbor the way we want to be treated. But, I believe what Jesus was telling us was that we should love our neighbor as if our neighbor is us. In other words, we are loving ourselves when we love our neighbor. And, when we marginalize, erase, or other our neighbor, it’s a direct reflection on how we believe, in the deepest parts of ourselves, God feels about us.​ So, ELT is an attempt to help us understand God’s love for us — how God truly sees us — so that we can put into practice the lessons from ONE, which teaches us how to love others, even our so-called “enemies.”

5)      Now, tell us about that disco ball…..

​Ah! The disco ball! Well. there is more than one. The very first disco ball I received was given to me by my friend, Sheila LaGrand. Then, my friend Michelle DeRusha gave me a disco ball for my birthday. She bought it at a thrift store, and it was the real deal. Sadly, I say “was” because that disco ball didn’t survive the move from NE to CT. When we opened the box, all of the tiny mirrors had fallen off and embedded themselves in the materials the movers had used to wrap the ball. I cried when I discovered the ball was ruined. Then, one afternoon, a gigantic box arrived on my doorstep in CT, and inside was the most gigantic disco ball I have ever laid eyes on! My husband, knowing how much I missed the disco ball Michelle had given me, took it upon himself to order me another one! I was thrilled! It doesn’t replace the disco ball Michelle gave me, but it’s beautiful.

I grew up during disco’s hey-day. We spent every Saturday afternoon in Detroit, at Northland Roller Rink, skating around and around that rink to the tunes of disco and Motown. I watched Soul Train, Tony Orlando and DawnDance Fever, and I saw Grease, Flashdance, and The Wiz more times than I can count without being embarrassed. That music was the soundtrack of my life. The disco ball represents that to me, but it also represents the world — the way we each reflect Light and Love back to the Source, while creating something beautiful in the process. ​

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You can find more of Deidra’s words online at her website.

Order her books here.

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Aging With Grace–40 Women Over 40 Tell All

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(l to r) Charity Singleton Craig, Shelly Hunt Wildman, Laura Lynn Brown, Leslie Leyland Fields, Heather MacLaren Johnson, Michelle Van Loon, Sheila Wise Rowe, Poet Luci Shaw, Amy Buckley

Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you. Isaiah 46:4 NIV

Two weeks ago I took my first ever trip to Grand Rapids, Michigan, to attend the Festival of Faith and Writing, a gathering for Christian writers, bloggers, authors and poets at Calvin College. One speaker in particular that I hoped to connect with was the powerhouse that is Leslie Leyland Fields. 

In real life Leslie lives with her family in Kodiak, Alaska, where they own a commercial fishing business. In the summer she leads writing retreats on a remote island that you only get to by bush plane. She has also managed over the years to raise her children, to write and teach workshops, to speak and inspire people around the world. Her life and work always point to Jesus.

Leslie just turned 60 but has the power and energy of someone much, much younger. I think she’d credit Jesus for a lot of that energy, but she also is blessed with kindness, graciousness and humility, all rare commodities these days.

Leslie took on a book project several years back as she was heading into the other side of 50–gathering women from all arenas and stages of life to talk about aging. She was looking for voices of women over 40. And 50. And 60. And 70. Luci Shaw, the oldest contributor, will be 90 this year. That immense undertaking became “The Wonder Years–40 Women Over 40 on Aging, Faith, Beauty and Strength” (Kregel Publications).

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Aging is not for the thin-boned or the faint of heart. As we climb year by year, whether it’s a mountain or a ladder, we need to stop for a long moment and consider the view. We need to ask questions. Maybe we should even check our ladder.  Leslie Leyland Fields

As I head into my 66th year this August, I am aware of the need for the world to hear from women of a certain age, writers and speakers who are sometimes overlooked. Where is a book that talks about aging gracefully that isn’t about face lifts and beauty products? We need the voices of older Christian women who can be examples of what to do (or give warnings about what n o t to do) as we walk this road of life with Jesus.

Leslie noticed this, too.

“Maybe we older women just want to be seen again,” she writes in the Introduction.  I would concur. We have wisdom, experience and perspective, life lessons to offer those who will listen. We’ve also discovered that gravity is not the kindest force in the universe, which is why Leslie bought a leopard print push up bra when she turned 50. (More on that later.)

I met Leslie at the book launch party for The Wonder Years (photo of the readers group above) and told her I’d write a little something about the book. I sent 5 questions to ‘interview’ her in this space and she typed me back her answers. From Slovakia! After she’d been without her luggage for 5 days…After she’d been to South Africa. See what I mean? Persistent powerhouse.

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Forthwith, a little something about “The Wonder Years–40 Women Over 40, On Aging, Faith, Beauty and Strength.”

1) Tell us a little about your journey to curate this book–what was the genesis of the idea to gather these writers?

When I turned 40, I started thinking seriously about what kind of old woman I wanted to become. I knew some elderly women I did NOT want to become! It seemed clear to me then that we either age intentionally with purpose, or we drift flesh-ily into the worst version of ourselves. I wanted to pursue this, but I was too busy to pursue this as a book. Then, blink and flash, I’m 50! Now I REALLY wanted this book that didn’t yet exist. This last year I turned 60, and here it is.

2) Forty Women Over 40 is a collection of essays grouped in 3 topics-Firsts, Lasts and Always. How or why did you choose these three topics?

When I thought of the kind of wisdom and experience we gain through the decades, it occurred to me that it could all be grouped into these three spaces:  Firsts: the things we’ve done for the first time in our middle ages! (The point: middle age and older is the beginning, not the ending of our gifts, purpose and labors.)  Lasts: the things we now have the wisdom to let go of. We don’t have to hold onto regret. Or anger. Or unforgiveness. Or perfection. We’re smart enough now to know how to lighten our load!  Then, Always: So we begin new things; we let go of lesser things, then there are the rock-strong truths and values we will always cling to no matter what else time strips away, until death do us part: Love. Fun. Hope. Self-sacrifice. And much more.

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3) When you spoke about the book at your launch party you mentioned it took 10 years to put together–what was the main reason it took so long? And did you ever want to give up?

I wanted to give up many times. Anthologies are much harder than they appear. I won’t give you a blow-by-blow account, but this book did take about 5 years to accomplish. And it’s my fourth anthology. So I kinda know the ropes. But there are many obstacles, including finding a publisher! Publishers don’t like anthologies because typically they don’t sell very well. And—I think there were a lot of men in those decisional positions who just didn’t get how starved we women are for role models ahead of us. Aging is not a joke. It’s real. The cultural messages about aging are pathetic. They’re self-serving, about entitlement and “you’re so worth it, baby!” And of course you are, but your neighbor is worth it too! Turning 50 or 60 or 70 doesn’t mean we quit the call to loving God and others so we can hang out at the spa all day, speaking our mind and having our nails done. Yes, all clichés, but this is what women’s magazines and media tell is our due. This is what our advancing years earn for us. And I have to say, “That’s it? that’s all you got? We older women have SO much to offer the world!”  The Wonder Years is a lovely swift kick in that direction.

4) It’s probably not fair to ask, but do you have a favorite essay (or two) from the collection? 

Yes, you’re right. That’s like asking which one of your kids is your favorite. Here’s what I’ll say. Check out the writers here who are publishing for the first time. We’re always attracted to the big names—-and I’m grateful for all of the well-known women in this book. They deserve their fame. But—-check out Martha Levitt’s essay, which will break your heart. Look at Michelle Novak, who will pierce you with the beauty and pain of her enabling disability. Read Vina Mogg’s piece on caring for her mother with Alzheimers. Heather Johnson on buying a horse farm and becoming an equestrian at close to 50. It’s a thrill to be the first to publish women like this who really have something significant to share.  And—-yes, read them all! Each one has something important and beautiful to impart.

5) Last burning question–did you really buy a leopard print padded bra when you turned 50?

I’m glad you’re getting to the heart of the matter! Of course I did! I can’t make up that stuff! I am ridiculous! And I still wear that padded bra, but now I’ve got another one or two to round out the bra wardrobe. So many choices! 


Amazon is currently backordered for “The Wonder Years”, but copies are available at CBD and BarnesandNoble.     If people want them for Mothers Day-May 13th-they should order now!