“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 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  met Sophfronia Scott at the Festival of Faith and Writing in Grand Rapids April 2018.  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.

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.

Aging With Grace–40 Women Over 40 Tell All

Wonder+Years+Launch--contributors-best+photo
Festival of Faith & Writing, Grand Rapids MI April 2018 photo is mine. j.l. collins

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).

wonder years cover

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.

Wonder--just+want+to+be+seen+again

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

How I Became a Twitter Convert and Kept My Salvation

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESI am still basking in the afterglow of a rich and rewarding 5 days at the Festival of Faith and Writing at Calvin College in Michigan. (Thank you, Grand Rapids, snow and all.) Since I have few available brain cells left for writing, I present to you a post from a n o t h e r wonderful writer’s conference four years ago. Enjoy~

I am exhausted and beyond tired. My brain is packed, my spirit is full to overflowing and my body has been existing on junk food since Friday.
It is so NOT FAIR that the day I have to drive home from the Faith and Culture Writers Conference in Portland is also the ‘Spring Forward’ part of Daylight Savings Time.

But it was totally worth it.

Like all good writers going to a conference on writing, I took a new journal to mark the occasion. A simple no line, blank page model, an empty picture frame ready for a masterpiece to be placed inside. So much potential waiting for my pen.

When I decided to christen this journal several weeks ago, I actually didn’t know what I was going to use it for.  Clearly God did.  I had a quote glued to the inside cover:

CHANGE IS GOOD.  You go first.

Yes, I changed my mind about many things–my writing focus, my voice. And especially about Twitter, a virtual chat-o-sphere which I have been avoiding like the salad bar in an old diner. It’s been around awhile but I wasn’t sure I could really trust it.

Lo and behold, Twitter is perfect for my random, abstract brain. And people are nice. And they listen to you. (Well, for maybe 60 seconds.) I became a believer.

There was also a powerful touch of the Holy Spirit and confirmation of the work I am doing through my writing.  So much encouragement and companionship and like-minded ness of writers and artists, who revealed all manner of God’s creativity in their own masterful ways.

From the platform, in workshops and in conversations I heard over and over again:

  • Write from a place of PASSION
  • Be authentic, don’t write from a place of safety
  • Take off your mask (everybody has one)
  • God will break through you when you’re broken
  • Go for quality of writing and connection with readers
  • Write out your God life in context of your daily life

Gracious, kind, young people listened to my silly questions. New friends who I was able to meet in real life have become old friends overnight and many of my old ideas about being a writer and a Christian were radically readjusted.

Now I am more convinced than ever I can change the world.
As soon as I take a nap. 
p.s.  my twitter handle is JodyLeeCollins2

On Being Famous (and Writing a Book)

True confession: Last week my husband and I high-tailed it home from our Wednesday Night Home Group to watch the finale of America’s Got Talent. Did you see it?! Our favorite young contestant, Darci Lynne, won! No big deal you say, but hang in there with me.

Darci Lynne is an amazing 12-year-old ventriloquist who not only can talk without moving her lips. She sings. Very well. We had been following Darci Lynne’s journey and were overjoyed when she won. Television hardly captured the emotion of the moment. Oh, the sparkle and applause and tears and complete, stunning joy; it was a delight to see her innocence and authentic astonishment.

In interviews prior to the last evenings’ performances, another little girl, aged 9, with a voice like a pint-sized Celine Dion, beamed for the camera. When asked why she wanted to win, she replied, “My name would be in lights. I want to be a super star.”

Darci Lynne told the world that if she won the million-dollar prize, she’d buy her mom a new dishwasher and give “a bunch of money to missions at our church.”

No mention of being famous, or wanting to see her name on a marquee.

Darci Lynne’s humility reflected her groundedness—grateful and confident in the gifts she had, but knowing they weren’t for her glory. She wanted other people to be inspired, she said, and many were. A portion of the show featured video clips sent in folks from around the country-young and old-who said they wanted to be just like her.

Would to God we would all carry our gifts with such open hands.

/ / / / /

As I pondered what we witnessed that night on TV, I reflected on a conversation an hour earlier at Home Group. We are loved and cared for there like family, having walked a whole lot o’ miles with these dear friends. Prior to our gathering, my friend G. asked how the book I wrote** is coming. (You have friends like this, yes?) I told him the book is complete and I am waiting for a proof copy from the printing company as we speak.

“You must be walking one foot off the ground, huh? Like super-excited?”

“Uh, no,” I replied. “Not yet.”

“After people buy the book and I get to hear how the message helped them find new joy or be set free, then I’ll be excited. I’m passionate about what God has given me to share; if readers find my words beneficial, that news would have me walking a foot off the ground.”

/ / / / /

I don’t think any of us who process our world with words wakes up in the morning and says, “Hey, I’m gonna write a book!” (Well, actually that’s what I did. Because I.had.no.idea.) But still, when you know how much discouragement and discipline and stress and no sleep and fill-in-the-blank it takes to dream of a book, draft a book, revise a book and get the thing published, there’s no way anyone would want to do that.

Except. Unless. Unless you have a message of encouragement and freedom that’s burning in your spirit that you want to bring to others. Unless you’ve been gifted with a clarity that you want others to see. Unless you have a desire to inspire or edify or….. a hundred other things.

That is why we write.

Not because we want to be rich and famous. (Uh, no on the rich. Maybe on the ‘famous.’) No—we write because God has trusted us with the gift of bringing our words into the world so ultimately He gets the glory.

And if it changes one life or a hundred or a thousand, then it is all worth it. All of it. That is why we write. Not for fame, certainly not fortune, but to “cast our bread upon the water and you will find it after many days.” (Ecclesiastes 11:1).

Keep on casting your bread, my friends, whatever you have in your hand to share.

It isn’t yours anyway.

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