Open Letter to the Generations Before Me

The following is for the blog tour of Emily Wierenga’s memoir Making It Home. Did you know Emily has provided blog prompts?

Here are Emily’s blog prompts 14 and 15:

14. How would you encourage a woman who feels unnoticed, left out, or no longer relevant as she grows older?

15. How can the older generation encourage the younger generation to stay focused on God’s peace, identity and purpose through multiple life changes and seasons?


Dear Christ followers of the generations before me:

I once overheard someone ask a woman in her twenties, “Are you going to the women’s mini-retreat?”

“Nah,” the twenty-something replied, “It’s just going to be a bunch of old ladies.”

This young woman came to church dressed in classy leather boots and neatly arranged, fashionable clothing. Her hair was expertly highlighted and curled, her makeup applied with a model’s know-how. Her dad was an influential leader in the church. When she threw a party, all the other young and younger ladies wanted an invitation. She landed a go-getter job that could easily extend into a prestigious career. She volunteered in the children’s ministry and was popular with kids and teens.

These are the girls and teens who heard her say, essentially, that she’s too cool to hang with the old ladies.

I wish that twenty-something woman and those girls and teens would be intentional about getting to know you. I wish they knew Amelia Sorensen, the woman in her eighties who taught my husband’s Sunday school when he was in first grade and invited families with teenagers over for a home-cooked meal. I wish they knew Hal DeMooy, the man who modeled daily Bible reading and encouraged the young to do the same—or Jim Downing, the Pearl Harbor survivor who, at age 102 and counting, is mentoring teens. I wish they knew the python-slaying Egelers.

I wish they knew the value of interacting with you, the generations who came before. Because if they don’t, they miss out on a chance to be rich—like passing by a cave of precious metals and walking away without mining it.

Get all the advice and instruction you can,
so you will be wise the rest of your life.

(Proverbs 19:20)

Your white hair and wrinkles represent decades refined and lived out under God’s grace, like nuggets and flakes of gold. You have the advantageous perspective of looking back on the same years and experiences younger generations still look forward to. You have already seen, perhaps multiple times, the same struggles and blessings I am experiencing right now.

I once sat on a panel to answer a local MOPS group’s questions about parenting. The young moms asked questions like, “What can you do when the kids don’t eat?” and “What if you and your husband don’t agree on the kids’ discipline?” and “How do you educate the child about ‘stranger danger’ and still encourage them to treat strangers kindly?” All of the questions were narrowed down to one person’s specific situation.

It occurred to me that a single answer could address every concern brought to the table:


You are the answer that would provide a custom solution not only for every young mom but even for that individual’s pinpointed question at that Q&A.

So I encouraged those moms leaning forward and eagerly asking questions of the panel before them:

Find a mentor. Or several mentors.

Then I told them I get together with Jill once a month and Jean once a week. My senior year in college, when I was a newlywed navigating the new relationship with my husband’s parents, I pursued Mary to ask about her in-law relationships. I call Linda when I’m having a parenting crisis. When I was a new mom, I turned to Miriam, the Byrnes, Paula, and others. One day a few years ago I called Dorothy and asked, “I need help with marriage. Could I come over?”

“Sure, dear. When would you like to come?”

“What time do you get up in the morning?” I asked. I was there at seven a.m. the next day.

Richard Peck, Newbery-winning YA author and former high school teacher, agrees with me that we need you. He makes sure an elderly character appears in each of his novels:

I need them. Young readers need them more. The old folks are there in the novels as counterbalances. They provide wisdom and seasoning won only through long lifetimes, and compassion unavailable from the peer group. They offer alternatives in the accelerating battle between parents and children, and glimpses of the problems and sorrows of old age for a young generation fixated on their own.

– Richard Peck, Invitations to the World (New York: Dial Books, 2002), 26-27

We need you, and we need to pursue relationships with you. I’ve asked myself, How could I draw out wisdom from the older women around me? How do I mine wisdom from the quiet ones? What questions should I ask? What steps of relationship should I take? More than once, I’ve started by asking you for a recipe in hopes that it will lead to deeper friendship.

Though good advice lies deep within the heart,
a person with understanding will draw it out.

(Proverbs 20:5)

And then you remind me that every person is both young and old, so I ask myself questions as an older woman, too: What young person could I reach out to today? How can I be winsome and inviting to the young? What can I learn from the young?

Thank you for welcoming me into your lives. What would we do without you who have gone before?

With deep gratitude and appreciation,

The Voice of Authority (and Spider Guts)

Our voice will be better developed if we spend time with our passions.

– L.L. Barkat, Rumors of Water, p.56

(For the T.S. Poetry Book Club hosted by the “thoughtful and amusing” Lyla Lindquist on Rumors of Water: Thoughts on Creativity & Writing, by L.L. Barkat. Read Lyla’s thoughts and find links to other book club participants here.)


Jesus would have been a great novelist. He taught the way writers should write.

When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, for he taught with real authority—quite unlike their teachers of religious law.
(Matthew 7:28-29)

Jesus’ teaching was different than that of other teachers—so different that the people who heard both were amazed! The difference was the “real authority,” but what gave Jesus’ teaching that real authority? Was it content, or what?

Many chapters later, I got a clue.

Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, “The teachers of religious law and the Pharisees are the official interpreters of the law of Moses. So practice and obey whatever they tell you, but don’t follow their example. For they don’t practice what they teach.”
(Matthew 23:1-3)

So, it wasn’t necessarily the content that gave Jesus’ teaching more authority than the other teachers. (He said to do what they say, so their content was good.) What gives authority to teaching is a life that backs it up.

Teaching with authority comes from practicing what you preach, yes, but it’s more than just the “doing.” I’m guessing it has to do with passion.

Jesus’ teachings were inside of him; the Pharisees’ teachings were outside of them. For Jesus, it wasn’t external sayings or traditions passed down, but living words that kept him alive and excited.

He taught truths that were already inside, and they overflowed out. He did not teach what was external to himself. I believe this how Jesus taught with authority—with author-ity.

It has to come from inside—a passion. It has to be true. Authenticity is part of authority. It’s what makes the teaching real.

It’s what can make my writing real.

The fake characters we read about will evaporate like the morning dew, but the real ones, the true ones, will haunt us for the rest of our days.

– Katherine Paterson, in her essay “Yes, But Is It True?” in A Sense of Wonder: On Reading and Writing Books for Children (p.69)

I don’t know about “voice” in writing. I don’t think I will ever be able to define or explain it. But maybe it will simply happen if, with self-acceptance and unselfconsciousness, I simply write like Jesus taught—”with authority,” from the inside, from my passions, from what is true and real.

But this scares me. To write the real stuff means to dig out and expose the raw, ugly parts. That would be quite a descent. Am I willing?

Unlike our Lord, we have not been able or willing to descend into hell. So our words of grace seep out bland and bloodless. Perhaps this is why the tax collectors and harlots are closer to the kingdom of heaven than we…

When we read fiction that is true, we do not say, “There but for the grace of God go I”—rather, “Here I am.” For in such writing we recognize our naked selves with a shudder or a laugh; sometimes, quite wonderfully, with both.

– Paterson, pp.69-70

Paterson gives another insight via the spider:

[T]he two creatures most to be pitied were the spider and the novelist—their lives hanging by a thread spun out of their own guts. But in some ways I think writers of fiction are the creatures most to be envied, because who else besides the spider is allowed to take that fragile thread and weave it into a pattern?

– Paterson, pp.70-71

What is my writing voice?

I don’t know. But let me take up my cross, follow Christ, and write from stuff spun from my own guts, the real and true inside stuff that keeps me up at night (either shuddering or laughing—or both). Then, hanging by a fragile thread, I’ll wait and listen for the sound of my own voice.