By Amanda Cleary Eastep
It was a year ago November that Michelle Van Loon and I met for the first time. I was attending the Deeply Rooted conference in Chicago with my daughter and two friends, and Michelle was a speaker.
She delivered her message about restlessness (which just happens to be my middle name) like an arrow to my chest: there is a difference between an exile and a pilgrim.
That restlessness I’ve felt most of my life? It is a gift if used as a compass for a heart set on pilgrimage.
This made more sense to me than anything I had heard or pondered before.
After she finished and headed to the back of the room to sign and sell books, I experienced a compulsion not unlike my lifelong addiction to writing (and pizza). I had to introduce myself and thank her for her good words.
A few days later, I was reading one of her posts on Jesus Creed about the place of midlife women in the church and commented:
Hi, Michelle, I just found Jesus Creed after meeting you briefly at Deeply Rooted.
I have avoided most women‘s “events”. . .maybe just a personality thing. As a long-time blogger and professional writer, I’ve been searching recently for a collective that includes more voices from women over 50 who are using their gift of words to teach and encourage, but I haven’t found it yet. Where are we. . .in the churches and online? Thank you for bringing this up for discussion.
She messaged me on Twitter:
Just saw your comment on my post at Jesus Creed. I would love to talk further about the notion of putting together a cooperative blog written by older women. When you have a sec, please email me and we can do a little brainstorming!
Uh. . .ok. . .yes!
The previous year I had hunted for a community of women bloggers over 40. I came across an article by Sarah Bessey who had attempted to put a list together of “mature” Christian bloggers. She wrote a follow-up post after one of those “mature” women pointed out that her list included mostly women under 40. Oops. She made a new list, but as I clicked through each linked name/title, I found that many of the blogs were defunct at that point.
Well, you know how tired and moody menopausal women get. . .
Anyway, Michelle and I emailed, talked by phone, and then met in person. And we prayed for a while before eventually moving ahead. Pretty soon we were building a website, populating it with posts we had written on our own blogs and other places, and inviting others to contribute.
We launched ThePerennialGen.com this past summer and added Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to help engage readers and writers, both women and men.
Michelle calls us co-conspirators instead of co-founders. I like that.
It rings of plot and mystery. . .common story elements for writers and oddly accurate since we are figuring this out as we go along and uncertain what God will do next. In fact, we often shake our heads, amazed at what he has already done and is doing.
Not long after launching The Perennial Gen, something else happened.
Michelle had presented her idea about exiles and pilgrims to Moody Publishers and was offered a book contract.
Then something else-else happened. Lots of somethings.
–My business slowed down more than it had in five years.
–Michelle was injured in a fall that temporarily waylaid her writing progress.
–And a dear friend sent me a link out of the blue to a job posting. . .senior editor at Moody Publishers.
Since I had committed 2017 as the Year of Being Shepherded, I applied. I was offered the position and accepted it.
Then a couple months in, I was assigned as the developmental editor of Michelle’s forthcoming book, Born to Wander. I sent her this photo that included a screen shot of a note I made during her talk in 2016 and the book manuscript I had just received.
We are still shaking our heads.
Like all good stories, pilgrim journeys are full of unexpected twists and turns. . .but written by the God who directs our steps.
What’s next? We are asking God that as we continue to build and write and dream. In 2018, Michelle and I will serve on a conference panel with a few other authors about bringing the voices of “seasoned” women into the light.
I like to imagine there will be a person in the audience who needs to hear something we have to share. That it will be an arrow to the heart that spurs her to pilgrimage.
Read Michelle’s side of the story at MichelleVanLoon.com.
Unsplash Photo by Les Anderson