Author Interview with Eileen Hinkle Rife
Today's post features author, Eileen Hinkle Rife, and her new book, Second Chance. Eileen tells us that "Second Chance is the poignant story of middle age, surprising friendships and unexpected places."
A brief synopsis is: Mave Robertson, a recent empty nester, wants the fire back in her marriage, but her husband, Jerry, remains aloof. Is he having an affair? A midlife crisis? When a neighbor suggests she "get a life," Mave accepts the challenge and volunteers at an inner-city teen ministry where she is thrown into a culture of drugs, gangs and unwed teen moms. She soon discovers someone she can help, but might he also be the cure for both her stale marriage and her crumbling relationship with her father?
One theme in Second Chance that was close to Eileen's heart is having purpose in the second half of life. Eileen said, "My central character, Mave, spends her adult life rearing her children. Now that they're grown and out of the home, she wonders if her best days are over. Her neighbor helps her see that she can enjoy midlife if she'll get involved in something bigger than herself. Maintaining a meaningful purpose in every season of life is central to our well-being, and thus a powerful theme in Second Chance."
She continued, "Another theme is redemption. Mave, her husband Jerry, and Dareece (a teen from the projects) come together on the common ground of needing to forgive their fathers for past abuse. This theme bridges social and economic status, helping the reader realize that whether s/he lives in a middle class neighborhood or the projects, s/he can still struggle with some of the same fundamental issues of life."
I like to look deeply into the hearts of the authors I interview, and Eileen didn't disappoint me. In fact, her answers to my questions brought a golf ball-sized lump into my throat and a mist to my eyes as I frequently struggle with doing everything my way, in my power, in my time and of my choosing instead of being careful to inquire with God to see if I'm on His path rather than my own. Her answers reminded me of how important it is to remember that all of our efforts are to His glory and not our own.
The following are my questions and Eileen's inspiring answers:
1-I understand that the idea for Second Chance was born out of your desire to raise awareness about Roanoke Valley's Straight Street, an inner-city teen ministry where your son-in-law and daughter serve full-time. I'd love to hear more about Straight Street. How long has it been there, what programs do they offer and exactly what do they do for teens?
2-I loved the idea that your central character, Mave, wants to give back to her community during the second half of her life--that she is seeing life from a perspective that she has never before experienced. How do you recommend that others proceed in stepping out of their comfort zones and into action for others with whom they might not otherwise (from a socioeconomic standpoint) ever come in contact?
I believe outreach of any kind must begin with prayer. I encourage women to ask the Lord to place on their hearts the burden He wants them to carry. Since He's much more concerned about the world around us than we are, He will be faithful to distribute "passion" as He sees fit. Often, He will do so in accordance with our unique personalities, interests and giftedness. At other times, He will lay a burden on our hearts that is totally new and foreign to us, as He did in the case of my character, Mave.
We might respond, "Whoa, what's up with that? Not sure I can do that, or go there."
It's at this critical crossroads that we sometimes falter. We've felt the heart tug, but to actually follow through takes initiative, courage and action. And mega-doses of trust in the One who guides the entire process. If we surrender to His guidance, He will be faithful to equip us for the platform that will carry out His purpose: to share the love of Jesus.
After we sense God's leading, we begin asking questions, seeking out information. It's amazing how the Lord will bring people into our paths who have a connection to our burden. At this point, the pieces will begin to fall into place, as we have the courage to walk through the door God opens.
That open door may be gathering a group to pray. It may be giving (money and/or supplies--diapers, bottles, food). It may be rolling up our sleeves and getting directly involved in serving food to the homeless, or playing games with inner-city youth, or listening to an unwed teen mom share her anxiety, or counseling at-risk teens, or painting a room or leading a devotional. Whatever the role you feel God wants you to pursue, do it.
Prayer, courage, trust, research, action. It takes individual initiative at every turn!
3-What has your empty nest experience entailed?
If I could sum up my empty nest experience in one word, it would be: relinquishment!
But that lesson didn't come easily. I struggled, wept and grappled for control. But the Lord used the empty nest to press me deeper into Him. And helped me develop a stronger relationship with Him as my provider, protector and lover. Now, most mornings you can find me in my prayer chair gazing out the window with hands uplifted in an act of release to Him.
But it's been a journey over the past ten years...
When my oldest daughter, Rachel, graduated home school in 1997 and seven years later left for India as a career missionary, I entered a period of transition. As I moved my other two daughters through schooling and into the world, cared for aging parents, entered menopause, lost my mother and helped my husband start a new business, I felt overwhelmed and out of control. Life seemed to be moving faster than my ability to cope.
While I knew in my heart the girls would eventually leave home, I wasn't fully prepared for what that would mean. My role as a full-time mother was over.
I'm so thankful God gave me the passion to write and speak a few years before Rachel graduated. I had already invested time and energy in growing my abilities and platform so that when the nest emptied, I had purpose--something bigger than myself to invest in.
Still, I struggled with depression that first year after our youngest left home. I needed something new for just my husband, Chuck, and me.
That new thing was dancing, much to his chagrin. But he humored me. Even purchased a dance instruction video a few months after I expressed my desire. Since that time, we've taken lessons on occasion. If you peek into our living room window at night, you might catch us practicing a step or two.
After almost 36 years of marriage, we still have trouble leading and following at times. Yes, dancing can open up some other areas that need work. Mostly, it's prompted us to look eyeball to eyeball. What's not to love about that?
The empty nest also forced me to develop deeper friendships with other women--so vital for adjustment in the transitions of life especially.
Today, my three daughters are married, all mommies and serving in full-time Christian ministries alongside their husbands. Their burdens have inspired much of my fiction writing thus far: The Born for India trilogy and Second Chance. My six grandchildren, ages five and under, provide further motivation to leave a godly legacy to the next generation.
Truly, there is life after kids! God showed up with many sweet surprises for me! Made me feel ashamed, like a puppy with her tail between her legs, for pitching such a fit in that transition time of life. If we wait on the Lord, He will fill up the empty places in our hearts. I think the key is relinquishment, continually releasing everything and everyone to Him, knowing He has our best interests and His kingdom purposes in mind.
Eileen, thank you so much for spending this time with us today. You have been incredibly direct and honest, and you have touched my heart. I know that your inspiring words will touch many others as well.
Please visit Eileen Rife at www.eileenrife.com and www.eileen-rife.blogspot.com and allow Second Chance to warm your heart and stir your soul!
Never Say Perfect and 7 Easy Steps to Memoir Writing: Build a Priceless Legacy One Story at a Time! are both now available for your reading pleasure. Visit www.awriterspresence.com for the links to all formats. I'd love to hear your thoughts after reading these books.
Walk in His light today!