I met Dale Hanson Bourke at a meeting of women involved in promoting women's health and economic empowerment in Zambia. I admired her intelligence, curiosity, and breadth of experience as a journalist and women's health advocate. Later, I traveled to Zambia to see the projects World Vision and its collaborative partners (such as World Bicycle Relief, International Justice Mission, and the Center for Infectious Disease Research in Zambia) were undertaking to empower women and help prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS.

Dale was in Zambia at the same time, and I enjoyed getting to know her as we traveled in the beautiful countryside on very bumpy roads. I ate my first fried caterpillar with her at a World Vision ADP. When the trip was ending, we said we should have a reunion with our three traveling mates in the summer.

Remarkably, Dale was able to carve out time to host us. Her book Embracing Your Second Calling: Find Passion and Purpose for the Rest of Your Life was a frequent companion in the weeks before I saw her in Maryland. At 43, and definitely aware of being solidly in midlife, I found myself deeply moved by the book (recently re-released and updated), so it was a treat to talk with Dale about it when we were together a few weeks ago.

What follows is an excerpt from our conversation.

JG Dale, as you know, I love Embracing Your Second Calling. I was moved by the way you weave Ruth and Naomi's story throughout.

DHB I was struck by Naomi. Here was a woman for whom the first half of life was full. She had two sons—what every Jewish mother wanted. She had a good husband who provided for the family and removed them from a land broken by drought. She even had two daughters-in-law whom she loved, and who loved her.

Then her life fell apart. We're told in the Book of Ruth that she was too old to find another man and to have another child. In other words, she was in midlife. When her husband and sons died, she was angry with God. She said to him, "Change my name. Call me 'Bitter.' "

But she still loved God even when she was angry with him. She never stopped talking to him. I love that. And the fact that Ruth would stay with her and follow her back to a land plagued by drought—that speaks to the kind of person Naomi was, that Ruth would follow her.

… [A]nd it was truly miraculous the way God created a second calling for Naomi. At the end of the Book of Ruth, she is holding a baby, her grandchild. God had put her into the line of David when her own family line was dead. She was made part of the line of Jesus!

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JG In what ways did you connect with Naomi?

DHB I connect with her in many ways. Yes, in part because we are both the mothers of two sons. I also connected with the fact that there is a point in life when we say, "Wait, a minute ago I had my children here. I was making their lunches and being their mom and suddenly, they've left. They're gone." It hits you hard.

It's amazing how you go through the first half of your life so busy with your kids and then—it's all gone. All the things you felt you were good at don't matter anymore.

JG My oldest is 14. I understand what you're saying, but I know I won't feel it until I'm there. Is there really no way to prepare for it?

DHB No. You have to go through it. And … it is a loss. I've been very fortunate. I'd had a full family life and full work life. I can't even imagine what it's like for a lot of my friends for whom being their children's mother represented their whole identity.

JG You say in the book that many women feel "washed up" in midlife but that truly, we have so much to give in the second half of our lives.

DHB I am amazed by all the women I see who are so talented and have so much to give the world. And I know how much the world needs. But there are women who are stopped. Stopped by their own sense of inadequacy. It grieves me. It's like the life has been sucked out of them. Just like Naomi—she thought, "I'm not going to have more babies. I'm not going to have another husband. What good am I?"

There's a message—overt and under the surface—that if you're a woman and you get to a certain point in your life, the best you can do is try to hide it.

JG Dye your hair. Get rid of wrinkles.

DHB Otherwise, you're just too ugly for people to look at. A lot of women my age start to take that in. They think, I'm washed up. I have to hide. But God's call isn't only for young women—it's for all faithful people. I can go about my day and look for someone who needs a kind word, for someone who needs help. We need to let the Lord use what he can use. We can look for the pain in our lives and ask ourselves how that pain connects us to others.

JG That makes me think of the T. D. Jakes quote in the book: "Your ministry will be where your misery has been."

DHB It can be so counterintuitive. But if we really believe that everything we go through is for a reason, we'll believe there's there's redemption. If we've been through something painful, we can put our arm around someone else and say, "I've been through that. I understand." That's ministry.

JG Yes. In the book, you say that prayer is "the bedrock of the second half of life."

DHB If we don't do anything in the second part of life, we must at least learn to pray. Like Naomi, we must stay in close communication with God. Even when we don't know what's next.

Jennifer Grant is a journalist and freelance writer who has written for Her.meneutics about multitasking and Lady Gaga. She is working on a book about the adoption of her youngest child.