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Debbie Bronkema | “Courageous Voice” |

by , | Sep 19, 2022 |, Courageous Voice, Listen

“Creativity is a spiritual act…”
– Debbie Bronkema

Meet Debbie. Pastor, writer, author, and worship leader of, an online faith community that explores questioning and growing at the intersections of creativity, spirituality and justice. Enjoy our conversation on building online communities, connecting through creativity and writing, and her new book, “Writing Toward Wholeness: Exploring creativity and spirituality”.

In this episode we chat about:

  • Connect.Faith
  • Finding sacred community through creativity
  • Building community online
  • Creative writing as a spiritual practice
  • Intentionality
  • Using fiction to tell our own stories
  • Starting your first book

Connect with Debbie at and on Facebook and Instagram @debbiebronkema. You can also connect with her through Pleasantville Presbyterian Church where she is a pastor,, or at

Today is the day you vow to follow your heart and not your fear. If only it were that easy! The Courageous Voice podcast chronicles international artists, creatives, plus a handful of scientists, and their stories of fear, courageousness and creativity. Hosted by singer, storyteller and self-proclaimed joy spreader, Chanda Rule, The Courageous Voice inspires us to share our voices courageously in spite of our fears through courageous conversation and community.



Chanda: Hello and welcome back to the courageous voice podcast. My name is Chanda Rule. We are just so excited that you are joining us and sharing your time with us today. Today, we are welcoming Reverend Debbie Bronkema to the podcast.

Welcome Debbie!

Debbie: Thank you. Thank you for having me. I’m glad to [00:01:00] be here.

Chanda: Thank you so much for coming. Reverend Debbie is a pastor. She is an author and writer. She’s a retreat leader. She is a mom, and many things that we’re going to get into today. Debbie is also the spiritual leader for, which is the, collaborator and sponsor for The Courageous Voice Podcast. And so many people ask me, what is So can you tell us about What is And how did it come to be?

Debbie: Absolutely. Okay. So connect.Faith is this place we envisioned where people could come together around creativity, spirituality, and justice, and that they wouldn’t be bound by having to live in one location. And it came out of Pleasantville Presbyterian Church, which is in New York. It’s north of the city, about 45 minutes, and what we found is that there were people connecting with us, particularly around progressive [00:02:00] Christianity, and they would move or be in another area and have trouble finding a place to be spiritually fed. And so they would continue to try to connect with us in Pleasantville, and we would do that happily, but we started to wonder, "well, there’s a bigger world out there. Are there more people that need a place to connect? And what do they need to connect around? What is it that’s making them feel isolated from their communities?"

Chanda: Mm-hmm.

Debbie: And those three words: creativity, spirituality, and justice, were the three words that seemed to make people feel like they didn’t belong in their community, for one reason or another.

I had an interesting conversation with someone whose church told them they asked too many questions.

Chanda: Okay. Interesting.

Debbie: And that was interesting, cause the person called and said, "I just want you to know I’m not gonna go to church anymore" –– this was in her new town –– "because they told me this, and I’m done with church" and I said, "huh, how interesting that you call the pastor to say this… [00:03:00] and by the way, we have this thing called" and she’s like, "Okay, I’m in."

And there are people whose churches took a justice position that they did not agree wit, and left their denomination, and these people were left behind saying, "no, I wanna be open and inclusive and there’s no place for me now." So that happened several times early on. So we started to experiment with, okay, so what kind of content do people need, to feed them spiritually, when they’re in this kind of place? And we came up with content that you could view at your convenience –– cause for some people, the problem is that they work during the one hour a week that the local church they might belong to offers worship.

Chanda: Mm-hmm.

Debbie: So they need content at different times. And for other people, they want community. And we came up with ––this is pre pandemic–– we were doing Google Hangouts and Zoom kind of [00:04:00] meetings to do book discussion clubs and things like that to start helping people connect no matter where they live.

Chanda: Okay. And is this where the creativity comes into play also?

Debbie: Yes. One of the building blocks we had was The Creativity Lab, which is every Wednesday night at 7:30 Eastern Time, on zoom. And we have people from all over the place that come into that. They’ll come like on the train, on their way home or from Arizona, even though it’s 4:30, or the middle of the country, because they need people to connect with that are looking for the same kind of hope, maybe, that they’re looking for. And The Creativity Lab, the whole concept is we’re all created to be creative. And we’re gonna turn off the editor for the hour.

Chanda: Okay.

Debbie: And just let ourselves believe that we have creativity planted in us, and just try. So some of the time we make music, and some of the time we write, and [00:05:00] some of the time we do both.

Chanda: Mm-hmm.

Debbie: And people share as they wanna share.

It’s become really an interesting, interesting community. Even sometimes we also have guests, like you have guests. We have guests come and they talk about their creative process.

Chanda: Yeah.

Debbie: And then that’s how some of the people that are part of Creativity Lab choose to be in it. It might be that you’re the guest and you run into somebody who is speaking in a way that, you know they need what we have. So it’s really been interesting. It’s not just the guests that come back, although they sometimes do, but it’s also now they know about it, and they tell the people in their life that need it.

Chanda: Mm-hmm.

Debbie: That’s been really fun.

So we do midweek meditation, which is an online email that has scripture and devotion and prayer…

Chanda: Mm-hmm.

Debbie: And reflection questions. So that’s like our weekly kind of thing that we put out. But we also put out music every week. We do podcasts. We have three different [00:06:00] podcasts that we do that meet different people where they are in a certain time.

Chanda: Mm-hmm.

Debbie: Like Courageous Voice. And then Everyday Spirituality, which is just trying to help people talk about where are they finding themselves spiritually fed, you know, on a daily basis. And then Generation Hope, which is hosted by a young adult who is my daughter, who wanted to say "there are stories that need to be told from my generation, and all that I’m hearing is, negative stories, and there are so many people in my generation that are making a difference." And so that’s a part of what she does. Sometimes she explores issues. Right now she’s been doing the issue of "you’re a creative person, but everybody’s kind of telling you, ‘you gotta make a living.’"

Chanda: Hmm.

Debbie: So if you chose to stay creative, what did you do and how is it working for you? And what’s your story, and what would you tell other people? That’s another fun part of what we’re doing, cause it just reaches a different demographic. And the [00:07:00] other thing that’s interesting is a lot of older people listen and go, "oh, that’s what that means," you know?

Chanda: Okay, okay. We need that.

Debbie: We need that. We definitely need that. We definitely need that. And she’s aware of that.

Chanda: Okay. No, I’m loving this because you know, I was, I was scouring your Instagram page.

Debbie: Ah, okay.

Chanda: And I saw a really cool post. And this was back in 2019 and it just said creativity is a spiritual act. So I love how that’s-

Debbie: yeah…

Chanda: -woven into everything that you are talking about with I get a lot of questions about creating, and how you are creating community online, and how that is different than in your face-to-face community in Pleasantville.

Debbie: So, yeah, I think a lot of times people think that online is second best, but I don’t think so. I think that there are things that are really good about in person, for sure. But online has some real strengths too. [00:08:00] A lot of times people are willing to be more vulnerable in a conversation because it’s so eye-to-eye.

Chanda: Mm-hmm.

Debbie: So face-to-face. Willing to share more than at least would be my experience. If you had an hour in a room at a church, I don’t think that people would be as open and vulnerable as they get in this… Now maybe they would after a period of time, but it seems to happen really quickly in, in this kind of Zoom community. So that’s one thing I’ve noticed.

The other thing that I read that made me smile is somebody said, "well, you can’t do silence online." Well, we do it every week.

Chanda: Mm-hmm.

Debbie: You know, at the end of the time we do, you know, 30 seconds or so of silence together, and it’s so amazing. It’s so filling and peaceful and prayerful. So yeah, I think they’re more alike than different.

Chanda: Okay.

Debbie: And that there are different strengths, and there are some people [00:09:00] who really prefer one or the other. The other thing that I notice is it’s harder to make an excuse, to yourself, why you’re not gonna show up.

Chanda: Mm. Online?

Debbie: Yeah.

Chanda: Yeah.

Debbie: Yeah, cause we’ve had, you know, we’ll do adult ed for the church, and I do that online sometimes too, because I’m like, "oh, we’ll just do it at seven o’clock at night," and people will show up because, well, what are they really doing? But if it’s seven o’clock at night at the church, they’re not gonna make the drive. So I think the convenience factor. Maybe making the drive has to do with eyesight at night, you know, or childcare, or there’s –– there are barriers that are in the way, where if we do it online, those barriers aren’t there.

Chanda: Yeah.

Debbie: I’m not saying in-person doesn’t have its place. It for sure does. For sure does.

Chanda: Yes, and that’s interesting cause I’m listening to you talk and you know, I’ve never been to one of the events in person, but I’ve had the pleasure of reading about [00:10:00] it in your new book.

Debbie: Uh-huh, thank you.

Chanda: You know, what I’m gathering is that I already know you have a gift of bringing people together, whether it’s online or in person and getting people to really dig in. And so I hope it’s okay to talk about your book.

Debbie: It is. It is. Thank you, I’d love to..

Chanda: Okay, so Reverend Debbie is also working a lot with creative writing as a spiritual practice. And I really want to talk about that a bit more and how you got started with this idea of blending these two different things. Where did you get the idea and how did that start to develop?

Debbie: Yeah. So it really started… I mean, I’ve always liked to write. That was always a piece of me since I was a little kid, and I’ve always had a spiritual life or journey.

Chanda: Mm-hmm.

Debbie: But they really started to come together… oh, there’s a couple times. One is during seminary. One of my professors had written something on the bottom of a paper. It was a female professor and [00:11:00] she said, "How come you’re ending your paper with what other people think? I wanna hear what you think."

Chanda: Mm-hmm .

Debbie: And I thought, "oh, am I allowed to think about, and have opinions about…?" This is a theology class. I thought I was supposed to just tell you what Barth said or whatever.

Chanda: Okay.

Debbie: And so I really spent some time that summer making myself think about what I thought. And I would read something, and then I would write creatively in response to whatever I read. So I had a bunch of different spiritual books: Frederick Buechner Henri Nouwen, you know, those kind of people. And I’d read a devotion and then I’d write.

Chanda: Mm-hmm.

Debbie: And I think that is a piece of where it started for me.

Chanda: Okay.

Debbie: So then I did a Doctorate of Ministry at Columbia in Georgia, which is a Presbyterian seminary.

Chanda: Mm-hmm.

Debbie: And I took a class of writing as a spiritual practice that was for preachers, you know.

Chanda: Mm-hmm. [00:12:00]

Debbie: And it was taught by Barbara Brown Taylor. And she said "okay, we’re gonna be in class from 8:30 to 12:30 every day, but you’re gonna pick two other hours during the day where you’re just gonna sit down and you’re gonna write."

Chanda: Mmh.

Debbie: And we were like, what? And she’s like, "and not a sermon- you’re just gonna write, just let yourself write. Find what it is you have to say." And that was so empowering. It reminded me of how often I forget to hear my own voice. So that’s why I love your podcast title. The courage that it takes to use your voice is just really important.

She threw out a question one time saying "okay, you all have formed groups in here," which we had- we’re the two o’clock people that sit at two o’clock and then we’d share stuff. And she was like, "I wonder if this would work in a church," and that was sort of a line. And I went, "oh, that’s what I want my doctoral project to be."

I wanna see if this [00:13:00] experience that I’m having, that connects creativity and spirituality, could be something that could transform other people in the way that it does me, and maybe even build community among a bunch of strangers, which is what we were in the class at the beginning.

So I did it at my church – Pleasantville Presbyterian Church – and I, you know, offered it broadly.

Chanda: Mm-hmm.

Debbie: And then I also went to a few people and went, "hey, you gotta do this for me, cause I need to have some people that are gonna do it."

Chanda: Mm-hmm.

Debbie: And they’re like, "okay, okay. We’re in, we’re in." But way more people showed up than the ones that I made promise to do it so that I could give it a try, which was awesome.

Chanda: Yeah.

Debbie: And then the whole connection between creativity and spirituality… what I learned as I did my research and my in-person research, literary review as well…

Chanda: Mm-hmm.

Debbie: …was that there are huge connection points between creativity and spirituality. That, you know, in both cases you wanna be present, [00:14:00] right?

Chanda: Mm-hmm.

Debbie: And attentive. In order to write creatively or be creative, you need to be attentive to the moment. And that’s a huge thing in spirituality. And another thing is intentionality.

I love using poetry as a way to get at intentionality because every word matters. You know this.

Chanda: Mm-hmm.

Debbie: You write poetry. But like every word is so important. And I think living an intentional life of faith benefits from us practicing this method of intentionality.

Chanda: Mm-hmm.

Debbie: And then listening. Both to ourselves and to other folks. Getting in touch with our senses, like our sight and our sound and our taste and smell. All of those help us be present in a way that helps us be more present to God.

Chanda: Mm-hmm.

Debbie: That’s how it connects for me. Yeah, yeah.

Chanda: Yeah. I loved how you outlined this in the book with the exercises and with the storytelling. The book is called Writing Toward [00:15:00] Wholeness: Exploring Creativity and Spirituality. So I have a question about even bringing this research to your congregation, because I feel like you’re asking people to be so vulnerable in this process. But I imagine that the ask itself — asking people to come together in this space; in this context — also like, put you in a very vulnerable position.

I think it’s beautiful. And at the same time, I’ve never heard of any work like this in church. Am I mistaking that, or was that a process that you had to work through? How was that?

Debbie: Definitely. I mean, there definitely was a vulnerability to me saying out loud that creative writing is a passion of mine.

Even if you don’t identify yourself as a writer, I think it could be a helpful practice to other people. There was a vulnerability just in that, to start with. And then often in adult ed classes in church, you start off [00:16:00] strong, but by the end, there’s not as many people. And so I was like, "Ugh, how do I make sure that there’s somebody in the room with me in the end?"

I think I picked like three or four people. I didn’t just pick three or four people; I looked around and went, "okay, they’ll do it."

Chanda: okay.

Debbie: They’re creative enough and not so afraid. And making sure that there was some diversity in the room was important to me. Cause I was like, " this should be something that breaks those boundaries." That was fun too. It was really interesting to ask. There was somebody I asked who identifies as a scientist, and I was particularly thinking, "okay, I want someone in the room who says I’m not a writer," you know?

Chanda: Okay.

Debbie: So yeah, there was definitely a vulnerability to that. And there were people that I might have thought would sign up cause they are writers.

Chanda: Mm-hmm.

Debbie: Some of them didn’t cause they are like, "no, I don’t wanna share with anybody" which was interesting too. [00:17:00] Like "I don’t wanna go through the process with other people."

Chanda: I shamefully know that- that response. Yes. Oh my gosh. No, but I love how you, said that. I think that’s like super important; that you were trying something new, you’re feeling vulnerable, but you’re also bringing in a support that’s there. So I think that’s super important.

So I have a question about this book. So, first of all, in the book, like I mentioned, Reverend Debbie takes the reader through the process of this class, and how she was gathering her research. But also she shares the exercises so we can all do them, which is great. There was one exercise that you did where… this was the making the fiction; taking your history and doing a twist of fiction. And I had such a strong reaction.

Like, I’m just so excited about this exercise. And I’m also very curious about it, specifically because I do a lot of this. And I’ve done it with biblical texts and [00:18:00] I kind of feel a way about it in the back of my head. Like "Chanda, what are you doing?" And you kind of validated me, like through your words, but I’m so curious about this process because I also feel like it’s an extremely healing process, especially reading about the response from your students. So could you talk a bit about that exercise?

Debbie: Yes, yeah. So that is one of my favorites, too. The sense that we have these stories that are our stories. If we try to write them down and hear what they have to tell us; if we don’t change anything about it and we just write it as if it’s history, we can get so bogged in the facts that we can’t actually hear the capital T truth.

Because the facts get in the way of the truth. Do you see what I mean? And so for me:

"well, is that exactly what he said? You know, well, I don’t know. I don’t wanna be unfair. So ––" and the next thing I know I’m not writing it, because I’m not allowing myself to let go of my fear that I’m not getting [00:19:00] it a hundred percent right. But if I change it in some significant way, and now it’s fiction, I let the story tell itself. And I don’t get in the way and block it. And that’s what I found other people able to do too, is to say, "okay, I’m gonna change something really big about this. And now I get to play with the story and hear what it has to teach me in a different way."

I wrote a book that was a fiction book a while back and it’s not true at all. But the original thing that I started the whole book with was my husband and I had been walking on the beach in Florida. We worked in Florida at the time. And we ran into someone else we knew, and he was in a contemplative mode. His wife wasn’t well

Chanda: Mm-hmm.

Debbie: And he was revisiting how he got to be in Florida, cuz he grew up in the middle of nowhere, somewhere. He had grown up far, far away and he said, "well, I was out of work. I didn’t know [00:20:00] what to do. And I thought, if I’m not gonna know what to do, why not live in Florida?" So he moved to Florida, and I pondered that question at different times, and I was like, "has that ever been true for me? Have I ever not known what to do? Would I ever made a move like that?"

Chanda: Hmm.

Debbie: So the story I ended up telling started from a true conversation, but went a hundred percent in a different direction.

Chanda: Okay.

Debbie: I’m saying the story that I told in fiction is a hundred percent fiction. And yet, there was a lot of truth in it. When I went back and read it, I went, " oh, I know where this part comes from." Or," oh, I know where this feeling came from," but it’s almost like you have a license to actually tell the truth, if you’re not so worried about writing down every fact.

Chanda: Okay. So I’m getting it. So basically in this story, it’s like a change of context. I’ve heard about taking really traumatic stories and changing your [00:21:00] personal decisions, and making it into something different, but I think this exercise is slightly different, right? Where you’re changing the context, so you can get more at what the feeling is, I guess? Am I saying that correctly?

Debbie: Yes. Yeah. I don’t put a lot of boundaries on it. So if somebody in the room wants to use it to change a traumatic event, I would never say, "oh no, that’s not the way to go." at all. I would applaud that. But it makes it more accessible to everybody in the room.

Chanda: Mm-hmm.

Debbie: Who maybe isn’t ready to talk about their traumatic event…

Chanda: Mm-hmm…

Debbie: …but is able to—so there was somebody in our conversation who had just moved to a new area, you know, and they changed something about the move. And sometimes people change their gender.

Chanda: Mm-hmm.

Debbie: Because they wanna perceive what would this story have been from, from another gender. Somebody changed their age, which I thought was really fun. They changed from an adult to a child. And that turned out to be… what they realized was, [00:22:00] "well, this is how I felt at the time. I felt like a child in this situation." So it can bring you those kind of truths as well as be healing, if you can change something contextually. Healing, because you can tell the story. Like there’s stories in us that wanna be told. And so part of what my work is, is trying to remove the blocks and your story could be whatever your story is. It might be a moment of your family history that you really want to get on paper, but you can’t because you’re so worried that you haven’t gotten everything right. Well, can you tell your family history from the dynamic of saying "this is historical fiction." And does that make it so that then you can write the story, at least as much as you want to, or feel guided or led to.

Chanda: Yeah. Yes. Yes. And thank you, I forgot to mention that- that you’re also a writing coach.

Debbie: Oh yeah, yeah.

Chanda: [00:23:00] Yes!

Debbie: Yeah. And that part is really fun. And that kind of came naturally because when I would lead retreats, people would go, "hey, I wanna talk to you about my project," and I’m like, "okay, we can do that."

Chanda: Okay.

Debbie: And I got that conversation. And at first I thought, "well, what do I know?" But pretty soon I realized a lot of times I do because I’ve been there; I’ve had a block over something. And so I can share the road, you know? Yeah.

Chanda: Okay. Well, tell us about the retreats!

Debbie: Oh, the retreats have been really, really fun. The ones that I’ve done most often have been in Florida, at Cedarkirk Presbyterian Camp and Conference.

Chanda: Okay.

Debbie: I worked there years ago, and so they were like, "oh, we wanna kind of partner with you on this." They’ll advertise it to their community.

Chanda: Mm-hmm.

Debbie: You know, whoever’s in Florida, and we’ve had such a great fun time. A lot of times pastors will come, cause there’s a writing part of them, and then we’ll also have, you know, a [00:24:00] variety of people; a variety of ages. It’s really interesting. One year it was a low attendance and it was three best friends from high school…

Chanda: wow…

Debbie: …that signed up together to do it.

Chanda: Nice.

Debbie: And it so great listening to them tell their stories and share them with me.

So the way that they usually work is typically they’re two nights. So we come in, in an afternoon, and I kind of give the scene and explain what I mean by this. And then right away, I get people writing so that they’re not afraid.

Chanda: Okay.

Debbie: You know?

Chanda: Okay. Mm-hmm.

Debbie: And we usually give a journal or something; a hard back, easy marble composition book, so that you’re not afraid to write in it, you know.

Chanda: Mm-hmm.

Debbie: But also you have something hard to write on.

Chanda: Mm-hmm.

Debbie: And then we do exercises together and it’s kind of challenge by choice. I challenge you to share because you’ll grow more if you let yourself share, but at the same time nobody ever has to share. So that way you’re free to write what you want.

Chanda: Okay.

Debbie: So the other thing that we do [00:25:00] is we share process as well. So lots of people don’t ever share their product, but they share their process.

Chanda: Okay.

Debbie: And that can be really wonderful and really healing as well.

Chanda: Mm-hmm, mm-hmm.

Debbie: And connecting. So like, let’s say we wrote a poem for 10 minutes on something we saw after we went for a walk, you know? Cause if you’re on a retreat, you’re hoping to give people time outside and things. Somebody might have gone somewhere really deep and they don’t wanna share it, but they’ll say, "wow, I can’t believe the things I noticed on this walk that I have never noticed before," you know? Or they’ll share how it made them feel.

Chanda: Okay.

Debbie: And then often, they will share what they wrote. But I’m really clear: you can share your process or your product. You can participate in sharing, even if you don’t wanna read a word that you wrote.

Chanda: Okay. Hmm. And, I’m curious because, you know, I love ritual and I love liturgy. And just listening to you talk about it, and remembering some things about your book; about what actually went into the tools and all this. [00:26:00] And thinking about how you are, you know, taking the walks; the process with each other. Is there a liturgical spin? Were you thinking of that when you were putting this together in this process, or it’s just part of you, and it just happens to feel like that?

Debbie: I think a part of it is just part of me; that anything I do is gonna have that to it.

Chanda: Okay.

Debbie: When I do the retreats, I do an opening devotional that is typically outside in a prayer circle kind of place. What I usually do is read a couple of poems that are spiritual. So I try, from the beginning, to be like, okay, "here’s some scripture, but now here are some poems that kind of make the case that creativity and spirituality can connect." So it’ll be a Mary Oliver or a David Whyte, or somebody like that.

Chanda: Mm-hmm.

Debbie: It’s almost like the retreat really opens fast, because people hear that and go," yeah, okay. I get it."

Chanda: Okay.

Debbie: So that [00:27:00] kind of all feeds together.

Chanda: Wow. It’s lovely. I have one more question. It’s kind of in a different direction and this is about your book. I’m not even sure if this is your first book. Was it Finding Mana, right?

Debbie: Yep. Yep.

Chanda: Was that your first book?

Debbie: That was my first book. Yeah.

Chanda: All right, so I just wanna know just a bit about, about this process of starting your first book. Just maybe a few tips; a few words of encouragement for people that are wanting to do that; to step into expressing themselves in this way.

Debbie: So yeah, that’s actually- it’s all part of my story, really- that I finished my doctoral project and got my deem in, and my mom, who passed away a few years ago, but was still with us then, said, "so what are you gonna do now?" and I’m like, "what do you mean? I finished."

And she goes, "oh, I know you."

Chanda: Okay.

Debbie: And I’m like "I don’t know." And so then I kind of stopped and I thought, I think I’m gonna start writing 250 words a day [00:28:00] and see what happens.

Chanda: Mm.

Debbie: So my kids were, you know, middle school to elementary school. So this was my process. I would get them off to school with my husband. We would get them off to school in the morning. He would go do what he was doing- work. And I would write for, what was usually about half an hour, 250 words. And I would open what I had written the day before, read the sentence- the last sentence- and go. And the reason I came up with 250 words is I’m like, "well, I can’t do Novel November. I have way too much to do between my kids and church."

Chanda: Okay. Okay.

Debbie: But maybe I could do like a whole year. So if I divided up the number of words in a day to get the same number in a year…

Chanda: okay.

Debbie: …that’s what I did. That gives you a day or two off a week. So 250 words a day that I scheduled into my Monday through Friday. And It was so much fun. I would just follow the story, [00:29:00] wherever it went and I just had a great time. And then at the end of the year, I came to an ending. And then I took the book for two days and I went on my own little private trip and I read it, thinking well, "okay, who knows where it went? It was 250 words a time!" And I found that there was a whole section where I’d gone off in a direction that I didn’t think fit, but that the rest of it had a story that I wanted to tell.

So I kept playing with it and I edited, and that was slower, cause I had to do big pictures. So I’d have to have like full days, which as a pastor of a church and a mom of four kids, not a lot of full days. So that took like a long time. And then I still was like, "this is just gonna be in my drawer; this was my hobby."

Chanda: Mm-hmm.

Debbie: My daughter at the time was thinking she wanted to be an editor, cause she loved to read. And that was the only job that she had heard about that you loved to read and you get paid for. So she wanted [00:30:00] to edit my book and I’m like, sure! I gave her the book and you know, the first 20 pages had a bunch of red marks and then there were no more red marks and I’m like, "what happened?" And she’s like, "well, I got into the story. I didn’t care anymore."

Chanda: Wow.

Debbie: She goes, "it’s good mom, you should try." And so then, the mom of a daughter, I didn’t want to be not courageous. I was like, I’m not gonna say "no, I’m afraid to try because what if nobody likes it? And what if this? And what if, what if, what if.." But no, that’s not what I wanna model for her.

Chanda: Mm-hmm.

Debbie: So that really is what made me go from doing it for fun to making it into something… was her affirmation that she thought it was a story that people needed to hear. And then I went down a whole line of having wonderful readers and [00:31:00] meeting an agent and, you know, having them give me advice. And so, it was a blessing. The whole trip was a blessing, but really the starting was saying, I’m not gonna close the computer till I’ve written 250 words every day.


That’s really where it started, but it’s so much fun. I love doing fiction cause I didn’t know where it was gonna go, you know?

Chanda: Okay.

Debbie: Like the main character doesn’t really understand who he is and it’s cause I didn’t know who he was, till he told me.

Chanda: Okay.

Debbie: You know, then one day it was time to write who he was, because I heard it and I knew what to do. So it sounds funny, but it’s a very, very cool process to listen… to listen to the voice of the characters. It’s very fun.

Chanda: Yeah. I read about this process and at some point… at some point in my life, I’m gonna open myself up to it, and it’s like you said, like finding something that’s doable and fun and that keeps you going.

Debbie: Yes.

Chanda: Well, that’s beautiful, beautiful advice. Beautiful advice.

Debbie: Thank you.

Chanda: Well, [00:32:00] listen, Reverend Debbie, where can we find you online?

Debbie: Yes.

Chanda: So we can get more information on all of these beautiful things.

Debbie: Okay. So I have a website. Which is And I have Facebook and I have Instagram. And then I’m pastor of Pleasantville Presbyterian Church, and I’m a worship leader of; new worshiping community leader of So all those places have stuff about me.

Chanda: Okay.

Debbie: I’d love to connect. Yeah.

Chanda: And you’re on Instagram also. Yes?

Debbie: Yes. I’m on Instagram and there, I’ve been just having fun lately. I do this midweek meditation, so I’ve been putting little pieces of that. But also, as life has become heavy lately- I think for a lot of people -for me too, I decided that when I go for a walk, I try to find something beautiful to take a picture of.

Chanda: Mm-hmm.

Debbie: And so that’s the other thing I’ve been doing on Instagram and Facebook lately. I’ll just [00:33:00] put a picture of a flower or something. It feels spiritual again, it feels like, you know, a creative way to be spiritual. Cause there’s a prayer to it.

Chanda: Yeah. I saw that and then the focus on joy and stuff. So, yes, it’s beautiful. Yeah.

Debbie: Oh, thank you.

Chanda: So reach out online. It’s actually And what is your Instagram tag? It’s just @debbiebronkema, right?

Debbie: Yes. It’s just @debbiebronkema, yeah.

Chanda: Wonderful. Okay. Well, thank you so much for joining me today. This has been beautiful.

Debbie: Thank you.

Chanda: Yeah.

Debbie: Thanks so much for having me. It’s been fun to have a conversation.

Chanda: Thank you.