Only God could say what this new spirit forming in you will be… accept the anxiety of feeling yourself in suspense and incomplete.

—Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

 

Life is change. Growth is optional. Choose Wisely.

—Karen Kaiser Clark

 

When the winds of change blow in it can be unsettling. Scary, even.

Especially when the change is dramatic. Like the unexpected loss of a loved one, or the loss of a job, or our health. That kind of change in life upends us. Leaving us with a sense of uncertainty. Insecurity. Upheaval.

No wonder we seem so averse to change.

Although change of any kind can be painful, it can also be a place of growth. A place where our faith stretches. A space that is transformative.

I think one of the reasons why we resist change so much, is that we like to feel safe. Cozy. Comfortable.

I know that is how it’s been lately in my life.

But, that’s not how it always was.

My hubby and I, in our younger days, were adventuresome. We embraced change.

When Rey had the opportunity to play basketball in France we welcomed the opportunity and made the move.

When a church in Colorado Springs needed a Youth Leader, we dove right in and loved every minute of it.

I remember the day we moved to White Bear Lake. I stood on our front stoop and asked God not to let me drive my tent stakes down too deep. I wanted to be willing to pull them up again if God had other plans.

But, then life happened. We rooted ourselves firmly. In the neighbourhood. In our kid’s activities. At church.

Oh, we still took little adventures now and again. I went to Ukraine to speak at a Women’s Conference. Rey went to Tijuana with the Youth that he’s been a part of for 20+ years.

I even went back to school to become a certified Spiritual Director and started my own publishing company.

But, that’s almost a decade ago now.

Then, a year and a half ago we lost our dearest friend to a three-week battle with cancer. It rocked our world. We had always assumed we would grow old together.

Amid our deep grief, I began to sense the Holy Spirit whispering to my heart. Telling me it was time to let go and play it safe no longer. It was time to be stretched. Because life is short.

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Striving to be perfect can leave us exhausted and discouraged.  Actress Andrea Logan White talks about how she learned to embrace her flaws and imperfections, knowing that God loves her even though she is perfectly unfinished. 

 

Click HERE to listen to the podcast of Jo's interview with Andrea Logan White on her book, Perfectly Unfinished: Finding beauty in the Midst of Brokenness

 

Catch Jo live on Connecting Faith every Friday at 12:00 p.m. on Faith Radio Network / KTIS AM 900 or online at myfaithradio.com

We're really excited to let you know that our books are available on Kindle.

Find them on amazon.com or click images below.

 

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But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

—Matthew 6:33

 

And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are beingtransformedinto his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

—2 Corinthians 3:18

 

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We have this cute young lady who has been living with us for several months. My husband has dubbed her the Energizer Bunny. So it isn’t surprising that in her dialogues and answers she often uses an enthusiastic, snappy, staccato, “yep!”

 

So guess what I hear coming out of my mouth these days? Yep. Literally. And it’s probably not so cute coming out of an almost 52-year-old.

 

Then there’s my daughter. Her go-to phrase is, “That is so real.” So lately when I hear a statement that rings especially true, what do you think has been sliding off my tongue like a canoe down a waterfall?

 

Whether I like it or not, the people I hang around rub off on me. Like when I touched my hubby’s freshly-painted robins-egg blue walls. Marked.

 

And I am influenced by others’ actions as well. Which got me to thinking… Although who I hang with did not make my initial list for 2018 goals, I decided it was something I needed to add. Who do I want to influence me? Since I want to be like Jesus the most, it struck me that I need to hang around him a little more than I do.

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Our culture applauds what we can produce, what we can show, and what we can upload. But God notices us even when we are tucked away in hidden places. 

 

Click HERE to listen to the podcast of Jo's interview with Sara Hagerty on her book, Unseen: The Gift of Being Hidden in a World that Loves to be Noticed. 

 

Catch Jo live on Connecting Faith every Friday at 12:00 p.m. on Faith Radio Network / KTIS AM 900 or online at myfaithradio.com

 

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It’s growing more and more popular with the new year to choose a singular word to set the course over the next 12 months vs. making resolutions. 

 

I’ve done it myself—one year was “risk-taker”, another was “be”—and it’s a good, focused strategy that can really jumpstart people to become their better, created selves. Those years, I chose to bravely say yes to opportunities I may have otherwise passed up, and I was reminded to live in the moment instead of distracted by the buzz of my phone or the demands of tomorrow. 

 

But last Christmas, my mother-in-law gave me a Giving Key necklace with the word “believe” stamped on the gold vintage key, and I haven’t picked a word since. It seems this simple accessory has pointed out more than once that it’s time to believe in God’s promises, actually live like His power and grace is real, and rest in His presence when circumstances and evil pull me away. 

 

I’ve been tempted to choose something fresh with this mint new year, a new focus, a clean slate. But I can’t get myself to do it... because I realize I still haven’t mastered it. I can’t yet claim I’m strong in the whole believing category.

 

I still live in fear when I walk into a doctor appointment, instead of trusting that my times—and my babies’ times—are in His hands.  

 

I still am disappointed when bad news comes my way, instead of hoping and declaring that I will see the goodness in the land of the living and trusting that God is still moving behind the scenes. 

 

I still quiver over the possibilities of the future, when God calls me to be strong and courageous because He not only has already gone before me, but He promises to never leave me nor forsake me.  

 

And I still rely on my own strength and understanding to fix problems, lead in ministry, and generally live through my day, when God’s Word clearly says He is the vine, we are the branches, and apart from Him we can do nothing—but remain in Him, and we can do everything. 

 

These are the things that have already been written and spoken, and because my God is faithful, what He says will surely come to pass. Yet here I am, over a year later, growing but still struggling with believing. So, when I’ve thrown around other words to mark my year—like joy, giving, patience, family, and sacrifice—it all seems… less than. Because if I’m truly growing in my faith, studying His word, and claiming His promises, then everything else will follow suit. I don’t need to focus on myself; that’s always how God’s people got tripped up in the Bible anyways. I need to focus on my God, because when I do:

 

I’ll live with joy of the Lord as my strength.

I’ll give to the church and to those in need.

I’ll be patient in tribulation, and I’ll bear with one another in love.

I’ll love my family as I love myself.

I’ll walk confidently in this day the Lord has made, instead of worrying or fearing what’s around the corner.

And I’ll give myself to the God who gave up everything for me.

 

Quite simply, if I’m believing, if I’m growing in my faith of God, His Word, His character, and His plans, then I’ll become the person I’m created to be. So until my faith is perfected, which won’t be until the final day when I meet my Everything face to face, then I will not tire of this focus and of this calling. I will not change my course, and I will not turn my eyes back on myself. 

 

That is my prayer for us all. As God’s children and holy people, with every day and with every new year, may our believing grow stronger, more active, and more powerful as we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, the Champion who initiates and perfects our faith. He who began a good work in us will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Amen.

 

I press on towards the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 3:14

 

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When it comes to dealing with your "stuff," peace IS possible. 

 

Click HERE to listen to Jo's interview with Kathi Lipp. on her book, Clutter Free: Quick and Easy Steps to Simplifying your Space. 

 

Catch Jo live on Connecting Faith every Friday at 12:00 p.m. on Faith Radio Network / KTIS AM 900 or online at myfaithradio.com

We're kicking off the New Year with our sweet friend, Hannah Sorvik Fordice, who has a blog of her own called Rubble and Rescue. If you've had a tough 2017, you too may be wondering how 2018 will unfold. Praying her words will minister to your soul...

 

 

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Last New Years Eve, I found myself sitting at the kitchen table next to an unopened bottle of champagne I had planned to bring to a friend's house; in my hands was a pregnancy test with two pink lines in the viewing window. 

 

At the time, my husband was in a work rotation that included night shifts, so even though it was 3pm he was sound asleep in our bedroom. I gently shook him awake (Im fairly sure my hands were shaking so hard, I probably only had to touch his arm for the effect), and said, "good morning hun, guess what?" and handed him the test. 

 

It was a new year, a new life, a new start - everything was full of promise. My resolutions included informing our parent's of their newly minted "grandparent status", creating a birth plan, learning how to change diapers, and decorating a nursery.

 

But like most new years resolutions... it didn't quite happen how I planned. 

 

Tomorrow it will be New Years Eve again, and I can't help but look at the last year and wonder, what the hell happened? 

 

My parent's house burned down, my dad died, I miscarried our baby and had emergency surgery, my mother-in-law was diagnosed with brain cancer, I quit my job to become a caregiver, had a complete mental break down, frequented the doctor for various health concerns, my niece and my uncle had open heart surgeries and seven months after her diagnosis, my mother-in-law also died. 

 

That is SO not how I thought 2017 would go. 

 

Call me crazy, but here at the turn of another year, instead of resolutions I keep having reservations. 

 

How do I believe that God has good plans in store for my life when so much bad has happened? How do I trust in the promise of an abundant life when so much has been taken away? How do I start to dream again, to open my heart again, to love again? 

 

And maybe, just maybe, you find yourself asking the same questions this year. 

“My heart’s been torn wide open, just like I feared it would be, and I have no willpower to close it back up.”
— Marie Lu, Champion
 

To be honest with you, I don't really have the answers. I wish I didn't fear the phone ringing, the fireplace crackling, or the possibility of becoming a mom again. I wish I knew how to expect good news instead of waiting for the other shoe to fall. These fears are real and I don't deny the uncertainty of life. 

 

But this I do know: living in anxiety instead of anticipation becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you constantly worry, even the wondrous becomes wistful and opportunities become wasted.

 

To live in fear is to suppress a fruitful life. 

 

This year has broken me time and time again and it sure as heck wasn't what I dreamed of at the table last New Years Eve. Perhaps you know the feeling.

 

- But - 

 

Hopefully I have been formed into a better shape, pruned into a more fruitful person - and my gosh, I pray the same for you friend. 

“I have been bent and broken, but - I hope - into a better shape. ”
— Emily Dickinson
 

Whatever questions you bring to the table here at the turn of the year, whatever baggage is weighing you down, I propose this resolution: 

 

To be open to love and in turn, to cast out fear. For "There is no fear in love. But perfect love casts out fear." (John 4:18) 

“There are two basic motivating forces: fear and love. When we are afraid, we pull back from life. When we are in love, we open up to all that life has to offer with passion, excitement, and acceptance. ”
— John Lennon

 

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Were you so engrossed in planning the "best" Christmas that you missed out on Christmas' best? Next year can be different.  Author and mother Alexandra Kuykendall found herself burnt out from planning previous holidays, so she ushered in a new way of "doing" Christmas.  Her experiment left her uttering words like hope, love, joy, and peace - keeping the focus on Christ and the reason for celebration. 

 

Before you put away the decorations, listen in for some ideas that might have you singing a different tune next year. 

 

Click hereto listen to Jo's conversation with Alexandra Kuykendall on her book, Loving my Actual Christmas: an Experiment in Relishing the Season

 

Catch Jo live on Connecting Faith every Friday at 12:00 p.m. on Faith Radio Network / KTIS AM 900 or online at myfaithradio.com

We pray that you had a blessed Christmas our dear readers. And as we ring in a New Year,

that you remember this...

 

 

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The Heart Matters gals,

 

LuAnn Adams

Heidi Lee Anderson

Julie Miller

 

 

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This week on Connecting Faith, Jo spoke with former athiest, Mark Clark about his journey of faith.  Listen in as they discuss his book,The Problem of God: Answering a Skeptics Challenges to Christianity 

 

Click here to listen in as they discuss the challenges of philosophy and science as well as how to equip believers to defend their faith.  

 

Catch Jo live on Connecting Faith every Friday at 12:00 p.m. on Faith Radio Network / KTIS AM 900 or online at myfaithradio.com

As the days countdown to Christ's birth, we Heart Matters gals thought that the best gift we could give you is some time set apart with Jesus. This quiet time experience Julie Miller has written is really the gift that Ignatius of Loyola left for us as one of his many legacies. Ignatius loved God's Word and approached it uniquely. Rather than read the word to

fill in blanks on a page, he stepped into it as if he were living the stories out.

 

So, in the words of Frederick Buechner...

 

 

We really can’t hear what the stories of the Bible are

saying until we hear them as stories about ourselves.

We have to imagine our way into them.

Frederick Buechner

 

 

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May you be blessed as you sit with the Savior today...

 

 


 

Today I invite you to imagine yourself up in the hill country near Bethlehem where only weary shepherds trod with their sheep. It’s a lonely place. Especially at night with only the stars for companions…and predators who remain hidden out of view.

 

It may take a certain amount of creativity and imagination on your part, but, you will be blessed if you allow the Spirit of the Living God to move how and where He wishes during this prayer experience. There is no right or wrong way to do this. So, set the Spirit free and breathe in what God has for you today.

 

A. To get the gist of what is happening in this passage, begin by reading through the passage slowly. It is printed at the bottom of this devotional.

 

B. It may help you to enter the story more fully by prayerfully breaking the passage down into smaller sections. Listen for the Spirits whisper to your heart. Stop wherever or whenever you feel the Savior wanting to dialogue with you further about a passage. Then, journal whatever you sense the Spirit is stirring in you.

 

If it proves helpful, you may want to use the following as a guide.

 

Take some time to sit with the following verse:

 

There were some shepherds in that part of the country who were spending the night in the fields, taking care of their flocks.

 

Using all your senses describe what you might be experiencing in the deepening darkness. What might you hear, see, smell and taste throughout the long hours in silence. What senses sharpen? Jot your thoughts in a journal.

 

To keep watch all night long you must remain vigilant, attentive, alert, and focused. Hours pass slowly. How do you stay awake and observant?

 

C. Read verse 9 again.

 

It wasn’t during the busy hubbub of the day that God appeared to these ordinary shepherds. It was in the quiet stillness of the night. When is the best time for God to get your attention?

 

Only in silence is one’s heart ready to hear God’s.

Frederick Buechner

 

Imagine for a moment the sky suddenly bursting with light and the angel of the Lord appearing out of nowhere from deepest darkness. I can hardly imagine it, being a Western-minded, analytical American that I am. But, to really understand what the shepherds were feeling we must try to imagine the scene. And the startling terror.

 

Jot down any thoughts that come to mind in your journal. Has God ever jolted you awake? Has he ever startled you with a thought out of nowhere?

 

D. Read verse 10. Imagine hearing those words in first person. They still ring as true today for us as they did for the shepherds. How do these sweet words minister to your heart… to your circumstances… today?

 

E. The startling terror that had once gripped them was quickly overcome by the grip of God’s love. Read verses 11-12. Can you imagine it? It wasn’t to kings or to the high priest this announcement was made. It was to lowly shepherds. And it was into this poverty that Jesus was born. Christ, the longed-for Messiah, wasn’t born a rich prince laid in a golden cradle, but, a poor little babe lying in a manger. What impact would that have had on those shepherds? What impact does it have on you today?

 

F. Re-read verses 13-14.

 

It’s breathtaking, isn’t it? Sit with this for a moment and journal your thoughts.

 

Peace had come down to dwell with men forever. No matter the suffering, the fighting, the storms, the distress, nothing now could ever take from the lovers of God the gift of his peace.

Elizabeth Goudge

 

G. Finally, read verse 15-17 and 20. Life would never be the same for those shepherds. Oh, their existence, shepherds as they were, would remain the same, but, their hearts had been changed forever. What might the Spirit be whispering to your heart as you ponder these verses in preparation for the holidays?

 

Look at everything always as though you were seeing it either for the first or last time: Thus, is your time on earth filled with glory.
―Betty Smith

 


 

There were some shepherds in that part of the country who were spending the night in the fields, taking care of their flocks. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone over them. They were terribly afraid, 10 but the angel said to them, “Fear not. Do not be afraid. I am here with good news for you, which will bring great joy to all the people. 11 This very day in David's town your Savior was born—Christ the Lord! 12 And this is what will prove it to you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.

13 Suddenly a great company of heavenly host appeared with the angel praising God and saying,

14 Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.

15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about. 16 So they hurried off and found Mary, Joseph and the baby in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the good news concerning what they had been told about this child.

20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen.”

Luke 2:8-17

 

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It’s a challenging time in history to raise godly children—particularly boys. Jo Bender talks with Pastor Mike Fabarez about how to pass the faith along and shepherd our young boys to become godly men.

 

Click HERE to listen in as they discuss Raising Men, Not Boys: Shepherding Your Sons to be Men of God

 

Catch Jo live on Connecting Faith every Friday at 12:00 p.m. on Faith Radio Network / KTIS AM 900 or online at myfaithradio.com

A Christmas Quiet Time Devotional

 

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Considering all the time we will be spending with friends and family during the holiday season,

we believe it would be beneficial to spend some quiet time with Jesus preparing our hearts for the holidays.

Sitting quietly meditating on this passage of Scripture will surely set our hearts aright.

 

  • Spend a few minutes in silence to settle your spirit.
  • Ask God to meet you here in the quietness of this moment and to speak His heart to you as you sit with Him.
  • Have a journal and pen/pencil ready to jot down any thoughts that come to you during this experience.
  • Read the passage below over once.
  • Read it again. This time slow down and listen for God’s Spirit tugging at your heart. Are there any phrases that seem to jump off the page? Jot those down.
  • Go back and read the passage one more time. This time pay attention to any words that seem to stand out to you. Take some time to sit with those words and phrases. Pull out your journal and write down anything that is moving in your spirit.
  • Take some time now to dialogue with the Savior about these things. You may want to write out what you feel God is speaking into you by inserting your name, just to make it personal.
  • Close your journal and your eyes and take some time to sit quietly enjoying God’s presence.
  • As you go, know that we will be praying that God’s Spirit fill you to overflowing and shine through you as you live His heart this holiday season.

12-14 So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it.

 

15-17 Let the peace of Christ keep you in tune with each other, in step with each other. None of this going off and doing your own thing. And cultivate thankfulness. Let the Word of Christ—the Message—have the run of the house. Give it plenty of room in your lives. Instruct and direct one another using good common sense. And sing, sing your hearts out to God! Let every detail in your lives—words, actions, whatever—be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way.

 

Colossians 3:12-17 The Message

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What would you do if your husband said, "Our marriage is over."

This week on Connecting Faith, Jo spoke with a young wife and mom who's husband told her he wanted a divorce. What followed was the story of a restored marriage, thanks to God's love for her, and her fierce love for her husband.

 

Click HERE to listen in as they discuss A Fierce Love: One Woman's Courageous Journey to Save Her Marriage.

 

Catch Jo live every Friday at 12:00 p.m. on Faith Radio Network / KTIS AM 900 or online at myfaithradio.com

Amidst the twinkling lights, stocking stuffers, and your best-dressed outfits, it’s easy to forget why we actually celebrate Christmas. You get caught up in the giggle of your grandson, your stomach’s grumbling over that glazed ham, and it’s your responsibility to entertain the in-laws this year. The festivities are alive, and it’s no wonder the moments can all race together in one big blur!

 

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Or you’re on the W-A-Y other end of the spectrum. You feel lost this season. That job you’ve been pining for? Given to someone else. That investment supposedly paving the way for an early retirement? Down the drain. Your boyfriend you envisioned your future with? No ring or explanation, gone. The minutes and traditions drag on, and nothing really seems worth celebrating this time around.

But no matter how far we’ve wandered or how lost we may feel, no matter how perfectly our ribbons are curled or our bows are placed, there’s a hope, so boundless and crazy, offered to every one of us. And it’s found in the meaning of Christmas. Relevant to the hipsters, the nonconformists, and everyone in between, it’s a story that beckons with a plot that revives and replenishes.

Jesus, the God of gushing love, came to this earth because we were wandering. We were lost. We were sinking in our defeat, error, and purposelessness. He saw our slumped shoulders and our worn out spirits. He heard our sighing and our groaning as we laid in our beds, the puddles of tears staining our pillows, waiting for some form of relief, some sort of hope, some sort of purpose.

And He came.

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Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe.

Hebrews 12:28

 

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

1 Thessalonians 5:18

 

She slammed the SUV door as she plopped down onto the seat, raised her voice to a high pitch, tossed her blonde head forward and screeched, “It’s sooooooo cold outside!!!! I hate Minnesota!!!” Then my daughter returned her voice to normal, sat back in the seat, and asked, “Who am I?”

 

Everyone in the SUV laughed and looked at me.

 

Yes. Winter and me. We are not friends. Not since my youth when winter meant snowball fights and snow forts with my brothers, carving snow tunnels with my classmates like voles on caffeine in the shoveled, piled-high snow on the playground and building silly snowmen with my mom outside our farm house.

 

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No. We have long since parted company on good terms. I discovered early that adulting in winter was not nearly as fun. Shoveling off my car every morning to get to work, sometimes even needing a jump-start, or ending up in ditches after skating uncontrollably on icy roads; bundling and unbundling my babies felt like a part-time job, not to mention walking the dogs with numb fingers trying to hold onto leashes while my eyes peak above my scarf hive, watering in the frosty winds while trying to avoid slippery patches…

 

But, I’m working on it. I’m trying to mend this relationship. I want to live in thankfulness despite of it. And although I will never love winter like I do summerNEVERI hope I’m making progress.

 

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Thanksgiving Thoughts to Prepare Your Heart 

 

...all which we behold
Is full of blessings...
William Wordsworth

What do you behold today? Whom do you behold?

 

Thou hast given so much to me,
Give one thing more, — a grateful heart;
Not thankful when it pleaseth me,
As if Thy blessings had spare days,
But such a heart whose pulse may be Thy praise.
—George Herbert

 

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O Lord that lends me life,
Lend me a heart replete with thankfulness.
—William Shakespeare

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Sometimes we might feel like God is not finished with us yet, or that we are too broken to be of use to Him. No matter what stage we are in, God has crafted us to bring Him glory. 

 

God wants to use our stories to reach others with His love, grace, and truth. But all too often, we get in our own way and limit what He is trying to do in and through us. This week on Connecting Faith, Jo spoke with author Holley Gerth on the importance of sharing our stories with others.

 

Click HERE to listen to the podcast of Jo's interview with Holley Gerth. Listen to Jo every Friday at Noon on AM 900 / 90.7 FM on Faith Radio Network / KTIS

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When you grow up in the church, you know at a young age that you’re a child of God just as easily as you know your full name and can recite your home phone number. But it wasn’t until I started having kids and becoming a parent myself that the relationship between God the Father and me as His daughter took on technicolor meaning. And now, this correlation is all I see in my everyday, parenting moments.

 

For instance, no matter how long I’ve been potty-training my three-year-old, he still has accidents. And in those moments when I’m looking at his sorry face and rummaging through the drawers looking for clean underwear (again), I think of how God shows us the right way to live in His Word, but time and time again, we have accidents. And yet, every time, how patient He is with us.

 

Or when Oscar says thank you when I give him a snack, I light up, and as a mom trying to teach my kids to mind their p’s and q’s, I’m so proud when he says that on his own. Which leads me to wonder how much more does our Heavenly Father’s heart soar when we acknowledge the gifts He’s given us and actually take the time to thank Him.

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