Carol's blog

21 Jul

Learning to Follow His Voice

Published by Carol

Most of you know my favorite event of the year is the Speak Up Conference.  Earlier this month our 2016 equipping event was held in Grand Rapids, MI.  Attendees gathered from twenty-seven states and Canada with a single purpose—to follow God’s leading in their lives to hone their speaking or writing skills. 

Some of our staff members arrived a day early and went to every meeting room and prayed that God would give the speakers clarity of mind as they presented their workshops and that each participant would receive what he or she most needed. The notebook of every attendee was prayed over by name before the event began.  They also prayed for the spiritual needs of the participants and the prayer area was busy throughout the weekend as Donna Faggerstrom, Sandi Banks, Kathe Wunnenberg, Kathy Bruins, and Brenda Yoder prayed for individual conferees.

God blessed beyond our expectations as participants received teaching or coaching. Some had meetings with editors and publishers; others connected with speaker mentors and encouragers.  The faculty tirelessly invested in the lives of these men and women and reminded them to listen to the voice of God as they take each step in the direction of writing or speaking.

As a person who enjoys dramatic moments, definite direction, and a specific plan for my future, I’ve always wished that God would speak to me through neon lights in the sky, an audible voice, or a supernatural experience.  However, that’s not how I’ve learned to follow His call.  I most often hear His voice when I embrace the following facts:

  • God has a plan for my life that will maximize the use of my gifts for His kingdom.
  • God reveals His call on my life after I confess all sin in my heart, verbalize my openness to His plan for my life, and make my life available for His direction. 
  • God’s call on my life will be confirmed through His Word and through His Spirit. 
  • God often affirms His call through the affirmation of people who are close to Him.
  • God’s call always involves a cost—being willing to die to my own plans and selfish desires.

In Matthew 4:18-20 we read, “As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen.  ‘Come, follow me,’ Jesus said, ‘and I will send you out to fish for people.’ At once they left their nets and followed him.”


When and how did God call you to follow Him?  How did He reveal His purpose for your life?  What has the cost been for you to say “Yes” to Him?

Note:  If you sense God’s gentle nudge to speak or write, consider coming to the Speak Up Conference next year on July 13-15, 2017.  Let go of fear and follow Him.  You’ll find more information at

10 Apr

Visiting My Son in Prison

Published by Carol

I was sitting in the visitation room, picking at the broken tabletop as I talked to my son. At that time, we were approaching sixteen years of visiting Jason, both in jail and in multiple prisons. I asked him, “What is the single most important thing—besides Jesus— that helps you keep your sanity in this place?"

Before he could answer, my finger dislodged a piece of someone’s dried-out, leftover food from the tabletop. “This is so disgusting!” I blurted out, referring to the crud on the table. Then I realized it was even more revolting that I was picking at it with my own fingers!

I laughed out loud as I realized how it would have bothered me to be assigned a seat at that table in my B.P. (Before Prison) years. Now, A.P., I’m more focused on the person I’m visiting, rather than the furniture or décor in the room.

To answer my question, Jason said, “Visits are one of the most important things anyone can do for an inmate.” I asked him if he would write out some insights on the importance of visitation so I could share them with you. He mailed me handwritten notes that read:

Visitation is the only time when a prisoner can count on getting to physically touch (albeit very briefly) those he loves. Our visitors are also our connection to the outside world with its life, freedom, taste of fresh air, and hope. Getting to talk face-to-face, share a meal together, and simply hold hands means more than I can say.

Prison is a very lonely place and it’s inherently alienating from the life we all previously knew. Any connection through letters, phone calls, and visits shared together is a deep encouragement and reconnects us to those we love. Friends who come remind us that we aren’t forgotten and they’re comforting to the soul.

People on both sides of the fence desperately need that contact. You realize in here how very important relationships are and how much you miss everyone that you may have previously taken for granted.

Visits can also be emotionally charged and stressful—but what is the alternative? We can either choose a slow loss of connection and experience broken relationships, or embrace the risk and the opportunity of seeing each other regularly—even with the myriad of restrictions, personal misunderstandings, and hurdles of prison rules.

I encourage everyone to take a chance and visit those they care about behind prison walls. Letters and phone calls are valuable, but an actual visit in the flesh is truly priceless. It makes us know you care.

Many people have told me how hard it is to visit their incarcerated loved one.  Here’s why I go:

  • God tells us that when we visit someone in prison, it is as if we are visiting Him (see Matthew 25:34–40).
  • Visiting my son gives me a chance to know him more personally. When all we can do is talk, we often discuss important things. We also resolve weightier family issues more easily than in fifteen-minute phone calls with an automatic cutoff.
  • Visitation provides an opportunity for me to meet other prisoners’ family members, both adults and children. Waiting in long lines together gives us a chance to brainstorm about ideas for helping each other and advocating for our inmate loved ones.
  • By caring for my son, I’m able to follow God’s example . . . because He doesn’t forget us. “See,” He says, “I have written your name on the palms of my hands” (Isaiah 49:16).

Visiting my son regularly brings joy, healing, even laughter into a very dark environment. Jason and I find comfort in discussing creative ways to show compassion to inmates and their families, followed by sharing prayer needs and praying out loud for each other. Philippians 2:3 –4 says, “In humility, value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interest of others.”

His Words Over You

“I hear the voices of those in need. Remember those who are in prison as if you were there with them. Overflow more and more with love for each other and keep growing in spiritual knowledge and insight.”

Based on Psalm 69:33, Hebrews 13:3, and Philippians 1:9

Question:  What hard thing has God asked you to do and how has your obedience brought unexpected joy to your life?  (You can pre-order Carol’s newest book, Waiting Together: Hope and Healing for Families of Prisoners, on Amazon.


13 Sep

Hello, Beauty Full

Published by Carol

It’s always a privilege to recommend outstanding books to my readers.  My friend, Elisa Morgan, is currently the host of the syndicated radio program, “Discover the Word” and she is the much-loved former CEO of MOPS International.  Her latest book is titled Hello, Beauty Full and I highly recommend it.  Here, in Elisa’s own words, you’ll learn more about this excellent new resource:

Most of us don’t think we’re beautiful. In fact, a recent poll revealed that 96% of women globally would never use the word beautiful to describe themselves.[i]

Even women who know they are made in the image of God. Women like you and me. Beautiful? No…instead we feel not enough. Not pretty enough. Not smart enough. Not strong enough. Not spiritual enough. I know. What I see is not beauty but the world of ugly within.

I say, “I’ll pray!” and I don’t. I forget about the suffering in the world, even after I’ve seen suffering up close and personal. And then I go ahead and buy another purse, pair of shoes, trinket for my home. I wake up in the middle of the night and worry. I think I’m better than others when my life goes well, even though I know full well that I’m not…I assume I’m the only one.

The only lonely one. The only depressed one. The only one who doesn’t know the answers. The only one who feels like a failure. I don’t like my body. I like some people more than others—a lot more than others. I pretend to be interested when I’m not.  I’m jealous when someone’s life goes better than mine. I want to just stay in bed on some days. I’m ugly. At least there are plenty of ugly parts of me. “Beautiful?” HA…

Hello, Beauty Full.

I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who pushes away God’s pronouncement of personal value. Likely you do too. Likely you embrace the ugly and discard the beauty in yourself. And likely you feel incredibly inadequate, stuck, and even alone.

Here’s what we need to know in order to live the lives we were made to live: God loves us. He sees us through Jesus: beauty full. He wants us to see ourselves the way he sees us. We struggle with embracing such a thing. But the truth is, when we don’t embrace how God sees us, we don’t embrace God. We miss out on the very lives he created us to enjoy—and died to make sure we could experience. When we do embrace how God sees us—beauty full—we are freed to live loved, and in so doing, we love God back.

Three words reveal how God sees us – through Jesus – and how he invites us to see ourselves.

Hello. Beauty. Full.

Yes, I am.  And yes, you are too. Hello, Beauty Full is available wherever books are sold.

From Carol:  If you’ve ever struggled with not feeling attractive enough or good enough—to others or even to God, I’d love to have you leave a comment.  What did you go through and where are you on this journey today?

[i] “Dove Real Beauty Sketches,” Dove, http://realbeautysketches.