Leading Hearts Christmas 2019 Issue

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YOU ARE ABOUT TO MEET SOME AMAZING PEOPLE, people who inspired us, people

who made a difference in our lives, and people who will also encourage you.

We extend our hand to you and welcome you into our intimate circle, so you can feel the love passed from friend to friend, generation to generation and mentor to mentor. As for me, I have had many people who have made a difference in my life — family, youth directors, Sunday School teachers, professors and friends. In fact, just a few days ago, I got to help one of my favorite people celebrate her 90th birthday, my own dear mother. Verna was the kind of a mom who pulled me into her lap and read my children’s Bible to me. She loved me and taught me to love God and others. She is the one I will forever be grateful to because she taught me how to have hope and faith. But there’s another person I want to point out to you. He is the one who stands behind each of us represented in this issue, as well as the people in the inspiring stories we are sharing with you. So, with no further ado, I would like to reveal his identity. I’m talking about our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the one who first loved us! Jesus made a way so that we would no longer be separated from God by our sins, because he became our sin when he was crucified on a cross. But our sin could not enslave him, the grave could not hold him, and death could not destroy him. For three days after his death, he rose to life, defeating both sin and death. Not only did he walk the earth again, he lives still. He wants to walk with you as it’s his desire to see that you find the LIFE he offers you, new life — where you will never have to be separated from the love of God. How sweet is that? So, if you’ve never opened your heart to him before, now is the perfect time. Simply recognize him as the One sent from God, the One who died in your place, the One who forgives you of your sins so you can know God and spend eternity in heaven with him. Take this moment to offer him your whole life as he, in turn, offers you the presence of his Holy Spirit. What will the presence of his Holy Spirit do for you? It will change everything as you begin to grow in peace, walk in love and be filled with hope. Celebrate new life in Christ as you flip through the pages of Leading Hearts, pages filled with love, hope and dear stories of inspiring people who will also inspire you. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!



PUBLISHER, Leading Hearts Magazine | AWSA, Founder


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Editorial Staff PUBLISHER............ ............ Linda Evans Shepherd EDITOR/ART DIRECTOR. ........ A mber Weigand-Buckley LAYOUT EDITOR.................. Tom Young COPY EDITOR... .................. Tom Young ADVERTISING..................... Linda Evans Shepherd CONTRIBUTORS.................. Penelope Carlevato, Michelle S. Cox, Saundra Dalton-Smith, Pam Farrel, Melissa Heiland, Edie Melson, Karen Porter, Rhonda Rhea, Cynthia L. Simmons, Jennifer Taylor, Heather Van Allen, Karen Whiting, Erica Wiggenhorn, Shae Wilbur.


Michelle Medlock Adams & Bethany Jett


Rediscover the God You Thought You Knew


Why Your Marriage Needs a Mentor



Rekindling the Joy of Christmas Past


Stop Stabbing; Start Sharpening

Right to the Heart Board Members


Linda Evans Shepherd (President), Dianne Butts, Sharon Norris Elliott, Karen Porter, Rhonda Rhea, Carole Whang Schutter and Joy A. Schneider



Leading Hearts magazine for Christian Women is published bimonthly by Right to the Heart Ministries 2019. ISSN 2380-5455 ADVERTISING | Display rates are available at leadinghearts. com. By accepting an advertisement, Leading Hearts does not endorse any advertiser or product. We reserve the right to reject advertisements not consistent with the magazines objectives. MANUSCRIPTS | Writers guidelines are available at leadinghearts.com.

Confessions of a Missionary Circle the Wagons


In the Lead: A Legacy of Influence


email: lindareply@gmail.com fax inquiries: (303) 678-0260


MEMBER | 2015-2016-2017-2018-2019 Evangelical Press Association Award of Merit Winner — Christian Ministry Digital Publication


Leading Hearts | PO Box 6421, Longmont, CO 80501

Photos courtesy of: Pixabay, Unsplash (Naassom Azevedo, Johathan Borba, Aaron Burden, Keenan Constance, Priscilla Du Preez, Jamie Fenn, Freestocks.org, Nicole Geri, Keem Ibara, Brooke Lark, Bart Larue, Marisa Morton, Road Trip With Raj, Ashley Whitlatch, Eugene Zhyvchik. Copyright ©2019 Right to the Heart Ministries. All rights reserved. Copyrighted material reprinted with permission. All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™

When God Calls the Heart

Health Tracks Journey to a High Place


Prayer Circle: My Mentor Loved the Word Impossible


About Time: Sharpen Those Writing Skills and More


Leading Lady Lifehacks






A FEW YEARS AGO, Charisma magazine assigned me to work on an article focusing on one of the most notable phenomena that surrounded the birth of Christ — the Bethlehem Star. This most esteemed celestial decoration sits in a place of honor on top of decorated Christmas trees around the world, yet mention of it is confined to only four verses of the Bible. So, what was it about that light that led a group of Magi, or “wise men,” to pursue a face-to-face encounter with the Christ child — and so powerful to compel this group of Gentiles to kneel in worship to the “King of the Jews”? I had the privilege to speak with Answers in Genesis astronomer Danny Faulkner, who discussed the science and theories behind the star and its origins. Falkner explained that in biblical times, in virtually all languages, a star would be defined as a point of bright light in the night sky. “The Bible does not specifically say that this bright light was a natural phenomenon. Of course, we know that God uses natural law to accomplish His will. In fact, a biblical definition of natural law is the way that God normally upholds the universe — the divinely orchestrated blueprint to accomplish His will. But we can’t forget that God is also not bound by the laws He created.” According to Faulkner It’s quite possible that the phenomenon known as the Bethlehem star is likened to the Shekinah glory, a visible manifestation of God’s presence that is repeatedly witnessed in the biblical text. “For every miraculous account in Scripture, like the Pillar of Fire that led the Israelites to the Promise Land, there are realities in play that science simply cannot explain. The truth is science is a lot of research to prove a theory and theory is naturally tied to personal interpretation and opinion.” However, the conclusion I came to at the end of my weeks of research and interviews had little to do with what the star was, but rather what it meant for then. Does the Bethlehem star connected in some way to Christ’s mandate to His followers? For me, the star led to a deeper understanding of my favorite Scripture. “Those who are wise will shine as bright as the sky, and those who lead many to righteousness will shine like the stars forever” (Daniel 12:3, NLT). In a sense, we are likened to the Bethlehem star; we are a visible manifestation of God’s presence. And every day we are called to rise, to light the way to Bethlehem so others may be guided to kneel at the foot of our Savior. I hope this issue of Leading Hearts inspires you to rise and walk in everything God has called you to be, carrying the message that surpasses the glitter on top of the Christmas tree, to stand as the blessed hope that ignites our souls and transforms the landscape of heaven for eternity.


LOVE, — EDITOR, Leading Hearts Magazine


We knew it wasn’t going to be all butterflies and sunshine, but we knew that God had called us, ordained it and equipped us, and we would get through it together.

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Michelle Medlock Adams & Bethany Jett PLATINUM


LEADING HEARTS EDITOR, AMBER WEIGAND-BUCKLEY, HAD A CHANCE TO SPEND SOME TIME WITH TWO AUTHORS — MICHELLE MEDLOCK ADAMS AND BETHANY JETT — WHO RECENTLY COLLABORATED ON TWO BOOKS. Q: You two have co-authored two books. Bethany, tell us about that. BETHANY: They Call Me Mom is a devotional and Platinum Faith is non-fiction. I think people sometimes think books are all written the same way. But you need to have a different style, a different voice for each kind of book. It was fun to work on two different kinds of books at the same time. And, of course, we got to write them together. We got to talk so much as we worked on them. I know I couldn’t have written these two books myself. Q: So, Michelle, did one of you focus on one book and the other, on the other book? Or did you focus on them together at the same time? MICHELLE: We had different deadlines. They Call Me Mom was due before Platinum Faith. So, we focused on that one first. While we were working on writing Platinum Faith, we were working on edits of They Call Me Mom. On each book, one of us would take the lead on a chapter or devotional and the other would add their take on it. It worked out great that way.

-continued on p. 109.

-continued from p. 9Q: Michelle, what did you learn the most from writing with Bethany? MICHELLE: I’ve co-authored with other people and I’ve ghostwritten for several. I’m used to working with others. In each case you need to create a bond; it’s almost like a marriage. With Bethany, it wasn’t as hard because we were best friends. On the other hand, you want to be very careful when you’re working with your best friend. Sometimes we had some hard conversations. But going through that together made our bond even stronger and richer, and it made everything so much more real. In Platinum Faith, we weren’t striving for perfection, but rather, progress. We knew it wasn’t going to be all butterflies and sunshine, but we knew that God had called us, ordained it and equipped us, and we would get through it together. Q: Well, Bethany, what did you learn from doing these two books with Michelle? BETHANY: Michelle is so polished, so great at the craft. It made me step up; it wasn’t just my name on it. I tried to hit the right stories at the right time with the right tone.

MICHELLE: I’ve written “mom” devotionals before, but I had never written one since my girls were grown. This was kind of like “the rest of the story.” I have daughters with children of their own, so I’ve graduated to “Gigi.” It’s like tales from the other side. “I made it!” There is something for every age and every stage of motherhood in this book. Bethany and I have a lot in common, but there are many differences, which makes the book more well-rounded. Something is going to resonate for every mom out there. You may not get my stuff, but you may relate to Bethany. Q: Bethany, as a military mom with a husband who is away, you probably relate to a lot of the single moms out there who deal with the issues of sometimes having to be both Mom and Dad. BETHANY: A lot of the stories in the book did come from times when Justin was deployed, when it was just me 24/7. I wanted to be careful not to cross a line, because he comes back. I know that for some of those single moms or dads there is no break. My heart goes out to military families and especially single parents. Q: What are some of the things you want mothers to take away from this book?

MICHELLE: I’d say the same thing. I think we both felt the need to step up our game. We didn’t want to let the other person down. Q: Tell me about They Call Me Mom and how that came together with you two on different spectrums of the Mom plane.

BETHANY: We wanted every type of mom to find herself in this book. We didn’t want it to just be stories of our experiences. We made sure we had lots of stories. We want moms to know they don’t have to be perfect, even though you want to strive for that. We want moms to find community. She’s not alone. She doesn’t have to live with all this mom guilt. I guess I would summarize the message of the book as: “You’re not alone.” MICHELLE: I agree with that. We were intentional about weaving encouragement into every devotional. We designed it to be one devotional per week for 52 weeks, but people are reading the entire book in one

sitting. It’s like they’re binge-reading it. That’s okay. We’re glad for that. What we hoped for and prayed for — and what we’re hearing — is that they’re picking it up and reading just what God has for them at that moment. It’s so cool how he does that. We’re already hearing the testimonies coming in.

was worth it, even if only for that one person. We’re making an impact. We are just in awe that people are loving it and hearing from God in it. That’s what it’s all about.

Q: Tell us a little about this second book, Platinum Faith, and how what you learned from working together on They Call Me Mom affected how you worked together on it.

MICHELLE: When it is something that God has birthed in you — like these two books — it means so much that it can be crippling. It’s so holy, you don’t want to mess it up. Not just because you don’t want to let down your writing partner; you don’t want to let down God.

BETHANY: We talked about there being a learning curve while working on two different kinds of books. Our publishers noticed that we were still in devotional mode as we worked on Platinum Faith. They kept telling to “pull the takeaway up higher.” There were a lot of rewrites to get through Platinum Faith. That made me a stronger writer, learning the essence of the two kinds of writing. We have gotten a lot of feedback that Platinum Faith felt spiritual and devotional-like, even though it wasn’t a devotional format. MICHELLE: We did a Platinum Faith women’s

conference. The book hadn’t even come out yet, but we had a few advance copies to sell. They went the first hour. A lady who bought one came to the table the next day and said, “I’m so mad at you.” We were surprised. “I was up until 4:30 reading your book. I just couldn’t put it down.” I told her that was the best compliment ever. So, that was our first review. Later, at a writers conference in Chicago a lady came up who had bought a copy on Amazon for her daughter. She asked if we could sign it. As I signed it, I saw that the daughter had already marked it up with underlines and notes in the margins. It looked like it had been well loved already. Never in my life had I ever thought someone would do that with a book that I contributed to. I knew that God was in the middle of all that. Whatever the process we went through — every chapter was like giving birth — it

Q: How do you feel about creating something that God has birthed in your hearts?

BETHANY: I couldn’t have written this book without Michelle. God pulled things out of our hearts. We have said that God did this in spite of us. We believe in this book because we felt his hand over every agonizing moment. Q: And when you do something for God, you know you’re going to get resistance. Tell us about your online conferences. MICHELLE: We have 11 women of faith. These are women in our circles. We asked, “Will you let us interview you about your walk in platinum faith?” The interviews did not have set questions. We had live chats going on. It was kind of like a watch party. On night two, one of the ladies was talking about her battle with depression and being bipolar. She had said, “I had on my I’m-fine shirt, but I wasn’t fine.” Someone messaged me and said, “I’m not fine. I need prayer.” I was giving her Scriptures and praying with her. It went so much deeper than we dreamed. If you step out in obedience to God, He can take you farther than you ever could have dreamed. He goes above and beyond. BETHANY: It was a place of community. It became more than just writing a book. It became what the message of the book was. Seeing that transformation happen in front of our eyes was such a gift. Q: Could you give a closing word of encouragement? BETHANY: You are not alone. We have lots of fun things we’re going to be doing for each of the books. There will be more interviews. To date, what’s refreshing to me is people who are just willing to share the hard things we don’t see online. I think it’s a safe place to be. No one’s perfect. No one’s trying to claim that. It’s okay to be where you are in your mess; we’re all there with you. Read a review on p. 30




When you use Scripture as your plumb line and the five senses as your viewpoint, you will have something to say that others will want to hear.

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WHEN I WAS ASKED THE QUESTION “WHO INFLUENCED YOU?” names ran through my mind and faces

danced in my vision. My mom, who loved unconditionally. My dad, who demonstrated the joy of working hard and laughing riotously. My husband, who remains calm in the craziest situations and speaks peace to our family. My dear friend Carole, who has never wavered in her faith even though she has faced more tragedy than most people. My daughter, who believes it can be done — no matter what it is. And friends and family who have inspired my life and who have laughed with and prayed for me. But today I want to tell you about a special influencer — Florence Littauer (pictured right) — who trained more than 30,000 speakers and leaders, including me.

INTHELEAD Florence grew up with her two brothers in three rooms behind her father’s store in Haverhill, Massachusetts. Her high school students produced her wedding to Fred Littauer, which was featured in a double-page spread in Life magazine. She wrote more than 40 books, including many bestsellers such as, Personality Plus and Silver Boxes. When she taught the first C.L.A.S.S. in the early eighties, she never dreamed she would build a training business that would guide thousands of outstanding Christian speakers and leaders. She is a legend and an inspiration. Here’s a small sample of what Florence taught me.

1. Every person has value. I’ve watched Florence stand for hours in a receiving line as people waited to meet her. She never hurried. Instead, she looked at each person intently and listened to his or her story. The nervous, reluctant, shy person was as important as the famous celebrity in the line. As you and I lead others, remember every person has great worth and significance.

2. You have something to say. Your life experiences qualify you. The skills you’ve learned and whatever situations have occurred in your life combine to make your story unique. When you use Scripture as your plumb line and the five senses as your viewpoint, you will have something to say that others will want to hear. Florence used her unique life story to illustrate what God can do. She taught us to be alert to life so we won’t miss the stories.

4. Become a storyteller. Storytelling is essential in most cultures because story is how we learn about our traditions and history. Story is also how our brain absorbs and adapts abstract truth. If you want your audience or your team to understand you, tell a story that illustrates the point. I can still hear Florence say, “A story must have a point.” Study the structure of a good story and keep a list of your personal stories.

5. Your goal is to serve. Become a servant leader and a servant speaker. When a group brings you to their event to speak or lead, you are there to help them from the moment you arrive. I’ve helped decorate tables and serve food and joined in the cleanup to the astonishment of event planners because Florence taught me to serve as I lead. My influencer taught me by what she said, but I learned much more from her by what I observed. Her interactions with others showed me the path. “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16, ESV).

3. Words have power. As wordsmiths who speak, lead and write, we must find a fresh, powerful way to present our message and vision by using creative analogies, quotations from others, lyrical terms, repetition, powerful verbs and other techniques. Become a student of language by reading good writers. Florence taught us to return to the classics. Study the words and phrases and incorporate them into your presentations and leadership style.


Finding favor with God doesn’t always equate to the absence of fear. It usually means he’s calling us to the unexplainable, to something impossible apart from his power.

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Leadership can feel isolating at times. Sometimes God issues a call upon our lives that no one else quite gets. It’s unique to us and doesn’t seem like a natural fit to our skill set, experience or gifting. And that’s because our God works in the supernatural and does the unexplainable. This is why I love the friendship of Elizabeth and Mary. It’s the story of God’s unexplainable provision for their unique positions.

Seclusion, Isolation and Intersection When Elizabeth discovered she was pregnant, she remained in seclusion. After years of barrenness, it’s no wonder. It doesn’t take too much imagination to piece together the speculation of her fellow villagers regarding her inability to have children. Infertility was thought to be a curse of God in those days. At the opposite end of Israel, all the way to the north, another miraculous pregnancy is announced to young Mary by the angel Gabriel. She would become pregnant by the Holy Spirit and give birth to the Son of God. Talk about a call of isolation! Who on earth is going to understand this? God, in His great mercy, mentions Elizabeth’s miraculous pregnancy to Mary, giving her direction to process this news. Luke’s Gospel tells us Mary traveled with haste down south to Judea to Elizabeth’s home. Mary must have been terrified. Who would believe her? Would Joseph divorce her? She could be killed for presumed adultery against him. It’s important to reflect on the fact that

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her call. In her experience of barrenness, she knew the pain and isolation that others’ rejection would bring. Mary, on the other hand, renewed Elizabeth’s wonder. She sang out a song of praise and prophesied regarding God’s faithfulness and future goodness in store for them. And together, in one another’s presence, fear faded and God’s praises were proclaimed. God sent Mary to Elizabeth to share in the joy of her past-child-bearing-years pregnancy and also to glean from her wisdom. And Mary needed to know she wasn’t alone in this, humanly speaking. She had Elizabeth, who believed in her, accepted her and rejoiced with her at the work of God in her life. Oh, how greatly we all need an Elizabeth, don’t we?

-continued from p. 15-

finding favor with God doesn’t always equate to the absence of fear. It usually means He’s calling us to the unexplainable, to something impossible apart from his power. To something beyond anything we could think, ask, imagine or hope for in our lives — and that means it’s going to be a little scary and definitely outside our comfort zone or current skill set. I’d say a virgin birth falls into those categories, wouldn’t you? Who could she go to talk to about this? Well, God in his great mercy answers Mary’s question: Go to your cousin Elizabeth. Talk to her. She will believe you. And when you begin to doubt yourself, Mary, the baby inside Elizabeth’s womb will remind you what I have told you. And God brings the wondering woman in a call of isolation to the shamed woman in seclusion. And what we behold in their intersection is the beauty of God’s unexplainable provision: they danced around the room in joy!

Wisdom and Wonder The older and wiser Elizabeth immediately speaks words of affirmation over young Mary. As one who had experienced years of reproach from the women in her village, she knew firsthand the shame and judgment Mary would face by those who doubted

A mentor. A confidante. A co-laborer in ministry, whether it is in our homes or elsewhere. Someone who believes in us when we stop believing in ourselves. Someone who can remind us what God promised in our darkest hours.

Renewed Joy For those of us who have been wounded by the seclusion and isolation of leadership — how our joy becomes renewed when we pour into young women full of wonder at the unexplainable ways of God! Our past pain and hard lessons become fortresses of safety, affirmation and wisdom to those who have miraculous calls before them. We can take them by the hand, speak words of affirmation and watch fear fade. We can learn to dance again. Who is your Elizabeth? Who is your Mary? Ask God for His unexplainable provision for your position — whether it’s wisdom or renewed wonder. The world needs more Elizabeths willing to share their wisdom. The world needs more Marys walking in wonder at the goodness and mystery of God. And heaven knows the world needs to a see a whole lot more women dancing with joy at the gift of one another’s greeting My dear sisters, let’s listen to the song of the Spirit in our heart and go find our Mary and our Elizabeth. From Unexplainable Jesus: Rediscovering the God You Thought You Knew by Erica Wiggenhorn. An 8-week Bible study covering the Gospel of Luke from Moody Publishers.


Look around and see who holds hands, who acts kind to one another, who opens the door, who prays for one another or for other couples.

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invaluable in your own journey together. Mentoring is becoming even more important as much of the population today comes from homes that experienced some kind of fractured family. You may have never lived with both a mother and a father. How are you supposed to know what an intact family looks like? Who is going to model for you how to work through conflict if your own parents decided to abandon their marriage? How do you find a mentor? Look for a couple who has the love that you’d like to have. We have experienced many mentors: Bill and Tina, who equipped us while we were dating and engaged; Tom and Barbara, a couple we lived with to save to go to seminary and who simply modeled the daily habits that build a long-lasting love; Jim and Sally Conway, professors and authors who equipped us to balance marriage and ministry. Look around and see who holds hands, who acts kindly to one another, who opens the door, who prays

for one another or for other couples. We would stand in the back of church and scan the crowd for greyhaired couples who were showing fond affection and tenderness, then we would sit behind them in order to meet them. During greeting time, Bill would ask, “You look in love — how did you do it? How do you create a lasting love?” Usually they said, “That would take a while to answer. Why don’t we have lunch?” For a young couple on a tight budget, this was a double blessing — free advice and a free lunch! Look for a couple who has done what you want to do. Some careers have unique marital pressures: physicians (especially OB-GYN!), politicians, ministry and clergy couples, CEOs and entrepreneurs, and media or military personnel. Look for a couple who have not only survived in your particular fishbowl, but thrived and found a life that has served them and their families well. Look for a couple who lives in your world. They will be stronger mentors if they live in your neighborhood, are a part of your work world, or attend your church. You will be able to see them in a variety of circumstances, and they will be there to answer those day-to-day issues and questions that may crop up. A

-continued on p. 21-


A Spectacular Guide to Intercessory Prayer Linda Evans Shepherd,

an award-winning author, successful speaker, and media personality, guides you on how to bring your burdens to God—and expect answers.


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-continued from p. 19-

great way to discover a marriage mentor is to join a marriage enrichment class offered by your church or by organizations like United Marriage Encounter or Marriage Savers. (See www.smartmarriages.com for many options.) By attending a class or conference with a group, you will meet couples who are interested in having a strong marriage, and some of those couples may have some wisdom to share. Look for a couple who shares something in common with you. We have three sons, and we have enjoyed having mentors who raised all boys. We have benefited from mentors who are clergy couples and ones who are writers and speakers. We have enjoyed attending sporting events with sports-minded mentors, exercising with them, or even vacationing with them. Look for a couple who is willing. They don’t have to be perfect — no couple is! They don’t even necessarily need to be trained marriage mentors or professional marriage educators. They just need to have a strong, stable relationship themselves. Make a list of two to five couples who might be willing to mentor you. Decide which couple might be the best fit

and invite them to dinner. See how the dinner goes. Ask them questions about how they met, what advice they would give to newlyweds, and how they have navigated tough circumstances or obstacles. If this dinner goes well, make a follow-up appointment for coffee or dinner. Ask them if they would be willing to spend some time with you. You might suggest they lead you and some friends through a marriage enrichment book if they enjoy teaching. You might ask if they would just be willing to meet for a meal on occasion or be available for questions as they arise. Be sensitive about the amount of time they might have available for you. Decide when you will get together next, and make sure to thank them for their willingness. Mentors can have an incredibly powerful role in your life and in your marriage. When Bill was at Talbot Seminary, he took classes from both Jim and Sally Conway. They were best-selling authors at the time. A couple years after graduation, when Bill accepted the call to be a lead pastor at age 28, he knew he needed the wisdom of a seasoned pastor. He made a list of 10 godly men, then ranked them 1 to 10 on who had done what we were trying to do: lead pastor, writing, speaking, and had a happy marriage and raised godly kids. He phoned Jim Conway and made a request to meet for lunch once a month. Bill simply brought his questions each month, month after month. These lunch meetings soon extended to double dates where Sally also poured into my heart. Then the Conways said to us one day, “We believe in you two. We believe you have a strong enough marriage to be marriage communicators. We want to build into your life and ministry by co-authoring a marriage book with you.” They kicked open the door to publishing for us. In addition, as the Conways got to know us better, they saw that we had a need to have surrogate parents. Of our four parents, only my mother had faith in Christ. Jim and Sally offered to believe in us. When I was writing my first book for women, Jim knew my alcoholic dad had never read any of my writing, never bothered to hear me speak, and had no understanding of what it meant to be a director of women’s ministry or pastor’s wife, so Jim said to me, “Pam, if you need a dad to believe in you, to acknowledge God’s giftedness in your life, to applaud you, pray for you and encourage you as you serve Jesus, I will be your dad.” God has a mentor or a mentor couple to pour into your life — and God is also calling each of us to mentor and pour into the lives of individuals and couples he places on our hearts and in our lives. Adapted from 10 Best Decisions a Couple Can Make by Pam and Bill Farrel (Harvest House).


We need to keep reminding ourselves that we are better together as the body of Christ than we are separated.

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CeCe Winans



true for legendary gospel recording artist CeCe Winans, too! On top of touring her Grammynominated Something’s Happening! Christmas album, CeCe has also recently sung for Rev. Torry and Lois Evans’ 70th birthday celebration and on Broadway with Kristin Chenoweth. She was among an amazing list of artists to perform at the CMA Country Christmas, not to mention all she does for her family and as a pastor.

the world,” CeCe says. “I think his concert was probably the first concert I saw all people there. It wasn’t a white thing. It wasn’t a black thing. It wasn’t an Asian thing. It was across the board. His music was produced in such an excellent way. You could hear the gospel all throughout his music, and it was so entertaining.” In fact, among her plans for 2020, CeCe is excited to be recording an album of Andraé Crouch’s songs. “I think 2020 will be five years since he passed and went on to be with the Lord,” she says. “I think it’ll be a good time to honor his legacy.”

As the eighth of 10 children born to Delores and David Winans, CeCe says “Mom and Pop Winans” are her most influential people in her life. “Keeping in God’s Word, living God’s Word, and they both sang. They were ministers of music, and they actually met in a gospel choir when they were teenagers. So, they recognized the gifts we had as their children and really trained us in that.”

And the Andraé Crouch album is just one of the projects CeCe plans to do in the coming year. She and her team are also in the early process of working on a live worship album. This will be the first live album for CeCe, which is hard to believe, but they are gathering and writing songs now. She estimates in the spring she will be doing a live night of worship and recording.

As far as musical influences, she thinks she can speak for all the Winans in saying that Andraé Crouch as probably the greatest musical influence for them. “We grew up on his music, and his music showed us the high bar to reach for. Andraé Crouch wasn’t just limited to the church. His music went outside the walls of the church and really touched

Along with her many notable performances this year, CeCe also appeared on TBN’s faith-centered talk show Better Together. “It’s a message that needs to be shouted from the mountaintop until Jesus comes. We need to keep reminding

-continued on p. 2523.

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The simple things are really the biggest things in our lives, and that is the time I get to spend with my family.

-continued from p. 23ourselves that we are better together as the body of Christ than we are separated,” CeCe says. “We have a lot of fun. It’s real talk. It’s real situations. I’ve been so blessed to meet some beautiful, incredible, powerful women of God in just the few shows I’ve done thus far. I’ve been blessed to make some divine connections.” But as the holiday season comes and goes, and the new year quickly approaches, CeCe’s schedule isn’t just full of performances and broadcasts. She’s leaving room for divine appointments and connections as she serves alongside her husband, Alvin Love, as the senior pastors of Nashville Life Church. Around Thanksgiving, the church came together to serve their community with a program called Love Your Neighbor. Everyone in the church served in different organizations to bless those who are in unfortunate circumstances. “The Word of God is so ripe and so true, but it is more blessed to give rather than receive. You go out with the mind of blessing other people and you leave so blessed and full of the spirit of Christmas,” she says. CeCe is also grateful for the opportunities the holiday season allows her to slow down and reflect.

“I slow down, and most mornings I’m up early and just thanking God for His presence and faithfulness. The simple things are really the biggest things in our lives, and that is the time I get to spend with my family. I’m very grateful for my husband, my two children (I should say three with my son-in-law now), and hopefully my grandkids next Christmas. That’s what I’m hoping for now. For my mom and siblings. So family is huge for us,” she says. “On Christmas morning, we wake up and we pray. We read the Word and go around and tell one another why we’re grateful. It’s just a time to reflect. I get excited about the simple traditions of just being with family. That’s about it. We don’t really do anything that’s out of the ordinary.” One of the most recent blessings CeCe is grateful for is the Grammy nomination for her Something’s Happening! Christmas album. “I’m very excited about the album because that was produced by my son, Alvin Love III,” she says. “I am excited for him as far as the recognition that he receives from this. What excites me is when I’m in the studio and I hear the lyrics that he’s written, and I hear the faithfulness of God through every generation. The God we serve is faithful, and my prayer for my kids has been for them to love Jesus. And both are in ministry. They love God. They love telling people about Jesus. They’re bold about their salvation, and you know what? That’s all I need; that’s all I want. So, I’m very excited that he’s chosen that his gifts and talents belong to God, and he’s chosen to use them for God. I’m totally grateful.”





house, buy an Advent calendar, and celebrate Boxing Day! We read the Christmas story on Christmas Eve, watch quintessential Christmas movies on television and hide Elf on the Shelf. Like many families, these traditions are passed on from one generation to the next, and we occasionally

Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. —Colossians 3:16 26 leadinghearts.com

add new ones. But the custom of singing the familiar carols is my favorite. Christmas carols play a big part in many traditions. Thanks to modern technology, we hear them everywhere: while driving, baking Christmas cookies, shopping in the mall, dining in restaurants and, of course, in church. I find myself singing along with Bing Crosby, Mariah Carey, Elvis Presley, Justin Bieber and numerous other performers as Christmas creeps closer. Christmas carols are in every genre of music, and we sing along without really thinking of the words. They are like an old piece of furniture — they have been around so long we are used to them. We sing the words but don’t pay much attention to the meaning or who wrote them. Many carols we sing today date back hundreds of years and were initially written to celebrate the winter solstice, a pagan celebration. Some carols or hymns were written in Latin in the fourth century and sung by monks in seminaries. The words and tunes often found different versions as troubadours and singing minstrels went from region to region singing the carols. They were often part of street singing and not part of a religious service. Between 1649 and 1660, Christmas carols were banned by Oliver Cromwell, who believed that Christmas should be a solemn day and not a day of rejoicing. In the 1840s, Christmas and the singing of carols

received a massive boost as Queen Victoria and her husband, Prince Albert, reintroduced Christmas carols and the Christmas tree as part of the yuletime festivity. But it was probably Charles Dickens, who wrote A Christmas Carol in 1843, that turned things around for yule celebrations. His views as a social reformer and his celebrity status helped inspire the image and principles of a traditional Christmas. The “spirit of Christmas” was popularized and has impacted Christmas all over the world forever. Many of the traditional carols we sing today portray that message and were originally hymns and psalms that have become part of our traditions. What better time to share the birth of Christ than in the singing of Christmas carols with your family and friends and keeping the tradition alive. Brussels sprouts were a big part of our Christmas tradition. They weren’t a favorite as they were usually over-cooked and boring, but I felt I should keep the tradition alive. Most of the time, just my husband and I ate them! Several years ago, our daughter had roasted brussels sprouts at a restaurant and was amazed these were the same hated vegetables! So, I continue the tradition, and almost everyone enjoys them now, especially as appetizers. Roasting the sprouts brings out a pleasant sweet flavor to this loved or not-so-loved veggie — crispy on the outside and tender inside.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Pomegranate Seeds 2 pounds of brussels sprouts ¼ cup of olive oil 1 tsp Kosher or sea salt ½ tsp black pepper 1 teaspoon garlic powder 3/4 to 1 cup of pomegranate seeds 1/3 cup maple syrup Preheat oven to 400ºF.

Layer a large baking sheet with parchment paper and spread the sprouts onto a single layer. Roast for 15 minutes, then stir and turn over sprouts. Continue roasting for another 15 to 20 minutes, moving the sprouts around to avoid burning. Continue to cook until they are dark brown on the edges. Place sprouts into a serving dish, drizzle the maple syrup over the sprouts, and top with pomegranate seeds. Serves 4-6 Prep time: 15 minutes Cooking time: 30 minutes

Find great recipes like this in Penelope’s recent release, The Tea Lover’s Journal. Available autographed from


Wash the brussels sprouts and remove the outer leaves that are wilted or brown. Cut off the stems of the sprouts and cut the larger sprouts in half. Combine the sprouts with the oil, salt, garlic, and pepper in a bowl or bag and toss to coat the sprouts.


Everyone in ministry needs to know how God is asking them to approach difficult topics.


IN SOCIAL MEDIA TERMS, IT’S A VOLATILE WORLD OUT THERE. So often, what’s posted online seems more focused on stabbing and wounding than on encouraging and sharpening. Part of that is due to the medium. Almost 100 percent of the time, online interaction lacks the warmth of a real-time, human connection. It’s an impersonal — anonymous — medium. While we may call those we connect with “friends,” many of them are just faceless names. When we’re speaking online, it’s far too easy to be so focused on what we want to share that we forget the individual — hurting — hearts of those we’re communicating with. Many of us are passionate about the message we want to share with the world. And the motivation behind that message is love and concern. It’s hard to communicate that love to the diverse readership online, especially when the message is a difficult one. I will sit and talk truth with anyone, in person. But I’m less willing to broach difficult subjects online where I’m not sure the love and care I feel for those reading my words can be communicated. Everyone in ministry needs to know how they feel God is asking them to approach difficult topics — before the situation arises. I have come to a policy that works for me and I feel certain is what God is telling me to do. But please hear my heart on this: He calls each of us to a different path and my approach isn’t the only one to use. My Social Media Topic Policy Through much prayer, I have come to the decision to steer away from almost all difficult subjects on social media. That means — for the most part — I don’t

discuss politics, share my views on abortion, condemn divorce, weigh in on what makes a marriage, etc. At first glance, this might appear as though I’m watering down the truth. I don’t see it that way. I’m just not engaging in a public arena where people tend to scream at each other with hostile words and assume the worst motives behind everything that’s shared. Instead, I’m choosing to focus on the person of Jesus Christ. I talk about his love, his forgiveness, and his call to anyone who hears his voice. Jesus didn’t shout condemnation at an unbelieving world, although he was very stern with the church. Instead, he engaged with individuals and spoke gentle truth into each one’s specific circumstances. That’s my prayer with what I post on social media. I ask God to send me to individuals so that I can communicate his truth in a way that shows his love for them. I want to be someone who clears the path to Jesus, not someone who inserts obstacles. God doesn’t need me to call out sin in others; he’s much more capable of bringing about heart change than I could ever be. But he can use me to show what Jesus has done in my life. I can share the peace and the overwhelming love that is my constant strength, no matter the difficult circumstances I face. And he calls me to listen — or read — and pray. I see so many half-truths and outright lies on social media that it breaks my heart. But as I read each one, I pray for the person behind those words, asking God to do a work in that hurting heart. Is this iron sharpening iron? Not in the conventional sense. But in the difficult world of online interaction, we need a lot more light — God’s Light — to illuminate the dark.




As a mom of adult kids, and a grandbaby, I loved that this book is still relevant for me. From the Bible verses supporting each devotion to the fun, and honest, not-so-pretty stories that are shared throughout, this devotional will encourage new moms trying to figure mom-hood out, and also the mom that is wondering “did I do enough” as their grown kids journey to adulthood. God has provided the Bible verses to encourage, uplift and guide. They Call Me Mom serves those verses in an easy to reference, quick to find resource. I recommend this book for any woman who has been a mom — even your mom role was as “office mom.” —Anita M. Castaldo

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This study takes you on an incredible journey to discover more deeply the Savior of our souls, Jesus. Beautifully written and well researched, this study will challenge you to look more deeply at the God-man Jesus and what following him actually means to you on a personal level. I have loved this study. It is changing my heart and my life. —AZ Mama

From the moment I picked up this book, I couldn’t put it down. Luann does a fantastic job describing our perfect God in the midst of imperfect situations. Luann describes terrible situations that continually point back to God’s sovereignty and grace. This book uplifts and reminds that God is in the midst of everything — the simple, the complex, the pain, the joy, and the redemption. Thank you, Luann, for your brave honesty and transparency. For the simple reminder to seek God and his presence in the midst of despair. I am excited to see how God uses your story, this book, and your continued, devout devotion to further his Kingdom. —Kate Duncan

I was looking for a summer study while I wait for BSF to resume in fall. It has been a great summer study for me. You can join her private Facebook page and watch her videos. She is very accessible and answers posts, takes prayer requests and is very responsive. If you love Jesus, you will love this! — Deborah A. Winger

THE BIG QUESTION Q: Did you ever have a crisis of faith? How did you resolve it?

the likelihood we grew up in the only true religion. He offered a paradox: Could God make a rock so big he couldn’t pick it up? If God couldn’t do that, no one could call him almighty. From there, he praised science and laughed at creationism. His skepticism mingled with my own doubts, so I stuffed my faith away, divorcing my emotions for God. On the other hand, I never planned on needing God. I left my faith at home when I moved into the nursing school dormitory. However, faced with tough classes and heavy assignments, I prayed for the first time in years. God became real as I reached out and saw him calm my anxiety.


YES, AND I GREW UP IN A CHRISTIAN HOME. We attended church regularly, including

special services several times a year with visiting ministers. At six, I realized my sin and confessed faith in Christ. When I entered ninth grade, my parents enrolled me in church school where I learned creationism. However, during my teen years, misgivings clouded my mind. Guest pastors told the exact illustration as if it happened to them, and I labeled them dishonest. Plus, church leaders didn’t live up to their own standards. Well-versed in Genesis, I longed to hear from evolutionists so I could compare the reasoning. While these thoughts churned, my cousin shared his own doubts. On his recommendation, I read Elmer Gantry, a novel about a scheming pastor. The story horrified me, making me suspect the motives of every minister. My cousin also questioned the meaning of truth and

Despite answered prayers, I worried over the unanswered questions nagging me. Was I deluding myself? How should I define truth? I wanted more confidence in my faith, but I didn’t know where to turn. My third year in nursing school, I prayed for a person who could discuss weighty issues. Soon afterward, I started attending church with a fellow nursing student. A group of college students there invited me to have coffee after the Sunday evening service. I noticed they discussed various topics, so I brought up my questions. One fellow named Ray helped a lot. He talked about the mountain of evidence that affirms the Bible. Since Christians claim to teach truth, believing scholars started apologetics, which hammers out facts and proofs. For instance, we can visit the city where biblical stories occurred and even see how geography contributed to the event. Often historical records agree with the Bible, and archeologists frequently confirm Scripture while uncovering artifacts. Ray and I also discussed evolution and the assumptions evolutionists make without evidence, and he showed me the absurdity of the “rock question.” What a relief to know my anchor held onto solid rock. Looking back, I realize the Lord pursued me because I belonged to him. A couple years later, Ray and I married, and now we reach out to others who question.



Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. —James 1:17 32 leadinghearts.com


characters of the show seem like family. Yes, they’re fictional characters from the fictional town of Hope Valley, but we can learn some valuable lessons from them — at Christmas and throughout the year. For example, from the beloved characters of Lee and Rosemary Coulter… Lee Coulter wanted to do something special for his wife, Rosemary, for their first Christmas as husband and wife. Knowing of her love for baubles, he bought her a unique brooch for her Christmas gift — one he thought would tickle her fancy.

Lee also knew of her penchant for snooping, so he hid the gift in a place she’d never look. But ever-vigilant Rosemary spied it out anyway — and let’s just say she wasn’t excited about her new accessory. “Horrified” might be a better word. It’s easy to chuckle at fictional characters who have over-the-top reactions to poorly chosen gifts — but what do you do when you receive a gift that disappoints you? Or when you open a package that isn’t what you hoped for — such as that hideous sweater from Grandma? The good news is that God’s gifts never disappoint. One of his best gifts is the people in our lives who love us. They may offer us presents that either delight or displease, but the real present is their presence. What better blessing is there than knowing we can have deep, meaningful relationships with family and friends, no matter what their taste is in gift-giving. God has put those people in our lives as a preview of his greatest gift: the beloved Son sent to earth to bring us peace, joy, purpose and salvation. And when you open that gift, not only will it never disappoint … it will change your whole world. Lord, for Christmas this year, please give me a thankful heart. Help me to be grateful for all the gifts in my life, whether they be people, presents or purposes you have for me, and thank you for accepting the sometimes pitiful gifts I bring to you. Help me to have the same graciousness for others that you have for me. Amen. And here’s a fun Christmas recipe from one of the Hearties (the fans of When Calls the Heart).

Mini Pepperoni Christmas Tree Pizzas

From the Kitchen of Heartie Laurel Leidy-Cox Sometimes, when we plan our holiday menus for parties and family get-togethers, we forget about having foods that the children will enjoy. These are always a favorite with the little ones — and with the kids-at-heart as well. Ingredients A bag of frozen yeast roll dough A jar of pizza sauce A bag of mozzarella cheese A bag of mini pepperoni pieces Preparation Use one frozen roll for each mini pizza. Place on a cookie sheet that has been sprayed with cooking spray, leaving room for the dough as it rises and spreads. Heat the oven to about 170 degrees and then turn it off. Set the dough in there to rise. This will take three to five hours or until it’s doubled in size. Pat the dough into a circle with your hands until it reaches the size of a mini pizza (approximately five inches across). Spread pizza sauce onto the dough. Top with mozzarella cheese, and then add the mini pepperoni pieces, shaping them into a simple Christmas tree shape. Bake at 425 degrees for about seven to eight minutes or until the dough is lightly browned and the cheese is melted. *Devotion and recipe from When God Calls the Heart at Christmas. Used with permission from BroadStreet Publishing.


His way teaches you who he is and who you are with him. ===





to desire, to hope. It’s safer to stay stuck in the comfort of your fears than to expect more. My heart and mind were in this condition when I first encountered Hannah Hurnard’s book Hinds’ Feet on High Places. I was grounded in my doubts and residing on a level much lower than God’s best. Despite the mental chains that had me bound, my curiosity about what was possible remained. It stirred my heart to trust the Shepherd when he beckoned me to follow him into the unknown. Like the main character in Hunard’s allegory, I was Much-Afraid. I feared change. I feared new people. I feared transparency. I feared humiliation. I feared exposure. I feared growth. I feared success. I feared failure. I had many fears. But the one person I was not afraid of was the Shepherd. He had never hurt me. With gentle care, he had nurtured and comforted me in my fears. This began

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my dilemma about his invitation to journey with him to the high places. How do I say no to him when everything within me wants to trust him more? How do I break free from the gravity of my fears to soar on the wind of his love? “In all the world, I have no one but you. Help me to follow you, even though it seems impossible. Help me to trust you as much as I long to love you.” ―Hannah Hurnard, Hinds’ Feet on High Places Maybe you can relate. You feel the pull of his love calling you to follow him on a new adventure for 2020. Your spirit cries out, “Yes, Lord! I will follow you.” But your mind tells you this journey is too risky. You know him to be good, but you’ve experienced enough bad in your life to be hesitant. You stand on the precipice of the new thing he wants to bring you into and slowly back away from the edge. The seed of his loving call is prickly with the thorns of the unknown.

“Much-Afraid looked at the thorn and shrank from it. Then she looked at the Shepherd’s face and repeated his words to herself. ‘When the seed of

Love in your heart is ready to bloom, you will be loved in return,’ and a strange new courage entered her. She suddenly stepped forward, bared her heart, and said, ‘Please plant the seed here in my heart.’” ―Hannah Hurnard, Hinds’ Feet on High Places Courage must arise to move forward in this journey. The way the Shepherd leads demands a deeper level of trust. Each path with its challenges to overcome. You will encounter sorrow, loss, pain and tribulation. He does not promise the journey will be without difficulty. His only guarantee is that he will never leave you or forsake you. Though trying, his way teaches you who he is and who you are with him. He takes you to new heights in your understanding and your relationship. It is a journey from who you believe you are to who He says you are. The more you get to know him, the more you learn about yourself. You are equipped by his love. You are upheld by his hand. You are lead by his grace. You are redeemed by his mercy. When you reach the high place of his greatest desire for you, your old name will no longer fit. Here he calls you by your new name, the name once hidden by your fears is now being revealed by His light and love. “The Shepherd laughed too. ‘I love doing preposterous things,’ he replied. ‘Why, I don’t know anything more exhilarating and delightful than turning weakness into strength, and fear into faith, and that which has been marred into perfection.… That is my special work,’ he added with the light of a great joy in his face. ‘Transforming things —to take Much-Afraid, for instance, and to transform her into —’ He broke off and then went on laughingly. ‘Well, we shall see later on what she finds herself transformed into.’” ― Hannah Hurnard, Hinds’ Feet on High Places The journey of Much-Afraid is one of triumphant healing despite great difficulty. At many points in her story, she is tempted to turn back. Enemies like pride, self-pity, resentment, fear and bitterness attempt to sabotage her progress. With each test along the way, she builds an altar on which she sacrifices the weaknesses

she has overcome to persevere. Her offerings are consumed by flame, leaving behind a stone. Much-Afraid keeps each stone as a reminder of her sacrifices and as a testimony of the Shepherd’s faithfulness to keep his promises. I am often tempted to do the same. When faced with a new challenge, it’s easy to forget the past difficulties God has already brought you through. Remembering his faithfulness builds up my courage to continue moving forward. On many occasions, it has been the strength I’ve needed not to give up. When his faithfulness looms larger than the current obstacle, steps of faith are the natural response — each step bringing you closer to the high places. The places where your spiritual maturity has blossomed past the need for people to validate you because you know you are His beloved, fully loved and fully accepted. I credit this book for transforming how I practice medicine and how I minister to a hurting world. Hurnard’s allegory helped to reveal to me the connection between physical, spiritual and emotional pain. It challenged me to lead from a place of transparency. Too often, we see people living in a place of wholeness without a clear understanding of the broken way which led them there. The journey to the high places of God has many twists and turns along the path. It is helpful for others not only to see you standing on the mountain top, but to also hear about the times you fell down and had to get back up. When you share your journey, you remind others they too can overcome and be transformed. “Therefore I begin to think, my Lord, you purposely allow us to be brought into contact with the bad and evil things that you want changed. “Perhaps that is the very reason that we are here in this world, where sin and sorrow and suffering and evil abound, so that we may let you teach us so to react to them, that out of them we can create lovely qualities to live forever. That is the only really satisfactory way of dealing with evil, not simply binding it so that it cannot work harm, but whenever possible overcoming it with good.” ―Hannah Hurnard, Hinds’ Feet on High Places


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I FOUND MY MENTOR IN A DARK COLOSSEUM when a young woman sat on a

stool, inside a bright spotlight. In a voice that sounded like a child in song she said, “Hi, I’m Ann. I am one simple woman in the world. I have never shaken hands with the president. I cry. Sometimes I am insecure. I am only one, but I have come tonight to tell you I am one … and Jesus and I and love are out to change the world.” In those days, I was a young college student, totally in love with Jesus, and I had never heard anyone articulate my heart the way Ann Kiemel (Anderson) did. She spoke of love and simple acts of kindness, and how she and our big God could change the world. I followed her example with my own acts of love and kindness. I learned that everything Ann said about living life sold out to the Lord was true. It was true for me. Through Christ, nothing was impossible. In her book, i love the word impossible, Ann said, IMPOSSIBLE means that i an ordinary young woman, can be something special and significant in an enormous, hurting world. i can be love where i live and that is Christ. and he really does make ALL the difference!

In a decades-old interview with Pat Boone, Ann talked about the time she talked to a cabbie who described himself as the loneliest man in the world. Before the

ride was over, Ann sang him the Bill Gaither song “Something Beautiful,” a song which shares how God can make something beautiful of our lives. As she sang, this jaded cab driver sobbed as he realized, for the first time, how much God loved him. “I want your God,” he told her. Ann explained to Pat Boone, “The main thing is I’m just one simple woman in a very big world but one simple person plus a great God can do things like that in the most unexpected moments.” Even though Ann passed away in 2014 after living a life of love, miracles, sorrow and experiencing life’s tribulations, I follow her example of love and kindness as the Spirit moves me, in tiny ways and on ordinary days. I’ve gone on to write books and had the privilege to speak around the world, publish Leading Hearts magazine and Arise Daily Devotionals, and lead the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association. But even now, it’s always about the simple, tiny acts of faith. Those facts of faith, done through the love of Christ, really do change the world. Dear Lord, I really can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. For nothing is impossible with you. Anoint me and show me how to look for those moments you want me to show your love and kindness and make the difference in and through you.




DAVID & NICOLE BINION Worship team David and Nicole Binion released their first Christmas album, Dwell: Christmas, on November 22, 2019. The 11-track record features William McDowell, Steffany Gretzinger, Potter’s House Choir, Daniel Johnson, the Binion’s 18-year-old daughter and fellow Integrity artist MDSN (Madison) and more. Recorded live at TBN (Dallas, Texas), the album, which is a follow-up to Dwell: A Live Worship Experience (August 2018), is a Christmas-focused worship session celebrating Christ coming to dwell with us on earth. It comes alive with extended tracks of authentically spontaneous worship, including one that emphasizes the value of making room in our hearts and our lives for Jesus. “If there’s one word that describes this season of our lives it’s ‘dwell,’” David says. “…The worship experience was so real, so authentic, and the moments happened spontaneously. We didn’t expect or plan the moments that came, which makes it so special.”

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Christy Nockels’ The Thrill of Hope Renewed is a re-recording of her 2016 debut Christmas album The Thrill of Hope, and is expanded with new tracks “He Is Worthy” and “Make Good Your Christmas Day,” a full-length song taken from a single line in a song on the previous album, which features Christy’s daughters Elliana and Annie Rose. The 15-track mix of Christmas classics and original songs encourages the listeners with the message this season encompasses. “Christmas is such an amazing time to come together and remember the hope we have in Jesus, and to rediscover the hope he has given us to offer the world,” Christy says. Perhaps with The Thrill of Hope Renewed, Christy’s sweet and soothing vocals will add a special touch to your Christmas this year.


A Mostly Acoustic Christmas, released November 8, 2019, is Lincoln Brewster’s second Christmas music album. Meant to be fun project, He put the 11-track record together at home with the help of his family, friends and two dogs. “No programming, editing, copying and pasting, just real music,” Lincoln says. “Zoro, Norm Stockton, Roman V, Alex Chaney joined me as special guests; I even got my mandolin out.” A Mostly Acoustic Christmas is a fun blend of bluesy-jazzy renditions of familiar classics, such as “Jingle Bells,” “The Christmas Song,” “Joy to the World” and “I’ll Be Home for Christmas.” Lincoln’s instrumentals, which include some impressive mandolin skills, come together for an engaging listening experience. This album puts a new spin on Christmas music as we know it and could be a fun departure from the “norm” — even with the classics included.





This includes God, my peers, mentors, friends and loved ones. It’s been especially important in my writing and speaking to let others help me sharpen my skills and keep me accountable in my walk. It’s putting “iron sharpens iron” into practice. Schedule times to be together and set time limits. Come prepared with what you want to share or ask. Be ready to listen to each person’s needs. • • • • •

Encourage one another. Give advice with honesty and love. Pray for one another. Rejoice in one another’s success. Empathize over one another’s failures, setbacks and struggles. • Trust that none of you wants to hurt the other, so be open if something hurts your feelings and resolve any issues quickly. Invest Time in a Mastermind Group I joined an AWSA Mastermind group a few years ago that blesses me in countless ways. We: • • • • •

Share knowledge by answering questions. Trade off providing training for everyone. Share new tips. Encourage one another. Promote one another to expand your networks and cross-promote.

• Challenge members to take new steps and think bigger. • Share opportunities you notice for a member. • Know we can lean on one another as needed. Cherish Mentors Who Share from Experience When I started writing, God quickly sent a mentor my way. Since then I’ve mentored others with that godly woman as my role model. • Listen and encourage the dreams of the mentee. • Be honest enough to share changes that will help the mentee. • Share wisdom and knowledge about the industry. • Review the person’s writing/speaking and guide her to overcome her pitfalls. • Be real and share both your successes and failures. • Know when it’s time to change the relationship to friendship. I’m a better person and professional because of these relationships. When iron sharpens a knife, it also causes the blade to shine as the dullness is wiped off the service. For me, the shine starts in my heart as the people helping me love me and address any heart issues they see. They add to my ability with the advice, training, and opportunities shared.


I never had the slightest interest in becoming a missionary. It looked too hard and too dirty, and I didn’t like the clothes.

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calls. When I met missionaries as I child, I never had the slightest interest in becoming one. It looked too hard and too dirty, and I didn’t like the clothes. I really wasn’t suited to missions at all. I knew God would never choose me for that type of life. It’s funny because now, as an adult and a missionary, it’s very easy to see why I’m still not suited to missions.

1. I have no sense of direction. I do not know the way to places I have gone to regularly for years. I get lost in buildings. My husband says I can’t find my way out of a paper bag. I rely on 7-year-olds to get me where I need to go. And yet, I lead mission teams around the world. 2. I am a picky eater. I really only like fruit, bread, cheese and dessert. And I’m allergic to many fruits. If you travel much, you know cheese is pretty much only available in the US and Europe. And yet, I’ve eaten scorpions for Jesus. 3. I hate flying. I get claustrophobic. I have a problem with my ears. In fact, an ENT (ear, nose and throat specialist) told me I cannot fly because of the way my ears are constructed. And yet, my passport needs extra pages because of how much I fly. 4. I am an introvert. I get very nervous meeting new people and need time alone. And yet, my ministry requires me to meet new people all the time and on mission trips I am with others 24/7, without a minute to myself. 5. I hate to admit this, but I’m kind of a diva. I really hate dirt. I can never understand why people garden unless they have no choice. I do not camp. I like really fancy hotels (think

Ritz Carlton). And yet, I stay at places around the world with no air conditioning, no electricity and no plumbing. 6. I am a homebody. I love to be home with my husband and children every night. I never join a Bible study or go to the gym in the evening or on the weekend, because it is so important to me be with my family when they are home. And yet, I have missed birthdays and anniversaries and soccer games more times than I like to admit. 7. I am a fearful person. I don’t drive on the highway or go places alone. And yet, the Lord has sent me to India, China, Africa and beyond many, many times. We shouldn’t be surprised. The Bible is full of examples of the Lord using unlikely people for his service. He used Moses, a man who couldn’t speak well, not to mention the fact that he had murdered someone. He used Paul, a man who ruthlessly persecuted Christians. He used Rahab, the prostitute, and many others that we, in our earthly wisdom, would not have chosen. And we know why he does this — to show his power. But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us (2 Corinthians 4:7, ESV). God chose me to be a missionary because no one who knows me would ever think that I am brave or bold. They know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that all the things that are accomplished are done through his power and not mine. God did not choose me despite my weakness; he chose me because of my weakness. Maybe all those fearless missionaries I met as a child weren’t so fearless after all. Maybe they were divas and introverts and picky eaters too. And if you are thinking about the reasons God can’t or won’t use you, remember Moses and me, the fearful homebody.


In addition to being a CCM artist, Shae Wilbur is an on-camera beauty expert seen on shows like E! News, the Real, EXTRA and more! Here are a few items topping her Christmas list...

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I’m so excited— Christmas is right around the corner! Here are a few items I’m hoping to find in my stocking this year!

LEADINGLADY #lifehacks


On that moisturizing note, as soon as the temperatures start to drop, I break out my hydrating face masks. GlamGlow has one of my favs — it’s the Thirsty Mud Hydrating Treatment Mask. I love it because I put it on right before bed, and don’t have to wash it off or anything. It just soaks into my skin overnight and I wake up with my skin feeling extra glowy and soft.

A SPLURGE OF RED The holidays are the perfect time to break out a bold red lipstick. Around this time of year I like to get a little restock of my favorite color: Tom Ford’s Cherry Lush. At $55, it is a bit of a splurge but SO worth it, as it typically lasts me all year! The color is also nice and moisturizing which keeps my lips feeing soft in this chilly weather.

SCRIPTURE GOLD Lately I’ve been obsessing over the gorgeous jewelry collection by Adrienne Houghton called Xixi. From beautiful coin necklaces (which are super on trend right now), to pendants with Bible verses on them — they are meaningful, trendy, and really reasonably priced (around $30!). Hoping my hubby snags a couple pieces from the collection for me.




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Someday I’d like to write a poem and I’d like to start it with the line, “Coffee and donuts, sittin’ in a tree.” I’m not sure where to go from there. I get that far and all I know is that I want to be in that tree. I confess I’ve had a few too many donuts. Sad to say, the bough on that tree would be bending pretty low about now. That’s why I decided to go on yet another diet recently. Also, sad to say, I’ve already fallen off the wagon. I’m thinking of putting up a sign that says, “Please keep body inside the wagon at all times, and please stay seated until the wagon comes to a complete and final stop.” You know, if someone would think of bringing fudge along on the wagon ride, I would be a lot more motivated to stay on it. Okay, I suppose a really good friend would probably give me a nudge to stay on the wagon. Nudge or fudge. Tough call on which is best, friendship-wise. In our spiritual lives, we all need a little nudge now and then too. It’s good to have people in our lives we can count on to nudge us in the right direction, wherever the wagons are heading. As pioneers were settling the west, when they were threatened by an enemy, circling the wagons was part of their defense strategy. The circle provided a protected cover they could get behind to fire at their attackers.

We need to rally with those on this life’s journey in the same way. We have a common enemy. Peter reminds us to “be alert” because our “enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). Circle the wagons! Our church family is part of our defensive plan against our enemy. The next verse in 1 Peter says, “Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings” (verse 9). We’re in this together. Let’s not neglect circling the wagons. “Not forsaking or neglecting to assemble together [as believers], as is the habit of some people, but admonishing (warning, urging, and encouraging) one another, and all the more faithfully as you see the day approaching” (Hebrews 10:25, AMPC). I’m so thankful the Lord has placed godly church buds and godly leaders in my path all through my life via the church. People with just the right nudge at the ready. There are pastors, teachers and leaders who stay alert to our spiritual supervision, keeping watch, the Scripture says. And Hebrews 13:17 instructs us to be responsive to them. “Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you.” Less burden. More joy. It’s a good choice. And in other choices, I’m considering choosing to keep the extra 20 pounds and just get myself a bigger wagon. One with really good shocks.





Merry Christmas & Happy 2020! from Leading Hearts and the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association

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CONTRIBUTORS meet the publisher

LINDA EVANS SHEPHERD @LINDASHEPHERD is publisher of Leading Hearts magazine. She is also a best-selling author, an in-demand speaker, and president of Right to the Heart ministries. She is founder of the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA). She lives in Colorado with husband, Paul, and son, Jimmy. www.Sheppro.com

meet the editor

AMBER WEIGAND-BUCKLEY @BAREFACEDGIRL is managing editor and art director for Leading Hearts magazine and brand manager for AWSA. She is a writer, speaker, and multiaward-winning editor, having spent 23 years in the magazine industry. Amber is the owner of #barefacedcreative and provides branding, graphic design and communications and support for authors, nonprofits and missionaries. She and her Brit-native husband, Philip, live in Missouri with their three daughters: Saffron, Imogen and Penelope. www.barefacedgirl.com



PAM FARREL is the author of 48 books, including bestselling Men Are Like Waffles, Women Are Like Spaghetti, and her newest collaborative Bible study: Discovering Joy in Philippians (Harvest House). Pam and Bill Farrel are relationship experts and co-directors of www.love-wise.com. MELISSA HEILAND is the founder and president of Beautiful Feet International, a ministry that starts pregnancy ministries worldwide. She has written devotional books for mothers and mission trips. RHONDA RHEA is an author, humor columnist, and TV personality. Her newest release with co-author Kaley Rhea, Off-Script & Over-Caffeinated, is available on Amazon. www.rhondarhea.com JENNIFER TAYLOR is a reviewer and profile contributor for Leading Hearts magazine.

KAREN WHITING, international speaker and author of 25 books, writes to help families thrive and desires to help families put God center in their lives. Check out her family book, 52 Weekly Devotions for Busy Families. www.karenwhiting.com ERICA WIGGENHORN writes Bible studies and teaches biblical principles for life change. Her latest release by Moody Publishers is Unexplainable Jesus: Rediscovering the God You Thought You Knew. ericawiggenhorn.com

PENELOPE CARLEVATO is the author of The Art of Afternoon Tea: From the Era of Downton Abbey and the Titanic as well as Tea on the Titanic, First Class Etiquette. amd her latest, The Tea Lover’s Journal. www.penelopecarlevato.com MICHELLE S. COX is an author, speaker, and the creator of the Just 18 Summers parenting resources and products. Visit her parenting blog www.whencallstheheart.com and on Facebook www.facebook.com/just18summers. SAUNDRA DALTON-SMITH is an internal medicine physician, author and speaker. She is the founder of the I Choose My Best Life ministry. www.ichoosemybestlife.com EDIE MELSON—author, editor and blogger—is a leading professional within the writing industry, as well as a popular instructor and mentor. www.ediemelson.com KAREN PORTER is an international speaker, the author of six books, and a successful business woman. She is president of Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, serves on several boards, and coaches aspiring writers and speakers. She and her husband, George, own Bold Vision Books, a Christian publishing company. www.karenporter.com CYNTHIA L. SIMMONS is an author and speaker as well as radio host and producer of Heart of the Matter Radio. She and her husband have five grown children. www.clsimmons.com HEATHER VAN ALLEN is a music reviewer and profile contributor for Leading Hearts magazine. SHAE WILBUR, internationally known recording artist and songwriter, is the style expert for the Emmy-nominated talk show The Real. Her latest release is her Unmovable EP.

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