The Jesus Calling Magazine - Spring 2024

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Leap of Faith
Tending the Garden Within CONVERSATION STARTERS for the Whole
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Published quarterly by Thomas Nelson, Inc. P.O. Box 141000 Nashville, TN 37214 Printed in the U.S.A. © 2004 Jesus Calling Foundation All rights reserved; no materials may be reproduced in any form without the express written permission of the publisher. The Jesus Calling Magazine is not responsible for problems with vendors or their products or services. Cover photo courtesy of Patrick Randak/NBC Universal; Adobe Stock For advertising inquiries, visit Dr. Anita Phillips | 25 3 Nicole Avant: Facing Tragedy with Grit and Grace 6 Doing Good: Pat Bradley of Crisis Aid International Lives Out His Conviction 12 American Ninja Warrior’s Daniel Gil Fights the Good Fight 14 Singer Erica Campbell Embraces Who God Made Her to Be 17 Pastor’s Corner: Eric Costanzo on the Church as a Safe Refuge 18 Softball Player Katelyn Pavey Defies the Odds 20 Making Family Memories through Meaningful Conversations 22 Jay and Rae Anne Payleitner on Creating Strong Father/Daughter Connections 25 Embracing Your Emotions for a Powerful Life: Dr. Anita Phillips 28 Strengthening Marriages with the Enneagram: Bill and Kristi Gaultiere 31 Alice Marie Johnson Finds Redemption Amidst Incarceration 32 Embracing Grief and Pain Toward Healing Addiction: Jimmy and Irene Rollins 34 Jesus Listens: Stories of Prayer with Texas Country Artist Aaron Watson 35 Music Spotlight: Anne Wilson Finds Her Song of Hope 36 Former Beauty Queen Kim Gravel Quiets the Noise to Hear Her Father 38 Matthew West’s “Blue Couch Moment” 40 Games and Puzzles Matthew West | 38
Barbara Moser Creative Director Michelle Lenger Designer

With blossoming flowers and plentiful daylight, spring is a perfect time to renew our faith. Just as seeds break through fertile ground, so too can our faith break through doubt and despair, growing stronger and more beautiful. Let the blooming flowers of spring remind you of the new beginnings that await you through changing seasons.

An exclusive excerpt from Sarah Young’s 365-day prayer devotional

Jesus Listens

May 5

Glorious Savior,

Help me to live in the present, giving my entire attention to what You are doing right now. I don’t want to get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. Yet I confess that entrusting my tomorrows to You goes against the grain of my human nature—against my strong desire to feel in control. The truth is, I waste a lot of time thinking about the future.

I’ve found that trying not to think about something is usually ineff ective and counterproductive. My eff ort to stop thinking about the matter keeps me chained to those thoughts. However, I can break free by focusing my attention on You and on what You’re doing in my life. You are my living Lord, and You’re always doing new things.

The main thing that keeps me chained to future thoughts is my fear of what tomorrow may bring—wondering whether or not I’ll be able to cope with it. But Your Word reassures me: You will help me deal with whatever hard things come up—when the time comes.

In Your merciful Name, Jesus, Amen MATTHEW 6:34 THE MESSAGE · HEBREWS 12:2 NIV · ISAIAH 42:9 NIV

Jesus Calling for Graduates Jesus Calling
Cloth Botanical Cover
Jesus Always, Large Text Jesus Calling for Moms

Nicole Avant Navigates the Joys and Tragedies of Life with Gratitude and Grace

Do good. Be good.


AS AN AUTHOR, FILM PRODUCER , former US diplomat, and philanthropist, Nicole Avant shows up in the world in many diff erent ways. Born to a family deeply immersed in the music industry (her father was Clarence Avant, recently honored at the 2024 GRAMMY Awards for his role as “The Godfather of Black Music),” Nicole recalls how integral music was in her upbringing. Her love for music spanned diff erent genres—country music, R&B, rock and roll, classical—and the solace and understanding she found in lyrics were central to why music meant so much to her. “If I need to understand myself,” Nicole says, “I always go to a song.”

Nicole often reminisces about a story involving her father and the legendary musician and singer/ songwriter of “Lean on Me,” Bill Withers. When her father was introduced to Withers’ music, it was love at fi rst sound. Her father heard anthems in Withers’ songs, even when others didn’t. He saw in Bill what everyone else somehow missed and, in faith, he decided to sign him to a record deal when countless other music labels had passed. Of course, Bill went on to have an amazing career with iconic songs that touched so many, which makes Nicole refl ect on the power that music has to bring people together. “I always go back to the music because you don’t feel alone. You never feel alone.”

If I need to understand myself, I always go to a song.

Nicole’s mother also played a signifi cant part in shaping her life. She instilled in Nicole a sense of connection with her Creator and taught her to always strive to be a child of God. At her mother’s prompting, the fi rst scripture Nicole memorized was Philippians 1:11, which says: “May you always be doing those good, kind things that show you are a child of God, for this will bring much praise and glory to the Lord” (TLB). This scripture became Nicole’s mantra.

An unforeseen catastrophe, however, would dramatically alter the course of Nicole’s life. In an act of senseless violence, she lost her mother to a

Nicole during her time as a US diplomat

shooting during a home invasion, a heartrending blow that left her world in a state of disarray. A text that she and her mother exchanged just hours before the shooting contained the last words Nicole would see from her: “Think you’ll be happy.” Despite her immense pain, Nicole leaned on her faith for strength.

“My faith was my lifeline during this ordeal. It doesn’t eliminate the pain, but it gives one the strength to endure it.”

The tragedy, although unimaginably diffi cult, did not breed hatred in Nicole. Instead, she found the strength within herself to forgive the man responsible for her mother’s death. Nicole prayed for justice for her mother and held onto the belief that forgiveness does not equate to condoning the wrong. She also served as a beacon of hope for her father, aiding him through this tumultuous period by encouraging him to forgive.

After her mother’s passing, Nicole found herself caring for her ailing father, who at the time, was ninety years old. She got him a copy of Jesus Calling,

Words on a page, just like music, let you know that you’re not alone.

which he read daily until he got so sick, Nicole started reading for him. She and her father connected with the words of hope and encouragement from the book and carried them through their last days together. Nicole likens the solace she found in the devotional to the same comfort she fi nds in music. “Again, words on a page, just like music, let you know that you’re not alone.”

Despite her losses, Nicole lives her life with her mother’s perspective on what our time on this earth is made for: a temporary journey and a precursor to the eternal home we reach when we complete our work on earth. “What I love so much about my mom is that she was always moving forward with positivity,” Nicole remembers. “She used to say to me, ‘Nicole, you have to have something to look

forward to. Believe in tomorrow. And anyone can be a blessing. You don’t have to be wealthy to be a blessing. You don’t have to be famous to do good. Just do good. Be good.’”

to hear more of Nicole's story!

You can find Nicole’s book Think You’ll Be Happy at your favorite book retailer.

Adapted for print from the Jesus Calling Podcast Scan the code Nicole and her parents


Crisis Aid International’s Pat Bradley Answers the Call to Missions

FROM AN EARLY AGE , Pat Bradley believed that anything worth doing should be fun. Never would he have considered that the “thing worth doing” would be going where no one else wanted to go in order to help people.

But he did just that with a friend of his, after starting a small organization to get aid where it was not only needed, but severely required.

Growing up in St. Louis, Missouri, as a child Pat was fascinated by the missionaries who's come to his church each year, sharing their mission stories from

far-fl ung places. Even at a young age, Pat was moved by stories of what missionaries were doing to help people in Africa. He would exclaim to his mother, “Mom, what can we do to help them?”

This passion to aid others never dissipated as Pat grew older. As a matter of fact, for about fi fteen years it was common for Pat to use his employment vacation time to go on mission trips.

The fi rst time he went to South Sudan was as a board member of International Christian Concern (ICC). For decades, ICC has focused on assistance,

advocacy, and awareness, bringing their mission to the most challenging parts of the world. While he was part of ICC, Pat received reports of great need from South Sudan, and so he and the organization’s founder decided, “Let’s go on a fact-fi nding trip to South Sudan and see if what we’re hearing is really true.”

Stop waiting for God to whisper His will for your life, and let God start using you today.

Nothing could have prepared them for what they experienced.

They spent two weeks in South Sudan. In Pat’s words, the atrocities he witnessed were “beyond anything I could comprehend on my own.”

On the last day of the visit, Pat encountered a group of about seventy men, women, and children, who were displaced from their homes after their village was attacked. In the middle of nowhere, on the edge of a desert, in 120-degree weather, these families were without a home. It was then that Pat understood that doing nothing was no longer an option.

That was exactly how Crisis Aid International was born.

It was soon after that Crisis Aid’s work began in what they and others called “no-go zones” in South Sudan. The name “no-go” was a direct representation of what the Government—the northern part of Sudan—was trying to accomplish by not allowing the UN or others in to provide aid. Luckily, being a small organization of two people, Crisis Aid was allowed to go in by themselves. To this day, Pat recognizes that God not only sent them there, but always showed up for them and protected them.

He also clearly remembers the fi rst time someone told him about Jesus Calling. A colleague said to him, “Oh, this is an incredible devotion. Listen to this.” He was fl oored by the day’s passage; he had never heard anything like it before. “I spent the next thirty minutes just reading diff erent things. And it was just like a conversation that Jesus is having with us at our level, speaking in our language, and bringing His divinity in the context of my everyday life. Jesus Calling was really the fi rst book that I’ve ever read to do that.”

Pat’s vision is for others, like himself, to get out of their church pews and to be what God wants them to be. His message? “Stop waiting for God to whisper His will for your life, and let God start using you today.”

Adapted for print from the Jesus Calling Podcast. Scan this code to hear more of Pat’s story!

You can find Pat’s book Born for Rescue at your favorite book retailer.


Here for Hope”

Savannah Guthrie Sets Her Sights on God in the Pursuit of Truth

If you’ve ever tuned into the morning news on NBC, you’ve likely seen Savannah Guthrie, co-host TODAY, as you sipped your cup of coff ee. Guthrie off ers a refreshing presence on the show, where she slides eff ortlessly from hard-hitting news stories into “feel good” human interest stories and heartfelt interviews with noted personalities.

Guthrie’s path to her TODAY Show seat had many interesting stops along the way, including her start at a newsroom in a tiny station in Butte, Montana (where the station closed two weeks after she arrived), and later in Columbia, Missouri. Working in local news for a handful of years, including back in her hometown of Tucson, Arizona, Savannah started to wonder if a small-town reporter’s life wasn’t all it was cracked up to be.

“I knew it was time to move on and try to get into a bigger television market,” Savannah recalls. “I was nervous that I wasn't good enough, yet I knew it was time to try or leave.”

My biggest dream of all came by leaving it.

At the time, Savannah’s job had her covering several trials, legal cases, and local politics, which piqued her interest in Washington, DC, and public aff airs. Before her contract ran out on her latest local news station job, on a whim, Savannah decided to take the LSAT (law school entrance exam), just in case she couldn’t land another journalism job.

“I ended up getting a letter from Georgetown Law in the spring of 1999. And I wasn’t really done with TV; that dream was still percolating inside me, but I just went a diff erent way. My path to network news and what ended up being my biggest dream of all came by leaving it, and going off to law school and then practicing law for a short time.”

Feeling the tug of the journalism dream still inside her, she decided to give it a fi ghting chance, which led her to Court TV. Savannah calls it “the perfect job for me,” where she started reporting on trials all over the country. Through her exposure on Court TV, the journalist began to cover big legal cases and appeared as a legal analyst on diff erent networks.

And the powers that be at NBC started to take notice, off ering her a job as a correspondent for NBC News in 2007.

“At the time there was so much interest in legal analysis, and it was just the right moment for someone who was a lawyer and had a legal background. I always say, ‘You can't write yourself out of your destiny. It just has a way of fi nding you.’”

Savannah and her kids, Vale and Charley

Resilience and strength were early markers of Savannah’s chase toward that destiny. Losing her father when she was only sixteen, her mother Nancy became a single mom parenting three kids. Eventually, Nancy would also care for her own mother and a brother with Down syndrome, who both came to live with the family as well.

You can’t write yourself out of your destiny. It just has a way of finding you.

“We did the best we could,” Savannah says. “My dad was just forty-nine years old when he died. My


mom was forty-six. I just can’t believe all she had to contend with. The stress and fear; I can’t even imagine. She was always my greatest encourager, and always helped me believe in myself, despite what she was going through. To this day, she’s my hero.”

Savannah’s parents were both churchgoing people. “My sister said God was the sixth member of our family,” quips Savannah. “But it’s true. God was very much a part of our family, and I was raised that way. I almost don’t remember a time where I wasn’t having my own conversation with God in my mind and in my heart.”

Savannah’s faith plays a big part in not only who she is as a person, but how she conducts her job as a journalist. Imbued with a strength and determination passed on by her mother, and shored up by her close relationship with God, Savannah writes about her life in a new book called Mostly What God Does. No one was more surprised than Savannah that she would end up writing a book about spirituality.

“I think because faith is so important to me, it makes me curious about what others believe, or don’t. I love hearing what people believe, what makes them tick, what inspires them, what drives them and what comforts them in their challenging moments.”

That deep spirituality comes to the forefront of Savannah’s book, drawing from what she says were “seasons of devotion, distance, doubt, disappointment and unhappiness with God,” but a constancy of faith all throughout those seasons.

“This book is a love letter to God about His love letter to us. You know, I’m a big, big fan of Jesus Calling. I read it pretty much every day. And what I like about Jesus Calling is that it isn’t just happy talk. These aren’t just bumper sticker slogans or aphorisms to make you feel a little better about your day, they’re deep. They’re all really rooted in Scripture, and the essays in Jesus Calling really spring forth from that.

“I’ve learned so much about God and myself

over these decades,” Savannah continues. “When I'm nervous about a big interview, I always pray. I pray for protection. I pray things will go okay. But I also do a prayer that is directed internally—that I’m sincere, and that what I’m trying to accomplish from the interview has to do with the people who are listening, revealing something that was unseen. You just have to have your eye on, Why are you doing that? And if you're doing it in pursuit of truth or something revelatory on behalf of the people who are listening or watching, then your heart is in the right place.”

When I’m nervous about a big interview, I always pray.

Sometimes the big interviews Savannah prays about involve people who have come through unthinkable tragedies. The journalist was called to Uvalde, Texas, in May 2022 to report on the tragic school shooting there. After driving across the state with little sleep, Savannah walked up to the school just as she was about to go on air. She remembers talking to the

family of a little girl who had been killed. “She was a very faithful little girl and had planned to read in her church that very Sunday,” Savannah notes. “And the family had told us what the Bible verse was. And when I read it on the air, which it felt important to do, I could barely get it out. I guess in some ways, that’s okay. It’s okay to show that you have a heart and that you care.”

That care and empathy remains a guiding force for Savannah’s approach to interviewing. And when the news is dark and sometimes overwhelming, Savannah herself goes to a favorite verse in the Bible that allows her to begin again, and break through that cloud of despair.

“When you get really discouraged about the state of the world, for me, that indicates you could benefi t from a diff erent perspective, a higher perspective. I think of this verse often: ‘I look to the hills. Where does my help come from? It comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth’ (Psalm 121:1-2). When we are consumed by the grief of the world and our own griefs, we are usually looking inward. And sometimes we need to look up and out for help, for perspective, for sunshine, for a belief that not only is help on the way, but help is coming from God Himself, who is all powerful, and all seeing, and has a perspective I cannot possibly have as a human being. We need that. We need hope. I’m here for hope."

Adapted for print from the Jesus Calling Podcast Scan this code to hear more of Savannah’s story!

You can find Savannah’s book Mostly What God Does at your favorite book retailer today.



American Ninja Warrior ’s Daniel Gil

AS ATHLETE DANIEL GIL took his place on the platform, everything went silent: the deafening crowd, the booming sound system—even the voices in his head.

He was competing on season twelve of American Ninja Warrior, and next to him stood friendturned-temporary opponent Austin Gray. Ahead of them lay

the Power Tower. Whoever scaled it the fastest would take home $100,000.

The Power Tower is no child’s play, a forty-foot vertical obstacle course that forces competitors to use every muscle in their bodies. The tower has cliff hanger ledges on plexiglass walls, vertical poles to climb, and harrowing Dropping Shelves that require competitors to swing from shelf to shelf before dismounting and smashing a buzzer to signal the end of the race.

The uncertainty of the moment would drive most people

mad with anxiety. But the twelfth season of the NBC show had already been fi lled with more than its fair share of uncertainty.

After winning the show’s 2015 Rookie of the Year award, Daniel was hungry for more victories. He loved the competition, the community, and the platform being an American Ninja Warrior gave him. He believed he had the ability to be a top contender.

But then came COVID-19, and fi lming the season became delayed; producers didn’t know if they’d be able to shoot the season at all, a variable that had drastic


consequences for the athletes, including Daniel. They didn’t know whether—or how—to train for a competition that may not happen. And Daniel’s income relied on the prize money that came from the show.

For most athletes, this conundrum would present itself as a mind game. But for Daniel, the predicament turned out to be a faith game.

“Every time I went to the Lord in prayer,” Daniel remembers, “I was like, ‘God, what do I do? Do I do something else? Because my livelihood is competing and doing events.’ And He said, ‘Train. Do what I told you to do.’”

So train Daniel did. Without the championship visualized. Without the money prize promised. Without the season announced.

“Be ready.” That was Daniel’s goal.

The call from the ANW producers came “out of the blue,” the athlete recalls. “They said, ‘Hey, we’re having a season in two weeks. I hope you’re ready. Good luck.’”

And because of Daniel’s obedience, he was.

We can’t let these obstacles define who we’re going to be in this life. God has big plans.

Daniel listened to the countdown horn, anticipating the looming staircase in front of him, muscles tensed and ready to spring into action.

When the horn sounded and the race began, he found himself a couple steps behind his opponent at the top of the stairs, but he caught up with Gray on the vertical pole slide. By the time they reached the Dropping Shelves, Daniel discovered he had a split-second advantage to dismount and land on the platform.

Then he smashed the buzzer and became the 2020 American Ninja Warrior champion. From starting horn to fi nal buzzer, Daniel’s dash up the Power Tower took less than thirty seconds (interested readers can watch the race on YouTube). But that climactic moment in Daniel’s life is just one subplot of his faith story.

The most powerful storyline in Daniel’s American Ninja Warrior quest is how humans relate to the divine. They seek. They listen. They press on. Without any promise of a championship or money. The reward for walking in faith isn’t reaching a fi nal destination; the true reward is in the daily practice, as we trust a God who walks with us through our challenges.

“We can’t let these obstacles dictate or defi ne who we’re going to be in this life,” Daniel says. “God has big plans.”.

Adapted for print from the Jesus Calling Podcast. Scan this code to hear more of Daniel’s story

You can find Daniel’s book Kingdom Ninja at your favorite book retailer.




AS A LITTLE GIRL Erica Campbell always wanted to sing. She wanted the entire world to hear her voice. As she huddled around the bed during evening prayers with her family, her dad would close by saying, “Erica, sing.” Little did she know that one day, she’d be able to live out that directive on a global stage.

Today, Erica Campbell is a Grammy-winning solo Christian artist, radio host, mom, and more. But before these accolades, she and her sister Tina made up the successful gospel duo Mary Mary. Erica grew up in a big family at home—and an even bigger church family—and she always wanted to sing from day one. “I had this gift, but didn’t know it was a gift. You know, it felt like it was a curse because I couldn’t go play with my friends outside. I had to go to choir rehearsal with the adults. But I thank God for those formative years of just wanting to sing.”

And although Tina sang alongside her, growing up they were never a singing group or duo. “I think I was eighteen or nineteen and Tina was about sixteen or seventeen the fi rst time we ever sang together,” the singer remembers.

She also recalls writing songs with her sister while they were both still living at home. Perhaps more accurately, Erica says, they were “making up songs.” She and her sister would go into the bathroom and, using a tape recorder, they would record one part and then sing over the tape for their three-part harmony. “It was just so funny, but so innocent,” Erica says. “And so when we met my husband, Warryn Campbell, and played songs for him, he was like, ‘You guys should be a group.’ We were like, ‘Oh, okay, maybe.’”

And just like that, Mary Mary was born. And with a little convincing, off they fl ew to New York to meet record labels interested in signing them, eventually inking a deal with Columbia Records. It was a Godorchestrated dream come true.

The season that followed was, to say the least, a memorable one. Fans were beating on stages, screaming their names. Erica remembers crying and thinking, God, You didn’t have to be this good to me. Oh, my gosh

“You learn a lot about yourself in this process: what you can take, what you can’t take,” she says. “And I think it’s a really great lesson to learn. A lot of times when God gives you something amazing, the work is the tough part, but the work is where you learn who you are. The work is where you learn who God is, your ability to endure.”

As it turns out, Mary Mary resonated with listeners beyond the Christian community, and soon the duo was thrust into the mainstream. Along with that success came the expectations of the mainstream industry, including body makeovers. Translation? The pressure to stay slim while traveling around the globe. Looking back, Erica certainly wishes she would have learned sooner that she was enough—and walked with diff erent confi dence.

Keep living, keep developing, keep embracing who you are. Keep embracing who God has called you to be.

“Once I learned to accept who I was, He gave me everything I needed to be everything I needed,” Erica refl ects. She has advice for anyone who faces the same predicament. “Just keep growing. Keep living, keep developing, keep embracing who you are. Keep embracing who God has called you to be.”

It’s a life lesson she now repeats to her kids . . . a lot.

“If He didn’t make a mistake, then I can’t be a mistake. If He knows what He’s doing and He’s an intentional God, then there’s not something I’m missing. I don’t have to take something away to be what He wants me to be. It’s all inside.”

And once you learn these lessons, Erica declares, your confi dence will begin to soar.

After racking up decades of accolades with her sister, Erica’s confi dence


was tested later when Tina wanted to take a break from Mary Mary, while the two were still at the top of the charts. What would be next for the group? What was next for her?

“ He did it all. I just said yes. I was willing to push beyond my fear.

Erica felt a pull from the Lord to keep going, despite her sister’s desire to pause, and released her fi rst single, “A Little More Jesus.” And although she was nervous, fans responded. Her solo song stayed number one for thirteen weeks.

Although it was an uncomfortable journey for Erica to venture out on her own, she understands the lesson that she passes on to anyone who asks how to persevere during seasons of uncertainty. “God was allowing me to learn how to stand on my own two feet. He did it all. I just said yes. I was willing to push beyond my fear.”

Keep up with Erica’s latest releases wherever you stream or buy music— including the Mary Mary song “Maybe God Is Tryin’ to Tell You Somethin’,” now on the soundtrack for the new movie musical The Color Purple.

Adapted for print from the Jesus Calling Podcast

Scan this code to hear more of Erica’s story!

Erica with her husband Warryn and their three children

A Sanctuary for Community and Connection

Back in 2016, I came to South Tulsa Baptist Church and pretty quickly had my eyes on, Who are the folks in our community that our church could connect with? And it became evident that in our neighborhood we have lots of refugees and folks from all over the world who are in our school district. So we just began asking the Lord to give us some opportunities to meet those neighbors.

That started with one family from Syria, then a couple of families from Myanmar. And then before you knew it, we had a full-fl edged English as a Second Language program at the church and programs in the local school. For several years we’ve also had sewing and tailoring classes for refugee women. That has been a tremendous blessing. So over the last almost seven years,

that prayer has really grown into a tremendous outreach into our international community.

So we’ve seen so many diff erent types of success. Some of the things we try to measure are, Is this family flourishing, and are they continually progressing forward? And not only forward, but more into the center of the community?

You know, it’s one thing to teach English. It’s another thing to start being welcomed into homes and to help folks who come from diff erent religious backgrounds feel like the church is a safe place.

When anyone is looking for a safe place or a refuge, it could be because of physical circumstances, or emotional circumstances, or legitimate issues of safety or spiritual issues. The church can be

that kind of safe harbor, just like a ship, and help them fi nd a safe passage.

I’m thankful just to see how the Lord has brought unity to this effort for our church.

At times when spiritual conversations came up . . . it’s hard to say, but we made some mistakes early on. We unintentionally stepped on toes from a religious or cultural standpoint, and we had to kind of back up the relationship and try to fi nd a healthy starting place. But over time, the church has fully embraced this ministry, and many of our folks are involved in it. We have a lot of representation now in our membership and even in our leadership.

We have the opportunity to help folks, whether folks come to Christ and surrender their lives to Him, or whether they come to us as believers we welcome and we equip. I’m thankful just to see how the Lord has brought unity to this eff ort for our church.

Adapted for print from the Jesus Calling Podcast Scan this code to hear more of Eric’s story!

Pastor Costanzo with Yana Sherdis, EL Instructor


Softball Star Katelyn Pavey Overcomes the Odds Over and Over Again


Katelyn Pavey knew something had gone terribly wrong.

It was the freshman’s final scrimmage before her first softball game at Cincinnati Christian University (CCU). She’d fought hard to get to this place—just like she was fighting for this base hit in practice.

But in that moment, during a last-second lunge to beat the shortstop’s throw, Pavey felt her body continue to sail forward while her foot and leg did not.

This can’t be good, she thought.

And it wasn’t. Pavey had torn her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), a major ligament in the knee. She’d also torn her meniscus and strained the other knee ligaments as well. So, when the doctor told

her she’d have a nine-month recovery, doubt began to set in the athlete’s mind.

“And at that point in my life, softball was so important to me,” says Pavey. “I was lost without it. So that’s when I began to ask God, Why me? Why do bad things happen to good people? Am I ever going to play softball again?”

The answer, eventually, was yes. Pavey would play again because overcoming physical adversity is what she eats for breakfast.

Pavey was born with Phocomelia Syndrome, a rare congenital anomaly where limbs don’t develop properly within the womb. For Pavey, Phocomelia had left her with a small hand with two fingers. For most, any thought of playing a collegiate sport is out of the question—especially a sport that requires as


much two-handed play as softball. Pavey, however, isn’t like most. She doesn’t see herself as any different from her peers. In fact, she started playing softball when she was three, and by ten knew she wanted to be a collegiate athlete.

You’re gonna fail more times than you succeed. You’re gonna have to learn how to overcome and adapt.

For her, life was always throwing curveballs that she was learning to hit.

As Pavey says in an interview with series Behind the Bases, “Softball is a game of failure. You’re gonna fail more times than you succeed. You’re gonna have to learn how to overcome and adapt.”

So, overcome and adapt she did, and during her senior year of high school she got a full-ride softball scholarship to CCU.

Dream accomplished, right? Smooth sailing from here, right?


The knee injury forced Pavey to redshirt, and though she was told her busted knee would take nine months for surgery and rehab, Pavey was back playing in four and a half months.

Then came October 28, 2019, as if Phocomelia and a knee injury weren’t enough to overcome. Pavey— as well as the rest of the student body—received an email announcing that CCU would close by the end of the fall semester. More adversity in following her dream. Another obstacle to overcome.

But of course Pavey is used to adversity. She’s used to finding a way around, under, over, and through to get to where she needs to be.

It wasn’t myself who got me to this point, it was God.

The strength of Pavey’s life is most vivid in her embrace of the word “can’t.” All her life she was told “You can’t do this” and “You can’t do that.” It became so common that the can’ts galvanized Pavey to make meaning of “can’t” as “Continue Adapting, Never Turning Back.” Her dad went so far as to have T-shirts and bracelets made with “I can’t” emblazoned on them.

What that mindset taught her is that obstacles are momentary experiences—delays, perhaps, but not for long. Sports—and life—is about taking what you’ve been given, believing that you’ve been given everything you need to fulfill your purpose, and making it work.

With her persevering spirit, the athlete eventually landed at Kentucky Christian University, where she became an All-American softball player. “I don’t think that I would have done that if I didn’t go through one school closing or I didn’t go through the injury,” she says. “That really opened my eyes to see that it wasn’t myself who got me to this point, it was God. And God had a plan in it. And God gave me the abilities and gave me the platform to use.”

Adapted for print from the Jesus Calling Podcast. Scan this code to hear more of Katelyn’s story!


Making Family Mem ies thr gh MEANINGFUL CONVERSATIONS

Ask a mother what she really wants for Mother’s Day, and she probably won’t say “breakfast in bed” or “a bouquet of flowers.” Those things are lovely, of course. But what many mothers want most of all (besides a break) is to enjoy small moments of connection with their families not just on a beautiful spring day in May, but every single day of the year.

Looking for those moments herself, author Katie Clemons found the best way to create them was through helping her family open up in conversations they could all participate in while sharing stories and interesting perspectives.

“One of the most meaningful gifts we can give someone is the gift of our stories,” says Katie. “But now that I’m a mom of four, I’ve learned that great day-to-day dialogue like I grew up with takes a lot of practice. If I ask, ‘How was your day?’ my kids grunt ‘good’ or shrug and say ‘fine’ as they wander into another room.”

The secret to getting her kids to talk? Using silly or thought-provoking prompts to spark conversations.

Katie’s shared a few of her favorite conversation starters you can use at your family table or while you’re sprawled out on the couch. And remember, she says, “More than anything, each family member needs to be heard. Because listening well is one of the most powerful ways to communicate that you love someone.”


Every sophisticated person knows that the only way to eat macaroni and cheese is:

With a fork OR with a spoon?

Discuss your answer and why you chose it.


is questi is just f kids: What advice do you think adults need to hear these days?


Name the person in your family who is most likely to . . .

•fall asleep in the car

•be the first person awake in the morning

•stay up all night

•misplace something they need every day

•have a book in their hands

•wrap you in a hug

HOT DOG True False?

A hot dog is absolutely a type of sandwich.


Discuss your dream pair of pajamas. Do they have spots? Stripes? Cartoon characters? Long sleeves or short? Matching or mismatched?

Every e try this:

On a shared piece of paper, take turns drawing yourself in your dream pajamas.


Talk about which you would choose to do:

Travel to Mars OR Live on the moon

Have a pocketful of endless snacks OR Blow human-size bubble gum bubbles


What is a song that puts you in a good mood?

Find Katie’s book The Daily Family Conversation Starter at your favorite book retailer today.




That’s how Rae Anne Payleitner describes what it was like growing up in her family’s household, especially as the only girl with four older brothers. But amid that chaos, Rae Anne found that her parents, Jay and Rita, created a soft place to land for her and her brothers, a place where she always felt safe and welcome and connected. That never changed as Rae Anne grew older—and that was by design, Jay admits.

Recently Rae Anne and Jay teamed up to write a book called Girl Dad, so they could share their insight on diff erent ways fathers and daughters can walk through life with loving, supportive relationships, even when that relationship might become rocky at times. The advice remains the same for both harmonious and tough times: stay open. Keep listening. And stay connected.

From her earliest years, Rae Anne remembers she and her dad always had something in common, something just the two of them could share.

“Growing up, it was vital that my dad and I found things that were just ours. We had a TV show we would put on together. We would read books together. He would take time at bedtime for each of us, including me. And I just knew, even if those minutes only added up to a couple of hours in a week, that I was special in his eyes. ”

Jay enjoyed the early years of parenthood, and has some perspective for dads of younger girls.

“Yeah, your little seven-year-old will come sit on your lap. But you need to know that later on, when they’re in high school, you’ll need to make time for them. You’ll want to enter their world when you can, and make sure that they feel comfortable entering your world too.”

Growing up, it was vital that my dad and I found things that were just ours.

Even though it’s natural, this pulling away can be heart-rending for parents. But Jay off ers words of hope. “Expect your daughter to put some distance between the two of you for a season. The distance is good news, because it means she’s fi guring out things for herself.”

Now an adult, Rae Anne believes that embracing rather than rejecting the changes in the relationship will cause it to grow. “Embrace that you are growing as a dad and as a man,” she says, “and that your daughter is growing as a daughter and as a woman.”

“ You’ve got to give her space, and she’ll come back.

Rae Anne further believes one key to evolving together with her father was that he cultivated a skill of listening. When many parents understandably want to take every opportunity to pour in wisdom and advice at every turn, instead Rae Anne off ers, “One of my main pieces of advice to girl dads is to listen. I promise that if you listen long enough, your daughter will ask you what you think. That same advice goes for the whole course of your relationship. Listening is key.”

For both Jay and Rae Anne, they know that the evolving father-daughter relationship is a complicated one, fi lled with twists and turns along the way. “Remember,” says Jay, “you’ve got to give her space, and she’ll come back. Because if you keep loving her in these conversations, if you keep pulling her back toward you, it’ll all come full circle.”

Adapted for print from the Jesus Calling Podcast Scan this code to hear more of Jay and Rae Anne’s story!

Look for Jay and Rae Anne’s book Girl Dad at your favorite book retailer.

Rae Anne with her parents, Jay and Rita

Devotionals to Grow Their Faith

Av ailable wher ever books ar e sold


With more than 50 infographic maps, this illustrated world atlas for kids from bestselling author Louie Giglio will stretch your children’s understanding of the world as they discover more about God, science, and His amazing world!


Planting Our Emotional Lives in Healthy Ground

TRAUMA THERAPIST AND LIFE COACH Dr. Anita Phillips lives at the intersection of faith and mental health, helping her clients embrace their God-given emotions. Anita believes that helpful encouragement can be found somewhere a little unexpected: amid the warm soil and tender green shoots of a garden.

As a student, Anita was astounded by the parallel between plant life and the faith-fi lled life. Noticing that neurons are shaped similarly to seedlings, she began to delight in the connections between botany and her own interior world. “God created gardens to give us an understanding of how He created us,” she says. “Eden wasn’t just about where we lived, it was about how we function. Each element of the garden shows us how our spirit, our heart, our mind, and our bodies and behavior work together.”

She also found that trees tend to be quiet teachers, illustrating the emotional needs of human beings. “So many scriptures point us to trees to understand

ourselves: that we would ‘be like a tree planted by rivers of water,’ that we would be ‘well-watered gardens,’ that He would ‘plant us in good land,’” she says. Anita has also observed that humans are compared to trees quite frequently in Scripture, while images of soil, plant life, and growing things are woven throughout the Bible’s pages.

My emotions matter so much to God. My emotions remind me that I need connection to Him.

One obstacle Anita seeks to help her clients overcome is the idea that emotions are not to be trusted, that they are of lesser importance to God. In her book The Garden Within, Anita rejects the suspicion of emotions and hopes that readers will stop seeing themselves at war within their inner selves. “Your heart is valuable to God,” she declares. “Your emotions are valuable to God. You are not failing for feeling. In fact, your heart is the soil of your life, and God created it that way.”

Just as a plant begins to droop and fade when left without the water it desperately needs, one of the most valuable aspects of our emotions is that they illustrate a need. “Once we know what we need, then we can get our needs met,” says Anita. “But when we refuse to get our needs met, when we refuse to water the soil of our hearts, we undermine our entire life.”

of Jesus. “When we look at Jesus’ life,” she observes, “Jesus was intensely emotional. We see Jesus standing in front of the tomb of Lazarus with tears streaming down His face. He’s crying in public.” Noticing how Jesus was free to express His feelings, even anger and sadness, gave Anita a jumpstart on her personal journey to freedom. “I don’t withhold my emotions from Him, because there is nothing unholy about my emotions, and my emotions matter so much to God. My emotions remind me that I need connection to Him.”

Just as a garden is at its most beautiful when blooming with an array of textures, fragrances, and colors, so it is with the variety of human emotions. Anita believes that we do God’s creation an injustice when feelings are treated as an enemy instead of a key to living a powerful and dynamic life. Alternatively, Anita’s view of embracing emotion is the key to a fl ourishing garden of whole-hearted health—one that is planted well and produces a lifetime of abundant joy and meaningful power.

To the one who feels that their emotional needs are a hindrance, Anita turns to scripture and the life

Adapted for print from the Jesus Calling Podcast. Scan this code to hear more of Dr. Phillips’ story!

You can find Dr. Phillips’ book The Garden Within at your favorite book retailer.

Try Your Hand at Journaling!

Grab a pen and paper, and take a few quiet moments to jot down some answers to the questions below.

1. Are there any emotions you’ve been viewing as a hindrance in your own life? If so, which ones?

2. When Anita noticed that Jesus felt free to express emotion, she found freedom to express hers too. How might this observation change your thinking about your emotional self?

3. As you choose to connect with and embrace your emotions, how do you think you might be



Understanding Differences and Strengths with the Enneagram

FOR THIRTY-SEVEN YEARS , doctors of psychology Bill and Kristi Gaultiere have been guiding people and organizations to relational and emotional health through their organization, Soul Shepherding.

But working together while maintaining a thriving marriage wasn’t always seamless. It took the Gaultieres quite a bit of work to understand each other—and their individual feelings—enough to blend their very diff erent personalities.

Bill and Kristi discovered a tool that helped them understand each other and work together more seamlessly than ever before: the Enneagram assessment. The Enneagram is a personality typing system that identifi es nine diff erent ways people perceive the world, along with the motivations behind why people respond the way they do to certain situations. Unlike other personality typing systems, the Enneagram helps people identify the strengths that drive them, the fears to cause them to react a certain way or hold them back, and even the preferences that guide their choices to respond to diff erent situations.

On paper, the Gaultieres consider themselves to be “exact opposites”: Bill as a thinker and doer, and Kristi as a more gentle feeler. “The Enneagram really helped us blend our personalities,” says Kristi. “And as we’ve come to blend our personalities together, we’ve learned that we’re better together.”

For example: the Enneagram Type 1 is considered to be “The Reformer,” a rational, idealistic type described as “principled, purposeful, self-controlled and perfectionistic.” This tracks with Bill,

who in his words, “enjoys organization, order, and being in control.” Kristi is an Enneagram Type 2, aka The Helper, which is considered to be generous, demonstrative, and peoplepleasing. Kristi agrees with this assessment, as she prefers serving others in the background.

Emotions move us, they motivate us, they enable us to thrive.

By understanding each other’s strengths and diff erences through the Enneagram, Bill learned to pause and rely on Jesus instead of his own control. In the meantime, it was important for Kristi to learn how to avoid allowing the


opinions of others to stop her from stepping into more frontfacing roles and sometimes making waves—which took a lot of courage.

The more the Gaultieres have learned about their relationship and worked with other people and organizations, the more they’ve realized that humans tend to treat emotions as unwanted. We want to be tough, we want to seem perfect, but the truth is that we can’t simply quiet the feelings we have inside. So the key to emotional and relational health isn’t to avoid our feelings—it’s to face them head-on. “Cultivating healthy feelings is such an important key to a healthy faith,” Bill shares. Because when we allow ourselves to acknowledge whatever we might be feeling— angry, sad, hurt—those emotions can motivate us towards more

intimate relationships, whether human or divine.

And one of the ways the couple has experienced an intimate relationship with their Creator is through spending more time with Him. “Jesus Calling is a great tool for connecting us with God on a daily basis,” Kristi says. “I love how these devotionals are short, they're powerful, they help us tune into Jesus’ presence with us.”

Though engaging with our emotions and motivations might be uncomfortable at times, doing so enables us to grow together, support one another, and use the gifts God gave us to change lives. “Emotions move us, they motivate us, they enable us to thrive. And when we grow in our emotional intelligence, we can experience the positive emotions of the gifts He's given us.”

You can find Bill and Kristi’s book, Healthy Feelings, Thriving Faith, at your favorite retailer.

Adapted for print from the Jesus Calling Podcast. Scan this code to hear more of the Gaultieres’ story! Bill and Kristi teaching at a Soul Shepherding Institute retreat



Alice Marie Johnson’s Journey to Freedom

FROM TOP: Alice while in prison, Alice working for criminal justice reform, Alice with Kim Kardashian.

CAN YOU IMAGINE SEEING PRISON BARS close right in front of you and thinking, I can’t believe I’m going to spend the rest of my life here

That is exactly what happened to Alice Marie Johnson, and “life behind bars” was her reality for the next twenty-one years. To cope, Alice frequently turned to prayer, and she would tell you, “God, who has promised to never leave you nor forsake you, the same God who was with me and who is with me now, He is faithful. He is faithful to hear your prayers.”

And many years later, Alice would see her prayers answered in the most unsuspecting of circumstances.

Born in 1955, Alice grew up in Olive Branch, Mississippi, across the border from Memphis, Tennessee, with eight other siblings and parents who were strong Christians. Though she had loved the church most of her life, by her teen years in the late ‘60s, she found herself beginning to question her faith. “I’ll never forget the day it happened. I stood up in church and said, ‘There’s more to God than this,’ because it seemed like everyone was just going through motions. And I walked out of the church.”

job. She couldn’t pay her bills. It was during this season that Alice received an off er to be a telephone mule, passing messages between drug deals and getting paid for her role in the drug trade. “The fi rst time I got $1,000, and it was enough to put food on my table and pay utility bills. And just as I was ready to walk away from this, my youngest son, only twelve years old, was killed on his scooter in our neighborhood.”

My prayer was not, ‘Get me out of jail, Lord.’ It was, ‘I want to know You more.’

Without funds to pay for her son’s funeral, Alice went back to being a telephone mule. But someone in the ring was arrested with drugs, with Alice’s phone number in his pocket. And as she was mourning her son, Alice found herself in handcuff s.

The years melted into decades. Alice grew up and married, had children of her own. After two decades in her turbulent marriage, Alice divorced her husband. She soon developed a gambling addiction that would cause her to spiral out of control. She lost her

It was because of this sense of peace that Alice continued to pray once inside her jail cell. “My prayer was not, ‘Get me out of jail, Lord, and I’ll do these things if You’ll just set me free.’ My prayer was, ‘Lord, give me more understanding. I want to know You more.’”

With no money or knowledge of the legal system, Alice agreed to go to trial with encouragement from her attorney. Although she began her legal journey by turning down a plea deal of three years, Alice received a federal conspiracy charge. It carried a life sentence plus twenty-fi ve years, despite Alice never exchanging any drugs herself.

Alice remembers that moment in 1996: “When the judge said ‘life plus twenty-fi ve years,’ standing there I knew that the Lord was with me, because I had peace.”

In prison, Alice was determined to fi nd a way to live out her next prayer: “Please show me my purpose in this.” She started teaching Bible studies, and others started coming to her to pray with them. As time passed, Alice was selected to speak on a criminal justice and clemency radiothon. She would present at universities and fi lmed a video op-ed that eventually went viral. You never know who will see a viral video. One person who viewed Alice’s story happened to be Kim Kardashian, who became Alice’s legal champion. Kim led the charge, using her connections to get Alice’s sentence commuted by the White House in 2018. Alice was eventually pardoned in 2020. It’s something that still brings Alice a bevy of thanks—and awe.

“There is no way that God could bring the most well-known people in the world together on my behalf, for someone to see me as a human being worth a second chance, worth redemption. I know that it was God.”

To keep up with Alice’s story, follow her on social media.

Adapted for print from the Jesus Calling Podcast. Scan this code to hear more of her incredible story!


WHEN PASTOR AND MOTHER IRENE Rollins fi nally hit rock bottom, it came in the form of an ultimatum.

Her husband of two decades, Jimmy, gave her two choices: she could go to rehab for her alcohol abuse, or he was out. No more marriage or shared ministry. No more “them.”

How did I get here? she wondered.

Shame has an elusive way of slinking into our lives. We don’t often realize we’re responding to the eff ects of shame, hiding secrets and covering up our pain as we paint a smile on our face, willing everything to be fi ne when it’s anything but. We’ll do anything to feel better, even if what we’re doing is harmful to ourselves. Just one more time, we think. But one more time quickly turns into more, and more, and more. Irene had her fi rst drink at the age of ten, picking up a bottle of her father’s dark Guinness

Reframing Shame, Embracing Hope


& Irene Rollins on the Secrets That Rocked Their Marriage—and

Why They’re Stronger Than Ever

stout, enjoying the way the drink made her feel. She enjoyed the feeling so much, she made drinking a frequent activity, her parents unaware of her habit. At boarding school in Switzerland, Irene’s high tolerance won her admiration from her teen peers, though at times she’d drink to simply black out, to not feel anything anymore. It was a welcome respite from remembering the sexual assault that haunted her, along with her biracial heritage that made her feel like she didn’t quite belong anywhere. She continued drinking until age twenty-one, when she stopped cold-turkey after meeting Jimmy and going into ministry. Pastor’s wives don’t drink, she believed. But a decade later, the stresses of ministry began to grate on Irene. The muscle memory of picking up a drink to relax returned quickly. A glass of wine to unwind at night turned into two, three. Then more. By this point, Irene was in her thirties, now a mom of three. She and Jimmy had a thriving ministry career. From the outside it looked like she had it

all. But Irene’s life and marriage were rife with dysfunction. Only she didn’t see it that way at fi rst.

“At the time we had no idea that our dysfunction was dysfunction,” she says. “It was just our normal.”

I began to use alcohol as a coping mechanism.

“And as the pain, as the stress and pressure of ministry began to pile up, I began to use alcohol as a coping mechanism.” The sting of shame followed as she tried—and failed—to hide her habit from her husband.

Jimmy watched as Irene began to lose herself in her addiction, feeling helpless. “At the time I think I was actually driving her further into the addiction with my judgment,” he says, “with my unbridled way of trying to get her to stop drinking, with my own anger issues, my own vices.”

Irene’s experience with shame is not unusual. Everyone faces shame one way or another. But what makes shame so powerful is the way it distorts the way a person looks at themselves. Shame changes our narrative from, I did something bad, to, I am bad

Irene has posted on her website, “Our marriage has become the safest place in the world.”

They have found—truly—that they are better together.

But before shame could swallow their marriage whole, the Rollins recognized they needed help beyond what they could give each other. So they made a plan.

“We got accountability,” Jimmy relates. “That helped us get to the space of needing to get healthy and to get help. And then as we began to get healthy, we stopped doing the dance of shaming one another and judging one another. And we started to embrace the fact that we both needed grace.”

That realization—“we both needed grace”—is what transformed their marriage and allowed them to see that pain was never meant to be carried alone.

“We began to look at addiction not as something that I was doing to Jimmy, but rather something I was doing to really medicate pain,” says Irene. “And as we began to develop new ways of communication, new ways of embracing pain and grief, we began to approach healing. We did it together.”

That process of healing together is what they now both work toward with other couples, and it’s why

Adapted for print from the Jesus Calling Podcast. Scan this code to hear more of the Rollins’ story!

You can find Irene’s book Reframing Shame at your favorite book retailer today.


Aaron Watson Finds Beauty in the Waiting Season

EVER GONE THROUGH a season when you ached for something to change, but the change never came? Have you ever found yourself accidentally discovering some blessings during your waiting season? I know I have. And so has my friend, country music singer/songwriter Aaron Watson.

Aaron is beloved everywhere he goes, but particularly in his native state of Texas, where he’s built a thriving music career.

“I love writing songs,” says Aaron, “but I never wanted to come to Nashville and be some star. I just wanted to have a ranch in West Texas and write songs. And yeah, here I am. It’s been twenty-fi ve years and eighteen albums, and God’s blessed us in so many ways. I feel like I’m just getting started.”

But time’s taken its toll on the Texas troubadour. In early 2022, Aaron started to feel a shooting pain in his ear every time he opened his mouth to sing. And for the fi rst time in his quarter-century career, he had to go on a three-month vocal rest. As he thought about all the people he needed to care for—his family, his band and crew—the singer could feel anxiety shooting up. “I was like, Lord, I don’t know what this is about, but please help me get through it,” he remembers. A strong family man, with an equally strong faith, Aaron relied on family and prayer to get him through months of not singing, not speaking, not lifting up his fans with his music.

But while he was treated at UAB Hospital in Birmingham, Alabama, Aaron experienced a radical change in perspective. As he made his way to the treatment center, the singer had to walk by the cancer ward. Watching these folks battle mortality day after day, while he fought a condition he was expected to make a full recovery from, was sobering. “It was hard to feel sorry for myself,” he says.

After coming home from treatment, Aaron was inspired to use his season of waiting, along with a wealth of free time he didn’t anticipate, to spend time with his family: playing baseball with his sons, building

a rabbit hutch for his daughter— memories he’d never otherwise make.

Thankfully, Aaron’s back to singing these days. But his story reminds me that sometimes you’ve got to put your struggles into a kaleidoscope of sorts. Once you shift the view a little bit, it’s amazing how beautiful everything you’re looking at becomes, just with one small change in perspective.

_ Susie

Scan this code to watch Susie and Aaron share these stories on YouTube!



Anne Wilson Believes There’s Healing in Music

AS A CHILD, Christian singer/songwriter

Anne Wilson was surrounded by music but never envisioned it would hold the keys to her future career. However, it was at her brother’s funeral, while singing publicly for the fi rst time, that she experienced the transformative power of music.

Anne fondly remembers her brother Jacob: his vibrant personality, his unwavering kindness, and above all, his strong faith. When twenty-three-yearold Jacob’s life was taken in a car accident, Anne’s world completely shattered. His loss left a deep void in her life and an indelible mark on her family.

I felt God’s presence guiding me throughout the song.

As she prepared to honor her brother’s memory through song, the singer never could’ve expected what would come next. “Singing at my brother’s funeral was a turning point,” Anne remembers. “I felt God’s presence guiding me throughout the song, and that’s when I realized I could use music to reach out to people in their depths of pain."

Since then, Anne has dedicated herself to creating music that resonates with people navigating life’s various challenges, be it grief, depression, or anxiety. She aspires to write songs that touch upon every

aspect of human life and experience.

A recent performance at the iconic Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tennessee, was a memorable one, where Anne had the opportunity to share her faith and God's love with a diverse audience.“Hearing from people that my songs have made a profound impact on their lives is beyond rewarding. It makes me realize that I am being used by God in ways I never imagined.”

The singer recognizes the strength she draws from having a close personal relationship with God, and cites the importance of talking with Him daily. “The Jesus Calling devotionals were an anchor for me through many hardships. I started reading one right after my brother passed away. It’s been a part of my growing relationship with the Lord and creating that deep foundation within me.”

Holding onto the belief that God is guiding her path, Anne refl ects on how meaningful his life continues to be. “To be able to know and have the truth that Jacob is with Jesus, that’s what got me through. That’s my anchor, especially now knowing that God is using his story for good.”

Listen to Anne’s music wherever you stream or buy music.

Adapted for print from the Jesus Calling Podcast. Scan this code to hear more of Anne’s story!






QVC’s Kim Gravel Helps Others Get to Their Best Lives

WHAT DOES IT TAKE for a woman to take a chance on something? To bet on herself, thinking she has what it takes to chase and achieve her dreams?

If you’re television personality Kim Gravel, you’d say it takes a truckload of confi dence. Though she’d also tell you hers is a special brand of confi dence: the Christ-centered kind that can touch your life in outof-this-world ways.

“We all have these dreams and hopes of our lives,” she says, “because I think we’re born innately into this world with a calling on our life. And so I believe that everything we’ve gone through—good or bad and ugly—is pointing us towards that calling.”

And we all go through the bad and ugly. Even former pageant queens.

One of Kim’s earliest formative experiences was entering the Miss Georgia pageant at nineteen years old. “I didn’t know nothing, y’all. I was a wide-eyed, naive girl who had a big dream to sing and perform and earn scholarship money. I was nineteen years old, and I was competing with twenty-seven-year-old women who had pediatrician practices. But it was such a growing and learning ground for me. It’s those times of growth that God puts us in so that we go to new levels.”

Even with her inexperience, Kim ended up winning the crown and becoming one of the pageant’s youngest winners ever. And everything was happily ever after for the queen.

Well . . . not quite.

Soon after winning the crown, Kim married her sweetheart. But just a few years later, at age twentythree, she would fi nd herself divorced. “I don’t even blame him today,” she admits. “I knew who he was going in, but he did not know who I was going in. I was the one who was faking who I was, and what I stood for, and what I was going to tolerate in a marriage.”


Sitting in a lonely apartment in Atlanta, during the 1996 Summer Olympics, Kim was close enough to hear the music and excitement droning in the background, but she couldn’t pay attention to anything but the question on loop in her mind: I’m the first person to ever divorce in my family. Now what am I going to do with the rest of my life?

I know whose I am and why I’m here.

“I was sitting on my dingy white sofa, and I just remember feeling so alone. But He took my mess and worked it all together for His good. I think that was the starting point for me, when I just let go and let God guide me. This is the funniest thing—isn’t this how God works?”

Today she’s a wife and mother of two, a certifi ed life coach who has a passion to help others rise. And with a string of losses and lessons under her belt, she’s earned a confi dence that gives her life the clarity that so many spend their lives searching for.

“I know whose I am and why I’m here. And I think those are the two big questions we all have. And when you can stand in that confi dence, your life really shifts and changes. You become the person you were created and meant to be.

And He guided her two streets away, to a local television station, where Kim landed a job as the host of a local talk show. From there, she landed her own show on Lifetime, Kim of Queens, and eventually became a successful QVC host, where she also launched her own apparel and cosmetic lines.

Kim’s life has taken quite a few turns from where she thought her life would go when she walked off the Miss Georgia stage. But to her, it was all worth it.

Adapted for print from the Jesus Calling Podcast. Scan this code to hear more of Kim’s story!

Check out Kim’s book Collecting Confi dence at your favorite book retailer.



Singer Matthew West Finds Hope Inside Our Messy Stories

God shows up in the most unexpected ways. That’s what singer/songwriter Matthew West has discovered in his own life. Matthew sat down with the Jesus Calling Magazine to talk about the transformative power of understanding God’s place in our narrative, and how He can redeem even the most broken story.

Q: You say that your ministry, through your songs and books, is “steeped in the power of story.” Tell us more.

A: I interact with so many people who have been made to feel like their story doesn’t matter. They’ve got too many broken, messy chapters. How could God possibly still have a plan for my story? they think. And so my work has been about encouraging people to believe their best chapters have yet to be written, and that only happens when we place our broken chapters in the hands of a healing God.

Q: You’ve talked about something you call your “blue couch moment.” Would you share more about that?

A: That was the moment where my faith became real. One day when I was a kid, I came home from school and turned on the television. I was changing the channels and found a Billy Graham crusade. My mom saw me watching and prayed with me, and right then I asked Jesus into my heart. I asked Him to be the Lord of my life and the author of my story. But having this discovery of God didn’t stay on that blue couch. He walks with me every step of my life.

Q: What a sweet way to start your spiritual journey. Since that day, what’s changed, and what’s stayed the same?

A: If I'm being honest, there’s a lot of times when I feel like I'm a million miles away from that kid on the blue couch. Sometimes I get so busy, I rarely stop to notice the direction my life is going.

But even still, ever since I gave my life to Christ, I feel like there have been moments big and small that have reminded me God is real and that He’s

everywhere. When I look back, I can see with a greater perspective, and I can get a glimpse that God really is orchestrating my life.

Even in the moments where I feel like my faith is weak, I understand that faith is a choice, and it has to be rooted in something deeper than just surface feelings. I know that God is real. I know that He is the One who gives purpose to my life. And when I feel weak in my faith, I can look over my shoulder and see He’s been faithful all along the way.

Q: Sometimes it feels like we’ve reached the end of our story, or that our story is too shattered for God to do anything with it. What would you say to someone who believes this?

A: A big part of my own story has been learning not to draw fi rm lines around how I think God should use me, but rather to be prepared for Him to just keep pushing those boundaries. It blows my mind that He wants to use me in so many diff erent ways. The same is true for you. God knows every single part of your life, and He still loves you. He still wants to be in a relationship with you. He promises that He will answer when you call Him.

Jesus is calling. The question is, are we listening? And what will our answer be? That’s where you can have your own blue couch moment.

Adapted for print from Matthew’s Peace for Every Day interview. Scan this QR code to watch his story!

Matthew’s latest book, My Story, Your Glory, is available at your favorite retailer.


Spring Word Scramble

Can you decipher these words? For an extra challenge, don’t peek at the “Words to Find” list!











WORDS TO FIND bloom chick flowers hatch rainbow raincoat seeds showers spring umbrella

Lazy Lady Bug Maze

Help the ladybug find her way to her strawberry snack!

There’s one flower with five petals. Find this flower!
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