Joyce’s Thoughts on Team Freedom Weekend


Becca, Kathy, Joyce

Meet Team Freedom member, Joyce Kelly! Joyce was deeply affected by this year’s Team Freedom event. She helped us re-decorate our friend, Kathy’s room (she’s a fabulous painter!), and she helped push Kathy during the run. Joyce has a heart for vulnerable women, and I’m so grateful that she’s a repeat member of Team Freedom.  If you’ve ever been on the fence about joining Team Freedom, read Joyce’s thoughts below:

My life was forever changed on Saturday, February 21, 2015. I am part of Team Freedom and we are a group of 200 plus women and men who have decided to get up out of the church pew and put our faith in action. As a team we have united our passion for the fight against human trafficking.

over 27 million in slavery….some say as high as 29 million, but really wouldn’t one be too many?
over 32 billion dollar industry…..this is what drives this, money valued above humanity!

With those numbers you could get overwhelmed, you could wonder what difference could I make? Team freedom has decided to run, bring awareness, and raise money to fight this horrific tragedy. I recently read about a missionary to India that is doing her part in the fight against human trafficking. She said, “Jesus transformed God’s message into action, and it should be our mission to devote our lives to similar action.”

MY AWAKENING-My heart was first awakened to human trafficking over 8 years ago. I was sitting in my nice warm bed, in my comfortable home and quite frankly my comfortable life. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t and isn’t a perfect life, and its not a life without trials but God was about to open my eyes to an issue that was breaking His heart and invite me to join him. I sat in disbelief as I watched a Christian TV show that was bringing the reality of human trafficking and bursting through my comfortable bubble. It was in India and there were little girls as young as age 9 being put into cages during the day and were pulled out at night to service men more times than I could believe. My first reaction was this can’t be true, this can’t be happening…it was true. Not only was in happening in India but here in my own city. I would later learn that God was awaking Natalie Grant’s heart about the same time to this tragedy, as well as Carmen Brown’s heart and He would connect us through Team Freedom. I believe God is doing that kind of thing all the time, we just need to pay attention.

God placed a burden and a call on my life to do something. It was unlike anything I had ever experienced and it was not going away. As I prayed and searched God’s heart for my part He lead me to an unlikely place. Strip Clubs….As I walked into my first club and saw what was behind the darkness my heart broke again. I asked God what does this have to do with human trafficking? He spoke its all connected.

Human trafficking, sex industry, pornography…….

CALLED TO THE DARKNESS-I am calling you to go to the clubs and bring my love and hope. So, almost 4 years ago I said Yes to God and to His GO! About that same time, team freedom was formed and we ran. Its been quite a journey and one that I never imagined would be part of my story. God showed me that there are women in my city waiting for the hope and freedom that I have found in Christ, so I could no longer live in the comfort zone! Fast forward to last Saturday. Not only did Team Freedom run but we had the privilege of running with a survivor of human trafficking. Her name is Kathy and if you don’t know her story you can find it on She was abused at age 5 by her father, addicted to drugs and alcohol at a very young age, gave birth at age 13 and her child was fathered by her own father. Just typing these words breaks my heart. As you could only imagine Kathy, spiraled out of control and ran away and was quickly swept up by a trafficker. There were years of abuse, trauma, and now sever health issues. How does one person endure such trauma? Kathy did, because she was and is a warrior, a princess warrior. Kathy finally meet the man who would forever change her life.

Kathy meet Jesus…

Joyce & Kathy

Joyce & Kathy

She is a new creation…

You can see it in her face, you can hear it in her words. Now don’t get me wrong its hasn’t been easy for Kathy and she has had set backs. But Jesus is her all and all.

Lavish Love-A few weeks before the race I had the privilege of joining THE JOY FM and doing a room makeover for Kathy. She had never had her own room and certainly nothing beautiful. As we painted and redesigned her room. I was overwhelmed at God’s pursuit of His daughters and how He desires to lavish us with His blessings. I thought of the countless girls that I meet month after month who aren’t free…yet. Kathy was a tangible person who had been rescued and redeem. As I painted her walls, I was kinda quite, just taking all of what God was allowing me to do in. God was allowing me to see redemption face to face. You see, being called to the darkness you can become weary. I was weary, I was desperate for Jesus to do something in the lives of the women we have met. Every month that I walk into the clubs and talk, pray, and cry with the girls it sometimes can just be overwhelming.

I cry out to Jesus…

I know you are enough…

Please deliver them, set them free from this hopelessness that they feel. I often feel so inadequate in the clubs, my heart breaks for those who so want to get out! I am going to be very honest here, sometimes is just plain hard walking right into Satan’s territory and bringing a message of hope. When I look right into the eyes of a women who is so desperate to be free, when she has so many obstacles to over come, addictions, lack of education, resources, etc. Its just plain hard at times to walk this out. My hearts cry is God I know you can, but how God? Can we make a difference in the lives of these women and quite frankly the men, the bouncers, and managers that we meet?
I’m often asked, What is your success rate? To be totally honest that question makes me mad! I’m usually not an angry person, but this question makes my blood boil. I think what people are asking is, are you really making a difference? Are “those” people really worth it? I say to that, you were worth it! Jesus went to the cross for you and he went for “those” people. All because of His extravagant love and we are called to the same life.

My response now to that questions is we have a 100% success rate.

I can say that because every time the “church ladies” decide to get out of the pew and walk into the darkness for the soul purpose of bringing Christ”s unconditional love to women who so often feel judge by the church=SUCCESS.

Every time the “church ladies” pray for a girl who is in tears, needing hope, needing to know she is valuable, and that God loves her right where she is=SUCCESS.

Every time the “church ladies” meet practical needs of the women we meet=SUCCESS.
Every time the “church ladies” walk into darkness the atmosphere changes, not because of who we are but who is inside of us Jesus walks into the darkest places in our city to reach out and tell people that He sees them and He loves them!=SUCCESS.

So as I ran beside Redemption I was overwhelmed at times. I found myself wanting to be close and I often just glanced down at Kathy. Kathy was living, breathing hope that we can overcome the most incredible obstacles and find true freedom!

God whispered, I am able Joyce!
I am the God of the impossible and there is living proof right in front of you.
Keep doing what I’ve called you to do.
I can take what is broken, what the world says is no longer valuable and transform, rescue, and redeem a life.

FreedomGirls Praying for those not free…yet! As we ran, and I looked at Kathy, hope running and God pouring out His abundant blessings on a life that so many would have thought would never amount to much. I felt the need to ask the team to agree with me in prayer for the girls that I knew who needed what Kathy had found, FREEDOM! Girls that God has allowed us to do life with through bible study, meeting for coffee, and learning their stories. God is no respecter of persons. What He will do for one, He will do for another. So, we prayed, we ran, Kathy prayed. and it was a beautiful, and incredible time. I began to sob as I prayed and ran which by the way is difficult at mile 7! Team Freedom declared freedom and called the girls by name. We as a community, the body of Christ, in unity brought those not free…yet before the Lord! Priceless!


Jesus has allowed me to see face to face what He can do for a life who cries out to Him. He was also building my faith, my hope by meeting Kathy. It renewed my strength and my resolve to keep fighting! To keep walking into darkness and bringing His tangible love to girls who need it. Girls, in my city, in my back yard. To not give up hope and to keep believing that God will do a work in my city. To keep planting seeds, and to know that He will make them grow, and to be OK with the fact that on this side of heaven we may never see all the results. I’m ok with that. But I also believe that we serve a God who does above and beyond anything that we could ever hope or imagine. It is with that faith and I choose to continue to STAND! and do my part.

What is your part? What is God calling you to do and will you choose to GO!
Joyce Kelly
Founder of IAMFreedomGirl Ministries

Children Of The Day


My bible study just started back, and we’re doing Children Of The Day by Beth Moore. It focuses on 1 & 2 Thessalonians. 


Because I believe so strongly in this study, here’s what I want to do. I want to give away a Children Of The Day DVD kit. It comes with a full set of DVD’s, a leader guide, and a workbook. My hope is the person who registers to win this, would gather at least 5 or 6 women (they’ll need to get their member book; $16 at Lifeway) and do this study along side us!  Would you be willing to do that?

Register your name and email address in the comments section of my blog, and we’ll randomly draw 2 winners (one for Florida and one for Georgia) by the end of the show today! Please indicate if you’re in Florida or Georgia. 

And one last note…whoever wins, I definitely wanna hear back from after you’ve completed the study!

Haley. Whole30.

Haley finished her Whole 30 yesterday! Below, she shares her experience.


Haley's a Whole 30 Alum

Haley’s a Whole 30 Alum

My Whole30

As some of you may have seen on my Facebook the last few weeks, I’ve been doing the Whole30 program for the month of January. Last summer, my mom gave me the book, It Starts With Food. As with most of my health related books, I laid it on my nightstand and told myself that I’d get to it eventually. Fast forward to December, I was browsing some health related Instagram pages when I came across something about Whole30. I vaguely remembered my mom mentioning it to me when talking about another way to lose weight. I went to the Whole30 website and started reading. Quickly I discovered that It Starts With Food was the book about the Whole30 program. I hadn’t put two and two together until then. The more I read, the most interested I became in the program. I contemplated doing this plan for a couple weeks, quietly weighing the decision of whether I could do it and if I was willing to see it through. In complete honestly, I was scared of starting something that I wouldn’t finish. I was scared to tell anyone because I didn’t want to be held accountable in case I failed. During the week between Christmas and New Year, I hung out with a friend and told her about Whole30. It may not seem like a huge deal but it was the first time I told someone that I was thinking about it and just hearing her excitement and support was enough to make me commit. A few days later, after little more research and a lot more prayer, I decided to start on New Year’s Day. I wasn’t eating very well (It was the holidays!) and generally just feeling pretty bad internally. I was lethargic, irritable, not sleeping well, and feeling physically bloated and uncomfortable most of the time. So I started.

I was nervous. The creators of Whole30, Dallas and Melissa Hartwig practice tough love… in a good way. These two quotes had a profound impact on how I viewed my Whole30.

“It is not hard. Don’t you dare tell us this is hard. Beating cancer is hard. Birthing a baby is hard. Losing a parent is hard. Drinking your coffee black. Is. Not Hard. You have done harder things than this and you have no excuse not to complete the program as written.”

“Don’t even consider the possibility of a “slip.” Unless you physically tripped and your face landed in a box of doughnuts, there is no “slip.” You make a choice to eat something unhealthy. It’s always a choice, so do not phrase it as if you had an accident.”

The first few days were hard. I wont sugar coat it. After the initial first day excitement, the detox began. I suffered major carb flu on day 2. I worked half a day then went home and climbed into bed. I slept on and off all afternoon and into the next morning. The next few days were spent going through the common symptoms on the Whole30 timeline (although I skipped over “Kill all the things”). The first week is the worst, but it does get easier.

As much as I tried to prepare, I still felt like I had no idea what I was doing. We think we know how many products have added sugar but until you actually start looking at labels, you have no idea. There was a bit of a learning curve, but I found some recipes and started meal prepping. It takes a week or so but you will find your groove. I know I did. It took a couple trips to Publix and googling everything in each isle but soon it was second nature to know what was compliant and what was not.

My first real accomplishment came on Day 10. If you have read the timeline, you know that Days 10-11 are the days when most people who quit the program, quit. I was determined not to be one of them. I have been training for Team Freedom since last fall. I was behind in my training going into January and knew I had to pick it up. Day 10 was a Saturday for me and I was planning to do a training run after work. I got to Flatwoods and planned to run 6 miles. I ended up running 8. And it wasn’t hard. Of course I got fatigued but for the first time in my life, running wasn’t hard. I actually understood why people love running.

Fast forward a week and I was in Atlanta for the 2015 Passion Conference. I went into my Whole30 knowing this was going to be right in the middle of program. I told myself, I would just do the best I could for the weekend and not worry. As I continued to immerse myself into Whole30, I decided to not go off plan AT ALL during my trip. Let me tell you how hard it is to be out of town, out of your element and in the birthplace of Chick-fil-a and not go off plan. But I didn’t. And I’m still shocked at (and proud of) myself for that.

And now I’m done. Just like that. January 2015 is over and I still can’t believe that I completed it. I was skeptical about it and doubted that I would experience the “magic” that Whole30’ers claimed to feel. I was wrong, so so wrong. Being on the other side, I can 100% attest that Whole30 works and I feel the tiger blood. Whole30 resets our bodies to function at its optimal level and heals them of all the damage we do by eating unhealthy food. The program is not easy. It takes commitment and preparation but it is so worth it.

For me, some of the benefits that Whole30 has brought:
• clear skin
• restful and sound sleep
• ease of waking up
• mental alertness and clarity
• no mid-afternoon slumps
• continuous and boundless energy
• healthy digestion and no gastrointestinal bloating
• a general feeling of wellness internally
• 13 pounds of weight loss

I firmly believe that anyone and everyone can do a Whole30. If you are considering it, these are my tips. I’m by no means an expert but this is what worked for me.

1. Tell someone you are doing this. Try to recruit someone if you can. If you don’t have community, it will be much harder, but not impossible. I did my first 3 weeks by myself. However, you are more likely to quit because you’ll tell yourself that no one will know you quit. If you are seeking a community, join “TMCcarmenWhole30” on Facebook. We have a community right there to provide encouragement, support and recipes!

2. Read the book. Read the website. Print out the printables. Educate yourself.

3. Sign up for the Whole30 Daily. They are emails that will give you even more knowledge as well as prepare you for what is to come that day. It’s a $15 one time fee. Save the emails to a folder and pull them out for each subsequent Whole30 you do.

4. Find recipes. They don’t have to be complicated. I did the first 3 weeks on hard boiled eggs, grilled chicken, salads and sweet potatoes. I’m being a little dramatic but I didn’t cook as much as I could have. Whole30 doesn’t have to be boring. Use your resources and experiment!

5. Read the timeline. Don’t be a slave to it because you might not experience everything on it, but know that what you are feeling is normal. Trust the process. Whole30 is not all about weight loss but I promise you will lose weight. You can’t not.

6. Use Google!! I can’t preach this enough. Every time you are unsure about something, google “whole30 ____” and you will find your answer. The forum pages on have thousands of posts and there are countless blogs about Whole30 compliant food. I can guarantee that someone has asked your question already. But when in doubt and you can’t find an answer, just pass. Whatever it is, it’ll still be there in 30 days.

7. Pray. Use this time to change your mind and your heart as well. As much as Whole30 is about physical health, it’s also about changing yourself psychologically and the way you interact with food. Let God change and grow you. Allow Him to share this journey with you. Often people who battle with their weight, do so because of reasons that have nothing to do with eating too much and not exercising enough. Use this time to make healthy physical changes and even healthier spiritual changes. Celebrate the wins with Jesus and lean into Him on your hard days. He wants to do this with you.

“…for God gave us not a spirit of fear, but of power and love and self-control” -2 Timothy 1:7

God specializes in messes.


Yesterday morning on my way in, I {randomly} listened to this message by Judah Smith. I had no idea what this talk was about, and Judah gave it almost a year ago at his home church in Seattle. It’s about a woman at a well, and how she most likely represented the most relationally broken person in the New Testament.

Carol from Zoe's Journey giving flowers to K.

Carol from Zoe’s Journey giving flowers to K.

Last night, I emceed the annual banquet for Zoe’s Journey. Because of my morning show hours and schedule, I don’t emcee often, but I believe so much in what Carol is doing for some of God’s most vulnerable women, it was my honor and privilege to be there! Last night, we met a woman, K, who took her first drink when she was 5 years old. She took her first drug when she was 7. At that same age, her mom ran off with another man, and K was left home alone to take care of her younger siblings. It was at 7 – YES, 7! that her father began sexually abusing her. At 13, she gave birth to her first son. They both called the same man dad. The boy was immediately taken away, and to this day, she’s never seen her son. She left home at that time, and that’s when she says her “nightmare really began.” K went on to tell us about that nightmare. I will confess that through most of it, I sat with physical pain in my stomach, holding my mouth, and almost involuntarily shaking my head. These sorts of things should never, ever happen to any human being. It is nothing short of pure evil. It took so much courage for K to stand and share her messy, unpleasant, and true story with us.  It was hard for her. Mid-way through, Carol walked up on stage, put her arm around her and gave her the emotional (and physical) support to finish her story. Through trembling knees, and a shaky voice, K said: “But this is how my story ends: Because of Jesus Christ, I stand before you tonight as a Child of the Most High King! A child of the One True God. Pure, Holy, and made brand new!” At which point, all 400 of us jumped to our feet and gave her (and Jesus!) a standing ovation! She couldn’t see us at first because of the bright spot lights, but she put her hand up to her eyes, and caught a glimpse of her brothers and sisters cheering for her like she’d just finished the Boston Marathon!

Haley and I talked about K all the way home. We cried all over again. We talked about Judah’s talk (she had watched it earlier this year). I’m thinking about it all again this morning. Here’s where it leaves me this morning….Do you think your story is too messy? Do you think you have just gone too far? Do you think you’re too out of reach? Do you think Jesus doesn’t care? Do you think He doesn’t see you? Do you think you the gospel is for everyone but you? If you believe any of this, you’re believing a lie that is straight from the pit of hell. Sorry to put it in those terms, but it’s true.  God specializes in messes! I’m living proof, too!! Today, you have choices. You can choose things that “life” you. Or things that “death” you. Choose LIFE!

Do something for yourself today. Log off Facebook. Instagram, Twitter, and email. Brew a cup of coffee. Take 40 minutes (uninterrupted), and watch THIS:

gobez. gobez.

Hey Sweet Friends, I wanted to post some pics I’m getting back from the team! I also wanna post a couple of thoughts I got earlier this week from my girl!

From Haley:

Gobez! Gobez!

We are here!! We are officially one full day into our Ethiopian adventure and it has been amazing. The flights were long and travel was exhausting but we’ve managed to get some good rest. I’m so thankful we made it here safely, though without our bags. More on that later.

Today we went to our first school in Addis Ababa. It is a Buckner school and one of the first in Ethiopia to have kindergarten. We walked through the fence into the school yard and about 200 kids were all lined up and waiting for us. We barely reached the back of the school house when they kids rushed us all wanting to give handshakes, hugs and kisses. In a moment of pure and beautiful chaos, we all mingled with the kids and tried to hug as many as we could fit in our arms. After our extended greetings we sang with the kids and headed inside to start VBS. I was in the group with the youngest kids, all about 4-6 years old. We gave them coloring sheets and crayons and let them color their little hearts out. After about a minute of coloring, each kid would hold up their drawing and yell “Miss! Miss!”until you acknowledged them. When one kid did, the next immediately followed. They would yell to get our attention until we specifically addressed how amazing each painting was. Our translator taught us to say “Gobez!”which means “good job”and “looks great”. After another minute of coloring, the cycle would start again. Each one just wanted to be reminded over and over that they were doing it right and that we loved their masterpieces.

We broke for lunch and came back to our same groups to pass out shoes. I will never be able to describe the moment of cleaning a child’s feet and putting on a new pair of socks and shoes. It is so tender and beautiful, and heart wrenching all at the same time. The school collected the shoes sizes ahead of time so all we had to do was pick a pair and match them to a child. As we began and they started to see what we were doing, the shouting of “Miss! Miss!”started again. As we moved from child to child, I could see the panic in some of their eyes that their turn never would come. The joy that the last few children expressed as they received their new shoes was an amount of joy that I’m not sure I’ve ever felt before. They realized they were not forgotten about and they they too would receive a new pair of shoes.

After we passed out shoes, we got to take the kids outside for recreation time. We brought soccer balls, beach balls, jump ropes, balloons and bubbles for the kids to play with. One of the other volunteers, Allison, and I gave ourselves bubble duty. We started blowing them everywhere and instantly had a pack of kids jumping and trying to pop them. The laughter they had over soapy bubbles was contagious. I started giving them a chance to blow their own bubbles while I held the wand in front of their mouths. My hands were quickly covered in soap and spit and all the while we just laughed and laughed. I don’t know that I’ve ever met a group of people as joyful as Ethiopians. Every person I’ve interacted with has only been even kinder than the one before.

Towards the end of the day, one kid reached up and knocked my hand that was holding the container of soap that I would dip the wand into. The soap spilled all over me and I’m embarrassed to admit my first emotion was frustration. As I said earlier, we got to Ethiopia safely but our bags did not for three of us. I was one of the three. All I had was the outfit I wore on the plane, one extra shirt and one extra pair of underwear in my carryon. So to spill something on one of my two shirts was not what I was hoping would happen at the school. After a nano second of annoyance, I just started to laugh. The thought that popped into my mind was, “Of all the things that could have spilled on me today, it was soap. Not paint, marker, mud or dirt. SOAP. The very thing I could wash out and actually make my 1 of 2 shirts both cleaner and better smelling.God has the best sense of humor. As do Ethiopian children!

At the end of the day, the only way I can describe how I’m feeling is joyful. My heart is absolutely overflowing with joy and love to the point where I feel it could burst. I have fallen hard for these Ethiopian children and I cannot wait to spend this week hugging as many as I can.

I love all these pics!!

photo photo photo photo 20140909_102721-1 10557415_810526818978701_1502248019733673384_n 20140910_114823 10665844_810526368978746_5631353885367554999_n 10671242_810526515645398_7916734802016241850_n 10616654_10203978120707439_6812374971301816367_n 10408594_10203978293431757_916628002264896718_n 10599453_10203978305872068_6818172786779078149_n 10649980_10203978306792091_8260885802807871015_n 10253772_10203978119947420_572758497403511489_n 10696218_10152684841059844_2791277667420716738_n photo

Please continue to pray for the team. They fly home tomorrow. They actually fly out late on September 11th. I know God has had them, has them, and will have them. He’s been in every crazy detail of the trip. I can say confidently someone didn’t want this trip to happen! But guess what? He did not win! And that just makes me smile! Of course that’s not to say that bad things don’t still happen; we all know they do. But I believe with my whole heart God had an intentional purpose for this trip. Did the enemy get a few shots across the bow? yeah, he did. Fear crippled some. Not all of the shoes showed up in time (they’re coming tho! And the kids will get them!!), and I could name a few others. But here’s the verse I’ve been meditating on all week. It’s from Isaiah 55:11 …  “It is the same with my word. I send it out, and it always produces fruit. It will accomplish all I want it to, and it will prosper everywhere I send it.” God sent his Word the past 10 days with our JOY family. What He ultimately intended, happened. Children were loved, the gospel was shared, and Jesus was lifted up! Even on the eve of the terrible tragedy that happened 13 years ago, we all know how the story ends….WE win in the END!

I’m praying this Psalm for the next 48 hours until they’re safely back on home soil. Thanks for praying with me!

Psalm 91

1 Those who live in the shelter of the Most High
will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.

2 This I declare about the Lord:
He alone is my refuge, my place of safety;
he is my God, and I trust him.

3 For he will rescue you from every trap
and protect you from deadly disease.

4 He will cover you with his feathers.
He will shelter you with his wings.
His faithful promises are your armor and protection.

5 Do not be afraid of the terrors of the night,
nor the arrow that flies in the day.

6 Do not dread the disease that stalks in darkness,
nor the disaster that strikes at midday.

7 Though a thousand fall at your side,
though ten thousand are dying around you,
these evils will not touch you.

8 Just open your eyes,
and see how the wicked are punished.

9 If you make the Lord your refuge,
if you make the Most High your shelter,

10 no evil will conquer you;
no plague will come near your home.

11 For he will order his angels
to protect you wherever you go.

12 They will hold you up with their hands
so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone.

13 You will trample upon lions and cobras;
you will crush fierce lions and serpents under your feet!

14 The Lord says, “I will rescue those who love me.
I will protect those who trust in my name.

15 When they call on me, I will answer;
I will be with them in trouble.
I will rescue and honor them.

16 I will reward them with a long life
and give them my salvation.”

….and they’re off!


Hey JOY fam!

I wanted to post a pic of the team that is headed to Africa RIGHT NOW! They’re going to deliver the shoes YOU gave to hundreds of children in Ethiopia. It felt so weird waving good-bye at the airport; this is definitely a new thing for me. It was only 6 short years ago that I was trembling in my boots boarding a plane to a foreign world. Now, it’s so foreign being the one waving good-bye. Needless to say, I’ve argued with God quite a bit about this trip. I’ve pouted, stomped my feet, gotten mad, cried and every other emotion in between. But, for this trip, I am the sender. And encourager. And pray-er!  Would you join me in praying for them?

2014 Ethiopia Team!

2014 Ethiopia Team!

I’m so proud of each of these team members! Their stories in and of themselves are a testimony to God’s faithfulness.

A few of them: One team member’s (unbelieving) boss said she couldn’t have the time off to go on this trip. She paid her deposit anyway. Much to the surprise of her co-workers, afore mentioned boss came back a time later and said, “I’ve changed my mind. You can go.” Another is the mom of two little ones, and her husband is taking the week off so she can go and serve. She said that while her primary job is wife and mom, she wants her children to see her serving Jesus in other ways too. A couple of the team members are flying for the FIRST TIME EVER! Can you imagine? You’ve never flown before in your life, and your first flight is to Africa? I love you crazy people!! Two others are getting married in November. They’re choosing to spend this time as an engaged couple to go and let kids know they are the bridegroom of Christ, before they become a bride and groom themselves. Another team member was a late addition to the trip, after someone else had to cancel. She raised her funds in record time. There are more stories, but these are a few. Of course, I have to mention two more…because they are very close to me. One is Mary Mary! Mary is our Promotions Director at The JOY FM. She’s the one that makes all of my hair brain ideas logistically happen. She’s my sister and my friend. I love her so much! (btw, she’s got a bum knee right now, so pray specifically for that!) And lastly, my oldest daughter, Haley is on this trip! I can’t even type this sentence without tears welling up in my eyes. Didn’t I just have her yesterday? How can she be getting on a plane and flying (literally) half way around the world? As parents, the only thing we really want is for our children to run after Jesus. And then when they grow up and really do…well, I guess we have to let them run, huh? Jesus, I am handing her over to you. I trust you with her life. Of course, YOU are the one that truly gave (and gives) her life.  Thank you for letting me be her momma!

One last note….because I can’t leave elephants in a room, I’ll address what everyone is thinking right now. Yes, we have watched the news. And yes, we know the world isn’t safe. And yes, we know there are US airstrikes in Somalia. And yes, we know there is a virus called Ebola. And yes, we know there is a terrorist group called Isis. We know, we know, we know. But yet…we choose to believe. We believe that God has called us for such a time as this, and we believe He has gone before us, with us, and behind us. We are certainly not throwing caution to the wind; we understand the calculated risk. And yes, I will have scabs on my knees because this is where I will live for the next week and a half! I would love for you to join me there!  The world isn’t getting any safer. We’ve enjoyed comfort and security for a long time. But perhaps when we pray, “Lord, keep us safe!” we also add, “Lord, we’re afraid. But give us the courage to do it afraid!”

“This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”  -Joshua 1:9

Please check back here in the next few days! My daughter, Haley, will be blogging for me! Thanks for praying, and believing with me. I know He who calls us is faithful. (1 Thessalonians 5:24).

And one more last, last note! I cannot recommend the following series enough! I think every believer should watch this, especially in the world of which we now live. Haley and I have SOAKED THIS up! It’s Louie Giglio’s Goliath Must Fall series. It’s 6 weeks long. We’ve watched Goliath Must Fall. Fear Must Fall, and (because of this trip) we jumped ahead to Comfort Must Fall. If you wanna know why we’re half-way crazy, welp, this will help explain it a little bit!



Hey Y’all!

I’m sitting at my desk working on logistical details and plans for our upcoming Shoe Drive & trip to Ethiopia. I’ve been thinking about the kids we’ve yet to meet, and knowing that the nameless and faceless won’t be nameless and faceless much longer. I wonder which one will steal my heart first. Cause you know it’s gonna happen! It’s funny how you willingly walk down a path that you know will be hard. But at the same time, “in the hard” is the place where I feel Jesus the most. When you don’t have anything, God really does become your everything.

I re-watched this video a few minutes ago. Which is why I’m writing this post right now. I forget how wonderful it is!! And of course, I’m crying all over again. One of my YoungLife kids, Alex (he’s an adult now, and he’s probably tired of me introducing him that way! But once a YL leader, always a YL leader) owns a cinematography business, Voila Cinematic. He sent Alex (Voltz) with me to Honduras last year and Alex (Voltz) shot all of this footage. He did a spectacular job!! Alex (Karas) edited, and knocked it outta the park!!  This video is so so special to me. I love our shoe trips and I’m so grateful Alex squared (ha!) captured this for us all to see and experience.

We’ll be collecting shoes again soon. Watch for details. In the meantime, will you watch again with me?!



Haley. update #2


Hey Friends!

It’s been a while… I can’t believe we’re already into May of this year! Didn’t we all just take down our Christmas trees?! Life, please slow down!!

Last year, my daughter, Haley blogged about her struggles with weight. She was very honest (and courageous!) to open up about this lifelong battle. If you missed that post, you can read it here. It was August of last year when she wrote her original post, and she blogged 3 or 4 times between August and October, I believe. A few weeks ago, I asked her to blog again because she is DOING AMAZING!!! It’s not been an easy or short road, actually quite the contrary. But I’m seeing a renewal in her of mind, heart, steadfastness, and dedication right before my very eyes! There’s something about her commitment to health that is different this time, and I wanted her to share with us. I know many of us fight this battle, so it’s nice to know we’re not on the journey alone.

From Haley:


Hi everyone!!

I love you Haleybug!

I love you Haleybug!

My mom asked me to give you an update on what’s been going on with me. If this is the first blog post you’ve read by me, go back and read parts one and two first.

As of the end of April, I have lost 40 pounds! I am finally able to say that I have less than 100lbs. to lose and this feels fantastic! I know I still have a major road ahead of me, but I am so proud of what I have accomplished so far.

Though the weight hasn’t come off as fast as I would like, I haven’t stopped. I got through this past holiday season without gaining one pound which is something I don’t think I have ever done. EVER.

I shared with you that this time is different. It feels different. I have a different attitude. I have a different mindset. I want this more than I have ever wanted it in my life. Now hear me say: this is not easy! I don’t wake up everyday and think “I can’t wait for this kale egg white omelet with a cold glass of green juice.” Not only do I not think that, I don’t live like that. I am realistic in my expectations for myself and I know that every day counts. I have bad days. I have cheat meals. I have days where I just do not want to eat another salad and do not want to work out. What makes this time different, though, is that I make myself do it anyway. I am more often finding myself giving up what I want now for what I want most. And I what I want most is to be healthy! It’s becoming more and more of a reality that what I want most is within my reach and can possibly happen in 2014. I’m not putting the pressure on myself to make a hard deadline and I know this will take a serious amount of work, but it IS possible. And that is crazy!!

There are two things I consider my biggest difference makers in my weight loss journey this time around.

1. The first is accountability. My parents are holding me accountable. I talk to them about how I’m doing. My mom knows exactly what I weigh and I report back to her with my updates. In a moment of pure honesty, this was one of the scariest things I’ve ever done. My mom and I decided that I was going to weigh in front of her on the first of every month and trust me when I say, I was NOT at all excited about it. For anyone who has ever struggled with their weight, you know the fear, shame and guilt that accompany this level of vulnerability. It is never fun. It is never easy. But it has been the difference maker for me. There is no where to hide on the scale and numbers don’t lie. I encourage everyone who is struggling with losing weight to find someone in your life who you trust and ask them to hold you accountable. Show them how badly you want to change your life by showing them the most vulnerable side of yourself. Without accountability, you will not get there. I know I will not get there. As with any battle, addiction, struggle, you cannot and will not do it alone.

2. The second thing that’s been a game changer for me is my mentality. I constantly surround myself with inspiration and motivation. I live and breathe weight loss. I am in constant prayer and spend time everyday in the Word. In my bible study, it’s what I’m trying to break free from. I have inspirational quotes and bible verses posted around my room and written on my bathroom mirror. I follow fitness and health inspiration accounts on Twitter and Instagram. I read books and blogs by people who have lost weight or are currently losing weight. In my family, we are constantly sending each other articles about health, fitness and weight loss. It sounds crazy, obsessive even. But I’m not obsessed, I’m focused and determined.

I am getting to a place where I actually want to know more about what true (and biblical) health looks like. I am educating myself about what I’m eating. When you start to realize how many calories are in things, what true portion sizes look like, and what’s actually in the food we’re blindly eating, you realize just how far off base you are. I have lots more I want to say about Nutrition & Exercise, but I’ll stop here for now. Just know that if you’re struggling with your weight, you REALLY CAN win this battle! I promise!

Believe in yourself! And believe that Jesus will give you the ability to do it!



As you can see, I’m super proud of her!!!! She’s actually inspired me!! For the last 3 months, she’s gotten up at 4:15, 2-3 times a week to do a 5 a.m. Orangetheory class! But as she mentioned, she’ll get into more of that in the next few blogs….that I’m gonna make sure she writes! ha!

I love this scripture, and recite it often to myself:

For I hold you by your right hand— I, the Lord your God. And I say to you, ‘Don’t be afraid. I am here to help you.’ -Isaiah 41:13

Breaking Free


My bible study just started back, and we’re doing Breaking Free by Beth MooreI did this study years ago, and truly did break free! I can tell you where I was, the date, and the circumstances of my life …. when I literally offered it up to God, and said: “Please, Lord, break these chains.” I literally felt a weight lifted, and I’ve walked in freedom ever since! Now that’s not to say that my life is perfect; far from it!  But I did let go of self-destructive behaviors, and truly embraced and accepted that God’s ways were much better! I trusted Him, and chose to believe Him.  He saved me from myself. I still get emotional when I think about just far down in the pit He reached to pull me out, set my feet on solid ground, and put a new song in my mouth!

Because I believe so strongly in this study, here’s what I want to do. I want to give away a Breaking Free DVD kit. It comes with a full set of DVD’s, a leader guide, and a workbook. My hope is the person who registers to win this, would gather at least 5 or 6 women (they’ll need to get their member book; $15 at Lifeway) and do this study along side us!  Would you be willing to do that?

Register your name and email address in the comments section of my blog, and we’ll randomly draw a winner on Friday, February 28 at 9 a.m.

And one last note…whoever wins, I definitely wanna hear back from after you’ve completed the study!

Breaking Free

Breaking Free


My Favorite Things 2013



Here we go! Up 1st this year….

I absolutely, positively, without a doubt LOVE my french press coffee maker! This is all I use at home! (and yes, this exact one!) I also love Starbucks Veranda Roast and I love drinking my coffee from fun coffee mugs….it’s one of those simple things in life that brings much JOY! (the cups are from Pier 1, btw).

Register your name and email address in the comments section below, and Hitch will randomly draw a name by 7pm tonight! We’ll announce the winner on my blog tomorrow morning!

Favorite Things #1

Favorite Things #1

Staying in the kitchen…my Favorite Thing #2 is The Pioneer Woman’s “A Year of Holidays” Cookbook! I love this cookbook! Ree literally walks through the entire year … New Year’s, The Super Bowl (yes, it’s a holiday), Valentine’s Day, Easter, Mother’s Day and so on … and shares her holiday inspired recipes. This is great gift for the one who loves to cook! I actually got one for my daughter for Christmas, but I couldn’t wait – I’ve already given it to her! We’ve only made a couple of things so far. But will definitely be trying additional recipes over the Christmas break!  This is also a great gift for that newly wed or newly engaged couple, too!

Favorite Things #2

Favorite Things #2

I always always have a pair of earrings every year on my favorite things list! This year, it’s a pair of Flirties from Rusty Crickett’s! These earrings are only $16! My personal favorites are the clear ones and I love them!!  I wear them at least 4 days a week; shoot I have them on right now! You can dress them up or down! Thank you, Charlie, for providing me some to give away! (BTW, if you want a pair you can call Charlie at 941.720.7677). Register in the comment section on my blog between now and 7 p.m., and we’ll announce the winner in the morning!

Favorite Things #3

Favorite Things #3

Last year it was Table Topics, this year it’s Chat Pack! Yep, my favorite thing #6 is a Christmas Chat Pack! Using Table Topics or a Chat Pack has become a staple around my table! My kids expect it, and they love it! The Chat Pack is very inexpensive; I found mine at Barnes & Noble, but you can also get them on Amazon. This makes a great hostess gift, as well, for the Christmas parties you’re attending this year.

Favorite Things #4

Favorite Things #4

One of my FAVORITE THINGS, not just at Christmas, but IN LIFE, is CANDLES!!!! I love love love candles! It’s one of my guilty pleasures, and if I’m totally honest….I spend way too much money on candles; I’ve had to go on a budget! I actually buy different candles for different seasons. I have a great Summer candle that I love, one for the Fall, etc. And this year, while it was very hard not to list the Woodwick Fireside again, I did look around and find a candle that I think smells like a Christmas tree. Nothing can duplicate the original scent of a real tree (and there are a LOT of bad Christmas tree smelling candles out there!), but, I think this one comes pretty close. It’s Yankee Candle’s Holiday Garland scent. Btw, Yankee Candle’s Vanilla Lavender is a favorite, too.

Favorite Things #5

Favorite Things #5

I wasn’t a believer, but now I’m a believer! Dave & Bill converted to a Kindle a few years before me. But my girlfriend, Becca, sold me on the Kindle Paperwhite that had the lights that went around the screen! And that meant I could lay in the bed and read!! (Reading makes me sleepy, and since I get up at O’dark :30, I need all the help that I can get to shut my brain down). I ended up getting Dave, Bill and my husband Pete each one for their birthdays last year….and all 4 of us LOVE our Kindles. I think Pete has read more books in the last year than he has in the past 10. It’s well worth the money, and you’ll certainly make up the difference because Kindle books are less expensive than traditional books. One last note, this isn’t me selling out on hardback books; I still buy them too!! I just love books, period.

Favorite Things: #6

Favorite Things: #6

“The experts” say you should walk an average of 10,000 steps per day. Of course, we had no idea how far 10,000 steps was. But we certainly found out when we ordered our Fitbits this Fall! We quickly learned we were NOT walking 10,000 steps per day….hahaha! So, my favorite thing #7 is the Fitbit! I’ve worn mine everyday since September, and it’s really motivated me to get out and get some steps in, when I might not otherwise would have. Welp, that and the fact that we’re super competitive….and with the friend feature on Fitbit, Dave, Bill & I can see exactly how many steps each of us is getting! It makes being active fun, while it holds you accountable. I’m actually getting my family these for Christmas!

Favorite Things #7

Favorite Things #7

I’m not kidding when I tell you I’ve been listening to his Christmas record since September! It’s no secret that Brandon is family to us, so it should also be no big shock that my favorite thing #8 is Brandon Heath’s Christmas is Here! Y,all!! he knocked it outta the park!! The instrumentation (especially the strings!) are top notch on this record. If you like Nat’s version of “White Christmas”, you’ll love Brandon’s! The choir in “Silent Night” feels like you should be at a Christmas Eve service somewhere in New York City, and “Just a Girl”….well, the first time I heard it, I cried. Brandon wrote this song from the Inn Keeper’s perspective, and it’s hands down, no question my favorite song on the CD. I gave the CD to the women in my bible study this year, and Pete is giving to his clients. This would make a great Christmas gift for a co-worker, girlfriends, a hostess gift for the parties you attend, or a fantastic stocking stuffer!

Favorite Things #8

Favorite Things #8

My favorite thing #9 is straight up nostalgia! It’s a light-up ceramic Christmas tree! I was having lunch with a friend a month or so ago at Cracker Barrel, and as I was leaving I spotted ‘em!! Most would say this falls in the “tacky Christmas decorations” category, but both Maw-Maw Brown & Me-Maw had one of these, and it reminded me of them! Mine is sitting on the corner table in my den and I love it!! Every time I glance over at it, I smile and think of a sweet memory I have with each of them. And, aw man, do I still miss Maw-Maw Brown’s chicken & dumplings that she made me every year for my birthday. I can’t wait to see them both again one day!

Favorite Things #9

Favorite Things #9

And lastly, my favorite things #10 is incredibly special to me. As you know, we’ve partnered with Abolition International the last few years, forming Team Freedom, to run for those who aren’t Free.To.Run….yet! Abolition International exists to bring an end to sex trafficking and exploitation. They focus quite a bit on quality care and restoration, after the rescue. This year they launched the Penh Lenh Collection. Penh Lenh means “whole” in the Cambodian language Khmer. Abolition sent a jeweler to Cambodia to teach rescued girls how to make jewelry, so that they may support themselves in a gainful way. My favorite things #10 is the whole Penh Lenh collection, but I’m specifically giving away the Dalmatian Jasper Flower bracelet. Each piece of jewelry is hand-made by a girl who was rescued from sex trafficking in Cambodia. What a meaningful gift, and what a terrific way to help fight this evil. And, if you’re interested in joining Team Freedom, you can find information HERE! 

Favorite Things #10

Favorite Things #10

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