Happy Father’s Day

Happy Father’s Day to all you dad’s out there! I’m sitting here thinking of all the different ways I could talk about my dad and my wonderful husband in this post. Deuteronomy 6:6-9 is what comes to my mind when I think of both of them.

These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

My dad was a guy that I could tell you a million funny stories about as easily as I could tell you the touching ones, and I think that’s what made him so great. He had a little bit of something for everyone.

We worked hard as a family, and we played hard too!  We had awesome vacations and fun times on the farm. He loved his family, his friends, his neighbors, and his community. My dad lived being of service to others.

I want to share what Sara wrote the day of dad’s funeral as I think it describes dad perfectly!

“My dad died.

This hero of a man.

Not a giant… Giants are unreachable. Not perfect… Perfect is unattainable. A hero. A faithful man. A kind soul. A man with eyes that sparkle with mischief and compassion and empathy and inside jokes.

This loving man died.

He called me baby doll.

Not hearing those words from him again sounds like a sheath being torn in two… Leaving a gaping space where words belong.

His words. His sayings.

“I’ll get your neckers.”
“Oh, I’m about two in a hill.”
“It’s a long way from your heart.”
“How’s my baby doll doing today?”

That laugh. That laugh at his own jokes that were only funny to him, but funny to us because they came from him.

Those nicknames. The terms of endearment. Anyone can call you by your given name. He believed you were special enough to be given an original.

I was his Gitzen Girl.

My dad’s funeral is today.


…And I was his Jo Babe. How I miss this sweet, strong hero of a man!

My husband is very similar. Although they have very different personalities, they both lived to serve.

When I think of Jeff, I think of Jesus’ stepfather, Joseph. Joseph was a spiritual, just, knowledgeable, obedient, and visionary man who wholly trusted in God. That is how I would describe my husband Jeff. He is the spiritual leader of our home. He is a just man who loves our children unconditionally. He is knowledgeable and obedient to the scripture, God’s word. Jeff wholly trusts in God and has taught me and our children to do the same.

I am grateful and blessed to have these wonderful men in my life! Wishing my dad a happy heavenly father’s day. Wishing my husband, the love of my life, a very happy and blessed father’s day. I love you!
Fathers Day Bible Verses





“None of us will ever accomplish anything excellent or commanding except when he listens to the whisper which is heard by him alone.”  ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Whisper — To speak with soft, hushed sounds.

The word whisper has been popping up in various places of my life.

The first was in a devotional that my husband Jeff gave me when I was in the midst of cancer treatment. The devotional is “Whispers of Hope” by Beth Moore. The devotional challenges us to form a habit of prayer. It is during our time of prayer, being still, and reading His word, that we will hear God speaking.

Then, the bible study group that Jeff and I are a part of began a study a few weeks ago called “Whisper” by Mark Batterson. The study is based on Mark’s book “Whisper – How to hear the voice of God.

In the study, Mark teaches what it means for Christians to discern the voice of God in their lives. He teaches us to hear God’s guidance and grow closer to Him.

You see, God is speaking. Do we know how to listen?

There are times when I have thought how great it would be if I could just literally hear the voice of God so I wouldn’t have to wonder whether the voice I am hearing is what I want, or if it is what God wants from me. If I were to guess, there are many of you reading this that wishes the same. 🙂

One of many things I learned from Sara’s book, Choose Joy: Finding Hope and Purpose When Life Hurts, as well as the year of Cancer Treatment, is that when I had to be still from the busyness of life, I felt His presence. I heard His whispers.

When we feel like Jesus is distant from us, we have to remember that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8). It is us who aren’t listening. We can’t hear His whisper when things around us are loud and capturing our attention.

There are lies that we tell ourselves that keep us from listening. The busyness of the world keeps us from listening. Being overwhelmed or not knowing how to read/study the bible keep us from listening.

What else keeps you from listening?

What has helped me through these barriers and others, is setting aside time for Him each day to pray, to be still, to study His word by using various Bible reading plans, and being part of a small group. It is in these times that I do hear His whispers. It is these times that I know without a doubt that the whispers are from Him, not me.

Seek Him. Listen to Him. Listen for His still strong voice. Listen for His whispers.

He never changes, we do.


Yes, Lord I am Listening

This past week I was blessed with an opportunity to say Yes to God. An opportunity to turn the struggles that I went through last year with breast cancer and bless someone in need.

My husband Jeff saw a story on the news of an individual in our community named Chris, who is going through cancer treatment for stage 3 breast cancer. Some friends of Chris wanted to bless her with a care package of wigs and caps, but when they were delivered to her home, they were stolen from her doorstep.

After hearing this story, I knew it was an opportunity to say yes to God’s call. Matthew 22:37-40 tells us to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.” 

Jeff contacted the news media and told them that I had gone through breast cancer last year and had wigs and hats that I wanted to gift to Chris. The station contacted Chris and set up a time for us to meet. As I sat and listened to Chris, I learned that she was dealing with much more than breast cancer. Chris had lost her job and was struggling financially and was a single mom.

My heart ached for her. The ability for me to get through my journey with breast cancer was first and foremost my faith, and it was also the love and support of my family, friends, and community. As I listened to her, I was also listening to God speak to my heart.

I believe our ability to hear and respond to God mirrors our ability to hear and respond to our neighbor. We must respond with love and trust. I had never met Chris, but as my sister in Christ, my heart ached for her. My heart was filled with love and care for her.

I know that one way to live out God’s great commandment is to listen and respond to His call, which also means to listen and respond to my neighbor as well. Chris has a Go Fund Me page set up and I want to take this opportunity to share it with you. As you listen to God, if He is speaking to your heart and you could provide financial support to Chris, you can do so by clicking here.

If you are not able to provide support financially, please support her and her family by keeping them in your prayers. Ephesians 6:18 “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.”

 John 4:20 Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.

chris carter

With love, prayers, and gratefulness,



This is Me

I write for a magazine called Positive Note Magazine. Each quarter there is a new topic to write about, and this quarter it was titled “This is me.” I thought I’d share it with you here too!

I am a girl who grew up in a small town in Northwest Iowa, who loved helping my dad on the farm. A girl who was introverted, shy and often unsure of myself. A girl who was responsible, loved helping others, and wanted to live in harmony. A girl who thought I would never leave home.

I am a girl who took a leap of faith and left home to attend college, made lifelong friends and was nominated by peers to be part of the homecoming court. A girl who studied hard to make it through college, and graduated with a degree in Business Administration.

I am a girl who was married and blessed with two beautiful children, was later divorced and thought my world was falling apart. A girl who believed that God and my family were disappointed in me. A girl who was blessed instead, with family and friends who supported me and reminded me that our Father’s love is unconditional. A girl who later found love again, married and was blessed with a stepdaughter. An introverted girl who learned through my struggles how strong I am with God by my side.

I am a girl who experienced breathtaking shock with a call saying my dad had died. Died from a bee sting while boating and skiing with my mom and his in-laws. A daddy’s girl, he was my support, my everything. A girl who had no idea how to live without my dad. A girl who was reminded by walking through the pain, that only God knows that day or hour, not the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. A girl who is now happy for my dad, as he is in ultimate peace with his Father.

I am a girl who a year later lost my beloved baby sister, my best friend, my soulmate. A sister who had struggled for years with disease and yet changed the lives of thousands by sharing her struggles and showing how to choose joy in spite of them. A sister whose relationship with God was stronger than anyone I had ever known. A sister who is the true definition of living a life of surrendering.

I am a girl whose faith only became stronger through the trials and hardships. A girl who made it my goal to continue my sister’s legacy. A girl who kept that legacy alive by walking the path of the publishing industry. A girl who believed and trusted that God would open the doors needed if this was His will. A girl who was blessed to have my sister’s words published in a book titled,Choose Joy: Finding Hope and Purpose When Life Hurts.

I am a girl who finds joy in speaking God’s words, using my sister’s legacy as an example of how we can choose joy, even when life hurts.  I am that introverted, shy and uncertain girl who speaks now with passion, certainty, and love, to anyone who seeks inspiration and motivation on how to “choose.”

I am a girl whose world was again shaken in 2017 with a diagnosis of breast cancer. A girl who had to let go of my goals in 2017 and trusted God’s goals. A girl who learned that instead of asking Why me, to ask what can I do, how can I serve? A girl who thought I understood my sister’s words and found an even deeper meaning in them. I am a girl ready to say Yes to God in 2018.

I am a child of God. I am a disciple. I am a survivor. I am blessed. I am loved.


He Opens Doors

Summit Sq Laura Pedersen

When Choose Joy: Finding Hope and Purpose When Life Hurts was published in January 2016, I looked back on the two years it took to get to that place, and was in awe of the doors God opened.

Now, in 2018, I am still in awe of the doors God has been opening. I told you about the Choose Conferences that speaker, singer, and songwriter, Jill Miller and I have been blessed to facilitate…well, now I have another exciting opportunity to say yes to!

I received a request from Mimika Cooney, a video marketing expert who was named one of the top 50 must follow entrepreneurs in 2017. Mimika asked if I would be one of the featured speakers at an online conference she is putting together called the Purpose Power Summit.

The summit is about discovering your purpose and pursuing your passion. Each of us has been blessed with unique gifts, and God calls us to use those gifts for His glory. The summit is geared toward guiding others to uncover their unique gifts and using those gifts to impact the world around them.

The Purpose Power Summit is a virtual summit and is free!

Please take a moment to click on the link provided to learn more about the summit and register…you have nothing to lose! You will be inspired and motivated by 23 experts, of which I am honored to be a part of!

You can register at: www.mimikaconney/purposepowersummit.com



Choose Conference

What a blessed week-end!

I had the honor and privilege over the weekend to be a disciple to over 80 beautiful women! Speaker, singer and songwriter, Jill Miller and I put on a half-day conference called Choose: Life is about Choices.

Choose Conference

It was truly an inspiring and blessed event, filled with time for worship, learning, and networking with my sisters in Christ. I feel so blessed to be able to continue my sister’s Sara’s Legacy and adding to that legacy using God’s word.

Are you making Godly choices or worldly choices? Remember that it is only with Him that you will find joy on your journey!

You can learn more about the Choose Conference by visiting: the choose joy foundation website.

Have a blessed week, friends!

Servant Leadership

I was asked to speak at the Urbandale Chamber of Commerce in December. A friend of mine shared Choose Joy with the chamber and thought it would be a great topic for their chamber members. I was so excited that I, of course, said yes. Then realized that I needed to figure out how this topic would be helpful to businesses.

I have been in Human Resources, talent and leadership development for 30 years and wanted to have the opportunity to use this ministry in the business world. Through prayer, God put on my heart to talk about Sara as a leader. The title became… “Leadership Lessons from a Homebound Girl.”

Sara was a global leader! She touched the lives of thousands of people not only in the United States but in other countries as well. They followed her blog. They sent her care packages. They reached out to my family after Sara passed away, expressing their condolences. We skyped her funeral so they could be a part of saying goodbye. People that never met her except through her words. Through her leadership.

I was reading Jenni Catron’s book, Extraordinary Leadership, and I believe it is a perfect description of the leadership characteristics Sara possessed and I believe all leaders should possess.

Leadership is influencing. Jenni challenges us to look at leadership as sacred work because you are influencing and shaping human lives.

In Luke 10:27, we are told to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. And to love our neighbor as ourself. This is where Jenni saw the true characteristics of extraordinary leaders. Those that lead with all their Heart (Relationships), Soul (Centered), Mind (Strategic) and Strength (Visionary) — all of you.

Sara was a servant leader. Every relationship she developed across the globe she cherished. Sara was aware and present in every moment, making people her top priority. She was centered and humble, reminding us that this life is not about us. Sara was visionary and saw the big picture, reminding us of our purpose — to fulfill God’s plan by living the best life we can with what we are given. This means we must not be a victim of our circumstances. Sara showed strength. Living with a debilitating disease, loss, and pain, she showed us that we still have the ability to choose. Choose joy.

We are all leaders in some capacity. Remember to lead with all of you…your heart, soul, mind, and strength. Lead as Jesus calls us to…through servant leadership.


Happy New Year, dear friends!


Are you someone who sets new year’s resolutions?  Do you feel like the turning of another year is like starting with a clean and new slate?

When Sara was alive, she was involved in a group called One Word 365. After losing dad in 2010 and then Sara in 2011, I was filled with loss, confusion, questions, anger, and pain. I wanted to feel peace. It was in 2013 that I first started the One Word 365 journey and Peace was the one word I focused on. It changed my life.

I was amazed at what a difference focusing on one word made in my life. Whether I was reading scripture, devotions, or praying, the Holy Spirit and God’s word taught me peace. Each year since I have focused on a new word until last year.

My year was turned upside down with my breast cancer diagnosis, and that was my focus. Even though I didn’t formally pick a word in 2017, the word I focused on the most was Still. It took everything I had this past year to just be still and remember that He is God.

There were a lot of things I had to put on hold in 2017 as I was focused on my health, so I am very excited for 2018 and what it has in store. I have chosen Yes for this year’s word. I want to say Yes to Him. I want to trust Him and the journey He has laid out for me in 2018.

I anticipate that there may be some twists and turns in the road, but I am going to remember to let Him take the wheel and simply say yes…with peace.

Spreading Joy and saying Yes.

Although this year had its challenges, it has also had its many blessings. The blessings these last couple of months have more than made up for the challenges my family and I faced this year.

As I wrote in my last post, I enjoyed the opportunity to spread God’s message of Joy with my friend Jill Miller through a 1/2 day Choose Conference. Jill and I have also been blessed with the opportunity to continue spreading His message with additional conferences in January, February, and March!

I also had the opportunity to speak at the Urbandale Chamber of Commerce this past week. It was a joy to share Sara’s global leadership legacy to businesses in the area, and encourage leaders to be intentional in seeking out their mission and purpose including why they are in leadership.  Jenni Catron says, “Leadership shapes human lives, therefore it is sacred work.”

I am looking forward to 2018 and what God has in store. My word for 2018 is “YES.”

As Sara tells us… “We’re supposed to wake up today and say YES. Yes to the attitude we must clothe ourselves in before our feet hit the floor. Yes to the kindness and the welcoming smile. Yes to graciousness and gratitude in our words and actions. Yes to the prompting in our spirits to be the essence to Him to every single person we encounter.”

In 2018 I am focusing on saying yes to Him.

Have a very blessed and Merry Christmas, my friends!


Reflecting on the Year

I hope you all had a very blessed Thanksgiving!

My husband Jeff and I were having a conversation a couple of weeks ago and I asked him…”When you think back on this year, what do you think? How do you feel?” He proceeded to tell me that the year has felt like a whirlwind. After learning of my breast cancer diagnosis, he went from thinking I can’t lose her…to maybe we will only need surgery…to having not only surgery but a treatment plan of Chemotherapy and radiation.

I shared that I was having a hard time looking back on the year and processing it. My head knows how much we went through, but I also focused hard on making sure he and the kids didn’t worry. This focus kept me from letting myself really process what was in front of us…what it really all means. I didn’t think of myself as a breast cancer survivor…I wasn’t putting myself in that category.

Right before the Thanksgiving Holiday, I traveled to my hometown for the funeral of a high school classmate who lost his battle with cancer. Seeing Dan and his family made me think once again about how very unpredictable and short life can be. It also made me think about the importance of being in tune with our health.

I was blessed that I scheduled my mammogram when I did. If I would have waited a few months, my family and I could be looking at a whole different life right now! Family history plays a role, but please don’t make it an excuse to wait. I am an example that cancer does not just affect you if there is a family history.

Life is precious, my friends! We all have a mission and a purpose in this life.  It is up to us to make sure we are living the life God has intended for us to live. Choose to wake up each morning asking Him to show you the journey He has planned for you. Don’t let the busy activities of life put off until tomorrow what God is asking from you today. Tomorrow is not a guarantee for any of us.

I feel so much gratitude. I have so much to be thankful for…including the support and love from each of you.