Do you know that your marriage can flourish in times of crisis? Carol Kent, married 5 decades and mother of a son spending his life in prison, is joining me today and we’re talking about practical tips on creating a marriage that has Staying Power even in the midst of the hardest circumstances. I know you’ll be encouraged!
Transcribed version of podcast is below.
- Carol was gracious enough to offer FIVE copies of her book to my readers (that’s YOU!). That means FIVE of you could win a copy of Staying Power!
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- Winner will be contacted via email on May 4th! So be sure you fill out that form with your information (even if you are already on my mailing list).
- To win, just fill out this form!
Today’s Scripture Writing Challenge Verse
- Psalm 46:1-3
Resources Mentioned In Podcast
- Staying Power: Building a Stronger Marriage When Life Sends Its Worst
- When I Lay My Isaac Down: Unshakable Faith in Unthinkable Circumstances
- MomStrong International
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Carol and Gene Kent are the founders of Speak Up Ministries, which includes Speak Up Speaker Services, a Christian speakers’ bureau; Speak Up Conferences, equipping the next generation of speakers and writers; and Speak Up for Hope, a nonprofit organization that benefits inmates and their families. Carol has authored more than 20 books, and Gene serves as chief operating officer of their ministries. Cindy and David Lambert have been influencing the Christian publishing world for decades, both as editors and as authors, having written more than 20 books between them. They have six children and 10 grandchildren and love to launch their kayaks together from the dock in front of their log cabin in Michigan.
Connect with the Carol Kent: Website | Now I Lay my Isaac Down
Don’t Miss These!
Hey you guys, this is Heidi St. John. Welcome to the Heidi St. John podcast. Today is Friday, April 24th. This is episode number 915 it’s Meet My Friend Friday, and you guys, you know the drill, right? I love to have men and women on my podcast who are making a difference for the Kingdom of the Lord. And today is no exception. I am thrilled today because author and speaker and my friend Carol Kent is going to be on the show with me today. And we’re going to be talking about how even your marriage can flourish in times of crisis. Stick around you guys. I know you’re going to be encouraged.
So I hope you guys are doing good today. Can you believe it? We’ve made it almost to the end of the month of April. I want to say thanks to everybody who’s studying God’s Word with me over at MomStrong International. That ministry is growing gangbusters right now because y’all are home. So I’m happy that you’re doing that with me. We’re getting ready to start a brand new study that will launch the first week in May. And so if you haven’t joined us, I want to encourage you to do it. You can sign up. The Scripture writing challenge is free. And you can find it at momstronginternational.com. We always release new Bible studies on the first Monday of every month. And so the new one we’ll release on May 4th. So this is a great time for you guys to get in there, kind of see how it goes, kind of how we do things, get connected with the women there. They’re over 15000 women right now, writing the Scriptures out with me. And then we love for you guys to move from just the Scripture writing into a deeper study that is $8 a month. And boy, I’ll tell you right now, especially with my speaking season canceled, I am very grateful for those of you who are subscribing over at MomStrong International.
You know that I love to talk about marriage here. Jay and I’ve been married for 30 years and have been raising our seven children over that 30 years. We just had our third granddaughter the other day, our first granddaughter, our third grandchild. And those of you who have been praying for her, I really appreciate it. Juniper arrived safely. She’s healthy and she’s beautiful. I posted pictures of her everywhere that the internet would let me, the other day. I missed her birth. And I was just talking to Carol about it before we went to record. I’m not going to lie to you guys, I cried my eyes out for missing that birth. And so we appreciate that you guys have been praying, and that she’s here, and she’s healthy, and they’re just doing great.
I want to introduce you to my friend Carol Kent. I first heard about Carol years and years ago when she wrote a story called, Now I Lay My Isaac Down, of her son, and I’m going to let her talk to you about that a little bit. She runs a nonprofit organization that benefits inmates and their families. She’s an amazing, prolific author. I want to say, over 20 books she has written. And I am just honored beyond words that she’s here today. We’re going to talk about her newest book. You guys are going to be so encouraged. My friend Carol Kent, welcome to the podcast.
[Carol] Thank you so much Heidi. It is an honor to be on the air with you.
[Heidi] Well, the honor is mine. I’ve just always encouraged… I mean, you have to tell me if this is how you actually are in real life. Because when you write things on social media, I’m like, “This girl is like the fairy godmother.” You have this way of taking lemons and making them into lemonade, and you’re sprinkling your little pixie dust, Holy Spirit dust on everybody. Are you like that all the time? Tell me the truth.
[Carol] Are you kidding? I am so not like that all the time. But I do know that the Bible has the answers to today’s problems. And even when we go through the tough stuff of life, and I’ve been there and I’m still going through part of that, that I believe that we can find hope, we can find promise, and we can make it the next step of the journey if we look to God’s truth. And I know you believe that too.
[Heidi] I absolutely do. And boy, I’ll tell you what, we’re in the middle of a pandemic right now. And people need to hear that there’s hope.
[Carol] They sure do.
[Heidi] Yeah. That this isn’t all there is. I don’t know about you Carol, but every day I’m just like, dude, I am ready for the rapture. I’m like, “Lord, let’s go. Let’s get the show on the road.” And then you turn the news on and I think, “The show is getting on the road.”
[Carol] Yes it is. It really is. And I feel the same way.
[Heidi] It’s an exciting time to be a Christian. It’s not a very exciting time though to launch a book. Because you’re an author and a speaker. And like me, you know when we launch a book it’s kind of like being a musician. You got to get out on the road and promote it.
[Carol] That’s right.
[Heidi] And I’m imagining that your speaking season, like mine, has been canceled. Is that right?
[Carol] The next four months of my speaking engagements, they have definitely canceled. And so it is a special honor to talk to all of your listeners about staying power on this podcast. So thanks for the opportunity, Heidi.
[Heidi] You’re very welcome. You’ve been married to Gene for how long?
[Carol] You will not believe this. 50 years. Can you just even..
[Heidi] Oh my goodness.
[Carol] Five decades of living with this amazing man. And he is somebody my dad led to Jesus when he was 17 years old. I tell people we had such a small youth group that we had to do evangelism in order to increase the dating pool. And I am so grateful that I met this man at such a young age. And we got married right after we graduated from college. Five years later, I gave birth to Jason Paul Canton. He is our only child. And those of your listeners who know my story from When I Lay My Isaac Down, know that we’ve had quite a journey as a couple going through some pretty devastating times.
[Heidi] Yeah, you have. That book had such an impact on me. I cried all the way through it. It’s in my library. Still one of my favorite books. And I think even more so because you really have been through what I think a lot of parents would consider a worst case scenario. And yet out of it, the Lord has birth a ministry that’s impacting tens of thousands of lives.
[Carol] Well, Heidi, one of the things that we were truly not expecting is that our son who was a graduate of the US Naval Academy, and had just been an absolute delight to raise, wound up in serious trouble. He met and married a previously married woman with two little girls, an adorable six-year old and three-year old. But there were multiple allegations of abuse involving the biological father. And it appeared that this man who our son did not trust, was about to get unsupervised visitation. And Jason’s first military assignment was going to be Hawaii, which would mean that the girls would spend six weeks of the summer with their biological father.
And we got a middle of the night phone call that absolutely took our breath away. We knew that there were multiple issues. And Jason began to unravel mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. And when that phone rang, we were told that our son had been arrested for the murder of his wife’s first husband. We went through two and a half years, and seven postponements of his trial before he was eventually convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life without the possibility of parole here in the State of Florida.
So I know what it’s like to go through some tough times. And there are a lot of books on marriage that talk about the bad choices we make. But this book is about going through life, your marriage is pretty happy, it’s together.
All of a sudden a force from the outside comes in, and you need to make choices that will honor the Lord and wind up strengthening your marriage.
[Heidi] And for 50 years, you guys have been walking this thing out and living it. I love the title Staying Power because for somebody who’s been married for 50 years, you guys know what that looks like. So when did you decide and all of the things that you guys are doing and the many, many avenues of speaking that you have had, what was on your heart enough to make you want to sit down and write a book about marriage right now?
[Carol] Well, we met a lot of people, including our coauthors, Dave and Cindy Lambert, who wound up raising a grandchild because their son was drug addicted, and he was not able along with his wife to care for this child. And we started meeting people who were having a financial crisis, or they had an autistic child, and they realized that the life that they wish they had was not going to look exactly like they’d planned. And there were people who were then caring for aging parents. And we started to list all of the things that can happen that really can unsettle that marriage and make you start thinking, “I’m going to just strike back.” And our words are not always the wisest choice that we make.
And we said, “You know what? We need to write a book that is going to help couples understand how they can communicate better, how they can make some pre-decisions even before a crisis starts. Maybe they’re newlyweds and they want to get it right. And we’re going to write a book that will lead people to answers that will help them to make positive choices and guide them along the way even before the crisis starts.”
[Heidi] Well, this is very, very well-timed then. We’re in the middle of a crisis…
[Carol] Who knew?
[Heidi] Yeah. And who knew? And we’re watching something that really is unprecedented happening around the world. And I am hearing, just over here at my little platform, from people who are struggling. A mom wrote to me a couple of weeks ago and she said… And actually you can answer her question. This is great because I answer questions from listeners on Mondays typically here. But she said this COVID-19 has really revealed a weakness in her marriage. She said, “My husband is out of work. He’s home all the time. I have a couple of little toddlers. And I’ve decided I like being a mother, but I don’t like being married. And I don’t know how to do this.” So what’s your advice to her, Carol?
[Carol] Well, I think one of the things that we need to do is to say, “I love this person. And this spouse of mine is getting on my nerves,” and acknowledge that that’s the truth. It’s really tough. But begin making some decisions that are going to help your marriage. And one of the pre-decisions, those decisions that Gene and I made even before the crisis started that I think can help us even in the middle of this pandemic, is that we will request, and honor the advice of our spouse when it comes to disagreements. And when we spend lots of close time together, it’s really tough.
And Heidi, I don’t know if you know this about me, but I’m the first born of six preacher’s kids. Do you know what that makes me? Bossy. And I like to talk a whole lot more than I like to listen. And so when we make the decision that we are going to respect, and honor the advice of our spouse, it means letting them finish sentences. And in the middle of this pandemic, it’s really important to fully understand what our spouse wants to communicate, what they’re going through and how they’re feeling at that time. And I know when our son was first arrested—another one of those decisions that Gene and I made that has helped us through the rest of our marriage to this date, is that we will choose to serve our spouse sacrificially.
And Heidi, I have a husband who started making the coffee every morning. And he knows coffee is one of my favorite things. And do you know, to this day he brings me coffee in bed. And when we were going through the worst of our initial crisis with son’s arrest, he would bring that coffee to me, and then he would put his hand on my arm or on really special days he would rub my feet. That was a bonus day, of course. But it is his nonverbal way of saying, “Honey, I love you so much. I know you love me. I know we have this horrible tension because we are so afraid for our son and what is going to happen. And we are so concerned for the family of the deceased and what they’re going through. But we are in this together.”
And we keep hearing on the news that little phrase, In This Together, and Alone Together with all the hashtags that go with that. And I think we need to realize that we are committed to one another. We want to make things work. And we are going to practice automatic forgiveness. Now you say, “What does that really mean?” And I think so often that we forget what the Bible says about forgiving each other quickly. It says, “Be gentle with one another, sensitive, forgive one another as quickly and thoroughly as God and Christ forgave you.” That’s an Ephesians 4. And I am a bit of a grudge holder.
Now Heidi, you probably have a more perfect marriage with Jay. And I doubt you have ever given him the silent treatment so long you can’t remember why…
[Carol] … you’re not speaking to each other. That has happened to me on more than one occasion. And I think to myself later, I’m not really even mad at him. But it’s the principle of this not speaking, that’s holding on here. And if we can just realize that we do want this marriage to work, we want to make it through the struggle we’re in the middle of, and all of this togetherness that we really were not quite prepared to do, and we’re going to, with God’s help, do that, we can, instead of holding a grudge, instead of choosing the silent treatment, we can say in our hearts, “My husband spoke those words in a vocal tone that got on the last thread of my last nerve. But I’m going to forgive him because he probably doesn’t realize how that came out and that it really bothered me.” And so if we can make that choice ahead of time, it is so incredibly helpful.
And that one just follows right into the next principle, which is to make that decision to control our tongue. Have you ever let something come out of your mouth you wish you could take back and say over?
[Carol] Never. Never. Never. You know what? We should live closer. We could do lunch frequently. I can tell we’re a peas of the same pod, girlfriend. That’s for sure. But my dad, as a pastor, came home one day, and he said he was working with this couple who had been in an accident. And the man walked away from the accident unharmed, but his wife went to the intensive care unit for several weeks, and she wound up with severe facial scarring. And once in a heated argument he said to her, “You old scar-faced woman. Can’t you do anything right?” And do you know Heidi from that point on, she said whenever he looked at her, even at a tender, intimate moment, she believed that he was seeing an old scarface woman. And it really began to pull their marriage apart.
And we have to remember that there are some things that come out of our mouths we can never take back, and the memory is there. And so instead of letting that happen when we’re under all this stress, let’s think before things come out of our mouths, and let’s ask God to have our speech be uplifting and affirming and encouraging and edifying to each other. That really helps a lot.
[Heidi] It’s so important right now. And I was talking to a really dear friend of mine this morning on my way to the studio. And I was just talking about some of the pressures that we’re under, either frustration that I had in particular of not being able to be at Juniper’s birth and the sadness. And really, I think as a nation we’re kind of going through the stages of grief right now. And somebody had said something to me, a family member said something to me. It just really hurt me. I mean, I don’t even think that they meant to hurt me. But boy, it hurt. And my friend so wisely she said, “Heidi, listen to what you’re saying.” She said, “There’s so much more at stake here than a virus. The enemy would love to come in and use the tension that is just here by virtue of the fact that we’re all quarantined, that there’s so much fear in the air and the enemy thrives on fear.”
She said, “You have got to let this go. Let it go. It doesn’t even matter. Let’s say that you were hurt on purpose. It doesn’t matter. Let it go.” And I just leaned into that. Because I thought, “Oh my goodness, that’s right.” And really Carol, that’s what I hear you saying. You’re saying we need to be giving each other great start thinking about what… because what my friend did was she just prevented me from getting on the phone and having a conversation that I would probably regret for the rest of my life.
[Carol] And I have often found that sometimes people say the wrong thing when they’re hurt because it isn’t really reflecting how awkwardly something came out. I remember when my son was first arrested I had a person, I consider a close friend say, “You know Carol, it’s too bad that your son didn’t just shoot himself after he shot the victim. Then you would go through a period of sorrow, and it would eventually come to an end. But the way this has happened, your sorrow isn’t going to end in this lifetime. Because he’s incarcerated for the rest of his life.” And in my heart I said, “Is she saying it would be better if my son were dead? Is she saying that because someone is incarcerated, they will have a purposeless and no meaning in their life at all?” And then I finally realized that she had meant to be affirming, but the wrong thing came out of her mouth. And it allowed me to forgive her right away. And after that she came back to me and asked for forgiveness, realizing that she had sent something very hurtful.
But we need to give people a break because often they really mean to help, but they just have not thought about what their words mean. And we sure do that in marriage a lot. And you know Heidi, in Staying Power, Gene and I talk a whole lot about the importance of taking a timeout. Usually when we’re dealing with the stressful stuff, one spouse is feeling stronger than the other one at any given time. And I have dear friends who have an autistic daughter. And when she is really upset, she will smear bowel movements on the walls. And it is so upsetting to the parents. And my friends said, “I needed to give my husband permission to go spend an afternoon out of the house instead of living in the middle of some of the stress that we’re experiencing right now.” And what a kindness that is.
And I know sometimes Gene does that for me, when he knows I’m up against deadlines, and I have speaking engagements, and our son needs a visit at the prison. And he says, “Honey, I’ll go this weekend. I’m going to give Jason all your love, and let him know what you’re doing. And we’re going to pray for you as you get these deadlines met.” And sometimes when we just have that give-and-take of giving that person we’re married to a chance to have a break from the regular routine, that helps.
And probably one of my favorite parts of this whole book is the chapter on serving while suffering. And we’re all kind of suffering right now. I think we can say that for sure. And I know one of the ways that Gene and I have found renewed joy in our marriage, even on this long journey with our son, is to look around and find one person who needs help worse than we do. And we try to do something that is a tangible act of kindness in Jesus name for that person. And one of my friends yesterday told me that God brought to her mind a single mom who has three kids at home, and she can’t work right now because of COVID. And she said, “God led me to call a grocery store and have groceries delivered right to her front porch.” And she said, “I hadn’t even thought of doing that and what it would mean to her.”
But serving while suffering helps. And Gene and I of course stand in waiting to get into visitation with a whole lot of other families who have incarcerated children. And that’s when visits are allowed. They aren’t allowed right now during this pandemic. But on a normal weekend that would happen. And rules change at the prison all of the time. And they had a new rule that women couldn’t wear sleeveless blouses anymore. Well, I had been noticing that my husband’s pile of black t-shirts was getting shorter and shorter. Now I know dryers eat socks, but I don’t think they eat t-shirts.
And I said to Gene, “Honey, what’s happening to your t-shirts?” He said, “You’ll find out soon enough.” Well, on this particular next weekend after we had had this discussion, I saw a woman turned away after waiting two hours in that long line to clear security. And she was sobbing. And I knew right away what the problem was. She was wearing a sleeveless blouse, and that was the new regulation, no sleeveless blouses. And suddenly I realized Gene had disappeared from where he was standing next to me in the line. I saw him out in the parking lot with our trunk lid up, and he merged with a black t-shirt. He walked over to this woman and said, “Here ma’am, put this sign and go to the front of the line. Have a wonderful visit with your loved one today. It’s my gift to you. I hope it’s a great day for you and your family.”
Well he walked back to where I was standing in the line. And I said, “So that’s what’s been happening to your t-shirts.” And he looked down, he said, “It’s my ministry.” Well, one month later I was speaking in Wisconsin. Heidi and I shared this story because it had happened so recently. And one month later there was a box on my front porch. I opened it up, it was full of black t-shirts, and there was a note on the top. The woman said, “Dear Carol, I recently heard you share the story about how your husband helps people to get through security at the prison. I work for a company that makes t-shirts so I can buy them very inexpensively. Please use this box of black t-shirts for your husband’s ministry through his trunk distribution program. I hope it helps some people.”
And do you know Heidi, out of that, Gene and I launched speakupforhope.org which is a ministry to inmates and their families. And we started to realize that when we are going through a tough time, the best way we can build a stronger marriage, when life sends challenges, and have staying power is by working together to help other people. And we’ve discovered that when we share our story, they share their stories. And I know we have some people listening right now. Some moms out there saying, “I could never share my story. It’s too embarrassing. It’s too hard. I just would be so humiliated.” And I just want to say to that woman hearing my voice right now. Find one or two people you can share your journey with. Pray together, hold each other up. Find some Scripture where it says, “Fear not for I am with you.” And you will discover when you share your stories of what your marriage is going through, where you’ve come from, they will share their stories, and together you will hold each other up. And you will discover that there is comradery, there’s even some joy in the journey, and an increase in your intimacy as friends when you begin to communicate at that level. And we just believe in it. Serve while suffering, and you will never be sorry.
[Heidi] I love that. It resonates so much, and I think especially right now. I know that there are lots of people listening to this who like me probably, because I’m talking to you and it just makes my heart so encouraged. Because I could sit here probably and just talk to you all day. But I can tell in my spirit… like, I’m on the verge of tears just listening to you because the Holy Spirit speaks so beautifully through you, my friend.
And when you write a book, I’m the girl who’s in line to get it. So this new one, Staying Power, you have poured your heart into this, I know. And I know that you and Gene have had so many opportunities to bless other people, and really, watching the Holy spirit. Because I watch your posts and I follow what’s happening with Jason. And I’ve often said to my husband, as reading something that you’re writing, I’ve often said, “Look what God does when we give him our suffering as well as our strengths.” And you have done that so beautifully. When people, when they go to get this book… So let’s say that there’s a mom listening to this right now and she’s… or just a husband and he’s like, and I don’t know, can a man get this? And is this something that a couple could read together? So the wife who’s listening to this and she’s saying, “Would my husband enjoy this book, or is it just for women, or can couples do it together?”
[Carol] Couples can definitely do it together. And I want your listeners to know that there are some exercises within the chapters where you can ask each other specific questions that will help you to understand how to make the next right choice. Because often decision making is hard when you’re dealing with hard issues. And they’ll find that there are questions at the end of each chapter. So they can work through each chapter as a couple or they could do it in a small group. And this is a great time to start Zoom study groups with other couples who might be in your church or your neighborhood.
And then one of my favorite parts of Staying Power, Heidi, is that we have crisis help sheets at the end of the book on 13 issues and challenges that marriages can face, and they are each one page. And they will give you some action steps you can do today. Websites you can go to, books, hotlines. So you will find that you will get hands-on help with these crisis help sheets that will really give you an opportunity to know what to do next on a day that you might be facing the challenge in your marriage.
[Heidi] I love that. Who knew, Carol, that when you guys set out to write this book that it would come out during a time of crisis? I think it’s going to bless a whole lot of people. I want to thank you for coming on the show. One of my big takeaways from listening to you, I’m taking tons of notes, but one of the things that I circled was to serve while suffering. And also I wrote down that I want to tell my husband how thankful I am. He also brings me coffee in bed every day. Every day, he comes up with a cup of coffee and oftentimes he’ll sit next to me. Yesterday in particular, because I was up all night with my daughter trying to text her while she was in labor, just going through the labor with her. And so I didn’t sleep. And then I kind of jarred awake at about 6:30 just to call her, and see how she was doing. And the first thing I did was cry and he came in a few minutes later with a cup of coffee and just put his hands on my legs and was just like, “We’re going to be okay. We’re going to be okay.”
And I think those little things, those serving others, and it can be as little as a cup of coffee, and it’s so meaningful. So thank you for sharing just your story and your life, yours and Gene’s with us. It’s just such a blessing. Where can we find your book, Carol?
[Carol] You can find my book on Amazon or you can go to carolkent.org for more information.
[Heidi] All right. You guys heard it here first. For more information on Carol Kent, and she and her husband’s amazing ministry. You guys, they’ve written lots of books. You need to like Google this woman, and you’re going to be as encouraged as I am. I will link back to all things Carol canned in the show notes today. And if you guys have questions, one of the things we’re going to do is give away some books. So Carol has graciously agreed to give away five copies of Staying Power. And if you’ll go to the show notes today, we will tell you exactly how to enter to win. And I just know you guys are going to be really, really blessed. Carol Kent, you are an incredible woman of faith. And I know that the Lord’s going to use this in powerful ways. Thank you so much for coming on the show today.
[Carol] Thank you, Heidi. It’s been a privilege.
[Heidi] For more information, you can find the show notes today at heidistjohn.com/podcast. Thanks for listening today, everybody. I hope you have a fantastic weekend. And I’ll see you back here on Monday.
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Heidi St. John
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