5 Podcasts for Encouraged Ears


I had an iPhone for a full two years before I realized that the purple podcast app on my screen was, in fact, not trying to sell me something but rather to gift my listening ears with all sorts of awesome content! Upon this discovery I quickly became an avid consumer of all sorts of material, and I now attribute to my podcast education everything from better time management to efficient freezer meal prep. 

Though I frequently search for podcasts on specific topics in which I'm interested, I appreciate having a few shows which so consistently meet my expectations that I listen to almost every episode they produce. Here are my criteria for those select podcasts:

1. They must discuss a mix of weighty and lighthearted subjects.

Why? Because that's real life! At times we need to dig deep in order to explore complicated relationship dynamics, and then we need to come up for air and talk about the new Starbucks drink we're loving.

2. They must be encouraging.

As we plumb the depths of our cultural or personal problems, let's grieve, yes, but let's not stay there! We need to be reminded of what's true, given some practical action steps, or--preferably--both!

Five podcasts have met these two criteria on a regular basis. The women who host these shows are so frequently in my ears that I feel like they're my friends, so I'm excited to introduce my podcast host friends to my blog reader friends! I'll let you know which iTunes category each podcast falls into, the gist of the show, and a favorite episode of mine from the previous year. Search for these shows in your favorite podcast player, or click on the links provided to listen online. Enjoy!

1. The Happy Hour with Jamie Ivey

Category: Christianity

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The Gist: Jamie interviews a different woman in every show, and they chat about the guest's story and what she's loving and reading. I appreciate the wide variety of ladies Jamie interviews from entrepreneurs to social justice advocates to fashion bloggers. Listening to The Happy Hour is truly like sharing a happy hour with friends!

Fave Episode: #166: Kathie Lee Gifford and Aaron Ivey

2. Sorta Awesome

Category: Personal Journals

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The Gist: Meg and one or more of the show's three delightful co-hosts discuss a different topic each episode of the podcast, covering everything from sleep to self-defense to Netflix shows to parenting. The four co-hosts have vibrant personalities but different lifestyles and opinions, and this makes for a lively conversation between friends from which the listener gets to benefit.

Fave Episode: #121: Boundaries for the Holidays: Sane Solutions for Difficult Dynamics

3. Happier with Gretchen Rubin

Category: Self-Help


The Gist: Gretchen Rubin is a bestselling author who studies happiness and habit formation. On the Happier podcast she and her sister, Elizabeth, chat about these two topics and offer lots of hacks for listeners to implement right away to make their daily lives a little happier, like finding a "happiness 911" song or identifying one's "signature color"--mine would be green, of course.

Fave Episode: #116: Start a Side Hustle, a Travel Hack, and the Stumbling Block of "Raising the Bar"

4. That Sounds Fun with Annie F. Downs

Category: Christianity

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The Gist: Each episode Annie talks to a friend of hers--often a writer, musician, pastor, or psychologist--about what they do and what sounds fun to them. Annie is such an upbeat person that I always leave these dialogues feeling hopeful. I'm writing this post during the Christmas season and was thrilled to see that Annie released an episode in which she and friends did a deep-dive into Hallmark Channel's Christmas movies--what could be better?

Fave Episode: #42: Sadie Robertson

5. Dear Daughters

Category: Christianity

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The Gist: Listening to Susie Davis' podcast is like plopping down on a comfy sofa after a hard day and letting her hand you a cup of tea and tell you it's going to be alright. She interviews a variety of guests and especially enjoys asking people about their "big God dream" and what they've been cooking lately. Delightful!

Fave Episode: #21: Kate Merrick │ And Still She Laughs

Did you give any of these shows a listen? What did you think? What are your favorite podcasts? Let me know in the comments.

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Bird Nests & Bad Attitudes: What I Learned in April

Today I’m linking up with Emily Freeman and some other bloggers, and we’re sharing what we learned during the past month of our lives, from the minuscule to the monumental. Here's what I learned in April:

1. Not everything in the news is bad news.

Every once in awhile the doom and gloom that is today’s news is broken by a ray of happiness, like this story: “Midwife rides inflatable swan through flood to deliver baby.” How happy is that?

2. Fixer Upper fixes me right up.

New episodes of Fixer Upper arrived to Netflix this month…and my husband rejoiced!...because even the worst wifey mood can be improved if we just watch Chip and Joanna “widen that opening,” “paint the brick,” “take the cabinets all the way up to the ceiling,” and “add some recessed lighting.”

3. Kansas has a National Preserve.

I know, right? The Tallgrass Prairie is located in East Central Kansas and is home to a bison herd. The hubs and I enjoyed singing “Home on the Range” while we hiked among the buffalo.

4. Bad attitudes are ugly.

I recently overheard a mature, Christian person giving a bad attitude rant about mostly #firstworldproblems, and it was ugly. I didn’t have half a second to look down my nose at them, though, because their words instantly brought into sharp focus the ugliness of my own bad attitudes.  Real heartache should be grieved and shared—that’s not what we’re talking about here. I’m talking about car trouble, bad hair days, and my dinner not cooking as fast as I’d like. Lord, help me to get some perspective, get a life, and remember that I’m a child of God, eternally secure and immeasurably blessed.

5. I need old friends.

I’ve only lived in my current town for a year and a half, so most of my day-to-day relationships are relatively new ones. I love these new friends and am excited to get to know them better. But a girls weekend in Tulsa with three of my long-time besties reminded me why I love and need old friends too: they already know me, and they’re still here anyway. I don’t need to explain to them that yes, I’d like more guacamole, and no, I didn’t set out to say that inappropriate thing because I don’t even know what that means. They know. And they accept me. Kind of like Jesus.

6. Country music gives voice to my feelings.

Dan + Shay’s new single “From the Ground Up” captures perfectly how I feel about my farmer husband, our marriage, the family heritage with which we’ve been blessed, and our big dreams for the future. All the feels.

7. Miracles happen all the time.

Some girlfriends and I went to see Jennifer Garner’s recent based-on-a-true-story movie, Miracles from Heaven. Tear-jerkers like this one aren’t usually my jam, but I loved it, particularly its message that miracles—big and small—happen all the time; we simply need to have the eyes to see them. Even better than the movie was the discussion my friends and I had afterwards about the miracles we’ve seen in our own lives, like how God intentionally comforted my friend’s family after the tragic loss of her brother. These off-camera miracles are the ones that fortify my belief.

8. You can’t stop a bird from flying over your deck, but you can keep it from building a nest in your grill.

This lesson I learned secondhand, thanks to the firsthand experience of my dad, who you’ll see is both hilarious and innovative. Several weeks ago he stepped out onto his deck to grill some hot dogs for dinner. When he opened the grill, this is what he found:

After removing the nest, he had to find some way of preventing the determined birds from coming back to their cozy spot, so this is what he came up with:

The owl does double-duty by preventing the return of the birds and causing passersby to do a double-take, which amuses my dad.

 9. Administrative Professionals Day is a fabulous thing.

Who knew this was a thing? Not me. I typically pay zero attention to all those random days listed in my calendar. But I’m telling you, I felt like it was my birthday at my workplace this week on Administrative Professionals Day. Though the treats, kind words, and professional massage (I know, right?) were awesome, what stands out to me here is people celebrating people, intentionally finding ways to say what you do matters and I appreciate you. I want to celebrate people like that too.

10. I want a big pantry.

Greg and I toured some model homes in our area to get some inspiration for our current and future residences. We saw stone fireplaces, Jacuzzi tubs, and all manner of lovely features, but I couldn’t stop drooling over big pantries. I guess my current allotment of two and a half small cabinets of pantry space isn’t cutting it. Let’s be honest, this is totally a #firstworldproblem. But that big pantry is still on my wish list.

Find out what other bloggers learned in April here. What did you learn in April?

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15 Superficial Things for which I'm Super Thankful

This is the month of thankfulness, and I have so much for which to be thankful. Today I sat down to write a deeply passionate post about the people and experiences for which I am profoundly grateful, and, well, I just wasn’t feelin’ it. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I’m feeling quite grateful; I’m just not feeling very deep.

Allow me to take a rain check on that passion and share with you some things of which I am similarly fond and yet in which I am not nearly as emotionally invested. In keeping with my “water your own grass” philosophy, I’ll narrow my focus and explore only those causes for thankfulness that have come into my life in the last year and several months, since I got married and moved to Kansas. So I present to you 15 Superficial Things For Which I’m Super Thankful:

1.  Puppies at True Value-Our local True Value Hardware Store typically has a few puppies for sale, putting “cuddle a puppy” on my list of go-to mood-lifters. Their marquee conveniently displays the breeds currently in house, allowing me to discerningly stop for golden retrievers and pass on the maltipoos.

2.  Abundance of country radio stations-Here there are six local country radio stations, meaning I can fill all of my car’s presets with my favorite tunes.

3.  Grocery shopping at Dillon’s-In Missouri I did my grocery shopping at WalMart, so Dillon's simply dazzled me with its clean floors, organized shelves, personalized coupons, and fuel points—it’s magical.

4.  Gilmore Girls on Netflix-Gilmore Girls came to Netflix immediately following my move, so Lorelai and Rory were my first friends in Kansas.

5.  My Kitchenaid mixer-Since my newlywed realization that I married The Cookie Monster, I always make a double batch, and my mixer helps me get the job done quickly.

6.  Town Facebook page-One evening I answered the door to a guy selling security systems, and because I am naturally suspicious, I thought he was casing the place. Thanks to a lengthy discussion about this very salesman on the town Facebook page I determined that he was indeed legit, though not getting anywhere with the also wary residents of my neighborhood.

7.  Driving my husband’s truck-If you think this is about a little woman getting on some kind of power trip from driving a giant vehicle then, well, you’re exactly right.

8.  Super Pretzel accessibility at my grocery store-My old grocery store frequently disappointed my craving for these tasty bread pretzels as they were located on the top shelf in the freezer section and vastly popular, typically leaving one taunting box in view and out of reach for this just-too-short girl. At my new grocery store Super Pretzels are kept on the bottom shelf. Score.

9.  Free shipping from my Mary Kay lady-My long-time Mary Kay lady ships my makeup to my new home in Kansas for no extra charge. You’re the best, Mindy!

10.  3-minute drive to work-Yes, in Missouri I only drove 5 minutes to work, so this isn’t quite as revolutionary as it may seem at first, but if you know how I do with mornings, you know that every minute counts.

11.  Thinking face emoji-The iOS 9.1 set of emojis includes the “thinking face” emoji, which in my opinion looks a bit skeptical with its raised eyebrow, perfectly expressing how I feel about numerous situations… Text from Greg: “Babe, will you help with the pasture burning tonight? I’ve got a wet gunny sack for you to use.” Text from me: [Insert thinking face emoji.]

12.  Perpetually clean windshield-My husband can’t stand a dirty windshield, so my windshield is always sparkling through no effort of my own.

13.  ibotta-No, I am not a crazy coupon lady. This handy app gives me rebates on items I already buy, and before I know it I’ve got enough fun money for a new book from Amazon!

14.  Cultural obsession with planners-I’ve always been very attached to my day-planner, but in the past year I’ve discovered via Pinterest an entire community of people who have taken it to the next level. They've given me some great ideas, and their stickers, washi tape, cleaning schedules, and budget binders make my color-coding seem normal by comparison.

15.  My husband’s fried okra-We grew okra this summer, and Greg makes delicious lightly-breaded, crispy fried okra. Yum!

This list was intentionally superficial and did not scratch the surface of the mountain of more substantive things for which I am grateful. However, these “little” things should not be underestimated—they are small but mighty in their ability to bring me joy and turn my day around.

I believe that every good thing that comes to us is a gift straight from the hand of God (James 1:17) because He loves us (John 3:16) and loves to give good things to us (Matthew 7:11) because He is good (Psalm 136:1). God, thanks for all Your gifts, superficial and otherwise. I think You’re super.

What are some superficial things for which you’re thankful? I’d love to hear about them in the comments!

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