The Connected Mom

Carol had every reason to succumb to crippling “Mom Guilt” when an unimaginable situation rocked her family. Instead of isolation, Carol learned to keep a connection with fellow mamas in authenticity. Carol also stayed committed to keeping her connection with God alive, even with baby steps. She also shares the refreshing truth that we can never give up on HOPE…regardless of how life goes.
We need each other in this journey!

Carol Kent is a bestselling author and an international speaker for conferences and retreats. She’s the executive director of the Speak Up Conference, an event committed to helping people develop their speaking and writing skills. She and her husband, Gene, have founded the nonprofit organization, Speak Up for Hope, which benefits inmates and their families. Carol holds a master’s degree in communication arts and a bachelor’s degree in speech education. Carol has trained Christian speakers for over twenty-five years and she has been a featured speaker at Women of Faith, Extraordinary Women, and Women of Joy arena events. She is the author of over twenty-five books, including the bestselling When I Lay My Isaac Down, Tame Your Fears, and Becoming a Woman of Influence. Her two newest titles are a 365 page-per-day devotional titled, He Holds My Hand, and Staying Power.
Connect with Carol 

Creators & Guests

Becky Harling
Author of How to Listen So Your Kids Will talk and several others. Podcast host of The Connected Mom. A dynamic speaker who is passionate about Jesus.
Carol Kent
I love to equip, encourage, and empower people to fulfill their God-given potential...and I really like to laugh out loud!

What is The Connected Mom?

Form a deeper connection with God, more empathic connection with other Moms, and more intentional connection with your child.

Welcome to the Connected Mom Podcast, where we desire to deepen your connection with God, help you empathically connect with other moms, and more intensely, intentionally connect with your child. I'm Becky Harling, your host, and I have with me today my amazing cohost, Sarah Wildman. Sarah and I bring two different perspectives to motherhood because I'm a grandmother with 14 grandkids, and Sarah is right in the thick of raising two beautiful little boys, charles and Edward. And today we have with us an amazing guest, Carol Kent. Carol and I have been friends for about 20 years, and Carol is so accomplished and so listen to her bio, would you? She is a best selling author and international speaker for conferences. She's the executive director for the Speak Up Conference, which is an event committed to help people increase their writing and speaking skills. And I have to say, it's the best writing conference I've ever been to. And then she and her husband, Jean, also co founded a nonprofit called Speak Up for Hope. Carol holds a master's degree in Communication Arts and a bachelor's degree in Speech Education. She's trained speakers from all over the world. She's been a keynote speaker for such prestigious events as Women of Joy, Women of Faith, Extraordinary Women. She's written 25 books, and some of them are best sellers. Like When I lay my Isaac Down and he holds my Hand. And we're going to be talking about both of those today. And on top of that, I just have to share this. Carol is everyone's best cheerleader. I have never met a friend who consistently cheers for others. I love her to death. Welcome Carol Kent.

Becky, so good to be with you. And Sarah as well. Wow. You just blew me away with that introduction, because that's way better than I am. But thank you, girlfriend.

You're amazing. Most of us only hope to become like you when we grow up. And today we're going to be talking about mom guilt. Is that any of us, Sarah?

No, Becky. I'm really just asking any questions for a friend. I've just never had anything happen. Uh, it starts from pregnancy, right? I mean, the, uh, amount of thoughts that can hit as this baby is forming, and then they're born. And do you breastfeed or bottle feed the mom guilt? It's from the beginning. And so we are delighted to have your perspective, Carol, because we really hope that our listeners will be encouraged by this podcast. Uh, we're glad to have you.

Well, Becky, I got married to Gene Camp right after I graduated from college, and we didn't have two dimes to rub together, but we had luck. And five years later, I gave birth to Jason. Paul Kent. We call him J. P. And he was a delight to raise. He had a sparkle in his eye and one of his early pictures. He's in a sailor suit. And he didn't grow up to be in the Navy. Well, he made his parents proud. He was in the National Honor Society. And he came home from a Christian camp after a couple of weeks out in your part of the country, becky, Colorado. And he said, mom and dad, I really believe that God wants me to serve in military and maybe even in political leadership. And I believe the best place I could get equipped to do that would be at the US. Naval Academy. Well, he finally received the appointment to Annapolis. And we were there in May of 1997. Went on national television. All of those mid shipments tossed their hats in the air. And we celebrated our young son's accomplishments. Well, from there he went to Orlando, Florida, where he was in nuclear engineering school. He joined a, uh, great church that had about 300 young adults in a Bible study every week. And there were women in that Bible study. And you can guess what happened. Our boy fell in love. And, uh, we got a call when we were out in Denver and it was a short voicemail. Mom and dad, some things are coming down. We have to talk. Well, it's at a moment like that, you kind of wish your child would add two or three more sentences about what comes down. And he told us his orders had changed. He had to be at Service Warfare Officers School in Newport, Rhode Island, on September 8. And he and, uh, this young woman he wanted to marry who had been through a very painful divorce and had two little girls, three years old and six years old, and they wanted to get married right away. Well, we finally asked if they would be willing to wait three weeks to be married in our then hometown port here in Michigan with the accountability of family and friends around them. And they agreed. And a week and a half later, April came into our lives and behind them income six year old Chelsea and three year old Hannah. And, uh, we fell in love with them immediately. Well, we had a beautiful wedding on a picture perfect day and we were looking forward to seeing this young family thrive. But there were multiple allegations of abuse involving the biological father of the girls, and it appeared that he was going to get unsupervised visitation. And in retrospect, we began to see our son unravel mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Sarah and Becky, one year into their marriage, we received a middle of the night phone call telling us our son had been arrested for the murder of his wife's first husband. Talk about shock. I felt nausea sweep over me. I tried to get out of bed, but my legs wouldn't hold my weight. Uh, we eventually went through two and a half years and seven postponements of his trial. And he was eventually convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. So my life went from being a, uh, Christian author and speaker who was telling everybody else how they could be the great Godly woman. I just published a book called Becoming a Woman of Influence on How Jesus modeled and demonstrated how we could live that out, and suddenly, I was the mother of a murderer. Talk about guilt. You launched the show with that topic, but I felt it to the core.

I m can't imagine. Carol I just simply can't. And yet, as moms, we know somewhere in our head that we can't take responsibility for every decision our child makes. And, uh, yet at a moment like that, satan also knows our vulnerability to guilt and shame and can really dump.

It on oh, can he ever? And, you know, I started to journal at that point in my life, Becky, because I felt like my eyes were blurring on the page when I would try to read Scripture, I could not make sense out of this horrific thing that had happened. Uh, and then the enemy came at me, and he started by saying, if you had been a, uh, more involved mother, this would not have happened. You know, putting the guilt on me. Or if you had read your Bible more consistently, if you had prayed more fervently, this would not have happened. And then I'm a firstborn of six preachers kids, so I've been a multitasker for most of my life. If you want a job to get done, ask Carol Kent. And all of a sudden, it was immobilized. I just felt like I could hardly keep one thought in my head at a time. And then the enemy shot this little, uh, kind of a guilt arrow at me. If you had been less busy, you could have stopped this thing before it ever happened. And I think all of us as moms are so tempted to take on, um, that huge burden of guilt that really can cross over into shame. If we're honest, uh, we're really accepting the fact that this must be my fault. And this is so excruciatingly embarrassing. How can I ever face the public again? And so I was going through all of that because, uh, Gene, my husband, had quit his job in the life insurance business one year before Jason's arrest. To go on the road full time with me in ministry, um, it was just too hard to do it alone anymore. And so working full time in ministry was our only income. And now we had to hire an attorney for our son's defense. And I didn't even know how to think straight, much less figure out if I could stand on a platform and tell other moms that God is faithful, when at that moment, it didn't feel like he had been very faithful to me.

Carol, listening to your story, it feels like, well, of course it wasn't her fault. We can give you so much grace. But you described those feelings. And I was thinking about the difference between guilt and shame, right. And how the enemy twist that. Would you speak about that a little bit? Because it's like we know as moms were entrusted with this beautiful gift, right? And there's a responsibility there, right. We should hold that very strongly. But there's like this really subtle pivot to shame. So could you talk a little bit about the difference, as believers, of what that looks like for us when we.

Shift from guilt to shame? We really are looking at that perception of having done something that was dishonorable. We put that on ourselves or immoral or improper feeling like if we had made other choices, this would not have happened. And I think especially with our kids, we are so tempted to fall into that and especially adult children, because we've done the job of, um, raising our young children to the best of our ability. And, uh, our son was one of those kids who went on missions trips with his youth group. He had never been in trouble with the law. We didn't even have to give him a curfew. He went to bed early because he knew he'd have to go to school and get those papers turned in the next day. So he had been a very easy to raise child, uh, pretty obedient. I don't mean he was perfect, but he certainly did not cause us any kind of apprehension or concern by bad choices in his high school years. And I started to realize, too, how the enemy would have played on his psyche this kid who always wanted to do the right thing. And now it appeared to him that with his first assignment, which was going to be out of the continental USA, a, ah, trip to Hawaii with the Navy, um, that would mean six week visits with the biological father of a man he didn't trust with these two vulnerable little girls. And I just see how the enemy is so good at shifting our thinking to think we're the only people who can provide protection. And, uh, I remember my son saying, I began to make an idol out of my own ability to protect my children instead of trusting God alone. And we can say that as moms too. Maybe we have prided ourselves on being this good mother who raised great kids and then they make this bad choice and then we put it on ourselves that it's all our fault. And, uh, Jason would say to you today he made the worst choice he possibly could have made. Not only for the family of the deceased and the pain it caused their family, but for his own wife and his own children, his parents and his extended family. And so, once something like this has happened, it can't be undone. And Sarah, uh, and Becky, I will never forget the first time I saw my son after he was arrested. M Jean left immediately to help April and the girls move from where they were with the Navy and Panama City to Orlando, where Jason was now incarcerated. And I was at home pulling the last of the finances together for what felt like buying a, um, home for the legal expenses. And the phone rang, and it was a digitized call asking me if I would accept a collect call from the jail. And when I accepted that phone call, it was my boy, and he was sobbing. He said, Mom, I've just been jumped by ten inmates. They were kicking me and kicking me in the head. He said my two front teeth had been broken off. I've been kicked in the eyes. I have a cut in my ear. They stole all my stuff. Mum. But after the beating, when the corrections officers came to me, they took me back to the faith based area of the jail, and I could hear him choke back a sob. And then he said, And, mom, those men were like Jesus. He said, they washed my wounds. They brought me a clean T shirt, and one by one, they prayed over me, and they brought me writing paper and a pen. He said, mom, they were just like Jesus and Becky and Sarah. Automatically, there was a cut off after 15 minutes, and that was as far as he could get. And I heard this deep guttural wail come out of the depths of my being. It was such an anguish that I was feeling. And I just remember lifting my hands, palmside up, I said, God, I cannot do this journey. I cannot watch my son suffer like this. Oh, Lord Jesus. I can't do this. And the next day, I got on the plane and I flew to Florida. Gene had already had his allowable 15 minutes visit with our son, and so he was not allowed to go with me. And I waited a long time. When you have an incarcerated loved one, you wait in lines a long time to get security off in up to 2 hours. And I was in the area where I knew I would see him behind a plastic shield, and I heard a shuffle. And I was used to seeing him in uniforms with medals, and he was in jailhouse blues. He had on, um, those handcuffs attached to a waist chain, ankle chains, uh, with shackles on. And that's why he could only take two or three steps at a time. And then when he sat down, his face was just covered with scabs from the beating. And I saw those broken off front teeth. Both eyes were fully bloodshot. And there was a corrections officer behind him, listening to everything we said. And finally, our eyes locked. And I just said, jason Paul Kent, there is nothing you could ever do that would stop my unconditional love for you. Son, your dad and I are here for you. And, um, becky and Sarah, uh, that began our long journey to what we call our new kind of normal. And what we learned about dealing with shame and with guilt is so important because we found when we started talking out loud about our journey with vulnerability, it tore down walls. And I really want to say to every mom out there. When you're dealing with the tough stuff and it's embarrassing and it's hard. And your son might not have committed a heinous crime like mine did. But maybe they've done some pretty embarrassing things or even illegal things that you're ashamed of. Start as it's appropriate. And with trustworthy. People begin to share out loud. Probably in a small group. And. Uh. Share what you're going with. How you feel. Be quick to say, I need prayer. And then as women come together, there is this bond that is so precious. And I have to tell you, I like the broken me better than the old professional me, because now I weep with those who weep. Now I feel the pain of my mom, um, who is in agony over her child's wrong choices. And I just sense that in my brokenness, there is more of a spiritual connection and spiritual power than I ever knew before I walked this unwanted journey.

Yeah, I love that. Carol I mean, part of why we chose the name the Connected Mom Podcast is because we believe that moms need that connection. And in what you just shared with us, satan comes at you with guilt and shame, and you didn't do a good enough job. And I love how we really have to come to the place as moms where we are not almighty. We can't do it all. We can't always be there, right? And we can't always protect them from the silly things they do or from the horrible things they do. But I love the way you continue to connect with God. And then you talked about how you connected with other moms, and I just think I want our listeners to get that because it's so important. You weren't meant to do this journey of motherhood alone. It's too long of a journey. We need each other, and we need to be each other's best cheerleaders. And then, Carol, I want you to talk about your connection with Jason now, because I've been at dinner with you and Jean and with both of our husbands, and we've had such times of laughter together. And in the middle of dinner, gene will get a call from JP from prison, and he'll say, oh, just a second, I got to take this phone call. It's my son. And what I see on Jean's face is pride in who his son is and who he's become. So talk about how you develop that connection.

Well, I first want to say to anybody who's listening who has been the victim of violent crime or know someone who has that we have such compassion for the family of the deceased. What happened was so horrible, so wrong, and it was against the laws of God and man. So just know my heart. I love you, I pray for you. I know the pain you're going through. But for those of you who have been on the other side, and you're the parents of those who have made those wrong choices, as God begins to help you to be able to breathe again and that's what it's like, because in the beginning you're going breathe, do the next thing. You just feel like you are so overwhelmed. Look for the splashes of joy God can bring in the middle of, um, the journey. It is so important. Uh, we started getting cards from people all over the country. And most of them were sympathy cards, the kind you get when somebody dies. But I know they don't have a greeting card line for you to send appearance of children who have been arrested for murder. They were doing the best they could. But one of my friends started sending shoebox greeting cards and they would say things like, brain cells come in, brain cells go, but fat cells live forever. I just keep it covered with fat so it won't get scratched. And Becky. I so needed that. Just that short little laughter that came out of me when I read those cards. And I thought, that's how we minister to each other. And now, Becky, to answer your question about what's going on with JP today, we have watched him ask for God's forgiveness for what he has done. We have watched him choose to realize I can't change what has happened, but I can use what's happened as a platform upon which I can give God glory. So we launched a nonprofit organization called Speak Up for, and people who donate have helped us with getting Bibles bible studies, uh, chapel equipment, greeting cards for inmates to send to their families, games for the visitation areas and all, like, even fans. There's no air conditioning in the prisons in Florida that are run by the state. And it gets to over 100 degrees in those cells, especially on a day like today when we're taping. And so we have watched him be able to do good for others. And he has started mentoring men. He stopped Bible studies, and he has taken over 800 men now through Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University course, teaching them how to balance a checkbook and how to do their finances in a way that they can stay out of trouble if they have an end of sentence date. And I'm watching him have such joy in the process of helping others. And, uh, there are still bad days of grieving, but, oh, there are some good days of praising God for what he is doing. And I called Jason M, my missionary on the inside, and I, uh, am watching him now in his maturity. He was 25 when his crime was committed. He had just barely turned 25. And he is 47 now. So he is mature enough to look at some of these young guys, get to know them, who've just gotten into prison after their first or second offense, and he is now targeting them. And at times, he'll start with athletics, because guys like to do athletics. And, uh, he will organize competitions for them and anything he can do to build relationships for the purpose of sharing Jesus with them. And I can honestly say that even if Jason is never allowed to walk in freedom in this lifetime, I know that God is using his life, uh, with purpose, with meaning, and that he is bringing other men to Christ.

I love that.


Carol, just to backtrack just a little bit, I am thinking about those moms that might be in a really discouraging moment right now. Maybe their kids have made those choices she doesn't agree with. Heavy stuff. Really poor choices. I think sometimes I'm tempted to listen to your story and think, she just.

Bounced back.

Because I'm an achiever, too. I'm like, she just bounced back. She wrote that book about Isaac. But what was that in between time? What did God take you through? And how could that encourage moms who are in just the thick of the maybe the grief of it, right? And how did you get to the place where you could write a book and encourage others?

And the answer is slowly, there we go.

I think that's important.

Yes. It was five years before I could actually begin to write about this journey. And because we went through two and a half years and seven postponements of the trial, I was not allowed to speak publicly about what had happened until after the trial, because anything could have been recorded and used against our son in some way. And, you know, as I look at that, I see it as God's mercy, because I was so wounded and I was never a weepy kind of person. And suddenly, um, it felt like I had kidneys next to my eyeballs. Something would trigger I would walk by a closet and see a uniform, and that would trigger a tear. I would hear JP's favorite song on the radio, and that would trigger tears. And then, um, as women started coming to me who had watched Dateline NBC, where our story was all over the country, uh, they would start contacting us through my website, and they were desperate for help. And so it was one of those things where one day at a time, I first started sharing with individuals long before I shared from a platform. And, uh, so five years then had passed before I shared in this book. But after the trial, the first speaking engagement where I ever shared my journey. So keep in mind, we've had almost three years pass by this time. I brokenly shared it. And I didn't even know if I could get through it because, um, it was so emotional yet, but I was able to do so. And I was sitting out in the lobby greeting some people, and I had written a lot of books before this happened, so I was signing a few books and a woman came up to the table and she was all hunched over and she could barely look at me with eye contact. She said, My husband has been incarcerated for the last 18 years and nobody knows. She said, he's getting out in one month. I said, Is he coming home to live with you? She said, yes, we're going to try to make a go of it. And then she stood to her full posture and with confidence, she said, Today, you've given me the courage to start telling my story. I'm going to quit hiding in false shame and false guilt, and I'm going to tell other women how they can hold on to hope like you've helped me. Thank you. Well, behind her, there were three young adult women holding hands, I guess some to be in their mid to late twenty s. And one spoke up and she said, Carol, we're sisters. We were seated out in the audience and we heard your story. And afterwards, we could hardly move. You see, all three of us were repeatedly sexually abused by our father during our growing up years. And we have never told the secret. But after we heard you speak, we've decided we're going to get Christian counseling. And then as God opens doors for us to share our story of survival and faith and hope with other victims of abuse, we are going to be honest and open about that. Thank you for giving us the courage to do that. And you know, I started to realize once again that once we start being open, we start to shed that feeling of guilt and shame because we realize in our honesty, in that vulnerability, there is this God confidence we can get, because we realize it's only Him who can give us the courage to share our story and to be real about the fact. Yes, I felt like a failure. Yes, I felt like I had a tattoo over my forehead that said, Mother of a murderer. But yes, I have found hope because of Jesus. And in the brokenness, he makes a, um, way for us to hold his hand and get us through the tough stuff. And that has been such an important lesson for me. Um, I had taught a Bible study fellowship class in my hometown when we lived in Port here in Michigan. And one of the women in that study came up to me after having heard the story. She said this carol, I used to think you were perfect, but now I think we could be friends. When we look all polished and put together and when we put on the plastic smile like everything's fine, or we're grinning our teeth, saying, well, praise Vallart, when everything happens, nobody feels like they can approach it. But when we're real, and, uh, when all those walls come down and we just share out of our brokenness we're friends, there is a sense of intimacy that we have with each other. And we are reminded that together, we can grieve for one another. We can celebrate when God does a good thing. And I want to tell every mom out there right now, celebrate the small steps. When something little is a victory for you, celebrate that everything might not be perfect yet, but when that kid who's been making wrong choices makes a step in the right direction, say, thank you, Lord, this is a good thing. And we need just to share it with each other and encourage one another.

I love that. Carol, we are almost out of time, but, man, I love you so much. I'm so thankful for you and Mama's out there. I really want to remind you, I just kind of want to do a little wrap up here with three things that Carol has brought home for us today. The first one is to keep that connection with other mamas. Listen, in this day of social media, I often see posts after my favorite was after a woman had a baby, and she was posting a picture of herself six weeks out in a size two, and I was thinking, okay, that's great, except every other mama out there is now really upset with you, and you probably need, uh, some kind of photo adapter. So we want to remind you there is no such thing as a perfect mom. I mean, if you need testimonials from my kids, we laugh about it now, but they'll be happy to provide them, right? We didn't do it all perfectly. None of us are going to. And we need each other in this journey. And then, uh, Carol's commitment to stay connected to God, carol, uh, has shared that someday she didn't feel like she could read a whole chapter of the Bible. You know what? That's okay. Read one verse or listen to it on an app and pray and just say, Lord, I don't feel your presence, but I need you now more than ever, so stay with me. And then the third principle that I think Carol brought out so beautifully is never give up on hope, because you don't know the end of the story. And yes, this isn't the life that Carol would have chosen for JP. However, God is using him in such a powerful way inside prison walls. And so we want to encourage you today to stay in the journey and to stay connected. And, Carol, uh, we're going to be putting in the show notes two of my personal favorite books of Carol's. Now I lay down my Isaac because I'll tell you. What, Mamas, no matter where you are in the journey, at some point, God's going to call you to the Isaac Galter, where you have to say, Lord, this is not my plan, but I surrender my child to you. And the second one is, he holds my hand. This is an amazing devotional. I actually bought it for somebody very close to me, um, maybe three or four years ago now. And she still writes me and says, hey, I'm hanging out with Carol this morning. And you have been a lifeline to her, Carol, because of her journey. And so we want you to get those books in the show notes. We'll be putting places where people can buy your books, carol, how they can connect with you. And I want to ask you to just close us out in prayer. Would you pray specifically for the moms out there who don't feel like they can go on?

I would love to. Thank you so much. Heavenly Father, thank you for the opportunity we've been able to, uh, have today, just girlfriends getting together, talking about some of the tough stuff of being a mother. And, Lord, um, neither Becky nor Sarah or I have done it perfectly. And sometimes we're so tempted to take on guilt, guilt, and then even move into shame, false shame, for some of the wrong choices our children are making. But, Lord, we pray that we would tune our ear to Your Word. Help us to hear you say today, I have loved you with an everlasting love. I won't ever walk away from you. And, Lord, we know you love us so much we're engraved on the palm of Your hand. And I pray for the mom right now who is struggling with either a young child or maybe a teenager or even an adult child who is making repeated wrong choices. I pray that you would give her the wisdom to know when to speak up and when to be silent, when to seek professional help or Christian counseling, and when to wait on Your voice as she listens to Your Word. And, Lord, above all, I pray that we would apply scripture to our lives, that we would pray without ceasing for our children, and that we would leave the results in Your hands. And, Lord, as I have prayed so often for my son, I pray, Lord, have mercy. Thy will be done. And, Lord, we believe you have heard us today. I ask that you would wrap your arms around every mama listening to us today and let her know how special she is. In Jesus name, amen.

Amen. Hey, thank you, Carol, for being with us. And, hey, friends. Join us next time for the Connected Mom podcast, where we're having real conversations about how to stay connected with God, your fellow moms, and your child. Thank you for joining us today. Bye.