Just rest, Jill.” Inwardly I groaned. How often did I need to hear that reminder? Recently it seemed to come from every angle. Coworkers, friends, family. “Jilly, do you think you could rest? Why don’t you take time for yourself?” 

My response was always the same: a polite nod, with an even politer smile. The words, polished and smoothed, came out the same. “That’s great advice. I’ll look into it.” 

The truth was that if I had had time I’d have taken it already. Who has time to rest? to do anything besides work? 

And so the days, weeks, months, and years slipped by. Focus, Jill. Yet it became harder for the mind to control the body. And still the treadmill continued: Just one more email. Another voicemail to answer. One last contract to write. Then I’ll rest. 

The truth was that I felt trapped. No matter how much I accomplished, there was always more to do. No matter how much I delegated, the next task appeared, staring me in the face. How could I push it aside and rest? 

I prayed about it, but no answer seemed to appear. Greg and I talked, but no ready solution emerged. I was stuck. Depression began to settle over me like a fog. 

Sometimes God intervenes in our lives in the least-expected way. Recently Greg and I went to Mackinac Island in Michigan for our twentieth wedding anniversary. It was our “island in time.” No work calls. Limited emails and texts. There was time to close my eyes and feel the sun on my face. To lean back in the chair and talk with Greg, listening to the seagulls overhead and the waves on the shore. Time to find out what matters most. 

Love. When everything distills down, that’s what really matters. 

Love God. Sit and listen for His voice, speaking through the pages of His Word. Focus on who He is and what He’s done in your life. Take time to reflect on His goodness. 

Love yourself. Forgive yourself. Or better put, let go of your inability to measure up to your own expectations of yourself. Let God be God. Learn to bask in who He thinks you are. Breathe that in. Allow yourself to accept His view of you. 

Love others. God places people in our path for a purpose. Sometimes it’s to catch us when we fall. Or to bring joy and color to life. Whatever the reason, take time to savor those friendships, to be fully present in each moment. 

Those three loves are the sum of life. And I’m beginning to discover the joy in those moments. Not the rushed, frantic moments, but the intentional ones. The savored moments, the present moments, the moments to love. 

Work will always be here, but life won’t be. Take time to love, for in that moment comes life. 

She was such a little thing as she lay on the metal table, pink nose pressed into my fleece. I stroked her gray fur, now streaked with white, with trembling hands. Why hadn’t we noticed her weight loss? The signs had been there, but we’d always chalked it up to old age. After all, we’d had Pebbles for almost 14 years. She had become the child we never had, the one who climbed on our lap after a hard day, who rolled on her back in the sunshine, who loved unconditionally.

The issues had been minimal until that last night, when we got home from work and she couldn’t walk. She’d try to stand, back hips swaying, and then she fell, dragging her hindquarters behind her. Amazingly, she never made a sound. God, why does she have to suffer so much? There was nothing we could do. A snowstorm had come up, all the vets were closed, and we had to wait until morning.

I lay on the floor beside her and gently stroked her body, tears soaking into the carpet. What was wrong with her? It was painful to watch as she struggled to breathe, eyes fixed and staring. She had brought so much joy, this little cat we had adopted as a stray tabby. Initially she resisted when we held her, cowered during storms, and jumped when we approached her. That changed over the years as she learned she could be safe with people who loved her. She relaxed and learned to trust, following at our heels when we walked and always trying to be as close as possible. God, I can’t let her go.

The night seemed endless: snow and sleet pelted the house while anguish wrung my heart. Finally, morning broke, and we began to search for a vet open in this weather. Pebbles hadn’t eaten; she’d barely even lapped at the water we held in front of her. She was fading. We found a vet open and headed out, Greg driving through the snow-covered roads while I whispered reassurances to her. She lay still in her box.

Now here we were, X-rays and heart ultrasound finished, results grim. Who would have known that her heart had given out? She had been so brave. She purred and snuggled closer to me as the doctor inserted the needle and the room began to spin. I heard my voice as if from a distance call her name and tell her how much she was loved. How much she would be missed. And then it was over.

The first week was the worst. Every time I shut my eyes I saw her, just a little ball of gray fluff, on the metal table. Slowly the raw edges of pain softened to a dull ache. Greg and I talked about her a lot, reliving the memories and joy she had brought. Our family and friends prayed and supported. God, why does it hurt so much?

Yet somehow amid that pain came the reminder of the unconditional love of my Father. He reminds me I can be safe because He loves me. I’m slowly learning to relax and trust Him. Because I know He’ll hold me while I sit on His lap.

Jill Morikone is vice president and chief operations officer for Three Angels Broadcasting Network (3ABN), a supporting Adventist television network. She and her husband, Greg, live in southern Illinois and enjoy ministering together for Jesus.

Listen to the audio version

How do you write something when it’s unfinished in your mind? For months now my mind has wrestled with this issue, the sovereignty of God.

Is my God omnipotent? Absolutely; I’ve seen and experienced it. He can heal the lame and raise the dead. He can repair a marriage, deliver from addiction, transform a life. My God can do anything.

Is my God omniscient? Without a doubt. I can’t hide from Him, for He sees and knows everything. Jonah tried and was tossed overboard. Achan tried and was stoned. Sapphira tried and God took her life. There’s nothing that God doesn’t see, nowhere that His glance doesn’t penetrate.

Is my God love? Beyond question. I’ve experienced it when I’m stuck in the mire of sin or even afraid to look at Him. I’ve received His love in the most unexpected times and in the most unlikely places. He is love.

Does my God cause pain? Yes and no. Sin causes pain, and Satan is both the accuser of the brethren and the author of sin and suffering. The evil in this world is the result of his work, not God’s. At the same time, if God is all-powerful -and I believe He is; if He is all-knowing -and I believe He is; if He is love- and I believe He is, how can He allow suffering and pain?

Herein lies the crux of my struggle.

I know that trials work redemptively in the life of the Christian, even as they are the outworking of the great controversy. They also reveal God to others, as in the case of Job or the blind man in John 9.

What I don’t understand is the cry of the child, beaten and abused, hiding in the dark. I can’t comprehend equally fervent and dedicated Christians, each praying and fasting for a miracle, yet one’s spouse lives, and the other dies. How can entire people groups be tortured and traumatized, simply because they are the “wrong” religion or ethnicity or color?

Life is messy. I can’t seem to compartmentalize another’s pain, stuffing it into the tidy box of “God allowed this in your life for some reason. You’ll understand when you get to heaven.” God, where is the answer now?

How trite we are as Christians. How perfunctorily we pat others on the back while glibly repeating words to somehow make us feel better.

God knew she couldn’t handle the trials coming. That’s why He allowed her to die.

God has a bigger purpose; He’s going to win someone to the gospel through that little girl being tortured.

If you only had more faith, your marriage would’ve been healed, or your child wouldn’t have left God, or your parent wouldn’t have died.

This trial was for your own character growth; God allowed it to make you more like Jesus.

Why are we so hard on others in order to placate ourselves? And why do we push it off on God, as if we somehow understand the mind of Omnipotence?

Is my God sovereign? Or more specifically, why does He intervene in certain situations and doesn’t appear to in others? My mind still hasn’t found the answer it’s seeking.

And yet, perhaps, the answer lies somewhere in my response. Are you willing to trust, Jill, even when you can’t understand?

Feel free to email me how you’ve wrestled with this sovereignty question yourself, at [email protected]

Jill Morikone is vice president and chief operations officer for Three Angels Broadcasting Network (3ABN), a supporting Adventist television network. She and her husband, Greg, live in southern Illinois and enjoy ministering together for Jesus.

It was a typical weekday morning. Prayer time with Greg, hurried breakfast, and the scramble to grab last-minute items for work. Except today was our wedding anniversary. Eighteen years ago Greg and I had stood in a sweltering church, two kids in our 20s, and said, “I do.” We meant it then. We still mean it now. Every day I’m amazed at the kindness and strength in that man who promised to love and protect me.

That morning, as I grabbed my laptop, I reached in the kitchen cabinet for one of my vases. Ah, this one is perfect! I slid into the car seat, balancing laptop, purse, papers, and the empty vase.

Greg glanced over. “Why are you bringing an empty vase to work?”

I feigned innocence. “That’s for the flowers you’re going to give me today.”

He laughed. “I knew you were going to say that. That’s why I asked, just to hear your answer.”

You see, for 18 years Greg has brought me flowers, whether for a special occasion or even for no specific reason at all. Sometimes they’re wildflowers picked from beside the road; other times it’s an exquisite bouquet of roses. For our anniversary, though, we have a tradition: we visit the grocery store and pick out a dozen roses together. Some years they’re red, mauve, or lavender. This year they were two dozen pink and yellow.

I’ve never questioned whether he would follow through, because he’s never forgotten. Not once has he ignored it; not once has he complained about being too busy or tired; not once has he failed. Why? Because that’s who he is. Greg’s attitude toward me is love.

It took a friend to point out the obvious connection between my empty vase and our walk with God. Later, as Greg and I drove to pick out the flowers, I pondered that connection. Have you ever come to Jesus with an empty vase, waiting to be filled? Have you felt empty and broken, unsure if you could even hold the beauty and grace He longed to pour into your life? Have you questioned whether He would give you good gifts yet again?

If you have walked any length of time with our heavenly Father, then you know that He specializes in filling our empty vessels. We come empty and broken, but with eager expectation. Why? Because He will never turn us away. He will never be too busy or too tired. He will never fail.

I want to wake up each morning eager to bring my empty vessel to my Father. He’ll smile and say, “Why are you coming to Me with an empty vase?” And I’ll respond out of the love and trust in my heart, “That’s for the grace, the strength, the victories that You’re going to give me today.”

Jill Morikone is vice president and chief operations officer for Three Angels Broadcasting Network (3ABN), a supporting Adventist television network. She and her husband, Greg, live in southern Illinois and enjoy ministering together for Jesus.

But I thought you were my friend. I swiveled my office chair so I could stare out the window, my thoughts far away. Sitting back, I closed my eyes and could envision my pink tennis shoes under my desk at work, my jeans and T-shirt in the closet. I’d bring them often, ready for the end of the day when my friend and I would go outside and briskly exercise. We’d talk about our day while I huffed and she glided effortlessly along. She was always in better shape than I was. We hadn’t done that enough.

Then an issue arose, loyalties were divided, and our friendship was severed. Even though we didn’t see each other anymore, I had sent one last e-mail. I don’t know if you would consider me a friend after today. . . . If, however, there’s some part of you that is willing to reach out, I’d be happy. . . . YOU are valuable as my friend. Always know that. Always.

Leadership is lonely. But I’d never experienced it myself.

A response never came.

The days, weeks, months slipped by, yet the ache in my heart persisted. So much of what I knew, believed, and trusted in my friend turned out to be a lie. How could I have missed that?

A knock on my door brought me back to reality. I opened my eyes and focused on the person coming in. It was a guest, someone I hadn’t met before. As the person greeted me with exuberance, I smiled. “Oh, Jill, I’m so glad to finally meet you. I just know we’re going to be friends.” I shook the person’s hand and invited them to sit, politely listening as they told me about their ministry. What did they want? Was it friendship, or simply position, power, and a platform?

I’ve heard it said that leadership is lonely. But I’d never experienced it myself. Until now. Whom can I trust? If I open up, will I come to regret that later? How do I know it’s for real or if I’m just being used?

My mind travels to Jesus, our ultimate friend. In the garden, just before the cross, He called Judas “Friend” (see Matt. 26:50). Really? The man who was going to betray Him? Didn’t Jesus know that? Of course He did, because He told the other disciples about it at the Last Supper. That thought keeps my mind going awhile.

The more I consider it, the more I’m convinced: I don’t want to become cynical, to close off for fear of being hurt. My job is to extend grace, to be honest and transparent, to reach out and love. Regardless of the consequences, regardless of the other person’s motives, regardless of the possibility of hurt. It takes an open heart, a willingness to learn, and the spirit of Jesus.

God, make me a friend to others.

Jill Morikone is vice president and chief operations officer for Three Angels Broadcasting Network (3ABN), a supporting Adventist television network. She and her husband, Greg, live in southern Illinois and enjoy ministering together for Jesus.

The day started normally. Time with God in the morning. The sweet peace of His presence. It was a busy week at work, as we were recording an entire quarter’s lessons for our Three Angels Broadcasting Sabbath School panel. Those weeks are always intense. Hours spent on the set, learning from the panelists, digging deep into God’s Word. It’s refreshing—and inspiring.

Yet it’s a tremendous responsibility to share the Word of God with others. I feel it every time the lights turn on and the cameras begin recording. Sharing something from myself is one thing. When it’s from God’s Word, however, it takes on a whole new meaning.

By late morning several things had gone wrong. We waited for our production crew to adjust the lights. An audio glitch caused an edit, which took more time. One of our panelists needed to restart one of their sections. Normal, everyday production issues. Nothing major, but I could feel myself begin to feel rushed and anxious. E-mails kept rolling through on my phone. Issues needed attention, mail was piling up on my desk, voice mails needed to be returned. Just because we were recording a good portion of the day, that didn’t mean that work stopped in the office. I needed to somehow juggle it all.

Have you ever experienced God’s grace? Have you ever tasted His mercy?

We changed for the next program, determined to press on and finish another one before lunch. The audio technician came out and put my mic on, along with several others. In fact, we were all ready to go, except for one person. Suddenly I heard my voice, more sharply than I’d intended, “Where is he? We need to start!” The other panelists and crew smiled. Jill’s starting to crack the whip.

Five minutes passed. I could feel my irritation grow. I don’t have time for this. Too many other things are demanding my attention. Don’t people realize that? My mouth opened, and more words tumbled out. “Come on! We need to start. Can you get so-and-so? Let’s get moving!”

One of the panelists looked at me and laughed. “Whoa, Nellie,” he chuckled. He meant it as a joke, but his words cut to my heart. Another person turned on his iPad. As worship music filled the room, I struggled to keep my tears in check. What had I just done? Yes, we needed to start. But I could’ve said the same words with a vastly different spirit.

The missing panelist appeared, and we were ready to start. Except that I couldn’t speak. I couldn’t pray. I definitely couldn’t record. Who was I? I was supposed to be sharing the Word of God with people lost and alone, people who needed our Savior. Yet I was the biggest hypocrite of all. How could I speak what I hadn’t experienced? How could I share when I had stepped into sin? How could God use me?

I finally found my voice. “If you all don’t mind, I’d like to pray first. I need forgiveness from our Father and from you for my attitude. I’m sorry.” I bowed my head, and the words tumbled out: “God, would You cleanse me? Forgive my sin and enable me to stand before Your people and share a message from You. I am so unworthy.”

Have you ever experienced His grace? Have you ever tasted His mercy? Have you touched His forgiveness?

I have. And I, for one, am forever grateful.

Jill Morikone is vice president and chief operations officer for Three Angels Broadcasting Network (3ABN), a supporting Adventist television network. She and her husband, Greg, live in southern Illinois and enjoy ministering together for Jesus.

The rough, older man sat across my desk, the smell of cigarettes filling the room. Yet, somehow, I hardly heard him, barely saw him. My attention was drawn instead to the small boy sitting beside him, brown hair hanging into his eyes. He looked so incredibly vulnerable. How long had it been since he’d eaten?

Greg and I had been at lunch ourselves when I received the call from my assistant. “There’s a man in the lobby asking for you. He packed all of his things and claims he’s moving to 3ABN.” I took a deep breath. Why do ministries inspire people to show up like that?

Returning to the office, I headed for the lobby. This should be routine. The usual request for a job. The standard line of “nothing available with your skill set at this time.” And life would go on.

Stepping into the lobby, I paused. He had a little boy with him! I reached out to shake the dad’s hand, then turned to the little guy, mentally guessing him to be about 8. “My name’s Jill. How old are you?”

I saw all their worldly possessions in the back seat of the car.

He tossed his head to the side, flipping the hair out of his eyes. “I’m Seth, and I’m almost 13.” He held out his hand, amazingly confident for such a young person.

We headed to my office and talked. It was the usual: history of drugs, amazing deliverance. The story began to change when he shared how God had given him messages to deliver to others. He just needed a place to stay, a job, and an outlet for the words God gave him.

I wondered if the boy was really his. Was he OK? If I didn’t give the dad a job, where would they live? How would the boy eat? My thoughts whirled as the dad talked. Suddenly I realized it was quiet. Say something, Jill.

Leaning forward, I spoke about 3ABN not having any jobs right now for his skill set. About our inability to divert donor funds for other projects, such as his need for an apartment. As the words tumbled out, I glanced at the boy. Somehow that scripture from James crept, unbidden, into my mind. “Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?” (James 2:15, 16).

I felt so hypocritical, saying the right words, while pushing away one of His children. Why must policies and procedures be followed?

Then I thought of our local Seventh-day Adventist church. Perhaps they would help! I assured the dad that our church would like to give them a hotel room and a gift card for food. Perhaps a local business would hire him. The boy brightened as he talked about his cat. We went outside to their car, the cold wind whipping my coat. He seemed so pleased as he showed me his cat.  I saw all their worldly possessions in the back seat of the car.

What was one night in a hotel in the face of such need? I watched them drive away, sick at heart.

Could I have done more? Should I have done more? Maybe; only time will tell.

Jill Morikone is vice president and chief operations officer for Three Angels Broadcasting Network (3ABN), a supporting Adventist television network. She and her husband, Greg, live in southern Illinois and enjoy ministering together for Jesus.

I came from a place of judgment. I grew up with legalism, with no corresponding love for Jesus. It wasn’t anybody’s fault. Just the product of the culture of my church, of knowing “truth” without ever meeting Jesus. I looked at others through the lens of superiority, and myself through the lens of condemnation. Always trying. Yet never good enough for God.

When I first met Jesus, He revolutionized my life. I discovered grace, where before I experienced only shame. When I realized He could love me—me!it changed me completely. I longed to be in His presence, to sense His acceptance, and to walk in His will. As I received His forgiveness and victory, it changed the way I viewed others. Instead of looking at their behavior, I began to see people as my wonderful, God-breathed brothers and sisters. We’re all on a different journey, but God has called us to live in community, to encourage each other.

I grew to love ministering for Jesus. To hear other people’s stories, to pray with them, to share God’s Word, became my greatest passion. For five years I had the opportunity to minister to my sisters in the local county jail. God used that experience to peel back another layer of judgment as I discovered who they really were—God’s daughters, beloved by Him.

A woman I respect highly approached me. “Jill, you should share the talk on forgiveness.”

I recently discovered that my old spirit of judgment still lives on. A group of us from Three Angels Broadcasting Network had partnered with Christmas Behind Bars, as we brought care packages and the message of salvation into prison. We first went to the women’s prison. As I looked at the hundreds of inmates, I saw only my sisters, women just like me. Broken, yet seeking redemption.

The next day we entered the men’s prison. Even though I was walking beside my husband, with our entire group, I felt small and vulnerable. I wasn’t sure if I was going to speak, or even what I would say. Certainly nothing specific or personal. The guard at the door explained that most of the inmates were sex offenders. Really? I was coming to talk with them?

Just before the men walked in, a coworker, a woman I respect highly, approached me. “Jill, you should share the talk on forgiveness that you gave to the women.”

I instantly froze, and tears filled my eyes. That was intensely personal. How could I share the story of my pain? of my shame and journey to forgiveness? These men were abusers. Why did I have to minister to them? Surely someone else could minister. That old spirit of judgment, the one I thought was gone, came and rested heavily upon me.

The men began to pour through the door. I stood next to Greg, shaking their hands as they entered.

The service began. Sitting in my chair, I hardly heard the music or what was said. A battle raged in my heart. God had clearly exposed my sin. These men came to hear the Word of God, and I sat in judgment. Yes, there are consequences to sin, but that wasn’t my job. It was God’s responsibility to convict and convert. My duty was to respond in love to anyone, anywhere.

Rising from my seat, I paused a moment, feeling incredibly defenseless, still uncertain if I should risk sharing my story. But aren’t all in need of forgiveness? Don’t all need my Savior? The words began to flow, and with that decision God broke a bit more of the spirit of judgment from my heart.

Jill Morikone is vice president and chief operations officer for Three Angels Broadcasting Network (3ABN), a supporting Adventist television network. She and her husband, Greg, live in southern Illinois and enjoy ministering together for Jesus.

I’m not sure if it happened after I turned 40. Or perhaps it was the result of some rough patches in my path. Then again, maybe it’s just the nostalgia of the season, the end of one year and the beginning of the new. Whatever the reason, I find myself reflecting on the journey that Jesus and I have been walking together. It’s a journey of lessons learned and experience gained; of questions encountered and friendships grown; of previously undiscovered depths in my Savior.

Here are some of the life lessons God has been teaching me this year.

As this year draws to a close, here are some of the life lessons God has been teaching me this year:

What about you? What life lessons is our Father teaching you? May the Lord help us to learn His lessons, for all His lessons are love.

Jill Morikone is vice president and chief operations officer for Three Angels Broadcasting Network, a supporting Adventist television network. She and her husband, Greg, live in southern Illinois and enjoy ministering together for Jesus.

It’s funny how naive you can be at 20—all grown up, finishing school, ready to take on the world. When I married in my mid-20s, I somehow thought I knew how to communicate well. I could handle conflict; I would address any marital issue with ease; I would easily express how I felt. I quickly discovered, however, that I was wrong. Completely. On all accounts.

As our first year of marriage progressed, I found that I didn’t even know what I felt inside, let alone how to express it. Greg patiently listened; he encouraged me to discover myself; he made it safe for me to open up and deal with any issue that arose. I learned that open discussion was healthy, that I could disagree and still be a Christian, and that the manner in which I expressed myself mattered most in any dialogue. People are always more important than discussions, and the spirit with which you engage others often determines the outcome.

People are always more important than discussions, and the spirit with which you engage others often determines the outcome.

Years later I discovered again how little I knew when I became a “boss.” How do you encourage others to use their gifts while still holding them accountable? How do you foster a spirit of teamwork while recognizing people’s individual skills? How do you inspire buy-in for the mission of the organization while allowing people room to follow their own dreams?

A situation recently arose between two coworkers. They were each gifted and creative in their own right, but both believed they were misunderstood, and consequently refused to work with the other. After hearing both sides individually, we met together in my office to find the best solution. God, what am I doing here? You know I’m not equipped to deal with this.

I was glad for the desk that hid my sweaty palms and the quiver in my legs. Forcing a smile, I began to ask questions. The men skirted the issue as they talked, tension hanging in the air. Then something switched in one of them, and the accusations began. I sat back and watched as the heat of anger rose in his neck and face. The man being accused was instantly defensive and angry. But then another interesting shift occurred. I watched as the anger drained from the second man, and when he spoke, his voice was quiet. “Let’s separate our emotions right now and focus on the object out here. That’s the issue.”

The first man began to deflate. The accusations became less, and soon they disappeared altogether. I sat back, saying very little but watching the Spirit of God at work. Two hearts, angry and hurt, brought together by one man’s humility. One man’s willingness to set aside his anger, his defensiveness, his wounded pride, and react with kindness.

I learned about grace that day. I, who was supposed to be the boss, had been the student. Amazed to see the depth of grace. Astonished to discover its power. Unearned and undeserved, yet freely given.

Jill Morikone is vice president and chief operations officer for Three Angels Broadcasting Network (3ABN), a supporting Adventist television network. She and her husband, Greg, live in southern Illinois and enjoy ministering together for Jesus.