Sonya Curry: Nobody can determine the impact of my mountain on me. I often tell myself, What do I have to worry about? Because I have all these things. Well, I might not have the same worries you have, but when it comes to your soul and your spirit, that’s a huge mountain. It’s a heavy weight you’re carrying around all the time when you’re like, People see this, and they don’t see what’s inside and how much I’m struggling.
God Helps Us Find the Missing Peace: Sonya Curry & Sheila Walsh – Episode #302
Narrator: Welcome to the Jesus Calling Podcast. Does it ever feel like you’re searching for something in life beyond what your everyday existence is bringing? Maybe you’re a parent who is devoted to your family, but you wonder if there’s something you’re missing. Maybe you’re in the second half of your life and wondering if there’s more beyond the days of our youth. Perhaps you are just lonely, and wondering why you haven’t been able to connect with others who share your outlook on life. We all want the assurance that we’re doing it right—the peace that comes from knowing where you’re going.
Our guests this week share that there is an answer to finding that missing peace—and His name is Jesus. Sonya Curry raised three amazing children who became successful in sports and in life, but she still kept thinking something was missing and found what she was looking for in a closer relationship to God. Sheila Walsh is a spiritual leader to many, yet she battled depression at the height of her success and realized she needed God’s love through other people to help her find herself again.
Let’s start with Sonya’s story.
Sonya: Hi, I’m Sonya Curry. I am a retired head of school, entrepreneur, and now author, as well as a mom of three and grandmother of six.
God Has a Plan for Your Life
I am the oldest of three. I have two sisters and a younger brother, and we grew up in a modest environment in a trailer park. To some, it would seem as if we were poor, but we never felt like we were poor. It did take all of our family to come together and support us at certain times, but I was mostly raised by my mom, a single mom. And then my grandmother—I spent a lot of time with my grandmother growing up.
I loved sports. That was kind of my outlet when I was growing up. And I always had the aspiration to be an educator, to be a teacher. And so I would play “school” with the local kids in our trailer park, everything from ditto sheets to recess and snack and everything in my little bedroom.
Knowing that God had a plan for me and having people speak that into my life—because coming from the trailer park, coming from Radford, Virginia, I’m the first college graduate in my immediate family, so there was no expectation for me to even attend college. Getting into Virginia Tech, getting a scholarship, Pell Grants, graduating, meeting Dell and being his support during sixteen years of the NBA, to starting my own school—how that all happened was just the hand of God. I know that without a shadow of a doubt that He had a plan for me in the arena of education, in the arena of nurturing other people. And so by lining that all up for me, He gave me my occupation.
Finding Yourself While Raising Kids
I have three children. There’s Seth, Stephen, and Sydel. Stephen is an NBA player everyone’s very familiar with. Seth is an NBA player now with the Brooklyn Nets, and Stephen is with the Warriors. And actually, Sydel is married to Damian Lee, who also plays with the Warriors, so he gets to be teammates with his brother-in-law. And Sydel is an Instagrammer/influencer, her platform is more focused on mental health.
Stephen being the oldest, Seth always being the middle child trying to outdo his brother, when Sydel came along, I thought, Okay, here is my little girl who’s going to dance and do ballet. And no, she turned out to be just as competitive as all of us, if not more so than that. Constantly in the house, whether it’s pickup basketball games in the backyard or whether it’s just board games, we are all about it. We’re extremely competitive, as you would kind of imagine with lots of siblings. And especially with Stephen and Seth both being the oldest of my children and only two and a half years apart, so that within itself kind of bred competition between them.
Outside of being publicly known for their athletic accomplishments—or Sydel, for her social media accomplishments—Stephen’s the typical first child, a Type A personality, he’s perfect as his siblings will describe him. He never does anything wrong. He’s a rule follower and a pleaser. He just wants everybody around him to be happy. And then you have Seth, and Seth is the true second child, middle child, who wants to just forge his own path. He doesn’t want to follow in his brother’s footsteps. He wants to do things just totally different. But he’s also my quiet, introspective child. And then Sydel is my social butterfly, my youngest child. She is kind of a compilation of the two of them together. For example, like Stephen, she’s a go-getter. She’s very competitive, and busy. But then, like Seth, she doesn’t talk a lot, but when she does, she just speaks right at it. You never have to guess with her what she’s thinking. So she’s not shy with her opinions either.
Raising my children, there was a time in my life where I was in the world: I was in clubs, I was doing those kinds of things, and it was impacting my marriage. It was impacting just my focus on my home. I was searching for life that had substance.
Lots of things were going on around me, I mean, the games were going on. I wanted for nothing. We had a great life through Dell’s profession with the NBA and his occupation. So I wanted for nothing materialistically. I just wasn’t fulfilled in Sonya. And so I was searching for some of that fulfillment in the world.
“I wanted for nothing materialistically. I just wasn’t fulfilled in Sonya. And so I was searching for some of that fulfillment in the world.“ – Sonya Curry
Sonya Finds What She’s Searching For
I remember one day going to church, and the pastor delivered a sermon. He said, “If you’re tired of doing the same thing over and over again and you want something new, the altar’s open. Jesus is waiting for you.”
And, you know, it’s one of those church experiences where you’re like, “Oh, he stared right at me”—even though he wasn’t—and I felt like, “How did he know, did somebody call him and tell him Sonya’s coming?”
So I got up, walked to the front, and that was the moment. That was the moment where it was like, God, I really want a personal relationship with You. I don’t know what that looks like. I’ve heard what it should be, but I’m just going to surrender to You and get up and walk and see what happens. The other stuff wasn’t working, so we got to do something different.
It was just really as simple as that.
I had my school, which God had laid heavily on my heart that He needed to be a part of that. So I added spiritual development into the curriculum in our school and changed the name, and it became a Christian Montessori school, teaching the Bible and leading by biblical principles. And so that all happened all at the same time when I went from just being religious and going to church to really having a personal relationship with God.
It saved my family, it saved me, and got me more focused on living out the potential that God had placed in me to get to the purpose that He had for my life. And if it had not been again for Central Church of God, my church home community, several of my close friends who were believers who were my accountability partners to just speak into me constantly and pray with me constantly, I know I would not be sitting here doing what I’m doing right now.
“I went from just being religious and going to church to really having a personal relationship with God. It saved my family, it saved me, and got me more focused on living out the potential that God had placed in me to get to the purpose that He had for my life.” – Sonya Curry
The impact that it began to have at home was not only was I speaking it, but I was living it. I was walking the talk. And so yes, I was already raising my children and taking them to church because that’s how I was raised. But then they started seeing the transformation in me. They started seeing me pray more. We started doing morning devotions before school every morning during the school year. They’d get up at 6:30, we’d read through a chapter of the Bible. I wanted to train my kids to put God first. I wanted them to see that you can fit God into your schedule.
“I wanted to train my kids to put God first. I wanted them to see that you can fit God into your schedule.” – Sonya Curry
I also didn’t drink for about twelve years. I just stopped drinking alcohol, and they didn’t see me doing that. They didn’t see me going out and saying, “Okay, tonight I’m going out with my girlfriends, going to a club or whatever.”
So they began to see the Spirit’s transformation in me in action versus just words. And so instead of, “Do as I say,” they got to just see it. I didn’t really have to say much because they just started seeing it. And then they saw the joy that I had and the focus that I had in being content where I was.
There’s No Guidebook for Being a Parent
Years ago, God had put in my spirit the idea of a book. I have had tons of people stop me along the way, and especially once Stephen began his journey of success and winning the championships, and people asked, “How do you do it? How did you raise such great children? They’re just so wonderful.”
I was like, “I’m just parenting.”
So I didn’t really understand that compliment at the time.
I felt God’s hand was always in every decision I made regarding them. And so I felt now was the time that, two years ago when I started this endeavor, it was time for the world to hear the story and then to just encourage parents, guardians, whoever is responsible for rearing children to do it. Do it with intention, and to dare to parent because there’s so much pressure from the world to conform. And you’ve got to wake up every day and know that God gave you that child, that human being, on loan, but it’s our responsibility. And we’re going to make mistakes. We need a laugh. We need to learn from our mistakes. We need to not take ourselves too seriously. But we need to be intentional and purposeful because we are the gatekeepers to their souls. They were placed on this Earth for a purpose, for God’s purpose, and only God knows exactly where that’s going to be, but we just need to make sure we are protecting that and not allowing anyone to just take it from them or for them to give it away. And that takes form in so many different ways from just praying over them to, again, rearing them in the church or a small group, and we just need to encourage each other.
“I felt God’s hand was always in every decision I made regarding my kids. . . . Parents need to be intentional and purposeful because we are the gatekeepers to their souls.” – Sonya Curry
My role as a grandmother is different. I’m not on the front lines of things anymore, like with my children. So when I do visit them, I am constantly just again trying to walk the walk. I will pray with them if something happens all the time, I’ll say, “So let’s just pray about it.”
I try to bring Jesus into their homes, which is peace to me. Jesus, He’s just peace. And I try to always be peaceful in their spaces and share scripture with them when I can, because I don’t know any other way to do it, and I love it. So I love them and I love God, and I just try to find ways to bring it—I don’t know. I’m getting emotional about that—just bring them both together.
There’s no rulebook for how to be a parent. And sometimes we don’t have the best examples from our parents, so we’re just flying by the seat of our pants. We just need some encouragement. Life is hard enough.
Walking in Faith and Talking to God
Doing my daily devotions and prayer time grounds me. It really helps me set the standard for the day. It reminds me who I am, where I came from, and who I’m here for. And that is to serve God and to love others.
And I mess up. I don’t do it every single day, and it’s not the same thing every day. I have a few devotionals I use often. But then some mornings it’s just praise music to get the Word in me and just create that habit of connecting with God. But also, I’ve just developed a prayer life where I’m walking and talking to God, too.
“Doing my daily devotions and prayer time grounds me. It really helps me set the standard for the day. It reminds me who I am, where I came from, and who I’m here for.” – Sonya Curry
This devotion speaks to my soul because it sums up the totality of my life experience to this day. I have tried so many ways to, one, find fulfillment within myself and then have that pour into my role as a mom. Some things worked, some things didn’t, but the things that were built on the foundation of God never failed.
“I have tried so many ways to, one, find fulfillment within myself and then have that pour into my role as a mom. Some things worked, some things didn’t, but the things that were built on the foundation of God never failed.” – Sonya Curry
Like lots of moms, we think we’ve got to do everything and fix everything. As in this devotion, I had to stop trying so much and just start trusting God. Every day comes a new sense of peace that I don’t have all the answers and no matter what I do, really, it’s going to be up to the kids themselves as they become adults to make the decisions they need to make.
And you know what? It’s okay. It’s okay. God’s got me. He’s got a plan for me, and I just have to stay focused on Him, resting in His arms and keep my eyes on Him. It’s an everyday work in progress.
Jesus Listens, October 4th:
Invincible Lord Jesus,
You are the Foundation and Focus of my life. I’m grateful that You’re such a firm Foundation: my Rock that is not shaken by even the fiercest storms. I praise You, mighty Lord!
Before I knew You as my Savior-God, I had nothing to build my life upon. Every time I tried to create something meaningful, it would eventually collapse like a house of cards. Without You, everything was ultimately “Meaningless! Meaningless!” But ever since You became my Savior, I’ve been building on the solid Rock of Your Presence. Some of the things I’ve worked on have flourished, and others have not, but I always have a firm place to stand—the foundation You provided for me.
I’ve found that the key to steadiness in my life is to set You continually before me. When I make You my Focus, I can walk more steadily along my life-path. Many distractions still vie for my attention, but You are the Guide who is always before me. As I keep looking ahead to You, I can see You beckoning me on—step by step by step—all the way to heaven!
In Your majestic Name,
Stay tuned to Sheila Walsh’s story after a brief message.
A Meaningful Gift: Jesus Calling for Moms
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Fifty Jesus Calling devotions speak to the power of love, the gift of strength, trusting God’s guidance, and so much more. Also included are: a prayer for mothers from Sarah Young, Scripture verses, journaling prompts and space for women to write their own prayers.
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Narrator: Our next guest is Sheila Walsh—an author, Bible teacher, and television host. She graced the airwaves on television and CCM radio for years with her gorgeous Scottish voice. Eventually, painful childhood experiences caught up with her and Sheila grappled with deep depression. She found her way through that time and shared her experiences through books and speaking in an effort to give others hope if they are struggling. It’s no wonder that when the pandemic arrived and asked us to rethink how we do our lives that Sheila would have insight into how we can stay connected to each other and God. She wrote Is God Still Awake? so that families can remember together that God never leaves us.
Sheila Walsh: My name is Sheila Walsh. And even though I live in Dallas, Texas, you’re probably gathered by my accent that I didn’t start there. I was born in the west coast of Scotland, went to seminary in London, and then came over to America as a contemporary Christian artist. But for five years, I co-hosted The 700 Club with Pat Robertson on the Christian Broadcasting Network, and now I co-host a program called Life Today with James and Betty Robison, which I absolutely love. I’m married, and we’ve been married for twenty-seven years. My husband Barry and I have one darling, brilliant, amazing son called Christian, who’s twenty-five, and he’s in grad school studying clinical psychology.
God Is Still Awake
I asked my mom when I was about nine or ten years old—we’d been to an event in Scotland by one of Scotland’s only gospel groups. They were called The Heralds. And I remember the evangelist that night said, “God has no grandchildren, He only has sons and daughters.” And that was striking to me, that God wanted a personal relationship with me. A lot of people went forward that night and I didn’t, I couldn’t move. I was really stunned by this thought. And so I went home and I tried to go to bed, but I couldn’t sleep. So I came back downstairs, and I asked my mum that very question. I said, “Mum, is God still awake?”
And she said, “What do you mean?”
And I said, “I don’t know what hours He keeps, but I would like to give my life to Jesus, and I don’t know if I have to wait until Sunday.”
My mum assured me that no, God was open 24/7.
Some years ago, I had been hospitalized for severe clinical depression, but I’ve been doing really well. I’m very faithful to take my medication. I exercise . . . not as much as I should, but I do some exercise and I try to eat well. But when the pandemic began, after a few weeks, I found myself really spiraling again, and I was alarmed by that. I was alarmed by the weight of heaviness I would feel when I woke up in the morning and the kind of despair that I hadn’t felt in a long, long time.
I remember one night jumping onto my Facebook page and basically asking the question, “How are you? How are you all doing?” And I was overwhelmed that night by the number of very honest responses I got from people saying, “I’m not doing well. I’m lonely. Life feels out of control. I’m afraid. I feel like I’ve messed up.”
And out of that community of us all being very honest with one another—it’s really interesting, I mean, we were not designed to do life alone. If you think about the number of “one another” statements in the Bible, “pray for one another, love one another, bear one another’s burdens” . . . I think when we isolate—and that was one of the great temptations of the pandemic, that we, by necessity, isolated—but then sometimes by choice, we just got used to being kind of alone. And I have three of what I call my “safe sisters.” We know each other’s stuff. We pray for one another. And during the pandemic, when at the worst of it we couldn’t get together, we would jump on these Zoom calls. They were regularly scheduled, but sometimes if I was having a bad day, if I felt really low and depressed and I didn’t want to engage, I would just kind of text and say, “Hey, guys, I’m just going to skip out on this one.”
And they would be like, “No, you are not. You sit down. I don’t care if you’re in your pajamas and your hair looks like you climbed through a fence, get on this call.”
It was so good for me because there were times I didn’t want to do it, but I always left feeling better because we need one another. And shame breeds in silence. It’s one of the greatest tools of the enemy, and God’s antidote to shame is grace.
“Shame breeds in silence. It’s one of the greatest tools of the enemy, and God’s antidote to shame is grace.” – Sheila Walsh
The Power of Praying Together
One of the things I’ve had to make a shift on is that I got into the habit—I don’t know why—but I just got into the habit where I would get up in the morning and take our dogs outside. I put on the coffee, and I’d flip on the news just to kind of catch the headlines. And I found that it was just really weighing on me. So I’ve completely changed my daily practice.
I still let the dogs out and make coffee, but I go outside with my Bible and a journal and a pencil and rather than viewing the Word of God through what I just heard on the news. I reverse everything now so that whatever I watch at some point to catch the headlines, I view them through what I’ve just read in the Word of God.
That has made a world of difference for me. It sounds like a very basic thing, but I don’t want the first noise in my life to be what’s happening outside of our walls and what reporters are saying and all of that stuff, because I just have come to realize we live in such a noisy world.
“Rather than viewing the Word of God through what I just heard on the news, I reverse everything now so that whatever I watch at some point to catch the headlines, I view them through what I’ve just read in the Word of God.” – Sheila Walsh
I do love every Sunday night, I’ll jump onto my Facebook page and do a Facebook Live. And at the moment, I’m doing a Bible study on “holding on when you want to let go.” It’s just been so awesome. Last week, 30,000 women joined me on Facebook Live, and they watched it at different times, because some were from South Africa, or from Australia, or from the United Kingdom. But what I loved most was we were praying for one another, and I loved that. I loved watching women praying for one another and saying, “Hey, I’ve been through that, too. Here’s what the Lord used to help me.”
I think sometimes in years past in Christianity, you would have the people on the platform or you would have the people who write the books. And I have this greater sense of us walking together home, that it’s not about any particular gift within the body of Christ, but that we are praying for one another and encouraging one another. And I love that.
I think the book of Psalms was given by God to the people of God so that they could pray them communally back to God. Sometimes we feel as if we have to be careful when we come to God. That was one of the things I wanted to include in my new children’s book Is God Still Awake? If you’re having the worst day in your life or the best day in your life, God doesn’t love you less or more because of your behavior. He loves you because of the finished work of Christ.
And some of the Psalms—I mean, if you look at Psalms 88, which is kind of right bang in the middle, a lot of Psalms begin with, “Why are you downcast, o my soul?” But then they resolve into, “I will again praise the Lord.” But there’s that one Psalm does not resolve. And I think it’s God’s way of saying, “I understand there are some days, some weeks, some moments in life where all you can do is cry out. But process your pain in the presence of your Father. Don’t isolate from God when you’re hurting. Bring everything that’s true about you to Him, just as Christ did.
“Don’t isolate from God when you’re hurting. Bring everything that’s true about you to Him, just as Christ did.” – Sheila Walsh
I love Jesus Listens. This one happens on June the 11th:
Jesus, my constant Companion,
I want to walk joyously with You through today, holding Your hand in trusting dependence. With You beside me, I can savor the pleasures and endure the difficulties this day will bring. Help me to appreciate everything You’ve prepared for me: beautiful scenery, bracing winds of adventure, sheltered nooks for resting when I’m weary, and much more. I’m thankful that You are not only my constant Companion but also my Guide. You know every step of the journey ahead of me—all the way to heaven.
I don’t have to choose between staying close to You and staying on course. Since You are the Way, being close to You is being on course. As I fix my thoughts on You, I trust You to guide me moment by moment along today’s journey. Help me not to worry about what I’ll encounter on the road ahead. And please keep reminding me that You are always by my side. This sets me free to focus on enjoying Your Presence and staying in step with You.
In Your joyful Name, Amen
The greatest joy in my life is this constant companionship with Christ, of walking into every single moment of every single day with Him, whether it’s been over the last few months sitting by a friend who is saying goodbye to her husband, or whether it’s my son getting into a university he’d prayed he’d be able to get into, all the moments where I’m worried how will we pay this bill and what will we do in this situation? And the moments of simply watching the sunset and being reminded that even as I lay my head on the pillow that God is not asleep. He’s watching over us. And that’s, I think, what I would pray for every single one who listens: that you would enjoy the glorious presence of walking beside Him every moment of every day. And one day, we’ll open our eyes, and we’ll discover we’ve made it all the way home.
Narrator: You can find Sheila Walsh’s new book for children Is God Still Awake? wherever books are sold.
If you’d like to hear more stories about finding peace from God, check out our interview with Michael Guillen.
Up Next Week: Jon Gordon
Narrator: Next time on the Jesus Calling Podcast, we hear from Jon Gordon, the author of best-selling leadership books and an inspiring keynote speaker for Fortune 500 companies, sports teams, and nonprofits. Jon had a unique faith journey in finding his personal relationship with Jesus. He now uses his unconventional approach to build better leaders and organizations by translating Jesus’ leadership style into modern business language.
Jon Gordon: God always calls you to your best self. He calls you towards your future. He calls you who He made you to be. You see where you are. God sees where you’re going.