by Sarah Reinhard | July 13, 2015 12:04 am
When I heard that Jennifer Willits, from The Catholics Next Door and New Evangelizers, was starting a podcast on her own, I was waiting online to download it.
After I listened to the first episode, I checked to see if there was another episode yet.
And that’s how it’s been for the last few months since Jennifer and Brooke started Good Things Radio. As I type this, there are 17 episodes, and not a dull moment among them. It covers parenting, Catholicism, books, movies, pop culture, recipes, organizational tips, fashion tips, hairstyles, womanhood, wifehood, finances, prayers, health and fitness, education, and much more.
Because I couldn’t even help myself, I cornered Jennifer and Brooke to get their perspectives on starting a podcast together.
What inspired two very busy moms of large families to start a project that, near as I can tell, is time-consuming and energy-sucking?
JENNIFER: For me, projects never feel like work if you are having fun doing them. Being a co-producer for Good Things Radio is both a blessing and a joy to fit into my busy schedule!
Throughout the years of my friendship with Brooke, I often joked about the idea of collaborating with her. I just didn’t know what it would be exactly. After a few years of hemming and hawing about this idea, something finally drove me to give this a serious consideration.
Once I evaluated my busy family schedule, I quickly saw that I could indeed rearrange a few items on my calendar and open up some time to tackle adding a second production to my schedule. Since I already co-host a weekly podcast with my husband, Gregory Willits, I wanted to be sure I could devote time to creating a second. Turns out, I was able to balance it all. Finding the energy to record a second podcast program wasn’t even necessary! My excitement to record the fun Good Things Radio podcast was as natural as anticipating the thrill of eating fresh baked cookies out of the oven.
BROOKE: I recently left my position as a morning show co-host at a Contemporary Christian radio station in Cleveland (Ohio) to be a stay-home mom. My husband and I have five children, one with special needs; and we both recognized I had been taking on way too much for too long, and needed to come home. Since I’ve been in radio from the age of fifteen, I knew it would be hard to quit broadcasting “cold turkey,” but I also wanted to honor my vocation as wife and mother first, and fulfill my promise to the Lord and my family to not “fill up my plate” right away. Podcasting has been perfect for that!
It’s only once a week, and Jennifer and I can broadcast right from our homes, in the middle of the laundry pile, eating chocolate if we want, too! 🙂 It’s a wonderful outlet and has become a true blessing for me personally. It also offers an opportunity not only for us to connect as friends and catch up, but also, hopefully, unite with every beautiful person who downloads the podcast and enters into the conversations.
There’s a story behind the two of you being friends. I’d love to hear about that, because I think there’s a lot to be said for having good and holy (and hilarious) women friends. We women need each other!
JENNIFER: Now that I think about it, I could say that broadcasting is what brought us together. My husband and I received an introductory email from Brooke back in 2010 after she listened to a radio program we used to host called The Catholics Next Door on The Catholic Channel. She wanted to know my thoughts on homeschooling.
Back then, I was experimenting with it and before you know it, I discovered that we had a lot in common. We were both Catholic radio hosts with large families who cared about how best to educate our kids. Since there’s not a lot of women who fall into that category, the need to “stick together” and form a supportive friendship became very clear.
To me, it was a Godsend. I think our different personalities are so complimentary and is the basis of much of the witty banter that comes naturally between us in Good Things Radio. I’m blessed to call Brooke my close friend.
BROOKE: Having holy friendships is such a precious treasure! You are so right about that. Although I am guilty of lamenting the effects of technology sometimes, I am also truly grateful for the gift of social media, texting, and Skype, because those are the very things that have helped sustain our long-distance friendship.
Jennifer and I have never lived in the same state. Yet, for the last five years, we’ve shared our joys and sorrows and walked through life together. I consider her one of my dearest friends, and it all started because of one email exchange.
I’ve met some wonderful listeners myself that way over the years, whom I consider true friends today. I always encourage people to reach out if they make a connection with a blogger, a journalist, radio personality, or whatever the case might be. I love seeing the Lord knit people together, and you just never know what the Holy Spirit will do when you respond to a prompting to reach out!
What’s your goal with Good Things Radio?
JENNIFER: I had a lot of discussions about this with Brooke before we recorded our first episode. I shared how I observed and felt the profound loneliness that comes with being a stay-at-home parent. New friendships are harder to form and the isolation of it can be sad at times.
I wanted Good Things Radio to be an answer to a need. To be an uplifting moment in someone’s day while they run errands or just tackle the neverending demands of home life. To give a reason to smile and laugh through the seriousness and silliness between Brooke and myself and to remind everyone that good things are in fact all around them when you stop to notice them. I’d like to see Good Things Radio foster a community of friendship amongst its listeners.
BROOKE: My prayer is to join in solidarity with others who are walking through life trying to raise virtuous children, grow in holiness, and live out a joyful faith that will bring light into our homes and the world. It’s not an easy task, and those things are certainly not readily reinforced in our modern culture.
We want our program to be a place where we naturally understand each other and share that ground and common goals. The bulk of our listeners are women/moms raising children, and family is the first priority. Therefore, there isn’t a lot of time for things like fellowship and socializing.
When I was in broadcasting, I started a ministry for moms inspired by this very need. Realizing the importance of fostering a sisterhood of believers devoted to encouraging one another, drawing us closer to the Lord in our vocations, and genuinely uplifting each other in a time of life that we really need unconditional, mature, holy friendships. So that is our hope with Good Things Radio.
We pray our program can offer just a little companionship and be a sunbeam into their soul for the times they need a lift.
We hope to be able to connect with others on the journey, encourage one another, pray for each other, and offer some sort of humor or insight that may bring a spark of “Good” to their day!
Who do you hope to reach and touch with the podcast?
JENNIFER: I’d like Good Things Radio to reach anyone who feels alone and isolated in their life’s journey, but especially those parents out there who are living in the trenches of parenthood while struggling to grow in their faith.
Because I’m a Catholic mom, I’d also like this show to be a blessing in the lives of other Catholic moms, to be a companion for them on their journey as a woman of faith. While most of our topics are shared through the lens of Catholicism and womanhood, I never want to alienate our male listeners and any non-Catholic ones either.
I try to make GTR to be a fun and insightful listening experience for men while also making Catholicism more approachable for the non-Catholics who listen. Basically, I try to co-produce GTR to affirm those who are Catholic and enlighten those who are not.
BROOKE: Anyone in need of a holy “boost!” We’ve entrusted our efforts to the Holy Spirit and there’s a certain peace about that! Hoping, praying that the Lord will take the podcast and place it in the path of those who most need it.
How’d you pick the name?
JENNIFER: One evening during an intense session of prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, I realized that the ceiling above me started to dissolve before my very eyes and my vision struggled to focus on what I can only describe as a parting of the Heavens and then I heard this quiet voice whispering into my soul.
OK, not really. Here’s what really happened as best as I can recall. After days of trying out numerous combinations of words that were both inspiring and memorable, I got a little desperate. Nothing sounded like it was “the one.” I started googling profound quotes from famous Catholics like Archbishop Fulton Sheen because I was hoping to stumble upon a word or two that would inspire me.
After reading lots of his quotes, it was soon time to go to Mass with the family. When Mass was over, the words “Good Things” popped into my mind and I couldn’t get it out of my head. I loved the simplicity and all-encompassing qualities of those two words when combined. The only thing left to do was suggest it to Brooke to gauge her feelings about it.
If you were each to share one piece of advice to the people in your audience, what would it be?
JENNIFER: Remember, our God is a God of second chances. It’s never too late to create as much good as you can with your life. Whether it’s something as small as turning a bad attitude into a good one or building a shelter for the homeless, do things for the sake of love and good things will follow.
BROOKE: To allow God’s grace to find you, anew, each day. The last several years have been very difficult for me, personally. My dad died, we endured a lengthy adoption process, my son had a stroke, and we received a devastating medical diagnosis of our daughter. Through those experiences, I would often come back to a lyric from a Rich Mullins song ( “Sometimes by Step”). That is: “Even the night was beautiful.” How God gives us grace in our midnight hour. To see beauty in the darkness.
As we give him our daily “yes” he supplies the grace we need, in abundance. It might be through the prayer of a friend, a sunrise, or a good night’s sleep, but every morning, He waits to restore and renew us. No coffee can compete with the supernatural grace of God! 🙂
Lamentations 3: 23: “His mercies are new every morning. Great is thy faithfulness.”
What do each of your families have to say about this venture? Or do they even notice? (I know they do. You can’t fool me!)
JENNIFER: Greg and the kids are very supportive. Greg has been incredibly giving of his time and multiple talents to help me achieve a strong start with this new podcast. I am forever grateful to him.
When I asked our oldest son (now seventeen) what he thought when he heard the first episode playing out of my minivan stereo, he said that he really liked it and would have no problem listening to this show. When I asked our fifteen-year-old son what he thought about the production quality, he said he couldn’t believe it was as good as it was. He was really surprised when I explained how we recorded the show. Since the younger ones tend to get a wee bit jealous of the amount of face time I give to my laptop, I try to record the show only when they are in school or in bed.
BROOKE: My husband and family are very used to being “show material” (in a good way, I hope!) so they were automatically open and encouraging of the endeavor. We’ve worked out a good schedule too: while Jennifer and I are recording, the “boys” watch a Three Stooges episode. Since I’m not a fan of that kind of humor, it’s a win-win for everyone. 🙂
What’s been the greatest blessing in all of this for each of you?
JENNIFER: Being a co-creator of Good Things Radio gives me the privilege and blessing of evangelizing to a new audience in a fun and fresh format. I love being a part of making someone smile and joining them in their faith walk. It’s a blessing that I take seriously becomes it comes with great responsibility, but it’s truly joyful work.
BROOKE: Being able to connect with listeners! We’ve heard from a mom in Nebraska, a family in Germany, and everyone has a story and something awesome to share. We are all pilgrims on this journey, walking through the “Valley of Tears” but we’ve ALL experienced God’s mercy and love…and being able to connect with others is a beautiful reminder of that. Everyone has a story, a gift, a cross, and a grace that helps us remember we were made to do great things, even if that’s just folding the laundry and wiping runny noses…if that is where God placed us, that’s truly a “GOOD” thing!
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