“I was single until the age of 43. Not by choice, mind you. I’d spent nearly two decades desperately trying to find love and satisfaction… not to mention trying to find myself. You might say I made a career out of it. But no matter what I chose- even a career as an actor, I always came up empty and brokenhearted. Stunningly, God used all of that heartache to lead me straight into the arms of Jesus as I desperately began praying, ‘Lord, I want to fall in love with you.’ And there in the pages of Scripture I did just that- I fell in love with the One and Only One worth falling for. God truly did plant a desire in my heart (Psalm 37:4) to help women fall in love with Jesus and live the life he planned for them. By his grace, I get to do that over and over again, and it’s my desire to help you do the same.”

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Looking for Punky’s bio to share with your group? Click here to download the PDF!

OK! Now that the bio stuff is out of the way, let’s have some fun!

Where did you get the name, Punky?

That’s the nickname my Daddy gave me almost immediately after I was born. Karen is my real name and it’s a perfectly lovely name; it means pure at heart—and a regular prayer of mine is to keep a pure heart before the Lord.

But being a Daddy’s Girl- I took the name Punky and it stayed with me all these bluhbluhbluh years later (grin). Never Punkin’ or Pumpkin. Just Punky. Even used it as my stage name. Daddy’s nickname for me has been a main talking point all my life. I loved him so much. You would have loved him too!

Why do you do what you do?

Because I love Jesus so very much and I love the fellowship of women. It is the desire of my heart to help women, like you, come to know Jesus, and love Jesus, and follow Jesus all the days of their life. I have been gifted and called to tell my story, to teach and write and communicate in as many ways that I can the great and astonishing Love of my life!

I get many texts, emails and calls every week from women who want to meet; women who need someone to talk to. My heart is to spend time with all of them, but we both know that’s not realistic. And so communicating to a group- at a conference, retreat or other; writing, blogging and posting are just some of the ways I can pour out as much as I’ve got into as many streams available to reach as many of you as possible.

The simple but profound words of Denver Moore (Same Kind of Different as Me) say it best: “I’m a nobody that’s tryin’ to tell everybody ‘bout Somebody that can save anybody.”

You mentioned being in the entertainment industry. Were you in movies or TV shows?

Yes! For about 15 years I worked in film, television, theater and commercials, was a member of the Screen Actors Guild, and modeled for about a nanosecond. Perhaps most recognizable role was in the movie “Something to Talk About” with Julia Roberts and Dennis Quaid, where I played “Norma,”, the president of the Charity League. (And no, I am not personal friends with Julia… although we share the same big, loud laugh- and I’m certain we’d be great laughing buddies!)

Who is Gigi?

If you’ve followed me for the last six years then you’ve seen a few posts about Gigi Girl, my adorable red fawn Frenchie! They don’t call them “the little French clowns” for nothing. She is crazy hilarious and flat out entertaining! And I’m just gonna go ahead and say it: I have THE CUTEST Frenchie in the world. See for yourself.

(“My sidekick”)

Isn’t she adoraBULL? Clearly I am an idiot about her and I own it. Gigi became ours in 2015. I figured that it was unlikely John and I would have children of our own so I at least deserved a Frenchie. Right?

My man was not thrilled with the idea. And so when Gigi came to live with us, she and I began praying that JT would fall in love with her. Which he has. And she with him. Now John and I both have “sucker” written across our foreheads because The G has clearly become the boss of us.

We often refer to her as Queen Gigi, for she rules! She loves to play even more than she loves to eat… and sister LOVES. TO. EAT! She’s smart and can tell time…sits by her bowl at 5:00 or comes to get me. Of course she does!

She wakes up early with me and LOVES to spend quiet time with Jesus, often resting her head on my open Bible. And when I kneel to pray she curls up on the back of my legs until I’m done. No kidding! I love her. We love her… and you would too.

Tell me about your man, JT! How did you meet?

It’s the biggest blast and blessing of my life that I get to be Mrs. John Tolson every single day. This man is nothing but a sheer grace gift of God to me and I love him like crazy. I’d been single until 43 when I married him and he was well worth the wait! God’s best always is!

I might need to say that again for all of y’all who are still waiting: God’s best is ALWAYS worth the wait!

We met on a blind date! Not a dating app, but a posse of precious friends who prayed us together. John, a widower of 2 years when we met, had been married for 30 years to Ruth Anne, and had two children and one granddaughter at the time we married. So on our wedding day I became a wife, stepmother, and grandmother in one ceremony. Waiting for God’s best always pays off in “immeasurably more than you dare to ask”. And yet, there is always a cost.

The Lord has never let me forget for one minute that the answer to my prayer for a husband came as a result of the death of John’s beloved first wife. My yes was their no. God’s ways are baffling and stunning. But I trust Him. And I believe that nothing He allows is without divine thought and pre-determined purpose for our own good and His great glory.

John and I were married on August 25th, 2001… just a couple of weeks before the horror of 911 that left us stranded in Los Angeles on a stopover from Hawaii at the end of our honeymoon. We were forced to drive home from Los Angeles to Orlando, FL. And drive we did. For four days. In a mini-van. What a start to a marriage! Nothing creates “togetherness” like a cross-country car trip in the third week of your marriage. But God used it as a means to bond John and I, and draw us closer in the early days of our life together.

We’ve shared a lot of life in these 18+ years. It seems like we’ve been together for much longer. Since John and I were both older when we married, I specifically asked the Lord to grant us quickly the kind of richness and quality in our marriage that most couples don’t experience until they’ve been married 20 or 30 years. And He has indeed done that for us. We don’t have a perfect marriage, and anyone who tells you that they have one is lying through their Crest-strip-whitened teeth. But we do have a mighty fine marriage that fluctuates between good and great. It’s a strong and solid marriage of deep faith, devotion, love, and respect. And the longer we walk it out with Jesus, the better it gets. Oh, yes indeed we have scratchy times and tears, but we make up for it with a double portion of laughing ‘til we can’t breathe, forgiving quickly, loving one another well no matter what, and eating Tex Mex once a week. Tex Mex can work wonders for your marriage. Just sayin’.

What does “Doing life together” or “life-on-life relationships” mean?

I’m so glad you asked that! In this age of social media that promises us new ways of staying connected, it seems that we’ve never been more disconnected. My husband always says, “There’s no such thing as Lone Ranger Christians.” And he’s right. Quite simply, we were not meant to do life alone on this planet, but “life together.” I’m talking about true fellowship between “one another;” a term that is used 59 times in the New Testament. Check out Acts chapter two and read the beautiful description of how the early church grew and flourished. They did life-on-life…they shared life together with one another in order to love and care for one another, teach and equip one another, to correct and protect one another and build one another up in the faith- in true “koinonia” – the Greek word for fellowship.

Do you ever wish you had someone to talk to? Someone you could go to and talk about all the hard stuff, ask all your questions? We are hardwired by our Creator for that. There’s spiritual strength in biblical fellowship. And so life-on-life relationships are God’s people meeting together- over coffee, a meal, around a table or on a sofa; sharing hearts, sharing successes and failures, building one another up in the faith, spurring one another on to stay in the game, keep running your race, and keep trusting Jesus. Because two are better than one, and a cord of three strands is not easily broken (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12).

Life-on-life is more powerful than you might imagine. Just take a look at the next question!

What does it mean to be a disciple or make disciples?

Before I answer that question, let me ask you one: The day you surrendered your life to Christ and became a Christian, you were completely ready to enter the gates of heaven. So… why are you still here?

Why am I still here?

I’ll tell you why- we’ve been left behind to participate in God’s Master Plan to take the planet for Christ! Yes, you and people like you. His plan was not to do it through technology or science or medicine or education or entertainment or social media. His plan was, and still is, to use His people.

Perhaps you’ve heard of the Great Commission but don’t really know what it means or what it means for you. In Matthew 28:18-20, Jesus gives his final words of instruction to his band of brothers…and those who would come after them (you and me), “Go into all the world and make disciples” of Jesus Christ.

Translated: Go make disciples who make disciples who make disciples.

Think about it this way: When you were born, as an infant you could do nothing for yourself. You needed help and a lot of it. Someone had to buy food for you and feed you and then eventually teach you how to feed yourself. Your mother and father put clothes on you and eventually taught you to dress yourself. They taught you about life and how to live it so that you could live as a fully functioning and thriving adult human being.

It’s not so very different when we are “born again” spiritually. As spiritual infants we need a lot of help from a spiritual mother or father who comes alongside to help us grow up in our faith; one who will train and encourage us in such a way that we will then grow up spiritually to the point that we go out and do the same for another young man or woman in the faith- raising spiritual babies to be fully functioning followers of Jesus, reproducing disciples who make disciples.

So now you see how God’s plan to make disciples involves us doing life (with Christ in us) alongside others… it’s life-on-life discipleship.


If you really want the nuts and bolts on Making Disciples,
click here and you’ll jump on over to The Four Priorities on The Tolson Group website.

What kind of ministry do you do in Dallas?

I’m not only blessed to be John’s wife, but also to be his partner in the Gospel. That sentence was never even on my radar until I met John. In fact, the 30,000 foot view of my life up to that time clearly shows train wreck after train wreck. So…it’s a bit surreal even at this date that this is my life. John and I get to serve together in a gospel-centered discipleship ministry known simply as The Tolson Group. Our focus is the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) raising men and women to be true disciples of Jesus Christ, helping them lay a foundation of faith, showing them how to follow Jesus and be reproducers or disciples-who-make-disciples… and how to invest their lives in others for Christ. We do this through life-on-life relationships, training and equipping men and women through God’s Word.

We seek to lead others to the heart of God and His purposes for us through The Gathering of Men, The Gathering of Women, The Four Priorities (guide book), The Discipleship Summit, Marriage seminars, pre-marital counseling, speaking, Bible teaching and more.

John and I worship at Reunion Church in Dallas, where we are also involved in leadership and making disciples who make disciples.

Who are the “Bosom Buddies” you talk about?

In 2009, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. In the year that followed I underwent several surgeries, a double mastectomy, reconstruction, and chemotherapy. “Bosom Buddies” (BB’s for short) are the brave women who’ve made the journey ahead of and behind me. We know the road and speak the same language, and we’re “there” for one another. Breast cancer became for me one of God’s sweetest gifts… wrapped in ugly paper. I hold that season of my life as one of the most precious, and encourage other women facing struggles of any kind to hold steadfast to God and His Word, where they will find a faithful source of encouragement, healing, promise, and profound purpose in the midst of pain.

My Bosom Buddies and I aren’t just survivors; they’re “more than conquerors!” (Romans 8:37).

You can read more of my journey through breast cancer on my blog.

You were single until 43? So there’s hope for my singleness?

I so dislike the term “singleness.” Ick. It sounds like an illness or disease, or something you want to get away from or be healed of… something you need to tolerate until you break out and become married. Whatever.

Single is a position: a profoundly God-purposed, valuable place in life!

I’m now married. When I entered into marriage (not marriedness) I did not feel in the least that I had been delivered of *singleness*. Quite the contrary. I realized all the more the inestimable value of the precious God-ordained position in life that I‘d been granted for 43 years.

I regret deeply that for many of those years, especially the older I got, I desperately wished and prayed and hoped that my position would change. Marriage was my focus. It was Jesus + marriage = my happiness & satisfaction. Thus, I was always wanting to be someplace other than where I was; someplace other than where God had assigned me. In the process, I wished so much of my life away; so much of what God had purposed and planned for me in those years as a single person that I could not recoup once I was married.

The Apostle Paul considers the single person to be in a place of *more*; a blessed and strategic position where one has a greater capacity for more wholehearted devotion to God (see 1 Corinthians 7). And after all, isn’t that really the goal… to love God wholeheartedly?

Marriage is not the end game. Christ is.

Marriage is not the goal. Christ is.

Marriage is not the fulfillment of your joy and happiness. Christ is.

Marriage is not your holy ambition. Christ is.

So I say this with all due respect to those who write and teach and speak on the subject of “singleness”: Find a new word and get a new perspective.

And to you, dearest friend- single or married, your position in Christ is a profoundly purposeful one! Make the most of your *now* place. Fix your eyes and set your heart on Jesus- knowing him, loving him and following him all the days of your life.

Can we meet up for coffee or lunch?

Oh wow, would I ever love to do that!! But the reality is that it probably won’t be possible. Unless you have a private jet (wink).

Like you, I have a lot of life going on and responsibilities that I give priority to. Time and relationships are two things I consider very precious and my aim is to invest my time in my family, studying God’s Word, honoring my calling, and the commitments I’ve already made- including one-on-one discipling relationships. That makes it difficult to accept each request I receive, so please understand I may not be able to accept each invitation to meet.

That’s precisely why I launched this website; it’s why I write, speak, teach and post on social media – because my heart is for loving on women, and these crazy ways of communicating…well, it’s the next best thing to sitting in a coffee shop with YOU!

But please don’t hesitate to contact me – I want to hear from you – and hope to connect with you online!

@punkytolson on Instagram
Punky Tolson on Facebook
@punkytolson on Twitter

*Due to the high volume of requests, Punky is unable to respond to each Direct Message on Instagram or Private Message on Facebook. Using the contact page is the best way to receive a response!

You mentioned studying God’s word transformed your life. I read the Bible, but I don’t feel transformed. How did you learn to study it?

The short answer: I was desperate! But the full answer to that question is much of what I bring to the table when I speak teach, write and disciple women. Truly- God saved my life through His Son, Jesus Christ, and He saved my mind through His Word. I was an absolutely mess when I hurled myself into the arms of Jesus and prayed to fall in love with him.

Oh, did I mention that I was already saved? Saved for a long time. Yep. But I was not walking with him. I was not living for him. I did not love him wholeheartedly. I chased after the “idols” of my heart until he let me get to the end of myself.

So, I got a Bible, got into a true Bible study and started following the instructions (i.e. obeying the Word). It wasn’t a quick fix or any kind of instant feeling of “I’m all better now.” It was a slow dance. It was a steady walk. It was cultivating a habit and developing a relationship… and I did it by reading my Bible day by day, listening to God and talking things out with him- having conversations with Him about what I was reading. I prayed to have a hunger and thirst for Him and His Word. Basically, I developed this habit: When God’s Word says to I will pray to; when God says it’s so, I will pray it so.

I sat under the teaching of sound biblical teachers and followed their methods. The process was a holy brain-washing as my mind was washed in the water of his Word. I began to think differently and act differently- and my life started to change…for the better. And it still is.

You need to know something; I’m not a natural student. I made good grades in school, but I did not like to study. I went to college for two years but never graduated, and I’ve never been to seminary. The Bible is the only book I have ever studied- ever wanted to study. I can’t get enough of it. It’s my holy addiction. In the pages of Scripture I met and fell in love with THE Love of my life: Jesus. And I’d love to help you do the same.

Much of what I’ll share on this website is about this journey…this process. So invite me to speak at your church and I’ll give you some practical and “pass-on-able” ways to know Jesus, love Jesus, and follow Jesus through the study of his word.

If you haven’t already shared your email with me, sign up now and get my free gift to you: “Show Her How: Simple Inductive Bible Study Method.” It will revolutionize the way you read your Bible!

How can I find previous Bible studies that you’ve taught?

Some of the studies can be found on my podcast and others are being re-worked into new, published formats. Follow along with me on the LifeOnLife podcast for current teachings, musings, and lessons from God’s Word. Learn more about the podcast and subscribe here.

When is your next Bible study coming out?

My foundational teaching on The Woman at The Well is set to release in late 2019 or early 2020. The working title at present is “Falling in Love with Jesus: The Answer to Everything Your Heart Desires.”

What have you written?

The emphasis of my writing is to help women know Jesus, love Jesus, and follow Jesus all the days of their life. Everything I write and teach has that aim in mind. In addition to my blog, LifeOnLife.us, social media posts and various ministry articles, I am a contributing writer for the books, God Crazy Freedom and The Four Priorities.

Also available is the self-published booklet, “Why I Love God’s Word” and the soon to be released bible study, “Falling in Love with Jesus.”

When it really comes to it, what do you believe?

In a nutshell: I believe Jesus is everything.

  • I believe the Bible is God’s Word and the primary way He speaks to us!
  • I believe it is the inspired, inerrant, authoritative Word of God. 
  • I believe God is who He says He is.
  • I believe God will do what He says He will do.
  • I believe I am who He says I am.
  • I believe I am to be who He says I am to be.
  • I believe I am to do what He says I am to do.
  • I will read and hear the Word of God today… and I will never be the same.

See the next section, “Statement of Faith” to dig deeper in the fundamental doctrines and core beliefs of the Christian faith that I study, live by, and teach.

Statement of Faith

What I Believe About God and His Word

I believe the Bible is God’s Word and the primary way He speaks to us!
I believe it is the inspired, inerrant, authoritative Word of God.
I believe God is who He says He is.
I believe God will do what He says He will do.
I believe I am who He says I am.
I believe I am to be who He says I am to be.
I believe I am to do what He says I am to do.
I will read and hear the Word of God today…
and I will never be the same.

The Lord Jesus Christ

We believe that Jesus Christ is “the way, the truth and the life.” We believe that “salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to man by which we must be saved.” Therefore we confess Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. He who is fully God came to earth as a man, was born of a virgin, lived a sinless life, died to pay the penalty we owed for our sins, rose from the dead, ascended into heaven, and will come again someday.

John 1:1–3, 14; John 14:6; Romans 3:23; Philippians 2:5–8; Hebrews 1:1–3; 1 John 5:11–12

God The Father

We acknowledge the Creator-God as our heavenly Father, all-knowing, all-powerful and always present, yet intimately acquainted with each one of us. We believe God is good, faithful, loving, and “is patient, not wanting any to perish but everyone to come to repentance.”

Genesis 1:1; Psalm 103:19; 1 Peter 1:2; 2 Peter 3:9

The Bible

We believe that “all scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.” We place our confidence in the Bible as the divinely inspired Word of God without error. It is completely reliable as the final authority for all matters of faith and practice.

1 Thessalonians 2:13; 2 Timothy 3:15–17; 2 Peter 1:20–21

The Holy Spirit

We recognize the Holy Spirit as the third member of the Trinity who is constantly at work, convicting those who have sinned, comforting those who hurt, and guiding those who believe in Christ.

John 14:26; Acts 1:5, 8; 1 Corinthians 6:19–20; Ephesians 1:13–14

The Depravity of Humanity

We confess that we are all sinners, by birth and by choice. Our relationship with a holy, sinless God can only be restored through Christ’s work of salvation. We believe that “if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

Genesis 3; Jeremiah 17:9; Romans 3:10–18, 23; 5:12; 1 John 1:9

Salvation

We believe that God’s free gift of salvation through Jesus Christ is available to everyone- without exception. Those who receive it by faith, apart from works, receive the forgiveness of their sins and experience a restored relationship with God that results in permanent life-change.

John 3:16; Romans 10:9–10; 1 Corinthians 15:1–5; Ephesians 1:4–12; 2:8–9

Eternity

We are convinced that at the end of time, believers will enter into everlasting communion with God and unbelievers will be condemned to everlasting separation from God.

John 11:23–27; 1 Corinthians 15:51–57; 1 Thessalonians 4:13–18; Revelation 20:4–21:5

The Body of Christ

We are grateful to be a part of the church universal, which exists to proclaim God’s truth, to stimulate spiritual growth, to facilitate healthy relationships, to promote the unity of all believers, and to bring glory to God.

Acts 2:41–47; Philippians 2:1–4; Hebrews 10:24–25

The Return of Christ

We anticipate our Lord’s promised return, which could occur at any moment. We believe that until His return we are to strive to live according to His Word, “bearing fruit that will last” by “making disciples of Jesus Christ.”

John 15:16; 1 Thessalonians 4:13–5:11; 2 Thessalonians 2:1–12; Hebrews 9:28; Revelation 19:11–16; Matthew 28:16-20

Discipleship

We believe Jesus’ last command “to go and make disciples” means we are to intentionally invest our lives into other believers by entrusting in them the Word of God, teaching them and equipping them to follow Christ, and to grow in their faith as maturing, reproducing disciples of Christ.

Mark 16:15; Acts 1:8; Deuteronomy 6:12; Matthew 28:16-20; 2 Timothy 2:2