The Perfect Christmas and the Messy In Between

The holidays always bring different sights and smells which trigger attached memories and feelings. Traditions can come to mind often connected to nostalgia. As you recount the glorious homemade Christmas cinnamon rolls your mother made year after year, or the beauty of the Advent wreath your Father always lit on Sunday nights.

Or it spurs different memories and emotions and it leaves you with the memories of the chaos and dysfunction from the times of Christmas past. Then you see where God, in His grace, has brought you from and you dream and envision what ideals you have and how you imagine implementing these into your holidays to come. Dreaming of how it will look for you and your individual family’s future. Praying every effort leaves traditions, rootedness, and belonging for the ones you love.

(Starting Advent and already behind)

We are constantly bombarded with Pinterest perfect tablescapes, multiple decorated trees, perfectly wrapped gifts, and matching families who are carefully posed for the ideal family Christmas card. None of these are wrong in and of itself, but when we actually make this our very focus of the Christmas season, it leaves us edgy and exhausted longing for a single silent night and wondering where our Prince of Peace went. Instead of Christmas being an intentional time of recounting the birth of our Savior it becomes a pursuit of perfection which initially enslaves us.

(The messy middle of the week)

Luke 2 says…

The Birth of Jesus Christ

“ 2 In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 And all went to be registered, each to his own town. 4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. 6 And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

8 And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear.10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest,

and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. 17 And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.”

THIS was the Christmas when literal perfection came down.  This was the time that God sent His perfect Son to come and dwell among the imperfect.  To live and walk it out perfectly in our place.  When we get this, when we can rest in this truth, this is where we find freedom.  Freedom from the list, freedom to live in our realities with our people in our own unique family dynamics. Freedom from comparison, and freedom to love our people perfectly imperfect with our traditions, with our bakery bought sugar cookies, and in the years we needed the quick cinnamon rolls out of the tube. Freedom and Grace.

(Laundry is a sign of life)

Having ideals isn’t wrong, sometimes that helps us to be intentional in being generation changers and gives us some sort of direction. But often we forget that we are a broken people living among other broken people who all need Jesus. That it will be in the messy in between and imperfect that we get the opportunity to learn to love like Christ and rest in His grace. It’s when we learn to live within our realities and hold our ideals loosely that we can find true peace in even our best broken efforts.

Because Jesus came and lived it perfectly in our place, the true gift we are given aside from eternal salvation, is that we get the true rootedness and belonging through the perfect Son of God. And in turn we then get to walk each day out by faith, trusting that it is what it is meant to be for our family in this season, and that God will make it enough as He sees fit for our home, for our children, and for our future generations.

Rest in His grace,


Necessary Nourishment for the New Year

I’ve been thinking a lot as we come out of the Christmas season about Advent.  It is a preparation of sorts as we take an intentional amount of time and anticipate the celebration of Christmas, to remember what God has done as He came to earth as a baby who was fully God and fully man.  Then as Springtime approaches, there are those who take another intentional amount of time of fasting (food or other wise) as they anticipate the celebration of Easter in remembrance of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection.  
As I’ve been thinking about these times of intention of fasting, the Lord laid it on my heart to personally take 40 days in the new year of fasting and prayer.  Not out of a place of anticipation of a holiday, but out of a place of gratitude and grace for what has already been done for me and given to me because of the finished work God completed on the cross.

If you don’t feel strong desires for the manifestation of the glory of God, it is not because you have drunk deeply and are satisfied. It is because you have nibbled so long at the table of the world. Your soul is stuffed with small things, and there is no room for the great.

John Piper, A Hunger For God
It’s true, you are what you eat.  I believe many of us are soooo full and yet starving as we eat “just enough” to get by, or snack and feast on the things that aren’t necessarily nourishing for our minds, bodies, or souls.  It is amazing to me what is available to us in an instant.  A recipe, a map, a location with address, a connection to an old friend, a note passed through the World Wide Web.  Literally anything we could think of is available at our fingertips.  Though there is mass amounts of things that we are taking in daily, is it nourishing?  Is it feeding you well? Though many of those things are useful tools, it can also become an unnecessary distraction and ultimately leave us discontent, unsatisfied, and still hungry.
May we be intentional about creating space in our lives.  This can take a lot of intention as our lives are full!  But are they full of fruitful things that nourish us?  I challenge you to take an intentional time to create more space.  This doesn’t have to be legalistic, but pray and ask God what needs to be “taken off” for a time and what needs to be “put on“ in its place.  
As the Cliché goes “you can’t pour out of an empty cup”. It is always fruitful and beneficial to have a time to reset and reorder the mind, body, and spirit and fill it with goodness and truth so that we can live out of a place that is full, nourished, and well.  This equips us to reestablish healthy habits, and makes us more mindful in finding our “best yes’”.   

“Yet even now,” declares the LORD, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; and rend your hearts and not your garments.” Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love;

Joel 2:12-13a

The Sovereign God who Writes our Story



There are always “what ifs” that cross our minds throughout our lives. What if we would have made a different decision here or there. What if we would have been born in a different family or country? What if we would have gone to college or not. What if we would have gotten that job? What if we would have never moved?

It is important for us to know the attributes of God so that we may intimately know WHO God is, because when our feelings, the hardships, and loss in life come and don’t seem to align with who we think He is, the TRUTH of WHO scripture says God is will always brings us back to a place of peace and rest in our all knowing and sovereign Creator.

Understanding and knowing the sovereignty of God is one of the most foundational truths that all other doctrines of our Christian faith must be brought into alignment with. God’s Sovereignty is the fact that God is the one, and only one, who has supreme power and authority over all things, He is the one true God of infinite rule.

In the very beginning of time God spoke and therefore it was. He spoke the world and all that is in the world into existence.

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day. (Genesis 1:1-5)

In the beginning He created and because he created and has always been, this establishes supreme authority over all of the things that He indeed created. God is the “sovereign Lord of all by an incontestable right” as our Creator. God must be sovereign to be truly God, we wouldn’t want a God who wasn’t.  That’s the difference between the creation and the Creator, God’s sovereignty means that there is no limits on His authority to act. He is in control of all things and His perfect plans are being exacted. We see this all over scripture, for example, when we look at how God used Pharaoh to further His Kingdom work.

(Romans 9:17) says For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” 

He didn’t raise up Pharaoh to just be mean to the Israelites, He had a grander plan, a sovereign plan for how He would provide a Savior and how His name might be proclaimed in all the earth.

Let’s not forget how God worked in Joseph’s life? Joseph was the youngest son of many. He was favored by His father and despised by his brothers. He was sold into slavery at a young age as a result of his brothers hatred. He was then a slave in Potiphar’s house, but in this circumstance he was put in a position that would eventually help in reuniting him with his family and give him the ability to help them. I’m sure during this process Joseph questioned how God could possibly use any of this for good and how God’s ultimate plan would unfold, but there is a far grander picture here of God’s work through Jospeh’s life. Something that was sovereignly ordained before the beginning of time. God is not just saving the Egyptians and Jospeh’s family from starvation and ultimately physical death, He is keeping a covenant promise to Abraham through Joseph’s life story, that seems to be a life full of unfortunate events, so they could be ultimately saved from an eternal and spiritual death.

(Psalm 105:8-22)
He remembers his covenant forever,
the word that he commanded, for a thousand generations,
the covenant that he made with Abraham,
his sworn promise to Isaac,
which he confirmed to Jacob as a statute,
to Israel as an everlasting covenant,
saying, “To you I will give the land of Canaan
as your portion for an inheritance.”
When they were few in number,
of little account, and sojourners in it,
wandering from nation to nation,
from one kingdom to another people,
he allowed no one to oppress them;
he rebuked kings on their account,
saying, “Touch not my anointed ones,
do my prophets no harm!”
When he summoned a famine on the land
and broke all supply of bread,
he had sent a man ahead of them,
Joseph, who was sold as a slave.
His feet were hurt with fetters;
his neck was put in a collar of iron;
until what he had said came to pass,
the word of the LORD tested him.
The king sent and released him;
the ruler of the peoples set him free;
he made him lord of his house
and ruler of all his possessions,
to bind his princes at his pleasure
and to teach his elders wisdom.

Through this process, even the unthinkable things Joseph went through, God was keeping the covenant and was sustaining the line of Seth regarding the ‘seed of the woman’ who will triumph over Satan. God was fully executing His sovereign plan to provide a rescuer and a way for salvation as Jesus would come through this lineage. And even when faced with adversity, Joseph tells his brothers “You meant this for evil, but God meant it for good”. Joseph truly had an eternal perspective with his life circumstances. Wendy Alsup explains it this way in her book “The Gospel Centered Woman: Understanding Biblical Womanhood through the Lens of the Gospel”…

“…when the author of Hebrews references Jospeh in the Hall of faith in Hebrews 11, it is Jospeh’s conviction that God was doing something that transcended Jospeh’s lifetime for which he is commended.

(Hebrews 11:22) “By faith Joseph, at the end of his life, made mention of the exodus of the Israelites and gave direction concerning his bones.”

Joseph had such confidence that God’s purposes for His children transcended their current struggles and that they were all a part of something eternal that he gave direction concerning his bones.”

Joseph had a God given faith and believed that God would make good out of his life story, and God in His sovereignty ultimately fulfill the Abrahamic covenant and provided a rescuer, Jesus, and made a way for salvation.

These are all wonderful and great stories, and we can see the bigger picture now because we have the bible and can see God’s promise of a Savior provided through Abraham’s lineage fulfilled. But what about now, when things happen in our very own lives? Things that cause us to question and doubt God’s goodness and sovereignty? What about when we desire to have a spouse, a baby, a healthy child, a living parent, a forever friend, a body free of cancer, that job we’ve been wanting, and they never come when planned? Or they never ever come at all?

And in an even broader sense, not just in our personal lives but in huge current day events?  Through out history there have been things we do not fully understand, but we can rest in the fact that God is sovereign over it all whether we see His plan play out or not in our lifetime. Things like abortion, the Holocaust, politicians being elected to office, and the rise and fall of empires. God’s word even says in Proverbs 21:1

The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; he turns it wherever he will.

We so badly want to be in control of our lives, and we want it to contribute to our life story in some specific and positive way, when in fact God is the sovereign one who is in control of all things and is executing His sovereign plan to further His kingdom for eternity. (Psalm 18:30) says

This God—his way is perfect; the word of the LORD proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him.

His ways ARE perfect, even when they don’t feel perfect to us.

What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.
You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? (Romans 9:14-21)

God has a way of reestablishing His authority in our lives through life circumstances as sovereign Creator and King. When we come to the end of ourselves and to the end of our plans and realize that we are eternal beings made for His glory alone and are not the ones in ultimate control, we can rest in the Lord’s sovereignty over our lives and even over our sin. He has lavished us with grace and granted us redemption as a part of His perfect plan to unite all things to Himself for our goodness and His ultimate glory.

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory. (Eph. 1:7-14) 

May we be women of the word, living from a place of confidence in who we know God is instead of what or how we feel things should be.  May we learn to stretch and grow into the story He has written for our lives even when they don’t line up with the story we wrote for ourselves.  May God continue to grow our faith through each decade as we know He works all things for our good and for His glory alone.


How should the knowledge that God is sovereign change the way that you live?

In what area do you feel the most out of control?

How does the fact of God’s sovereignty comfort you personally?

How does it shape your understanding of the miracle of salvation?

How can you share that comfort with others?

Motherhood and squashing expectations

Motherhood and squashing expectations

This accidental country girl planted her very first garden this year.  Two days ago in fact!  My Dad was going to teach me, but God saw fit to have him in the hospital for a stem cell transplant instead, and God has been so faithful yet it has been another season of hard questions and God’s faithfulness.  I had no idea what I was doing and as I planted the seeds of corn, cucumbers, tomatoes, onions, squash, and pumpkin my heart filled with anticipation for the weeks I’d see the first sign of new life.  Then this morning my Mother in-love who lives next door shared with me that she had seen birds snatching some seeds from a few of the rows.  Immediately I asked myself, “is this even worth it?  What if my garden doesn’t bear fruit (or vegetables haha) and all of my effort was for nothing?

I then started to think about Motherhood and how it can be much like gardening.  We tend to sow and weed with the expectation and anticipation for the day we will see real fruit and evidence in their life.  But what if we don’t?  What if the results we desire never come when we think they should?  We truly aren’t promised good parenting in = good kids out, so why in the world are we doing what we are doing?

I was thinking about the verse in Matthew 10:37b anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.  Do we love our children more than we fear God?  How does that look in our parenting?  Do we make choices and parent based on the desired outcome, to be the favorite, out of laziness, or true conviction from the Lord?  There is a Proverb in scripture that reminds us to train up a child in the way he should go for when he is old he will not depart from it.  And though it is likely that if we train them up in the way that they won’t depart, but it isn’t a promise that they won’t.

I keep thinking about the harvest, but really all God’s

asking me to do is to sow in faith today.   

We have a hope with in us and the Holy Spirit helper to lead and guide us.  We are not responsible for the end result, we are responsible for what we as parents are called to minute by minute and day by day.

How we parent and sow into our children’s hearts should absolutely be shaped by the gospel.  Our little ones are sinners in need of Jesus and we are sinners saved by grace trying to show them who God is.  I was thinking about how Paul charged and encouraged Timothy in 1 Timothy 4.  

(vrs. 6-7) Be trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine…train yourself for godliness.  We must be proactive as we prepare for and train our children with the word.  How can we hide God’s words in their hearts when we don’t have them in our hearts?  How can we share the good news of salvation and teach them what to put off and put on when we don’t even know?

(vrs. 11-12) Command and teach these things, Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.  It’s amazing that it’s in our youth that we are usually blessed with the gift of children who are solely dependent on us for everything and we are just sorting through life ourselves.  Our sweet little ones are watching our every move whether we like it or not.  What are we teaching them verbally, in our conduct, in how we love one another and others, in faith and in purity?

(vrs. 13-14) Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. Do not neglect the gift you have.  Are we reading scripture out loud so that it can settle into the little hearts and minds that God has entrusted us with? 2 Timothy 3:16-27 says All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God maybe complete, equipped for every good work. As we read the word out loud not only do our kids benefit, learn and receive correction but God is faithful to use those times to work in our hearts as well.  We learn and grow as they learn and grow!  It’s part of how God equips us for THIS ministry of Motherhood, and it is your calling if you have children!  Use your gifts in your home to glorify our God as you minister, witness, and serve your family.

(vrs. 15-16)  Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress. Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.  Jump in there Mama, immerse yourself in the good work God has called you to.  You WILL see progress and others will too!  Keep close watch, heart checks and motives.  Persist: (verb) continue firmly or obstinately in a course of action in spite of difficulty, opposition, or failure. Persist in THIS!  You never know how God is going to use your faithful seed and reseeding.

Tomorrow I plan to go out into my garden and reseed the corn the squash and some other rows of vegetables.  It isn’t a waste of time to be diligent and faithful in the little things, because before long they become the big things and though we aren’t promised a full and plentiful harvest in the realm of parenthood, may we be faithful and obediently sow and resow when necessary and rest in the sovereignty of our Lord and King.

1 Timothy 4:10 For to this end (eternity) we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.

Infinite Grace Devotional: Losing it!

Infinite Grace Devotional: Losing it!

For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? – Matthew 16:25-26

Americans hate to lose. You aren’t looked well upon and you aren’t held in high esteem for being the “loser”, and yet losing is exactly what we are called to as Christians. To truly gain and profit in this life we find it in the losing. Losing our life for Christ’s sake. In losing our dreams, plans, and ideals we are freed up to gain the wisdom, maturity and beautiful story God has written out for us.

This isn’t the end all, may we purpose to be eternally minded and to surrender and submit our ways to God seeking Him first in all things and loving our neighbors as ourself. What God has in store for us is FAR greater than any type of “winning” and admiration we can gain in this life. It’s so counter cultural but it’s exactly the way of our God.  Remember the love the Father has for us?  That He would lose His life for us while we were yet sinners, enemies even.

What will it look like today friend?  Losing your quiet lunch hour to engage and love on another?  Is it in surrendering your ideals of what you want this “life” to look like and embrace the story God has written for you? Mama, is it in saying your best “yes” and serving your children and Husband?  His ways seem to always be opposite of the way we think things should be.  Do not be fooled into thinking it’s all in the winning.  True eternal profit and gain is in the little losing of our selves day in and day out as we gain more of Him.

#forChristssake #eternallyminded #thisworldisnotourhome


Infinite Grace Devotional: Who Fights For You?

Infinite Grace Devotional: Who Fights For You?

The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. (Psalm 18:2)


The kids and I had a week off from homeschooling a few weeks back. I’m learning how important it is to schedule in rest to avoid burnout and not just stop all together. So, the kids and I were all working on different projects. I was working on food prep because you know, baby weight. The oldest four were planning and scheming a way to build the biggest fort ever!  After tons of chopping and dicing, I went into their room to find a fort roof cascading down one side of the bunk bed and all four of the kids packed in like sardines looking at books and giggling. I slipped right in and started asking them what a fort was for? Payton, my nine year old piped up and said “It’s something to hide in and protects us from the enemy”.  It immediately reminded me of the old hymn “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God”.

David writes here in Psalm 18 that our God is a fortress. A fort is a strong place that provides protection, where a fortress is a place of strength. Think about that for a minute. Fort: Strong place. Fortress: Place of strength. We can run and hide inside a fort but it will not fight back for us. A fortress is an intricate defense. It’s where the strength is, where the power is. When it says here that God is our fortress, deliverer, God, refuge, shield, salvation and stronghold, He not only provides a place of protection but He IS the source of power and who fights on our behalf.

Moses comforted the Israelites as they feared the Egyptians were after them.  Moses told them in Exodus 14:14 “The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.” That very same God who parted the Red Sea for the Israelites is the very same God who provides a safe place and fights for you. I’m not sure what battle you are facing today friend, but be faithful in what you know to do and know that our God goes before you!  May you find rest in the solid rock of our salvation.  A Mighty Fortress and Deliverer is our God!

Love, Janell

A Running Plan For Life: It’s NOT what you think

A Running Plan For Life: It’s NOT what you think

Whether you know it or not, we are ALL runners. But you may be sitting there thinking, “I haven’t laced up my shoes and ran since Middle School when we ran the mile for our fit test!”. Or maybe you are sitting there thinking, “I know I am, I just started an in-depth couch to 5K running plan for the New Year!”. Or, you may be thinking, “I’m more like the weightlifting type….or book type!” Well, wherever this finds you, if you are a daughter of the King then you ARE a runner, trust me.

It was in God’s design. We were created to be runners. There is a race that has been set before us.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:1-2

The first thing the author of Hebrews points out is that, to run this race well, we need to lay aside every weight and sin which clings. What are the things that weigh you down? What are the things that cling so desperately for your attention that is not of the Lord? Seriously, think on this for a moment and evaluate these areas in your life. I know for me, the weight I usually feel is a direct result or is hand in hand with a particular heart sin. (i.e.: laziness, anger, control, lack of control, pride, etc.) Isn’t it just like sin to cling on and weigh down?! Let’s be intentional to continually lay them aside, minute by minute, day by day as God faithfully changes us into His image. Repent, Renew, and Run!

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.” 1 Corinthians 9:24-27

Secondly, we are to run with endurance the race that is set before us. Dictionary(dot)com defines endurance this way:

the fact or power of enduring or bearing pain, hardships, etc.
the ability or strength to continue or last, especially despite fatigue, stress, or other adverse conditions; stamina:
The need for endurance is major as this life is hard. Where do we receive this energy to go on and the power that we need to endure well? I LOVE what Jesus says to Paul when Paul was praying and pleading that God would remove this thorn that was in His life. Jesus said,

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

His power is found in our weakness. We are so quick to hide or be embarrassed when we show weakness or when others see weakness in us. Yet, THIS is the very thing God uses to perfect His power in our lives as He provides the grace for us to RUN!

This race of faith that is set before you is tailor-made specifically for you! Specific and by design, as we all struggle with different things and are gifted in different ways. Don’t be tempted to look over at the other runners. They aren’t running YOUR race. Keep your eyes laser focussed on what is set out right in front of you. Your race may be in the form of the husband who is hard to love, it may be that child that is beautifully different or has special needs to tend to, it may be in the church that didn’t meet your expectations, or in the relationships around you. It may be in the financial situation you are in, or just in the call to run. Be confident in THIS very thing, He is not only the perfecter of our faith but the perfecter of our race.

Thirdly, look to Jesus the founder of our faith. I LOVE how this verse is worded in the NASB.

“fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:2

Not only look or glance, but FIX your eyes on the Author of YOUR race, the Author of YOUR story. He is the one who makes it perfect, not by Hollywood or America’s standards, but by His Eternal Kingdom standards and plans. No matter what race you find yourself running, our King can relate as He modeled endurance to the cross to the point of death that we might live. We are called to endure as runners in our race of faith, and we can because of Jesus and the gospel.

“Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised.” Hebrew 10:35-36

We want to be women of faith right? I told you that you are a runner! The only way our faith can grow in Christ is by running through the hard things. Persevering with endurance through the obstacles that reveal our weakness and dependency on Christ, and faithfully (moment by moment) fixing our eyes on the one who is strong and carries us when we feel we can’t continue running the race set before us.

We ARE weak, we ARE in need, we WILL run it imperfectly. But our God is faithful, He is perfect, and He is Great. He didn’t ask us to run it perfectly, He just asked us to RUN! We don’t run this alone friends, everyone knows that any good Coach runs alongside His team. We have the BEST!

“If the LORD had not been my help,
my soul would soon have lived in the land of silence.
When I thought, “My foot slips,”
your steadfast love, O LORD, held me up.” Psalm 94:17-18

Love, Janell

Being Faith Led In The Year Ahead

Being Faith Led In The Year Ahead

Every time the New Year approaches our email boxes, social media news feeds, and NY Best Seller list are always filled with the Top 5 ways to be the very BEST you in this New Year. Top 5 ways to declutter and simplify. Top 5 ways to be a stellar homeschool parent. Top 5 ways to slim down and get strong. Top 5 ways to be more successful in business. Top 5 ways to consolidate debt and become debt free. The lists, articles, and blog posts go on and on about planning for success, creating your best life, and living a life of design. THIS is how to be your BEST YOU in the upcoming year!

The thing is, we forget the Creator of all things who gives life, has already drawn up plans for us and has a specific purpose for us. In the imperfect day-to-day’s He IS doing His work to make you the BEST you…through Him!

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the LORD, (Jeremiah 29:11-14a)

These books, articles, and tips aren’t bad things as we aspire to be better stewards of our body, mind, time, and possessions, but may we not forget to first pray and seek God first and foremost. Are we seeking God with ALL our heart regarding the changes that need to be made in our life, body, relationships and finances? Are we asking Him first if these are the things He has for us in our life calling? Or are we making decisions and resolutions based on things that we feel others think we should be doing? Are we striving for Pinterest Perfect and Facebook Fabulous, or are we desiring holiness and righteousness offline? Everything we say “yes” to ultimately gives a “no” to another area or other people in our lives. Are we praying for wisdom, discernment, and direction?

Though culturally the New Year is a great time for reflection, adjustments, and change, the awesome thing about being a child of the King is that we don’t have to wait until January 1st to start over. We don’t even have to wait until Monday as God and His grace are available to us minute by minute and day by day. When we fail to follow through perfectly with our resolutions, we can know where our hope lies and we can find rest and satisfaction in our God who is faithful to change us.

The steadfast love of the LORD never cease;

his mercies never come to an end;

they are new every morning;

great is your faithfulness.

“The LORD is my portion,” says my soul,

“therefore I will hope in him.” (Lamentations 3:22-24 ESV)

With all the New Year’s resolutions, they tend to be rooted in who we are (or hope to “appear” to be), what we would like to be known for, and what legacy we want to leave. If you look in Hebrew 11 we see the “Great Wall of Faith”. It is this awesome list of people who did great acts of faith in their life time. All their acts of faith were in God and what He had uniquely designed for their lives.

Abel- Offered the best parts of a lamb as a sacrifice to the Lord. (Gen. 4:1-6)
Enoch- “truly loved God”. (Gen. 5:21-26)
Noah- Believed God’s warning that God was going to destroy the evil people of the world in a flood. Built a large boat (ark) as God commanded to save his family and animals. Gen. 6:1-9:17)
Abraham- Left the comfort and security of his homeland, when God called him to go to a new land where God would give him many descendants. (Gen. 12:1-9, 17:1-8, Rom. 4)
Sarah- Was too old to have children, but she had faith that God would give her a child anyway. (Gen. 18:1-15, 21:1-8)
Isaac- Gave a blessing to his sons Jacob and Esau. (Gen. 27:1-40)
Jacob- Blessed his grandsons (Joseph’s sons) Ephraim and Manasseh. (Gen. 48:1-22)
Joseph- Used his position in the Egyptian government to save his family when they went to Egypt during a time of famine in Caanan. He also trusted that God would lead the Hebrew people of Israel out of Egypt. (Gen. 37-50, 50:22-25)
Moses- Refused to be considered the king’s grandson; led the Hebrew people out of Egypt; and celebrated Passover. (Exodus 1-15, 19-34)
Rahab- Helped two Israelite spies escape Jericho so they could make a report to their commanders. (Joshua 2:1,3; 6:21-25)
Gideon, Barak, Samson, & Jephthah- Performed acts of heroism and helped the Israelites to gain control of the land (Canaan) promised to Abraham and his descendants. (Judges 4-16)
David- Slew the giant Goliath and helped the Israelites to conquer Canaan. (1 Samuel 16-1 Kings 2:11; 1 Samuel 17)
Samuel- Led the people of Israel as a judge and prophet. 1 Samuel 1:1-1 Sam 25:1)
These men and women weren’t out creating and designing life for themselves and for their glory, yet they were ordinary everyday people with sin struggles just like you and me who needed a Savior and sought the Lord. Who followed His leading and truly LIVED the life that was already designed for them. It’s so amazing if you take the time to go back and read about these people. They mess up, they accomplished great acts of faith through God, but some even missed out on blessing and opportunity. This wasn’t a list of perfect people. It wasn’t a list of the most fashionable of 2016, the wealthiest of 2016, the most fit of 2016, the most organized, successful, etc. These normal everyday people God saw fit to use were imperfect and willing to step out by faith and live the life that was tailor made for them. I’m pretty sure “Save my Family during the Famine” was not on Joseph’s New Year’s resolution list. Yet God had brought Him to that very place to be available to do the unthinkable. Just think where God might place you this year if you are only willing and listening?

So, as we prepare our hearts, thoughts and time for the New Year, may we seek eternal things, Kingdom things. May we seek God and His righteousness and these things will be added unto us. He truly will lead us by faith! As we slow down and seek Him first, may we hear from Him and see in His word what He is calling us to. May we be Spirit lead and have wisdom and discernment to know what our best “yes’” are for our home, our family, and our ministries. May we take it one day at a time as we continue looking up. Then we can boldly and faithfully step out in the power of the Holy Spirit and do mighty things for His Honor and Glory!

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. (Matthew 6:33-34)

Love Always,


When You Don’t Feel Jolly And Bright At Christmas

When You Don’t Feel Jolly And Bright At Christmas

This Holiday season has been packed full of hard and unexpected things, and though I’ve tried to be super upbeat and jolly, there are days that my heart breaks and has me feeling lonely. I’ve been in a funk and though I have known the Lord for years and have many things to be thankful for, we don’t always know how we will actually respond in specific circumstances until we are right in the middle of them. It’s this battle and spiritual warfare of the flesh and the spirit and in God’s goodness He reveals to us areas of our doubt or unbelief. It’s humbling to say the least.

But, as it is written,

“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,
nor the heart of man imagined,
what God has prepared for those who love him”—
these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. (1 Corinthians 2:9-12)

As I read these scriptures today, I noticed that it said, “For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.” If you know God, then the Spirit that is in you is the Holy Spirit, and according to the scriptures, the Spirit of God is the Holy Spirit. Read that last sentence over one more time slowly…If you know God, then the Spirit that is in you is the Holy Spirit, and according to the scriptures, the Spirit of God is the Holy Spirit. So the very Holy Spirit that knows our Creator God and His thoughts intimately is the VERY same Holy Spirit that searches and knows our thoughts! The thoughts that we wouldn’t breath to another soul. The thoughts of insecurities, doubt, hurt, longing, and disappointment. The Holy Spirit connects and bridges the deep things of God and our human hearts.

My heart leapt for joy as God reminded me that He loves me SO much, enough to search me and know me. So much in fact that He not only gave His son, but then gave His Spirit to dwell in us. We are NEVER alone. Like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in Daniel 3, the Image of God was with them as they chose truth and were tossed into the fiery furnace.

Then these men were bound in their cloaks, their tunics, their hats, and their other garments, and they were thrown into the burning fiery furnace. Because the king’s order was urgent and the furnace overheated, the flame of the fire killed those men who took up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, fell bound into the burning fiery furnace.

Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished and rose up in haste. He declared to his counselors, “Did we not cast three men bound into the fire?” They answered and said to the king, “True, O king.” He answered and said, “But I see four men unbound, walking in the midst of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods.” (Daniel 3:21-25)

The Holy Spirit is with us through every trial, every fire, ever uncertainty we walk through this side of heaven. Notice that God did not provide an additional friend to stick in there with them, their Mom or Dad didn’t come to the rescue, and their Pastor wasn’t there for “moral” support. It was our God all Mighty who stood with them.

If you find yourself in the midst of the fire this Christmas season and are tempted to despair and believe you are all alone in this, be encouraged. We are not alone as we have been given the Holy Spirit.

Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? (1 Corinthians 3:16)

Nothing is wasted as He is faithful to complete the work He has started with all who believe. No matter how long we have known God or what we continue to face, we will always need God to fight for us. May we come to a place where we can be strong and courageous as we walk through trials, all because we are absolutely sure of the One dwelling inside of us, and may we fight the temptation to dwell on how we feel, but be rooted in what we know.

Same Power

I can walk
Down this dark and painful road
I can face
Every fear of the unknown
I can hear
All God’s children singing out
We will not be overtaken
We will not be overcome

The same power that rose Jesus from the grave
The same power that commands the dead to wake
Lives in us, lives in us
The same power that moves mountains when He speaks
The same power that can calm a raging sea
Lives in us, lives in us
He lives in us, lives in us

We have hope
That His promises are true
In His strength
There is nothing we can’t do
Yes, we know
There are greater things in store
We will not be overtaken
We will not be overcome

Greater is He that is living in me
He’s conquered our enemy
No power of darkness
No weapon prevails
We stand here in victory

“Same Power” by: Jeremy Camp

Love, Janell

When Your Friendship Becomes Your Idol

When Your Friendship Becomes Your Idol

Just about every two to four years our family would be stationed at a new Air Force Base or location. We moved a LOT growing up. And as I started a new school or church, it became easier and easier to meet and greet new faces. Ask the same questions and make new friends. God really used these experiences to make me the friendly outgoing person that I am. This was the time before Facebook, so staying connected over the years on social media wasn’t even a thought. The new friends faded away after yet another move and I felt like I was always starting over. Making a new set of friends once again. I longed for the fairytale best friendship. You know the one? Started grade school together, knew each other forever, did everything together, finished each others sentences. A bestie.

God graciously gave me a set amount of years in one place during my Jr. High-High school years. These friends become the ones I had always dreamed of. Making memories, laughing, dating, & dreaming together. Most of these friends poured over into my twenties. As we went to college, married and had children of our own, our dynamics changed yet we clung to what we knew. Trying to hang onto the old while God was changing us into something beautiful and new. Then one year I lost my dearest and very best friend of fourteen years. My heart broke inside of me and I couldn’t understand how God would take away one of my most cherished friendships. She was closer than a sister to me. We had been through everything together.

In God’s goodness and mercy, He removed something from me that I would have never remove myself. And in doing that, He showed me truly where I had been holding that relationship. I hadn’t realized it until it was removed that I had cherished that one relationship more than I cherished my relationship with God. That was the root reason why I was so upset and heartbroken that our friendship was gone. I had put expectations on this relationship that no one but Jesus could fulfill. Instead of running to God, I would pick up the phone and run to my friend. Instead of quieting my spirit and intentionally listening for God’s leading, direction or seeking His word, I would ask my friend what she thought. She wasn’t meant to carry the load that was only meant for God to carry.

God was so faithful to do an overhaul in my heart. To be honest, it took a couple of years. I must be a slow learner. I had unhealthy ideals of what a godly relationship looked like. I expected my friend to be perfect. To not let me down. To always be there for me. To help me in a time of need. Do you see the theme here? Me. Me. Me. Guess what ladies? None of our friends will ever love us perfectly. Not even the one dearest friend you have right now. No relationship is exempt from the repercussions of our sin nature, and no relationship was meant to bring you ultimate joy and fulfillment aside from Christ. We are a broken people in a broken world. I guaranteed I will disappoint you, and that you will disappoint me. But if we both have Jesus, then we already have ALL that we need.

Now we know that God is FOR relationships! He has created us in this manner and this is a beautiful blessing that we can enjoy this side of heaven, as we keep it in proper perspective. Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 says, “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.”

So how then do we love perfectly imperfect and keep our relationships in proper order? Matthew 6:33-34b says “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. ‘Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Are we seeking our God first and being eternally minded with these relationships here on earth? Paul also wrote, ‘Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. (Colossians 3:12-15)

I literally laughed out loud when I read that we are to bear with one another as fellow believers. How many times do we say “just bear with me here”!? We know that we are still learning and growing and we so desperately desire that others would bear with us as we learn and grow. But are we willing to extend the same grace? Are we willing to bear with them when they are unbearable? Are we forgiving like Christ who has forgiven us? Are we loving unconditionally and holding these things loosely as we rest in our King?

That desire to be fully known and fully loved can ONLY be fulfilled through our God. He DID love us perfectly. “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13) He loved us unto death. He gave His life for us so that we might live! We can live confidently and take the risk to love unconditionally because of the great love that was given to us. We can boldly love with compassionate hearts, with kindness, with meekness, and patience because He is in us and is changing us from one degree of glory to the next. As we find our ultimate joy and fulfillment in our God and find Him as our very BEST friend, it frees us up from expectations, requirements, or demands that we might otherwise put on others.

I am happy to say that God in His mercy and grace has restored this old friendship of mine after years of heart work. Though it doesn’t look like it once did, He did a mighty work in the both of us that I don’t think would have otherwise happened. He gave me these verses in Isaiah as I had been tempted to long for the old times to remind me of where we are headed. “Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. (Isaiah 43:18-19 ESV) He has been faithful to make a new way in this friendship. A healthier and more lovely way as we both seek Him first. He has also been faithful to equip me with tools for healthier relationships now and in the future. I wouldn’t trade any of the heartache or tears for what I’ve learned as He made me refocused, solely dependent on Him as he redirected my wayward heart.

These relationship idols can so easily happen in a friendship, in a marriage, in relationship with our children, etc. as we look for fulfillment and purpose in these gifts instead of looking for fulfillment in the Gift Giver. What expectations have you put on the relationships in your life? Do you have a relationship that may need to be rechecked? Have you asked God to show you where you hold this relationship in light of your relationship with Him? Have you possibly held this relationship in an unhealthy manner with unhealthy demands? May you truly find your ultimate joy and fulfillment in our loving Lord and be free to love others in a healthy way because of the great love He has for us.

The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup;

you hold my lot.

The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;

indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.

I bless the LORD who gives me counsel;

in the night also my heart instructs me.

I have set the LORD always before me;

because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.

Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices;

my flesh also dwells secure.

For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol,

or let your holy one see corruption.

You make known to me the path of life;

in your presence there is fullness of joy;

at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

(Psalm 16:5-11)