Clock Out

tumblr_mw9f9jn8BG1r17noqo1_500

Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you.
Always give yourselves fully to the works of the Lord,
because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.
1 Corinthians 15:58

The works of the Lord. I’ve been trying to put in more hours than I can handle.

Today, I feel stuck in a bit of a “spiritual rut”. I feel weighted down, tired, sunken into deep and heavy sand. I don’t like being here, honestly. I prefer the times in life of great happiness, revelations, and progress, not this stagnant, frustrating stage of rest. Yes, rest. I sat in prayer, slowly unfolding the luggage of my heart, setting it at the feet of God, realizing that I cannot do anything in this season if I’m carrying the weight of my world. I need to rest. Lord knows, I really need to rest.

That’s what today brings. There tends to come a day every so often in my life when God says, “Janelle, take a minute. You don’t need to do everything today. Did you forget that I am capable of everything you are not? And everything has its time? That doesn’t mean everything, all at once. Take a breath. Let Me work. Rest a bit, while I am God and you are not.”

So why the verse?
“Always give yourselves fully to the works of the Lord…”
You don’t have to do it all. Constant movement & progress doesn’t mean growth. Most of the time, for me, it means I’m running in circles. Take a minute, friend. Rest a bit. Wait on the Lord to strengthen your steps. Draw near to Him and let Him do His thing. After all, He is God. And can I get an amen that we are not?

Red Balloons for Ryan

IMG_8104

My heart is heavy today. My Instagram feed has been buzzing with the sad news of a family’s loss, a three and a half-year-old, curly, red-headed sweet face gone from this world. I don’t know the family, but I do know the same God from whom they seek strength.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.
2 Cor. 1:3-4

I’m lifting up prayers today for someone I don’t know, along with thousands of others. A friend asked me last week, “Is one prayer as good as 1,000? Is there a point to getting other people to pray for you?” Truth is, I don’t know. I’m not a theologian, scholar, or even a Bible major. But I do know the strength & power of community, rallying around one another in our time of great need, and feeling the great compassionate love of the Father. I hope you pray with me over a sweet family who lost a precious boy way too soon. Prayer is great power. We have the strength of God on our side! There is nothing greater.

Please visit the Diary of an Addict blog to read about Ryan’s story. If you would like to donate to the family, please visit the Thrive Moms blog and click on the donate button in the side bar. Most importantly, pray and pray and pray! God comforts us in our troubles so that we may comfort those in their time of need.

Carpe Diem

IMG_1295

“Do not fail to enter every open door, or be held back by a feeling of unreadiness. I Myself am your preparation. I will give you the needed grace and wisdom for each moment as it comes, and you will rejoice in the victory. For I will overcome timidity, and I Myself will displace inadequacy. This is My work. I will do it Myself through you if you allow yourself to be a channel for the flow of My Spirit.”

“Seize Each Opportunity”, Come Away My Beloved

I have been asked more than once, “What did you do to prepare yourself for having kids?”
The people who are asking are looking for answers like, “We read lots of books”, “We saved up a lot of money for a few years”, “We made sure we had experienced life without kids first”, “We went to every birthing and parenting class we could find”. All of those things are incredibly great for preparing and making sure you’re ready to welcome little people of your own flesh into the world. Some people really do need to prepare in every way because it’s just who they are. But me? I am not that person. I don’t really welcome a lot of help unless I ask for it. It can become an unhealthy level of pride, especially in moments when I know help is exactly what I need, but my stubbornness overshadows it.

Outside of parenting, I cringe and shrink back at the sight of unreadiness, timidity, and inadequacy. I hate being wrong, I hate failing, I hate feeling like I am unprepared. I don’t know why I can jump head-first into having a baby and not flinch. But I do know that when it comes to other things, things like speaking life into people I don’t know, discipling other women, talking to people about Christ, I am terrified to fail. What if they get upset with me for bringing up Jesus? What if they laugh in my face? What if nothing ever comes of my conversations with others? What if..?

Truth is, I am rarely prepared. I am an introvert, and being quiet is so much easier for me. And the thoughts of inadequacy thrive in my mind when I allow them. But, friends, those truths are nothing compared to real Truth. To the Gospel. To my God. There have been far too many times when opportunities have slipped away from me because of my feelings of inadequacy, unreadiness, and timidity. There is never a moment, though, when God is unprepared. He is my preparation. He is my courage. He is my adequacy. How unsuccessful am I when I rely only myself to disciple, encourage & love on others. When He is my vine and my root, what can keep me from taking opportunities? Only myself. Me. I am the one blocking open doors and loosening grips.

This is all God’s work. And when it truly is, when our life is at the mercy of the vine we are grafted into, what can keep us from walking through the open doors before us?

[If you’re wondering what inspires me, the devotional Come Away My Beloved by Frances J. Roberts has become one of my favorite ways to dig deeper into God’s love + discover His hopes for me. It isn’t like other devotionals–it is like a book full of love letters. I’m always, always challenged. If you’re looking for a unique perspective into God’s heart, I gladly nod you in that direction!]

My Couch & The Gospel

This is what living out the Gospel in my life looks like:

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

My couch. And my journal, Bible, a glass of cold-brewed coffee, and a few baby toys. I’m wearing my husband’s t-shirt. I might be wearing make up, and I might not have showered for a few days. I don’t spend all day sitting here. And I don’t always wear my husband’s clothes. But I do find the Gospel alive and active right here. Right here.

I didn’t always know that. I thought God was active out there. I thought I had to chase after Him and pursue Him through churches, ministries, people (which are some of the best outlets for seeing God, don’t get me wrong). But He’s right here, too, right in front of me, hoping that I learn to dig deep into His truths no matter where I am. And here I am, a stay-at-home mom trying to push past the clichés of this profession I’ve entered and make it into something a whole lot bigger. Guys, I don’t have an office. I don’t have an agenda. I don’t even have a plan. But I have the Gospel. And it’s alive, right here, on my couch.

So what does living out the Gospel look like for you?

With or Without Us

Processed with VSCOcam with a6 preset
These boys are getting way too big, way too quickly.

My son Asa will be six months old in a couple of weeks. Time only seems to be going faster and faster, I can only imagine what it will be like when we have another child. I don’t document every milestone with him like I did for Liam. They say you become much more lax with your second, and it’s true. I still haven’t printed any photos of the kid. And documenting major milestones? Forget about it. I’ll just tell him, “Trust me, you developed normally.”

I don’t know if it’s a parent thing, a “getting older” thing, or not even a thing at all, but I feel weighted more often by thoughts of how God works despite anything I do. I am reminded so often. When I find Liam playing and talking in ways he wasn’t the day before. When I rock Asa to sleep and hear God prominently reminding me that this little babe will grow so big some day. When their clothes get too small. When they go through a developmental stage that drives me crazy, yet is vital to their growth. No matter what I do, these things will happen. Life will continue, always.

God moves consistently, with or without us. I get exhausted easily after a few full days with my kids, a lot of errands, and not a lot of down time. I check out mentally some days. I neglect my journal and my Bible because I just want to tune out for a bit. The effects of neglecting to consult God are draining. I disconnect from everyone around me. I take a seat away from the action and lose sight of purpose. My prayers, whenever they escape my lips, are impatient, laced with selfish thoughts and human wisdom. I forget that the God I call out to has a greater magnitude than I can comprehend. Greatest love, greatest mercy, yet I put limits on Him. He keeps moving with or without me.

Friends, I don’t want to check out. I don’t have to be perfect at being a mom, but I do need to be present. I can’t expect my boys to discover greatness if I don’t guide them a little along the way. The same goes for Jesus and me. God is a great, great God, and His wisdom and insight for me is beyond words. It cannot be explained. His love and mercy cannot be described. It’s magnitude is beyond me. Recognizing that, how He is greater than I, is one huge step into letting Him perform His full works. Let’s not limit a gracious God. Taking a seat away from it all? I want to be in the thick of His goodness, not on the outskirts, only experiencing the tiniest taste.

1,112 Days

acac65cb90a71deaabade542cf625543

Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?
Romans 11:35

Before Evan & I were married, we went through premarital counseling with a pastor. We were so in love at 20 years old, and we just wanted to be married. Honestly, we didn’t place a lot of thought into anything else. We had a one bedroom apartment, I had two jobs, and Evan was just beginning to work at a full-time job at a printing company. It was the greatest. Everything we had was either a gift from our wedding or furniture we received from an elderly woman for free. It was quite simply just enough, and everything we needed, nothing more and nothing less.

I only remember one session from our premarital counseling. I remember telling our pastor, “I don’t want our life to be just about us and the things that we have or what we do with them. I want it to be about Jesus. And I want Him to provide just enough for us. Our daily bread. And I want that to be enough.” But when that prayer became our reality, and has continued to be our reality for the last three years…there have been times when I have regretted ever saying those words. What was I thinking, praying for “just enough”? I didn’t know we’d have two little boys in two years. I didn’t know what real life could really be like, especially in my naive 20-year-old mind. And I truly didn’t know what it was to live with just enough. My parents blessed me with a great life, and I never felt a need for anything.

Yet here we are, with two boys to care for, and every day for the past 1,112 days, God has provided for us our daily bread. One of the greatest challenges has been learning to trust Him.

What does that look like? Honestly? I still don’t know exactly. It’s never the same every day. But I do know it includes a few things:

1. Believing that God keeps His word. He has never forsaken us, nor will He ever. He promises to see us through and walk with us. And He promises to give us what we need, every day, no matter what.

2. Acknowledging that everything is a gift. Really? Everything? Yes! But it’s not easy. Evan works hard to earn money, but what he earns isn’t ours to spend willy nilly. That is a difficult lesson that we struggle with nearly every week. But where would we be without all the gifts that God rains down on us? We wouldn’t have much of anything. So we treat is as such:  it doesn’t belong to us, even if it’s in our name. Everything for the glory of God.

We aren’t perfect. We aren’t always responsible. We make a lot of mistakes. But God has never failed us. He has always, always, always given us our daily bread. And you know what’s surprising? It’s always more than enough.

Deep Roots

When I was eleven, I stole one of my brother’s Bibles. I flipped through the pages and picked out random Bible verses, wrote them out on pieces of paper, and taped them to the wall. I wasn’t searching for anything in particular. To this day, I have no idea what my motive was behind it. I do know that the Bible verses held no real meaning for me. But it made me feel happy, and when you’re eleven, happiness is the only thing that matters.

I found Jesus when I was twelve years old. I remember the moment that I “came to the altar” and prayed a prayer. I remember everything. The feeling of purpose that instantly arrived into my soul. The smile that spread wide across my face. The girl I hugged in thanks for inviting me to join her in prayer. The joy that I felt. The hope felt infinite. The “high”, I remember, was greater than anything I’d ever felt in my life. I didn’t know where I would go from there, what it really meant for my life, but I knew that it was exactly what I needed.

All through high school, I longed to grow deeper into this faith that I had found. I wanted to study scripture, dive into the lives of the prophets, and find a calling. Maybe a missionary? Maybe a writer? I was fearless. I felt invincible. I wasn’t scared. And I wanted to see the world.

But I never did. I got married two years after high school. I had two babies in two years. I looked back on high school and thought, “That must’ve been the prime of my faith.” And how ridiculous is that?

You do not support the root, but the root supports you.  Romans 11:18b

I really enjoy being a wife to my husband. He is my teammate, and he believes in my dreams just as much as I believe in his.
I really enjoy being a mom to my boys. Not only do they breathe life & joy into me daily, they also challenge me to live more in the depths of Jesus.
And in these two roles, I feed others. I feed, feed, feed and forget to feed myself. And I find myself thinking, “Where did she go? Where’s that girl with the fire in her bones?”

Finding Jesus eleven years ago was and always will be the greatest thing to happen to me in this life. Things change. They always do. My plans for the future when I was eighteen did not include all that my life is right now. But…this is better. And looking back, the years before are no comparison to the years ahead or the moments right now. It is convenient to lose myself as a wife, as a mom, and consider “the years of my youth” as my “prime”. But they are not! I am still called, still fed by the same roots that are in Jesus. And I have every chance and opportunity to feed others, to reach women & to be an ambassador for His Great Name, even if it means doing it from my couch with little kids clinging to me.

She’s still here. There’s still fire in my bones.