hard things realized

My heart beating wildly, I struggled to make sure I had heard right. I asked again for the last name…and I knew it was true. Before I could stop it, words came rushing out, speaking of a time that I had thought forgotten. The very mention of his last night…made my heart beat in panic, made that bitterness boil up, made me see red…and then I tried to move on to the purpose of our gathering.

There were times when this revelation would come to mind throughout the week, though often I was able to distract myself. I wanted to remember to tell my dear friends because they would understand my heart agony, and perhaps justify my rage. The night it had all been revisited in my mind, I had pondered many things on my journey homeward. Sometimes I love the journey home in my car, quiet and some music playing…but more often than not, God catches me in my car and we have conversations about things that I need to come to terms with.

And I have to be truthful and say that one my way home that night, I thought to myself ‘Okay God, that wasn’t very funny. I totally didn’t want to revisit that. But you know what, I think i’m good. So thanks for that.’

This morning (Sunday) on my way to church, the sun shone brightly and I hoped for a day much like the radiance and warmth that had graced us yesterday.  On the short journey to church, i revisited what I had learned and remembered, because I wanted to share my disbelief with my friends. I knew that we wouldn’t have time to chat until after church so i didn’t want to forget.

Walking up the path to the doors, I was not ready for what I was about to encounter. My heart began to beat hard as again my mind revisited some of those moments I tried so hard to forget. And while my mind was preoccupied with the fact that there were no people greeting at the door, I looked up to find my vision filled …with a figure standing off to the side of the entrance. And I willed myself to keep walking. I willed myself to not panic as the thought of him had begun in many several times before. I willed myself to not cry, to not wail and mourn…but to let my outside reflect none of the conflict I felt.

inside the door of my church this morning, stood the very person whose name I had heard mentioned this week, who I have not seen in 5 years and whom I was working through my remembrance of. My first reaction, other than ‘Just keep walking Janel’ was ‘ This is NOT funny God. I am not amused right now. What in the world do you possibly think this could benefit my life?’

and when this same person entered the service and sat three rows in front of me, I dismissed myself from the service and went out to catch my breath and perhaps find someone to pray for my hurting heart. I did dialogue with God a bit, tried not to repeat in my head ‘Are you kidding me?!?’ and try to breathe at the same time. I ended up returning to church and making it through the service…but as the final hymn began to play I remembered not only the hurt he had inflicted on m heart and soul, but the ways in which I had been responsible for hurting him as well. And my heart was then overcome with the realization that I had messed up badly, and some of the anger that lay harboured in my heart was the work of my own hands.

I wandered like a pilgrim searching for fresh drink, finding my dear friend and grasping her for dear life. Thankfully where we were was deserted and we were able to talk freely and I poured out the aches of my heart to her. The disbelief of earlier in the week, the remembrances and the running into all in the same week.

As I reiterated to her my statement of ‘God this isn’t funny at all’, She asked me a question that I won’t soon forget…’It could have been God that brought this into your life. But it also could have been the evil one bringing up old news to bring your heart to a place of despair and wallowing’. She continued, ‘it seems to me by saying ‘God, is this a joke?’ that you are implying that he’s somehow up there, looking down on you and amusing himself with your heartbreak. This Janel, is as far from the truth as you could get.’

She challenged my view of God, and I had to admit that I struggle to trust Him. I have a head knowledge of who He is and what He’s done for me, and also the desire He has for relationship with me. Moving that knowledge from my head to my heart or vice versa, or making it a reality, is a different things entirely. That is something I’m striving to come to a genuine understanding of.

As I shared my words with her about who God was to me, tears began to fill her eyes and she began to weep. She shared with me that as I had been speaking about my struggle in my relationship to truly know and be known by my Saviour, she had seen clear as day before her, an image of the Lord as a shepherd. And in his arms, he cradled a sheep, he was speaking gentle words to the sheep, lavishing his love and care upon the sheep…and he had it close in his never ending and enduring embrace. She said the sheep was me. That God longed for me to know him in that intimate way that she had just described. I was reminded of the verse,

“I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine.”  John 10:14 (KJB)

As I continued to share my heart, I let her know that my heart was starting to fill not only with bitterness and anger remembering my experiences, but also shame and anger over the way I had let myself treat him. I was beating myself up for things I didn’t think I would do as a ‘good Christian girl’. Things that I didn’t want to admit I was capable of, because then i’d have to admit that I am fallible, that i mess up, that its not always about what others have done to me, but rather sometimes what has happened at the blow of my own hand.

My friend, my dear companion on this journey of life, then spoke words of freedom, of liberation, into my life. Words that are still making themselves known in my heart, but words that are TRUTH and are like water to my parched soul, which had been looking so long for answers. she reminded me,

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…”Romans 8:1 (NIV)

No condemnation. None. Everything that I had been wallowing in, everything that I had been beating myself up with…all of those things had been washed in the blood of the lamb. Forgiveness and healing must occur, but holding onto those hurts, letting that bitterness and shame push itself down so deep into my very being that I begin to doubt my Father’s unconditional love but instead think of him playing practical jokes on me and causing me pain as I revisit moments over again. I know he wants to work on these things in my life and in my heart. He does not desire to CAUSE me more pain but rather to work through the pain, of removing each of these thorns that wound so deeply and I’ve let fester, rather then letting his healing hands work on them. Removal will be painful, healing comes at a cost…but the freedom found in releasing those chains comes, when the Lamb hears the voice of HER shepherd and comes RUNNING because she knows, without a doubt, that her ‘sins that were once scarlet, have now been made whiter than snow.

there is no condemnation…NONE, for those IN Christ Jesus.

Go forth in this freedom, little lamb.


Linking up with Michelle, Shelley, Emily and Jennifer.

Piano #1 – in poetic form


The Piano

the ebony and
ivory now worn away
music’s skeleton

only charred remains
my fingers catch the low notes
and slivers prick me

with lid closed, the notes
still whisper their majestic
resonating tune

glossy sheen dusty
particles dance notes wildly
moth’s burden complete

my fingers gently
offer hushed accolades
my eyes close with song

Memories for sale
ink still drying classified
music lovers dream

sunlight streams unknown
his frail body now shadow
dreams only linger

I remember time
when he hunched over music
and breathed it classic

his wrists anchored firm
each fingerprint emblazon
deep upon the keys

soul notes pouring out
mouth quiet but eyes brimming
redemption’s tribute

long legs make chords last
entwined with mahogany
instrument and man

his body swaying
fingers fly like hummingbird
nectar’s song calling

his joy fills the room
notes on parched paper foregone
heartbeat crafting tune

Mesmerized, eyes closed
pressure and metronome arch
cadence has begun

eyes cloudy with gauze
I see angels gather round
harmonies enfold

a wretch, saved by grace
now hears the song of heaven
filling earthly space

his view clouds with tears
fingers slowly caressing
keys with soul filled peace

finger’s song now sung
with the angels and saints
earthly keys silent

By Janel A. Written April 28/2013

remembering my Grandpa, Mac Andrews and his love of His Lord and his piano

Friend – FMF

Joining Lisa-Jo over at her blog today for Five Minute Friday (clearly i’m not writing on Friday, but I had much on my mind yesterday) Writing unedited about one topic every Friday for five minutes and then reading the stories that others have shared is the best part. These writers are definately gifted and I know *from meeting her at Jumping Tandem* that Lisa Jo is very much about connecting women’s hearts and their stories!



How timely that today’s topic would be friendship, after last weekend spending time with dear one’s at Jumping Tandem: The Retreat and then this weekend participating in the lovely (in)courage gathering called (in)RL.

It has taken me quite some time to grow my female friendships, as I have always felt like an outsider in certain groups. Growing up as a missionary kid, we moved a couple times when I was young and so it seemed that as a defense mechanism to protect my heart from the hurt of leaving friends, I quickly learned to move onto new ones. If you had asked me at the time if I thought that they were deep friendships, I probably would have answered yes, because in my immaturity I didn’t know any different.

Looking back, I guess they were as good as some relationships get for being in jr high or younger. It always makes my heart fill with joy (and a bit of envy) when people share about their friendships that have lasted since kindergarten or jr high. It has been my pleasure to have known one of my dearest friends for 10 years, and that is more than i’ve ever been able to hang on to a friendship in my life. And both of us aren’t very good at being in touch too much and there are times when we’ve fallen out of touch for awhile, but God’s been faithful in holding our relationship together and i’m thankful for that.

Making online friends is something I found I was able to do. It wasn’t quite as scary as meeting people in real life, and sometimes I guess it was just easier to be who I was on the screen. I like to think that when I write I am most fully myself, but sometimes I’m sure that’s not the case. However, after following several people on my site at Xanga, I came to know and dearly love some dear sisters in Christ. I had several amazing years of connecting with them, and now we continue to be in touch on facebook. Moving over to wordpress I wanted to launch out in a way that I felt was more reflective of who I am rather than what i felt that i was portraying on my other site…i had gotten into a rut of same old.

with a new blog, came new followers, new friends and an amazing opportunity to put flesh and blood faces to the names that I had so long interacted with. it was beyond anything I could have ever imagined. To hold these dear ones in my arms, to hear their stories and to share my dreams…was such a God gift to me. I am so thankful

Five Minute Friday

Stones litter the journey

 photo 934986_10151535578203672_173080186_n_zpsbd8f3b60.jpg
(photo courtesy of Laura Boggess)
Jennifer Lee wrote today :

“I turn the rocks in my hands, weeping for all the ways that we cast stones at ourselves, making ourselves believe we’ve never been good enough, and we never will be.”

This past weekend at Jumping Tandem: The Retreat, we were challenged by Jennifer to write down our fears, the things that were standing in our way, of chasing our dreams, of stepping up to the challenge of walking the journey laid out just beyond the gate before us. We wrote them down on river rocks and then surrendered them to woven baskets reminiscent of those holding the loaves and fish. Offerings which seem so small in our eyes and yet God turns and multiplies for his glory. And in this instance, the multiplication is the peace in our hearts and the glory of Him in our lives that begins to be renewed and re-flame once again.

Jennifer shared that she would pray over each of these rocks, that she would pray for the woman who had shared each fear and that she would lift those to God. It had been a visual sign for us to relinquish our fears in this way, and for some it was quite difficult to walk up and surrender…not knowing what life without those fears looks like. I have been guilty of choosing to live in a ‘less-than’ life, because facing the unknown seems to be far more scary then moving out into the life of dream chasing and faith living.

Before leaving for the retreat I shared with some of my dear friend what some of my fears were heading into the retreat. They prayed about them with me…but some of them were still present when I entered the building. I had this idea that there are ‘big B’ bloggers, those who are well known, have a platform and in my mind are ‘achievers’ of perhaps what I desire for myself. Big blog names that everyone seems to know and follow. Then there were some of the others of us ‘the normal b’ bloggers, the ones just getting started, who were rarely known and were trying desperately to figure out how their desire to write fit into this crazy life that God was calling them to walk with Him by their side/my side.

What a misconception. I had thought through (and been reminded by my friends) that each of these women (and men) were merely human and that they hadn’t ‘arrived’ as I had  thought but were also journeying along and figuring out life and had their own insecurities and questions as well. It took me time to realize this was true, but only through interacting with them…and geeking out a bit. However it seemed that the lie of ‘what am I doing here and what do I have to add to the conversation’ came out into the light again in one of the sessions on  Saturday. and i was reminded gently that sometimes the voice speaking loudest in the quiet, is not the quiet calm of my dear Saviour, but rather the Lie speaker pretending that truth comes from his mouth.

And as I read Jennifer’s beautiful entry today, I began to ponder the following: that my own voice is my worst critic and speaks my fears so loudly. Perhaps its not others who are yearning to throw that first ostracizing stone but rather my own hand…’He who is without sin’…thank you for getting my heart stuck on that idea, and see how much I need to cling to grace and see that He has paid it ALL…

I am referring to the woman who has been caught IN sin. She has been brought before Jesus by the religious leaders to trap him into saying something that they could arrest him for. Instead Jesus puts forth a loaded statement and then stoops down and writes in the dust.

Jesus calls them out by saying “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” (John 8:7). We don’t know what he’s writing in the dirt. I like to imagine that he’s writing by her feet…that her head is hanging down in shame, she is on edge not knowing what this Rabbi will do or say, but she is intrigued that he has bent down near her and begun to write in the dust. Perhaps he writers her name, perhaps he writes sins that they were all guilty of, we do not know. What we do know is that he gave each person the chance to realize that he had turned their very clever ploy on its head and knew that they couldn’t possibly claim to be completely without sin. And so one by one they wander away, probably trying desperately to figure out another way to trap Christ in what he said. However, As she stood quiet, perhaps tears running down her face, perhaps in defiance, waiting for her judgement…I’m sure his words are very confusing to someone who knew the rules of the day.

When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.” (John 8:10-11)

His question must have taken her by surprise. She was being asked about her perpetrators…she wasn’t being asked about her sin, whether what she was being accused of was true or not, but rather if she was still standing there. And when she replies (As Jesus already knows) ‘No one’ remains, he speaks truth into her life that she couldn’t possibly have expected, and yet I assume, drank in deeply.

I do not condemn you…go and sin no more. such short commands and yet so full of promise of new life and a new journey. His acknowledgement that he knew she had been involved in sin was brief, he didn’t read her a list of her indiscretions and tell her how she must pay for each one. Instead he spoke of her sin and how she had not been condemned but rather set forth (go!) and challenged to change her life, after meeting Christ.

sometimes…i let the words of the deciever grow so loud, that I lay in torment accepting the blows. if only I opened my eyes, I would find that the one who throws those stones that rip my dreams to shreds and leave me quaking in fear…are resting in my own clenched fist, ready to be hurled at my wounded heart.

Lord…i need your grace, let me cling to your promise ‘Neither do I condemn you’. You have paid IT all. There is nothing that I can that will slip by the waves of grave. ‘Go and sin no more’ is your challenge to seek healing for our hearts, by seeing that all we could ever need or desire can only be found in YOU and no where and no one else. Let my eyes not continue to be blinded by my misguided beliefs of not having much to offer or say. Thank you Lord for giving me words, for giving me a passionate heart, for giving me a compassionate soul…

thank you God…for the hope that can only be found in you.

Jennifer and her daughters will be taking those stones, the ones we wrote our fears upon and tossing them into a natural lake by her home. Each of those stones after having been prayed over will be tossed as far as the eye can see…and come to rest in the recesses of the cool water, where only the fish and fauna will be privy to once held us in its vise-like grip. These rocks have been surrendered to forgiveness, the cleansing blood as covered them…each of those fears, has been paid for at the cross. I’m not saying its sin to fear…I’m just saying that he knew that was coming…and it has it covered. Your fear is no surprise to Him.

so I strive to remember…that fear and all the rest which might pop up are natural to be faced as I journey into my God-sized dream, but they don’t have to stay there, blocking the way, making me tremble at the thought of having them thrown at me again and again, but instead they can be seized  named for what they are, lies…and surrendered to the one who will break their hold and speak truth over his daughter (and sons) once and for all.

Jump – FMF

Today I’m writing with Lisa-Jo for Five Minute Friday.

Take five minutes, write unedited on a subject without editing, just pouring out your thoughts. Join lots of other writers as they think on a similar subject for this five minute goodness.

(Today I’m writing from my hotel computer as I join dear Lisa-Jo and so many others at the Jumping Tandem retreat here in Omaha, Nebraska!)


The subject of today is jump which is particularly fond to me this morning as I consider I’m joining a team of amazing people this weekend for a retreat called Jumping Tandem.

at first when I mentioned Jumping Tandem, several of my friends who know that i’m more of a conservative, less risky sort questioned my jumping out of a plane. When I informed them that indeed I was NOT jumping but rather joining an amazing group of people to learn to jump together into life…they were also so excited for me.

It has taken many years for me to build up good friendships with women. Alot of my growing up I had some very up and down relationships with women and ended up prefering hanging out with me. As i mentioned in a previous post,  I have struggled with who I am as a women and becoming ‘one of’ the guys didn’t help with that. I had a couple girlfriends along the way, but none that I lingered with for a period of time.

In the past several years the Lord has blessed me more than I can tell with some amazing real life and some amazing online community and I’m so thankful for the wisdom and love that I’ve recieved from both.

I have developed some very close friendships with my friend Anne (who I attended university with and have known for over 11 years) and my friend Lisa (who I met through my first Harvest small group and have known for 2.5 years but it feels longer!) I also have met so many amazing ladies through some different blog rings and through different mentions on Twitter. I have been blessed by SO many of them sharing their stories and revealing that I’m not the only one that is experiencing the particular moments on my journey.

The first session that I am attending tommorrow on Saturday is referring to what happens if you dreams end up looking alot different than you orginally imagined, which is particularly poignant two years after the whole teaching things totally exploded in my face. I am so thankful to know that God has a plan for my life and that all of these moments are what make up my particular story.

and so this weekend, I am taking a risk, gathering together with amazing ladies (some of which I am so excited and a bit overwhelmed to be in the presence of) but also sharing perhaps some of the things that i’m not so sure on and having perhaps some of the Lord’s guidance shown to me.

may you each be blessed as you risk jumping into the things you’ve been called to, he who has called you IS FAITHFUL!!!

Five Minute Friday



the heartache

I remember it like it was yesterday, although its been years ago now.

I had set my alarm to turn the radio on…and while the radio came in and out of my dreams, i heard something about towers and planes and terrorism. But since I wasn’t fully awake my conscience hadn’t made sense of it enough to bring me awake.

My room mate had been either in class or at breakfast because the next thing I know is she’s in our room and she’s telling me to wake up, that she has to tell me something really awful.

You see, I had just spent the last two summers in NYC working with kids in a camp about an hour outside of the city. While it was one of the hardest times in my life, working there, she knew that part of my heart lay in NYC with those kids. When she told me what had happened, i was in shock. Facebook wasn’t something that i had then, so i ran to get my address book and began to make crazy phone calls to all the people i knew in the city. at this point it had been about 20 minutes so the phone lines were busy and no one was getting through.

she told me that it was on the tv upstairs and i hurridly got dressed and went upstairs. i felt like my heart was in my mouth. i felt like i was going to throw up. I felt my blood run cold. i could feel my body involuntarily shaking.

and i went to see what couldn’t possibly be true. first one then the other towers collapsed. airplanes flying through buildings. people jumping to escape the horror only to die. the ashes everywhere, blood everywhere…people frantically trying to help…and i just sat there, curled tightly in a ball, watching it over and over. and it broke me. so deep. it became emblazoned in my mind. I could close my eyes and watch it happen over and over again.

we were in a hotel the weekend that Katrina happened, and I couldn’t go anywhere without seeing the devastation and the horror. I ended up losing it on my family who had been watching it for hours…because I just couldn’t handle it anymore.

I ended up leaving the rest of my fellow students and returning to my room and calling my parents and just losing it…in gasping sobs and i began to physically shake again.

When I returned to camp again that summer, part of our orientation is a day in the city. For some reason our scavenger hunt took us down by the area in which the former WTC stood. The hole stood gaping…they were still cleaning up the twisted metal. In the midst of all the wreckage of the buildings…a crossbeam stood with a piece of metal twisting about it like a sash…and to see that cross in the midst of the devestation both shook me and gave me peace. I needed a reminder that He is here, even in the midst of all of this horror.

tears welled in my eyes, but did not spill out until we walked past a fire department on by Bowery park and saw the tribute to over 3/4 of the staff of that firehouse who had been lost in the WTC attacks. And as i read their names, and knew that they had families, loved ones, perhaps spouses and children…i felt that grip again on my throat, the shaking begin and the tears pour down. I don’t think i’ll forget it as long as I live.

hearing about the bombs during the marathon in Boston set me off again…not quite in the same way, but I began to feel my stomach church, my heart race and my body begin to shake. The problem with being blessed with a vivid imagination is that you picture it…you go through the what ifs and the horror just keeps growing. It wasn’t until later that day that it really hit me and i woke up in the middle of the night ready to throw up being overwhelmed by the horror. i’m not over it, but i’m definitely more at peace. my brother called me two times that day to check on me and make sure i was okay. i was able to write some thoughts out…but as I leave from Detroit for Omaha my thoughts will be on those people who came from all over the world and from Boston to have this experience…and are instead left with these devastating memories.

and the thing that i do need to remember is all the first responders who were running TOO the bomb blasts…to the victims, to getting things off them, to stemming the flow of blood, to getting them help, to giving blood in the hospitals, that there were so many who were selfless in the horror of this moment and tried to rescue those around them. I do not believe that humanity is at its core good…sin has taken care of that, but I do know that many of us desire to help others when tragedy strikes..the connection that continues to unite us as humanity despite of all the other things we are so adamantly against each other on.

Here – FMF

Today’s prompt is Here


For me ‘here’ means to be fully present, not distracted by other things, not trying to multitask. For me ‘here’ also means a place that is safe, warm, inviting and which I can be myself.

Yesterday I was ‘here’. I was at my friend’s house…my friend who has been through the last 10 years of life with me, through trauma and gladness, adventure and down times…and it has only strengthened our friendship. But what I appreciate most about our relationship is that when I am with her, i know that she is fully present with me. She takes time to listen to me, to be quiet with me, to share her heart with me…and I find that so refreshing.

in this age when we are usually heading somewhere a mile a minute, or trying to remember all that we’d like to fit into this day, its refreshing to take a moment and realize the ‘here’, the moment that we find ourselves in.

My friend is dreaming of opening up a retreat center. I think that is a phenomenal idea that the Lord has laid on her heart. The times of doing life with her have always been therapeutic to my soul and I always come away refreshed. I can imagine God leading her to do this on a big scale, and just meet a need for quiet and healing that is so desperately needed in this world.

And while i’m sure while serving many people it is difficult to be fully’ here’, I think that she has that kind of heart and soul that will be present, that will understand, that will stand beside and uplift or call out. I think in her ability to be fully ‘here’ she has been given a gift to call others to see the moment, to stop and breathe in life…to live life, Here and NOW.



linking up with Lisa-Jo over at The Gypsy Mama for Five Minute Friday. A large group of lovely people write for five minutes on a topic each Friday, for five minutes. No editing just what comes to mind. Remember to link back to the site and also to check out the awesome posts that are linked too. So many amazing stories to read and share!

Five Minute Friday