Rust – #ConcreteWords

urban decay

We raised our heads from pillows deep, as the nap’s softness tumbled from our eyes. Stretching arms and legs full of feeling, the sun beckoning us to come outside with tendrils creeping through the blinds.

Always ready for an adventure we took the dog for a walk. We were after all along the shoreline of a great lake we could hear, crashing reverberations evident, but not glimpsed in wide-eyed wonder.  Setting off, we put our sun-kissed faces to the wind and chased down what was to come.

A wall in full decay caught our attention and over we trod, quiet as not to scare the story away. My fingers alighted on the flaked surface, a bit of red painting its way across my finger’s surface. Age had crept into its warped bones, paint had abandoned it to be marred by weather’s will, and this is what remained as testament to what had once proudly stood.

putting my eyes up to the bars, with hushed breathe I sought a loose word or phrase lingering out past the barrier, something that might let me glimpse those moments long gone. But the grass kept what it knew to itself, and the flowers were bullied into same submission. Their beauty betrayed their surroundings. My fingers touched the rough, felt the salt in the air and felt a bit of the sandy blast. Time, wind, water and salt had fingered these metal piles and driven them to distraction in an all out war. The metal strove to defend what it had been placed to guard, and yet these willowy fingers had grasped cold and hard, every year growing more fierce, until surrender seemed the only way.

and so in allowing the elements to take over there was some type of preservation. The grass grew up lush in the cracks and crevices of what used to be a patio. Duck splashed gleefully in the puddles that made their home in the bottom of a deep canyon, the pool-abyss. And here the iron remnants continued to stand guard, to be shaped by the turmoil of life lived harbour side and time honed.

I crane my neck for another glimpse taking it all in. I strain my ears to hear more than the crashing waves, perhaps laughter of times past, or even the calling out of friends headed home-word…but the silence deafens and I”m left imagining what was.  Walking back to the hotel room, I turn once again at the door. My feet are moist from dew-drops trod through as we adventured leeward, but this image of strength and decay, juxtaposed in my mind.

FMF – Close

joining together with Lisa-Jo Baker as we write for five minutes on a topic without editing, just letting our words flow.

i hold you


I hold you close and breathe you in. Baby soft whispering from every crevice of your delicate skin.

You cuddle close, wrapped in blankets, as you seek to open your eyes from the dream you were immersed in.

I hold you close and feel your heart beat, feel your breathe graze my cheek like a baby bird’s wing and my soul fills with wonder.

I only see you every month and each time you’ve grown bigger, filled out, opened your eyes, started exploring the world. And I wish you’d just stay caught in the moment that I’ve got you in now. Tiny, still needing me, needing others, and wide-eyed in wonder at the world around you.

I hold you close and wish that life didn’t mean that you would one day experience things that your innocence right now holds no anticipation for.

I hold you close and whisper songs over your heart and sing prayers into your ears, and hope that this love showered on you each week resonates deep, and you see Christ in us.

I hold you close and pray for your future, whatever it holds. As you grasp my finger with your tiny hand, it reminds me of the tentative grasp I have on my Father’s hand..and I know that he’s holding on more than I am.

And I know you don’t have the strength right now, that you’re growing into it…but i pray that one day, as you live life, grow into your journey, into the life that was breathed into you before birth…that His hand will guide you and hold you fast, and that more than anything you would cling to him, as you cling to me now.

I hold you close, I hear your contented sigh. Your eyes are closed again as you settle in and that trust blows me away.





“I shut my eyes in order to see” – Paul Gauguin

I am revisiting time spent with Annie again, because in seeing the artwork that she was creating the day that we had our conversation, something became clear to me.

I went to the Refine retreat with a knowledge that Annie would be there. That wasn’t my reason for going, but I was excited to meet her. I had long admired the artwork that I had seen her create and was excited to be able to meet this gifted soul.

On Friday night as the Spirit moved us to share what he was revealing to our hearts, Annie shared about an art form called ‘kintsugi‘ which is a Japanese art form of the restoration of broken pottery with gold seams, rendering that which was broken and unfit for use, back into something of greater beauty and superior usefulness.

That theme seemed to encompass much of our weekend, seeing where the pieces of our life in which we had been broken, were being pieced back into something that God would use for his great glory. And I could see the layers taking shape in lives, as they shared moments that they had been wounded and were working towards restoration, and where other stories, verses and lyrics shared seemed to overlap into a type of tapestry weaving.

That Saturday as I spoke my story to Annie, I watched her layer pieces of tissue paper one upon the other for at least an hour. And she would tear and piece and sometimes turn over the piece…and though I was focused on telling my story and listening to her tell hers, I couldn’t for the life of me begin to see what she was creating. I knew she was placing with a purpose. I knew that in the tearing, the lifting and the putting down, and the smearing out…that something of beauty was being crafted, I just didn’t see it.

As we finished our conversation and she took some scissors to the end of her creation, its final form was revealed…and I gasped (inwardly) All the layers, all the pieces she had so specifically chosen, torn and moved with precision, when assembled in layer upon layer, created a beautiful marbled effect of a teacup she was seeking to create…and to which she would later add a golden like fastening of the broken pieces.

And this spoke to me in so many ways. Because she knew what she was doing. She could see as she turned it over and played with the colors, what the image would be like. Well what she hoped it would look like, but there was a plan in what looked very random to me. And in the end I couldn’t even begin to describe or seek to recreate the beauty that I saw before my eyes.

And then I got to thinking that life is so much like that. My human eyes are so frail and miss so much, that often I lose heart or perhaps hope that there is a greater plan for what’s taking place in my life, good or bad. And as I was reminded that evening as pieces of our stories merged together in the blending and the weaving, that indeed we are being molded and shaped in these bruisings and healings and tearing away of old things and restoration of new, that we are being made more like His Son…that these things are necessary in the creation of the beauty and wholeness for which He created us.

And the blood of His Son, shed on Calvary’s tree, is the very thing that binds this brokenness together into something far more glorious and beautiful then we human could even think of creating. So these things, this unknown, as my human eyes take it in and wonder at the beauty that is being created, I am slowly learning to trust and see small glimpses of the tapestry and beautiful pottery that fills the champers of my Lord’s throne room.

This is the beautiful pieces that Annie was creating:

annies art(photo borrowed from Annie`s Blog:

We Need Your Story

journey revealed


It all came out of the art journalling we did on Saturday at the Refine Retreat.

Worship music was playing and if something happened to speak to me, I jotted it down. That is usually how I collect moments that speak deep into my heart. And i’m so thankful for a journal to record them in.

Many of the women had gone to have a nap, make phone calls or explore the beautiful state park we found ourselves in the midst of. I love being able to be creative without rules, although sometimes hard to let myself go this way, but a room full of things that I could use for free and creative people to bounce my ideas off of…totally amazing.

I was just wandering back to my table, had been looking at some of the other beautiful work that the ladies were working on..and stopped to look at what Annie had been working on. I sat to look at her other stuff and out of no where the question that pretty much stopped me in my tracks. ‘So Janel, tell me your story.’ said Annie, and I didn’t know what to say, because while I’ve usually never at a loss for words concerning most things, sharing my heart isn’t something that I’m all that comfortable with sometimes.

And there was no pressure. I felt like I was among friends. But for some reason, my tongue stuck in my mouth. I didn’t know what to say, so I jokingly responded ‘I don’t have much of a story to share’…using humor is often my way to diffuse situations that I’m uncomfortable in. Where I’m not sure the truth will be accepted, so I try to use it to see how genuine the question is. And Annie gave me a soft smile and continued working on her art, looking up at me ever now and again, waiting to see what I would share and if I would.

And I ended up sharing pieces of my story with her. And she ended up sharing pieces of her story with me. It was a beautiful reciprocation. And I returned to creating some more journals and pondering such a poignant question.

Later that evening, we had a bonfire. And I was the first person down to the fire pit. Laura and Shelly came down next, and Shelly was reminiscing about how the vast array of stars we saw reminded her of the cottage her family visits in the summer. I had come to know both ladies a year earlier when we both attended the same retreat in Nebraska. I had been following their blogs and interacting with them on Facebook and was glad to one again find myself connecting with them. Over the fire Laura asked me, ‘Janel, I know that we interact a bit on the internet, but I’m not sure I know too much about you. What is your story? Tell me about yourself.|” and once again I found myself joking and saying ‘oh I don’t have much of a story’ and then distracting them from the question by talking about the retreat and having the other ladies join us.

Later that evening as I returned to my room, I realized that I hadn’t answered Laura’s question. And I got to thinking about why that might be..and why it seemed to be something that I was so wary of. And both of these woman are women who I feel completely safe around, that I know genuinely want to know where I’ve journeyed and seen GOd at work in my life. But for some reason, I don’t deem my ‘story’ important enough to keep track of or even to share with others. I dot’ think I’ve got a whole lot to offer.

A couple weeks later and I find myself doing the (in)RL conference put on by (in)courage. And what is the theme this year, ‘We need YOUR story’. And as I listened to each woman share a little bit of where she had come from and where she was going, I was convicted that one, I had been given a story to tell and two that it didn’t have to be something wild and mind-blowing but it could be sharing the every day moments as well.

it has come to me that I need  to not only be invested in hearing (truly hearing) other’s and their stories..what they chose to offer. But to also be willing, when asked in a safe place and by people I trust, to share pieces of my story that in the past I have discounted as being something of little value or need to be known.

I am thankful that both the Refine retreat and (in)RL reminded me that each of our stories are important, no matter what form they take.



(in)RL 2014 – Sharing your Story


We are part of a broken, imperfect, perfectly redeemed sisterhood.


It is only in the past several years that I have known what this idea of sisterhood looks like. Growing up I had some friends that were girls, but didn’t always resonate with where they were coming from. Guys were okay hanging out with me if I acted like ‘one of the guys’ and so since they never really found me attractive, I thought that I would be able to have the connection I needed this way. For many years I was blessed with some good guy friends,w ho were dear brothers to me. They were those who didn’t treat me like one of the guys, and built me up in who I was created to be in Christ. But over those same years, there were those with whom I craved approval, and so I became someone else to fit into their group.

This fitting in slowly killed me. Because more often then not hanging out with these guys and becoming like them meant that I wasn’t all that kind to my sisters and more judgmental and dismissive then I would have preferred to be. Letting any girl near our group would mean a change in the dynamic and I wasn’t about to let a good thing go. Things always changed when girly girls entered the group because that meant there was interest, and then while I was still part of the group, it was weird to try to relate to this girl who was always around as a female.

It took me awhile to realize that this fitting in also made an already precarious sense of self further diminished.  I knew what these guys were looking for in girls, and it wasn’t me. In fact so many times I assimilated so deeply, that they didn’t even treat me as a female sometimes. And my soul was shriveling up, because I was denying a very part of who I was and am.

Some of it was also the culture I was in those few years. Young guys (early 20’s) figuring out life, not alot of cares in the world, no need to think about settling down but instead a whole ‘field’ ahead of them for the playing. And so in that sense, perhaps I should have picked my friends better. But I was dating Mike at that time. I had given up on Christian guys, they didn’t’ seem any different then the guys I saw around me, so why bother making the distinction. And so any need to see women in a respectful way wasn’t really something that showed up on their radar. They were all about drinking, boating, water-skiing, wake-boarding, beer and hottubbing and finding some hot girls to spend the weekend with.

I have been removed from this culture for several years now. I still find myself struggling to see where I fit. But I do see (in hindsight of course) how detrimental this ‘fitting in’ had on what I think of myself, and my inability to see anything beautiful that God has created in me. I wonder sometimes if having my hair short is part of my refusal to identify with my femininity. I love bright colors, and glitter…and sometimes I enjoy getting dressed up. But it just feels like an act to me sometimes. The first time I got my hair all cut off, I went to the drug store and bought over $100 of makeup. I desperately wanted to look like a girl…or what I imagined a girl looked like, when so much of who a girl is, is her hair and looks setting her apart.

And so it is, that I have come to terms with my short hair. It annoys me when it gets longer then a couple inches and while I’ve tried to grow it back to something ‘girly’ I can’t for the life of me live through the growing out without giving up and going to the hairdresser and saying ‘trim this crazy stuff back’. And sometimes I have wild dreams of going Britney Spears one night and cutting it all off in desperation…thinking I’m sending out a message of freedom and rebellion, when in reality it just reflects the screams in my heart, and no other way to send an outward sign that i’m drowning in angst. But vanity keeps me from doing this, because as much as I know and believe hair grows back, that seems a bit extreme even for me. Who knows what my head looks like under all this hair…i’m sure its not a pretty picture.

And so all of this to say, that its only been in the last few years that God has allowed some amazing, strong and beautiful women of God to come into my life, to love on me, to accept me as who I am (which is completely beyond my understanding) but I’m so thankful for the healing that they have bestowed time and again. And as I get to know these women, and am open to listening to their stories and hearing their hearts, I see and hear time and again that I’m not the only one.

that there is brokenness, that there is heartbreak, that there is pain…

but there is also healing, wholeness, redemption, forgiveness.

And so knowing that community isn’t comprised of perfection but rather a building together of souls, make me resonate with the idea of shared story that was repeated throughout this past (in)RL. I am so thankful for the many things gleaned and look forward to continuing to unpack my wounded places, and find HIS healing with my sisters standing strong beside me.