Monday, September 17, 2012


A few weeks ago I learned that a fellow adoptive mom and community member would be nominating me for the ‘Yahoo! Women Who Shine’ contest.  You can read about why she, Emily, decided to nominate me on her blog HERE.

I have always seen our Foundation’s work in Ghana as a partnership between Jake and I, and so I was a little uneasy about being in a contest that focused on what I was doing. Ok, really uneasy. Jake is the speaker. The leader. The visionary. He is the courageous one that gives me the confidence to leave the rational thought processes of this world behind and radically jump in. Go for it. Make an impact – even when it doesn’t initially seem logical. Or safe. Or feel comfortable. This Foundation does not roll without him. So, upon reading Emily’s email to me about the nomination, which was pending my acceptance, my stomach was all in knots and every part of me wanted to ‘sit on it’ for a few days before answering. But I didn’t – and I’ll be honest why – it was because of the money. I could not possibly turn down the chance of our Foundation receiving $10,000. Not when I have looked into chocolate brown eyes, on chocolate brown faces, some fresh and young, some old and weathered, that whisper…

Help me.

Feed me.

Disciple me.
Hold me.

Comfort me.

Be a voice for me.

I have seen. And I am responsible. In that alone, my heart resolved that this ‘contest’ would not be in vain. This is for them.

That in itself could have been enough confirmation, but God continued to affirm my acceptance of this nomination. I worship, serve, and believe in a God who is ALIVE. He’s not dead. And often I write on this blog that God speaks to me, or that He whispered something to heart. Because that’s the only way I know how to describe it. Those are the only words that seem to fit. The next few days the uneasiness about this contest being centered on me, only half of our Foundation’s work, kept coming in waves on the inside. And that’s when God spoke. I opened up my devotional and read the day’s reading and the last sentence was like a blowhorn…

Shining. God used the word shining. One simple word and my heart was BOMBARDED with truth. The name of this contest is 'Women Who Shine'. And right then and there God said ~ Janel, I can work through any platform. I am calling you out. I am putting you out there, on this big scale, in front of the world so that You will glorify My name. Don’t back down or downplay this. This is a chance for You to tell the world about Me in a different way than you are used to. And immediately this verse entered my mind…

You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven (Matthew 5:14-16).

God was giving me confidence to embrace this platform.

I also find it quite interesting that Jesus tells me (and all Christ-followers) that we are the light of the world – only to then read this in John 8:12…

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

These verses do not contradict each other but rather explain each other. Jesus says I shine because He shines and is living in me. And a verse that further explains that marvel is this one…

And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:18).

To even be able to fathom that we, imperfect and sinful, human beings can reflect what our Almighty God is like is pretty much absolutely mind blowing. And yet, people’s heads do turn here in this world when they catch just a glimpse of God’s character (whether they recognize it as that or not). Jake and I have adopted a few children, fed children who are hungry, paid school fees for children to get an education, raised money for orphanages/foster homes, helped children receive medical care, and built a place where sick people can go to get medicine. I don’t feel like that is anything extraordinary. And yet, I now find myself in a contest to win $10,000 because of it. It absolutely blows my mind to think that this is all just a reflection. What people are seeing ‘shining’ in us is just a sliver. Just a teensy weensy. A shaving. A smidge of God’s character, manifested in His followers. Can you even imagine meeting Him face to face? Seeing justice and compassion and mercy and advocacy in its absolute FULLEST and PUREST form? It will knock us to our knees – and then some.

Until that day, when we can rejoice in heaven at the throne of Jesus because all the pain and sadness are gone – we have work to do. Our brothers and sisters in Christ are suffering. It IS our blessed responsibility to act on their need. To bear their burdens. To give, and love, and serve them. If it is God’s will that I should win this money, it will all go to our Foundation, and we will continue to do just that. And when we do, the joy will be ours, because we know these people change our lives more than we will ever change theirs.

Here is the link to vote….

1 comment:

nickmahlstadt said...

I believe that past what she is tangibly doing for the fatherless, broken, and helpless, she is also inspiring others to do the same. The love of Jesus being actively seen through her life is so inspiring that it has demanded action from my family and myself. We are now humbly and faithfully continuing in the same line of love that Janel and her family are walking, but with all the uniqueness that God has for us. There is a saying that states: "Imatating is the greatest form of flattery." I would take it a step further and say that inspiration, humility, and odedience to God's call will envoke a reaction from others. Thank you, Janel. Your actions of love and selflessness have inspired me to action.