Sunday, September 28, 2014

I'm Janelle, And I'm Made In The Image of God

Last Friday, I had the opportunity to share a bit about my story during my University's chapel. Since beauty is a topic that I feel very passionate about, I decided to talk about the standard of beauty on my college campus:

"Humble. Meek. Kind. & Soft-spoken.

These are just a few of the words that come to mind as I reflect on how beauty has been defined to me in the context of American evangelical culture.

I wasn't raised in a typical Christian household, and I actually didn't become a Christian until my freshman year of high school. So naturally, growing up, my idea of beauty was largely influenced by the media, and more often than not, the girls in the magazines and on TV looked nothing like me.

From an early age, I struggled with insecurity and I was never content with the way that I looked. I felt like I was always lacking and never enough.

When I did become a Christian, I had this crazy idea that somehow all of my insecurities would just magically disappear. But, surprisingly enough, that was not the case.

And actually, those struggles further intensified. I attended predominantly white suburban churches, where there was a certain standard of beauty that was glorified and promoted, and again, I did NOT meet that standard. I found myself conflicted when most of the women who spoke to our youth group about beauty, were already beautiful themselves. As a Filipina-American woman, I didn't feel like I had anyone at church who I could confide in about my frustrations. I experienced firsthand the pain that came as a result of favoritism and partiality.

Coming to this campus was really not all that different from my church experiences. I strongly believe that a similar standard of beauty exists here as well. And whether we choose to acknowledge it or not, there are very real privileges that come with meeting that standard. And there is also a very real sense of pain and frustration that comes with FAILING to meet that standard.

I look at the standard of beauty on our campus and internal character traits aside, I wonder what sets it apart from a secular standard of beauty. Or have we become so infiltrated by society's standard of beauty that we hold to a nearly identical viewpoint?

Being beautiful does not have to mean being the acoustic guitar-playing, Toms-wearing, worship-leading, woman of God with a heart for Africa. Beauty can look a lot of different ways.

I've learned to aim for one standard, and one standard only, one in which Christ calls me to love and celebrate all parts of my being
a standard of grace, not perfection.

So yes, I'm called to be humble, but I'm also called to exude confidence because I know who I am in Christ.

And yes, I'm called to be meek, but I'm also called to speak up against injustice when I see it.

And as far being soft spoken, I've thrown that one out the window, because I've spent way too much of my life being silent, and my voice is a lot more valuable than I give it credit for.

I am a broken girl whose brokenness has been redeemed by a God who makes all things beautiful.

I'm Janelle, and I'm made in the image of God."

Sunday, September 21, 2014

When God Speaks

I've been itching to write. 

These past couple months have been quite the adventure! I'm now a junior in college, just started a new internship, and am still trying to get into the swing of things. It's been so fun though, and I am extremely grateful that God has provided the means for me to continue studying here. 

Tonight, we're talking about hearing God's voice. Let me just say, I've always been a bit skeptical about people who claimed that they could "heard God speak." I was having a conversation about this over the summer with my good friend, Courtney, and she pointed me to this video by J.P. Moreland. It's about an hour long, but I PROMISE you, it's worth it! It completely wrecked me, in the best way possible. J.P. Moreland shares about the 6 ways that he's personally experienced God speak to him:

  1. Prophecy, word of knowledge
  2. Dreams & visions
  3. God puts thoughts and feelings in our mind.
  4. By way of angelic visitation
  5. Impressions: a sense to say or do something
  6. Providential circumstances
This message transformed my view of God speaking and resulted in an openness to His voice that I never had before. Since then, there have been a few instances in which I knew without a shadow of a doubt that God was trying to get something across to me. 

The specific instance that I'll be sharing about today, happened about three weeks ago:

My freshman year of college, I had dinner with one of my floormates. We ran into each other and spontaneously started talking, then decided on the spot to have a meal together. At the end of our meal, we sat outside on the grass and she looked me straight in the eye and said, "Janelle, I feel like I need to tell you that God is going to use you to impact the lives of many young women. He's going to use you to reach high school and college-aged women." I couldn't believe what I was hearing. I never told my friend before about my passion for reaching young women. Never once did I mention to her the permanent image of the hollow faces of the hundreds of girls that would pass me every day in high school that developed within me a desire to speak God's truth into their lives. 

A few days passed, and as much as I wanted to believe that it must have been God speaking through her, I dismissed the thought because I didn't want to "overspiritualize" it. 

Fast forward to September 6th, 2014I'm sitting in a chair next to another friend. This time, my friend stares at me intently for a good minute before saying, "You're beautiful." Now avoiding eye contact, I say, "Thaaanks..." My friend looks at me and says, "You're beautiful. I see that in you. Your internal beauty shines outward, externally." I'm a little taken aback by her compliment. "Thank you! I appreciate that," I tell her. My friend continues, "You know what, Janelle, I really feel like I need to tell you that God is going to use your story to inspire many young womengenerations of high school and college-aged women." 

I sat there, both silent and completely astonished at the same time. It was in that moment that I absolutely knew that it was God. There was no reasonable explanation behind how two of my friends, who had never met each other before, could communicate almost the exact same thing to me at two completely different stages of my life.

So, that's where I'm at. It's incredible. It's scary. It's incredibly scary. But I know that this is something that I want to devote my life to fully. I don't know what exactly it will look like, or if it's even happening now and I'm just not realizing it, because it doesn't look like quite how I envisioned it. But that's exactly why I love it. God is giving me bits and pieces of confirmation to keep me going, but I'm not getting the full picture just yet. I wouldn't have it any other way. 

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Where Is God In My Loneliness?

This post is also posted in the Gospel Blog by FEBC.

I know the pain of loneliness all too well. And I am well aware that I'm not the only one. Feeling lonely is a battle that all of us have to fight — for some, more often than others.

No one taught us how exactly to bounce back up again. Because of this, we beat ourselves up for not being outgoing enough/interesting enough/funny enough/[you fill in the blank] enough to keep the attention of those around us. And so we live life believing that we are always lacking, that we are never enough.

This is a dangerous mindset to have, but I'll be the first to admit that it's something I've struggled with for years. I've spent so much of my life trying to prove myself, trying to please everyone around me. Trying, and often times failing. I became a people pleaser who finally came to the realization that there was no way I could please everybody.

In high school, I knew a good amount of people. Friends would joke that "Janelle knows everyone" whenever they walked around with me on campus. The truth is, I knew a lot of people, but I never really felt known by anyone. As I tried adjusting to a new school in a new city, I felt out of place and like I didn't belong. 

God has a sense of humor though, because I first became a Christian at the very beginning of my freshman year of high school. It was over the span of those four years that I learned how to fully rely on God. It was during the lunch periods spent alone in the library or in the bathroom (sad, I know) that I learned how to pray honestly to a God who I knew heard my cries for companionship. 

It was in those years of isolation that I recognized the importance of community. I remember constantly praying for godly friends that I could both confide in and enjoy myself around. And God brought me friends throughout those seasons, but time passed and a majority of these friendships dwindled away. I felt "less than." Naturally, the feelings of inadequacy would come up again. I wondered what I was doing wrong to have so many people walk out of my life. What was it about me that made me so easy to walk away from? 

I found myself once again basing my worth in the approval of other people. This is something that I'm still trying to unlearn. God has been incredibly gracious with placing friends in my life who have remained constant and faithful throughout these past couple of years. Sometimes, it still surprises me that the prayers that I prayed for years are finally being answered.

By God's grace, I am learning that as a child of God, my worth is not defined by who I know but Who I belong to. I appreciate my friendships and relationships much more now because I know what it's like to feel all alone. But at the same time, I know that they are but a tiny reflection of the immense amount of love Christ has for me. 

Can these people still choose to leave? Absolutely. But my identity doesn't rest in who chooses to walk in and out of my life. On one hand, I'm unworthy and don't deserve the love that He lavishes upon me through others. But at the same time, I'm loved and worthy of love because Christ has declared me His daughter.

If you are feeling lonely today, I encourage you to express those feelings to a God who knows your pain and longing through and through. I pray that His love would permeate every corner of your being and comfort your weary soul. Remember that Christ is a friend to the friendless, father to the fatherless, and our ultimate source of hope.

For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. -Romans 8:38-39 (NASB)

Friday, July 25, 2014

6 Things To Remember When God Seems Distant

This post is also posted in the Gospel Blog by FEBC.

With my eyes half opened, I looked at the outline of my outstretched hands under the glaring spotlight above the stage. I took a quick glance around me, my eyes now fully opened, surrounded by hundreds of my peers  hands up high and fully abandoned in worship. I locked eyes with another wandering student across the sweaty room. Ashamed, I immediately looked away, shut my eyes, and bowed my head in prayer. But no matter how much I prayed that I would feel God’s presence that night, I felt limp and lifeless instead — a sharp contrast with the electric praise that filled the four walls of my Christian University’s gym.

For the majority of my Christian walk, I have learned to associate God’s presence – or lack thereof – with my feelings. I knew that God was with me in the moments that my heart felt warm and comforted. But when I felt nothing, which has happened a lot more than I’d like to admit, I wondered what I was doing wrong that kept me from feeling His love.

I’m not against emotion being a part of our Christian walk. Nor am I undermining the positive role that emotion can play in our relationships with God. But if our love for God is based on emotion alone, then I would venture to say that we have a distorted view of what it means to truly love God.

Here are a few things to remember on the days that you don’t necessarily “feel” God’s presence:

1. God is worthy of our love and affection.
He didn’t need to create us, but out of His deep love for us, He did. In reality, He doesn’t need us to accomplish His purposes, but He uses ordinary people like you and me to accomplish extraordinary things for the expansion of His Kingdom.

2. God's love is constant, even in difficult circumstances.
I don’t know where you find yourself today. You might not feel like seeking or loving God because your circumstances are causing you to question His very love for you. And while your feelings are completely valid, I want to remind you that He is with you. Even in the midst of unexplainable suffering, He is present.

3. There is no condemnation in Christ.
Satan often uses feelings of guilt to bring us to a place of condemnation. There have been countless of times in my life that I’ve blamed myself for not feeling God like I used to. And while the Bible clearly states that sin separates us from God, we don’t have to be perfect and put together in order for God to love us. However, a genuine love for God should result in a desire to obey His commandments.

This is where the beauty of grace makes its appearance. As a Christian, God’s grace covers even the most shameful of sins. He alone has the power to wash us white as snow and free us from the bondage of sin. 1 John 1:9 states that if we confess our sins to Him, He is faithful and just to forgive us and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. While it is absolutely true that sin breaks the heart of a just and holy God, we have a Savior who defeated not only sin but death itself. It is only by the power of the Holy Spirit that we are able to live in holiness.

Our righteousness is rooted in Christ. It is not, and never will be, based on anything we do or do not do. The debt has been paid, and freedom is now attainable. We don’t have to live in shame and hiding anymore.

4. You need community.
One of the greatest gifts that God has given us is that of community. My natural tendency in seasons of dryness was to isolate myself from other Christians. I didn’t want to hear the same verses read from the pulpit again. I was tired of hearing Christian clichés repeated to me over and over again. But the truth is, we don’t always see the bigger picture from where we’re at. We need other voices speaking God’s truth and life to us, especially in the seasons when it’s hard for us to believe it for ourselves. 

This is the beauty of community: God uses broken people to bring hope into the lives of other broken people. We have the privilege of walking alongside one another and reminding each other of the truth – that we are loved and redeemed – in a world that constantly tries to convince us otherwise.

5. Choose joy.
I’m learning that joy might not look like what we’ve been taught our whole lives. For most of my life, I thought that having joy meant plastering a fake smile onto my face and wearing it until I felt better. After a while, it got exhausting. Joy can take many forms. In my moments of deepest heartache and desert seasons, I had joy – not because it came in the form of happiness that was exuding from me, but because I had hope in Christ and who I knew Him to be.

6. Perhaps God is calling you deeper. 
When I first became a Christian five years ago, I remember how tangibly I felt the love of God. But as years passed, I didn’t always wake up desiring to seek God. The feelings of passion were not as intense as they used to be, but this did not change God’s character one bit. He was and still is on His throne. Looking back now, it was in the seasons that God felt most distant that I grew the most in my relationship with Him.

So fellow brothers and sisters, I encourage you to press in, even when every bone in your body would rather not. I invite you to pray, even when it feels like your prayers are bouncing off the walls right back at you. You have full permission to sing that corny worship song, even if the overly repetitive chorus irks you. I’m not asking you to be insincere in your pursuit of God. But I am charging you to seek Him, even if it’s the last thing you feel like doing.
“Though our feelings come and go, God’s love for us does not.” – C.S. Lewis
The unshakeable truth that God is good and worthy to be praised stands firm amidst our wavering emotions. God is good on the days that we feel His presence, and He is just as good when He feels far away.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Finding God On My Bad Days

I've been staring at this blank word document for the past hour now, because between you and me, I’m not particularly excited about writing this post.

Confession: it’s been a really difficult past couple of weeks for me. This last week, I literally felt like I got some form of bad news every single day of the week. I can laugh about it now, but in the moment I was confused, frustrated, and starting to get bitter at God. It was one of those weeks that felt like I was ruining everything that I touched. We've all had them, and it’s never fun for anybody.

On Thursday morning, I woke up to the first rejection email of my barely budding writing career. Thankfully, it wasn't a very harsh email at all. But nonetheless, it’s hard to accept rejection gracefully. Was I upset? You bet. And if I’m being completely honest, there’s still a part of me that feels shortchanged by God. I don’t know why He put it so heavily upon my heart to write about this specific topic, just to have it rejected. But I’m learning to be okay with that. I’m learning to be okay with “I don’t know” for an answer.

When I first got an article published earlier this summer, I quickly learned that one of the pitfalls of a ministry as public as writing is the tendency to become prideful. If not put in their proper places, the number of likes and comments that an article receives can become an idol really quickly. I had to take a step back from the positive affirmation that I was getting from family, friends, and readers, because even something as good as that can lead to a lofty mindset if that’s all I base my identity upon.

God doesn't love me because of the ways that my writing is ministering to people. I'm not a better Christian than anybody else. In fact, often times He loves His people enough to use me even in spite of myself. I’m not on a point system, nor is God keeping count of how many articles or books I get published in this lifetime to determine His love for me.  100 publications or none at all, He loves me just the same. It's not — and never will be — about me. 

One of the ways in which He’s reminding me of His love is through other people. In the past two weeks alone, I've had five different people sit down with me just to hear how I’m doing. I've been given the freedom to be completely honest about where I’m at in this season of my life. These sacred moments have meant the world to me, and each individual that took the time to listen didn't even know it at the time.

So, that’s where I’m at. I’m in awe of the ways in which God is allowing me to participate in building His Kingdom here on earth. I’m trying to find beauty in my brokenness and can’t help but think of when His body was broken, beaten, and poured out for all of humanity. I’m reminded that there was beauty in that, because it meant redemption was coming.

Redemption is here and now. It might not always feel like it, but I choose to live in light of this truth regardless. My identity is rooted in Christ, and even the worst of days won’t change that.

Oh, and I want to write a book… but more on that another time. ;)

Wednesday, July 2, 2014


To those of you who are new to my blog, welcome! I'm Janelle. I like peach tea, journaling, and hearing people's stories. I've been blessed with some incredible opportunities to share a bit about my own story in these past couple of months, which might be how some of you found yourself here today:

You may have read my article, "How to Avoid the Comparison Trap," in Relevant Magazine.

Maybe my story on She Has Worth brought you here.

...Or perhaps you read about how I found God in my brokenness on FEBC's Gospel Blog.

Whatever the reason, I want to welcome you and sincerely thank you for giving me a few moments of your time today. Make yourself at home, and if you could take a second to comment below letting me know what brought you to my blog, I would greatly appreciate it!

Happy reading, and feel free to email me at with any comments, prayer requests, or just to introduce yourself. You can also tweet me at @JanellePaule or reach me through the contact form at the bottom right of this site. Looking forward to hearing from you!

Saturday, June 7, 2014

On Friendship & Vulnerability

"Friendship is acting out God's love for people in tangible ways. We were made to represent the love of God in each other's lives, so that each person we walk through life with has a more profound sense of God's love for them." — Shauna Niequist
If there’s one thing that I’ve been learning a lot about this year, it’s friendship. To some, the word “friendship” comes with feelings of betrayal, abandonment, and distrust. For those who have been blessed with healthy and vibrant friendships, this word has thankfully taken on a more positive connotation.

I, for one, have always struggled with the concept of friendship. Growing up, I had a handful of friends, but soon enough, after moving from one school to another or just losing touch, these relationships started to dissipate, as quickly as they started to form. I can’t even begin to count the number of friendship rings, bracelets, necklaces, etc. that I have given away by now to countless best friends throughout the years. Over time, I would find myself left with the other half of the friendship ring or the bracelet or the necklace, with my “best friend” nowhere to be found. This repetitive pattern of getting close to someone only to find them move on with their lives without me was painful, to say the least.

Perhaps this pain accounts for why I have now become very wary of labeling anyone as “my best friend.” This glorified title  this string of words  left a bad taste in my mouth. In high school, I didn’t dare dub anybody my best friend. It wasn’t until coming to college that I had to come face-to-face with my fear of allowing people to get close again, to see past the façade of perfection that I had so successfully built my entire image around.

I’ve had to do a lot of reevaluating since then. I’ve had to take a good, hard look at myself and ask myself if the people I call my friends are building me up and allowing me space to grow, or tearing me down and making me feel small. In turn, am I being life-giving in my friendships? Am I allowing people the freedom to be fully themselves with me?

This process has been one of the most difficult undertakings of my barely budding adult life, but it has also been one of the bravest decisions I have ever made. There’s a lot of pain involved, and a whole lot of vulnerability, mixed with an overwhelming amount of honesty. I am finding that those who choose to stick with me no matter the cost are worth every hard conversation, every awkward silence, and every difficult question that often comes as a result of taking off our masks and finally being real with ourselves.

I’m slowly opening up to this, though not without a considerable amount of caution. I am learning that friendship isn’t exactly safe. Love isn’t exactly safe. But it is absolutely worth it.