Category Archives: A Few Thoughts

All Things

Dwell on these words. Really let them sink into your heart.

That’s what I have been doing for the few weeks since I read them. I wrote them in my sketch book. I have looked at them, played with them, and created with them.

Anything you want to know intimately requires time. This is true of all things. If we want to know a person well, we spend time with them. If we want to know how to play a musical instrument well, we practice. If we want to know how to take photos, we spend many hours shooting and learning.

If we want to know God’s Word, we must spend time with it. For the past four years, I have been intentional with daily time in the Word. I have read and reread and then reread again. I want to know it well.

As much as I know and understand the importance of knowing God’s Word as a unified whole, I also see the need for me to know its individual parts. To spend time with them. To be acquainted with them.

And that is why I have been writing God’s Word. Each day I take time to grab some pens and my sketch journal and look at the words intently, individually. I write them, letting their weight fall in different places. I roll the words over my tongue, my hands, and my heart. I want to be intimate with the Word of God. When 1800+ languages don’t have a single word of Scripture in their own language, how can I not show my gratitude for God’s Word by spending time with it?

Back to a few weeks ago.

I read this verse. I wrote it down. I looked at it over and over. And I let it sink in.



This verse says that ALL THINGS are of Him. This means that ALL THINGS come from God. The things in the natural world, things manmade, things created and evolved and changed. ALL THINGS are of God. Without Him, nothing would be here.

This also means that ALL THINGS within us are of Him. Our personality, our gifts, our talents, our resources, our time, our health, our children, our dreams, our problems, our trials, our successes…ALL THINGS are of Him. ALL THINGS originate with Him. This is where true humility is birthed. When we recognize that not one thing is of us, only then can we be truly humble. We can’t let ourselves be fooled into thinking we did anything. The hard work that brought us success, even that is of God. The intelligence that brought you opportunities, even that is of God. The hours studying or practicing or preparing, even those are of God.


Not only are ALL THINGS of God, but also ALL THINGS are through God. Not one thing comes to you without it first going through God. Think of all you have: your house, your cars, your kids, your job, your friends, your time, your money. ALL THINGS come from Him and through Him. It ALL passes through the hands of God. You have it because He allowed it. This is also true of the things you do, all the successes you have, all the trials you encounter. They are from Him and they go through Him. Nothing goes from here to there without God being the middle man (and the beginning man and ending man, as we shall see.)


ALL THINGS are of God. They are through God. And they are to God. ALL THINGS we do or give or perform or build or create or dream or execute aren’t to anyone but God. I don’t use my gifts for others, they are for God. I don’t do my duties for others, I do them for God. And I don’t give to others, I give to God.  ALL THINGS are to Him.

That’s why we can give a little one a drink of cold water and have it count as love toward God. That’s how we can do all things for the glory of God.

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ —Matthew 25:35-40

How—if we truly let these words permeate our hearts—can we not be changed? In our thinking? In our doing? In our giving? In our loving? In our grieving?

All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being —John 1:3

Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow. —James 1:17

Yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him. —1Corinthians 8:6

For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. —Colossians 1:6

You alone are the LORD. You made the heavens, even the highest heavens, and all their starry host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. You give life to everything, and the multitudes of heaven worship you. —Nehemiah 9:6

What do you have that you did not receive? —1 Corinthians 4:7


The Perfect Mom

Some mom moments are better than others

Some mom moments are better than others

I smelled the nail polish. I couldn’t figure out where it was coming from, but the scent was strong.

Yes, I had given my seven-year-old permission to paint her nails. Usually I would supervise an activity like that (due to the time it takes to get nail polish off of legs, arms, and other body parts.) But she is seven and she’s spending more time each day as a young lady rather than a little girl. I trusted her to do as I said.

I gave her one instruction: when you are done, put the nail polish away.

I continued making dinner. And then I saw it. The dark floors had camouflaged the evidence, but the leash hanging from the dog (no doubt thanks to the four-year old) made a trail of blue that was hard to miss. Nail polish pooling on the wood floors, the leash painting a series of blue swirls and whirls through the kitchen.

Nail polish. On the floor. With no top on. BLUE.

“KATIE!” I called. Er, um…screamed.

I was sick. I was tired. My throat hurt so much I could barely swallow. My husband was out of town and the rain hadn’t stopped falling in a week and the natives were restless. Of course this is the day the blue nail polish would decorate the house.

She came upstairs and I gave her the look, one she didn’t yet recognize.

I’ve gone to tremendous effort to stop any and all yelling in our home. I fail occasionally, but the truth of it is that God has given me victory over the tone and volume of my voice. I rarely yell.

Many years ago I yelled at one of  my kids for something. It might have been Alaina and she was only four or five. I yelled and I let my eyes sear into her. And what I got in return was a look of sheer terror. From my little girl who made a little girl mistake.

And in that moment, I vowed to learn to take control of my mouth. Yelling is not okay in our home. Not for me. Not for the kids.

And yet there are times, like when the rain won’t stop and my feet are cold and my husband is out of town and sickness has invaded our home and the blue nail polish is everywhere, yes, there are times the volume of my voice matches the frustration in my spirit. And shamefully, I let the words fly unrestrained.

With blue swirls around my feet and covering the dog leash, it felt good to yell. The sinful part of me wanted my little girl to know how upset I was and I was thrilled to let the emotions find a place to land. “I gave you ONE instruction!” my voice bellowed. Then, when the words ran out and the tears on my girl’s face covered her freckles, I couldn’t let enough be enough. We sat in silence as I made her watch me clean up every last bit of that nail polish. I scrubbed harder than I needed, just to make a point.

And in that moment, I realized once again why I need Jesus.

I’m not a perfect mom. Not even close. But that’s not the goal, is it? No one is the perfect mom. None of us get it right all the time. We can (and should!) work harder. We need to learn to love our children (Titus 2). We need to take control of our mouths and our spirits. I hope I am a better mom next year than I am now. I want to be better, but I have no hope of being perfect.

I let my emotions cool down, simmering slowly rather than a full-on boil. I finished dinner, fed the little ones, took some ibuprofen, gargled some salt water, and climbed into bed. A few minutes later, I paused my show and called for Katie. I didn’t say anything. I just pulled her under the covers with me and I stroked her hair while we watched. When our show was over and it was time for her to brush her teeth, I pulled her little body—her weight reminding me she isn’t so little anymore—up onto the counter and I looked into her eyes.

“Katie, you made a mistake. And so did I. But I want you to understand that the goal isn’t to never make mistakes. It’s just not possible. If we never made mistakes we wouldn’t need Jesus. And oh how we need Jesus! He died to pay for these mistakes of ours. We should try to be better, but until we’re in heaven, we won’t be perfect. You WILL make mistakes. You’ll make lots of them. Part of it is because you’re just a kid and the Bible tells us that foolishness is all tangled up in your heart. Part of it is your are just human, like me. You’re going to make mistakes. You’re going to choose to do wrong. And mom will probably get upset. I don’t expect you to be perfect. It just won’t happen. But we have Jesus. He will help us make better choices and fewer mistakes and He has already paid for the mistakes we just can’t avoid. I’m so sorry for yelling. I was upset but I didn’t handle my emotions correctly, did I? I LOVE you. You know that, right? Nothing you do can separate you from my love just as nothing we do can separate us from God’s love. There is not one thing you could do that would make me stop loving you. Nothing. I might not be happy with you and there might have to be consequences, but that is not the same as me not loving you. You’re my girl and you always will be. Will you please forgive me? I was wrong. I made wrong choices. I’m sorry.”

Eyes bright blue and tears streaming down, she hugged my neck tight. And I knew…this is it. This is what this parenting thing is made of. Like marriage, it’s two sinners leaning into Jesus. Because without Him, it’s all just a big mistake. But with Him, we can offer love and forgiveness and say, “I’m sorry.” I will never be the perfect mom. But I have the perfect Jesus and He lives within me, enabling me to act like Him more each day.

My kids see it all. My good side, my bad side, and all the other sides I try so hard to hide. They know I mess up. They know I make mistakes. But they also know their mama will come to them, offer a sincere apology, and promise to love them always.

Maybe that’s what it means to be the perfect mom.

I Almost Forgot

©PreparingtheSoil | Almost Forgot


“…stop rushing to get the to do list done because it never leaves. The kids do.”

It was a rough summer. Even after I started feeling myself again, we had some other issues that took up most of our time and energy. The unrelenting North Carolina heat didn’t help matters much. The summer is mostly a blur as I try to figure out what exactly we did.


We’re normally a happy, do-stuff-together type family. We love to camp, hike, and be outside. We like to let the kids get dirty and have fun. We like days with no schedule, yummy-not-so-good-for-you treats, and finding critters that the kids beg to bring home as pets.


But this summer?

I almost forgot.


I almost forgot what it felt like to be me. To be us. To let the kids run free, get wet, and be kids. I almost forgot what it felt to walk a few paces behind my family as my camera captures the little moments I want to remember forever. I almost forgot what it was like to be intentional in just watching. Watching my kids love each other. Help each other. Encourage each other. I almost forgot about all the little ways they show their love and how blessed they are all to have one another. I almost forgot about the way their individual personalities shine through during unstructured play: the adventurous ones being adventurous, the introverted one enjoying the peaceful scenery, the little ones entertaining themselves with the same activity over and over (and over).

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On Saturday, though the to-do list was longer than anything that had any hopes of being accomplished, I knew we needed it. We needed time. Time together. Time outside.


We chose something close: the local river that runs through the county. An access point is just ten minutes from our home. We walked. We let the kids play. They got wet and dirty and full of sunshine. I watched them and I remembered. I remembered who we were and what fills our souls. I am so glad I remembered, because I almost forgot.

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Oh the bliss! May I never forget the little moments. The watching. The seeing who my family is.

 As another writer so eloquently mentioned:

“…stop rushing to get the to do list done because it never leaves. The kids do.”

Happy and Healthy


Our bodies are an amazing part of creation! I am often in awe at the intricacy and creativity with which they were fashioned. Books about the functionality of our brain take up a great deal of space on my Kindle. We are fascinating creatures woven by a fascinating God!

However, along with the beauty of function and form, we are also faced with life in a fallen world, within which are imperfect bodies. These bodies are temporal and we can be confident in eternity we will have a new and perfect one. But for our time on earth, we are bound to the body we have been given, along with its many imperfections.

We get sick. We get hurt. Our bodies have the ability and tendency to separate from our minds and we can get locked in a chasm between what we want to do and what we are able to do. And it is in that chasm that I spent eight months.

During the first week of December, something in my body went wrong. I still don’t know what. I went from being myself — busy but happy — to being a shell holding a once-happy heart and a once-vibrant mind. For eight months, I woke up to and went to bed with the headache. My personality —  the things that make me “me” — was gone. Janet had disappeared and her shell was in pain.

I found little pleasure in my usual sources of joy: mothering, writing, baking, photography, hospitality. My spirit was strong and so I tried. But with each attempt the emptiness echoed louder.

A headache. Depression. For eight months.

During this time, I was acutely aware of a split between my body and spirit. My soul was strong and satisfied. My heart was happy and secure. And yet my body betrayed me. I knew there was something wrong. I felt I was watching my life from the outside, so desperately wanting to jump in and fix whatever was plaguing me.

I visited doctors, chiropractors, dentists. I took antidepressants and muscle relaxants and lots of vitamin D. I prayed. Others prayed. I spent time in the sun. I read. I researched. I sought counsel — medical, emotional, and spiritual. And yet, for eight months my imperfect body betrayed me.

And then.

Just as quick as it came on that first cold week of December, it lifted one hot week in late July. One day, I woke up with my headache and the empty shell of my personality. That same day, after God said to whatever ailed me, “Enough,” I went to bed pain and anguish free.

In a moment. In an instant. In a twinkling of an eye. The pain was gone. Hope was renewed.

That was almost six weeks ago, and I have not had one day of pain since. A week later as we were packing to move, I couldn’t find my medications. I have never tried looking again. I don’t need them. I am back. The real Janet, the all-too-intense, all-too-idealistic dreamer is back.

Happy, healthy, and even more dependent on the grace that is to be revealed.

His thoughts are not our thoughts. His ways are not our ways.

HIs ways are perfect.

Why Yes, I Did Change My Header After Four Years…


It was time. It might change again. If you on a blog reader, just click here for a peek.

It matches the header on my photography site.


I plan to have more of a presence on both sites. After the craziest roller coaster of a ride this past year, we might just be coming upon some semblance of normal. We still have to move (it got pushed back a month), but I’ve been feeling better, I’ve been cooking a lot more, and I’ve been much more me lately.

Like most days, my Bible time today offered me fresh grace and hope and a reminder that He is always with me.

“He also brought me up out of a horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my steps.”

“Here my cry, O God; attend to my prayer. From the end of the earth I will cry to You, when my heart is overwhelmed.”

“Out of the belly of Sheol I cried, and You heard my voice. For You cast me into the deep, into the heart of the seas, and the floods surrounded me; all Your billows and Your waves passed over me.”

We went through fire and through water; but You brought us out to rich fulfillment.”



It’s Been Four Years


It was 2011. I had been praying about my word for the year. Just as the calendar turned to January 1, God gave me my word: ROOTED.

A usual, I didn’t know what God would choose to teach me through it over the year, but I knew the context. Immediately, this verse came to mind:

“Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude.” — Colossians 2:6,7

At the time, I so wanted to be built up in Christ. I had deep longings for service, for opportunities, for His direction. Although I didn’t understand it then, He was telling me, “You must be rooted first.”

It’s helpful to think deeply for a moment on the purpose and function of roots. An agricultural society would understand the significance more readily than our culture that scarcely knows how to grow anything other than mold in the fridge (myself included!)

Roots serve multiple functions:

1) Roots anchor the tree. Without the roots, without the deep penetration into the soil, the tree could not survive. What we see when we look at a beautiful tree is only half the reality. The other half lies beneath, doing the work that allows the beauty to be exposed.

2) Roots take up minerals and water from the soil, transforming into life-giving sustenance for the tree.

3) Roots store food for use in later growth — in the trunk, branches, and leaves.

Over the course of the year, God showed me what it meant to be rooted. He taught me that the reason I so often felt beaten down was that my roots were shallow. I would let them grow for a while and then pull them up when waiting caused me to lose interest. He taught me that without being rooted, I could not be nourished. Yes, of course, I would survive temporarily, but wilting and dying was inevitable. He taught me that the more I rooted, the more I could store for when the heat and drought came.

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, and whose trust is the LORD. For he will be like a tree planted by the water, that extends its roots by a stream. and will not fear when the heat comes; but its leaves will be green, and it will not be anxious in a year of drought nor cease to yield.” — Jeremiah 17:7-9

About halfway through 2011, my roots began to take hold. Beginning when I was twelve years old, God’s word fascinated me. I remember my spirit being quickened the first time and in the thousands of instances that followed, I had no trouble believing that God’s Word was truly living and active. However, wanting to read God’s Word and actually doing it are two very different things.

I’ve shared my story before, the most important resolution you can make,  and what my Bible time looks like on a regular basis.

But today, I am reflecting on what regular and systematic reading of God’s Word over the course of four years has done. Never has the benefit been more clear to me than over the last six months.

As I mentioned before, I didn’t expect the wave. And after feeling better for a few weeks, I certainly didn’t expect another wave to come crashing down. And yet, it did. Already weary from before, I scarcely had breath to keep going.

“If Your law had not been my delight, then I would have perished in my affliction.” — Psalm 119:92

I read that verse a few days ago and it was all very clear to me: had I not found my delight in God’s Word and intentionally rooted myself in it, I would have perished. Whether that death would have been physical, spiritual, or emotional…I don’t know. I don’t want to know. What I do know is that God’s Word has sustained me. Is sustaining me. It is my life. My strength. My song. My deliverance.

That is because Jesus sustains me. He is my Life. My Strength. My Song. My Deliverance.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and Word was God…In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men.” John 1:1-5

As the wave recedes, I am thankful once again that I have rooted myself in the Word. I am standing strong with joy in my heart, even as I tend to my emotional and mental injuries. This is only possible because I have been well-nourished and well-supplied for the future.

Is it any wonder we have given ourselves to the cause of the Bibleless people? If I know the One Thing that can truly save and satisfy, how could I be loving to do anything but work to ensure everyone has it? And how could I be loving to not encourage those of you who already have it to saturate yourself in it? There is no alternative to growth, to survival. The 180,000 million people who wait for their very first word of Scripture in a language they can clearly understand need it just as much as you who have to blow the dust off your cover every Sunday.

Why not start today? Why not open those pages and let the living word of Christ penetrate your heart and spirit. Become rooted. There is nothing more beneficial you could do with your time, both for now and for eternity.

Off the Face of the Earth

©Janet Phillips_may18_2015_web-35

No, I didn’t fall off the face of the earth. Though at times, I wonder…

Jason and I had a week away together — our first whole WEEK away since we had our first child in 2003. It was wonderful. We kept it simple; we went camping.

We talked. We worked. We prayed. We planned. We rested. We walked. We took pictures. We remembered why we chose each other so long ago and why we still choose each other today.

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Being married is a good thing. It’s a hard thing. But it’s a good thing.

We’re now catching up on life and getting ready to spend some time with our dearest friends. It might be next week before I am around these parts again.

©Janet Phillips_may19_2015_web-14



All I Wanted

PTS | All I Wanted


All I wanted for Mother’s Day was to go camping.

This was my twelfth Mother’s Day. And after all these years, I know myself and my family very well. I have no need of breakfast in bed (seems silly when I wake hours before everyone else!) I don’t need to be showered with gifts (we have far too much stuff as it is). I don’t need a fancy Sunday lunch (we had our favorite New York Style pizza because it’s what we all love).


All I wanted for Mother’s Day was to be with my family, doing what we love best: camping.

Back in February, after returning from a camping trip to the Everglades, I wrote this:

LOVE camping…what I love about camping is that it strips all the extra stuff away. I don’t worry about doing laundry. I don’t worry about cleaning up. I don’t worry about checking email. I don’t put on makeup and I often don’t even bother changing clothes. When all of those little tasks are taken away, you are just left with time. Time to read, time to play, time to sleep, and time to talk. We did all of those things.

Yep, it’s all I wanted.


Camping takes all the things I love best and throws them together:

family time
being offline
taking pictures
watching my kids play
lazy schedules
simple but yummy meals
playing outside
being in God’s creation
time to snuggle and read
warm fires in the cool breeze
seeing kids explore and imagine


We left after church on Sunday and stayed two nights. Staying fairly local (a state recreation area just 45 minutes from home) meant more time to play and less time to drive. It was perfect. The kids played and explored. They founds bugs and lizards and a turtle. We swam in the lake and hiked for miles. We watched a blue heron who visited a number of times. The kids got dirty, sandy, and sweaty. I couldn’t have asked for a better Mother’s Day Gift (though the dozens of post-it notes with all the reasons they love me covering our dining table on Sunday morning comes pretty close!)


I’m thankful for these twelve years of being a mama and all the joy these kids bring to my life.

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We Have the Time

PTS | We Have The Time

I remember the stress and frustration clearly.

Baby number five was a few months old and the stress scales began to tip. My mental to-do list and want-to-do list far surpassed the hours on the clock.

I climbed into the shower, wishing fervently that no child would notice I had escaped for a much needed respite from the dirt — physical and metaphorical — of motherhood.

I prayed in earnest,

“Oh Lord! I just need more time. If only I had time, I could do so much!”

PTS | We Have The Time_4

That might have been my first heart-wrenching plea for more minutes in my hour, but it was far from the last.

“If only I had more time!” 

My dreamer idealist heart screams at the universe for its ritualistic passage of the minutes, hours, days, months, and years.

“Oh that box of photos? I have been meaning to deal with those. I just haven’t had the time.”

Sitting down and reading with the little ones is so important; I just wish there was time for it.”

“I really wanted to take that family a meal, but I ran out of time.”

“Those books that have been brewing in my heart for so long would be written if only I had more time.”

And then the self-sympathy tries to help.

“There will be more time later.”

“When the kids are older, you will write.”

“If you get more rest, you’ll have the time to do that tomorrow.”

“If you could just structure your time better, think of all you could accomplish!”

PTS | We Have The Time_3

I then pick myself up, feeling encouraged and hopeful that the time that always seems to be missing will be found somewhere with the missing socks and pens.

But the frustration quickly finds it’s way to its usual place, and back on the carousel I go.

But then…

My eyes fall to wise words, words from a woman who all too well knows the pressures of motherhood, suffering, servanthood,  and ministry.

Frustration is not the will of God. Of that we can be quite certain. There is time to do anything and everything that God wants us to do. Obedience fits smoothly into His given framework. 

Elisabeth Elliot, Discipline | The Glad Surrender

PTS | We Have The Time_2

Time. To. Do. Anything. And everything.

Impossible, I think. Save for the caveat:

“…that God wants us to do.”

And there it is: the key to unleashing the frustration and endless chasing after minutes.

We have the time; we must pray for the discernment.

1000 Miles

©janetphillips_may7_2014_web-12A year ago today, I arrived back in the United States with six kids (Jason stayed for another month). Before leaving Indonesia, I completed the last of the 1000 miles I set out to walk/run during our year. You can read more about that journey HERE.

As I think over the past year, with all of its joys and struggles, I am aware of how much my quest to cover 1000 miles was part of God equipping my mind and spirit for what was to come.

This past year, I believe, will stand out in my mind always as a year that shaped me. Through the deep pain and the deep gladness, I have learned to lean deep into the Lord and into who He made me. Never have I felt such a struggle between God’s purposes and the world’s, between my will and the will of my Father, and between the pull to life on earth and life in eternity.

This past year, I have learned about my deep selfishness and God’s deep grace. I have become more convinced of  a deep need to work and a deep need to rest. I have experienced God’s serious expectations of obedience as well as His deep grace in freedom.

I have grieved deeply for the piece of my heart left in Indonesia (reverse culture shock was far more arduous than I was prepared for.)

I have tasted the goodness and blessing of an amazing church family and have learned what the body of Christ truly looks like.

I have looked expectantly to the future, of a life using our unique gifts to give the great gift of God’s Word to others.

My 1000 mile journey, I am convinced, set the stage for the next 365 days. The lessons I learned over the miles were lessons God knew I would need.

  • I learned to persevere, even in the face of illness, fatigue, and bad cases of the I-don’t-want-to’s.
  • I learned rest isn’t optional, it’s essential.
  • I learned to use the downhills to my advantage and give myself grace on the uphill.
  • I learned that speed is far less important than tenacity.
  • I learned that sometimes, it’s better to just stop and enjoy the sunrise.
  • I learned that I am capable of far more than I think I am.
  • I learned that the choices I make affect the choices of others.
  • I learned that consistency is the catalyst for success.
  • I learned that the key to strength is to be torn down in order to be rebuilt stronger.
  • I learned that our future is always dependent on the choices we make today.
  • I learned that a specific goal is far more beneficial than an ambiguous desire.
  • I learned a little each day accrues faster than inconsistent bouts of determination.

God used my desire to “do hard things” to prepare me for what was to come. He knew what I would need in order to accomplish His will.

1000 miles prepared me for a much more important journey.




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