On a cold, sunny afternoon on Christmas day 49 years ago, Janelle said ‘goodbye’ to her baby girl. Two days prior she delivered baby girl ‘John’ at a local hospital in Omaha. Even though Janelle was scared, she knew and loved this baby from the moment she found out she was pregnant, so much that she committed to carrying the baby to full term and giving her up for adoption. She did not embrace her daughter. It was too difficult. Instead, she had agreed to have her loving and supportive parents make the legal arrangements and an adoptive couple to bless her daughter with a family. With what she knew of God, Janelle hoped and even prayed that this precious baby girl would have a good home and happy life and if possible, by some chance, they would could meet later in their lives.
Janelle was 20 years old. She cried that day and for the next few days. She felt like she abandoned her daughter but knew that she wasn’t ready to be a single parent. She barely could take care of herself apart from her family’s support. Janelle still craved a good time and freedom from responsibility. The next few years, after more “good times” including several bad relationships and hurt, Janelle was invited by her cousin to move to California. Without hesitating, she packed up and left for the sunny state, hoping for a new beginning. A few years later, a coworker, knowing Janelle loved music, invited her to a concert. Janelle had declined many other invites, but this time was different. This time she went and come to find out, the concert was at a church.
“I was sitting there enjoying the concert experiencing a peace I had never experienced in a church setting before,” Janelle reminisced. “The people all around me were genuinely enjoying the music as well. When the concert concluded I heard an invitation to go up and the Spirit of the Lord was saying “come” and “it’s time.” I’ve been through a lot. I was full of shame in a lot of areas and the Lord was offering me an opportunity to wipe the slate clean. That night I heard the gospel and it took that one time. I acknowledged I needed to ask forgiveness for my sins and accept Jesus Christ as my ‘personal’ Lord and Savior.”
“You know, in life I did it all. The choices I made and a lot of them I am not proud of. I had all this shame. Praise the Lord He did have His hand on me. I am covered by His blood. He would cover my thoughts when my baby girl would come to my mind. I would be able to accept in my heart His truth saying, “you did the right thing, you gave your baby girl life.” That day and there on out, I was welcomed into open arms. No matter what I did. Just as you are.”
Janelle was 25 the night she accepted what the Lord offered, a life of freedom from shame and wiped clean. A new conviction from the Spirit came upon her and showed her how to live a life that was pleasing to Him. She began reading the Bible.
“It took time and a lot of conviction,” Janelle shared with gratitude. “Gradually, change began. My prayers also changed, including the one I had for my now, 5 year old daughter. It was now “Lord, if I don’t meet her this side of heaven, would she come to know you and be saved by you?” I also had a new desire and prayer to meet someone that pleased the Lord and not my flesh.”
Janelle started to go to church regularly and got involved with a Bible study. There she met a man, Bill, who was different from the other men. Bill was a good man who loved Jesus. Janelle and Bill would go on walks and have many long conversations.
“It was a habit of ours to go to the Ocean Beach City Pier and hang out on the rocks and sit there for hours to talk,” Janelle shared. “The Lord was mainly the subject, and then everything else. I shared about my daughter with Bill and my prayer for her. Bill showed a real concern and prayed often for her along with me. We married a few years later and he’s been my rock ever since.”
After four years of marriage, Janelle and Bill were pregnant with a boy. Joy rushed into their hearts and lives when they brought him home. Days and years continued to go by as they do, and life was full. Bill worked for the U.S. Postal Service and Janelle remained home to care for their son and another little boy whose mom worked full time. An unexpected opportunity for Janelle to pour Jesus’ love to another and stay at home.
One year later, finances were being stretched. Janelle’s father back in Omaha had purchased a house across the street from the one he and Janelle’s mom still lived in, the home where Janelle was raised and had carried her baby daughter to term. Her Dad offered the home across the street to rent. The proximity provided an opportunity to be around family, which they didn’t have in California. Bill was granted the transfer. Seven years they had living happily right across the street from their son’s grandparents.
In 2008, Bill and Janelle were involved with a church plant in West Omaha. They both taught in the children’s ministry. There they were able to encourage and support kids and families for the next ten years. On an average Sunday morning checking in kids in the 2–3-year-old room, Janelle encountered a mom struggling with her 2-year-old son. The mom apologized in advance. Janelle could tell this mom was new to a church environment. Her son did not seem to want to go into a new room without her.
“I didn’t know her and offered help,” Janelle shared. “I told her “We’ll handle it” and encouraged her to go to church. To our surprise, when she set her son down, her little boy ran to me. It was almost like he knew me. I said, “we had a win!” and the mom went into the service. He was comfortable with me, and we were ‘set’ from there on out.”
Serving these young families and the church gave Janelle great joy and satisfaction. When the kids were dropped off on Sunday mornings, Janelle would greet them and give and get hugs. The next Sunday, Janelle was happy to greet the young mom again. Janelle found out she was newly divorced with the two young children. Over the weeks and months, they became friends and she found out her name was Kim. Kim and her kids called Janelle Miss Nellie.
Two years of life, serving the church, and family for Janelle went by quickly. Jesus continued to heal and teach her. God continued to work in her heart and in her marriage with Bill. Their son, Dirk, now in his twenties, was a man after the Lord’s heart. Janelle was thankful. One Sunday, Kim came by at church and told Janelle she had started dating a guy she had met in college and who was divorced with three kids. Not long after, Kim married him and moved to Kansas. Janelle and Kim kept in contact with texts and Christmas cards. Janelle was so happy for Kim and the kids but missed them.
Years passed. In 2022, Janelle received a text from Kim. She noticed on Facebook that Janelle and Bill were riding their motorcycle close to her home and asked if they would be back again because she had some questions.
Janelle and Bill were not but offered to connect when they got back home. Once they arrived home, Janelle texted Kim. Janelle recalled the text conversation
“Kim said "Hey Miss Nellie, I have some questions. I did the 23andMe DNA test because I am adopted and looking for my mother. One of the people showing on my ‘maternal’ line on my DNA test is a friend of yours on Facebook”…figuring since I knew her Kim then texted, “is there a chance you know who my mother is?”
Well, that person Kim was referring to is a 3rd cousin on my dad’s side. Kim texted me her birthdate & her birth father’s name and asked if her birthdate or his name had any significance? I just went silent. Kim’s birth date was the day I gave birth to my baby girl and her birth father’s name was the man I had conceived her with. I couldn’t text her back. I went to Bill and said to him, “I think I know who my daughter is and that we’ve known her for the past 13 years!”
Unbeknownst to Kim, Janelle had just done a DNA test a couple months prior at Bill’s suggestion and had not received the results yet. Janelle couldn’t believe what was happening. Janelle continued,
“Kim texted me shortly after her first text. Since I didn’t respond quickly Kim’s text said, “Miss Nellie you went dark on me.” I didn’t know what that meant. I guess it means you go silent which I did with the texts that day. So, I texted her and said “I DID go dark on you in the MOST ABSOLUTEY FANTASTIC HOPEFUL WAY. l believe I am your mom! Kim immediately called me, and we just cried.”
Janelle and Kim talked on the phone for hours and then texted and Face-timed regularly every day or every night for the next three months. To say Janelle was thrilled, was an understatement. She knew it was the hand of God. Especially with what she found out about the day they met fourteen years prior.
“God was working behind the scenes,” Janelle said, barely able to keep still. “God knew about us in 2008. When Kim and I replayed the day we met, she shared that after dropping off her son with me (my grandson!), it was the day she accepted Jesus as her Savior. She heard and accepted the gospel. God sees it all. God answered my prayer. I met my baby girl and she became a believer all in one day. That is God’s providence. He is amazing. He sees the beginning and the end. The final masterpiece. You hear all these stories and now I know my life, of all lives, is one of them. We just don’t see the whole picture like He does.”
God’s timing is always perfect. What happened last year with Janelle and Kim helped her through much of this year’s trials and scares. In February, Janelle’s health took a horrible turn to where she lost the ability to move, to speak, to eat and drink on her own due to an illness.
“Knowing my daughter now, I knew I wasn’t going to die,” Janelle said with tears. “All that had to happen prior to my health to have hope in God. He is mindful of me and in control. I didn’t question what I was going through. I talked to God. He said to me “40 some years ago did you trust me?” I said to Him “Yes!” He said He knew this was going to happen today and asked me if I still trusted Him? Jesus has always been here, regardless of the outcome, I had a life to live.”
When Janelle was paralyzed, it was the simple things that she missed and now will never take for granted. She described
“when I wished I could swallow, move my arms, go to the bathroom, or just to do something on my own, it was God who brought me through for future lessons. I wouldn’t change anything because of that. If the outcome of this was recovery and the ability to talk about this with others, then I would do it again. I will testify to you Lord, until I am in your presence.”
Last Thanksgiving and throughout this past year, Janelle and Bill, along with their son Dirk, had some opportunities to visit Kim and her family. Either they would go down to Kansas City or Kim and her family would come up to Omaha. She and Bill have enjoyed growing closer to their grandkids.
Today, Janelle’s devotion to the Lord has increased and understands even better that she is a work in progress & His blessings continue.
“God will complete the work,” Janelle said with confidence. “After forty years with Bill, we have grown in our walk, and we keep coming back to the cross. Bill has forgiven me over and over in our life. He continues to be a forgiving man. When I was sick, Bill would lift my arms for me to praise God. The Lord showed me His anointing in our lives, way back to when Bill and I got married. This man has been and is totally there for me and our son and now daughter. Kim lovingly calls him Papa Bill as well as her family. I appreciate Bill more now than a year ago.”
As Janelle and Bill look ahead, and with their son and daughter and new family, they see more opportunities to pray. Considering life isn’t easy, Janelle wants her loved ones, all of them, to know and accept Jesus and she wants to represent Jesus well to them.
“While there is still time and as long as we have breath,” Janelle exclaimed with hope, “Bill and I want to be a Godly influence on all the kids and grandkids. Even to Kim’s husband, Kevin, and his three kids. We want our conversations to be encouraging and influence them on a spiritual level. I look forward to many more conversations and life with Kim. I’m looking forward to sitting across from her and investing in her as a grown woman. I want to tell her there’s more to be had and with our surrendering all to HIM. I also want her to know how I see her...that she is a beautiful creation of my heavenly Father that I was chosen to birth her. I want her to see how delighted I am in the beautiful person she is and continues to become in our God. That’s my prayer now. I want her to know I support her. I just want what God wants.”
God’s providence was at hand in and through Janelle and her baby girl “John.” He chose them both from the beginning. He answered Janelle’s prayers and continues to do so since that Christmas day 49 years ago. God’s word is alive and has the power to wipe shame away. It is Christ who is our only hope. A wonderful reminder for this Christmas and forever.