Hi! My name is Janzel.

That’s ‘Jan-zelle’. Like Denzel Washington when people pronounce his name ‘Den-zelle.’

Okay, so moment of honesty. I am not great at self-promotion. I get really uncomfortable when people say positive things about me or talk about me approvingly or celebrate me. I think it’s all the eyes. I hate being stared at. My husband says that it’s because I’m beautiful, but I think he’s biased. The staring just makes me feel like I have something in my teeth. Writing about myself isn’t really that much better, which is why it’s taken me a good six years since starting this blog to actually type these words out about myself.

We live just outside of beautiful, but incredibly expensive, Vancouver, BC, Canada. (Honestly, it’s a wonder sometimes that more of us aren’t living on the street.) It’s where I grew up and where my husband reluctantly moved to be with me. Every now and then he still likes to remind me how much better Kelowna is compared to Vancouver. I’ll admit, the rain doesn’t win us any points — but, oh, the warm summers, beautiful snow-capped mountains, the air, the water, the Seawall, the sandy beaches at English Bay and Jericho, the trails, the diverse, life-changing cuisines … but I digress.

Me and my sister, Aida, circa the 1980s. Long before we knew how to style our own hair.

It’s in this town that I grew up learning about Jesus. Of course, I’m sure my parents told me about Him even while we were living in the Philippines, but it’s hard to retain anything those first four years of life, you know. I was a little busy driving my sister around in toddler bikes while holding umbrellas. Such a diva. My sister, not me. (I do have a brother, but it seems we had no room for him to join us on our joyrides around the house.)

I won’t chronicle my life story here because I’m sure you’ve got better things to do, like looking up what’s new on Netflix this month or finally going out to buy groceries after two days of staring at the bottom of the margarine container in your fridge (the struggle is real), so I’ll sum up the first two decades of my life by saying I grew up a typical Christian. I went to a Christian private school (I highly recommend Deer Lake School if you are looking). I went to church every weekend (on Saturdays because that’s just how Seventh-day Adventists roll). I taught Church school lessons (okay, they’re actually ‘Sabbath School’ lessons) and lead vespers (the evening prayer service, not the Italian scooter). I even gave sermons every now and then (but let’s just call them ‘Jesus Talks’ because that sounds less sanctimonious). Okay, maybe that last thing wasn’t entirely a ‘typical Christian’ thing to do. I don’t know how many 21 year-old Christian women were giving sermons — I mean, Jesus Talks — at church when I was that age. (Uh, you’re welcome for that Netflix link, by the way.)

In any case, it was at church in my early 20s that I met my husband. One Sabbath, before we met, he was sitting in a pew while I happened to be giving an impassioned sermon. (I think it was on grace or something.) Well, he was so moved by what I shared that day that he actually thought to himself, “I could never marry a girl like that; she’s way too hardcore for me.” And yet, here we are, married, 13 years later. (I don’t know why I just imagined all my female Asian ancestors smiling.) Just so we are clear, there was no catfishing involved. He was only insanely in love with me while I was interested in someone else. But I digress again. Apparently I got lucky though, because I have friends who basically tell me that meeting a guy at church now is like finding a unicorn. They’re that rare. Which is one reason why I still don’t understand why there’s such a kerfuffle over women’s ordination. Most of our churches are made up of women anyway.

So here’s the thing. I might have grown up a Christian, especially of the more conservative variety, but my life’s journey so far has stretched and tested and broken and revived my faith in so many ways that my faith at 21 was very different from what it is today. And you know what, that’s okay. I don’t believe that a stagnant faith is what God wants for us anyway. I think that when Jesus said that He came so that we could “have life, and have it to the full“* that He meant it. Most Christians think that Jesus meant that He came to give us life by dying on the cross, but I think Jesus meant that He came to give us life by showing us how to live here on Earth. Now. Today.

Regardless of your beliefs, I think that we are each presented with a multiplicity of opportunities throughout our lives to ask the big questions, to doubt who we are and everything else, and to believe — in yourself, in your fellow man, and even in God, whether your name for God is “the universe” or “Jesus Christ.” In fact, the whole business of living in this world takes tremendous faith — faith that you can pay your kid’s tuition, faith that you will get that job, faith that you can make rent this month, faith that she’ll call back, faith that your car will start, faith that you’ll have a healthy baby, faith that you’ll beat this disease, faith that the pain will go away, faith that Someone greater than yourself cares for you even when you don’t. When we limit faith to whether or not we believe in God, we ignore the significant parts of our lives that require faith and that depend on it like the air we breathe. So if you ask me, we are all people of faith in one way or another.

Today, I no longer hold such narrow views of what being “a person of faith” means. And even now, as I write these words, I am consciously aware of the fact that there is still so much room for growth and change. 

So, are you ready for your faith to be let loose?

Let us begin again, for up until now we have done nothing. – Saint Francis of Assisi

*John, Chapter 10, verse 10.

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