THIS IS MY STORY—Karen Janous: Counting It All Joy

By on May 2, 2016
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By KAREN JANOUS

 

Editor’s note: Karen Thompson Janous has three great passions in life—Jesus, family, and friends. Seldom have I met anyone whose every word and action so clearly reveal her pure heart. Bible commentator Charles Mackintosh said, “The Lord’s presence is never so sweet as in moments of appalling difficulty.” Karen has lived through more than her share of “appalling difficulty,” and she has all the radiant marks of one who has been refined in the fire.

She grew up an “Air Force brat,” spending her childhood on military bases from North Carolina, to Mexico, to Miami. to Massachusetts. Greenville, Mississippi, where her grandmother lived, was the one constant place she knew, and she spent her summers there making friends and appreciating the uniqueness of all things Southern.

Married for 42 years to Greenville native Don Janous, she now lives in Knoxville, Tennessee. Several years ago during a particularly hard season, she began posting daily devotionals on her Facebook page. That “ministry” has grown and touched the lives of hundreds including your editor. Prior to that time, she says she had never written anything because she is severely dyslexic.

Meet my friend, Karen, and be blessed by her story.

 

MCL: When did you come to know Jesus, and was there a specific person or incident that took you from nominal Christianity to walking with Him moment by moment?

Karen: On April 26, 1983, we were blessed with our first daughter, Anne Farris, who was slightly premature—but perfect in every way. And while she had a 99% chance of having no problems as a result, God had a very different plan for her life.

Farris was supposed to be able to come home by Mother’s Day, but a few days prior to that a staph infection spread through the Neonatal ICU and she was one of three babies to survive that outbreak.

However, that outbreak ended up compromising her little heart and lungs, resulting in numerous struggles over the next year. She was in and out of the hospital for her 16 months of life until August 8, 1984, when the Lord took her home. Although I had been a Christian for many years, it wasn’t until this point that my faith really began to grow roots.

The hospital, at their own admission, had made many, many mistakes in her care over those months. We were advised that if we pursued action against the hospital we might well be awarded a multi-million dollar settlement without going to court. And though the expense of her hospital and home-based care was such that we thought we could never get it paid off within our lifetimes, we continued to have a very unsettled feeling about pursuing action against the hospital.

Don and Karen have been married for 42 years.

Don and Karen have been married for 42 years.

Again, God had a different plan. He simply asked us to let go and to trust Him. We realized that we had reached an intersection in our spiritual journey and that what we decided to do would make a difference for the rest of our lives in our witness and in our faith. Most importantly, at that time, we wanted our sons to understand that even the “mistakes” and “accidents” in life are filtered through the hands and heart of God. So, if nothing touches us that He does not either cause or allow, how could we possibly turn our daughter’s life into an earthly battle of blame?

After we buried our precious daughter everything in our lives changed—the way we looked at life, the way we trusted in the goodness and sovereign wisdom and power of God, the way we loved, the way we viewed heaven and the way we appreciated even the most ordinary of days.

In His infinite goodness, in October 1985, God blessed us with another beautiful daughter, Lauren Taylor.

In 1992, we moved to the St. Louis area, where we lived for the next 17 years. We were very involved in our church and community there. Additionally, I began leading a neighborhood Bible study at the request of one of my friends who had a deep desire to “find the joy and peace” she saw in our family.

In 2006, Don was diagnosed with Stage 4 colon cancer. As the doctors were not terribly optimistic, I remember many long nights trying to prepare my heart and to visualize my life without the love of my life. But God had a better plan.

Don spent about 8 months going through radiation, chemo, surgery, and more rounds of chemo and to this day is cancer free. But as we have reflected upon so many times, it truly was the most wonderful and blessed year of our marriage.


MCL: Tell me about your role as “Mimi” and a few of the specific things God has impressed on your heart in loving, nurturing, and praying for your grandchildren.

Karen: As a mom, we are often burdened by not meeting the mark—that invisible, unattainable mark of perfection. But, as “Mimi,” I have no such thoughts or constraints. I believe that grandparents have the most blessed position of all, especially when we are afforded the time and the grace to spoil and nurture and love our grandchildren as we desire. I am so grateful for the grace my kids have given me to love and to spoil their kids as I choose.

While I love our “Funday Mondays” and “Funday Wednesdays,” my greater joy is in learning their hearts and their particular love languages. And, just as I did with my own children, I have prayed for their future spouses since the day they were born.

I love talking with them about Jesus and listening to all the Bible stories that have been instilled in their little minds and hearts by their parents and teachers. And second to talking about the things of God, I love talking to them about manners, and that the reason they are so important is because it honors others and shows respect to those God created in His image.

Karen-and-kids-on-swingAlso, I have a special little mailbox in my kitchen and every time they come over there’s a special gift for them in the box. It’s so exciting for them and super fun for me!

My grandkids know that I start my mornings reading my Bible, and when they spend the night and wake up way too early, they sit at my feet and read their own Bibles I keep for them. They are leaning the habit of being faithful and of pursuing the Lord daily. I pray that they will always know, not just in my words, but also in my actions and choices, that Jesus is the most important relationship in my life.

MCL: How did your daily Facebook devotionals get started, how many “friends” do you send to each day, and how can readers subscribe?

Karen: Don and I moved to Knoxville six years ago to be nearer to his dad and sisters. Yet, while we were thrilled to make this move, nothing could have prepared us for the circumstances that we would be facing three short months after our arrival.

Within those first few months, some of my extended family made a choice that resulted in a considerable stress for all of our Knoxville area family. As I had not been in Knoxville long enough to establish the wonderful friendships I now enjoy, I found I had a lot of alone time with God, praying for my family and listening to how He would have us persevere through this time of trouble. It was at that point he lead me to lose myself completely in His Word and to begin writing what I was learning from His heart and at His feet. As a result, I found myself being thrust into the arms of Jesus. He truly became my “hiding place” (Psalm 32:7) as I spent hours and hours seeking His face and wisdom.

 

“Every summer Karen hosts “Cousin’s Camp” for her entire group of 8 (soon to be 9) grandchildren. With 6 in close-by Knoxville and 3 in Seattle the goal is to give them an opportunity to love and value each other as family and that despite the miles or years that separate them they will always have a close bond as family and as Believers. She becomes a regular camp director that week and says, “It is really bigger than Christmas to all of us!

“Every summer Karen hosts “Cousin’s Camp” for her entire group of 8 (soon to be 9) grandchildren. With 6 in close-by Knoxville and 3 in Seattle the goal is to give them an opportunity to love and value each other as family and that despite the miles or years that separate them they will always have a close bond as family and as Believers. She becomes a regular camp director that week and says, “It is really bigger than Christmas to all of us!

As Facebook was, at that time, my “connection to the outside world,” I began to share these devotionals with my Facebook friends. In turn, I received an additional blessing through their kind responses.

I started writing about the scriptures I would read, though I’ve never even journaled before in all my life. I poured out my thoughts and reflections and it seemed the words came faster than my hand could write. A friend from St. Louis suggested that I should begin sharing my devotions on Facebook and the rest is history!

It took nearly four years for the “storm” to pass and by then I had developed an intimacy with God and a love for His Word that I had never dreamed nor imagined would be a part of my life.

By this time, I had accumulated several hundred Facebook friends. Many of them requested that I provide a printed version of some of the devotions I had posted over the years. Last fall, we put together our first edition booklet of about 130 devotions, entitled From My Front Porch, which I offered, at the cost of printing, binding and shipping, to anyone interested in purchasing a copy. Additionally, I offered to send a copy, at no charge, to anyone who might not be able to pay the $12 cost. My heart truly was gladdened as a number of generous Facebook friends sent funds over and above the cost of their own copies to help fund copies for those who might not be in a position to pay for their own booklet.

I have just begun editing Volume 2, which should be available in the fall.

MCL: What are the most valuable lessons God has taught you?

Karen: God has taught me many lessons through both our trials and our blessings. He has been so kind and gracious to us in all things.

But the two most valuable lessons I have learned at His feet are these:

The first is to hold everything and everyone in this life with an open hand and heart. Nothing and no one belongs to us. We are simply the caretakers. Learning to hold all things and all people loosely makes life so much sweeter as seasons come and go.

The second is that God’s grace is always sufficient, even in the midst of fear and uncertainty. He is always enough. As Don and I said to one another the day we buried our daughter, if this is the worst heartache that most people can imagine, and we are experiencing such peace and even a supernatural joy in the midst of our great pain, then there is nothing in this life that we cannot face together and with our Father.

My life verse: “But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary, they shall walk, and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31, TLB).

We all have trials and hardships in this life, but one thing I know for certain; God is always good, and all His purposes are perfect. I am sure that one day when we see Him face-to-face and are able to see our lives from his perspective, we will be convinced that we would not have changed even a moment of His gracious and wise will even if it had been within our power to do so.

 

To order Karen’s devotional booklets or to be added to her daily devotional lists, contact her at KarenJanous@gmail.com