A note from the blog team: We reached out and invited our retreat attendees to share a piece of their stories by way of exploring what it means live out our identities as sisters. Throughout the past year, we’ve shared these sister-to-sister interviews in the hopes that you will recognize a bit of your story in theirs—and that you will be encouraged in the living out of your own authentic calling as a valued member of the Open Door Sisterhood.
In this last installment of the series, we are delighted to introduce to you Janis Kugler and Jessica Wolstenholm. Their stories of self-discovery inspire a greater appreciation for God’s timing and purpose — in which every sister may share.
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Jessica: I spent way too many years of my adult life trying to determine what I was meant to be when I “grow up.” So much time and energy striving to make all the little pieces of life experience and passion fit together. It wasn’t until a few years ago (during my first season with the Open Door Sisterhood) that the picture started to become clear.
When Janis Kugler and I spoke on the phone, I just about jumped out of my skin when she said, “Everything in my life prepared me for THIS. I’ve wondered why I couldn’t have done this years ago?”
She had just finished sharing her journey with me—a journey of struggle and loss, of discovering her quiet leadership, and coming to rest in the confidence that “this is the way God made ME.”
Like Janis, I struggled with infertility for years then welcomed two miracles by God’s great grace.
Like Janis, I plugged into our local MOPS ministry to find my tribe and grow through motherhood.
Because of these practical similarities, I knew we were kindred spirits right away. But it wasn’t until she dug deep into her story—sharing her battle with breast cancer and guiding me through her journey up until where she is right now—that I realized just how much we shared.
Being a part of the Open Door Sisterhood offers women a unique opportunity to go through a process of self-discovery that is only possible because of the other kind, generous, and encouraging women we have the privilege to walk with. Women like Janis who gently guided our class through the Strengthsfinder process (which was a game changer for me).
Janis is one of those women who lead with honesty and transparency, allowing others to feel validated and celebrated. By vulnerably sharing her story, she inspired me to own every bit of who I am (and who I’m not. . .yet) and stand confidently right where God has me.
Janis is Strengthsfinder Certified, with an MBA, and a consulting firm. But greater than any of those impressive qualifications is her warm and inviting spirit that truly wants to know and celebrate YOU—the YOU God is uniquely preparing and releasing for such a time as this.
And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this? Esther 4:14b
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Janis: With a full-time job in the creative, competitive environment of Nashville, Jess is a difference-making woman in our world. She is also a wife and involved mother of two quickly-becoming-tweens children. Jess described herself as discouraged and exclusive until she became involved with the Open Door.
I found quite the opposite when chatting with her. Her experience with the Open Door Sisterhood has affirmed her value and clarified her calling to pursue all that God has for her.
Jess recently started her “dream job” as an editorial director for Jelly Telly. This position allows her to work full-time from home doing what she loves. This job combines her passion for discipleship with her love of children’s stories as she writes and develops children’s stories that teach them more about Jesus. One day she hopes to publish her own line of children’s books.
She also has a dream to show her children the world when they are young. She and her husband recently celebrated their 15th wedding anniversary with a trip to Rome, Florence and Venice. She can’t wait for the opportunity to pack up her family and take them along!
While Jess has many dreams, she lives in the real world and has developed creative, effective, practical tools for growing faith within a family. Her website, gatherandgrow.com, inspires faith to begin at home. Her blog and devotional resources help build a family culture of connection and provide prompts for meaningful conversations that lead to spiritual growth.
It was a privilege and joy to meet this world-changing woman living on mission from Colossians 2:7:
Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught and you will overflow with thankfulness. (NLT)
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Janis Kugler is President of Facet Consulting Group. She has worked with and for a variety of non-profit organizations for 35 year including MOPS International, Youth for Christ/USA and Officers’ Christian Fellowship. As a Gallup Certified Strengths Finder coach she works with individuals, teams and leaders to maximize personal and organizational results. A Colorado native, Janis is married to her high-school sweetheart, They have two daughters, a great son-in-law and two grandchildren. She lives in Littleton, Colorado.
Jess Wolstenholm is an author, blogger and freelance writer. She launched Gather & Grow in January 2017. Since the loss of her mom to pancreatic cancer in 2012, she’s focused on continuing the legacy of faith started by her wonderfully imperfect parents. Author of The Pregnancy and Baby Companion books, Jess also contributes articles and resources about family and faith to Tommy Nelson, JellyTelly and The Huffington Post. When she isn’t writing, you can find Jess teaching kids at her home church or taking notes for the school PTO. She lives outside Nashville, Tennessee with her amazing husband, Dave and their two miracles, Hope (9) and Joshua (6).