Form a deeper connection with God, more empathic connection with other Moms, and more intentional connection with your child.
Welcome to Connected Mom podcast, where we have real conversations helping moms connect
BECKY: Welcome to the Connected Mom podcast, where we have real conversations helping you to connect more deeply with God, more empathically with your fellow moms, and more intentionally with your child. I'm Becky Harling, and I got to tell you, you are in for a dynamic treat today. But before we get to that, let me introduce my amazing co host, Sarah Wildman. Hey, Sarah.
SARAH: Hi, Becky. We have so much fun on these podcasts, even when there are topics that might be a little heavy. And I think we're going to have the perfect mixture today of real life, but also real joy.
BECKY: Yeah, absolutely.
Becky introduces Janet Perez Eckles, author of five books
BECKY: And so I just am so excited to introduce to you, my dear friend Janet Perez Eckles, who is our guest today. Janet has one of the most, difficult stories I've ever heard in my life. And yet she is so filled with joy. She is so incredibly fun. We'll probably tell you about some of our fun adventures together. But beyond that, she is the author of five books. Her newest book is called now I can see. She is an international speaker, a radio host, the founder of JC Empowerment Ministries. Her writings have appeared in 32 Chicken Soup for the Soul titles. She's been, a guest on Guidepost magazine, hundreds of print and online publications. She's been featured on Christian radio and TV programs from Focus on the Family, Lifestyle magazine, the 700 Club. She's been on the cover of Hispanic Women's magazine. She resides in Florida with her husband, Dale, and family. And I am telling you, she is so much fun. Despite this hard story, she is one of the most resilient and joy filled women I know. So welcome, Janet.
JANET: Oh, Becky, the pressure is, on. I better do well. You're listening?
Janet lost her eyesight while raising her three sons
JANET: Okay, let's begin. Where are we going to start? In the hard part.
BECKY: Okay, so, for starters, yes, Janet lost her eyesight when she was 30. Now, imagine that those of you who are listening, who are mamas, she lost her eyesight while raising kids. And yet Janet and I often joke, janet has said we should introduce ourselves as the blonde and the blind. So let's start there. Janet, what was that like for you, losing your eyesight at 30 while raising boys?
JANET: Well, you have to remember that was a long time ago because I'm a little older than 30 now. But back then, my life turned upside down because I was an active mom with three little boys. I took them everywhere, did everything, thinking I would have the life ever after with my hubby, who I loved. And he loved me. Life was good until the day where my world began to fall apart. I had inherited a disease of the retina. My dad had it, and I inherited from him. But doctor said, oh, you don't have to worry. They diagnosed me when I was 13. And he said, no, don't you have to worry. No need because you won't see any effects until you reach 16. I thought, 60? That's really old. At 30, I thought, I'm not going to worry about that. But he was wrong. I was only 30, and my vision started to close in quickly. Desperate visits to ophthalmologists, herbal healers, acupuncture, anybody who gave me a hope for it to stop the progression. Nothing worked. So what does a good Catholic little girl do? You pray. Those memorized prayers and you pray and you pray. Well, god was silent. He didn't answer my prayers. In a matter of 18 months, my vision closed in completely. And I was horrified because that meant I would have to live the rest of my life in darkness. Complete blindness. That was not pretty. And my little guys, they were three, five and seven years old. They needed wow.
BECKY: you couldn't keep an eye on them because okay, so I have lots of grandsons and little boys like to get into mischief.
BECKY: So you can't see what they're doing. How does that work?
JANET: I couldn't keep an eye on them. I couldn't keep both eyes on them. I couldn't see them at all. That was hard. What was hard was the fact that I didn't want them to live deprived. My mom is blind, so I did everything to be able to, get through it, to cover up my pain, my devastation. Because at the same time, my husband, who was always also 30, 31, couldn't handle being married to blind women. He came home one day and said, I made my decision about this situation. I can't go on with our marriage because I found somebody else. So there I was, blind, devastated, rejected. My world just turned dark in so many ways. And yes, it was difficult, but I had to grow through the kitchen trying to find the jars of things, to prepare their meals, to take care of them and to listen carefully when they're getting into trouble. You know how little boys are. I did my best. And then something beautiful happened. Is it commercial time?
BECKY: No, but go ahead.
JANET: A friend invited me to a Christian church. And it's at this church, Becky and Sarah, that I found. What does God's word say to us? What are his promises? What is it that he's trying to teach us even in our darkest moments? See, I didn't know that I was very much a Catholic, followed the rituals, memorized prayers. I was a good Catholic little girl, so I wasn't exposed to the power of God's Word. So when I went to this church, that's where I heard God's Word that so touched my heart. Specifically, it was Matthew 633 that says, seek first the kingdom m of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you. Well, up to then, all I was seeking was to be able to see again, for God to perform a miracle for me to be able to be normal again, for my husband to come back. That was my number one, desire goal. But God was saying seek me first. M you know what I look like, m? My priorities were all wrong. God was giving me the right priorities. So inside my heart I said, Lord, show me how to seek you because I'm dying inside. How does a person seek someone who they cannot see? And a friend gave me the Bible in audio. I put on those headsets and I began to listen with my heart, m, with my mind, with everything in me. And you know what I did? I did a crazy thing. Girls, are you ready?
JANET: Believed what God was telling me when he said in the, book of, Psalm 119 105, he says, my word will be a lamp to your feet and a light for your path. I took my breath, I said, how does he know? That's what I need? I need guidance. I need somebody to just light my path because I don't know where I'm going physically, emotionally, spiritually. I just didn't know. So I said, Lord, I'm going to believe in what you're telling me. I'm going to hang on to your word, and I'm going to trust that that will be true. Same thing with Jeremiah 20 911 that he told me he had plans for me and there were good plans. So once again, I believed. And I believed. I began to memorize prayers. And you know what happened? All that self pity, that hardship, that feeling that I was ugly and unworthy, being blind, that all began to just vanish. Instead, peace began to fill my heart.
Janet says God healed her marriage after she accepted Christ as savior
JANET: Because, see, I didn't let my blindness define me anymore. I knew who I was when I accepted Christ as my savior. I, was the daughter of the King. Hubby saw the difference in me and chose to come back. And God healed our marriage. Isn't it a happy ending? It is.
BECKY: Except it doesn't end.
JANET: To listen to that blindness infidelity that was nothing wow. Compared to what was about to happen. Should we go into that now?
BECKY: So we are going to go into that right now, Janet.
Tell us about what happened to your one son after blindness
BECKY: So your boys at this time were teenagers?
JANET: Yes. Yes. Yours, went fine.
BECKY: And tell m us about what happened to your one son.
JANET: Okay, well, time went by. And by then, since I knew God's word, I began to have quite a different life. Much more confident. My blindness didn't stand in the way anymore. It wasn't convenient, but I learned how to do everything.
You have navigated airports on your own. Tell our listeners how you do it
JANET: okay, wait, I have to interrupt.
BECKY: You for 1 second because we need like, a light hearted break before we get to this heavy part of your story. Okay? So you have navigated airports on your own. you go into hotels on your own. Tell our listeners, how do you figure out which is the ladies room and which is the men's room. In airports.
JANET: Traveling by myself, I used to Waikane when I travel across the country and other countries. That is the most entertaining, wonderful time for me because I meet so many people and they see the YCAN and people say they can't tell I'm blind. So they ask me, Are you totally blind? And that opens the door for me to relate my story, give my testimony, and tell them what Jesus did in my life. So it's a beautiful thing. Now, first of all, in bathroom, what I do is I call the airline ahead of time, tell them I'm blind and I need an escort. So they meet me. If I have to go to the bathroom, they'll ask me. And so they just take me to the family bathroom, whatever. If not, if they take me to a regular woman's bathroom, they'll know, obviously, hopefully, they won't take me to a man's bathroom. So I walk in and my cane and there's always somebody there. Can I help you? And I usually this is okay. We're between among girls, right? This is what I do, absolutely. I listen to the flushing of the toilet because that sound guides me where.
BECKY: I need to go. I love you, Janet.
JANET: I play cool and I stay with my white cane, like, just, looking around and my ears are listening. Oh, they flush over there. I head that way. So I find them. And then on the way out, too, I listen for the running water so I know where the sinks are. And then to exit, I listen for the noise that's outside the bathroom. So it becomes fun, it becomes simple. again, if I were to meet somebody who wants to help know, I talk to them, become friends. Life is good. Yeah. Now, there have been times m, where people said, okay, the escort took me to where I was meeting the person to pick me up. Actually, this happened in Ecuador, and the lady wasn't there to pick me up. But usually there's always somebody there. And I thought, oh, now what I'm going to do I haven't been in this country before. That was my first time. I don't have cell service. My phone didn't work. And so I told the escort, I said, I don't know what to do. I'll just wait here. And he said, what does your friend look like? And I went, how do I know? And I just kind of looked at it like, I kind of left my gang. Oh, I'm sorry. And he said, Ma'am, I have to go to my next passenger. And I said, okay. He's going to leave me here in this airport. I don't know where I'm going. I don't know where to call. I don't know what to do. But you know what I did? I said, Lord, if your plans are for me to minister to this beautiful woman in Ecuador. You're going to make a way. I will not fret. I will not fear. I will not worry. So I said, Arturo, that was his name. Before you leave, take me to a phone. Is there a public phone? He said yes. I said dial this number. And, you know, Becky, God is so good. He allowed me to have enough peace for me to remember her phone number, all the codes contrary.
BECKY: Wow, that's impressive.
JANET: He called, she was there, and she says, what are you doing at the airport? You're not supposed to fly in for another 3 hours. She got the wrong information. So all that is that things don't happen in life. Right. But if you have the word of God inside of you, peace comes, and with that, the sound mind to know how to think and never let fear overcome you. Yeah. And that was a great trip for me.
Tell us a little bit about your son and what happened to him
BECKY: Okay, so now let's transition. We got to get to the really hard part of your Janet. And, yeah, well, there's several really hard parts of your story, but, tell us a little bit about your son and what happened to him and how you dealt with that.
JANET: Yes, that was difficult because, like I said, when I began just to know who Christ Jesus was, I was a new creation, as the Bible says. So I made it a point to make sure that my boys knew the Lord. So I made sure that they went to public high schools, but I wanted them to participate in Christian ministries, and they did. They were very, much involved in fellowship of Christian athletes. And my Joe, my youngest, 19 at the time, but now he had graduated from high school. We got a phone call late at night telling us that he had been wounded. And we thought, who could have wounded him? He was handsome. He was a leader. Always attended his Bible study. He, was the captain of the football team. I mean, everybody looked up to him, but who could have wounded him? So my husband and I rushed to the emergency room. We waited and waited. And then the doctors walked in and told us that my Joe, my baby, had not survived 23 stab wounds he had received.
BECKY: He and another man cannot, imagine. I just can't imagine.
JANET: And my agony. You know what I heard, though? God speaks so clearly to my heart, he said, Be still and know that I am God. What he was telling me is that he knew my agony. He knew how my world just crumbled. He knew I couldn't even take a breath. But he was reassuring me that he was the same God that sustained me before, that he would be there. So I hung, on to that promise. I remember nurses coming up to me, ma'am, take this. Take. They would press a pill in my bow in my hand, try to hand me a glass of water, because I think what they thought any moment now, I would go hysterical. But I didn't because I was just hanging on to God's promise. I had to keep my peace to console my brother, my family, actually, my husband, my parents, my other two sons. So as weeks went by, god was once again so faithful to His Word. He comforted me. He gave me peace and allowed me to remember that I'm going to see my Joe again. Because two years prior, he accepted Christ as his savior. I didn't know two years after that, the Lord would call him home. So his, death served to be able to minister to so many young people because they all looked up to Joe. And at the funeral, at the memorial service, I got the home behind the podium and I said, none of you are guaranteed tomorrow. Joe didn't know that last Friday was going to be his last day, but he made the right decision. So we know where Joe is, and he's probably wanting you to follow the same steps of accepting Christ as your savior. So that was a real rich time for me. And when I realized that it's not a permanent separation, I'm going to see my joy again. This time, I'm going to see with my own eyes. Because the Bible says in heaven, the blind will see, deaf will hear, and the lame will leap. So my sorrow, I can tell you with every fiber of sincerity in my heart, that sorrow turned to gratitude. What a beautiful guarantee we have to be able to see those loved ones again.
Janet says she forgave the man who killed her son, Joel
SARAH: So, Janet, I know you write about some of this in your book, too, about forgiveness. I mean, I can't imagine what that would be like to get the news you did, but walk us through how that looked in your life.
JANET: Yeah, Sarah, that was, something I had never had to do before. I forgave my husband's infidelity, but forgiveness in this case was a little hard. Let me tell you why. during the trial, we had to listen to all the medical forensics description of each of his daddy. And I was just like, Lord, I need your strength to endure this. That was almost like they were stabbing me, because that was my baby they're talking about. Right. And so at the end of the third day, the verdict was read. And it read, we find the defendant not guilty of all kinds. The man pledged self defense and went home free. And we were devastated. I said, Lord, how, could this injustice where were you, Lord? Where's your faithfulness? Just asking Him, help us understand this. And so, once again, his word says, trust in the Lord with all your heart. Lean not on your understanding, but acknowledge Him in all your ways, and he will direct your path. And you know what he did. He did exactly that. He directed our path to the only option, the only option we had, and that is to forgive the man who killed our son. So my husband and I both genuinely and completely forgave him, because what option we had was to hold on to that bitterness, that anger, that resentment that would have held off prisoners, right? But when we chose to forgive him, that set us free. So, yes, part of my message, Sarah, is to point out the beauty of forgiveness that brings that freedom. yeah, he didn't suffer one day in jail. He didn't suffer any punishment, but really, there are no conditions to forgiveness, right? So, yes, joy came back because I obeyed the Lord, and we obeyed the Lord only. good things can happen, right? So that's what happened.
BECKY: But that wasn't the end of your story either, Janet, because that marriage ended up falling apart.
JANET: It was, it was know, through all those know, my husband and I stayed together, which know, there's a high percentage of divorce when that happens, when somebody loses life or loses a son or tragedy happens, but we made it through. But on the 42nd wedding anniversary, my husband didn't take me out to dinner or buy me roses. He was at the computer because he was planning to divorce me. Nobody our, family, our church, our friends, no one would have ever suspected he had dark side to him. And I was just blown. That was probably harder than anything for me, because I never expected it. He was a kind, understanding, wonderful man. But to find out the side was just totally devastating. I did everything to help him. But when we signed the divorce papers, I thought, lord, now what? By then, I had written books. I was traveling everywhere, ministering to women, helping them. And I thought, lord, how am I going to ever minister to any woman when my own world fell apart, when my marriage fell apart, what do I have to show? And I remember thinking of Joel, how he at the end, he got double the joy, double the blessings. So I kept remembering that. I thought, I don't know how that's going to look. But I did ask him. I lord, in my moments of silence, praying, leaning down, asking him to help me, because I'd never been alone in my life, I said, Lord, I just ask you, if there's any loneliness that's going to affect me, take that from me. Take that away. And I somehow continue with the ministry and stay take care of my mom, because my mom was still with me. And lo and behold, we started to go a new church. I wanted just to start a new beginning. And so, long story short, the pastor at that church learned I was a speaker. He invited me to speak at the church at all four services. And I hadn't spoken for about a year because I just couldn't it was just too hard. How could I be cheery and inspiring? And that one my world was just so filled with pain. But I thought, Lord, if you open this story, you're going to have to provide for me what I needed. And he did. So I shared all of it. Don't you know? At the end of the third service, a man approached me and he said, you helped me so much because I lost my wife two years ago to cancer, and I just wasn't able to get over it. But your talk inspired me. Thank you. So, of course, as I do, delivery comes to me, I have him. I said, oh, thank you. He didn't know I went to that church. So then, I needed some repair, and I found out he does repair work. So I emailed him for help, and then he back. And then he called me, and then he invited me to dinner. And then romance hit. And I remember when he invited me to dinner, I called my friend, I said, Jen, what do you think? And she said, Woman, get a life. What makes you think that anything's going to happen? Just because you go out to dinner with this man and found out that he was a godly man, same values. And, we got married in the same church that we met happily ever. You know what? Ah, this is what I told the Lord. Number one, I'm not Job, I'm Janet. Number two, I have enough material for an hour and a half. I can cover all this in maybe an hour. And of course, I tell funny stories all over the place. but yeah, so there you have it.
BECKY: That's my you know, Janet, out of everybody that I know, you are so filled with joy.
Some of our listeners are listening to you today with a health diagnosis
BECKY: So some of our listeners are listening to you today, and maybe they're not blind, but they have a child with a really severe diagnosis. Or maybe their husband just walked out the door and they're devastated because they found out he's been cheating all these years. Or maybe they have a health diagnosis and they don't know how they're going to keep going. What do you think, for them, is the key to joy? How can they keep going? Because, I mean, honestly, you have modeled this incredibly well for the body of Christ.
JANET: Thank you, Becky. I think it's something simple, but, we don't take time out to actually put into practice. Let me tell you what I mean. When things like that happen, when those, devastation, those storms just hit us so unexpectedly, we have a choice to get down into our knees and Lord, how can this happen? Help me. Help me, please. Give me the solution. Or we pray the power. We tap into God's power and speak it and say, lord, I just know you're going to do this for me. I believe in your word that you're going to bring solution to this problem. I just know this diagnosis may be given to me by a doctor. He's a man. But you have the ultimate power to heal me. You're in control. Your faithfulness is greater than anything a doctor could tell me. My husband worked out. Father God, you're going to fulfill me. You're going to be the one who's going to be the source of my joy. You make me whole, not my husband. In other words, be bold. Claim that promise, claim that reassurance speak his word, not the problem, but m the power within you. And people that ask know, what's your secret to be joyful. Well, I get up in the morning, becky and Sarah, I don't think, oh, where's the, blind? You know, I said, Lord, thank you for another day. I know they're going to be challenges, because when you're blind, there are a lot of challenges. But I said, I know, Lord, and you're going to bring people that I can inspire. You're going to open doors and I just praise you, Lord, things could be going wrong. But you know what? I begin with praises in my lips. And I know somebody who wrote a book about the power of praising the Lord. Right, Becky?
BECKY: That's right.
JANET: And I use a screen reader in my computer to read by Michael, but.
BECKY: Yeah, thank you.
What do you say to people who say God didn't heal them
BECKY: so as I'm listening to you praising God for his power and declaring God's word over his life, and, you know, both you and I speak that message, and we believe it with all our hearts, but I want to play the devil's advocate for just a second. What do you say to the woman out there who says, okay, but I claimed the promises of God and God didn't heal me? Or I claimed the promises of God and my husband still walked out the door? What do you say to them, Janet?
JANET: Oh, yes, of course. God didn't regain my sight. I'm so blind. God didn't bring, my son back. God didn't change my husband's heart the second time and came back to me. None of those things happened. But you know what? When God doesn't give you what you want or what you need at that, he sends something to strengthen you. His power is still at work to give you the strength that you never thought you had. He will bring back joy in ways you never expected. You have to count on that. Because, you see, if we ask God for what we wanted and he gave it to us, well, he might as well be a genie in the bottle, but he's not like that in my backyard. God didn't give me what I want. I wanted to be able to see again. I wanted to be normal. That's what I wanted. But you know what he did? He gave me what I needed, that peace that huh? Confidence. The joy only he can bring. When I was sighted, I wasn't really a joyful person. I was a go getter. Always looking worried about what I look like, the clothes I wore, the house we lived, things of the world. But there was emptiness in me. So when the Lord answers in a different way, you praise Him, because it may be better than what you anticipated. He didn't bring back my husband. He gave me a better husband. Don't tell anybody, but he is better.
SARAH: So, Janet, I'm thinking of just zoom out. I mean, if we zoom in on any of those individual things like Becky said, it's just so hard. But when somebody looks at your life thus far, what do you hope they see? That the Lord's done. What's the big picture you hope the story of your life tells?
JANET: It's kind of a heavy what a great question. Becky, work with this girl. She's amazing.
BECKY: She is amazing. She is my amazing co host.
JANET: Well, let me answer that amazing question. The purpose God has given to my pain is for them to be able to see that tragedies, storms, devastation happen in our life. But none of them can sink you when you walk in the path of the Lord Christ Jesus. He has given us a path of victory. Circumstances may be tough and painful, but you never step off that path of victory when you carry Christ Jesus in your heart. So throughout the pages of my book, which I'm still in awe at the Lord, how he would allow my story to touch so many of you, even older men are reading. He said, I'm not a reader, but I couldn't stop reading your book. That's a real compliment. Right? Of course my girlfriend's going to write read because they don't want to know myself, right? But I think that's the whole message, page by page. I don't just tell them. In fact, in the beginning of an introduction, I said, I'm not giving you a sermon or list a lot of Bible verses. I'm going to show you what it looks like to have the faithfulness of the Lord work in every single detail of your life. And he did with me. He gave me a career as an award winning interpreter. And at one time I didn't think I'd be able to work at anything, being blind. So you see, he's faithful always little things, big things. So I hope that book just cries in victory out, I am faithful. Let me look what I did for this one. Chica.
BECKY: We didn't mention that you are completely bilingual. And, that is.
JANET: Radio. Scuches gala espanol claro.
BECKY: No ablo espanol. Yes, she is. And so she's just an amazing woman.
We encourage you to get Janet's new book, Inspiration
BECKY: Okay, we are almost out of time, Janet, but I want to ask I know that you did videos like, on putting on your makeup, on cooking dinner and just all the where can. Our listeners find you.
JANET: Oh, yes, thank you for that question. Actually, if they just go to inspirationforyou.com. And that is all words spelled out F-O-R-Y-O-U. So, inspirationforyou.com, that's my website. And they can just click on the YouTube channel, which I probably have hundreds of, short videos that I do crazy things, being blind to inspire people. So that's where they can find it. Yes. As well as my new book.
BECKY: And we want to encourage you to get Janet's book, because, here's the thing, ladies. Life is going to bring you some really hard circumstances. But with the power of Christ in your life, and by unleashing the power of praise coupled with the word of God, you will be able to be resilient and joy filled. And Janet's life is such an inspiration, and you can read about it in that new book now. I see. And so we will have that in the show notes. But we want you to get that book, because I feel like, as we've been talking today, some of you are in a dark place and you don't know what is going to happen tomorrow, and you don't know if you're going to be able to survive. And we're here to tell you, you can survive with Jesus Christ. In fact, you can more than survive, you can thrive through the power of his love.
Janet would like to ask you to pray for Connected mom listeners
BECKY: So, Janet, as we close out our show, would you just pray for our listeners? Because if you can make it, anybody can.
JANET: Through the Lord. Yes, anybody can. Heavenly Father, how we thank you for your faithfulness. How we thank you that you put people together at the right time, in the right setting for you to speak a message of restoration, of healing, of encouragement. I thank you for these two beautiful ladies, Sarah and Becky, that chose to do your work. And I pray for that person, that mom, who may be overwhelmed right now with life, with so much going on with the children, who are probably more than she can handle right now. Father God, I speak the abundance of courage, abundance of strength, abundance of faith. You would quicken her heart to lift her eyes toward you and declare that you can do all things to your son, Jesus, Lord, that you are able to remove mountains, pave, bumpy roads, and lift them up, Father God, to their place of peace, no matter the circumstance. My prayers for those who are facing a storm, they would hang on to Your word and declare with everything in them that you have the victory that you have overcome the world. And to count on that. Lord, I thank you for the beautiful way in which you show us that to those who can or cannot see, but are seeing you through the eyes of their heart, in Jesus name, amen.
BECKY: Amen. Hey, friends, thank you for joining us today on the Connected mom podcast. And we want to invite you and encourage you to join us next week for another episode where we'll have another real conversation that's going to help you connect with God more deeply, connect you with your friends and your fellow mamas more empathically and more intentionally with your child. And hey, would you not only follow us on the podcast, but would you share the podcast with a friend of yours who needs hope and encouragement in their journey? We'll talk to you next week.