Monday, November 7, 2016

Nailing it Down

It has been a while since I have published a blog.  It has been a pretty busy last few months with some amazing God inspired events I hope to share with you soon.  Until then, here is the very best of those.

You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.  Jeremiah 29:13

This is a verse God laid on my heart about four years ago.  It was a transition time in our family.  I left my more than full time job and went back to graduate school.  It has been four hard years, full of plenty of life lessons.  Over and over, this particular verse has stood out.  It is posted above my desk.  It is highlighted in my Bible.  And it is branded into my heart.

9/11/16.  A Day to Remember
In the 43 years I have been on this planet I had never given my whole life to Christ.   I've put him in a box, allowed him to work on my terms, and pouted as a child at the times when he didn't let things go the way I expected.

It took four hard years of refining me to show me who deserves the control.  My way was not getting things accomplished, no matter how hard I fought.  I experienced forgiveness from friends and family that I truly didn't deserve, and I saw God work exceedingly abundantly in our lives and in the life of my church.

I had been wrestling for many months about my salvation.  I've been in church from the time I was born. I made a fire insurance commitment to Christ as a child.  Ironically, I stood that morning and sang as part of a solo "I still remember, the day you saved me, the day I heard you call out my name."

Something stabbed me in the heart as soon as the words came from my mouth.  I knew what I needed to do, but it was hard to admit that I had been playing church for so many years.  I knew about God, but I did not know God.  I had to give him my whole heart.

Its about a relationship, not a religion.

Sitting in my pastor's office with my pastor's wife, I prayed and gave my life to Christ.  I nailed down my more doubts, no more half-hearted attempts at being a Christian.  I now belong fully to him, a true child of the King.

I even got to do a redo on my solo and sing it with the conviction it deserved.

My goal was to pen this right after it happened.  I'm kind of glad it worked out where I didn't.  Because I have to tell you it is now November, and life is still happening.  There are days that I take more than I can give, to borrow a line from Colton Dixon.  The struggles of life are still very real.  But there is a peace about it.  One I have never had before.  My time on this earth is temporary, but my life with Christ will last an eternity.  Signed and sealed.

God, thank you for the promise of eternal life for those who believe in your son Jesus and give their lives to you.  Father I pray that I can be a shining light in a dark world and a witness for you.  Place me in the path of those who need to hear about your love, and give me eyes to see and boldness to speak.  Amen.

Friday, May 13, 2016

The End Is Just the Beginning

It is hard to believe graduate school is over.  I've always enjoyed the challenge of learning, and as hard as the late nights, early mornings and weekends of pouring over material has been, a part of me will miss it.

I'm writing this post today not to brag about the degree conferred upon me last Friday, but to brag on God for the past three years.  While I am extremely proud to have the book knowledge, and soon the piece of paper reflecting that, there were lessons learned that simply aren't reflected in the title I can now add behind my name.

When God guided me back to school three years ago, I knew I could do it...the book work that is.  I've always done well in school.  I graduated salutatorian of my high school class, and magna cum laude in undergraduate.  Studying isn't a hard task, and I was taking classes in the area of my passion.  Sure it would take work and dedication, but the degree was something I was confident I could accomplish.

It wasn't long after I started graduate school that I began to have some health issues that took more than a year to get diagnosed, and another year or so of treatment to get things under control on most days.  Studying isn't easy when you have a hard time holding your head up because you don't feel good and have put in a full day of work already.  It never seemed to fail, too, When I needed to be at my best to finish a project by a deadline or to take a final exam, my vertigo flared up.  I took many tests with my head planted on my desk to make the room stay still long enough just to get through.  There were many papers (including my final senior project) that were finished in the same condition.

So as I stood Friday, my Masters hood being placed over my head by the Dean of the Graduate School at APSU, it was a humbling experience.  Looking at a 4.0 on my transcript even more so.  I knew, standing on that stage, that degree was not accomplished under my strength.  If it had been, I would surely not be standing there.

Here are a few of the lessons I learned during graduate school that I didn't find in my textbooks:

God's plans for our lives are perfect.
I know the decision to return to school, while encouraged by family and friends, was divinely appointed.  I heard his voice clearly driving down the road one day.  Getting past the hurdles of getting into school were easy ones.  And just like we so often do, I expected the rest of the journey to be easy as well.  Isaiah 43:19 says "For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland."  Three years ago I could see something new about to happen.  If I had paid more attention I would have realized the new thing was on the other side of the wilderness and the desert.  But we always come through the wilderness and the desert stronger and much more appreciative for it.

God places people in our paths to help us along the way.  
In the process of trying to be the perfectionist of a wife, mother, worker and student I expected myself to be there were some other important things that fell off my spinning plate.  I'm so thankful for supportive friends and family who prayed for me and encouraged me along the way.  The sacrifices you made have not gone unnoticed.  I'm thankful for second and third and fourth chances.  Don't forget your support network.  That is what God placed them there to do.

Never Stop Learning
The very reason why I went back to school was to freshen up an outdated degree.  We are never too old to learn, and we should never quit learning.  God, through the hands of some very special men, gave us an instruction book for our lives called the Bible.  Each time I open it I learn something new.  Each new phase of life, each new day for that matter, brings challenges that he has prepared us for if we will take the time to read the instruction book.

The End is just the Beginning.  
The moment that hood was placed on me, I was oblivious to the crowd of 2,000 or so, imagining the day when we stand before God and hear those beautiful words, "Well done, my good and faithful servant."  To stand there at the feet of my Lord one day and know he used me on this earth, while he was capable of doing things perfectly well without me, will be an amazing experience.  I just can't wait.

I won't be discouraged by the statistics that say blogs are on the decline, and people are reading less (okay,,,I did learn that in grad school).  I appreciate each of you that take the time to read mine.  I hope it makes a difference in your day.  It does in mine.

Father, thank you for the lessons you teach us through everyday life.  Help us to see a fresh new word in your word each day.  Thank you for grace and mercy, and for the promise of heaven.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Just a quick note

I was just sitting here after church thinking about how incredibly blessed I am.  First Jesus died for a sinner like me.  The past few weeks have been hard but I know he has been pruning away things in my life that needed to go.  It has been an incredibly freeing experience.

I've been reminded of what an amazing family he has given me.  They support me and love me.  He entrusted to me two amazingly talented children who love Jesus with their whole heart and aren't afraid to use their gifts for his glory.

In less than a month I will walk the stage with my Masters and a 4.0 GPA.  He placed a team of physicians in place to handle two surgeries and to diagnose and treat a chronic illness so I could see my dream become a reality.

And he gave me a supportive husband who has let me live out my dream.  Who made the commitment for better or worse, in sickness and in health.  We will celebrate 20 years together in a little over a month.  He has shown me as close as humanly possible the definition of unconditional love.

Jeremiah 29:11-13 promises plans to prosper us when we seek him with our whole heart.  It may not always be the easiest road to travel but he is good, and his love endures forever.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Settling for Less

Hope.  It is a huge little four letter word. Without it we live a life of darkness.  It is the ray of light that is able to pierce through places we cannot see.

I am so glad to have the hope of Christ Jesus and his promise of eternal life.  It is so reassuring knowing the suffering and pain we have here on earth will be over, and one day we we will spend eternity in his presence.

Even though I know I have this incredible promise, I am so guilty of selling short his ability to work in my day to day life.

Friday was a road trip day.  I had the radio off, driving and following the directions of my little google app voice.  It wasn't the Google app automated voice that I heard most clearly.  It was the one who reminded me of the verses above, and how I so often settle for less than he wants for me.  Why?  Because I don't bother to ask.

This girl has set some pretty lofty goals for 2016, and I am expecting it to be a year of change.   However, there are other areas of my life where I could be expecting huge results, where He is perfectly capable and more than willing to work...but I haven't even asked for his help.

So today I claimed these verses for the Jones family for 2016, and I cannot wait to see what God stories I get to write about this year.

Don't leave your blessings laying on the table because you haven't asked for them.  Pray.  Seek God's guidance in all areas of your life...including and especially the ones you think you can handle on your own, or the ones you think he wouldn't bother with fixing.  He made us for so much MORE than we ever dream for ourselves.

Father thank you for the promise of eternal life through your son Christ Jesus.  Thank you for blessing me with so many things here on earth that I don't deserve.  Help me not to leave your beautiful gifts lying unopened because I did not seek your will in all areas of my life.  Amen.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

The Funk

Its hard to believe Christmas is over.  It seemed like I blinked and December was gone.  Saturday, I packed away the trees and decorations.

The year we married, I started a tradition of purchasing one Hallmark ornament for each of us.  Four family members and 19 Christmases later, I now have enough to decorate an entire tree. Each ornament tells a story in our family.  There's "Our First Christmas" to celebrate the beginning of our family.  A silver tiara represents my "princess."  A red cardinal adorns the tree in memory of mine and Troy's grandmothers who loved red birds.  A little orange striped kitty is for the fluffy little pet who I claimed as my baby for 17 years, and an RV reminds me of the best family vacation we took.

I smiled as I carefully wrapped each and placed it in the box.

I have to admit I could use a "do over" for Christmas this year.  I spent December in a funk.  Friends around me were battling for their lives with health issues.  One was taken way too soon and very unexpectedly.  I was wallowing in the self pity of putting off graduation because I didn't get my master's thesis finished.  And I was worried about myself...the battle of the mystery neurological issue continues with new symptoms and yet perfect test results (praise the Lord!) rages on.

Saturday, as I was packing away my Hallmark ornaments, I caught myself smiling at each, and remembering the awesome opportunities God has given me during in my life

Admitting I have a chronic disease is hard.  Getting past the fear of the unknown future is even harder.  I've been guilty lately of letting myself get caught up in the fear.  Shame on me.

Sometimes we get so worried about the future we forget to LIVE in the present.  Standing there in my living room, I had to ask forgiveness for taking so many things for granted.  We should never be caught going through the motions of life and forgetting the very reason why we are there in the first place.

I found this great verse the same day.  No matter what the future holds, he is mine forever...and I am his.  There is no sickness or hardship that can take that away from me.  He's there, through every moment, with a plan and a purpose for my life.  I need not worry over the details.

Friends, don't be guilty of letting the weight of the world keep you from enjoying the things you have right now, right this minute, for such a time as this.  Memories are to be MADE and cherished.

Heavenly father, forgive me for taking for granted the beautiful things you give me each day.  Forgive my inability to let go of the what ifs keep me paralyzed with fear.  Help me to embrace the new year with joy over the present and anticipation of the good things you have in store for me.  Amen.