Valerie Jones

{Live with Purpose. Lead with Passion.}

I am a blogger, worship leader, and speaker who helps worship leaders and team members connect with purpose and passion in life and leadership by offering encouragement, community, and practical resources so that they can thrive in life and leadership, both on and off the platform.

Thanks for stopping by!

Filtering by Category: Random Musings

{Missing Someone? Yeah, me too.}

Today I was looking through old photos and videos of my sweet Mamaw. How beautiful and wonderful was she!? Goodness, I miss her so. There's something about sitting beneath the weight of significant loss. It can be cumbersome. But, the Lord is near and brings comfort and healing to our broken hearts. I could tell story after story about my Mamaw -- some of them would make you laugh. Others would make you cry. But every story points to a life well-lived and a woman who was dearly loved. She was lovely, and she was remarkable. 

My mamaw was kind and tender-hearted. She saw great heartache and loss over the course of her life, but it didn't stop her from loving BIG. I admire that about her. She was fiercely loyal. There were ladies in her life that she called a friend for more than 60 years. She had a knack for making the acquaintance of her neighbors and people in the community. When she was for you -- she was all in. 

Mamaw never missed a birthday or an anniversary. Celebrating special occasions and holidays with her people was one of her favorite things to do. Every year she made us a calendar packed full of pictures with each birthdate and anniversary marked. And, without fail, when a significant date or holiday rolled around, you could guarantee a homemade card would find it's way to your mailbox. 

Mamaw laughed, and her laugh was the sweetest. She was funny and a tiny bit feisty. She enjoyed hearing and telling a good story. She could laugh herself straight to tears, and that would make her laugh even more. I've heard that she pulled a prank or two back in the day. 

She was always off on a grand adventure aboard a cruise ship or tour bus. She loved to travel to far off places and to places just down the road. She enjoyed a good show or singing, as she'd call it. She also loved to shop. And, quilt. She was a whiz in the kitchen and hosted with such ease and grace. She taught me how to be a gracious hostess. She also modeled the importance of spending quality time with loved ones. I remember that very clearly even as a young girl. She always showed up. And, she was present. I don't, in fact, ever remember her NOT being there. If she was there, she was likely snapping photos, both candid and posed, because capturing the moments she cherished was essential to her. I am so thankful that she did that. 

But, one of my favorite things about Mamaw, the thing I  found to be SO remarkable was her generosity. She LOVED to give good things to the people for whom she cared. Her generosity was unmatched. She generously gave because she lavishly loved. Those two things combined mean that her life was a beautiful reflection of the love of God. People like my mamaw leave a mark on the lives of those of us who knew them. I'm betting that everyone who knew her could describe one way she made his life a bit brighter. If you were lucky, you'd have a long list of ways she did that. She lived a big life. A meaningful life. One that will not likely be forgotten. It is my privilege to honor her memory. And then there's this: even when we sit in death's shadow, heartbroken by such a significant loss, there's hope. I have the hope of seeing Mamaw again because of Jesus.  In the meantime, I am thankful to have known her and loved her. And, even more than that, to have been loved by her. 

If you are missing someone tonight, I pray that God will be near and bring comfort and healing to your broken heart. I pray He will help you find joy and encouragement in remembering your loved one. Above all, I pray that God will reveal something of Himself in your circumstance that takes your breath away. You know, the kind of thing that fills you with awe and gratitude because you know beyond doubt that He sees you and loves you. Look for Him, friends, even in the midst of your sadness. I promise He's there. Be filled with hope. Death does not have the final word. 

{Five Favorite Books | 2016}

I start each year with a list of "Must-Read Books." I have to admit my 2016 list was a bit ambitious. Lots of books. Too many. I didn't get to all of them, but I did spend some time with some really, really good ones! Confession: I prefer a new book to a new pair of shoes. At least most days. Don't you just love a good book? One that makes you think and feel something. Reading is good for our brains. It makes us smarter, stimulates our imaginations, helps boost memory function, and even eases tension. It's like exercise for the brain and food for the soul. Good stuff.

Here are a few of my favorites from 2016 (in no particular order).  

1. Uninvited: Living Loved When You Feel Less Than, Left Out, and Lonely by Lysa TerKeurst |  Rejection. When I picked this book up, I wasn't sure what to expect. It's one of those books that walks you through some hard spaces with grace and ease. Not only does TerKeurst write with her usual charm and wit, but she lands on powerful biblical truth as our only hope in our struggle with rejection. But, there is hope. This book reminds us of that beautifully.

2. The Most Excellent Way To Lead: Discover the Heart of Great Leadership by Perry Noble |  How do you define good, strong leadership? We have loads of useful resources available to help us grow as leaders. But, this one? It ranks at the top of some of my favorites. The leadership principles in this book are rooted in 1 Corinthians 13. It's smart and engaging.  Read it. It'll make you a better leader.

3. Fervent: A Woman's Guide to Serious, Specific, and Strategic Prayer by Priscilla Shirer | This. Book. It's a game changer. I believe the enemy is actively seeking to destroy and devour (1 Peter 5:8). I believe in spiritual warfare. This book was like a shot in the arm for my prayer life, bringing focus and intentionality. I've revisited the pages many, many times over the past year. I imagine it's one of those books I'll keep in regular rotation - reading it over again for the rest of forever. It's powerful, insightful, engaging, and practical. Please read it. You won't be sorry.  

4. Looking For Lovely: Collecting Moments That Matter by Annie Downs | I needed this book. A lot. This book made me laugh and cry and breathe a sigh of relief. It was a powerful reminder to look for God in the everyday moments. Perspective matters. It provided space for a heart check: How do I tend to see things? Where is my focus? Am I looking for the right stuff? The thing is, we all get to decide that for ourselves. If you need a nudge toward a more healthy perspective on life, grab this book. The narrative is incredibly personal. It's like sitting down for coffee with a lifelong friend. That always makes me feel better. This book did, too.

5. Rising Strong: The Reckoning. The Rumble. The Revolution. by Brené Brown | "If we are brave enough often enough, we will fall. This book is about what it takes to get back up." Well, there you have it.  This book is about courage, vulnerability, & resilience. It's about dealing with struggle, disappointment, and heartbreak. The book is not a touchy-feely kind of book. It's challenging and thought-provoking. In the end, it's about embracing the process -- all of it, the highs and lows, the good and the bad -- and owning every part of your story.

These books left an impression. They made me think. They challenged me and encouraged me. Each one taught me something -- something valuable, something that changed me. That's a good read! How about you? What books did you read in 2016 that inspired you or otherwise moved you? Share some of your favorites!

Honorable mention: If nothing on the list piques your interest, these were great book too. Stars Over Sunset Boulevard (Meissner), Redeeming Love (Rivers), Boundaries for Leaders (Cloud), Anything (Allen), The Undoing of St. Silvanus (Moore)

{Improve Your Blog in One Simple Step}

Y'all might not know it, but blogging is one of my favorite things to do! My first post, nearly five years ago, was probably pretty lame. I know my blog design was pretty lame although it served its purpose well. But over time, the purpose evolved. Hopefully, it's all gotten a bit better. Even still, I had a hard time finding my groove - if you know what I mean. What I'm learning is that consistency is key, and you have to work at being consistent. How do you do that? I'm so glad you asked! Here's what has been working for me:

First things first! Get organized. Pick out a notebook or an app and start using it! Evernote is a great app for organizing your ideas, and any kind of notebook will do - as long as it has a sturdy cover and plenty of blank pages. Keeping all your ideas and inspiration in one place makes it much easier when you're wondering what in the world to write about next.

Once you have all your stuff in one place, you're one step away to a better blog! Exciting, isn't it!? So, what's one easy way to improve your blog?

Get a schedule. Yes, make a plan and work the plan. Now, before you throw up a red flag and claim that working from a writing schedule squelches creativity, hear me out. Having a writing schedule brings a sense of accountability to the table. Creating space to write will foster creativity and hone writing skills. I use a simple monthly calendar and schedule blog posts one month in advance. You can be as detailed as you would like. I make note of the category and/or title on the date the post will go live. I schedule writing time accordingly. Just get something on paper!

January was the first month I consistently put these things in practice. I set a goal for my blog and was able to hold myself accountable because I was organized and worked from a schedule. And, I did it!! Woo-hoo! If I can do it, you can too! So, because I love calendars and freebies, you can download a copy of a blank monthly blog planning calendar! Take a look!

Happy blog planning!

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{#RealLife | No. 4}

Sometimes, you wake up tired. Yeah, that was me today. I was up at “normal” time but my sweet husband promptly sent me straight back to bed. I was so sleepy. Like my eyes felt like as heavy as softballs in my head.  For me that usually means that I haven’t been making rest a priority. True rest, the kind that creates space and breathing room. Yeah, I have a bad habit of that. I’m doing better. I figured out somewhere along the way that my inability to rest was directly related to my weak trust in God. My malady was Don’t-Know-How-to-Take-My-Hands-Off syndrome. Rest cures that. So, today I slept in and took a nap. 

 

So, because today is a rest day let's keep this one short.  Maybe you can find some space in your life for rest.  Be intentional. Schedule it. Make a date with that comfy chair or your favorite blanket. Go to bed early, take a nap. Get ahead of the exhaustion curve by making rest a priority. Oh, and just so you know, taking a rest doesn’t make you a slacker. So, go ahead and flip open your calendar and schedule yourself a nap. I promise it’ll make you feel better!