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: Story of My Life

{Forty.}

Y'all. Last week was my birthday. If you know me in real life, you know how I love birthdays. You also know that I like to count down to my birthday. I'm sorry. Thank you for you loving me anyway. {Sigh}

This year marked my fortieth birthday celebration. Remember when forty was old and a lifetime away? Yeah, not so much anymore! Goodness, when I play back through the last twenty years of my life, well, I get bowled over with all kinds of feels. I am overwhelmed at the perfect faithfulness of God. All the moments pieced together paint a picture of His unfailing love. All my missteps and mess-ups highlight His unyielding grace. Had it not been for Him, my life would look . . . how can I say it. . . like a hot mess. But, God created us with the capacity to learn and think and gave us the ability to grow and change. I am grateful for His willingness to patiently correct and teach us along the way. With that in mind, what would I say to my 20-year-old self?

On Jesus:
He’s everything. Get to know Him at all cost. Make Him a priority. The center. Your treasure. There’s a difference, you know, between knowing about Him and knowing Him deeply, intimately. Make space for Him. Know Him. Love Him. Live for Him. Do it on purpose. Yeah, be known for loving Jesus like crazy. That's the mark of a life well-lived. When you get this piece, these other things will fall in line behind Him. And, don't ever let Him become "old news." Let your heart be full of awe and wonder because of who He is and what He's done for us.

On Making Choices:
Learn to ask these questions when you’re making a decision: Will this still be a good choice tomorrow? What about a year from now? Is it a best yes? Every decision you make sends a ripple through your story like a pebble tossed into a pond. Be forward-thinking. Make choices that move you toward your end goal as often as you can. It may require a sacrifice at the moment, but it will be one that will payoff. If you want to be strong and healthy at forty, then eating fast food for dinner every night won’t be the best choice. You get what I mean. You won't always get it right. There's lots of grace for that. Just keep getting back up and moving forward.

On Life:
Give yourself room to breathe. Create space. It’s okay to say no. It’s okay to rest. Hold loosely to the things that don’t really matter and fight for the things that do. Be intentional. And above all, live life open-handed. That means saying “I’m good no matter the circumstance.” It’s contentment. It’s not easy. The ability to live with open hands comes from unyielding faith and trust in God’s sovereignty. Cultivate a heart that trusts God no matter what.

On Your Heart:
Guard it. Be careful where you look for truth. Culture is screaming - and I do mean screaming - ideas, its own version of truth. Be careful what truth you let sink in. Study Scripture. Memorize it. Hide it in your heart. Measure truth by using God’s Word as the standard. Guarding your heart doesn’t give you a pass on loving people well. Quite the contrary! You love like crazy because your heart is safe in the hands of Your Creator, and you belong to Him. You love well because you know that you are fiercely loved. But, you will learn that setting your heart on things that bring you closer to the heart of the Father is the most important. Cling tightly to that stuff.  

On People:
Don’t be afraid of people and don’t be afraid of conversation. Learn to talk and listen. Learn boundaries. Some people will creep in and suck the life right out of you. So, a boundary. Some will be there one day and gone the next. Learn which ones to let walk and which ones to chase down. Not everyone gets a spot in the inner circle, meaning not everyone gets the privilege of speaking into and over your life. Every person need not be privy to the inner workings of your heart. BUT, always love. Always grace. Always truth (even the hard kind when necessary).

On The Big Picture:
It’s not about you. Let your life be hidden in Christ. Let it be about Him first and foremost, in all things. It's pretty cool to live for something bigger than yourself. Stop striving, because, guess what? You can’t measure up. You can’t be enough, and you don’t have to be. Because Jesus. He is enough.

You guys, I am forever thankful for do-overs. There have been loads of opportunities for growth and correction. Thankfully, God doesn't leave us to figure it all out on our own. Nevertheless, we have to invite Him into the picture. Here's the thing: there will always be more learning and growing for me to do. That's true for each of us. And, God is quite capable of growing us into something beautiful and good. That truth brings a sigh of relief! I belong to Him. I trust that whatever He has for me in this next season has meaning and purpose. Aren't we all searching for that? Meaning. Purpose. Significance. It's in Him. Let Him write that truth on your heart.

May I encourage you today, sweet friends? You matter. He put you on this planet, in this space in history intentionally. Your life has meaning and purpose, whether you are twenty, forty, or sixty. If you're still trying to figure it out, ask God to show you. If you're tired, maybe you've taken to relying on your strength instead of His. But whatever you do, lock eyes with Jesus. Keep going. Keep loving Him. Keep trusting Him. Keep following His lead. He knows what He's doing. And, He's SO worth it.


Knowing God.png

My Bottom Line

It's been a lot of years, but every year on Tyler's birthday and the anniversary of His death, I have to say something. If you've known me any length of time, you're at least familiar with my story, and maybe a little worn out with it. But, I can't forget to remember. And, I won't stop talking about it. See, the thing is, my story paints a picture of God’s relentless love and unfathomable grace and of the enduring hope that comes from surrendering my life to Him. That is a story worth telling again and again. Sunday I was having a hard time finding words, but they came.

The ebb and flow of grieving a loss is as constant as the ebb and flow of the ocean. It's always there, sometimes crashing against your heart and soul knocking you backwards and other times rolling in with ease. This year it was an unexpected crash. Yeah, sometimes that still happens.  When it does, it always, without fail, sends me back to the moment my world shattered into a million pieces. And then, I walk through it all one more time. But, God proves his perfect faithfulness in those moments, and I find myself overwhelmed by His grace and love. See, He never fails to whisper some truth to my aching soul. He gently goes to work peeling back yet another layer of my heart, mending and healing -- even all these years later. I love that. This year was no different. At the end of the day, one single truth emerged in my heart and soothed the ache in my soul. It's my bottom line. I need Him desperately. All of the time. And, He's there. All of the time. I mean it when I say, "had it not been for Jesus . . ."

Here's the thing: when I find myself in a moment, keenly aware of my desperate need for Him, then I am exactly where He wants me. Above all, He wants us to know Him and to belong to Him. He wants to be what we treasure most of all.

May I encourage you today, sweet friends? God sees you. When He says He will never leave us, He means that. He is telling the truth when He says He has a plan. When He calls us His sons and daughters, He means that, too. When He says He has us in the palm of His hand, He does. Lean in a bit, because this part is important. He. Loves. You. If you are standing in the middle of a million broken pieces, trying to answer questions that are unanswerable, grab hold of that truth and cling to it with all your might. You are not alone.


{Remember His Faithfulness}

Finally, early spring was peeking through the dreary grayness of a long, long winter. B. and I piled into the car and headed in a direction that I hadn't been in a long while. This place. It represented some of the most difficult moments of my life. You know, all of the moments I didn't care to relive. I didn't go often.

Each time I visited this place in the past, the pain and anxiety crept in and gripped my heart and mind the second my car approached the driveway. Images raced through my mind in rapid fire and the deep ache that had become so familiar pressed hard on me. Sometimes, I felt better after a visit because that's what happens after a good, ugly cry. Other times, though, bitterness tightened its fierce grip on my heart, and I would leave feeling more hopeless and helpless. But this time it would be different. I was different.

The car turned into the gravel drive and evidence of time passed was striking. Trees were much larger; and, the sprawling, empty field of grass that I remembered wasn't sprawling and empty. There were rows and rows of gravesites, almost as far as my eye could see. My eyes searched for the beautiful tree that grew just behind the plot chosen for my sweet babies, Tyler and Hailey. It took me a few minutes to get out. But, I did.

It's hard to put into words exactly what happened during that graveside visit. B. stayed in the car because he knew this moment was between a girl and God. See, in the weeks and months prior, the Lord had been healing my heart and my perspective. I had finally released the right to be angry and bitter and allowed Him to work a miracle in me. And, He did just that. So, there I was. My being there was a matter of obedience. The Lord was taking me back to this spot so I could see it with fresh eyes through the lens of a healed heart and mind. We had a sweet moment, the Lord and I. I knelt graveside and prayed, weeping. But these tears were different. I was grateful and in awe of God and His unfailing love and faithfulness. Before I knew what happened, my arms were stretched to the sky and I was singing.

For thou O, Lord are high above all the earth. Thou art exalted far above all Gods. I exalt Thee. I exalt Thee. I exalt Thee, O Lord.

In that moment of worship, there was a beautiful exchange: beauty for ashes, joy for mourning. In that moment, He reignited a passion and a calling for worship leading. In that moment, He reminded me of His lavish, unfailing love.

Fast-forward to January 2016. It's a season of many challenges. I'm talking about the kind of challenges that, in the moment, make you want to run and hide. Quit. Give-up. These are the kinds of challenges that sweep through every inch of your world like a tidal wave and knock you off your feet. It's all I could do to keep my head above water. But God has a beautiful way of reminding us that He's with us.

There I was standing in a room during a night of worship. The evening had already been like a breath of fresh air. Just as I was asking the Lord what He wanted me to do, a new song rang out in the room.

I exalt Thee. I exalt Thee. I exalt Thee, O Lord.

I hit my knees. Once again in awe of God's faithfulness. He was reminding me of where He brought me from. He was reminding me that He lifted me out of a deep pit, healed me and restored me. He was reminding me that He was the same God that held me in His hands when I knelt graveside all those years ago. He told me to get up and do the thing He's called me to do with bold faith. Why? Because He's proven Himself faithful over and over again. He is God. He is always God.

May I encourage you today? On those days that God seems far off, remember WHO He is. On those days that God seems quiet, remember how He's been faithful. I promise you this: God is always there and He's always faithful. Do the next thing simply because God is who He says He is. Then watch Him do what only He can do, proving again that He is faithful beyond measure.

He. Never. Leaves. You. He loves you so.

 

 

{Trust after Tragedy}

I am so excited to be sharing as a guest on my brother's blog today. My brother is one of my heroes. His blog is packed with wisdom and great reads! Spend some time and check him out!

You can read my guest post on Aaron's blog (aaron-gibson.com) here.

I hope that you will be encouraged today by knowing there is always hope. Always. 

 

{But, God.}

I am simply overwhelmed at the faithfulness of God. Undone. Blown away. I was sitting at my piano tonight, just stringing together random chords — not playing anything in particular. I am so grateful for the gift of music that God has given us to use as an expression of our worship. Music is woven into story after story through out Scripture. The first mention of an instrument and musician is in Genesis 4. His name was Jubal.  I think that’s SO cool.

The past weekend was full of music. I was invited to play piano for a wedding. Play. And sing. Um, what’s that now? In front of people? Yes. In front of people. Sunday, there was worship. I played keys and sang (at the same time). What’s the big deal? I told people for years, “I play the piano, but not in front of people and not if I’m singing.” Sometimes, I still cannot believe that I do that very thing on a regular basis. But, God knew that I would.

I took lessons when I was younger. When we didn’t have a piano in our home I had to practice at church. I’d go over and practice for awhile. I didn’t like to practice at the church because I wasn’t supposed to turn on all the lights. It was kind of spooky. So, I quit piano lessons and didn’t play much after that for a very long time. There were days I would go over to the church and pull out a songbook, Lift Him Up: Volume 3, and pick through some worship songs. I couldn’t have imagined what God had in store. I did not fully understand what He was pouring into me; nor, did I understand that He was preparing me. Even then. Way back then.

It is remarkable to look back and see the God moments — and to recognize them. There were seasons of my life where there was no song. No music. No worship. Sometimes, even now, I find myself wondering if I’ve missed something. But, God.

But, God was working. He always knew where I was. He surrounded me with people whom He would use to speak life, speak encouragement, to teach and train.

I will never forget the moment I sang my very first song in church. I was young. And it was empty. I would sing along with a cassette tape in the microphone while my parents cleaned. I always picked the microphone with the blue foam cover (or windscreen, if you’re a tech geek). I don’t know if the microphone was on, but it did smell funny. (Now, I know that was the smell of spit!) I remember the moment I sang in front of people. “The sun will come out to-mor-row…” My momma made me do it.

I will never forget the moment that God confirmed the specific calling He had on my life for worship ministry. It’s in me. He put it there.

I will never forget the moment someone referred to me as a musician, a good musician. Wait. What? That's not how I would describe myself. Sure, she was and is one of my dearest and most favorite friends. But, she has mad skills on the piano. When she said it, it meant something. I may have cried, and she may have poked fun at me. But, still. She spoke life, encouragement.

I will never forget the moment that I played piano while I sang — in front of people. It was my Mamaw’s funeral. I was petrified.

I remember the first time I led worship. I remember the first time I led worship from the piano. That was . . . well, I have no words.

I could go on. Moment after moment. Specifically and divinely designed moments because I am His, and He is mine. He is always, always working. And, He’s promised that He will equip me. And as I played tonight, He reminded me of this: He is for me. He will never leave me. He will never forsake me. He loves me.

But here’s the thing: He loves me because He is love. I have done nothing to earn or deserve His affections. He loved me before I sang my first note or played my first chord. He loved me before I was even born.

That always gets me. Every. time.

That’s why I sing.