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.

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Filtering by Tag: holidays

{Five Minute Friday | Enjoy}

It's Five Minute Friday. That means unplanned, unedited, straight-from-the-heart-to-the-paper writing. Yep, you just write whatever comes out based on a word you're given. If you have five minutes, you should give it a try!  Find out how here.

This week the prompt is {ENJOY}.

Ready? GO.

I get super-excited about Fall. Some of my favorite things are wrapped up in this season: colorful leaves, crisp morning air, pumpkin-spice everything, firepits, s'mores, turkey, family, football, boots, flannel shirts, cute scarves. Are you smiling? I mean, what girl doesn't feel like she can conquer the world in her favorite pair of blue jeans, a great flannel shirt, and a perfect pair of boots, pumpkin-spice latte in hand. It's my most favorite time of year, lots of things to enjoy.  

But, wait.

I'm quick to remember a time when there was less to enjoy and more to grieve.  When you suffer an incredible loss, pain tries to hijack everything you love about your favorite time year. Stumbling through the holidays grappling with grief and loss is no fun. But, I suppose you find a way to enjoy bits and pieces. You learn to hold grief and gratitude in a kind of healthy tension -- enjoying the moments right in front of you while at the same time remembering those moments that forever changed you.

And then, there's Jesus. My heart will be forever grateful for His unfailing love and faithfulness. He heals and redeems even the most painful moments, eventually, that is. And then, you find gratitude in the midst of your grieving.

Maybe you're still waiting. Perhaps for you, the pain left in the wake of loss is still quite raw. Don't lose hope.  I'm praying for you today. I'm asking God to remind you of His goodness and His nearness. I'm trusting that He will soothe your aching heart by reminding you of His unfailing love.  He sees you.

STOP.

{#RealLife | No. 2}

We made it. The rush of the season is starting to calm and perhaps there’s a little rest to be had. I’m worn out. Plum tuckered. Exhausted. You too? 

Yesterday, I was up early with good intentions. I planned to cook some tilapia for lunch; so, I wanted to prep it before leaving for church. I prepped it, put it in the slow-cooker, and left. Without turning it on. Yep, you read that right. To say my house smelled of stinky fish, well, it was awful. Just awful. We had to throw it out given that it sat out at room temperature for no less than seven hours.  It’s probably all for the best because here’s a snap shot of the kitchen just before I left that morning.

Ah, my kitchen. It’s the hub of activity in the house. Everyone passes through the kitchen every time they come and go which means sometimes it’s a catch-all. Like this week. Every flat surface, covered. Dishes in the sink. Oh, and you can’t see it in the picture, but there’s a broken light bulb in the fixture above the table. (That, by the way, is still driving me crazy!) Even if I had properly cooked the fish, we couldn’t have very easily sat down at the table for a meal. Thankfully, we were treated to lunch out by my dad. For dinner, though, we had rice and Big Red floats. In the family room. Then we played board games on the floor. It was a good night. My kitchen is still a bit of a mess; although, the mess has been contained to one end of the table and one corner of the island. The mess represents something more than the chaos of the season. It’s a picture of the generosity shown us by our family and friends. People gave us stuff because they love us. We are loved. And blessed. Even when we didn’t have the means to give a lot in return. But, that’s not the point, is it? We don’t give generously in hopes of receiving things in return. We give generously just because we can. Generosity looks different for some folks than for others. It’s not always an expensive gift, that’s for sure. Generosity is a matter of the heart. A grateful heart loves lavishly and gives generously. Always.

That reminder was worth this mess.

{Don't Forget to Remember}

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite times of celebration. Let’s see - there is turkey, dressing, dumplins, and pumpkin pie. After we feast, we usually spend a bit of time flipping through the newspaper ads, pen in hand, marking our favorite things. Christmas is just around the corner, after all. We play games. We take naps. And, we remember. I remember Tyler’s first Thanksgiving. He was 7 months old and the life of the party. He most likely had his hands in everyone’s plate getting his first taste of the delicious goodness that is Thanksgiving dinner. I remember the laughter. Lots of laughter.

I remember where I was standing when I received a phone call from the hospital just a few days later. I remember the heaviness in the room when I arrived there. It was suffocating. I remember being told, “He didn’t make it.” It was SIDS.

He. Didn’t. Make. It. The reality of that moment hit me in a way I cannot begin to explain.

I remember walking back to a different room. My eyes landed on my lifeless baby boy and pain pierced me to the very core. It would become a familiar pain. I wept while I begged God to “fix it.”

I remember walking away from that hospital without my baby. I can tell you it was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do.

I remember losing a second child 15 months later. I remember my marriage falling apart. I remember being angry, confused, and feeling completely abandoned by God. The pain was relentless and I crumbled.

I also remember the moment I gave up and laid all the brokenness and pain at the feet of Jesus. I remember the moment He turned my mourning (YEARS of mourning) into joy.

And, I am so thankful.

I belong to a sovereign, perfect, faithful God. I am completely in awe of Him. He heals. He redeems. He restores. There is not one moment of my life when He has taken His eye off of me. (Or you!) He sees us. He loves us. Even in our darkest, most desperate moments. I know that now.

I know it.

So, don’t forget to remember. Remember who He is and what He has done. Remember the cross. Remember His lavish love and perfect grace. And in everything, give thanks...That can be a hard one to take in and live out until we remember Christ. Then suddenly even our most difficult moments pale in comparison to the pain and suffering He endured. For the glory of the Father and for us. 

{Truth Behind Tradition}

Happy Monday! And, Happy St. Patrick's Day! (And, happy birthday Mamaw!) Throughout the weekend, loads of Americans donned their best (and sometimes not quite) green attire and celebrated St. Patrick's Day by attending various parades, visiting Irish pubs, and drinking lots of Irish beer. Confession: I wore green today, accidentally. 

St. Patrick was the patron saint of Ireland who actually hailed from Britain. He was kidnapped at the age of 16 by Irish marauders and held captive for years. During his time there, he converted to Christianity and after escaping vowed to return to Ireland to rid the land of its pagans. He did return to Ireland as a missionary. March 17th marks the day of the religious feast in his honor and also marks the date of his death in the 5th century. And, so we celebrate? I assume this holiday is like others that have been consumer-ized  (I think I may have just invented a word) almost beyond recognition. We wear green and pinch people who do not. Some drink beer and many enjoy parades. We talk of leprechauns, shamrocks,  and the luck of the Irish. But, I wonder how many people know the real story. I am sure many people do, but I could not be counted among them! Bluewas actually the color associated with Saint Patrick.  The Shamrock (which does not exist but resembles clover) was used by Saint Patrick to explain the Holy Trinity and was worn later as a symbol of Irish Christianity not luck. Am I the only one who didn't know?! No matter. 

I never knew the history behind the observance of St. Patrick's Day, nor did I know the story of the man Saint Patrick until a few years ago when something piqued my curiosity. I heard, for the first time, a portion of Saint Patrick's Breastplate prayer. And, wow. It's beautiful. And, powerful. This beautiful prayer reminds me of one of my favorite psalms, Psalm 139.

A portion of the prayer is to follow. I pray the words are like balm to your soul and remind you that He hems us in and has laid His hand upon us. (Ps. 139, NIV) That is good news. Happy news. It's one of the greatest reasons I can think of to celebrate.

So, celebrate big sweet friends. Jesus knows you. Jesus loves you.

From Saint Patrick's Prayer
From Saint Patrick's Prayer

*Note: The historical info I included came from History.com.