To Read on the Journey

Thursday, January 15, 2015

...

I'm having trouble settling on one title for this post- Quiche Me, Labor of Love and Proof That There's a God are all good contenders.

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All three of us were exhausted when we gathered in the kitchen to prepare the Meal Train dishes I'd signed up for early last week.   

Michael had been going since 4:45 a.m., had worked 8 hrs at his full-time job, followed by another 1.5 hrs taking senior photos. When he arrived at home I greeted him at the door with a kiss, followed by a, "remember you said you could make the French Toast dish Tuesday night???"   

Josie and I had been running around all day too. We left our driveway at 7:37 a.m. and pulled back in at 4:11 p.m.  During that 8 + hours I'd dropped Noah and Emilie off late for an early meeting at school, taxi'd Josie down the hill to two classes, made stops at Target, Panera, Costco, Sprouts, Save Mart, Marshalls, Old Navy, World Market, and Trader Joe's. Josie and I also visited a sweet friend who'd just had surgery, then barely made it back up the hill in time to retrieve our highschoolers after school.   Needless to say, when we arrived at home we were wiped! 

Where was I? Oh yeah, the Meal Train.  So we emptied shopping bags, made a quick dinner (Lindsey's Yumm Bowls. Only we were missing some of the ingredients, so we ended up eating what we called "Umm bowls"), then got to work on our promised meal. 

When I sign up to take a meal to a family, I often bring a filling breakfast instead of a dinner.  I recall having received so many dinners that we could hardly eat them all.  And breakfast IS "the most important delicious meal of the day!" 

Michael got to work on a delicious French Toast dish, while Josie prepared a homemade pie crust for the hearty ham and veggie quiche fillings I was dicing. 

At one point while we were each slicing, mixing, and dicing I began to whistle. Josie commented that Emilie's whistle sounds like mine. Who knew a whistle could be inherited? ;)  We all had a good giggle, and I thought about how sweet it was that though we were all so exhausted, this labor of love, had become an enjoyable time together. 

I wish I'd taken a photo of the quiches (we made two) before they went in the oven.In the history of quiche there were never two that were more beautiful. In fact, Michael, Josie, and I had named ours "Quiche Me," because we couldn't wait to get our lips on it! 

Josie and I had some things to do, so we left Michael to preheat the oven, and keep on eye an the Quiche Me's while they baked. 

And then...
2.5 hours later a shriek, "the quiche!!"  
Followed by the three of us jumping to our feet, and running for the oven, while already knowing the outcome...
the Quiche Me's were charred.  

Michael had forgotten to set the timer. 

This is when the real labor of love began... also folks, this is where the title "Proof That There's a God," comes into play. 

So there we were standing over the burnt meal we were suppose to deliver the next day, feeling all kinds of disappointed, when miracle #1 happened- I didn't yell.  I typically fly off the handle and lay into my husband. Yep! I'll yell a million times and in a dozen ways, "HOW COULD YOU NOT SET THE TIMER!?!" 

Instead, I heard AND listened to God's Spirit talking me down; imploring me to choose self-control.   

Then miracle #2 occurred- You see usually while I'm yelling, I'll kick it up a thousand notches and attack my husband's character with "you never..." and "you always..." and "I always have to..." blah blah blah. 

But the Holy Spirit nudged me to "give it grace, Denise.... Denise, give. it. grace." And with His help, I responded to that too! ("give it grace" is something the LORD has been for years nudging me to recite and receive myself).

And then as if miracles #1 and #2 weren't enough, a third miracle took place- I didn't freakout about the loss of food, funds, and time invested. 

We've struggled so financially in the past that wasted food is hard for me. But I heard the Spirit reminding me to lean into Peace; to not let the loss of a few bucks take my God given Peace (security and sanity) from me. 
 
My first impulse is yelling, attacking, freaking out! If you don't believe me then go right ahead and ask my husband and children. They have seen my many dark sides- poor things (they've seen a few bright sides too- phew!). They KNOW it takes a miracle of GOD ALMIGHTY to change this mama.   

And this, this is proof that there is a God people- evidence that He exists, and lives in people, and shapes and makes them into what they could never ever ever be on their own!   
 
In John 14:15-17, Jesus says this- 

If you love me, keep my commands. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to HELP YOU and BE WITH YOU forever- the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.

A few verses later John 14: 26-27 says this- 
..the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you."
 

I know this, I'd make a charred mess out of things without Jesus' Spirit coaching me to labor through my typical nasty responses and instead press into self-control, grace, and peace. 
 
In the end we had a good laugh over the scorched Quiche Me. Michael delivered the French Toast dish, and some last minute egg muffins to go with it. He got to cuddle a new little guy, and I'm sure the kitchen fiasco was forgotten then.

Ironically, while typing this I received another Meal Train invite (for a single mother who was recently hit by a drunk driver. Please pray for that family. If you're local and would like to help this family email me at jonesidosio@sti.net)... I'm thinking I'll keep it safe, and order Pizza this time around ;) 
 
 
 Live in Peace,



  

    

  

Monday, January 12, 2015

Our Christmas 2014

This blog is a scrapbook that highlights the happenings around here. Like flipping through the pages of a photo album, from time to time one of us will be seated here in front of the computer scanning Victory Rd.'s posts.
It's for those moments that I am thankful for the hours I've poured over posts, because I know that this little space in blogville is ultimately a gift I am giving my family.

With that in mind, indulge me as I "scrapbook" Christmas of 2014. 

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During dinner our Christmas eve,  I asked my three what their favorite family Christmas traditions are. It's no secret that I am "sentimentally ill," and this holiday season I was battling the "I only have two Christmases left with Noah" blues. Seriously people I blinked, and two Christmases!   Michael attempted to comfort me daily by reassuring me that Noah isn't leaving us, and we have more Christmases with him than we think.  But the point is he could -sniff sniff.  And I'm not ready. (Also, this is a heads-up that next Christmas I will be down to one Christmas with Noah, AND only two remaining with Emilie. Please send chocolate (meds for sentimental illness). The good kind. And a lot of it). 


It was because of this I wanted to be certain my family's treasured moments weren't overlooked. 

Noah's said his favorite is me at the end of the hallway with the video camera Christmas morning, ready to capture my three heading to the tree for their stockings (Awww, and I thought this annoyed him. This kid knows how to tug on his sentimentally ill mama's heart strings). I asked if I should still record this when he is 40 and charging down the hall with his own family? He said yes (I'm going to hold him to it. Mark your calendars to visit Victory Rd. in 24 years to see the footage)!


Sentimentally ill mama's are the kind who get matching pj bottoms for her fellas. 

Emilie cherishes reading the Bible together. We read the story of Jesus' birth from the gospel of Matthew on Christmas eve, and from Luke on Christmas morning. We read about His dysfunctional family, and about God becoming human and taking on the humblest, sweetest form- a baby. We read how he was given the name Jesus- which means Savior. We're thankful because we need a Savior. We read how He came to be "God with us."  We're thankful, because we need that too. 

Josie's was simple- "Family.  I just like being with my family" (eh em...this is why you should never leave us, Noah).



Listening to my kids' share their favorite Christmas traditions caused me to consider what tradition was dearest to my heart

It is  unwrapping Jesus.

We have a tradition in our home that began with Noah's 1st birthday, where we speak words of blessing into the birthday boy or girl, expressing who they've been, as well as highlighting best-loved moments shared over the year- we unwrap the gift they are.  And on Christmas day, the celebration of Jesus' birth, we do the same with Him. 


This year after video footage was captured of kids opening their stockings, the gospel from Luke was read, and our little family gathered around the table for a delicious Christmas breakfast of french-toast bake and omelets,we nestled closely together around the flickering lights of the Christmas tree, and the pile of mysterious gifts, and one by one unwrapped all "God with us" has been in 2014.

Michael: He has been Consistency. I read my Bible and see that He does not change. I'm learning that His fatherly direction, discipline, and love are things I can rely on.

Noah & Emilie's answers were the same: Jesus has helped me be myself, to be content with who I am, and the unique ways He wants to make Himself known through me.

Josie: Jesus has given me a voice to praise Him.  He has caused me to use it in a variety of ways; singing, sharing scripture, through serving others, and by being intentional in my relationships.

Me: He has revealed His favor.  I have seen that He is for me and not against me, and that He "withholds no good thing" from me. He has given me peace (soundness of mind) in this area where I have so struggled in the past.

After we unwrapped the gifts Jesus has been to us, we prayed and thanked God for His generosity to each of us. Then we tore through the packages under the tree.
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The gift wrapping bar is set very low in our house. Every year I forget gift-tags, and write names on 
the bottom of gifts with a Sharpie (apparently my kids have learned this too). Pinterest can't get credit for this crafty idea. Nope, I came up with it all on my own ;)

Bing Crosby crackling on Noah's new record player was ideal for Christmas morning, but was short lived, and given the boot by an AC/DC album he received from a family friend. 
  
The past few years my kids have dipped into their own $ to purchase gifts for each other. These are the first gifts they want to tear into. The way these three adore each other- and I can't afford it, but it's mine.


Causing Emilie to ugly-cry was a highlight this Christmas (sentimentally ill people enjoy causing others to  feel mushy too)! Over a year ago she lost her cherished "immeasurable" necklace, and after we were finished opening  gifts I "realized" there was one more.  I don't know whose expressions I love more in these photos- hers, or those of her sibs, who knew the gift she was receiving would bring her much joy! 

 My children gave me a new bible. This page inspires me to live in AND live out all the other pages. 

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Our 2014 Christmas gifts are things we'll certainly cherish and enjoy, but each of us knows that none of these gifts can cause our souls to feel their worth like Jesus does.  


"God with us" is the gift we receive everyday.  

And though this mama wishes the years wouldn't pass so swiftly, I do look forward to Christmas 2015 (and even 2039- when Noah is 40), and to the many Christmases we'll share together, unwrapping all "God with us" will illuminate Himself to be to us and through us in the years to come.





  
 Live in Peace,

 




Thursday, December 18, 2014

Merrymaking

How to...


First, swap the furniture in your family & dining rooms.


I know, you're the O.C.D. type-
requiring  that there always "be a place for everything and everything in it's place"...

but
"It's the most wonderful time of the year"... 
"and hearts will be glowing when loved ones are near." 
So do it...
 cause
glowing hearts are pretty awesome.    


Next, set out the mismatched Christmas dishes you've been gifted/collecting for 18 years, Great Gram's Christmas place-mats & napkins, and deck the tables for a very merry feast. 


  Now, open the doors of your home AND your lives to your high schoolers' friends. 
(Who cause you to not-so-secretly wish you could go back to high school again so you could have the GREATEST FRIENDS EVER!  
And who also cause you to thank God profusely for thinking up
AND making such fantastic people). 
  
Invite them to play "reindeer games," like  20 50 Guess-Who-Questions  (because it'll take a Christmas miracle for them to figure out who "Olive, the other reindeer is"),   

and Christmas Pictionary.
Maddy's holly, jolly drawing of Santa (bottom right) was the favorite of the night. 
  *************************
 Rudolph wasn't invited to join in on our reindeer games either... 
we had a more delicious plan in mind for him and his shiny red-nose.
 Gingerbread Rudolph Pancakes!!   


"Stoke the fire" (on the t.v.) then surprise your guests with a Christmas treat!
video
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Give thanks for 
"faithful friends who are dear to us...gathered near to us."

and for Rudolph's antlers, which are made of bacon...
Yum!

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After supper, retire to the makeshift home theater for this... 

Elf.


And
"Have yourself a merry little Christmas, now" 
Live in Peace!





Friday, December 5, 2014

All the Good Things

We celebrated Thanksgiving in SLO with family, then came home Saturday to the house already decorated for Christmas, which was Oh. So. Nice.

I have been a die-hard NEVER-DECORATE-BEFORE-THANKSGIVINGER.  I've also been adamant that we NOT listen to Christmas music until the day after the bird and the Thanks were served, but this year I caved. And I'm not feeling an ounce of guilt. In fact, I'm certain I'll be caving from here on out.

Enjoy this silly stop-motion video of us decorating the tree my girls created. 

Decorating the Christmas Tree from Emilie Jones on Vimeo.

You may have noticed Noah missing from the clip. While we were decking the halls, Noah was away checking out Azusa Pacific University. And that's all I have to say about that, because my baby...and college...and I can't.

Anyhow, with Christmas festivities already kicked into high gear around here, I feel the need to press rewind and take note of the thanks my heart overflowed with Thanksgiving 2014.

I'm really so thankful for how my family loves each other. This a cool place to live (as seen by the video ;) ), and it's because of the people I get to live with. 

Take Josie for example, she shows us all love by the way she is glad to serve us.  Jo always considers others better than herself (gets that from her daddy). For instance, this kid will slave away in the kitchen preparing a meal, and when it's done, demands we all serve ourselves before she is served. What?!? She's 12! And this is just one tiny example, this type of selflessness and thoughtfulness carries over into everything Josie is and does. 
Now, Emilie's love language is words (she gets that from her mama). She is so good at building each of us up.  She tells me I'm amazing and that I'm her best friend and that she is so proud of who I am and who Jesus is in me.  I tell her I'm a mess, and she tells me she's glad I'm a mess, and she likes seeing God put me together. I haven't even told you the ways she speaks to everyone else around here, but I know I speak for everyone when I say Emilie can never ever move away from us.


Noah loves us with affection, and seems to know just when to hold one of us in his strong, safe arms.  I like that he's taller than me.  I like resting my head on his shoulder. I like that he smells like old spice- like a younger version of my grandfather.  And I like that it doesn't matter if we were in an ugly space earlier (because ugly happens quiet a bit with Noah and I- the first born/know-it-alls), he always, always, always has affection to give.

And Michael, he delights in loving and giving himself up for each one of us- especially me.  Ephesians 5:25 says "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy..."  I often think of when Michael and I first started dating, and a man who knew us both gave Michael this advice, "Love her.  Denise just needs to be loved."  Michael listened, really listened to that advice, and has done just that ever since.

This love- the value we show each other, the words we speak, the being embraced unconditionally, the delighting in giving yourself up for someone else's well-being  -this love that I receive and live in with my family is a floodlight of who God is.

 "We know how much God loves us because we have felt his love 
and because we believe him when he tells us that he loves us dearly.  
God is love, and anyone who lives in love is living with God 
and God is living in him.
 1 John 4:16 

This season I'm especially thankful for one more thing, and that is some words I read months ago; words that continue to transform my way of thinking for the better-

"The LORD bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless." Psalm 84:11

"But how is this true when God often withholds riches, and honors, and health of body from men though they walk every so uprightly? We may therefore know that riches and honors and bodily strength are none of God's good things, and the good things of God are chiefly; peace of conscience, joy in the Holy Spirit, fruition of God's presence, and a vision of His face in the next.  These good things God never withholds from the godly." 

Sir Richard Baker

You see, I've been angry at God for years, for from my perception, withholding what I THOUGHT were good things: money, status, and health from me. I've also been inwardly bitter towards others who have these things.

BUT THESE ARE NOT THE GOOD THINGS OF GOD.

God's good things are: Peace, Joy that comes from His Spirit, the LORD'S presence in our lives, and the assurance that we will be with Him for eternity!

AND I HAVE THESE.
ALL OF THEM. 
ALL OF GOD'S GOOD THINGS!!

And I am beeeyyoooonnnd thankful to be free from that nasty way of thinking because it was exhausting and maddening and sickening. Being mad at God, and feeling envy and bitterness towards people who I oughta love, caused me to be legitimately crazy- like crying in my closet for days on end cray-zay!  And now I'm free from that! {insert happy dance}
Emilie has commented a number of times that "we are so rich!"   And she's right, we are.  Our bank account, the 4 jobs we juggle, the kitchen island serving as an entertainment center for our t.v., and my health records would certainly tell you otherwise... but our lives aren't measured by any of that. 

Our lives are measured by the love that we lavish on each other.  
And by the life we have in Christ...
and we're rolling in that, too!


Live in Peace!


When do you decorate for Christmas?

What were you especially thankful for Thanksgiving 2014?





Friday, November 7, 2014

Smack-dab in the middle

The season of thankfulness is here!

I love November because people are intentional to take stock of all the good things in their lives.
I think it's no coincidence that I was born in the middle of this month filled with thanksgiving...
over the years God has shown me that He wants me to LIVE smack-dab in the middle of thanksgiving, AND that it is smack-dab in the middle of thanksgiving where I truly LIVE!
 Being thankful isn't my first instinct though. My first instinct is whining and complaining and worrying and demanding my way. Yep. All four. At once. I can be loads of fun to be around. ;)  If you don't believe me ask the four people who live with me.   
You all know the saying "If mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy."  Well boy, does this ring true in our home?  This mama knows that she's typically the one that sets the emotional temperature of our home (click text- that's a good read); that it's often my attitude that determines whether the rest of the family is walking on egg shells in our home OR living smack-dab in the middle of grace and joy and love.

Let's be frank, because I set the temps I have a lot of power in this house. AND THANK GOD, He is in my life!  'Cause I knnnnnoooowwww that power would be used for uuuuuuugly around here if He wasn't. 
God's Spirit daily reminds me of His heart for me. This includes God reminding me of who I really am in Him. In fact, take a quick glance at the "About Me" section, at the top right of this page (web version), and you'll see it says "Praise is who I am, praise is what I do." THAT IS WHO GOD REMINDS ME I AM.  

 He reminds me that I don't want to model grumbling to my people, AND I don't want them to think of OR remember me as a grumbler.  He tells me "Praise is who you are, Denise, praise is what you do! Now get to it! Model that to your family."   

Psalm 100:4  says this, 
  "Enter His gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise; give thanks to him 
and praise his name."    
"Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise"... I want in there, and more than that I NEED in there- smack-dab at the center of where God is? 

And God gives me (us) the key in! Through thanksgiving and praise.   

And what I've learned over time is that the more I practice thanksgiving and praise the more that becomes my first instinct!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  That's deserving of an excessive use of exclamation marks, folks. That's a big deal!  Don't believe me... ask the 4 people who live with me ;)    


When I take stock of all the good things in my life I find myself smack-dab in the middle of where my God wants me: 

Remembering Who He is
My God, Who "works all things together for the good of those who love Him." 

I decrease and God increases- 
"And the things of earth grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace." 

"I once was lost, but now I see"- 
My eyes are no longer zeroed in on me, they're focused on the AMAZING GOD of heaven of and earth, and His loving kindness. His loving kindness causes me to see all I do have in Him. All the #andicantafforditbutitsmine. 

I find myself LIVING where He wants me to be- 
Smack dab in the middle of His grace and joy and love. And LIVING in all that goodness causes that to spill out of me into others...
especially my sweet family.

I pray that you will be encouraged, whoever you are, where ever you are, and in whatever season you're in to thank Him and praise Him. There is always always always something to be thankful for. There is. 

Even if/when things are trying, ultimately, those that are in Christ have every thing we need because the LORD is our  God!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
And if anything ever deserved an excessive amount of exclamation marks it's that ;)

Are you counting all the good things God has done for you this month? 
Where can I follow you?
And to those of you who are counting keep it up!
I  delight in ALL your thanksgiving.

And I pray that as you count you'll find yourself smack-dab in the middle 
of where God wants you
LIVING
in the fullness of Him and His grace, joy, and love. 


 
Live in Peace!

 
If you declare with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart 
that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
Romans 10:9


"Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation: the old things are passed away; 
behold, the new has come."
II Cor 5:17 


Photos taken at the Jerseydale Ranch Pumpkin Patch in Boot Jack, Ca