To Read on the Journey

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

Saturday, October 18, 2014

And I can't afford it, but it's mine (pause and see)

It's easy to look at folks around us and compare.  I do that.  I compare what I have to what others  have.  I compare then want what they have.  I can get so consumed with wanting all I perceive they have that I miss out on all I do have.  And I'm done.  Done comparing and done missing all the good things God gives me.

Over the last year the words  "And I can't afford it, but it's mine"   (click text and read original blog post), have transformed my thinking. They have caused me to pause and see and celebrate how very blessed I am.

Read another "And I can't afford it, but it's mine" post here.  
Follow my hashtag #andicantafforditbutitsmine on instagram here

*****************************************************************
Here are some recent "And I can't afford it, but it's mine"  moments.
Oh, He really is so incredibly good to me!

Skipping across a field of whimsical hot air balloons with Josie, each of us with a camera in hand, ready to capture beauty. Photography is worship- it causes us to pause and see and celebrate.  And sharing this with my girl ~ and I can't afford it, but it's mine.     


 Listening to Michael, Noah, and Emilie share about their backpacking adventure.  Hearing about the vastness of beauty they experienced in creation AND in each other~  and I can't afford it, but it's mine. 


An exciting opportunity was offered to Michael.  I'm beyond thrilled for him.  My guy works hard, does so much for us, faithfully, never grumbling, never complaining.
And something "wild" for my good man~ and I can't afford it, but it's mine.  


While washing dishes, out of the corner of my eye I watch Emilie and Josie sitting together at the kitchen counter. I see Josie generously share her yummy treat with Emilie.  I watch Emilie thank her, then lean over and kiss her sister's cheek. I see Josie smile, take in that she is beloved.  Oh, the way they adore each other~ and I can't afford it, but it's mine. 


 Michael and Noah seated beside each other on the couch in the early mornings, reading their bibles, sharing what they've learned~ and I can't afford it, but it's mine. 


An old classmate becoming my dear dear friend.  Our friendship is long-overdue, and yet right on time.  Our friendship is changing me. And the deep love God has filled my heart with for her~  and I can't afford it, but it's mine


One early morning a week, with a few women who are wild about God and His word; sharing how it's teaching and nudging and changing us, while drinking the best coffee this side of the Mississippi~ and I can't afford it, but it's mine. 

18 teenagers at our casa for an epic Nacho Libre night...and that my kids want their amigos here~  and I can't afford it, but it's mine. 

Michael and Josie in the kitchen making Cinnamon scones. The gentle way he teaches her, the delight in her voice just being with her daddy, the smell of scones baking.  So much yummy happening in our kitchen~ and I can't afford it but, it's mine. 
  A health issue surfaced.  The physical discomfort was rough.  But God.  His Spirit kept bringing to mind, "In me you have Peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." John 16:33. He kept reminding me that Peace is already mine, and if I want it then I must grab hold of it.  Want to know something?  Even though I wasn't improving physically, I felt so so so much healthier.  Instead of letting the usual guilt, anger, sadness, bitterness, and frustration grab hold of me- I grabbed hold of Peace. Oh, sweet Peace~ and I can't afford it, but it's mine.  


After realizing there weren't dinner plans-
Noah: girls what do you want me to make you for dinner?
Girls: speechless due to SHOCK! 
Noah: Waffles. I can make you waffles (not Eggos, not from a box, from scratch folks).
Girls: Uhhhhh, okaaaayyy.
And Noah taking care of his sisters~ and I can't afford it, but it's mine. 

A friend coming over, just to be with me, interrupting the nagging pain with her sweet presence for a few hours~ and I can't afford it, but it's mine.



18 married years to Michael-  we had sweet plans for our 18th anniversary, plans that were disrupted by my health issues. So I laid down all day while he shampooed the carpets and upholstery (which by the way is exactly how we spent our 1st anniversary).  And we were both so okay with it.  At one point during the day I was thinking about our wedding day and the vows we made- "To have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish; for as long as you both shall live," and realized how very very blessed I am to be married to a man who cherishes me and delights in keeping those promises~  and I can't afford it, but it's mine.


Noah's hugs- He's taller than me now, and I just love being able to rest my head on his shoulder and nestle into him.  Our roles here have swapped.  And he likes that. He's likes being my young man, caring for, and holding me. The way this kid expresses his love for me ~ and I can't afford it, but it's mine.


Live in Peace!


Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts. 
Colossians 3:15

Friday, October 10, 2014

Rattling Around


"I’m really hating that I don’t have time to write much anymore. I write half a blog post
 in my head while I’m making coffee or driving the girls around, 
but I just can’t seem to make it back to the computer and take the time
 to actually write the whole thing out. I don’t know what’s worse—not writing, 
or having all those words rattle around in my head all the time. 
There’s enough stuff loose up there already."

My longtime friend, Melanie, shared this on her blog yesterday.  This is so me, except I usually write half a blog post while I'm drying my hair or washing the dishes. Sometimes the other half of the post wakes me at 3:30 a.m. and I lie in bed writing when what I need to be doing is catching some z's.

Melanie, I agree " I don't know what's worse- not writing, or having all those words rattle around in my head all the time."  And you know me well enough to know that, like you, "there's enough stuff loose up there already." 

So today, I'm writing. I'm removing the words from the noggin and putting them on this page. Maybe you'll see them, maybe you won't (because much of what I do write is never published).  But maybe by doing so when 3:30 a.m. rolls around I'll sleep through it like a baby, but not like Melanie's baby.   Because apparently, her little one is currently "training for an Olympic event for not sleeping."
  
Anyway... 

Here are some of the things that have been rattling around in my head. Oh, and to entertain you I'm including photos from a backpacking trip Michael, Noah, and Em went on weeks ago, which also happen to be on my mind begging to be blogged. 

I've been thinking about a Facebook post I saw weeks ago. A friend was tagged in it, so it showed up in my news feed.  The post was about an elderly woman, Margaret, who'd passed away (stay with me, this isn't a sad story).  Some words written about Marge have stuck with me, "She lived her life devoted to Jesus, she loved and lived Scripture." 

Wow.  "She loved and lived Scripture." 

What a legacy And could there be a higher compliment? 

Margaret, you inspire me.

I want people to see that and say that of me. I want them to say "Denise loves the Word and lives the Word." 



***************************************************************

One scene from a couple weeks ago keeps rattling around in my mind.  It was a weekday morning, and I'd just finished reading a chapter from the Bible to the kids. I was in a world of pain at the time, and didn't have it in me to pray, so I asked Emilie to pray for the day.  Emilie always says the sweetest things to God.  I hurt too much to say anything to Him.  After she prayed Michael, Noah, and Emilie kissed me goodbye then gathered their things to head out the door. As they gathered their belongings I made my way down the hall to my room. I was hurting so much that I couldn't hold back the tears. I moved slowly down the hall crying.  And then I heard the LORD whisper in my ear, "Jesus?"  

Jesus. We speak His name to each other every single day.  We've spoken, whispered, sung, hollered, cried, claimed, clung to His Name since before Josie was born. For 13 years.  But would I today?  

Maybe today I wouldn't.  Maybe today I'd cry and hurt and cling to the little bit of strength I could muster up myself.  Maybe today I'd hurt too much to say anything to God. 

Or maybe through the pain and the tears, as my family made their way out the door, I'd give them the Name that is all that I am and all that I have...

 "Jesus."   

And one by one they hollered back, "Jesus!" 

***************************************************************

I talked to my dad on the phone a few weeks ago.  He told me he's happy at the new facility he's in. He asked me, as he usually does, if I smoke crack? I don't even know what crack is.  I had to Google it.  He asked me what drugs I'm on?  I told him none. I tell him I've never done drugs, not even when he offered them to me when I was a little girl.   He tells me he liked using drugs, and that he will if he gets out because he likes feeling "up."  I didn't tell him that while he was "up" everyone else was down.  He still couldn't believe that I'm not using and asked what I'm on.  I answered, "Jesus."  He laughed.  Then he said he didn't want to talk about Jesus.
He went on to say that until 8 years ago he was an atheist, then he began believing there's a God. He thinks God created the Big Bang, that there is no such thing as the devil or hell, and that all people go to heaven when they die. 

I told him that sounds like just the kind of thing man would make up. Isn't that how we'd want it to be if we were God?   


"That is one reason I believe Christianity.  It is a religion you could not have guessed. 
If it offered just the kind of universe we had always expected, I should feel we were making it up.  But, in fact, it is not the sort of thing anyone would have made up." 
C.S.Lewis

My dad also thinks Jesus is a myth. 

It's too bad. He'd like Jesus if he knew Him. 
Jesus is the only reason I talk to or visit my dad. My dad has been awful to me. But Jesus puts His own love and compassion for my dad in me. It is not from me.  Nope, if I had it my way I'd hate my dad.  And no one would blame me for it.  It's a miracle that I love him.  Proof that Jesus is not a myth. 

Anyway, like my dad said, "until 8 years ago I was an atheist, then I began believing there's a God."  So maybe it's not entirely impossible that he'll come around and believe in Jesus too.


  ***************************************************************

I was talking to Emilie, who's in Cross Country, about running.  Now, I don't know a thing about actual running. To prove my point, Emilie came home yesterday thrilled that she had run a mile in 6 min. 48 sec. I shared that when I was in jr. high we had to run the mile-and-a-half for P.E., and that I would set out at the beginning of my first period P.E. class (we ran off campus) and not return until sometime after my second period class had started. I think my time was 58 min. 34 sec. So...

However, there is another type of running I've had quiet a bit of training in- 

"Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame"
Hebrews 12:1-3 
 
I told Emilie to run like this. And to keep running.  Keep running no matter what. I told her rough seasons will come. I told her I've found myself in some dark allies; off course. I told her stay the course. Walk. Limp. But whatever you do fix your eyes, fix your eyes, fix your eyes on Jesus, and stay the course. 

I told her I know people who use to run. I admired how focused they were.  Like Margaret, they inspired me.  And then they got mad.  Mad at the church.  Mad at God because He doesn't do things their way. They started fixing their eyes on that instead of on their First Love. And then their eyes wandered to all sorts of things. They live for themselves now.  They're off course.  And I miss them.  I loved running with them. 

A guy on Emilie's Cross Country team told me that when Emilie's running with the team, and "everyone is exhausted and wants to drop dead," she enthusiastically shouts, "come on guys!"  I told him, "Emilie's tired too. She wants to quit too. But she listens to that other voice telling her to keep going."  Emilie, keep listening to that other Voice. And Emilie, keep encouraging those around you to run and stay the course, too. 


I think another way we encourage people to stay on course is by being like Margaret- by "living a life devoted to Jesus, loving and living Scripture."  I also think it's really something that Margaret was elderly and  that this was said about her.  So many many many things are nipping at our heels, and I think it's really something that Margaret stayed the course; fixed her eyes on Jesus until He took her home. 

 I really want to be like Margaret.
I want be like Emilie, too. 


 
 ***************************************************************

Last night I got in bed before everyone else and shouted to them, "if you want a kiss goodnight you have to come to me to get it!!"  Within a few moments Noah and Emilie had jumped onto my bed and were snuggled up on each side of me.  Josie arrived a few minutes later, but Noah and Emilie staked their claim on me, and were barricading their little sister from her mama. However, in classic Josie fashion when she arrived she shimmied her way between them.  Josie likes being at the center of attention and affection in our family. She thrives there.

We could each learn to be more like Josie, especially when it comes to our relationship with Jesus.  We should shimmy, squirm, and squeeze our way through anything that tries to barricade or keep us from Him.  We thrive when we're planted in the center of His attention and affection.   
 After goodnight kisses were shared the kids skipped off to their rooms. And as the lights went out and the bedroom doors closed I could hear the sweetest name being sung down the halls -the Name that is all that we are and all that we have "Jeeeesuuuus!"

 
Live in Peace!