Friday, December 2, 2016

A Life Built on Faith: What Happens When Our Children Stumble

It's not about the setback it's about the come back.  Romans 5:3-5
A few weeks ago we received a comment on a post from May 2015 titled “Watching our Children Stumble” in which I (Shelly) wrote about a particularly painful moment faced by my older daughter.  The recent comment reminded me that I haven’t written a follow-up post about how God revealed Himself in her life during the year that followed.  

To understand what happened afterwards, it’s necessary that you read the original post first.  Go read it…. I’ll wait for you.

*sniff – I still get teary thinking about that night and the struggle to move forward with a positive attitude. A real “character building” moment for her, right? Because that’s what we say when we don’t get what we wanted, when we fall short of the goal. We shake our head and say that the bad experience builds our character.

Did you know we get that phrase from the Bible?

It’s from a lesson St. Paul wrote in Romans 5:3-5, “that affliction produces endurance, and endurance, proven character, and proven character, hope, and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the holy Spirit that has been given to us.”
  • It’s through suffering an affliction that produces our ability to Endure
  • And being able to endure suffering is what defines our Proven Character.
  • And by developing our Proven Character we discover HOPE, which does not disappoint.

My daughter accepted her disappointment, then brushed herself off and went forward with her life. As a former officer, she was still afforded the opportunity to attend state convention and additional leadership retreat events. That fall she competed a second time in Radio Broadcasting – although once again fell short of her goal when her team earned the dreaded 3rd place (only 1st & 2nd advance to State). While struggling under a heavy academic load, she wondered aloud if maybe God’s plans were right, because He knew she would need this extra time to focus on her studies in order to stay in the top of her class.

Throughout the year, she continued to step up and serve her chapter, even though she didn’t hold a formal title or leadership position. She worked with Greenhands (new members), served on various committees, encouraged others, led a CDE team, began competing in public speaking, and recommitted to her passion for all things blue and gold.

Last year I wrote that when life gets challenging, my daughter often turns to Jeremiah 29:11 -  "For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

A year after that disappointing night, my daughter ran for chapter officer again and this time was elected Historian. She also received the chapter Horizon's Award, acknowledging someone who has a bright horizon and future in FFA. A few nights later, I asked her if she could go back in time to that night, what would she tell herself?
“I wouldn’t,” she replied, “because everything that happened this year happened for a reason. Everything that happened was something that I had to go through to grow and understand. If I had been officer another year, I think I still would have been the same person. I wouldn’t have grown, wouldn’t have matured. Over this past year, I began understanding what it takes to be a servant leader – you don’t have to have a title. I think that’s what I had to learn and understand. I didn’t get it before, but I get it now.
It’s not about the setback in our life; it’s about the comeback.

The setback forces us to look inside ourselves and decide what it is we truly want. Where we want to go. And how are we going to get there. It’s not about being stopped. It’s about discerning what we truly believe.

Following God’s plans requires a foundation of faith and trust that He will lead you down the right path. Four of the hardest words in prayer are “Thy Will Be Done.”  Because honestly, we often want our will to be done.

However, we cannot be changed without there being a change in our lives.  The caterpillar cannot become a butterfly without experiencing the metamorphosis. Likewise, God cannot transform our lives without our trust in Him and our surrender to His will.

Building a life based on faith reminds us that God is about a rebirth. Our belief in something bigger than ourselves and placing our trust in Him during times of suffering leads to “hope which does not disappoint because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts.

As I post this, my daughter is in the fall of her Senior year of High School with a Lone Star degree from FFA. She took first place (out of 60 speakers) in a Public Speaking event last summer, using a speech based on her experience last year, and is already committed to attend Texas A&M University next fall (#AggieBound). Today, she leads her Broadcasting team in the Texas State FFA LDE competition. So if you don't mind too much - would you offer up a prayer for the team to perform their very best. Thank you! 

UPDATE: The team advanced to the Finals Round. Saturday morning they will be one of ten teams, out of 740 entries, to compete for the top spot. Thank you for your prayers - they had a flawless performance, but now I'm giving it all up to God!  Although, perhaps an intercessory prayer or two to Venerable Fulton Sheen wouldn't hurt. Love to all!

SECOND UPDATE: I'm so proud of these girls. For the second time this weekend, they delivered a flawless performance. We held our breath during the awards ceremony, and to be honest, when the announcer said 3rd place I was certain that we'd earned First Place. Ah, but they called our name for 2nd place/State Runner-Up. At that level of competition it all comes down to judges preference and we were super-excited to be number 2 in the great state of Texas with so many amazing competitors. 

Suffering produces Endurance produces Character produces HOPE

Monday, November 28, 2016

Advent is Here - Are You Awake?

Advent: the four Sundays before Christmas when we prepare and open our hearts for Christ's birth in the world.

The readings at Mass this first weekend encourage us to Wake Up, Stay Awake, Rejoice and Walk in the Light of the Lord!  Isaiah prophesies a vision of "end times," not a bleak time of chaos, rather an opportunity for the world to be transformed for good. An end time in which we receive instruction and Wisdom from God that brings about peace between the nations, peace within all peoples.

Matthew 24:42 - Stay Awake - Advent is HerePsalm 122 calls us to go Rejoicing, while in Romans, St. Paul reminds us that when we know Christ, we are changed forever. Everything we learn brings us closer to Him and we cannot go back to being who we were before. We are excited by this message, because the time is now; we must awaken from our sleep, rouse our drowsy hearts, throw off the darkness, and shine in the light and peace of the world.

Finally, Matthew's gospel recounts Jesus' own words commanding us to Stay Awake. Don't be caught by surprise, as the world was during the cleansing flood of Noah's era. Be awake, be prepared, be at peace - for we who know Christ in our hearts know what we must do in our lives. We know that peace starts with us. In our words. In our actions. In our love.

But the world wears at us, beats on us, entices us, lulls us to rest, to lay down, to set Christ's work aside, and to succumb to sleep again.

Practical Ways to Live the Readings

This first week of Advent, we look for practical ways to live these readings throughout the whirlwind of our busy lives. For example, Isaiah talks about climbing the mountain of God to receive His instruction. God's wisdom isn't passively given to us, but requires our purposeful action - climbing the mountain. We can live that by making time to be in the presence of God. It can be as simple as reading Scripture daily, participating in a Bible Study, reading a new book to learn more about your faith, or attending adoration or a daily Mass. Just one of these will help you stay awake and centered during Advent.

We can Rejoice through prayer by praying daily, such as saying the Our Father while going about your daily work, meditating on a decade (or more) of the Rosary, being thankful for our many blessings with our kids at the dinner table. However you pray, the Psalm 122 reminds us to pray for unity where there is discord, in our families and community. We confidently pray that Christ will bring peace to all.

When St. Paul calls us to Awaken and throw off the darkness, we pause to examine our lives and consider how, as followers of Christ, we actively live that out loud. Do we complain about circumstances or do we seek to find - or be - a solution. Seek loving answers. Extend a hand of friendship to others. Pay it forward.

Lastly, the command to Stay Awake! In every choice you make, you are choosing whether that action turns your heart toward God or away from God. When you chose to pray, you are turning toward God. When you put down your phone and pay attention to the person across from you, you are turning toward God. Jesus reminds us to be consciously aware of our daily interactions, so look for daily opportunities to turn away from a selfish action and turn instead toward a serving action, reflecting God's love which in turn brings peace.

Advent starts these weeks of preparation with a call to Stay Awake. Be mindful. 
Be purposeful in...
                     Expecting...... Christ.

For every day of our lives is a day closer to our salvation.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

My Attempt at Authenticity Online

Over the years I (Lisa) have struggled with social media and comparisons to what I see posted online.  I know I'm not the only one who has spent time on Facebook and then whines to my husband, "Why don't we ever do XYZ..." Spending time on social can bring out that green eyed monster and make yourself pretty miserable.  I have to say the worst was when a friend told me she'd been feeling down about her life based on what I was posting.  Everything looked so happy and upbeat all the time.  Ugh.  Never in a million years would I want to make someone else feel like I felt sometimes.  The quiet truth is - when things aren't going well or I'm upset with something, I don't post.  Or, I try to post something happy to make myself feel better rather than share the truth.  Believe it or not, life isn't always a pitcher of Friday Night Margaritas!
Quote - Life Isn't Always a Pitcher of Friday Night Margaritas from Lisa Jones

So, in the interest of showing my authentic self on social I posted a picture of my messy upstairs hall closet on Facebook and Instagram over the weekend.  It was bad.  I couldn't get the door closed without pushing the stacks back and quickly shoving the door closed.  Cleaning up this closet has been on my to do list since Spring.  But really, it's upstairs and I'm mostly downstairs, so I just avoid it.  The closet issue finally came to a head while trying to find gift bags for my nephew's birthday presents.  All the wrapping supplies and gift bags are in that closet.  I almost bought new gift bags at the grocery store for $6 each rather than fight through that closet.  But seriously, buying new gift bags when I have a bazillion upstairs is just crazy.

I found three gift bags in the closet - well, in truth, I asked my son to find them cause I didn't want to deal with the closet.  He succeeded, but made an even bigger mess in the process, or that's what I'm telling myself as the reason I couldn't get the door closed any longer.  So, Sunday afternoon...  I trudged up there with my earbuds and lots of podcasts to listen to while cleaning and got to work.   Three and half hours, some sweat, several bags of garbage, and piles of frustration later I got it cleaned up.

In the meantime, my friends were having a field day over my sharing the picture of the closet mess.  Some were horrified, some  had similar spaces in their homes, but most expressed shock and surprise that I had a closet that looked like that. HA!  Nice to know I can still surprise people.  So, here it is.  My before and after picture in all its messy glory.
Being authentic online means sharing my messy closet before and after pictures

Now, if I want to be really real and authentic, I would show you a picture of the state of my home office at the moment.  A closet is one thing, but to acknowledge my office is that out of sorts is a little too much for me.

Well, maybe I should....  in the spirit of being real...

Looking at it makes me want to cry... That table doesn't belong there, there are stacks of stuff on the right that are difficult to see,  stacks of papers on the left just out of view, and a chair I can't ever seem to sit in due to the books.  Just forget about getting through the minefield to play piano.  But I sit with my back to it all when at my desk and can avoid looking at it.  One day it will be clean again and pretty. A girl can hope...

Ok.  Your turn.  How are you your authentic self online?

Life Isn't Always a Pitcher of Friday Night Margaritas - Quote from Lisa Jones

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

10 Tips To Prepare for a MRI

10 Tips to Prepare for MRI

After having severe pain in my left hip, my orthopedic doctor suspected a torn labrum and ordered an MRI with contrast for the hip joint. Going into the MRI I (Lisa) wasn’t sure what scared me more, the injection of the contrast into my hip joint or the actual MRI experience.  When I scheduled the test, the nurse asked me if I was claustrophobic. I nervously laughed and said, "Not sure, I guess we'll find out!" I was silently freaking out about having an MRI, which you know is bad ‘cause I rarely do anything silently!

Overall, the experience wasn’t horrible. The needle in my hip did hurt and the contrast dye burned as it went in and for a while afterwards. But, the anxiety of not knowing what to expect was the worst part of the MRI for me.  I wish I’d read some realistic tips of what to expect rather than the well meaning horror stories I encountered on social media and the web. 

To be helpful, I’d thought I’d share my experience with you by offering a few realistic tips.

1.    Don’t share on Facebook, Instagram or Anywhere – Seriously, don’t post on social media that you are nervous about having an MRI or that you are even having an MRI.  Every one of your friends will see this as an opportunity to tell you their horror story.   (Kind like moms telling pregnant women their labor and delivery stories.) Just don't do it.

2.    Review the paperwork or online information for your testing location.  Because I was having a contrast MRI which required a needle to be inserted into my actual hip joint guided by an x-ray my test was scheduled at a hospital located imaging center.  The hospital website gave me more information about what to expect before/during/after the MRI than the one-page paper I received from the scheduling center.

3.    Leave your valuables and metal items at home.  Don’t even bring it.  You don’t want to worry about where to put it during the test or if you remembered to take it all off.  Rings, earrings, belts, barrettes, or ponytail holders… leave it at home.  It's so much simpler.

4.    Wear comfortable clothing without metal for a chance of leaving your own clothes on.  While I had to exchange my clothing for a hospital gown during the injection and x-ray, I was allowed to wear my own clothes for the MRI.  It lessened my stress a little to wear my own t-shirt and shorts and not a gown that opens in the back.  (Ladies, don’t forget about wearing a bra without an underwire or metal clasps.  A cotton sports bra is best.)

5.    Take a minute to lay down - Understand that you will be laying very still for a while so take a minute when you lay down to get comfortable as best you can.  Lying flat on my back was a bit painful so the tech allowed me to put a small pillow under my knees to help lessen the pain. Not moving during the test was the absolute most difficult part for me.  Since it was my hip, my whole body was immobile during the testing.  I could open and shut and eyes, lick my lips and wiggle my fingers since they were near my head, but all I wanted was to shift or move during those 45 min.  I kept reminding myself that if I moved, I’d have to start over again.

6.    Get Comfy – I am naturally a little cold, especially when air is blowing on me like it does in the MRI machine.  As I laid down, I asked to be covered in blankets because it was cold in the room and also because I find the weight of blankets comforting.  The one thing I wish I’d had was chapstick.  My lips were dry from the fan blowing on my face during the MRI and it drove me batty to keep licking them.

7.    Listen to the noise – They gave me ear plugs, but you can still hear the super loud noises coming from the machine.  I found the repetitive cycle of the noise comforting after a while.  It reminded me that time was passing and we were closer to being done than we were a few minutes ago. 

8.    Close your eyes / Open your eyes – I received advice to not open my eyes in the machine, however, as the test got started keeping them closed freaked me out.  I HAD to look around and check it out. What I was picturing in my head was way worse than it actually looked. Inspecting every inch of the inside of the MRI machine helped keep me busy.  Do whatever works for you.

9.    Keep your mind busy – Other advice I was given was to come up with repetitious mind games to keep myself busy. Picture a happy place, run yourself through a memory, dream of a great experience or tell yourself knock-knock jokes.  I’ve had friends pray their way through a rosary or count things, like how many states you’ve visited.  One friend told me he listed items related to his work alphabetically.  Personally, I organized my favorite list in my head – my massive to do list. 

10.    Relax – You have to have the MRI test, otherwise you wouldn’t be in the machine. It’s not a harmful test.  It’s just uncomfortable and long. I had a few moments in the MRI machine when the pain from my hip and the stress of not being able to move were seemingly unbearable, but I knew I had to finish the test. I DID NOT want to start over or lengthen it.  It was simply uncomfortable and stressful. I forced myself to take a deep breath and relax.  Once I accepted the situation and relaxed, the loud noises lulled my mind and I began to think I could fall asleep.  Of course, that’s when the technician started talking to me to tell me we were almost done.   

How was my hip?  Good news, not a labral tear.  It was a torn muscle near my hip joint instead.  Still painful, but easier healing and recovery.

What is your experience with MRI tests?  Any tips to help make it more manageable?  And PLEASE, no horror stories.

10 Tips to Prepare for an MRI

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Back to School Discussion... and Lisa Cries

Lisa and Shelly discuss Back to School in Video

Now that we've been back to school for about a month it's time to reflect. New schedules, new schools, and new routines mean big changes for us with plenty of ups and downs.  I (Lisa) have three kids in three different schools this year for the first time. Shelly and I both have one starting high school and one each who are entering their "last" years. My youngest is in her last year of Elementary school while Shelly's oldest is a senior in high school!  How are we handling these changes?  Are we saddened at the thought of all these "last" experiences or looking forward to the possibilities?

Check out our video where we discuss all of this and more. Be sure to stay till the end to see me (Lisa) cry!

How has your Back to School been going?  Are you in a "last" year for a child also?  What advice do you have for settling into this new year and schedules?

Back to School Blog Posts mentioned...

The5Jones at Brennan's in Houston
The5Jones at Brennan's in Houston

Did you stay to see me cry?  Brian and I celebrated 18 years of marriage last weekend with a big family dinner and enjoyed a few more Mad About You tv episodes. We are very blessed to have strong role models for marriage and look forward to many more years of wedded bless.

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