October 6, 2012

Happy Birthday Dad!

Every girl has a Father, but not every girl has a Daddy. I am one of the lucky ones.

Today my dad turns 55, so I thought I’d share how thankful I am that he is MY dad. Thousands of people look up to my dad, seriously thousands.  He is Pastor Jeff, the Senior Pastor of Valley Family Church, the spiritual leader of our congregation. He is the guy in charge, a spiritual Father to many, and people look to him for guidance and to set the example.  My dad is the kind of guy that you want to follow, he is one of those leaders that you just watch in awe.  His character is impeccable.  Who he is on stage is who he is at home and I am so thankful that THAT kind of man was my dad.

He was intentional about the time he spent with me. Every morning when he would take me to pre-school, I remember singing a song that always ended with him calling me Sunshine. When we got a little bit older, he would take each of us to practice. In between shuffling the 4 of us from building to building, we’d have “down time” before the next kid had to be picked up, during that time we’d drive through the back roads and go “deer hunting.”  Of course, this wasn’t real deer hunting, but to us it might as well have been.  We’d drive until we spotted a deer, then we’d just sit and watch.  That’s when my dad taught us the valuable lesson, “when there is one, there is two” and sure enough, there has always been a second deer. It’s silly, but he was intentional about the time he spent with us.

Once we got into middle school, my dad started “Big Daddy’s Bistro.” We loved Big Daddy’s Bistro.  Every morning for 12 years my dad prepared a hot breakfast for us to enjoy before we left for school. Each morning my dad would prepare, French toast, eggs, bacon, sausage, pancakes, breakfast burritos, waffles, fruit parfait, crepes, you name it – we had it. Our time at Big Daddy’s Bistro wasn’t just so we could have a 5-star breakfast every morning, he used that time to do a devotion with us and then we always end with some time in prayer.  He was intentional about spending time with us each morning.

My dad also rarely missed one of our games. (My mom didn’t either, but today is about my dad.) Among all of the other responsibilities that he had, he always took the time to come to my games no matter where in the country I was playing.  Now, we wasn’t perfect and sometimes things came up, but even if he couldn’t be at a game I knew that he had tried really hard to make it happen because he was intentional about being an involved dad.

My dad was and is, intentional. He was intentional about being a reflection of my Heavenly Father.  Although he had other things to do, other responsibilities, other people counting on him, he was intentional about putting everything else aside to spend time with us.  I know, because of the example that my dad set, that my Heavenly Father desires to spend time with me. I know because of the example my dad set, that my Heavenly Father will always provide for me. I know because of the example my dad set, that my Heavenly Father cares about what is going on in my life. I know because of the example my dad set, that my Heavenly Father loves me unconditionally.

I have high standards because of him. I’ve seen how my dad treats my mom, how he has treated my sister and I, how he raised my brothers into men of God and that’s the kind of man that I want to marry. My dad is the best leader I’ve ever known, he is the smartest man I know, he is one HECK of a teacher, he is funny, loving, a man after Gods heart, and always looks out for other people. He is the best dad that could ever walk this planet and best of all he is MY dad.

I could go on and on about how great my dad is. This dumb little blog doesn’t even come close to showing how thankful I am that Jeff Jones isn’t just my father, but my daddy.

Happy Birthday Dad, I love you with all of my heart! Thank you for setting an example that thousands can follow.  Thanks for being a reflection of the character of God. And thanks for giving me a reason to set the bar high. Happy 55th birthday, Senior Citizen! : )

September 20, 2012

A Day in the Life...

Class has officially started! The first 2 weeks were dedicated to orientation.  We got acquainted with the school, the church, and the teachers.  In the morning we’d come in, go over the student handbook, etc., then we’d have what was known as “student revival.” It was a time for all of the students to gather together for worship and a powerful message from one of the Rhema Pastors or Teachers. I left everyday grateful that God brought me here. The messages were so rich and challenging, and I loved what I was learning!

From the first day of preschool until the last day of high school my parents would send us off to school with a prayer.  Every day…and I mean EVERY DAY, we would go through this routine:

Mom and Dad:           “Alright, what do you know?”

Annie:                         “Jesus loves me, God loves me, Dad loves me, Mom loves me, Meghan loves me, Luke loves me, Eric loves me. Today, I’m going to have a great day. I’m a good friend to my friends and I love to learn.”

Mom and Dad:           “And today is going to be a day filled with _________ (laughter, joy, patience, fun, etc, they’d fill in the blank.) The Lord watches your coming in and your going out.  He takes you all the way to school safely and brings you all the way home safely. You’re a good friend to your friends, and you love to learn!”

Everyday, as we rolled our eyes, we’d confess that we loved to learn and they’d confess that we loved to learn. Looking back, I’m so thankful that they made us confess that every day because the reality is, I love to learn. I get excited about learning new things and studying new concepts. So here is the class list of all the fun things I get to learn at Rhema:

Old Testament Survey with Karen Jensen. I LOVE the Old Testament and can’t wait to study under the awesome teaching of Ms. Jensen. Everyone raves about how great she is, so I know it will be fruitful!

New Testament Survey with Jeanne Orrison. I LOVE the New Testament. I guess it’s safe to say that I just love the whole Bible, really. I love studying the Word and being under faith-filled teaching of the Word is like drinking a cool glass of water on a hot day. Refreshing. Earlier this week we were given a quick history lesson on the 400 years between Malachi and Matthew. I left the class giddy with excitement because it was so fascinating. I could talk about it for days…the history is just amazing and reminded me of the time I spent in Greece. Ahhh, I love history, especially Biblical history!

Faith Library with Pastor Ken Hagin. I want to increase my faith and I know this class will do just that.  The reading list for this class is spectacular as well. I love to read so I’m excited to dive in!

Understanding Grace with Tad (The Dean). We’re learning what Grace is. The unmerited favor that God has given us. We don’t deserve it and we don’t earn it, but He still gives us it. How great is God?!

Spiritual Growth Principles with Doug Jones. Who doesn’t love a class with your Uncle? Just kidding, he isn’t my Uncle. But he is from Michigan and he is HILARIOUS, so I guess we could be related… This class is awesome. It is so challenging and I feel like I need to spend an hour in prayer after each class to get saved. Just kidding, but kind of serious. Talk about refining the junk out of your life!

Financial Management with Craig Hagin. If we want to be successful in life we need to know how to handle money. Thankfully, I’ve grown up knowing the smartest moneyman on the planet. My dad is brilliant with managing money and has led by example, so I feel like I have a good grasp on Financial Management, but there is always more to learn!

There you have it, my 1st term class list!

Many of you are wondering, what the heck does an average day at Bible School even look like? Well, I’ll tell you. Everyday Monday-Friday we have class from 8:30am-12:30ish.  It just depends on the day.  This gives a chance for everyone to go to school and work full-time so we can still make a living since the age range of students is 17 yrs old – 80 years old (seriously).

We have the same classes M,W,F and T, Th.  The first year students are divided into 2 groups. I’m in Group 2, so I take all of my classes with Group 2 students.  However, 3 of the 6 classes are combined with all of the Group 1 students. On Tuesdays and Thursday, the entire student body gathers for “Exhortation” or “Announcements” and we have a time of prayer and worship or…you guessed it, announcements. When you are a first year student, you don’t choose the classes you take, there is a set curriculum for every first year student.  During your second (or third) year you can choose which “track” you want to take.  Those “tracks” are specific for a certain area: Pastoral, Evangelism, Worship, Kids Ministry, Missions, Biblical Studies, or Youth, etc.  Within each “track” there is a set curriculum you take through out the year. Each year is broken up into 4 terms.

So everyday M-F, I go to school from 8:30am-12:30pm. Work from about 1pm-5pm at one job, 5:30-9:30 at another job, and 10:00-10:40pm at a 3rd job. Most nights there is a worship services or prayer meeting of some sort, so when I’m not working I go to those. Basically, it has been a non-stop pace of life. Does that help a little bit? Now you know what an average day in the life of a Rhema student looks like!

I can’t even put into words how amazing this season of life is. I love everything about it. It felt like I was walking in a mucky ditch for a while but now I feel like I’m walking on a street filled with rainbows, butterflies, and cotton candy. So, when life feels kind of sucky, keep pushing through because God’s got something AMAZING on the other side.

September 17, 2012

He is Faithful

I love getting the chance to meet new people, however I’m also living my worst nightmare. For anyone that suffers from Palmer Hyperhidrosis, you know the pain that I’m going through. My hands tend to be “clammy” (we’ll stick with that descriptive word), so meeting so many new people, means shaking so many new hands. And who likes a clammy hand? Ugh, it’s the worst. Hah, but oh well, all you can do is laugh about it, right?

So, I just love Tulsa, I love the people, and I love the opportunity to grow in my walk with God. I feel like I’m in such a sweet spot.

In the past 2 weeks I’ve spent at least 45 hours at Starbucks, 12 hours at McDonalds, and 5 hours at the NRC (Rhema rec center). I didn’t have WIFI yet, so I was stealing WIFI juice from all the local joints. The main reason I need this sweet WIFI nectar was to help with the launch of Valley Family Church Online. It is basically an interactive church service with worship, announcements, a message, and a live chat room.  Because of technology we are able to reach people form around the world, no matter the time or location barriers, how neat? It has been an honor to be a part of this project.  Now that it is officially launched, go check it out! Services are every Monday night at 8 & 10 pm EDT and Saturday at 10 pm EDT. (shameless plug) www.valleyfamilychurch.tv

Like I said last time, this bird has been set free financially and I am now responsible for just about everything. This responsibility has opened up a wonderful chance for me to exercise my faith and trust in God. Well, I have to share some awesome news with you.

I’ve always believed in the importance of tithing. However, I’ve never really had a chance to tithe consistently, because I wasn’t making money consistently. Throughout college, volleyball was my job.  But, this summer opened up my first opportunity to tithe on a regular basis.  I’ve heard my dad say numerous times, “If you give God His 10%, He will bless your 90%.” I’m telling you, it is true. I get chocked up just thinking about it.

Knowing that I would soon have to pay for everything, I made sure to be extra diligent with my money this summer. I faithfully gave 10% of every pay check, I worked hard to find extra ways to make money, I rarely spent the dough, and I listened to the Holy Spirit when I thought I should give a little extra for an offering. I’ll be honest; at times my flesh didn’t want to give up any of the money.  But I knew in my spirit that it wasn’t my money anyways and if I wanted to walk in the blessings of the Lord, I had to trust him fully.

The way God has blessed me in the last couple of weeks is absolutely unreal... I was praying for another job and was just hired at a golf course down in Tulsa where I make $10 an hour plus tips! During my first night on the job, I randomly thought “wouldn’t it be cool to be handed a $100 bill.” It was a fleeting thought, but not 5 minutes later someone handed me a $100!!! I couldn’t believe it. My jaw dropped and I had to laugh. I walked away with $120 in tips on my first night! If that’s not God’s blessings and favor, I don’t know what is!

Not only that, but I recently received two unexpected checks! It was shocking, but another great reminder that God’s economy works. When we walk in wisdom, diligence, and trust in God, He will bless us. There are so many other stories I could share about how God has shown himself faithful to me, but this blog would be too long. Maybe I’ll share those stories at a different time. His Word says, “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this," says the LORD Almighty, "and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it. (Malachi 3:10)” Well, I put God to the test and his blessings have POURED.

His blessing haven’t just been financially either. Last year was a tough year for me. It seemed like there was a never-ending pile of disappointment. I was running on sheer will-power most of the year. I had to keep reminding myself, “This is only a season…this is only a season.” To be frank: it was one of the suckiest seasons of life I’ve ever had. No, it WAS the suckiest season of life I’ve ever experienced. But, Praise the Lord (seriously) I have made it to the other side and I feel like I’m walking in the Promised Land. Remain faithful to Him, trust in Him, and lean on Him to be your joy and strength and he most certainly will be! People say it all the time, but I’m telling you it is the absolute truth, I’ve experienced it for myself time and time again: He is Faithful! I pray that each of you reading this will be able to experience for YOURSELF God’s faithfulness.

I love life. I love God. I love where He has placed me.

And if you’re wondering: I’m still single ;). Just another opportunity for God to show Himself faithful, hah :).

September 9, 2012

The Beginning...

Throughout college I had several professors encourage our class to write every day, “as it is the only means to being a ‘great’ writer.  Well, I am not even a “good” writer, so I suppose I should practice. It actually works out pretty nicely too because I’ve had a few people tell me I ought to keep a blog while I’m down here in Tulsa… so, here is a blog.

Well, I currently live in Tulsa, Oklahoma. I graduated from Spring Arbor University in May and moved here in August to attend Rhema Bible Training College (RBTC). I’m a 21-year-old girl living 815 miles away from home so I can go to Bible school, whaaaaa?

I’ve been down here for a week, so I will try to give you the highlights of the week.

After a 14-hour car ride by myself we arrived Friday night. My mom, sister and I spent most of Saturday and Sunday moving in, rearranging and organizing. I am SO thankful for my mom and sister. I would have been a lost little puppy if they hadn’t helped me ease into the transition of being on my own.

Now that I’m a college grad, I’ve got to start paying for things. And by things, I mean, like, everything: housing, food, tuition, internet, student loans etc. The gravy train has dried up. El-sha-daddy (the endearing name we’ve given my dad) has pulled the plug and set me free. The idea of paying for everything was nerve-racking at first but it’s been a great opportunity to exercise my faith! Thankfully, I serve a God who supplies ALL my needs and I know that if I’m faithful to Him, He’ll be faithful to me. If I wasn’t a believer and didn’t know that God had my back I’d probably be freaking out a bit more.

Thankfully I have a roommate to help ease the transition. I’m living with Morgan, a strawberry blonde beauty from my church in MI, who’s already drawn the attention of quite a few guys. She is great and it has been so nice having a “partner in crime.” I mean that literally too, one night this week we were at a social gathering of sorts, and found an iphone lying on the ground.  We thought it would be funny to take a picture of ourselves and set it as the background…so we did. Whoops.. J I’m excited for the many adventures we will have this year!

We live in an apartment building across the street from Rhema (called Student Housing) so I can walk to class, church, etc. And then anything else I need is seriously a 5-minute drive.  SCORE! For you Kalamazoo people, it’s like the best of Westenedge, West Main, Gull Road, and Downtown Kalamazoo all on one street. Incredible!

Overall, I’m LOVING Tulsa. The only thing I’m not digging so far is the heat. It’s been at least 102 degrees every day, which is just a tad bit too hot. All you ever want to do is be inside, but I hear it should be cooling off soon.

Now, the best part of this Tulsarusalem is the fact that every night there is an opportunity to grow, by way of a church service, a prayer meeting, or social event. I am never lacking an opportunity to be fed the Word of God.  And it’s wild, because being fed the Word of God makes me even hungrier for the Word.  The best part is that classes haven’t even started since we’re still in orientation week! I can’t imagine how much better it will be once classes start! Eeeek!

I’m most excited for this season of life because I just want to soak up the Word. I love learning and I truly love the Bible. I’m just so jacked up! I know that I suck apart from Him and I’ve realized how dependent I am on Him. I know that He has a LOT of work to do in me and I’m ready for that. I’m ready for my roots to grow deeper and deeper.

The next two years will be exciting, no doubt!

Before I forget: boys.  Ha, the main question I get from family and friends is about what cute guys I’ve met. Well, I ain’t lying, I’ve seen a few cuties walking ‘round and I don’t mind it... But, that’s not why I’m here. My number one focus is on my relationship with God. I’ve screwed up enough times to realize that I don’t want anything to jeopardize what God wants to do in and through me. He’s got it figured out and I’ll just sit back and let God be the matchmaker. But I also ain’t saying that I’m not scoping the potentials. ;) I’d say I’d keep you posted, but I won’t…

Until next time….

December 4, 2010

Did You Know?

By: Annie Jones

Did You Know?

Did you know that I am beautifully and wonderfully made? A Daughter and princess of the most High King? Adored and loved by the God of all? 

The one who aligned the stars and set the world in motion thinks highly of me His thoughts toward me are good. His plans for me are good. He loves me with an everlasting love; nothing will separate me from Him.

It’s easy to forget, it’s easy to let this world, which doesn’t know a thing about living, tell me how to live, how to think, how to view myself.  I let this filthy, skewed world tell me whether or not I am beautiful, worthy, or good enough. Good enough? For who? Good enough for what? What does this world have to offer? Nothing. But God! He thinks I’m beautiful, He thinks I’m worthy, He thinks I’m more than good.

Before I was even conceived God had a good plan for me.  He approved of me and set me apart for His purposes. He has confidence in me.  If God is for me, who can be against me? There is nothing, no attack, no weapon, no scheme of man that can hurt me. He shield will protect me. He is my strong tower, my safe refuge. When life gets me down, and I feel like nothing, God is my present help.
People are fickle, they can hurt me, they can break my heart, they’ve left me feeling rejected and worthless.  But who are they? Did they create this world? Did they create me? No! Because according to my Master and my Creator, the only One who isn’t fickle, my worth is far more precious than rubies! He has never rejected me or made me feel worthless and He never will.

My hope, my confidence is in the one whose heart I have ravished.  Yes, I have ravished His heart. There is no flaw in me! So I will run, run into the riches of God’s love, run into His embrace of love. His love for me burns like a fire for all to see, a fire that cannot be quenched. Nothing will ever compare to His love. I am my beloveds and He is mine.  I am free to love Him and I am free to live for Him.

So I ask you again: Did you know that I am beautifully and wonderfully made? A daughter and a princess of the Most High King? Adored and loved by the God of All? I love Jesus, and He loves me, my life is His.

I wrote this for one of my classes this year. The first section is a phrase that I believe God gave to me this summer as a way for me to remember where my worth is found...

When it comes to anything God related, I get really choked up.  Like, honestly, you could tell me any cool God story, and the whole time I'm sucking in air begging myself not to cry. So, when I have to share this "poem" with my class, and pretty much pour my heart out about how great God is and how much He loves me...you can only imagine my emotional state. I get in front of my class and before I can even say the first sentence I am already crying...but it's not just a few tears.  I'm full on sobbing in front of my entire class. I knew there was no way to control my tears, so I just pushed through it and read the poem.  Although it is very personal and I was so embarrassed to have cried in front of my class, I feel like I need to share it because I know that God can speak to you through it.  Whether you are a boy or girl it is the truth of the Word (just written in my own words).

As you read what I've written, believe it, because its the truth.  Read it out loud, seriously...go in a room by yourself and read it out loud...not just in your head. There is power in the spoken Word. Read it, and read it again, and anytime you are feeling down read it again.  That's what I do.  I remind myself WHO I am and WHOSE I am. And man oh man....I am beautifully and wonderfully made....did you know?