Saturday, February 25, 2012

I am applying to be the Director and Tutor of the Challenge I program at our Classical Conversations campus. I was given the assignment to write three essays, one being my personal testimony of faith. I sat for more than 7 hours trying to write this testimony and really struggled. For the first five hours I struggled with how to start such a testimony, but then realized as in all things, I needed to start with God and taper down to self.

Personal Testimony of Faith
Sara Jones, February 25, 2012
My journey of faith can only be started by declaring with unwaivering confidence that Jehovah God is the one true God, Creator of the cosmos. In order to restore humanity to communion with Him, God sent His Son, Jesus Christ as God Incarnate to this world where His death served as the sacrifice for all men. Through the resurrection of Christ, I have victory of a good conscience (1 Peter 3:20-21) as a baptized believer saved by Grace. I believe upon the ascension of Christ, the Holy Spirit was sent to bring comfort and understanding to the world, working within the church which is the body of Christ fulfilling His purposes and ministry. (Eph. 1:23) Because of His Grace and Glory, I live as a part of that body and stand ready to share how His majesty affects my life and my claim to be a child of God.
I have never known a time where God was not a central part of my life and worldview. Born to believing parents, I was raised and taught to honor God, learn about Him through His Word and practice my faith through obedience. Raised in the traditions of the church of Christ, I was encouraged and required to study my Bible. My family was, and remains very active in working with local congregations. My understanding of who I was even as a child was in relationship to God. The summer before my eleventh birthday, I was baptized into Christ.
When I left home and moved to attend college across the country away from home, I found myself for the first time looking to establish my own faith as opposed to the faith I learned at the feet of my family. In this time of discovery, I never failed in my understanding in who the Triune God was, but instead began a more deliberate search for who I was to be under His authority. I found myself questioning my place in the church, what the church was to be and how the church was to be understood through the teachings of Christ and the scriptures. In my twenties, I met my husband who was also raised in the traditions of the church of Christ and who also was questioning and growing in his understanding of what discipleship meant for us as individuals and for the Church. Joining our journey's together, our approaches to faith differ greatly, mine a simple belief based on my faith, his a journey of skepticism which lead into a time of doubt, and a return to faith through a great seeking of understanding of God, I have learned in a very real way the concept of unity in diversity. In relationship to my husband, I began to understand how each of us are working out our own salvation with fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12). Through this time of our journey, I believe God opened my eyes to broader borders of His Kingdom and a better understanding of who I was to strive to be as a disciple.
Today, I stand firm in my faith described in the introduction of this testimony, but ever a student of who Christ is and how I am to reflect Him in my life. I understand now more than ever that all of my life is to be laid down at the feet of my Savior. I find myself flawed in the execution of my faith more often than I care to admit, but more at peace in the Grace of God. I also find myself working within a church family that challenges me to acknowledge the gifts God has given me and use them to the glory of God. I am challenged to ever grow, ever seek, ever examine so as to continue to grow and be transformed into the image of God and the person God planned for me to be.

Thursday, February 23, 2012


We were heading to Georgia the week before January 27th's court date when we received a phone call letting us know our court date had been canceled. The judge had cleared her docket. February 10, the attorneys and judge would meet to reschedule the date. No explanation. No debate. No way to change anything. I think the only words I could find to say were, "You are kidding, right?" But the answer was a resounding no, apologetically from the case worker. Visits would continue and we would wait.
and wait,
and wait.

February 10th has come and gone now and the new date has been set for May 4; Thirteen weeks, 3 months of waiting. As I shared the news with friends and family, the common response was "What can we do? Can we petition the judge?" Oh how I wish that could happen. The reality is that we are not even players yet in the game. This trial is not about us at all. It is about Emma and Jordon for sure, but as for the Joneses, we are merely the unattached caregivers in the eye of the state. This trial is all about Emma and Jordon's parents and their fitness for parenting. While we will testify, it will be merely to how E and J are growing, what they do day in and day out, their mental state toward life, school, each other. We will not be there to speak of our love for the children, their love for us. We will not be there to declare that they are a part of our family or that the idea of losing them after almost 2 years of caring for them would be so devastating I can not even think of it without feeling a large weight in my chest. We are to be living in the clinical uncomplication of the fostering world. Separate, unattached.

I can not understand the concept of separation of spirit and physical, care and love. Honestly, I don't want to understand it. To the state, we are to care for these children as if they are our own, while separating ourselves so that we will let them go as soon as we are told. I get the concept. The reality is not so easy to wrap my brain around. I stand as mother and advocate of these children in their mental health, their physical health, their schooling, their daily routine, but when it comes to advocating for them as to their best interests for long term health, wellness and happiness, I am lost for the tools. I am standing at the feet of the decision makers and find myself short of a voice. And for this girl who wears opinions like accessories, I find myself frustrated.

I find in every aspect of my life I am asked to separate myself into parts. Just like the idea of separating my heart and soul from these kids and their physical needs. Separate hurt from actions when someone who you feel should love you unconditionally acts and speaks to and about you with such disregard you feel more an enemy than loved one. Separate actions from faith because of some invisible line between the spiritual and physical that I earnestly believe doesn't exist. Separate my joy and happiness from my physical being because somewhere along the way celebration equated to the opposite of reverence. Separate my feelings from my life, because it is deemed selfishness to truly feel the way you feel.

Where did we decide along the way we could be so easily divided? When did we find our lives a convenient ice cube tray where each part was walled off from the other? Maybe it is because I am female, maybe it is because I wear my heart on my sleeve, or maybe it is because it is totally contrary to nature, I can not live a life of separation. My spirit, my body, my soul can not be divided. My heart and my mind are one and the same and they can not be contained apart from the very essence of who God made me to be. Must I practice discipline? Absolutely. Must I work on restraint? Of course. But divide myself? May it never be.

I accept by staying whole, fully connected soul, spirit, body, mind and heart, I will face a world who will try to divide me. I will open myself up to pain and hurt. Just like the very real hurt that could come in having to face giving up Emma and Jordon if the court says we must. But in division, I would miss out on the colossal blessings of loving with total abandon. And no fear of pain is so ominous that the reality of love can not champion it completely.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Personal History

As I am writing this a dear friend, Rob Miller, is undergoing heart surgery. They thought there were 3 blockages to bypass, but the news is that there are up to 6 the surgeons are correcting while they have his chest open. When I learned of the news of his mild heart attack, it caught me at such surprise, I felt a bit out of wind.

Rob Miller. He is and shall always be an important part of my family history. When I moved to Louisville to begin working after college, Rob was, as he continues to be, the preacher at Gardiner Lane church. I don't quite recall when I met Rob and his wife Lynn, but soon after I had settled into Gardiner Lane as my church family, I have memories of being invited to their home for dinner, going out after church for meals. It was not long before I was fully in love with their family, including their children Taylor and Logan, who at the time were very young. I found myself spending more and more time at their home, enjoying their company and soon feeling like just part of the family.

Rob was like an older brother to me. He was protective and encouraging and honestly, he spoiled me rotten. His generosity is like none I have ever known. He gives of himself, his time and his money with such generosity, it is hard to know how to receive at times. When Nate and I began to date and became engaged, he offered a marriage class and then volunteered to do our pre-marital counseling.

Rob supported our relationship and helped us to build it up as we prepared for our marriage, charging us with the task of talking out all manner of things, we left to our own devices would not have thought to talk about. He ministered to us individually and as a couple and when he then pronounced us husband and wife, it felt only natural that it was he who would be forever linked to our marriage, by his signature on our license, but more importantly as focusing our thoughts on what our marriage would be.

Just after our marriage, Rob knew Nathan and I wanted to buy a house. He had a house in his charge where his mother and aunt had lived. He approached us, shared a plan for us to own our own home. He again ministered to us, encouraging us to think through what we could afford, what we needed, and then again with great generosity offered us a plan to purchase our very first home with his help. Once again, Rob was a fixture in our purchasing our first home. Conveniently, he and his family lived just around the corner and it would allow us to spend a lot of time with them.

When Nathan and I found out we were pregnant with Noah, Rob again was a support for us. When I went into labor, the first person at the hospital was Rob and he sat with us while we waited for a room to open for me. He kept me entertained when I really was scared out of my mind. Just his presence with us helped me. Just like that big brother I had never had, he seemed to make the world a better place for me. The week after I had Noah, I needed to take him to the doctor, but could not drive because I had an epidural. Rob came and picked me and Noah up and took us to the doctor's office. As I took Noah back to the room for his exam, Rob was questioned if he was the grandfather, Rob is only 14 years older than me. When I came out with Noah, he met me so tickled by this conversation. I heard him tell that story over and over, each time with more laughter.

Whenever I needed anything, I could call Rob and he would come and help. When I was scared, he came to comfort. When I was sick, he came to mow grass or bring food. When Nate and I were in trouble, he would minister to us and would help us through difficult conversations.

When Nathan was offered a job and we knew we were to move, the people I dreaded telling the most were Rob and Lynn. Nathan and I knew we would miss them of all our friends the most, for they were more family than friends. I asked them to meet me for lunch and I broke the news to them. I will never forget the disappointment and hurt in their faces that contrasted the words of support they spoke. I knew we were letting them down by moving on. It hurts my heart to think that any action we would do would bring them hurt or sadness.

It has been 9 years since we moved from Louisville. As time and distance tend to do, we don't share the same closeness, the same easy relationship that we once shared. It is among my life disappointments that what needed to be done for our family required us to be at a distance from Rob and Lynn. There is never a time I don't hold them in my heart. Rob will forever be my big brother, a vital part of my personal history.

So today as he undergoes this surgery, I find myself more prayerful than I tend to be. I pray for his health and recovery because I know I was not special in the attentions he gave. That was Rob, he offered all that he offered me to most he came into contact with. The world is a better place because Rob is in it and personal histories are being made with him as a pillar in them.

Noah and I plan to travel to visit with Rob tomorrow and my heart yearns to see him ok, to give him a hug and to share with him just how much I love him. I wish only it did not take a medical emergency to bring to my remembrance the importance of sharing the love and the thankfulness I have for him and his family.

Dear God in Heaven,
Please be with my dear friend Rob as he continues to be in surgery. Heal him Lord, bring him through this surgery. Help me and all those who have been ministered to by Rob, return that service with love and thankfulness. Lord I trust in You,
Because of Jesus,

Monday, February 6, 2012

My Love for Jeremy Bowman

One of my first friends when I moved to Louisville was the incomparable Jeremy Bowman. He welcomed me with a whirlwind of energy that made me happy to know people like him in the world exist. While he has been one of Nathan's dearest friends since they were in elementary school, I count him among my dearest friends, even though geography and busy lives seem to get in our way of spending quality time together. Each time I see him, I am swept up in his contagious energy and I remember why I adore him. There is seldom a time Jeremy doesn't stand up the biggest fan of our children, always offering his help and support in their ventures.

This week Jeremy, with his wife Mikki Jo and daughter Amira, have suffered a great loss. Their son lost his life at the hands of Trisomy 18. There are no words to describe how saddened I am for them. Loss has a great way of being universal and so specific to each situation. I can not imagine how they are feeling; the loss they are experiencing. Nathan and I have lost multiple babies to miscarriage and while this situation differs, I know my own pain. It is a pain not only of a precious little one, but a pain that comes from grieving the future that will not be. It burdens us with the pangs of our faith coming under attack, and in the end it is a pain that is hard to share with others as it is a loss not easily understood by those who have not walked in it's shadow.

My prayer is that those of us who will gather to share in their loss at tomorrow's service will muster all the energy of love and compassion we have received through the years from our dear friend, Jeremy, and reflect it back to him, filling him up in these days when his heart is weary.

Jeremy, I love you and I lift you up in my prayers. Wishing only that I could carry a portion of your burden in the loss. My heart is with you sweet friend.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Nathan part 2

The following evening, I finished working and hurried home to freshen up for the evening with Nathan. I was working at State Farm as a Claims Adjuster. Nathan was a student at IUS and was working at UPS through the night. The plan was for him to come to my apartment with pizza and movies. We would spend the evening together and he would need to leave by 11 so he could get to work.

He arrived with a pizza and 2 videos, Birdcage and Fargo. We sat the pizza on the floor and layed out on the floor eating and talking. Since meeting Nathan, I have found there to be few things I enjoy more than talking with him. From our friendship to this second date, we found ourselves deep in conversation. We decided if we were to watch a movie before he left for work, we better get to it. After the movie, we sat and talked. And talked. And talked. We were so engaged in the conversation we did not realize that it was 2 in the morning. Nathan was more than 2 hours late for work and we just did not want the night to end. Nate dealt with his work situation and then said,"So you want to watch the other movie?" We put in Birdcage and watched. As it ended, I suggested I make us a big breakfast. I would need to be getting up to go to work in an hour, so we might as well just spend the rest of the evening together. I made us eggs and toast. Nathan says I gave what he still refers to as "the look" and he pulled me close and kissed me. In that kiss, I knew my life was forever changed. Two weeks later, Nathan turned to me and said, I am not saying anytime soon, but I am going to marry you.

And so is the start of our story, Nathan has said he loved me long before we went on our first date, and it took only a couple dates to fall in love. Such is the benefit of dating your best friend. Since developing a friendship with Nathan, there is no one in the world I would rather spend time with, talk to, or love. The past 15 years have been full, not always easy, at times down right difficult, but through it all, and as I look to our future, I am so thankful for this man whose name means Gift of God. He truly is a gift to me.


Nathan and I met in the fall of 1996, he was preaching a sermon at Gardiner Lane church of Christ. After the sermon, he came up and introduced himself to me. He was wearing a green toned suit that made his eyes look like they were going to explode green. We actually got dinner together that night, along with about 20 other people. We sat together, he bought my pizza. He has said he left that night thinking, "She's cute, but I will never date her, we have nothing in common." I left thinking of the college boy who had my heart.

That December, we had a college and singles Bible Study. We sent invitations to churches all over town. Nathan and I were the only ones who came. We sat and talked for a few hours. We didn't study the Bible, we just talked about music, movies, church and people we knew in common. When he left I was glad to have a friend.

Weeks passed before I talked with him again. I was visiting around churches and traveling with friends. In January of 1997 I went to Illinois for the month to train for my job. I had made the decision to move on from that boy who had my heart and had started to date my dentist. I had also started to regularly attend Gardiner Lane. Nathan and I met for lunch when I returned home from claim school. He asked me,"Have you been somewhere, I have not seen you?" I remember being a bit bothered by him not noticing I was gone, but was still going on dates with my dentist and I had met a man in Illinois who also had my attention.

From that lunch on we began to hang out more frequently. Usually with a group of friends. We would have dinner together here and there, go to meetings together. All along enjoying our friendship. He had become my best friend in Louisville. As is the case in small churches, the fact Nathan and I were spending time together created a wave of conversation. Soon I heard little else but Nathan this and Nathan that. I heard "You should just go up and kiss him." I heard, "He had his heart broken before." I found it very amusing how we had cheerleaders rooting for something, I know we were both thinking about but not quite ready to pursue.

In April, I was invited by my now mother-in-law to go to Thunder Over Louisville. This would be my first experience with the Derby celebrations. Nathan would join us only for the fireworks, he would be sleeping from working the night shift at UPS. I enjoyed visiting with the Joneses, talked a lot with Trevor and enjoyed people watching. As the sun began to fall, Nathan joined us. We sat together and watched the fireworks and something changed. A small change, but still a change. The next evening, we were leaving church and I said to Nathan, "I have not a dollar to my name, where are you taking me to dinner?" He said, "I have five dollars, I guess it is Taco Bell." We sat at Taco Bell and I bemoaned the fact that I could not get a moment's peace about him. I mused I would need to write a book, 100 Ways To Get Nathan Jones To Ask Me Out On A Date. We laughed and talked about the most ridiculous things said to us about the other. We ate a hearty dinner for 2 on $5.00 and left for him to drop me back off at my car.

As we said our goodbyes, he said, "Do you have plans for tomorrow night? Do you want to actually try out a date?" I was so excited. How strange to be going on a first date with my closest friend in the city, whom I had spent hours and hours of time. Monday night he picked me up and took me to dinner at the Italian Oven. I remember thinking how odd it was to be nervous, but I think we both were. Not so much because we were nervous with each other, but instead in the idea we would blow a great friendship by pursuing something more if it did not work out well. It was a long dinner, full of laughter and drawing on the paper table covers. Nathan took me back to my apartment. He walked me back to my door and we lingered saying goodnight. He began to walk away and turned and asked, "Want me to bring some pizzas and movies tomorrow night?" I smiled, agreed, turned into my apartment and may or may not have done a little happy dance. (to be continued)