I had the honor of sitting down with one of the most incredible worship leaders in the country: Sis. Doretha Jones! For more information about Sis. Jones, her family, and their ministry at Bryan United Pentecostal Church, see our About Us page.
A fashionably floppy black hat shielded her very fair skin from the hot Georgia sun as we chatted during the girls’ pool time at Legacy camp. Her daughter JoAnna was swimming and didn’t want her mom to leave. Luckily, I wasn’t about to turn down a chance to do an interview next to the pool!
For just over an hour, I got to listen as Sis. Jones poured out her heart in words of encouragement. There was so much of value that I decided to split it into two posts!!! In all, I was incredibly inspired and challenged by her thoughts, and I hope to share them with you in the spirit that they were delivered to me.
Don’t miss Part 2, Train Up a Child!
Godliness, with Contentment – Part 1
Thanksgiving and Thanks-Living
“Attitude is everything;” we’ve heard it all our lives. Our attitude determines our trajectory. Where we are in our lives, in our hearts, and in our minds, is a product of the choices we have made and are making now. Joy in itself is a decision we choose.
Of course, we have all been subjected to the choices of others. But to those who perceive their lives as a sequence of decisions outside of their control, I just say, “Welcome to the jungle!” We’ve all been hurt and had heartache. For every pain that anyone has ever been through, there is someone that has experienced worse. And some of the very people that have walked the loneliest valleys any person can travel still choose to exude joy and peace!
Our choices are powerful! God gives us the gift of free will in our actions and in our attitudes. And we can choose how to respond to the situations Life puts in our path.
So choose thankfulness. With thankfulness, you can adjust to whatever life throws at you. Thankfulness is our rudder, guiding our hearts even when those hurts and heartaches come.
And not being thankful is a dishonor to God! This is why the Bible instructs us to “Enter His gates with thanksgiving!” (Psalm 100:1), and “In everything give thanks” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
I know first hand that it’s not easy. At times, it’s been the most difficult thing I’ve ever had to do.
Our son Dillion was diagnosed with cancer while we were living in Colorado. After we got the diagnosis, my husband, Pastor Brian Jones, wanted to go to the chapel. Standing in the quiet sanctuary, my heart shattering into innumerable pieces, my husband said, “Now, we’re going to raise our hands and thank God for counting us worthy of this trial.”
I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t raise my hands.
He turned to me and, with urgency, repeated, “We are going to raise our hands and thank Him for counting us worthy of this trial!”
And as I slowly lifted heavy hands in thanks to God for His faith in us, an immense, unspeakable peace flooded over me. In that moment of absolute pain, I experienced “peace that passeth all understanding” (Philippians 4:7).
That peace is what carried me through two years of extensive treatment, and it is still carrying me now, through the years since Dillon passed.
That’s the difference between thanksgiving and, what I call, “thanks-living.” See, it’s easy to give thanks when things are good.
But to have an “attitude of gratitude” in all things, we must live our lives in a spirit of thankfulness. Even if we can’t be thankful for what we are going through, we can thank God for trusting us, counting us worthy of the trials we walk through. And we can thank Him for the assurance that He is walking beside us, covering us with His peace.
He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler.
Contentment Where We Are
One symptom that we aren’t living in thankfulness is the need to “Keep up with the Joneses” (no pun intended!).
My mom never let my sister and me act like we were older than our actual age. Even in play, she wouldn’t let us pretend to be teenagers when we weren’t even preteens yet.
“Enjoy 11 and 12, don’t rush to be 17 and 18!” she’d say. Mom was teaching us contentment.
When my parents began evangelizing in my teens, my sister and I traveled across the country with them in a travel trailer. We loved it! We felt honored to be part of their calling. In learning contentment from my mother as children, God had been preparing us for that ministry.
True contentment readies our hearts for more.
You can find contentment and still strive for excellence. Being happy in your current place doesn’t mean you’re satisfied just to stay there forever!
Contentment says, “I am at peace where I am, but when God leads, I’m ready to move forward!”
I have counseled women in the past who were discontent and struggling with finding peace where they were in their lives. It didn’t take long to identify tangible steps that they could take towards being more content with who they were and practicing self-love. As they began adopting an attitude of thankfulness and taking special care of the blessing already in their lives, it wasn’t long before God began opening doors for them!
Because the spiritual bleeds into the natural, contentment in our spirits will reveal itself in our daily lives, in how we carry ourselves, in how we take care of the blessings we’ve already received, and in how we treat those around us.
But satisfaction with where we are is not stagnation. At some point, all of us are called to graduate from baby food to real meat! We can exercise contentment and still be hungry for what’s next.
What’s Driving You?
What are we striving for? The key to knowing if you’re striving or stagnant is to know your motivation.
Are you seeking only to increase yourself? Are you trying to do as little as possible to maintain the status quo?
Or do you want to be part of what God’s doing in the Kingdom? Are you wanting more for your walk with Him, your family, your children?
Or are you wanting to measure up to some invisible ruler that you judge other people’s lives with? Are you being motivated by their new car or house or outfit?
As to the Lord
Godliness. Contentment. Ambition. It is all part of our choice to be or not to be thankful. Choosing thankfulness will shape our decisions and perceptions our entire lives.
One year, we did family portraits as part of a church fundraiser. When it was time to view the proofs and purchase packages, nearly every single family had complaints about their picture!
“I can’t believe I wore that top!”
“My hair was a mess!”
“Oh, I look huge!”
Complaint after complaint after complaint later, I finally had enough.
Before the next group even had time to open their mouths to start the fussing, I said, “If you don’t like what you see, do something about it! If you hate your clothes, change them. If you don’t like your hair, fix it. If you think you’re too fat, go on a diet! But I don’t want to hear any more complaints about these pictures!”
Because those complaints are not just about our appearance, be it shirt, hair, or size. It’s a symptom of discontent and an indication of a heart that isn’t thankful.
We use complaints as deflections from what’s going on inside us. Instead of addressing the choices that we’ve made to be who, what, and where we are, we deflect. Instead of choosing to be thankful for the clothes we own, the hair we still have, and the food on our table, we complain.
All those negative comments add up. They have an effect on our spirit. They bring our view of ourselves down. Instead of investing in attention to detail in ourselves, we focus on the negatives, the complaints, the excuses. As a result, we lose the attitude of caring about ourselves.
How you view yourself influences your perception of things going on around you.
That is why, in counseling the women in our church who are frustrated and discontent, I often encourage them to invest time and effort into themselves. We can’t all buy new clothes, but we can iron the ones we have. We can’t all do elaborate hairstyles, but we can fix what we got! We don’t all have high paying corporate jobs, but we can give honor to God and ourselves by giving our best in the workplace.
And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.
And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men;
Colossians 3:17 & 23
Not only does investing in ourselves strengthen us and improve our view of ourselves, it gives thanks to God for the blessings He has already bestowed on us!
As our perspective brightens from a continual mindset of thankfulness, the situations around us also begin to lighten. It’s like sitting in the shade wearing sunglasses, then removing them to step out into the sunlight! The colors were just as vivid before as they are in the bright light, but we couldn’t perceive their beauty because of the darkened perception between us and the world.
Thankfulness. Contentment. Ambition.
When we focus on these aspects, things will begin to change. We will recognize His blessings. We will be called to greater things. We will find confidence walking in His calling.
And if we as women get a hold of pure, holy confidence in the spirit, we can turn our homes, our families, and the Kingdom inside out.
Don’t miss Part 2 of this interview! Sis. Jones has even more incredible “nuggets” on parenting, God’s will, and worship! I’m so, so thankful to her for sharing her heart, and I’ll be applying these words to my heart and my life.
If this blessed you, please comment below and share this post with other women of faith! We will continue to host women of inspiring faith and experience on Grace Spoken Here. Our other guest contributors and coauthors can be found on our About Us page!