Thursday, March 14, 2019

Hard Work Doesn't Have to be so Hard

A little while back I signed up for the Desiring God emails so I could have more variety in my options for Bible studies and devotions when a theme or title caught my eye. I really like how when a verse is quoted or referenced, you can click on it to see the text without it taking you to a new page; only a small box pops up next to the hyperlinked scripture. Just a helpful tidbit there. 

One from this week was about hard work. Obviously that is something relevant to me. I have changed so much, but I can still tend to work too hard, too often. I like to be busy, feeling like I am being productive with my time, but I know there comes a point where being busy is counterproductive. You can only do so much, and when you do too much, you're not doing much of anything well. Then it becomes not doing the work well, but doing it to do it and for the wrong reasons, like just getting through it, making someone happy, impressing people, making yourself look good, etc. 

We live in a world full demands. There is always something to be done. Someone (or many someones) is always asking more of you. It's a love-hate relationship. I can attest. We love the work and to feel accomplished, to do our jobs, but we hate that it takes time away from anything else we could be doing and that it wears us down and stresses us out. Sometimes we reach the point of dreading the day and want to stop, but we can't. Even when we have the opportunity to take a break, we don't. (How many of you bring work home with you and/or worry about it all day and night? You could sleep in but still get up early? etc) Can't live with it but can't live without it. That's part of being a sinful human, and it goes all the way back to Adam and Eve. They sinned, and it made work hard.

Work is often synonymous with labor (Labor Day, labor costs), but it is also the word for childbirth. That's another one of those love-hate things. Pregnancy is a long, stressful, painful process, but it has a wonderful goal. Sometimes I'm sure it seems like the end will ever come, and the moment is miserable, but one day that season will end, and there will be new life! It is probably the hardest work any human can do, and it is all within her body, but it also brings one of the greatest rewards.
From the beginning, we were created to do work. God put people on earth to work the land and take care of the animals (Genesis 1:26-30). He created us to do good works (Ephesians 2:10). We often think of work like our jobs, the work we do for pay, to make a name for ourselves, get a paycheck, put food on the table, buy things, but it isn't all about us, and it isn't all about our job. We can do this work, these good deeds in any and every situation. Even better, when we take the burden off of ourselves so much and look outward with our works, it gives us greater purpose and motivation. For example, at work, we can be a positive light to our coworkers and/or customers. In the classroom, we can work to learn more so that we can be resourceful and give back to society. On the practice field and weight room we can get stronger so we can have opportunities to go places and encourage people, be stronger so we can be prepared to do our daily tasks better, be confident in the challenges we approach each day. Nurses are an example of people with exhausting jobs and hours, but in that time, they can find motivation outside of doing their tasks and in making a difference in people's lives. I myself have found encouragement in the hardest times of my life by a doctor or nurse who made efforts to be kind to my family and me. I've had my day brightened by a cashier who gave me a compliment. I've found strength from teammates who push through workouts alongside me. I've found encouragement from conversations from teachers that show they care about more than my grades. I find it much easier to workout and race when I am doing it not only for my own pride (yikes, I have to watch that) but for my coaches who have done so much for me, my teammates who find inspiration in my perseverance and hard work, my parents who love me and have supported me through everything, the world out there that needs to see a fighter against odds, and most importantly God who has given me grace, mercy, and new strength to share with the world.

While work is good and created by God to be used for God, it will not make us right with Him. We are sinners and fall short, and we can't fix it. That sounds depressing, but it is actually freeing! How great is it to know that even though we will fail many times, we are still loved and still saved. Our eternity does not depend on how fast we run, how many friends we have, what job position we get promoted to, how much money we make, where we live, etc., but it depends on the fact that we are already saved by God's grace (Ephesians 2:8). When I push myself to work so hard and sometimes feel like I haven't worked hard enough or performed well enough, I have learned to give myself that grace that God gives. Sometimes I am not going to be able to do as much as I did another time or as much as I would like to or plan to, but that is okay. All God wants is my best. I am not here to please other people, only Him. He knows our intentions and our hearts, but He also holds the plan for the future, and that is what will happen.

God has given us His Spirit to help us both rest and work (Philippians 2:13, Colossians 1:29, 2 Timothy 2:21, Titus 3:8, 14). When we have this spirit, we have a new work ethic, new desire, new motivation.
Not only is work work considered work that can be tough at times, but specifically Christian ministry work is work that is tough at times. The New Testament has several parables and sayings from Jesus that refer to ministry like working in fields (Matthew 9:37-38/Luke 10:2) and bearing fruit (John 15:8, Romans 7:4).

In our daily lives when we feel overwhelmed by work of any and every kind, find rest. Rest in the fact knowing that your best is enough for God who gives you the work. Find courage knowing that there is purpose and a plan behind what you come to along your daily walk. Find freedom knowing that you are not bound to others' standards or opinions. Work for more than yourself, more than to get it done. Work with purpose.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

A General Update with More to Come

Dog Sit with Rover

It's been a really long time since I've written any real/personal blog posts, but my mind and heart have been full of things along the way that I've wanted to share. Life has been crazy busy, which is what has been keeping me from doing so, but my Strava stays pretty up to date by the day, because it is something I can simply add pictures and notes to from my day from my phone as I get time here and there. I'm on spring break this week and have some down time, though much more than I was looking forward to...more of that to come later.

God has been at work so much in my life over the past two years, and it is awesome to be able to feel and see it in my own life, and I want to share that with others, too. I know that is the reason I go through so much; God brings us through things in His power so we can use it as a testimony for others, and that's what I want to do. Even when things are not fun (sitting through irrelevant yet required campus programs), annoying (roommates never taking out the trash), painful (falling on the sidewalk), even miserable (running in a 35 degree downpour with 13 mph wind), I know they have a purpose. That's what gets me through each day.

So along the way, I hope to go back and share some of the highs, lows, and usuals of the daily life of Makenzie Jones. It's a journey for sure. Keep up with me here or on any of my social media. I love to share and would love to hear back from anyone!

So since I don't know where to start, here's a little update on my life in general:

-I am in school at UT Chattanooga (after transferring twice, not planned, not moving again)

-I am running cross country and track there! We got 2nd in the Southern Conference in October to Furman, so we basically won.

-I ran my first xc 6k this fall and my first indoor track 5k this winter.

-I hit a huge PR in the 5k!

-I am still a Communications major, but I added a double major in Sports, Outdoor Recreation, and Tourism (SORT) and a minor in Business.

-My dog has amazing climbing skills. (Or she is a magician.)

-We have lived in our new house on the lake for 1 year and 3 days!

-I finally feel like I am actually in college (but still a freshman for the 3rd year)

-Two of my teammates are married, one is engaged, and three more will be any day now.

-I've made many friends from other countries!

-Being a college athlete is HARD, but I wouldn't trade it for a thing. There is not enough time to do everything. I can't. I try to accept it, don't freak out, do what I can. (But I still tend to freak out; just ask my mom, who gets my text messages daily.)

-The dining hall is my lifesaver. Literally. And all the staff know me by name.

-God always has a plan. Those plans are not my plans, but they turn out to bless me way more than what I had thought was going to happen. Keep trusting.

Here's some pictures to give a sneak peak of details on these things to come!



Friday, December 21, 2018

Healthy Holiday Recipes


For my second article for Tennessee Health & Wellness this Christmas, I got to do one of my favorite things...browse new recipes! There is no other time of year when people host and attend potlucks and family dinners, and sometimes you need something quick and/or new. If you're like me, cooking can be a great way to express yourself and serve others. This was a great stress relief for me during the end of the semester!


We all know that holidays are the best time of year to gather with family and friends to enjoy each others’ company, and this rarely happens without food. Holiday food tends to be the most delicious, too, right? This can strike fear into some people as they are worried about their health and how indulgent a dish may be. There is no reason that holiday meals can’t be healthy, too. Here are some examples of healthy foods including sides, desserts, and main meats that you can make for the holiday celebrations.
Coffee braised pot roast recipe from Eating Well uses reduced sodium and adds coffee, garlic, thyme, and onion for a boost of flavor.
By using garlic, ginger, curry, and cumin, your turkey can have great flavor and health benefits. A yogurt topping can provide more protein and a creamy option other than gravy. (Eating Well)
Fig and pig quiche is a recipe that will impress your guests. Breakfast, brunch, lunch, or dinner, this versatile dish from Run Fast, Eat Slow will help you savor the season while feeling good about what you put on your plate.
Squash in combination with chili gives it an even more winter-comfort-food feel while adding color and vitamins. Adding in “hidden” chia seeds packs a nutritional punch for protein, fiber, omega-3s, and iron. (Food Network)
Mushroom and sweet potato pot pie could serve as a side or a main dish depending on how big you want to make it, where it could serve as a meat-free main dish. (Taste of Home)
 -Monique at Ambitious Kitchen makes this traditionally sweet and buttery sweet potato casserole with few ingredients and as much or more satisfaction. Instead of sugar, butter, and marshmallows, this casserole uses maple syrup, oats, and pecans.
For another root vegetable side, these lemon parmesan carrots go beyond basic while still making the cooking simple. (Cooking Light)
I don’t know how you can have a Thanksgiving or Christmas meal without green beans, so here are two options: A casserole found on Cooking Light uses mushrooms and cauliflower for creaminess and wheat bread crumbs for crunch. For simply seasoned beans, add miso to the sautee pan. (
 Food Network’s winter fruit salad recipe brings in some of the season’s best fruits, adding minimal extras, to satisfy your sweet tooth.
Bobby Flay’s brussels sprouts with pomegranate and hazelnuts make this side a nutrient-packed side that could cover the bases for an entire meal! (Food Network)
Cauliflower tapioca pudding is a recipe from Spartan Race weekly newsletter. The creaminess of this pudding from coconut milk will make you forget that you made it from a vegetable.
Apples are one of the traditional fall fruits, and peaches carry similar baking uses. With only apples, orange juice, nuts, raisins, and spices, you have a simple and healthy dessert. For a slightly sweeter and creamier option, follow this recipe for a peach crisp with a coconut milk caramel drizzle.
USA marathoner Shalane Flanagan shares sweet treats in her famous cookbook Run Fast, Eat Slow that are hearty, yet healthy, because your body needs healthy fats to indulge in. That is the goal of her pecan butter truffles. With only five ingredients, these are simple to make even if you are pressed for time. Fig jam cookies just sound like a holiday pastry. A wheat-based dough encompasses a figgy center for a bite that may remind you of Fig Newtons, but make you remember that the better things in life are homemade.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Christmas Song Histories


It's been a long time since I've posted anything, but with school, cross country, and (lack of) time and sleep, I had to keep my priorities straight! Well, as straight as I could manage, still not doing so well in that area. However, I was busy to say the least. There are so many good things I wanted to share along the way, so I will whenever I get a chance.

For December, I squeezed in two articles for Tennessee Health & Wellness. These were not only "jobs," for me, but they were also an enjoyable activity. In the midst of preparing for projects and finals, I was able to do some Christmas celebrating in researching and writing these articles. This first one I'll share is about some of the top Christmas songs, history and fun facts. Short and sweet but interesting nonetheless!


This time of year, whether you are in your car, watching TV, or in a store, Christmas music is sure to be heard. There are new songs and remakes that come out, but there is no beating the classics. While we may know the lyrics to these songs by heart, it is unlikely that we know the stories behind them. See if you knew the backgrounds of these ten holiday chart-toppers.

Jingle Bells was originally written by JP Morgan’s uncle, who was not a very cheery man himself, as he left his family multiple times and enlisted in the Georgia cavalry. The song was first performed in blackface. It was issued under the name “One Horse Open Sleigh,” and it was not written as a Christmas song, but rather Thanksgiving. Jingles Bells is also the first song broadcast from space on Gemini 6 on December 16, 1965.
Little Drummer Boy is a parallel to the Bible story of Jesus’s birth and an encouragement to people that no matter what they have, their gift to God is enough. Though there was no real drummer boy in the Bible story, it gives perspective of people visiting young Jesus with no gifts worthy of a King. Due to the repetition of “pa rum pum pump um,” it was originally called “Carol of the Drums.”
Oh Christmas Tree, aka O Tannenbaum, is a German carol dating back to the 1500s. “Tannen” is the word for fir, but most trees today are spruce. In translation, the first written lyrics come out roughly as, “Oh pine tree, you’re a noble twig! You greet us in the winter, the dear summer time.” The song is about acknowledging life of the evergreen tree year-round rather than how we now decorate them at Christmas.
Silent Night is another German song coming from a slightly unfortunate event of some actors traveling across the Austrian Alps to reenact the story of Jesus’s birth. The organ of one church they were scheduled at did not have a working organ at the time, so they moved the drama to a home. Following the show, one audience member took a peaceful walk home, remembering the words of a poem he had written a few years before. He decided it would be perfectly fitting for the congregation at the Christmas Eve service, where the organ was not missed as they embraced the beauty of the “silent night.”
Bing Crosby’s version of White Christmas holds claim to the best-selling Christmas song of all time. It already has a sad sound, but it’s first airing was also only weeks after the attack on Pearl Harbor. The composer Irving Berlin (also behind “God Bless America”) was a Russian Immigrant and Jewish, so he did not celebrate Christmas. Possibly the most sad part of the story is that he wrote the song in memory of his three-year-old son who had died on Christmas Day. The song still brings up nostalgia with people today.
Blue Christmas, another color, another sad theme, was a hit no one expected. Elvis and many others in his recording industry, thought it would fail, and he almost refused to do it. Many others have since recorded the song, including (ironically) the Beach Boys, but Elvis’s version leads the way.
Santa Baby was actually written in majority by a man, and he still doesn’t really like the song himself. He did not know how he was going to complete such a task as writing a “sexy” Christmas song for icon of the time, Eartha Kitt. After her recording in 1953, it was banned in several states for being such a scandalous turn from the norm in those days.
Feliz Navidad is only made up of 20 words in English and Spanish, but it is one of the most heartfelt carols sung today. Puerto Rican musician Jose Feliciano decided to include English lyrics because he knew that if it was only Spanish, American stations wouldn’t play it. Feliciano leads his audiences in celebration with his heart for dancing, even though he is blind and can’t see them.
The song most would recognize from “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” Christmas Time is Here by the Vince Guaraldi Trio was first sung by the children’s choir of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in 1965. The song originated as part of the Peanuts story, but it was assumed the show would only last once or twice. Little did they know the big impact the song and show would have on future generations. Lee Mendelson, producer of the show and recruiter of Guaraldi, says, “Those children’s voices will likely outlive all of us, meaning something different and something sadly wonderfully the same with every passing year.”
While “Joy to the World” can be found on Christmas-related products left and right, the song was not written about Christmas. Isaac Watts wrote this song about Jesus’s second coming. In comparing the lyrics to scripture, it is obvious to see the differences between the first and second coming. For example, when Jesus was born, the world did not accept Him, but with the song and the story of the second coming, heaven and earth both sing in praise of His return. Beyond the religious realm, it has been sung by many secular artists including Moriah Carrey and is even referenced in “Jeremiah was a Bullfrog” by Hoyt-Axton.

As you deck the halls with these Christmas classics, take a moment to think about what the words mean to you and your life during the holidays.

Monday, July 16, 2018

(Ice cream) Sunday and Babysitting Goodbyes

This was going to be a long day...I got to bed really late after work as usual on Saturday nights aka Sunday mornings, but at least it was before 1 am this time! But I'm dead. All day I could not stay awake; my eyes and head were dropping at everything. Church was really good, but I was struggling. All day I just tried to keep myself occupied to stay awake. I didn't have time to take a nap, but I would've given so much for one...

Pastor Dean's sermon was about how God is the giver of all things new. He forgives our sins, makes the sun rise each new day, changes hearts and lives in ways that we never could imagine. Passages of scripture about "new" have been great encouragement to me when I have struggled in the past and/or am trying to make a change in my life. He can take any bad situation, any sin, any sinner, and make them new. One of my favorite verses on this is Isaiah 43:19, "See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland." 
Ephesians 4:24 and Colossians 3:10 are about putting of the old self and on the new self that God made to be righteous. 
In the passage Pastor Dean used in Luke 5:36-39 and another I love in 2 Corinthians 5:17, old can't stay with the new. You must let go of what is holding you back and work in the life ahead!
This is a recurring theme in my life, especially lately with the studies I have been in! Personally (and usually with most people whether we admit it or not), I know the old that I need to get rid of. But we can't just get rid, we have to replace. New and good!
in Sunday School, our contemporary worship leader and his wife came as guest speakers. I have always loved them even before I really knew them. Last semester I got to work with Brooks in the media department as an internship in place of one of my classes. There are just some people that have that "something" about them that others admire. That's a gift from God. It is great to hear from people in all walks of life and how they have seen God at work and the advice they can give. Fellowship is one of the most powerful tools that we have!
My little kids are moving this week! I met the Mom and son on a dog walk in the old neighborhood the end of last summer, and I babysat them a time or two a month most of this year! It was really nice since they lived just down the road. I had never babysat before, but I apparently did well because they kept asking me to come back! Almost a year later, we have moved and now they are moving, too. The parents were taking an afternoon to get outside themselves, so I came and occupied the kids! David and Svea have grown up loving to be outdoors, which is something I admire about that family. It is hard to find people "not of this world" anymore. It was always good for me to get out and away from the rest of the world when I was with them, too. Today I took them some little things and some cake, then we went to the park to enjoy the beautiful day! We rode bikes, kind of (we walked a lot for the hills and roots), but David wanted to take his scooter. Svea and I didn't think that was a good idea, but he insisted and learned the hard way. Scooters are not made for trails.

Dad has been working almost nonstop on our dock for a week now. He is almost done, but it is another one of those projects that once he finally gets going, he doesn't stop. Bless his heart, he is such a hard worker, it just drags out. I am usually okay huger-wise eating dinner really late (a bad habit I've gotten into), but I have really felt the affects of this over time now. I eat later, have a really long day, do more stuff later, then get to bed later, and I just can't seem to get back on track. I have to.
**SOS my family needs sleep!

Today's holidays are National Give Something Away Day, National I Love Horses Day, and National Ice Cream Day! I didn't have anything to do with horses except drive past them on the road, but I did give my little babysitting kids a gift, card, and slice of cake! For the ice cream, here are just some pictures of the best ones...and some Breyer's that got me to win some for free from a Twitter contest!

Here we have Cold Stone Creamery (my mix from the beach with strawberry cake batter and triple berry yogurt with strawberry wafers, brownie, coconut), Breyer's, Kirk's (also from the beach, pistachio, coconut almond, blueberry pie, banana pudding), Halo Top (most of the flavors that I have tried are amazing), Bruster's (some of the best creative flavors and a good price!), Clumpies (local to Chattanooga, creative flavors!), Foote's Rest Sweet Shop (the one and only in downtown Frisco, Colorado, homemade daily!), and another not pictured is the Comfy Cow!