Mornings Outside

Sun shining.

Wind blowing.

Fresh air flowing.

Leaves swaying.

Cicadas buzzing.

Birds chirping.

Water gurgling.

Webs glistening.

Bells chiming.

Kids laughing.

Lungs deep-breathing.

Shoulders relaxing.

Mind dreaming.

Hope filling.

Peace welcoming.

Here is joy.

Here is rest.

Here is God.

A prayer

I’m feeling the waves, the wind, the sea all around me – the fundraising, the packing, the moving, the emotions. I’m losing my focus on Jesus and focusing instead on the storm.

Lord Jesus, you are sovereign. You have called us to Chad. You have provided the way. But somehow in the midst of all my preparation, my mind has lost sight of that.

I feel like Peter when he walked on water and then began to sink. I was cruising along on the waves with you, and then I looked at the storm around me and became scared.

Take my hand, Lord. Lift me up. Give me strength. Reignite your calling in me.

Not today, honey!

I’m having a hard day. I don’t feel sad or sleepy or angry. I just feel down…exhausted…weary. Depressed.

This has been a hard week. We moved out of our house and signed the closing papers. This is a huge change for us and every emotion is knocking on our doors.

I feel like I’ve been carrying a heavy load all week. And now I just want to go to bed and stay there.

I’m fully aware of my mental illness today. She’s sitting a little too close to me right now. Thankfully, I recognize how close she’s getting and I have my tool box ready to prevent her from sitting on my lap and taking control over me.

I took my meds this morning. I got out of bed, put on my clothes, and took the kids to Chick-fil-A. We ate inside so I had to interact with strangers. I had to be seen and heard. Then we went to Target for some groceries – checked something off my list – and even though I did use the self-checkout, I still had to leave the comfort of my bed and car and be around people. Then when we got back to the apartment, I played on the play ground with my kids. I laid in the grass, basked in the sun, and even asked Weslee to push me on the swing. I sat on my bed, inhaled some essential oils (bergamot, lemon, and patchouli), and wrote in my journal. People, these are HUGE wins for me on a day like today!

To some these tools of mine may seem silly, but to me they are major successes. Today, I stood up to my mental illness and said, “Not today, honey!”

In Between Chapters

This is the part before my new beginning.

I’m not enjoying it very much and that makes me sad.

I thought my time of preparing for Chad would be exciting and thought provoking.

But now, I just want it to to be over. I want to be finished packing, finished fundraising, and have already said my goodbyes. I’m ready to wake up to my new life in Chad.

I know Chad will be here before I know it, so I don’t want to rush and skip the importance of the preparation part.

I think I’ve just been so busy sorting, organizing, de-cluttering, down-sizing, and trying to fit my family’s next year into 15 pieces of luggage, that I haven’t stopped to reflect on the emotional side of it all.

I went through boxes of my late dad’s and brother’s things, and I did it all so quickly and robotically that I honestly didn’t allow myself to really feel the weight of what I was doing.

My mom asked me the other day if I have any regrets of things I’ve sold, donated, or thrown away. Thankfully, my answer is no even though I’ve been moving through everything so quickly.

I feel it’s time to stop for a moment. To pause and let this all soak in. To put all my preparation on hold and breathe in my past and present.

My talented neighbor and friend painted this portrait of our home as a perfect going away gift. Looking at it is helping me slow down and reflect on my time here. I truly have learned and grown so much here in this old house.

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No More Dumpster Diving

We have a huge dumpster in our driveway that we’ve been tossing all sorts of junk into. Everything that’s not garage sale or Goodwill worthy is meeting it’s demise in this dumpster – from broken bricks to an old beat up couch.

The other day, I threw away a couple of old diaries that I was tired of keeping up with. I doubted this decision later. I remembered the fun memories recorded on those pages, and I remembered the not so good memories. I thought that maybe I should keep the diaries to remind myself where I’ve been and what I’ve come through. I went back to the trash and pulled them out.

After reading through them, I decided to return them to the trash. I decided that having the memories from that time is better than having my actual words on a page. I would rather remember what I learned and how I grew in those moments than to have every little detail I documented during the moment.

Not sure if that makes sense, but that’s where my mind is right now.

I’m trying to simplify my possessions. I’m trying to not be sentimental with things unless they’re irreplaceable or trigger a memory I never want to forget. I want to hold on to the things that truly mean love and life to me than have a bunch of stuff just cluttering up my little world.

I guess you could say that I’m seeking a bit of minimalism. The idea of not holding on to things that really don’t add to my life is what I’m after. I only want to keep the items that evoke deep emotion in me as keepsakes. I would rather leave a couple of boxes of meaningful items for my kids to sort through when I’m gone than a whole house filled with things they really don’t care or know about.

My goal is to not pull things out of the trash if my first instinct was not to keep it. If I have to think too hard about something, it’s probably not worth keeping.

**Edited to add: I do have 2 journals that I did keep. There was no doubt in my mind of whether I would keep them or not. They are not just little details about my life, but they contain thoughts and feelings that I want to pass down to my children. Please don’t think I’m trying to be an insensitive jerk. Ha!

A New Purpose

This quote from Rebekah Lyons “Freefall to Fly” hits me right between the eyes:

“…we walk the streets of our cities with appointments and responsibilities but lack a sense that God intended purpose for our days.”

I knew my purpose and destiny in life was in missions/humanitarian work since I was 15 years old. God confirmed that calling multiple times throughout high school and college. Because of that desire and pull on my life, I traveled quite a bit. I signed up for every mission trip I could. I raised support from family, friends, and churches. I remember living in Sweden for 3 months after college and knowing that my purpose in life was to leave the US and show God’s love around the world.

Even when Robert and I got married, we talked about traveling together and raising our family overseas. We satisfied this desire for a while through Robert’s travels with TEAM. I even accompanied him on a trip to Guatemala once. Then God called us to Chad.

We visited Chad for one month in 2014 and fell in love with the people and the mission. After that trip, we knew we were supposed to go back at some point. Our whole family was excited to plan a year-long excursion as missionaries in Chad. We began praying about when and how.

God had a slight detour for us though. He opened doors for both us to start new jobs here in Chicagoland. This seemed to take us away from missionary life. We walked through those doors and did well. We put the kids in a great school, got a cat and a dog, began to fix up our old home and develop deep friendships. We were becoming settled and comfortable and not really thinking much about life as missionaries.

Then God brought along a Facebook post that changed everything.

I saw that TEAM was looking for a teacher for a homeschool kindergarten class in Chad. I immediately emailed Robert saying, “I can do this.” The wheels started turning. We sent emails, Facetimed friends in Chad, and prayed continually about this opportunity. Every door we knocked on opened. It was like God was flashing a neon sign saying, “Now is the time for the Johnsons to return to Chad!”

So here we are in the middle of packing up our home, raising a budget, and planning on leaving in September for a mission that calls us to fulfill the purpose for our days. The plan right now is to go for a year, but I know if God opens the door for us to stay longer, we will walk through it. We’re nervous but excited to see what this next step in our faith will bring.

You can connect with us and hear more about what we will be doing in Chad at www.wearethejohnsons.com. You can contribute to our mission by clicking here.

 

Turn. Set your journey. Go.

Deut 1:6-7

The Israelites camped in the wilderness for 38 years. They didn’t know God’s where, what, or why. They had so many questions and doubts during this time.

Finally, after they grew and learned a lot about themselves and God, he gave them a direction. Turn, set your journey, and go toward the promise land.

I feel like I’ve been wandering the wilderness for the last 7 years. Although, the last couple of years have been a peaceful wandering – my peace pocket. Now, I feel the Lord shaking things up again. I’m not sure what’s in store.

Door 1 – I see the Lord growing Robert and me in our current jobs and the kids’ school. I see the opportunities for us to be settled here, growing in our work and ministries. Challenging but comfortable.

Door 2 – I see the same as door 1, but Robert and I digging into our writing and being challenged by it. Exciting but nerve-racking.

Door 3 – I see the opportunity to go back to Chad, which would require giving up our comfortable life in the suburbs and immersing ourselves into Chadian culture. Scary but exciting.

I honestly can say that I don’t know which of the 3 lies ahead. There’s a part of me that wants each option.

I’m praying over them and trusting God will guide us into the right path.

Why I March

I had a few people ask me why I participated in the Women’s March on January 21. I gave them the short answer, but I decided to try and organize my thoughts to give a longer answer. I know not everyone will agree and some may not even understand, but this is why I march.

First of all, let me answer the question, “why would I, a peace-seeking Christian, take part in a loud, showy protest?”

Honestly, I feel it’s my God-given duty to stand up for what is right. We see many examples of this in the Bible. For instance, Stephen did not sit silently. The Book of Acts tells us he preached what he believed until he died. When the Sanhedrin began stoning him, he continued to preach. That’s quite a protest.

We read about Paul and Peter and the other apostles who preached when it was against the law. They stood up in the streets and proclaimed the truth. They did not sit silently. They went against the religious leaders and government of their day. They were thrown in jail, they were beaten, they were killed for what they believed in. They were preaching love. They were preaching the gospel of Jesus, that he came to seek and save the lost. That he loves the disenfranchised. He loves the minorities. He loves everyone. The apostles were going to make sure everyone knew that.

In the Old Testament, Esther protested. She illegally went before her king and could have died because of that choice. She did it anyway because she knew she had to stand up for her people. She did not sit silently. She protested, and her people survived!

So I protest by marching.

I march for equal rights. It should not matter who you are, where you’re from, or what you look like, you deserve to be treated equally and justly. If people meet the same requirements and have the same qualifications, they deserve to get hired for the same job and paid the same wages. Children deserve a quality education no matter where they live or how much or how little money their family has. All people, whether black or white, rich or poor, should receive the same punishment if they commit similar crimes. Paul tells us in Galatians 3:38, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” If we seek to be like Jesus, then we will treat everyone with equality.

I march for refugees. I march because people of this world need to be loved. People of this world need to know that someone is for them. That they are not alone nor forgotten. If we as free Christians do not tell them, who will? If we do not show them they are valued, who will?

I march so women are not sexually exploited. I march to see an end to sex trafficking and rape culture. I march so my son knows to treat women respectfully and that they are not sexual objects.

I march because God gave us the freedom to choose how we want to live. I believe living according to the Bible is the right way, but it’s still a person’s choice. I’m thankful I am not persecuted for my beliefs. I don’t want anyone else to be persecuted for theirs.

I march for gun control. I don’t have a solution, but seeing a graph like this shows me America needs to do something now!

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I march for our environment. I believe God has called us to care for his creation. He created this amazing world for us to live in, and we are destroying it. The science about climate change is fact not theory. We must tend to this beautiful creation.

I march because I live in a democracy and I can. The law allows me to speak out and speak up for what I believe.

To be honest, it’s hard for me not to have bitterness in my heart toward our new president and his staff. I don’t understand why God allowed him to be a presidential candidate or to get elected. (I think it goes back to God giving us free choice.) But I know that God is in control no matter our choices. I know that his plan will eventually unfold. So I choose to pray for our government leaders. I know they are people in need of a Savior. We all need Jesus and each other.

Health

After Weslee was born in 2013, I didn’t stress about getting back to my pre-pregnancy weight. I decided I was comfortable with the extra 15 lbs I’d gained and bought new clothes. It was a freeing feeling to not be stressed about getting back to my pre-baby body. I’ve been content with my weight/body image for the last 3 years.

Then last October my doctor and I decided to up my dosage of anxiety medication. We’ve been trying to find the right meds and the right dosage for a while. We finally found it with this last change! Yay!

I feel normal for the first time in years…maybe for the first time in my life. I am not as moody as I used to be, not as impatient, nor as negative. I sleep better, handle conflict better, and am a much better wife, mother, friend, and employee. I used to wonder if I was abnormal because of the rollercoaster of emotions I rode daily – not to mention the anxiety attacks and bouts with depression I experienced. Feeling emotionally and mentally balanced – what I consider normal – is a wonderful feeling!

But with all of that positivity comes a bit of negativity. I’ve gained 11 pounds since my dosage changed. EEK! I can’t blame it on holiday binge eating because I didn’t binge eat this year. My diet and exercise have pretty much stayed the same as they were before the new dosage. Also, weight gain is big side effect of this particular drug. Boooo!

So, here I am almost weighing the amount I did when I was 9 months pregnant, and I’m definitely NOT pregnant. I’m not content with these new 11 lbs, and I do not want to buy new clothes in a bigger size.

On top of that, I read these two articles that talk about how heart disease is the leading cause of death in American women and how mental illness can potentially increase one’s risk of heart disease. My anxiety soared while I was reading the article that linked mental illness to heart disease. I had to stop reading it for a bit to calm myself down.

With weight gain and heart disease on my mind, I knew I had to make a change.

I emailed a friend with similar mental health issues, and asked for her advice. She shared: I am just committed to the reality that whole health is me on meds, exercising, eating whole foods and going to therapy. That is me whole.

Her words struck a chord with me. I know I cannot go back to feeling “abnormal” again, so I am determined to adopt my friend’s definition of a whole self. I will stay on my meds (let all the family say “Amen!”), I will eat healthy and clean, I will be consistent with exercise, I will continue to see my therapist as needed, I will be consistent with prayer and bible study, and I will commit to writing every week as another form of therapy and accountability.

I’m going to put up reminder post-it notes around my house, car, and office to help me stay focused. I might tell my kids to help hold me accountable too – they will be more than happy to have something to nag me about. Ha!

Here’s to a life of whole health – spiritual health, physical health, and mental health!

Mental

Today was a doozy! It’s 9pm and I just said goodnight to the last child. It’s time for momma and daddy to enjoy some rest and relaxation.

My middle child has SPD and some behavioral issues, and today showed them off in full force. From around 9am until 8pm he was on a huge roller coaster of angry to silly to angry again. He broke his favorite night light and a keepsake from Austria after raging in his room. He kicked his sister when she did something he didn’t like. He screamed “I hate you” to me more times than I can count.

My 3 year old is potty training and had 4 clothing changes today because she didn’t make it to the bathroom in time. Hold me, sweet Jesus. I am so ready to be done with diapers in this house!

Saying today was rough is an understatement!

Days like today remind me that I’m still in the thick of it. Not just in the thick of parenting but in the thick of my mental illness.

My left eye begins to twitch. I wear my shoulders like earrings. I keep my mouth shut because I don’t want to bark instead of speak. I retreat to my room and escape my world with naps, novels, Netflix, social media, and chocolate.

I’m not saying any of that is inherently bad, but they become bad for me when I retreat for hours instead of interacting with my children, checking things off my to-do list, and living a normal, responsible life.

This is how my mental illness works: when life throws a strike, I completely fall apart. When life throws a perfect pitch and I get a base hit, I panic that I’ll trip before I get to base. I sink into a pit of despair because I panicked. Then I begin to fall apart. That’s when I feel the need to escape.

I’m learning how to combat it though – the anxiety, depression, and that need to escape. I’m learning to use my tools better. With every struggle, I learn more about myself. I learn new things that trigger my anxiety. I learn new things that help ease it. I learn that if I trust God and keep going, this moment will pass.

So now I am going to reward myself for continuing on today, for not escaping for too long, for starting those loads of laundry, for putting that frozen pizza in the oven (ha!), for not losing it on my children, for showing up and facing my issues. I truly can do hard things!

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