Be Strong and Courageous

Last Wednesday, Robert came home telling me there were two deaths in the village where the school we work with is located, and he would like to join a group of men driving up there for the funeral this weekend. He would be gone for 3-4 days up in the desert where he may not have any cell service. I agreed he should go of course, but the thought made me a bit nervous.

I’m no stranger to him traveling for days or weeks at a time while I stay home with the kids. But this is the first time I’ve had to experience it while in a country where I don’t drive or speak the language. To say I was a bit nervous is an understatement. I was anxious to the point of needing a Xanax. Not only anxious for him driving up into the desert, but also for myself and the kids staying here alone. I would have to call a taxi if we needed to go anywhere, but I don’t speak French. I would have to go buy bread at the corner store, but I don’t speak French. My anxieties were getting the best of me.

Then Thursday night, the night before he was to leave, I sat down on my yoga mat, pulled out my Holy Listening book, and opened it where I last left off. The title for the day was “BOLD.”

Coincidence? I think not. I believe God was sending me a message.

The yoga pose was Warrior and the scripture reference was Deuteronomy 31:6. This verse makes me smile. I memorized this verse when I was in 7th grade. I made up a little song to help me remember it. I have sung this song to myself many, many times over the years when I’ve needed strength.

Again, a coincidence? No! This was God speaking to me in a powerful way.

There I was, warrior-ing on my yoga mat, in a mess of tears, singing Deuteronomy 31:6 to myself in the quiet of my bedroom. A bold faith washed over me. God’s peace and assurance engulfed me. I knew in that moment that I was not alone and that I would conquer this weekend while Robert was away. (Spoiler: the kids and I are having a great weekend!)

I’ve stayed on this prayer and pose for a few days now, not ready to move on to the next. Boldness is something I struggle to find. This may be shocking for a lot of my friends and family to hear, but it’s the truth.

I’ve had to be bold and warrior through a lot of hard situations in my life, and I’ve struggled to stay strong. I like to think of myself as being strong, but I am truly a weak woman. Any strength I find to warrior through my life is found in Jesus. It’s his Spirit and his word that pulls me through. The grace and love and forgiveness he gives me when all I do is struggle, is what keeps my faith in him.

I’ve had people ask me before how I know God is real. My answer is always “it’s in the ways he responds to my faith.” When I reach out to him, he shows up. It’s not always right when I want it or in the way I expect it, but he never fails.

Just like this weekend – I was scared and anxious, but God showed up with peace and strength, and I’ve been completely calm all weekend. The kids and I have had a great time, I’ve handled a couple of meltdowns without having one myself, the house is clean, and I’ve actually been serving up healthy meals. All miracles!

I must throw some shout outs to Shiloh’s teacher who reminded our taxi guy that she needed to be picked up Saturday for her youth group meeting and to my neighbors who helped me get bread. Thank you, God, for putting a great missionary community here to help me out…just another way of him showing up in my life!

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Ramblings of Life in Chad and Faith in God

We’ve been in Chad for 4 months now. Some days it seems like our time is going by extremely fast, but other days it feels like time is crawling.

We’re all settled in our job/school routines and feeling content. There is a part of me that wants to look ahead to when we return to the U.S., but I’m trying to stay focused on my present and not think about the future until it’s necessary.

We do have a few things settled for when we get back to the States. Shiloh is enrolled in Wheaton Academy for her freshman year of high school. (Let’s all take a moment and have a Praise break that God worked that out!) Huck and Weslee will return to Four Winds Waldorf School. And it looks like we will be renting a house in our old neighborhood – woohoo!

Things we don’t have settled (and aren’t actively pursuing just yet) are jobs for Robert and me, vehicles, and furniture. Ha! Those are some pretty big things, but I know God will work these out just as he has everything else.

I can truly say that this last year has increased my faith and trust in God. How could it not – it took all of 6 months for us to hear about this opportunity, decide it’s what we should do, sell our belongings, raise our funds, and get here. I’m still in awe of how God made it all happen. If he can do that, I know for sure he will take care of everything for our return.

Even since we’ve been here, God has been proving himself over and over. Our first few weeks were very hard: getting over jet lag, adjusting to not having our American conveniences, Robert’s kidney stone issues, and trying to fit into a new culture. But we had some special moments where God revealed his presence in a tangible way.

The first night we were here one of my kids was crying and could not fall asleep. We were tired and emotional and the tears just wouldn’t stop. I began to quietly pray Ephesians 6 (the armor of God) over my family. It was as if someone flipped a switch when I began praying. The tears immediately stopped and my precious child fell right to sleep. The peace I felt in our little apartment was amazing.

God was with us as we traveled to Kenya for Robert’s surgery and recovery. He helped keep us calm when everything seemed like it was unraveling. A couple of answered prayers: 1. We were approved for an emergency medical evacuation which means that insurance covered our hospital fees. 2. We were approved to seek medical assistance in Kenya where Robert’s parents could meet and help us. God took what started out as a very stressful and scary situation and turned it into a time for us to relax and spend time with friends and family.

God has been faithful to answer prayers for my fast-paced family to adjust to the slow goings of Chad life. We’ve developed a love of reading that makes my heart proud, tried our hands at new types of art, grown closer to one another, and made new friends even with some cultural differences.

These 4 months have been exciting and challenging. I’m so grateful for God’s provisions, grace, and mercy.

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.

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.

 

Anxiety

For the last 3 years, I’ve been either pregnant or nursing, and I think those hormones, and a handful of supplements helped me stay emotionally balanced. But now that Weslee has almost weaned, I can feel the unbalance settling in.

My anxiety causes paralyzing fear. I fear failure, rejection, inadequacy, and being overwhelmed. I’m afraid of big things like trying new tasks, being in a large group of people, and having hard conversations, but I’m also afraid of smaller things like doing laundry, cleaning the kitchen, and cooking dinner. My anxiety causes nausea, tightness in my chest, shortness of breath, shakiness, and a crazy, constant twitch in my left eye. Fear has held me back from improving my photography skills, from writing on this blog, from making close friends. It has even held me back from doing certain activities with my family.

My counselor helped me find tools to keep my anxiety at bay. These tools include prayer, quoting scripture, singing worship songs, taking supplements, alone time, deep breathing, exercise, fresh air, sleep, healthful eating, checking in my feelings with safe people, and doing things that bring joy. These have been life savers for me. But I know these tools are not enough when I have trouble doing them. I have days when it’s hard for me to take deep breaths. I have days when I’m afraid of getting dressed and taking a walk or going to the grocery store. I have other days when I struggle with how I spend my alone time – I know taking care of myself by getting my hair done, giving myself a mani/pedi, taking a long, hot shower help me calm down, but I often find myself lying on the couch watching a movie instead. Sometimes this is okay, but if I continually choose to watch a movie rather than do something I really need, then I know I’m getting in a bad place emotionally.

I’m in a bad place right now. I’ve been really trying to pull myself out of this hole, but I’m not having much success. It’s time for me to step up and admit that I’m no longer in control.

I know some of my friends and family don’t understand this. Some of them believe that if I prayed harder then God would take this from me. But prayer and scripture are the first tools on my checklist. I do believe God helps me because of my prayers, but I also believe he has given our generation medication to help as well. It’s the same as when I give my kids Ibuprofen to bring down a high fever while also praying for God to heal their bodies. Mental illness is an illness just like any other sickness or disease.

So today, I’ve committed to making and appointment with my doctor. I need help, and this is my next right step.