Grace. All is Grace.

A couple of weeks ago I read Brennan Manning’s memoir, All Is Grace. It’s had me thinking a lot about the grace of God, and I’ve come to realize that his grace is somewhat inappropriate – it has no requirements nor restrictions. God is perfect, his people are far from perfect, and yet he still LOVES us and ACCEPTS us just as we are, with ALL our FLAWS and FAILURES. God’s grace covers everything no matter how ugly it is. The fact that he loves me and is using me for his work blows my mind.

I understand that I’m not what most people would call a dirty sinner, but I am in so many ways. I may have followed God’s calling to live in Chad for a year, but I have grumbled and complained so much since I’ve been here. I’ve told God that I’m not the right person to do this job, that someone else could teach better and not complain about missing home so much. I can be a selfish American who doesn’t want to live without her western conveniences, and I remind God of how bad I have it here every day. But his grace covers me.

I make harsh judgements about other missionaries and their work, I make harsh judgements about Chadians and their culture, I make harsh judgements about non-missionaries and their lives. I can be judgmental and self-righteous and think poorly of others to think better of myself. But his grace covers me.

I have days when I fall into the pit of my mental illness. Days when I can see the pit in front of me and I can also see a path around it. I really want to follow the path around it, but there seems to be a magnet in the pit that pulls me into it. I fall in, and I struggle to get out. Sometimes I don’t want to get out. But his grace covers me. (And I’m thankful his grace includes Prozac! Everybody say “Amen!”)

I often ask, “can he really love me and accept me no matter my failure…even the one I repeat on a daily basis?” The answer is yes. He can and he does.

I strive to be better and to do better. I try, but I fail – again and again. Then I see his grace. God’s inappropriate, unrestricted grace. It’s always here. No matter what. Forgiving me. Restoring me. Reminding me that I am sitting in the middle of his calling doing his work even though I am a just dirty sinner.

His grace reminds me that my life, my story, is not really mine at all. My life is a part of his story. His plan. To show his love. To be his hands and feet. Even with all my fears and all my failures, he chooses me to be a part of his story. Wow!

I feel humbled. I feel overjoyed. I feel equipped. I feel inadequate. I feel encouraged. I feel afraid. Lots of emotions to process.

So I keep moving forward thankful for his grace that allows this sinner to be a part of his big, beautiful story that tells the world how much he loves us…no matter what.

Ephesians 2:1-10 in The Message says:

It wasn’t so long ago that you were mired in that old stagnant life of sin. You let the world, which doesn’t know the first thing about living, tell you how to live. You filled your lungs with polluted unbelief, and then exhaled disobedience. We all did it, all of us doing what we felt like doing, when we felt like doing it, all of us in the same boat. It’s a wonder God didn’t lose his temper and do away with the whole lot of us. Instead, immense in mercy and with an incredible love, he embraced us. He took our sin-dead lives and made us alive in Christ. He did all this on his own, with no help from us! Then he picked us up and set us down in highest heaven in company with Jesus, our Messiah.

Now God has us where he wants us, with all the time in this world and the next to shower grace and kindness upon us in Christ Jesus. Saving is all his idea, and all his work. All we do is trust him enough to let him do it. It’s God’s gift from start to finish! We don’t play the major role. If we did, we’d probably go around bragging that we’d done the whole thing! No, we neither make nor save ourselves. God does both the making and saving. He creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join him in the work he does, the good work he has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing.

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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.

722Palace

 

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.