Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011, A Recap

 Inspired by my last years post... here we go:

Where we've been:
-Atlanta, for Passion 2011
-Disneyworld
-Spring Break tour: Charleston, Myrtle Beach, Oak Island
-Rwanda
-Ethiopia
-the bathroom in the DC Airport for longer than I care to admit
-Virginia to see old friends
-Maryland to see beautiful people get married
-Chapel Hill a handful of times
-Wilmington
-Tennessee
-Patton Avenue
-DSS
-St. Augustine
-Disneyworld (again)
-Disney Cruise

What we've gained:
-paperwork
-perspective
-pens
-confidence
-new friends
-a pretty polka dot bathing suit
-a lot of bird things

What we've lost:
-some gift cards
-patience
-some random socks


What we've learned:
-that we are not the most important thing
-that when your word for the year is "peace", the way you gain it is not necessarily the way you choose


What we've dropped the ball on:
-sending birthday cards
-sending thank you notes (this seems to be a theme)

What we're most thankful for:
-a chance to go to Africa
-our mariage
-the hope of new things in 2012

Happy New Year, friends.



Sunday, December 18, 2011

Ministry.

In the summer of 1992, a lady named Donna helped move along God's plan for my life.  At an event at my church, she asked what I wanted to do after high school/college.  I told her some thoughts I'd had (journalism-based) and said, "Oh, and I want to be a pastor's wife."  (I was dating a wonderful Christian guy at the time who was headed toward ministry... yes, I was just 16, but we had it all figured out, right?)  She stopped walking, turned, looked at me and said, "Why do you want to be the pastor's wife and not the pastor?"

Eh?

That moment- in that very second- my heart leapt.  I knew she had spoken words that God directly wanted me to hear.  And that began my path into ministry.

When I arrived at UNC, I entered thinking I would be an Education major.  I knew by then I wanted to be involved in ministering to young people and figured I would have a back-up plan of public school teaching if the whole "church thing" fell through.  One of my mentors, Mary, advised me against having a Religious Studies major because- as she pointed out- I would get plenty of that in Divinity School.

Three majors later, I graduated with a degree in Religious Studies.  (Sorry, Mary... I was listening, I promise.)

The summer of 1996, I'd thought seriously about traveling with some IV people to Kazakhstan for a summer mission's trip.  Another of my mentors, Dan, was concerned that with my asthma as bad as it was, maybe going to Kazakhstan wasn't the best idea.  I ended up deciding to stay home that summer and intern with my Youth Minister, Jim.  Just before arriving home, Jim left that position... viola, I was the Summer Youth Minister.  Um, what?  How did that happen?  All of the sudden I was in charge of an entire youth group.

Know what happened?

I. Freakin'. Loved. It.  And... shockingly... I was good at it, too.

I was hooked.  I decided to try to get involved with the youth group of the church I attended at UNC- Carrboro Baptist Church.  One night in 1997 while I was recovering from a recent hospitalization, I answered a call from Jack, the pastor at CBC.  He wanted to ask if I'd serve as Carrboro's Summer Youth Minister, but they'd like me to start in January to help with the transition.

Are you kidding me?

Absolutely.

I rolled into that office in January of 1998- months before the rest of my class began looking for jobs post-graduation... I'd walked right into my dream position.  And that whole "Summer" Youth Minister gig?  Four and a half years later I left that job when we moved to Winston-Salem.  My final business card (which had name changes as well as job changes- I added new titles and a new married name!) was "Becky Johnston, Minister to Students, Youth, and Children."  Anyone from birth to college was in my "area"... waaay too much for me to handle, but one of the most amazing rides of my life.  I sobbed on Match Day knowing I would soon be leaving that ministry... and sobbed even more as I drove away from HillSong (formerly Carrboro Baptist) on that day in June when we attended church there for the last time.

We began attending River Oaks in November of 2002 and by January 2003 knew we wanted to join.  We told our Small Group that first Sunday night that we loved River Oaks, but weren't sure we could call a church home that was in a town with so many colleges and no College Ministry.  They laughed.  Literally... laughed.  One of them said, "We've been praying for you!"  Apparently the pastor at River Oaks had recently asked another couple (John and Laurie) to begin a college ministry, but they wanted to wait until they had someone to partner with.  Um, we were those people.

Summer of 2003, we began the College Ministry at River Oaks.  Every season has looked differently... every "class" has been unique.  Every summer has been the best one yet... it just keeps getting better.

Which is why tonight at our Christmas party I sobbed like a baby when I told them we were stepping down from leading College Ministry.

Actually, that's only half true.  I sobbed and told them we were leaving... then... after an awkward pause... said, ".... because we hate you."  Then we laughed and I knew we would be okay.

We feel that the time is right for us to allow someone else the joy of loving these students.  But y'all... it hurts.  It hurts so much.  I have been so anxious about telling them for the last 3 weeks that I've had two stress-induced allergic reactions.  I have almost thrown up multiple times just thinking about it.  And tonight while we were doing the "Dirty Santa" game I wanted to run out of the room and call our Executive Pastor and say, "I didn't mean it!  We aren't stepping down!  We can't!!!  I just love them too much!!!"

God has clearly given us a heart for College Ministry.  Which is why stepping into the unknown feels so bizarre to us.  We know we are supposed to spend our time loving on people- and we know our immediate "job" is all about Foster Kids.  Beyond that, we don't know what's next.

I struggled when I moved to Winston with not having a title of "Minister".  I struggled with not having a business card that linked me to the people I loved.  Now I begin the struggle of stepping back from a ministry while still being in the place where that ministry happens.  I've been "doing" ministry for almost 14 years now.... so how do I cope with not "doing" it in the same way?  I can't handle the thought of not getting to lead College Ministry for the Annas, the Carolines, the Maddies, the Nates, the Daniels...

... then I take a minute to think about the Leslies, Heathers, Grahams, Alicias, Jeffs, Ryans, Chrises, Stephanies, Sherrills, Brents, Beccas, Danielles, Michelles, Lauras, Ashleys, Christines, Adralyns, Kellys, Michaels, Bens, Adams, Katies, Caitlins, Lukes, Devins, Andreas, Pauls, Kristens, Brads, Alexs, Stevens, Lizs, Alexises, Annas, Charleses, CourtneysRoberts, Merediths, Seths, Treys, Loreans, Kenans, Beckys, Amys, Daniels, Todds, Tabithas, Joshs, Carlys, Brittanys, DeeDes, Gavris, Noahs (yes, even Noah), Rachels, Lindseys, Kelseys, Davids, ... oh, y'all... I could go on all night.  (And, yes, I'm aware I've left some important people off... you get what I mean, right?  Lots of students... including you-the-one-I've-left-off-unintentionally....)

My heart hurts to think of letting go... but my heart is so full from God's blessings to me in the form of these students over the years.  It is so, so good.

Ministry will look different when we no longer have our home full of College Students on Sunday nights.  I don't know what it will be like... but I am so thankful for what it has looked like.  Catchphrase, forks, Barenaked Ladies tickets, Nertz, weddings, nose piercings, inappropriateness and all.





It is well with my soul.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Tiny Smores Cookies

This summer, my old roommate posted this recipe for Smores Cookies.  E and I made some, then decided I'd freeze half of the dough for later.  Last Friday night I pulled out the dough and decided to "do" them a little differently.

I put the dough in mini muffin tins....
Added a Hershey kiss...
 Baked for the first 8 minutes, then added half a marshmallow...

Baked the additional 4 minutes... then woo-hoo! Smores Mini-Muffin Cookies!





I am so not a food-blogger, but this was so cute and easy it was worth sharing...  Enjoy!



Friday, December 9, 2011

21 questions with E

So, Pinterest is killing me.  I tried to stay away, but couldn't.

This morning, I found this gem and decided to try it out with Elizabeth...
1. What is something Mommy always says to you?
"I love you."
2. What makes Mommy happy?
love
3. What makes Mommy sad?
telling lies
4. How does Mommy make you laugh?
tickling me
5. What was Mommy like as a child?
I don't know.
6. How old is Mommy?
36
7. How tall is Mommy?
I can't tell.
8. What is Mommy's favorite thing to do?
be on the computer
9. What does Mommy do when you're not around?
write in her journal and read her Bible
10. If Mommy becomes famous, what will it be for?
for love
11. What is Mommy really good at?
writing and painting
12. What is Mommy not very good at?
telling lies
13. What does Mommy do for her job?
nothing.
14. What is Mommy's favorite food?
everything.
15. What makes you proud of Mommy?
loving her.
16. If Mommy were a cartoon character, who would she be?
the Good Queen in Snow White  (please note, the Good Queen is dead.)
17. What do you and Mommy do together?
play
18. How are you and Mommy the same?
love each other- a lot of love stuf
19. How are you and Mommy different?
we don't eat a lot of the same foods
20. How do you know Mommy loves you?
because she says it over and over again... it's annoying
21. Where is Mommy's favorite place to go?
everywhere with me.


Most of those are well said... and some of them make me want to reevaluate my life.  But she's right... I love my girl!


Thursday, December 8, 2011

Family Dinner

I try to be mindful of being one of "those" bloggers... you know... the ones that tell all the amazing things their families do... where they only post pictures of clean houses, made beds, healthy dinners, amazing vacations, gorgeous children, organized projects.  I mean, y'all know that's how I roll, right?  So why rub it in your face?

Or... that's not my life at all... so why only show you the super amazing moments and hide the hard things from the world?

But, tonight I'm gonna tell you about one of the good ones.  If you've had a crappy day and stumbled upon my blog to feel better about how my life is such a train wreck... move on.  Tonight all is well.

I've mentioned before that there are moments that I *know* Dan is just who God wanted for me.  (And, to be totally honest, in moments I need people around me to remind me that he is.  Keeping it real...)  A few months ago as he was determining what was next for his career, he opted to go back to a 4-day work week.  Yes, it's wonderful.  Yes, we enjoy that extra day with him around.  Yes, having a 5-day work week pay check would be nice... but this is where we are.

Part of his decision to have this schedule was for us to make the most of every moment of our world- including deciding how such a schedule could affect our entertaining.  He asked me if it would be okay with me if, since he would have Fridays off, we could commit to making Thursday nights "Family Dinner Night".  His thought was that each Thursday we'd invite another family to join us for dinner... not a dinner party, not a spotless home, not a fancy meal... just a family dinner.  In hopes to better get to know our friends better.  In hopes to enjoy real community.  In hopes to use our home and our love of entertaining to enjoy those around us.

Since his job began 5 weeks ago, we've only had 2 Family Dinners.  Book Club was one Thursday, Thanksgiving another, and last week we were just too exhausted to make it happen.  But tonight we opened our home to some old friends... meatloaf, mashed potatoes, carrots and broccoli, rolls, sugar cookies and hot chocolate... birthday gifts, Christmas gifts, a choking child, a little girl's dress that wouldn't stay up... nothing formal, nothing fancy, nothing life-changing... but, y'all... it was good.

This brings our family such happiness.  It's what we're good at... and we hope to get the chance to enjoy a meal with you all sometime soon.

We'll just deal with the dishes later...

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Stalk new friends, but keep the old...

So, I haven't had the time yet to tell you all about our cruise.
It. Was. AWESOME.

We stumbled upon a super amazing deal for a Disney Cruise that just happened to be during the time Dan was in-between jobs.  Oh, and it happened to be during Elizabeth's birthday week.  Not at all a hard decision whether or not to go... it was the perfect time.

The first night, as we were leaving the theater after the "welcome show", Dan said, "Um... is that your boyfriend?  You know, the one from Hoop De Doo?"  Why, yes... yes I think it is.

We went to Hoop De Doo at Disney our first year.  We had such a good time, we went back this past year.  In our opinion, Sixbits Slocum (featured above) was the star of the show.  He was hilarious... and totally "worked" the crowd.  After our first year, we referred to him either as my boyfriend or my best friend, depending on the moment.

So when Dan spotted him on the cruise... I knew it was fate.

That first night after spotting him, I couldn't figure out when to talk to him... but I knew I had to.  He was on the cruise as a guest, not a "Cast Member", so I needed to be thoughtful of his vacation time... but I knew it would be in our best interest to meet.  His and mine.  Yep.

We went to dinner that first night.  Our 8-top table?... just the Johnstons.  The other family didn't show up.  Our hopes of our new cruise best friends that we'd share meals with each night- instantly crushed.  But who was, like 3 tables over?




That's Dan's shoulder.  And then some other people.  Then my boy/best friend is in the 
blue sweater vest.  Yep.  Continuing to FULLY enjoy his tablemates.  
Not that mine weren't great... but....

A couple of days went by.  He would pass us and Dan would crack up at the look of panic that came over me.  It was like I was star struck.  I couldn't spend the whole cruise like this.

Then it happened... we met.  One day when E was in the kids' area and Dan was at a lecture, I was at the pool with refreshments and a book.  One of them gave me courage... and I can tell you this, it wasn't literary.  I put my book down and right as he got in the pool, I went over and said those dorky, embarrassing words: "Hi. I recognize you from Disney World.  I think you're hysterical."  (I blushed just reliving the moment in my head as I wrote that.)

He laughed, introduced himself (his real name is Ben! not Sixbits!) and we had a wonderful chat for 30 minutes or so.  I learned that he has moved to another location at WDW... that he can see the fireworks at Magic Kingdom from his backyard... that he's originally from Pennsylvania.  He learned that I went to Africa this summer... and that... I, well, think he's hysterical.

We had a great conversation... then it happened... I realized my hopes and dreams may not come true.  We might (gasp!) not instantly become best friends.  I know, I know... hard to believe... but it's true.

As we saw each other throughout the rest of the cruise we'd always say "hi" and briefly chat (his promptness to get away might possibly have something to do with the fact that a strange woman from North Carolina had trapped him in the pool earlier)... but we weren't best friends.

Until the last night.

Our last 3-minute conversation was fun and bubbly and magical and funny and charming.

And so the dream is still alive.

So, Ben... wherever in Florida you are... even though we didn't exchange information... and you told me you weren't on Facebook... and you may think you're safe... just know this:  I'm coming back to the Magic Kingdom in January.  And I'm sure I'll find you again.  Just accept it... I'm a good stalker.  And I make a good best friend, too.

Me and my Bestie, Ben.

Watch out, Jen Hatmaker... I'm comin' for you next....


Monday, November 21, 2011

I love my.... er... E's preschool

This morning I am catching up on things at home.

Because last week I was never here.

And that was fine by me.

Last week during the time I normally get stuff done (read: while E is in preschool), I had my own assignments at school.  One morning I attended a class that a preschol teacher presented about helping kids with fine motor skills.  Then I went shopping for Breakfast with Santa- my favorite event of the year that I have the privilege of helping with for the second time.  Then I sold Rwandan pens and necklaces at our school's craft fair.  Then I stayed for our monthly prayer meeting (when we pray for each teacher, family, and staff member at the school... it's a precious time.)  Then I had two days of prep for Breakfast with Santa where I met a bunch of new (and quite fabulous) preschool families.  Then I went to dinner with 3 ladies from preschool (and one new-to-town friend!) on Friday night.  Then I hosted co-hosted a baby shower for one of my best friends who I met when our kids were "randomly" put together in their Toddler Class our first year at preschool.

Y'all.... I freakin' love that school.

Yes, I realize that E benefits from her experience at preschool.... but... let's be honest... so do I.  I have made friends, found kindred spirits, had an outlet, had a break, met people who genuinely love my child... and who love me.

That 3-hour segment of time I'm blessed with 4 days a week gives everyone in our family something special.

And I'm gonna miss it a lot next year.

Sigh.

-----
(this post was not sponsored by the staff of Messiah Moravian Preschool.  seriously.)
(you're welcome, Barbara.)
(ha!)

Monday, November 14, 2011

Broken trust.

My heart is heavy and my head is full.  Actually, that's a lie.  My head is overflowing.

The last 48 hours I've had some pretty serious talks.  This weekend while in Wilmington, my girl friends and I tackled major life issues: heaven/hell, abortion, government systems, hypocrisy, and abuse.  Then I got home just in time for our College Ministry discussion on this topic: How can a loving God send people to hell?  Then today my brain was spinning during Kindermusik while a new friend and I talked about how to explain the Trinity to children. 

And in the midst of all of this heavy, heavy stuff... I got an email from a friend.


This is a friend who has shared part of her life with me... and for that I am grateful.

In light of all the media attention on Jerry Sandusky, she feels it's time to share her story.

And she asked me to help her do that.

This is her story to tell- and at this point, her story is being shared as "anonymous."  I respect her desire to share it, as well as her desire to keep her identity in confidence.  Several of you know lots of my friends, and several of you know her... so please understand that even though I'm sure you'll be curious as to the author, it's not my story to tell.  It's hers, and she's asked me to share it with you.
--------------------------
From an Abused Childs Perspective – Anonymous

In the wake of all the media surrounding a football so called “scandal” there are many of us children of abuse listening and watching. I see this in another light than most because I have been abused by an adult, a friends’ father, while only 8 years old.  I watch the media just as everyone else does and hear the anger in people’s voices as they chant for either side. This is my opinion and of course there are many of them out there but for me I am saddened that someone was fired – let me explain. Also, let it be known I am a graduate of another University and have no ties to that “other” school.

When this happened to me I had the know how and the strength to tell my parents the day it occurred. Luckily for me it happened only once because I did tell my parents and wasn’t scared to do so. My perpetrator knew I told and there for never came after me or did my parents allow me back in their home. But this one time was enough to change me forever. This one time put me in a statistic I wish I did not belong. For me I do not remember a portion of my attack, though through counseling I learned that your body has a built in “safety net” and when it feels you can handle this information, you will remember, well I still do not remember.  Do I blame God for letting this happen to me or others, no, he knew human kind was not going to be perfect and created this  “safety net” therefore I am thankful. 

Back to my sadness over someone getting fired, I told you that I had told my parents. Should my parents be fired?  Well as I do not remember getting away from “him”, my friend’s father, I do remember hiding in a closet until my friend found me crying and she pulled over the phone as had I requested, at that time phones were on cords attached to the walls. I called my parents and said, “Come get me”. In that time waiting for them in the closet my friend looked out the window watching for them to come.  Never did she ask what was wrong, I think she knew, and now think she was a victim as well.  I rode in the car in silence and then when we got home I sat up on the kitchen counter, for some reason I remember this fact, and told both my mom and dad what had happened. My perpetrator is not in jail, I have never pressed charges, so should my parents be fired?

Years went by and ninth grade came, I liked a boy, my memories starting coming back. From the period of third grade on, my thoughts or feelings of this past life changing event never bothered me. Surprisingly so because I had to see her dad in church each Sunday and at every school event, and no longer had a friend I once had. Until every night in ninth grade I would wake up crying and knew I needed help, I went to my dad and told him I remembered what happened and couldn’t deal with my emotions. I asked him why the cops were not involved and he told they had been. His first comment to me was, “I thought you forgot it ever happened.”  

Should he be fired?

He rocked me in the rocking chair as I sobbed, which seems silly because now I was not a baby but a teenager, but I remember feeling so loved. I do not blame my parents or God for my pain, but wish I never had it.  My dad told me that he thought he had done all that he knew to do at the time. I never knew he went to the police until this discussion. They had gone to “his” house and questioned him, but really what good is that when they never questioned me.  The police had advised my parents to just never discuss it again, so they had followed this advise until now.

Should the cops be fired?

Being a teenager now and have emotions for wanting to kiss boys, I needed to control my other emotions of wanting to run and hide at the same time. Confusion of past emotions filled my thoughts and I needed more help.  So I went to the school counselor, and in my starting to tell the details of the hide and seek game in which I was abused, she was crying.   

Not helpful, should she be fired?

She called my parents, in which my mom was embarrassed I had told my personal story, she blamed herself for allowing me to go to their house to play. I don’t blame her at all, bad things happen and it isn’t anyone’s fault but the perpetrators.  So I went to another counselor, and another counselor. By then I was over telling my story and having each one cry back in my face. I discussed going to court but the report that my dad had gone to the police was missing or thrown out. I had no record other than me against him.   

Who should be fired now?

It was a decision I had to make in ninth grade if I was strong enough to go to court, did I want it all over the local small town media. True fully, all I wanted at that time was him to be dead.  Maybe it was teenage melodramas but that is what I wanted.  Then a friend of mine had his father pass away unexpectedly and I went to the funeral in support. As I sat at the viewing and saw my friend crying I realized I could not go to court. I knew I would win and then would be putting away a past friends father and therefore taking him from her too.  Maybe I would have saved her from him now that I think she was abused, but that wasn’t a thought at the time.

Should I be fired?

In writing this I just want you to know that people look for someone to blame for bad things all the time. Someone wants someone to be responsible; I don’t think people should be fired for not trying to do the right “thing” at the time. You may not know what that right thing is at the time.  I still am learning from my own experience and trying to gauge who should be fired or even myself maybe for not taking action when given the chance. I believe that my perpetrator did not only do this to me but to his own daughter and one other that I know of.  There is a long line of people that could be fired including me- should I be? 
-----------------------
Thank you for trusting me, Friend, with your story.  My prayer is that your boldness to share your story will lead to healing in your life as well as in the lives of others.  I also pray that we respond to those children whose trust is broken every day by adults who owe them so much more.

It's not about football.  It's not about coaches.  It's about trust... that was broken.

Praying for peace.

Monday, November 7, 2011

what you don't know...

I've been incredibly overwhelmed lately with our "perspective" on others. We constantly view those around us in light of how they affect us.  And, y'all?  That's jacked up.

I have had numerous friends comment to me how people are rude to them.  Or standoffish.  Or "too cool" to have time for them.  Or that they are not important enough for that person's friendship.  And, in full disclosure, I've been on that critical side of thinking as well.

Then "those" people- the ones that are rude, or standoffish, or "too cool"- will speak.  And they will speak words of pain or hurt or exhaustion.  I have, thankfully, had the opportunity to listen to some of "those" people recently... and their stories are more than their exteriors could tell us.  They are dealing with parents who are dying, husbands who are unfaithful, spouses who are addicted, loneliness and hurt.  But we don't see that.  We see how they affect us.

This weekend I was fortunate enough to go away with 20 girlfriends to the mountains.  Just before playing cards on Saturday morning, one of my friends said to me, "I have a confession.  I may have come across rude to you in the past... but it's because you intimidate me."

Um, what?

Me?  But I'm so _______ (insert non-exciting word there), how could I intimidate you?  You are gorgeous and witty and amazing....

And there in lies the problem.  While my friend and I debriefed this phenomenon of how little we understood each other it hit me again: we just don't take the time to know people.  We go in with our preconceived notions... we interpret their actions based on how they affect us... we don't get past the surface to know the person.

This is no way to live.

In the midst of this "thankful" month, I'm choosing to be thankful for those around me.  I'm choosing to see the person, not just their actions.  I'm choosing to give them more grace instead of just interpreting their distance as a lack of interest.  And... I'm choosing to not make me the focus of it all.  We just don't know what is going on in the lives of those around us... and, it likely has nothing to do with us.

Word.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

waiting... (an update on Foster world for us)

(So, I'm dying to tell you all the fun time we had on our last week's vacation, complete with cute pictures... BUT. I. CAN'T. FIND. MY. CAMERA. ADAPTER. CORDS.  Junk.  And we're in the midst of getting over bronchitis in this house, so basically, that'll have to wait.  But, it's killing me.  I have some fun stories.)

I mentioned that I have bronchitis, right?  That has led to some "fun" time on prednisone, which basically makes me both bat-crap (like that editing?) crazy and highly productive at the same time.  It's a joy.  The good pharmaceutical news is that it has made me be able to breathe (along with the crazy expensive antibiotic, zeesh).  The other good news is that I have gotten more done in my house in 3 days than it feels like I've gotten done in the last 3 months.  Part of that is because Dan has been off this week and we've had some good team work.  Part of that is because... well... I'm on prednisone.  And part of that is because I'm *sick* of this house-to-do-list-are-we-ever-going-to-get-it-done-we'll-never-have-foster-kids-and-its-our-fault.

Ahem.

You see, back in February when God called us to bring children into our home and family, I imagined having more stockings on our mantle at Christmas.  I pictured having the holidays surrounded my the family I knew now, and children who were in need of some of that Waldrup/Duck/Randolph/Johnston goodness.  I had been told my anyone I asked that if we hurried through our part of the process, the "main" hang-ups would be on the end of the agency, and they would be our only delay.  Not us.  Because we are do-ers.  We are get-it-done-ers.

Ahem.

Then along came life... and that's not been true for us.

If you know me at all, you know I document my life based on events.  I love that I get several times in my calendar year to "start over"... the actual New Year, and then the academic New Year which I've followed since 1980something.  I love having a bench mark of when new habits can be easily formed.  This year, my newest bench mark has been titled "After Africa."  I came home from those 3 weeks full of all of the things God taught me, ready to unleash it on my life, my family, and to run full-speed toward those children waiting for my family.

Then Dan's job changed.  He took on more responsibility at work and things were hard for us.  Hard, y'all.  He cares deeply about what he does, and 90% of his energy went to pouring himself into a place that needed him.

Then we started our MAPP classes.

Then we had a family member end up in the hospital and were needed in other ways.

Then we felt under spiritual attack.

Then Dan started looking for a new job, and, praise God, got one.

Then we went on vacation and for the first time in 4 and half months, we breathed.  We sat together, a wreck of a couple, and breathed.

I had been so ready for 2010 to be over (like, so ready I'll never be able to put it into words clearly) that I couldn't even anticipate what could be waiting behind door number 2011.  It's been easier in physical ways- no tumor, no hospice... but emotionally?  Whew, y'all.  I could use a hug.

Our to-do list for getting licensed as Foster Parents is still there.  We've said numerous times to our social worker, "We swear we're still in this.  We've had a bunch of road blocks.  But we're getting there."  And that's all true.  But what kills me is that the hangup has been us.  Not them.  If it had been them (the agency) I could self-righteously say when people ask me when we'll get a placement (which happens at least every other day) "Well, we're just waiting on them.  We're done."  But we're not.  We haven't had the fire inspection, we have some paperwork to do over, we haven't gotten our fingerprints yet, we have a medical form to re-do.... it's just been.... hard.

So back to the prednisone.  I have been tackling my to-do list since Tuesday in HUGE ways.  My house is finally, finally getting to be the place I want it to be.  We've moved furniture to where it belongs, we've purged bags and bags of things to Goodwill or the trash.  We've filed papers.  We've put the crib mattress in the crib.  Y'all, we're getting somewhere.

And then it happened.

Last night, while I was alone in the office.... I thought I was going to die.  I'm not kidding.  No exaggeration. 

Since my tumor surgery, I get random side pains.  My surgeon told me that these could happen indefinitely.  It feels like a major cramp.  Usually they come in bursts of 2 or 3, and then they leave.  It doesn't happen frequently, but when it does, I can't talk or breathe until the pain subsides.

Last night I had one come on so intense that I held my breath for almost a minute.  Then I saw my side spasming.  Then it happened a second time, for just as long.  And then I called for Dan.  I couldn't move.  I couldn't lie down.  I could barely even speak to tell him what was going on.  When I did, he said the words he's had to say to me once or twice too many times before: "You've over done it and your body has told you to stop."  He pulled me up, made me go to bed, gave me some pain medicine, and made me stop.  And through tears from pain both emotionally and physically I said to him, "I can't stop now.  I'm finally getting it all done."

Right.

As I drifted off to a pain-medicine sleep, my to-do list running through my mind along with a little bit of my latest Sookie Stackhouse book there, too (thanks, Anne), I thought about my expectations in all of this Foster World stuff.  A sane person would be able to give themselves a break knock off their to-do list at a reasonable pace, not pulling a muscle in their incision site in the process.  But I am not that person.  I am an emotional time bomb who is dying to bring children into our home.  I'm ready to trade my tears of pre-frustration to tears of post-exhaustion.  I'm ready to be done.

I have no great closing paragraph to tell you all "So God taught me it's about His time, not mine" or "I know that my delay won't stop the kids who need us from getting to us" or "Pain medicine rocks" although all of those statements are true.  I will tell you this... we are ready.  We are getting there.  We are prayerful.  We are impatient.  We are trying.  And we are waiting.  Thanks for asking how it's going... we appreciate you all.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

perspective

These days, I constantly feel like I am evolving/gaining new perspective/growing up/processing.  Since March of 2010, our Safe Little Johnston World has been thrown into a giant blender and been shaken up... beyond "repair".  Gone are the days when we could ignore the obvious.  Gone are the days where we were more important than those around us.  Gone are the days where we could be... well... selfish.

Don't get me wrong... I still try to be selfish.  A lot, actually.  Then someone jerks a knot in my tail and reminds me of what's really important.

Which is why taking a "Babymoon" feels a little silly.

Let me insert a couple of things here to update you:
-- I am not pregnant.  Not that sort of "Babymoon".  But we are in the process of being approved to Foster, and we know that soon our family will not travel as easily as it does now.

-- Money, money, money.  Those of you who know us know that we are constantly "aware" of our finances.  We spent the first several years of marriage in a not-so-good spot financially.  We made silly decisions.  We got into some debt.  Then we became "broke". "Broke" is a relevant term, my friends, because we were not truly broke.  We had money to get by, and what we didn't have we were able to find.  Basically, we didn't have money to do a lot of fun things that other people our age did.

In fact, I got really good at being "broke".  I owned it.  I became so used to not having money that I felt like I had to justify everything I did.  "We're going on vacation because my family is paying for it" or "Dan got me that new camera because he found a super good deal on it"... not just saying "we're going on vacation" or "Dan got me a new camera."  It was like I owed it to an audience (in my head) of people (in my head) who were going to judge every financial decision we made (in my head.)

Some of that was warranted.  Along the way, we had people who questioned our finances.  Shoot, for that matter, they still do.  But most of that was me feeling the need to verbally reconcile my own issues to anyone who would listen.  And some of that is being a good shopper.  I wanted to share my experience- in fact, just last week at the outlets at the beach we bought Elizabeth 3 pairs of shorts, 1 pair of pants, 1 set of leggings, 2 shirts, 1 sweater, and 1 dress for $12.46.  YES!  $12.46!!  Shoppers everywhere want to share that kind of VICTORY with the WORLD!  (God bless The Children's Place.)

Back to this idea of a "Babymoon"...

In looking at our next phase of life, we've decided to go on a trip during some time that Dan has off in the next month.  We've realized that we will never again have such a perfect segment of time where the stars line up for us to be gone... and, hee hee, we got a great deal

So why has my mind been all over the place in the last week about our upcoming journey?

Because, quite plainly, the last 19 months have been life changing... and it feels silly to do something so "US-focused" in the midst of how we use our time and resources to care for other people.

All of this was a jumbled mess in my head over the last week as we discussed whether or not to travel... then it hit me... the biggest difference in being spoiled and being blessed is my perspective.  And maybe it hit me because Dan said in a sentence, "the biggest difference in being spoiled and being blessed is your perspective."  Huh.  The things you learn in marriage...

God has been so good to my family.  He has been faithful even when we have not.  He has been restorative in the dark times.  He has been front and center of the celebrations.  And now?  Guess what?  He's going to be with us on vacation in a few weeks.

I. Could. Not. Be. More. Excited.

And, oh yeah, you read that right... while we were on vacation with my family we planned our next vacation.  Now that, my friends, just might be a wee bit spoiled... but I'll just consider it uber-blessed.


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

procrastination

Dan asked me this morning why I've not been blogging more recently and there is only one reason: I've been busy.  We are headed to the beach next week and I feel certain that all of these thoughts rolling around in my head will be a blog post or two... those of you who read my blog will see them.  Those of you who only read it when it shows up on Facebook will likely miss it, because that new set up is *jacked*.

For now, though, I'll tell you a few things about our life lately... mainly because I need to clean our house.

1. I hate the new Facebook set up.

2. I am cleaning our house because our Foster Care home study is tomorrow night. We finished our classes in August and have had a hard time getting our end of things done. It seems like things tend to explode a lot around here- that's our "normal"- but it's unfortunate when the explosions get in the way of getting the good stuff done.  I made the assumption that DSS would be the ones slowing things down- not us.  Whoops.

3. College Ministry makes me happy. I have had lots of good time/good talks lately with our students and I'm reminded how thankful I am to get to be part of their lives.

4. Monday, I needed someone to keep E so we could get some paperwork done. Laurie swooped in to keep her for a few hours. Yesterday, I returned the favor and kept 3/4 of her kids so she could take the remaining 1/4 to the doctor. (Dan's comment was: "What do people who don't live in community do?") I remember shying away from wanting to live in this neighborhood because it would appear too co-dependent. Yeah, I'm over that now. It's good, y'all...

5. I made pumpkin spice cookie "sandwiches" last night (think: oatmeal creme pie but with pumpkin spice cookies and cream cheese frosting). Oh. My. Word. And, they go well with coffee for breakfast... so I've been told.

6. I hung out with a friend in the preschool parking lot for 20 minutes this morning. We hadn't talked in a while. We talked about the craziness (no pun intended) of Mental Health Care in this state and about how happy we are in our marriages. It made a rainy morning a little more cheery.

7. Back in the day, my 2 BFFs from high school and I would use fake names on our return address labels.  We would always put (when sending mail to each other) our real address but we'd put the name of one of the people we graduated with.  It was a fun game of "remember them?"  Now, most all of them/you are on Facebook... so it's less funny.  But it's still kinda funny.

8. In that same line of funny, I like to pretend to be other people when receptionists answer at work and say "Who may I say is calling?"... Anne gets calls from Michelle Obama on a regular basis.

9. My daughter is one of the funniest people I know.  And the most emotional.  And I love it.

10. Next week we will be staying at the same place at the beach that I stayed with 6 of my friends during Senior Beach Week in 1994.  Now if that doesn't freak you out a bit I don't know what does.  Dan always reminds me I don't have to walk down Memory Lane with him...

That's it for now... expect more "meaningful" posts next week.  For now, the office upstairs needs my attention... I should really stop procrastinating.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Important Things for a Friday

I have so enjoyed my mornings for the last few months... and today I decided to let you all in on a little bit of "why".

I have a thing for coffee cups.

Ridiculous, I know... but I feel like they set the tone for my day.  I try not to be superstitious, or even just a little bit stitious, but it matters to me what mug I use.  And today, dear friends, you can peak into my usual selection. *Please note, a couple of my faves are dirty. Sorry.

Left to Right:
1. Mug from Coffee Tavern. Old coffee shop in North Wilkesboro where I sat one sad day in December writing Christmas Cards while Dan was on a rotation at the medical practice where he currently works.  I had just had a miscarriage and couldn't handle being alone all day, so I set up shop there and he came to spend his lunch break with me. That day was restorative for my soul.

2. Mug from HillSong Church. My church in college, my first job. A body of believers where I grew in more ways than I could ever imagine... and where I found out that I truly could be "Inappropriate Becky" and still love Jesus.

3. Mug from Just As I Am. Former coffee shop/cool venue on Lexington Avenue in Asheville. It was a Christian coffee house with good food and good live music. My friend, Kristen, and I frequented there are clients and later volunteered our services as workers.

4. Mug from Wings. Last summer, the week we spent at Kure Beach was one of my richest times all year of prayer and time with Jesus.  So, in a totally inappropriate move, I redistributed mugs. (I bought a new one to replace this one... because... I'm a little superstitious and wanted to take this one home with me.)  (Weird, right?)

5. Mug from Pier One. Gift from best friend in college. This is the second edition of this mug, because the first one met an untimely death in the dorm. Said-BFF kindly replaced it after I cried big girl crocodile tears when the first one shattered.

6. Polka Dotta Mug. Gift from a family member who bestowed me with it as a way to let me know she loved me as one of her own.

7. Mug from Woolworth Walk in Downtown Asheville. Purchased a month ago on Girls Weekend. Because I have a current obsession with birds... and coffee mugs. When rationalizing whether or not to buy this mug, I was "encouraged" to buy it because our hotel room only had 2 mugs and there were three of us.  Right. Because I needed an excuse.

And today's winner for morning coffee:
8. This beautiful pottery mug I bought this summer at the Farmer's Market in Wilmington. Our summer was, as Fran put it yesterday at MOMS, a stormy mess... this mug was a reminder to me that God was clearly our port in that storm.

I'm a gift person... yes, even gifts to myself.  When I pick up one of these mugs, I'm reminded either who gave it to me or the reason that the place from where it came is so special to me. It sets the stage for my day- and allows my mind to think back on what God has done for me as I look forward to what's next.  "Here I raise mine Ebenezer" and all that jazz... all I know is that my day looks more promising before me after I enjoy thinking back on what has been before.

The best part of waking up... is picking out a coffee cup.

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Sidenote: Y'all know I'm a fan of Triad Moms on Main, right?  Remember when I blogged for them about my adventures in Africa?  Well, they are in a competition for NATIONAL recognition from Parent's Magazine for being the best local blog.  (Now, I know y'all think this one is, but mine is part of theirs, right? :) ) Can you take a few minutes to vote for them?  You'll be registered to win a $100 savings bond... and as of now your odds are pretty good. (Some people aren't patient enough to go through the registration process.)  Here's what they said this morning: 
You can WIN a $100 SAVINGS BOND simply by voting for Triad Moms on Main in a Best Local Blog Contest! Right now, only 30 people have registered to win, so your chances are GREAT! It only takes a few minutes to vote. Then you just comment on the TMoM website to tell them you voted and you are registered to win!  Click on the link below for more info and please vote for TMoM!!!  http://triadmomsonmain.com/_blog/My_Blog/post/Parents_Magazine_Best_Blog/
And if you win, I'll let you buy me a coffee mug.  Good luck!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Why I love this kid...


 first day of school sass...
 look at Jack trying to get away...
 and her confusion of his "getting away"...
 clearly, he's not impressed with my stealth photo taking.
 but she loves him enough to make him a picture that says "I love Jack"
 and write in her journal all about her good day...
  and she loves to play frisbee with her dogs
 ...this one has never been happier...
and neither has she.
Holy cow, I love this kid.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Family.

In the months of August and September, I was fortunate enough to take 3 trips with my family.

Weekend One: Girls Weekend
Anyone who spends anytime with me gets to hear about "My best friends from preschool on... the twins... Misty and Christy."  We met at Hominy Baptist Preschool when we were 3-ish and have been friends ever since.  Seriously- a 32-ish year friendship is nothing to joke about!  Having best friends who are twins teaches you a lot about how friendships ebb and flow.  One year I would be "closer" to Misty, the next I would be "closer" to Christy.  In school it typically depended who I had more classes with, or- more importantly- who I had lunch with (and could share a baked potato with, right Christy?)  We've been through just about everything together- Girl Scouts (and camp!), break-ups, divorces, Senior Week, death, weddings, arm amputations (well, really only one... I don't need to make that plural), miscarriages, babies, and lots of chocolate chip cookie dough in the middle.

When Mary died, the girls gave me a gift certificate to a spa to get a much needed massage.  The beauty of redeeming this gift was that I convinced them to go with me... so the three of us went to Asheville (our hometown!) together.. something we'd never done before.  Our weekend was filled with laughter, food, wine, a bus tour, amazing spa treatments, laughter, and some more laughter.  It's a beautiful thing to have people who love you like family.





Weekend Two: Roadtrip to Tennessee
My brother and his wife moved to Tennessee over a year ago when Katherine became a professor at Sewanee.  They recently bought a beautiful house there- so at the end of August my Dad, Elizabeth, and I went to visit them.  Seeing them was wonderful, but the trip itself was just as good.  I hadn't realized how little E knew of Daddy- in her nearly 5 years of life he's been dealing with 5 of his hardest years with his own cancer and Mary's.  Friday night when we checked in our hotel, E said "Mommy, I really like Dadaw... I mean I really like him!"  My heart stayed full that weekend with both of them enjoying each other.



Weekend Three: Rwanda Reunion
I had planned to sum up our camping trip for you with loads of words about what an amazing reunion this past weekend was... but Elizabeth Rutledge beat me to it on her blog.  The two families who traveled together, lived life together, adopted together, and were changed together got to see each other for the first time since we returned back in June.  It was a perfect reunion- no pressure to do anything but enjoy each other.  The kids played and played- and we laughed about things that didn't feel as funny 3 months ago.  I still feel so incredibly honored to have been a part of this experience- and loved being with this part of my family this weekend.



Family... they know you best and love you most.  I am blessed to be part of an amazing family- both related by blood and by tears.  You make me who I am and are walking beside me as that person is growing.  You walk beside me when I need company and give me space when I don't.  You surround me with your love and help me process life.  My space in this world is rich and full and happy because of my family... thanks be to God.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Being Spoiled.

I've been working recently to be aware of my junk.  Not necessarily to try and fix it all yet... but to be aware of it so that God can begin healing some of that junk in my life.  In years past, most of my junk has looked like this: INSECURITY.  But low and behold, He's gotten me past a lot of that.  (Don't hear me say I'm cured of it, just know that I'm a lot better.)  Lately my junk has been all over the place- chaotic, hurt, desperate, and spoiled.

The irony of the spoiled part just kills me.  I have spent hours talking with Elizabeth about not being spoiled.  We are hyper-aware of the danger stereotype of having an only child.  Both Dan and I have siblings, so we've never seen how to raise an only child.  We've seen what the media portrays as an only child... and it looks a little something like this:





I do not want my child to fall down the "bad egg" shute.

Last week, we had one of those Veruca Salt moments.  E had been promised a "Smurf Day" with her friend.  They were going to go to Build-A-Bear and make Smurfs, have Smurf Happy Meals for dinner, and watch a Smurf DVD before a Smurftastic Sleepover. 

Ummmm... Build-A-Bear is sold out of Smurfs.  And Happy Meals have seen their last Smurf days.

My child, who can often handle things like this, did NOT handle this announcement well.  We were at a playground with some friends when I found out and told her and she promptly proceeded to sob.  I mean cry like she'd hurt herself kind of tears.

Fortunately, I wasn't as worried about the appearance of it- I told you before that God had been working on my insecurity.  What I *was* worried about was the heart issue of it all.  Really, Elizabeth?  You're still going to go to Build-A-Bear, you're still going to go out to eat, you're still going to get a sleepover.  Can you not get it together for one second to realize how fortunate you are?

We left the playdate and had a one-on-one chat over lunch.  That meltdown has resulted in an incredible transition in my girl's actions.  She has responded to things with a renewed gratitude and attitude.  I am so proud of how she's caught herself before whining.  The result was worth the time spent teaching, for sure.

As I've been focused on correcting/addressing her spoiled-ness, God's reminded me of my own.  I have a spoiled schedule.  I have a child who sleeps late... a husband who shares responsibilities with childcare (and never calls it babysitting) so that I can have lots of time to myself or with friends... an ability to get my needs met in a reasonable amount of time.  While those things are not bad at all, I can easily slip in to the spoiled category myself.  But just like I told E, it's my heart condition that matters.  Yes, we both will likely continue to be blessed- either with Build-A-Bear opportunities or time to go on a Girls' Weekend.  But when we expect those things to happen rather than acknowledge and appreciate the blessing, we miss the blessing and focus on the event.

In this season of life, I am committed to enjoy those blessings.  I am committed to be thankful for those blessings.  I am committed to share my blessings.  I want to be grateful, not spoiled.  I am also aware that some of those blessings will look drastically different when our Foster Children arrive... even more reason to appreciate and enjoy them now.

Being aware of my junk: BEING SPOILED- is just the starting point.  Transferring that spoiled-ness to gratitude is a daily journey.  Now, let me get back to my coffee before my child wakes up.  Yes, it's nearly 9:00am.  (Spoiled, I tell ya...)

Monday, August 22, 2011

In search of more peace...

One of the greatest gifts I was given in life is my counterpart- Dan.  Those of you who know us well know our story: dated two and half months, got engaged, and were married at our six month dating anniversary.  (Gasp!)  My college minister said (when I called to tell her a.about Dan and b.that we were getting married, "That is so you, Becky!"  Really?  Is it?  Cause I was sure shocked, too...)  I still attest to this day that Dan wasn't my "type".  But clearly, he sure was... because what was a good fit back in 1999/2000 sure is a good fit now.

Dan is my sounding board.  When everything went down in Rwanda, I wept in my room one day because I couldn't debrief it with him.  Later, I told a friend this and she said, "oh, because you wanted someone to debrief it all with?" and I said, "no... because I wanted Dan to debrief it all with." 

We were at an engagement party this weekend and the bride and I caught a moment away where she shared how overwhelmed she is to comprehend how much her groom loves her... and loves her unconditionally.  It made me feel all those mushy-gushy new love feelings, and made me come home to talk it over with Dan.  The running joke in our marriage is "Here's to Good Enough."  There have been moments where Good Enough was all we were able to muster... where physically, emotionally, spiritually, financially "good enough" was all we could do.  Yet the beautiful part about our Good Enough is that when you put both of ours together, our Good Enough becomes pretty great.

Lately, my brain has been on overload learning and relearning life.  All of that process is not yet ready for blog-words, but it's been healthy and it's been good.  I am thankful that as I relearn, I have my sounding board right there with me.  Dan encourages me toward peace.  He wants to partner with me to put our family in right perspective.  He wants our time, energy, and resources to be used for the greater good.  For that, I am most thankful.

Yesterday morning, all 3 of us were lying in bed before church talking about our day.  Elizabeth asked if we could go for a walk and Dan said, "Why don't we go for a walk... in Asheboro?  Let's go worship God there and check out all the cool animals He's made..." and off we went.











Sometimes we need people to push us toward peace.  Yesterday, mine was found evidenced my a sweaty face and tired feet about an hour southeast of here.  My Good Enough gets better each day... and I'm so thankful God knew better than I did that Dan really is my type after all.

Peace to you.