Sunday, February 20, 2011

Becky Camp

There's been some buzz on Facebook in the last 24 hours about "Becky Camp"... let me tell you my version.

As school ended last year, I asked Elizabeth what one thing she wanted to do over the summer.  She said she wanted to "have camp".  I, wrongly, thought she wanted to camp in the backyard... but, no, my social child wanted to HOST a CAMP.  So we did.  We invited several of her friends, picked a few dates over the summer,  and picked a name- Camp of Kids... and a tradition was born.  (She asked me just this last week what crafts we were doing *this* summer at Camp of Kids.)

As the moms came to pick up their kids, there was a common outcry... "Why don't you do a camp for *us*?"

So I did.

This weekend, I hosted the (first annual?) Camp of Y'all.  Not Camp of Moms, and not Camp of Women... but Camp of, well, Y'all.  (Which, over FB, became renamed Camp Becky or Becky Camp... funny.)

Sidenote: Recently, I had a wine tasting party.  (Stay with me, this relates.)  I did an invitation on Facebook and started clicking names of people I thought would enjoy it.  When I got to the number "76", I realized that was a bit ridiculous for a wine tasting party... so I narrowed it down to only inviting about 40.  Seriously.  As I was crafting my invitation list for Camp of Y'all, I could not invite everyone I know... nor could I even invite everyone I wanted to.  If you were not included, please do not see this as a reflection of our friendship.  Also, you could see it as a reflection of your email not "liking" Evite... like my friend Nicole... who was invited, but never got the invitation.  Who knows.

Saturday morning, my house was full of 20-ish beautiful women.  We had breakfast.  Including mimosas and 4 pots of coffee.

 Thank you, Kristina, for these amazing cinnamon rolls!
Wouldn't you know the one thing we ran "low" on was fruit?  Buncha girls...

Next, we did some ice breakers.  And we made some crafts.

What's a camp without Mod Podge?
one of the cute magnets...

One of the "stations" the ladies had to do was writing a letter to themselves.  I always loved/hated this activity back in youth group/student council days.  Now as I'm older and see how quickly time flies and things change, I relish it.

Before lunch, we played "telephone-pictionary".  I may have laughed so hard at one I almost wet my pants.  I freakin' love that game.

this one was something about Becky going to Las Vegas and throwing up then playing craps
I have no idea what this was.
Lunch was incredibly yummy... tasty salads and, of course, some chocolate.  Thank you, Lisa, for your recipes!  Your salted caramel brownie bites were a hit... and I adore the chocolate dipped clementines! 

My favorite part of the day, however, was right at the beginning when my friends shared their "words".  I heard a great message on January 2 this year about picking a word for yourself this year and praying it over your entire year.  I'd emailed the ladies coming and asked them to send me their words... as we did our first ice breaker, each woman shared their word.  The beauty of a group like this is that we all fit into each other's words on some level... as we shared our words (and shared why we picked them), several of us nodded or uh-huhed our shared experiences.  We talked about:

- The desire to be more organized.
- The desire to be more intentional about enjoying the place we are in right now with our lives.
- The desire to complete projects instead of starting numerous ones and leaving them undone.
- The desire to be a blessing to others.
Just to name a few...

My morning was filled with joy, laughter, and being content.  I am blessed to know such neat women.  Now I will say this... I appreciated all of your shout-outs and thank yous via Facebook... but that's not why I did it.  I have an amazingly supportive husband who understands my love language and encourages me to love other people the way I want to be loved.  And I have an amazing God who wants me to live in community and be transparent.  So while I appreciate your gratitude, I don't need it.  Just feel loved... and pay it forward.

photos courtesy of Tamar Petty
photos uploaded to her computer and shared at an amazingly rapid rate courtesy of The Jett

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Body of Christ

So, tonight on the way to church it hit me:  Sometimes Christians piss me off, but the Body of Christ never does. In fact, the Body of Christ never ceases to amaze me.  And my only complaint is that the world tends to see Christians... and not The Body.

Let me explain:
Christians are people who label themselves as "little Christs"... people who follow Jesus... people who want to be known as belonging to the Christian Church.  And over the years, they've gotten a bad rap.  Because they are sinners.  And they are hypocrites.  And they are mean, ugly, evil things... wait, did I mention that they are sinners?  The junk we have in our life (sin) keeps us from being good (holy) and therefore we are bad (sinners).  (Thank you, Lee Morrison for teaching me how to keep it real- Theology 101.)

But.... The Body of Christ is... well, just that.  The physical movement on earth of the person of Jesus.

And, I have been fortunate enough to witness The Body at it's best lately.

-I've seen people pour out love to my BFF who is adopting... they've answered prayers that her family hasn't even prayed yet.  They've cleaned out their closets, attics, and homes to stock a future yard sale.  They've offered resources beyond their own means... it's amazing.

-I've seen people jump on board to partner with another one of my besties who is moving to Africa.  Did you catch that?  MOVING TO AFRICA.  Why?  To be the Body of Christ to people who need some love there.   Just because that's what you do... when God tells you to.  And now people are rallying around them in a way that is beautiful.  In our sadness of "losing" them, we are celebrating what's next for their lives.

-I've reconnected with several friends from college who are all in the process of answering God's call to adopt.  Reading their blogs, seeing their Facebook posts... it's neat to see Him say the same thing to multiple people: Take care of My children.

-I've watched college students who used to like to "just" hang out now rally around each other in prayer and encouragement.  They spend hours (upon hours upon hours) being together... being real... and loving God in community.

-I've seen multiple families open up their lives to a girl who had no where else to turn.  One opened her home and her family's life to have her live with them.  One opened her schedule and became her permanent taxi, daily taking her from one side of town to the other and taking her kids where they need to go.  Others have provided meals, treats, conversation, wisdom, and... well... love.  The life of this girl- and of her kids- will forever be impacted by the love of my friends.

-I've seen a friend lose a job and respond by saying, "That must just mean God has something else planned for me."

-I've seen another friend search and pray for what her role is in the homeless community where she feels called.  After weeks and weeks searching and serving, her whole family now serves alongside her.

-I've seen a friend weep tears of joy because- over a year and a half later- she's finally able to go back to China- CANCER FREE.  While she was receiving treatment and her body was in physical pain- her heart ached for the people she wasn't able to see in the country miles and miles away.  And now she's gearing up to go back to the land she loves so much... because God is so good.

-I've made a new friend online as I've watched him seek out how he's supposed to get his mind, body, and spirit in shape.  Better than that?  He's my friend in real life, too.

-I've watched people drop everything on their important schedules to come to the aid of those in need.

-I've watched people completely rearrange their finances to give more away.

-I've watched people part with possessions they thought they couldn't live without.

-I've been in a room with other people as they read the Bible together and try to figure out just what it means.

-I've watched those same people get real with each other sharing real hurts, pains, joys, and struggles.  We've wept and celebrated together.

And... all of these things have occurred RECENTLY.  Did I mention this is amazing?

I'm fortunate enough to have been a part of the Body of Christ in the way He intended it when He called His church.  Sure, we screw it up.  We're human.  We're sinners.  But I beg of you: don't get so caught up in those Christians who are living life in a way that makes you crazy that you lose sight of The One they intend to follow.  Ignore all they've... we've.... done to jack things up... and look to The One who can fix it all.  Then- when you stop looking at us and start looking to Him... you'll see His Body.  It's an amazing place to be... join us, k?

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

My sweet-hearted sweetheart.

Nighttime prayer tonight:

"Dear God, thank you for the whole world that you made, and especially Nanny.  Thank you for giving me the chance to know her.  Amen."

How I love this girl.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

My senses have become heightened.

I talked with one of my favorite friends ever last night.  Not only does he have the best voice in the world (and come on, anyone who lived with me during answering machine days have to admit they sometimes would play his messages again just to hear him speak), but Eric Farmer has the best "phrasing" as well.

Last night when we spoke, he was putting words around a concept I'd yet to phrase.  He said that in his world, his senses had become heightened and that the same-old-things looked brand new to him.  Thank you, Eric, for explaining in words what is going on in my heart.

Since our Disney trip, we've come home to discover a new world.  Dan and I both have experienced God's presence in new ways in our individual lives and in our marriage, and I cannot express to you how He has heightened our senses.  My overwhelming schedule has been just as busy, but calm.  My chaotic closet is still just as jumbled, but appears manageable.  My huge fear of running is just as present, but I am no where near as skeptical of my ability... and one might say I'm even excited about seeing what I'll be able to accomplish.

My senses are heightened... the friends who joined me for dinner tonight (who were some of the very first friends I met here nearly 9 years ago) were "new" to me- and that's a beautiful thing.  It's a joy and a privilege to see how God blesses and renews friendships... as well as how He protects them along the way.  One year ago, my Daddy called me with a grim update about Mary's health.  These same women sat in my house and supported me as I wept.  Tonight they sat with me as I cried with an overwhelmed heart about what God is doing in our lives.  For that, I am thankful.  

The same-old-things look new... here's hoping you'll check them out with me...

What I learned on my Disney Vacation... Volume Two

Here's a bit more about being "those people"... Disney is Dan's thing.  Well, now it's Dan and Elizabeth's thing.  Don't get me wrong- I grew up in this Disneyfied Country.  I loved Snow White from an early age.  I sang "A Whole New World" in the car with my high school boyfriend.  I owned Little Mermaid sheets (which E now sleeps on... funny, huh?)  And I vividly remember watching Bambi at a church lock-in one night and losing my poo.

I had only been to Disney World 3 times before this recent rash of WDW trips.  My first time I was about 4, my second was as a tag-along with my brother's Beta Club trip (the joy of having a mom who chaperoned!), and then the summer after 8th grade when my mom, brother and I went.  (Which, btw, I totally had a random flashback to that trip on this one.  While standing in a gift shop I spotted the exact souvenir I bought for someone that I hadn't thought about in YEARS!  Good to know that 21 years (gasp) later, if you need a replacement keychain, Eric, they are still there.)  Disney is definitely part of my heritage, but I don't eat, breathe, and live The Mouse.

And then, I married Dan.

Funny enough, one of my first memories of Dan was when Bryan Broodno (our mutual friend) said to me, "Have you been to that guy Dan's apartment?  He has one whole wall that is nothing but Sleeping Beauty."  What he meant was that Dan collected original Disney animation art and had a wall that had lots of the pictures beautifully displayed.  But what I heard was that Dan was some weird med student with an obsession of all things princess and had painted a mural along his wall... creeper.  Good to know I was wrong.

So, in 2009 when we loaded Miss Elizabeth up and headed south, I was excited... but not over the top.  I was excited because it was vacation... it was a break... it was time with my family... and, it was Disney World.  Who doesn't love that, right?

Here we are... our first day with the Mice!

Even better... our BFFs were at WDW the same time, and we overlapped with them a couple days.  So it was a super trip AND we got to hang out with them some, too.

E riding with the big girls just before leaving

The minute we got back on Highway 4, Dan started planning our next trip.  He had already gone to the Vacation Club schpeal and decided that it wasn't right for us, but he wasn't going to rule it out yet.  And so, in just a matter of months, he was busy at work planning our next trip.

Year two was great, too... although it was a wee bit too long.  My only problem with the second year (besides the length) was I spent a lot of time unintentionally comparing it to the year before.  So either I wanted to redo something we'd done before, or I compared results (ie: that pizza wasn't as good, last year the lines weren't as bad, this walk is much shorter from our hotel, blah blah blah).  It did have it's own set of memories, though, including meeting some Disney VIPs who I hung out with in one night... and this time overlapping with a different set of friends.

Chef Mickey's with Jack!

One of my favorite parts of that trip, though, was on our last full day.  Aunt Allison came to spend the day with us... and if that wasn't magical enough, we were the first guests to arrive at Mickey's House and he gave us a personal tour.

Mickey showing E around his place...
Our little family- plus Aunt Allison- with Mickey and Minnie

So this year, I was pumped and ready to go... mainly because I was ready for some time away.  All in all, this last year was a tough one, and I was ready for a break in a land of warmer temperatures.  Not only did I get that, but I got so much more...

Elizabeth keeps talking about the Tangled meet-and-greet.  This was different than any I'd been to before... in addition to the fact I waited in line an hour (!!!) to reserve our spot, Rapunzel and Flynn came out and danced with the kids.  E loved that Flynn acted like he didn't know where Rapunzel was... she keeps laughing about the shoulder-tap/look of confusion gag.

Clearly, we're no strangers to Snow White.  But I'll tell ya... each one of them kept the dream alive for Elizabeth.  When we first saw her, I quickly "helped" her by saying "Snow White!  We haven't seen you since Elizabeth's birthday party!" and she didn't skip a beat by answering "Oh you're right!!  And how has your... life... been since then?"  When we saw her later in Germany (above), she played with E's hands the whole time (E kept talking with her hands, so Snow played along) and talked to her about being the Princess of the Kingdom of Lewisville.  Well played, Snow.

When we had dinner with Cinderella and all her brood, E told each of them that she liked "their 2nd movie".  (Yes, we watch Cinderella II a LOT in this house.)  Drizella (above) told E not to talk about it too loudly, because her mother had never been too fond of The Baker.  (Her love interest in the sequel, for those of you who don't have to put up with that as often as I do.)  E was completely enraptured: hook-line-and-sinker.

So much so that when The Prince came to our table, E said (quite loudly), "Oh Mommy (sigh), I think he is rather handsome."

These kind of moments are what made this trip perfect for me.  I'm fully aware that my sweet girl is just moments away from not "buying" what the princesses are trying to sell her.  In fact, while we were at WDW, she'd already started putting pieces together.  She would point out for us that the bears at Country Bear Jamboree weren't real, they were just "machines".  Same for Ben Franklin and Mark Twain in the "America" show at Epcot.  But for now, the characters were the REAL DEAL for her... and for that I couldn't be more thankful.  What I learned on my Disney Vacation was that there really is magic for those who believe.

One final story: back at Epcot one night for dinner at Biergarten.  As we were walking there, we spotted Mary Poppins doing a meet-and-greet.  E took her book to be autographed, we took pictures, and were about to walk away when E said "Oh, Mommy!  Tell her about your stepmom!"  I turned to Mary and said "Elizabeth wants me to tell you that my stepmother's name was Mary.  She just passed away."  (I made it through sentence one okay... sentence two got me.)  Without missing a beat Mary turned to Elizabeth and said, "I'm quite certain she was practically perfect in every way."  Then she got down on E's level and said, "I've always been rather partial to Mary's."

Yep.  The Johnston family was a wreck.

Easily, Mary Poppins could have stayed in character and said "Oh, I'm sorry."  But she didn't... she was Mary Poppins as she spoke to my child... as she spoke to us... as she became part of our Disney Story.

It really is magic when you choose to believe.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

What I learned on my Disney Vacation... Volume One

You’d think that in all of my 4+ years of being a mom, I’d have some of the basics figured out.  You’d think that, but you’d be wrong.

We just returned from a magical week at Walt Disney World.  Before you ask, I’ll tell you… we are those people.  Yep, this was Elizabeth’s 3rd trip.  And, yep, she’s only 4.  We took her for the first time when she had recently turned 2.  And, before you say it… no, I don’t think she was too young to go.  She doesn’t remember everything from that trip- but we do.  And she does remember some things.  Which is super cool.

We went again last year, when she was just older than 3.  Last year was also super cool, except to be totally honest, I think that our trip was a little too long.  And, yes, I realize what a brat that makes me that I think that my vacation was too long.  Poor me.

But this year was perfect…. perfect weather, perfect travel, perfect amount of time… and almost perfect behavior from my child.   Almost perfect because, well, she is a CHILD and I was making her operate on a not-so-child-friendly schedule.

Yep, folks… rocket science.

Day one- she was excited, and fairly well behaved.
Day two- she was still excited, and her behavior was also still decent.
Day three- she was used to being the center of all Disney activity, and was starting to behave a little like a princess… and not in the good way.
Day four- we were starting to see signs of the pouty/fussy/whiney E… oh, wait… she is FOUR.  That’s kind of her MO right now.  So why was I so desperate to make her “behave” when she was going on way less sleep than normal and way more amped up activity?

Because in my world, that’s what you do.  And her world was greatly being ignored… all in the name of “FUN”. 

The evening of day four, we put E in Kid Care so Dan and I could have a date (read: ride the scary rides together instead of taking turns riding them alone).  After a fun date night, we picked her up (again, waaay past her bedtime) and she was back to normal.  Disney Magic you might ask?  Yes… but this time, the Disney Magic was PLAY.  For nearly four hours, E had “normal” four year old activity.  She colored.  She watched movies.  She ate dinner.  She played with toys.  She played “house”.  And she did it on her schedule.

She wasn’t forced to wait in lines, or even meet characters.  (Both of those things she does well, btw, but still, they can wear down a little one.)

She was able to be… FOUR.

In the land of magical children’s dreams… she needed to just… PLAY.

When she got in the car and listed for us all of the fun she’d had, we realized maybe we’d gotten it right.  We weren’t the only ones who needed a night to regroup- she came back to us a “new” little girl… actually, the old one… the one we’d almost let get away.

Fortunately, we’re quick studies.  When her behavior took a nose-dive after another super long day, we quickly rebounded by taking the next morning off.  We walked around our resort, took a boat ride to Downtown Disney, shopped, swam, took a rest… then headed back to Epcot to have one of our best nights in the park.

It might take us a while to get trained, but once we figure it out, it sticks.  And what I learned from my Disney Vacation is this: kids don’t only need a storybook land with characters to meet… they need to be kids and play.