Friday, February 27, 2015


I don't do things in order.  I was often guilty of writing the final draft of my paper first, deleting and rearranging to print off a less refined copy as a "rough" draft and then paring it down even further to make an outline. I don't quite understand or submit easily to things that take a process.  I often find myself digging through the garbage for manuals or assembly instructions I was sure I was too brilliant to need.  

This being said, the stages of grief for Branson have been no different.  I was desperate to heal well and learn from what we had walked through. I was surprised when I researched the stages, because they seemed all backwards.. 
Denial? How could I deny what had happened? How empty the crib was.  The baby blankets folded- the tiny clothes hanging.  There was no denying.  
Depression? Although I did experience a very low time in the months following Branson's death, life forced me to get up, to love my kids, to pursue truth. I felt as though in order to heal well, I should be experiencing something similar to what the psychological community believed to be both normal and healthy.  But I wasn't.
Bargaining? What did I have to offer God for her life? mine? I had already given it to Him- told Him indefinitely that I would use her miracle for His glory...that her healing would be a direct link to His all divine power.  I have nothing to offer the Creator of the Universe that I wasn't already laying at His feet during this time.

So, when I found myself in Acceptance of God's choice not to heal Branson on earth, I was relieved.  I was relieved that I had found a place of rest, that I was willing to let her be His.  I was thankful that I was healing.  

Imagine, then, when I wake up 5 days before what would be her 4th birthday to find myself incredibly angry at my God.
Angry at everything.
Angry for the burden, for the journey, for the heartache, for the testimony, for the reputation and stigma it carries, all of it.
I wanted to run away and pretend it never happened- denial.
I wanted to hide- depression.
I wanted to tell God to make something rise up out of that hole he left in me- that it was pointless- His glory could have been revealed in her healing more than her death...what was He thinking.- bargaining.

Hmm.

Oh. I get it.  

So what you are saying, God, is that you expect me to give you these things daily....you want me in your arms for the long haul. You have not forsaken me. You are in the midst of it.  The shepherd doesn't rescue the lamb from the briars and set it out on its own.....He is there to walk beside it, to watch over it...to deliver it over and over. 

In every season you are asking for my heart........


Happy Birthday Sweet Branson
From Mama, Daddy, Jaden Lily, eason and Vivienne



Monday, February 3, 2014

The shadows

Three years ago today I had a tearful conversation with Jaden Lily about the real possibility that her baby sister would not survive.  The truth is, this was the first time in my heart that I had admitted this to myself.  Up until this point in the journey with Branson, I had been ultimately convinced that she would be healed...either within the womb or with medical intervention.  I never believed she would not be healed.  
In that conversation with Jaden Lily, I walked for the first time in the valley of the shadow of death. It was not like I had imagined it. Instead of being alone and afraid, I was more confused and dismayed. I never felt alone- my thoughts, my beliefs, my doubts and shadows were all around me.  The valley was long and dark...with little light and very little understanding.  I remember that it was also full of memory....every other death and every other loss heaped upon my shoulders.  The valley proved shadowy- reflecting things that were true and shadows of lies that were not.  The valley is a susceptible time of doubt and a vulnerable time.  It was easy for me to get distracted by the doctor's reports and the odds and the idea that maybe I wasn't praying "enough" or the "right way."
There is something fundamentally true about a shadow.  When the sun shines, the shadow moves. The shadow is in complete obedience to the sun. When it rises and sets the shadows are long. When you walk through the valley the shadows are sometimes long and indistinguishable.  Remember though, that when the sun is center-right above you- that the shadows disappear.  Remember that those shadows, when the sun is near,  are easy to recognize and manipulate.  Remember that sometimes those shadows are your own and that the fear and worry you have are your own creation.  When the sun is center and the light is present that the shadows are not in control of you.  
I am certain to experience the valley again.  I am certain to lose someone, experience defeat, question His will, doubt He is in control, fight for my life...... When I find myself there, I will run to the light again and again.  I will cling to His promises, remember His word, look for His will.  



I once was fatherless,
a stranger with no hope;
Your kindness wakened me,
Awakened me, from my sleep
Your love it beckons deeply,
a call to come and die.
By grace now I will come
And take this life, take your life.
Sin has lost it’s power,
death has lost it’s sting.
From the grave you’ve risen
VICTORIOUSLY!
Into marvelous light I’m running,
Out of darkness, out of shame.
By the cross you are the truth,
You are the life, you are the way!
My dead heart now is beating,
My deepest stains now clean.
Your breath fills up my lungs.
Now I’m free. now I’m free!
If you think about it, pray for us this month as we celebrate what would have been Branson's 3rd birthday.  

Friday, November 1, 2013

They are all going to leave me.

They are all going to leave me.  
This was the sentence on my lips as I woke to a midnight dream the other night. 
I had actually fallen asleep before midnight, which, if you know me, is a miracle in itself. My mind grew weary of wandering and I actually fell asleep. 
I can only remember what happened in the dream right before I woke up- frustrating if you are like me and want to over-analyze your dreams at a later time....
It went something like this:
My six year old says .."mom, why aren't you coming?" 
I respond .."They are all going to leave me"

So- I have no idea what it was about. The preceding bits of the dream could have been about groceries or birds or pickles or relatives or dogs or any various subconscious enigma my brain thought up.  
But, since I don't know, I have thought and thought and thought about it.

Here is what I learned:

I am a person that has lived in the future most of my life. There was always something to plan, somewhere to go, something interesting on the horizon. This caused me to miss the moments as they were happening, to forget what I had learned from the past (I repeated many mistakes), and to minimize or even ignore the possible future consequences for the present choices.  
Only recently have I learned to live in the moment- 
and only recently have I learned how quickly those moments are flying by.

My oldest turned twelve. Twelve.
Twelve.
Twellllllvvve.

I am so proud. I stand with wide eyeballs. I want to understand her. I want to get inside her skin. I want to be someone she relates to. It is so hard- so daunting- so important.  

In my dream my six year old says "Why aren't you coming?"

The future looms over me, now. I am excited to see their future,  but, if you want the truth of my heart- it stumbles backwards from the horizon sometimes. Sometimes the horizon is too much.  I want them always to need me- always to want me.  
If I don't follow them into their horizon.....
If I just keep them close....
If I live so deep in the moment...
If I control the moments....
If I control them....
If I ask God to control them....
If I tell God to control them...
If I play God.

See how easily I get there?

"They are all going to leave me."

Yes. They are. And I will ok. 
I am not God. That narrow line we walk as parents when it comes to control and protection only gets fuzzier and more controversial as they age.... They have their own lives, spirits, relationships, accountabilities. I will not spend my time running between pendulum swings and grasping for control.  I will not give up and cast my responsibility aside to remain in my children's good graces. 
I will balance.
I can juggle the wisdom of the past,  the importance of the present moment and the excitement of the future for the next decade. I can be a parent that is radically in love with my kids enough to admit failure, to get back up, to keep walking and to not be ashamed to shout from the mountain when I am winning.  I can do all things because my strength isn't my own.  I can share my mess-ups and my outright sin. 

 I can do that because that is what it takes.  That is what it takes to parent. We want them to be responsible and happy and redeemed and confident- to have that "something" that makes them successful? You are that something- their parent, balancing the truth.... That is the indefinable "something" that a child needs to ground themselves and still be able to leap from the asphalt. 
The ability to carry wisdom and experience into that bright, bold, bewildering horizon......
"They are all going to leave me" 

They will leave me...and I will cheer.  

Johnna

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

failing well

This week can go somewhere.

Every few weeks I decide that I am not, in fact, renewing my children's offspring contracts.
I decide that Will and I are buying an airstream and working at KOAs all over the country.  I decide that dinner can be alternating days of frozen pizza and sugary cereal. I decide that a good education is overrated and an empty sink can bite me.

I remember losing a game of kick the can.  This particular game I had begged the boys to let me in on- promising I wouldn't ruin it or slow it down. They reluctantly gave in and I found a great hiding place.  It was well hidden but gave me a great view of the playing field.  Pretty soon, though, I had to pee. I tried my best to hold it...to finish out the game, save face.  I did not.  Walking in from 1st grade recess with wet shorts and squishy shoes was not what I called saving face.  

A few years later, in front of the same group of peers, I ran out crying from an assembly where I had been asked to sing a solo.....after forgetting the words to the song.

A few years after that I found myself the girl being cheated on- right under my nose.

A little while later I was the girl who got knocked up.

These moments are only a glimpse of many- moments where I began to readily admit that I was able to lose, to fail......and fail well.

My daughter has been asking me about being "embarrassed" these past few months. Seems that the pre-teen angst can easily be soothed by my failures. ...these are her favorite stories. Times when I messed up, was punished, lost- these are the stories where she throws back her head and laughs, covers her face with empathy and snickers..... It is here where I connect with her....where I connect with humanity.  I am "Mama: imperfect and vulnerable."  The getting dirty is so necessary. Without it, there is no truth, no need, no healing, no mercy, no grace, no freedom.  Dirty is good. 


This week I am failing well- limited curse words, lots of humility and a hard-set gaze on the mercy of my Father...who will greet me in the morning with new mercies. 

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Hindsight being 20/20 and all.......

  At 7 am this morning, Jaden Lily and I head will be on a plane to Belize City, Belize for 6 days.  If you would have told me that we would be in this position with this opportunity six months ago I would have deemed you loony.  With a baby at home, bills coming out of our ears and a busy summer, I had put off the idea of missions for a while.  We would serve here, do some local outreach, and then maybe somewhere down the line, I would look for nice little safe mission opportunity for the kids....maybe stay in the US even.

What I felt was an overnight jolt of God's prompting, was really a long series of preparations for this event. Isn't that so often the case? You look back in hindsight to see all the indications, the trainings, the preparations or at least the ways He kept you on that particular road.  In the moment, it is rarely that way...but hindsight is so beautiful.....

Jaden Lily announced one Sunday after church that she really wanted to go to the Belize Mission trip they announced at church.  It went something like this:

Jaden- "Mom, they announced this trip and I really want to go."

Is she crazy? She's 11.  Oh my gosh....that is going to be so expensive.
Me- "Well, we will check it out...go ahead and sign up that you are interested."
Ohhhhh, wow...foreign soil....she's my baby...this will be good for her, though...but ohhhhh wow.

Jaden- "if you are under 12, you have to have a chaperone"

ACK!    $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$
How in the world could we afford that?! Maybe she could lie about her age.
There is no way. She will be so disappointed. We will do something here instead.

Me: "Ok, we will figure it out, baby:)"

Will: "You're kidding, right?"


And so on and so forth....I had almost zero....count it...zero faith that this would happen.  The cost was so much and the time wasn't there. Will had to work. Who would keep the other kids? How was this even possible?


I didn't verbally express all of this faithless negativity....but it seeped into her innocent, sensitive heart anyway. She began to indicate that she wasn't sure if we could do it.  "It's so much, mom. We need to use money for other things. It's ok if we can't."

Duct tape bows Jaden made to raise money 
I found myself saying things like "Of course we can get it! God laid this on your heart and He will provide for it, J! Don't worry. Have Faith!"
All the while thinking to myself ..who is saying this? Really?  I am not so sure...

As I continued to talk to people the energy about the trip exponentially grew.  I had a conversation with the financial pastor at church.  "What do I do if we ask for help and still don't get enough? Do we send the money back?" His answer: "That's never happened on one of these trips. The money always comes."
Alright, the money would come....but what about my baby on foreign soil....what about her innocence?
God continued to pave a road for my heart as well. He used a blog I follow answered that question..
You should check it out. Carlos' blog.....he's legit.
He reminded me that this world was huge, wild, scary and even sometimes evil....
He reminded me that it is my honor, privilege and responsibility to walk her through it.
Jaden Lily volunteering at Angelic Ministries with other
members of Fuse Church

I have seen countless of my friends walking life with their kids this summer...not just to waterparks and pool parties, but to poor communities, to homeless shelters, to build houses, to plant flowers, to give out water, to love on people. These parent-peers have motivated me, confirmed for me and challenged me to do more of what matters with my little world changers....




I could tell you a hundred stories over the course of the last year that led up to this amazing moment with my girl.  The fact that she worked so hard preparing, the fact that she had so much faith, the fact that she is beyond excited, the fact that she spent the year leading others.....God is pretty amazing...and it is so clear in hindsight.

By the way, ALL the money came in...donations of $1, $10, items for a yard sale, work to be done and money to be made....even one whopping $350 check that I had no idea was coming....
Before any of this money came in though, I will tell you of two specific stories.
A rainy yard sale with nothing special raked in over $250 because of
kind a generous giving....
Just in passing, before any final commitment had been made, Jaden began speaking about the trip with her aunt.  A few minutes later, her aunt came back with all the cash she had on her... From this moment on, Jaden was keenly aware of God's provision over this trip. It ignited a flame in her.
I, on the other hand, had just learned the price of passports and the time needed to get one. In order to get them back on time, we had to go ahead and get them before any money was donated.  We reluctantly took money from our savings to do so. It was a small amount to most people, but a huge gesture of faith on our part...to say that we did it with joy would be a lie.  As the money came in we were ecstatic to find that after three months, we had enough to go!
It wasn't crazy God had asked us to step out and pay for the passports. Not at all. In fact, it made sense to me....that He would have us commit, take a step forward, pitch in....
But, although it seemed like a nice idea, that was not His plan.
Instead, my uncle stopped by out of the blue with a check for the exact amount of the passports.....God didn't want us to just have "enough"....like so many times He wanted to give us more.
Passports:)




So here it is....10 pm on the night before and I have barely packed a thing...forgive the typos and lack of punctuation.... I am nervous about leaving a 15 month old...about taking my big baby overseas....about not being cut out for whatever is ahead....
Jaden Lily is about to learn, grow and give.....We are beyond thrilled to be partnering with many of you to bless others, to advance the kingdom of God and to walk life with our kids.  If I had known that this opportunity was coming, I would have read more, prayed more and saved more...but then I wouldn't have been able to enjoy the hindsight.


Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Don't follow me on Pintrest....

Don't do it. I can't handle the pressure. Every time I am notified that someone is following me on Pintrest I cringe. I don't fully understand Pintrest, and I have no delusion that these followers believe I am ├╝ber creative.... I don't follow people on Pintrest... I am more of a look-up-something-in-a-pinch kind of girl. I tried to make boards but alas.. Failure. Everything I have ever "pinned" is someone else's good idea. Anything I've done myself would pale in comparison. I can be creative, but antique lace valentines? Block letters covered in gold leaf? Stencils on the stairs? Homemade hairbows out of Homemade felt? .......... I got nothin'....

I won't lie and say I am not into social media. I'm addicted to Instagram.... I love the look and the mood of the pictures and I have driven many a follower away with my constant stream of kid pictures. I keep my Facebook to connect with friends overseas... I like a good on-line flea market now and then and I do 90% of my shopping on EBay.... I just have to constantly draw a line.

How many of you have kids as honest as mine? "Mom, put down your phone. Don't post that picture of me. Mom take a picture of me and post it. Mom, let me video. Mom, stop texting and driving. Mom, you look kind of fattish in that picture. Mom, can I play your phone. Mom, put your phone down, I'm talking to you."

Sound familiar? They know I have a line. They know I sometimes cross it. I struggle between being in the moment and capturing the moment. Sometimes you can't do both. I struggle between being open and wanting interraction and wanting to be left alone. I want interraction that costs me little. That's called selfishness, in case you were wondering.
I am so excited about the world being open for me, but am I  ready to accept the constant tap tap tapping of the world on my doorstep. The very irony that I post that question on a blog is evidence of my inner struggle. I am an open book... And I desire to be more open even...
But what is honesty without temperance, wisdom, and love? Nothing but a jerk.

I apologize for every time I've appeared to have it figured out or for every time I have not posted the picture of the kid with the dirty dishes in the sink behind them. It is difficult to air the "dirty laundry" but I want so desperately to be real.

So like my photos and keep up with me often. I love bumping in to you at the market and you knowing my life. I love you recognizing my kids before you recognize me ..it lets me know you haven't unfollowed me yet! .... Send me a message, sell me a mid-century modern couch on auction, but please please please don't follow me on Pintrest.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Summer Failure

I have a sort of winter amnesia it seems.  Every year I forget how extremely hard it is to keep the balls in the air in the summer....
Perhaps it's the 18 years in school and the 5 years as a teacher that kept me on sort of a "school year" schedule....whatever the reason, I cannot, cannot, cannot wrap my brain around how I am supposed to parent in the summer.  As soon as the temperature reaches about 66 degrees, any semblance of organization, planning or responsibility, that I have been roughly maintaining at best, flies out the pollen coated window. 
Let me out....Set me free! Summer is here!....
Wait, why are there still dishes?...not just dishes, but now grilling pans, coolers, popsicle making trays....
There is still laundry...but not just laundry: bathing suits, overalls, dress-up clothes, table cloths, "fort" sheets, and the endless mountains of towels upon towels upon towels.

The first week or so always goes rather smoothly.  This year I had a list of to-do projects, a list of books I wanted to read, and a list of activities to do with the kids.  I also had a scheduled itinerary of the kid's activities, camps, vacations, etc.

Of course, you guessed it. I have read only 1 of those books, my kids are bored out of their skulls, we don't have any extra money to throw at activities and my to-do list may as well be a taunting joke in the NOTES ap on my phone......

I am not the first mom to rant and grieve the loss of what I envisioned as the perfect summer. 
But I may be the first to admit that the reason it does not work is because I am a selfish child.  

Despite my lists and intentions, I lose sight each year of what I need to be doing and focus mostly on my desire to just basically do whatever it is I want.

To put this in simpler terms, let me paint you a picture of what I want.
The kids sleep in- all of them- until at least 9 am. We eat breakfast as a family. They smile at me the whole time.
We attend some exquisitely beautiful and free activity that all my kids love.( mind you, they are 11, 6 and 1). They each learn something new and talk about it like it was the most fun they have every had.
Someone fixes lunch. not me. I'm tired. I want to nap. I want to sleep on a float in the middle of a pool for 3 straight hours.  I want someone to bring me tea. I want the children to play sweetly and energetically for hours. I want them to say "mommy, you are the best mommy in the world." 
 I want to have a chef cooking dinner. I want my husband to come home early.  I want lemonade on the porch. 
Am I kidding? no....
Between my own high expectations and freakishly immature selfishness I become a summer failure.

If you were looking for 10 summer boredom-busters or a list of free activities to do or even a blog that gives you an out for not being summer super-mom this isn't it. There are plenty out there if you do a google search of "I'm already a big fat failure of a summer mom can someone please help me and make it all better so I can take a nap" ...believe me.

No. This isn't an out. This is a loving push to help you grow up....to help me grow up.  This is a message to myself to remember...I am just sharing in case you too need a reminder.

1) Boredom isn't a sin.
2) Sit down and read.
3) Snap a picture now and then. Your memory isn't as good as you think.
4) Schedule time with your spouse. Family time isn't marriage time.
5) Go to bed when the kids do.  Or stay up late.
6) Leave the dishes.
7) Go for a drive without electronics.
8) Mind your own business and stop comparing yourself, your life, your family.
9) Get take out.
10) No kid died from drying off on a dirty towel.