Thursday, June 9, 2016

The Struggle is Real

I struggle every single day not to be a toot.

I'm not kidding. I have to fight that part of my nature with a vengeance. My first response when hurt or upset is to lash out, and I'm fierce. Like dangerous, scary fierce.

I have to deliberately, carefully, purposefully put that part of myself down and try to focus on being Christ-like.

And the struggle is real, my friends.

I'd be lying if I didn't admit that sometimes I lose that battle.

So would you.

Every single day you have options--how am I going to respond to adversity, hardship, angry words, hurtful I going to respond in kind or in kindness?
Sometimes I love you. Sometimes I want to help you. Sometimes I feel sorry for you. Sometimes I feel led to pray with you. Sometimes I want to throat punch you.

Hey, the truth is scary.

And this is especially true in church. Because I am compelled by the love of Christ to love you even in your sin and when I don't agree with you and when you hurt my feelings.

That part stinks. Like really, really stinks. I don't like it at all. (See: throat punch)  Ugh. So, I find that part of me that is completely connected to the Holy Spirit and strive to listen with patience and pray for my enemies. It's comforting that Jesus did the same and modeled that behavior for me. He thought about throat punching some people too, He just had better self-control than I do (See: tables overturned on money-changers)

So, some notes to clarify:
Do not come to me with any complaints about my husband. Ever.
Do not come to me with any child-rearing suggestions. Ever.
Do not come to me trying to gossip. Ever.
Do not come to me trying to get information about my friends. Ever.

(See: Throat punch)

I'm killing this whole being transparent thing, like for real.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

The Point

There is nothing new or original in this list that someone hasn't said more eloquently or succinctly than me. I still wanted to make sure my kids were clear on all of it.

The point of cotton candy is to make me joyful. There is no other point. That's it. (Stop reading motives into stuff. Sometimes it just is what it is.)

Carpe Diem means 'seize the day'. Make the most of every opportunity placed in front of you. (Really it means always go for it.)

If it's a "once in a lifetime experience" your only answer is "yes" and/or "what time?"and maybe "what shoes should I wear?"

Sometimes the only acceptable response is "yes, ma'am". (Usually said with your eyes diverted to the ground for safety reasons.)

When tempted to lie about something silly remember that will be the only thing people remember when it's time to tell the truth about something important.

If you don't feel slightly ridiculous doing it, you probably aren't all in.

If you aren't all in, what is the point?

If you aren't all in, you look ridiculous. (It's a vicious cycle that way.) 

No one cares what your hair looks like. Really. No one. Stop touching it.

Try it. You might like it. (And if you don't, you make a mental note for next time. And warn your friends.)

Yes, that is what you look like in that selfie. It's you. You always look like that. We like you either way. Stop stressing about it.

If you never ask the question, the answer is automatically by default a resounding 'no'.

Always weigh the consequences of impulsive behavior. (Then 9 times out of 10 I suggest that you let it rip.)

Do not compound your problems. One mistake is enough at one time.

Sometimes it really is who you know.

When confronted with two paths, choose YOUR path. (Then don't moan or gloat about it either way.)

It's okay to stay home once in awhile. Just don't sleep more than you adventure.

Balance is the key. You can eat dessert, you just can't eat ALL of the desserts ALL of the time.

People are going to talk about you either way. Make it something memorable.

I don't want to get to the end of my life and people say, "She was a good cook and kept a clean house." I want them to say, "Man, I never laughed so hard in my whole life than when she...." And when asked about my housekeeping or wifey skills I hope people snort and say, "Are you kidding me?" Followed by, "Who let you in?"

I want my children to know that it's okay. I'll love you either way. Regardless. Always. No matter what.

There is nothing that can separate us from the love of God. Nothing. Same with the love of your mom.

I don't really care what you think. If God and The Husband are cool, there's nothing else to discuss.

I hope my life reflects all of me, not just the plastic, airbrushed parts. The good, bad, and the ugly make me well-rounded.

If you don't laugh, really belly laugh, every couple of days you need new friends and new activities. Post haste.

Don't save "stuff" for "someday". You aren't promised tomorrow.

If you never get out of your comfort zone it becomes a stagnant zone. And everyone knows stagnant stinks and has mosquitoes.

I will laugh inappropriately at a moment's notice. You'll either laugh too or quit hanging around me. Either way it works out for me.

'Do we want to see the dessert menu?' is the stupidest question ever asked (proving definitively that there ARE stupid questions).

Sunday, March 20, 2016

The Preacher's Wife, Church, and the Priority List: A Rant Just to Clarify

God, The Husband, and The Fam all at once.
An Open Letter to The Preacher's Wife from The Preacher's Wife:

Newsflash: In ministry, it is impossible to please anyone much less everyone. And if you actually are stupid enough to try to please everyone, let me clue you in: It's a lose/lose. You will be miserable, your family will be miserable, and some people still won't like you.

So, I always try to focus on what God wants from me and let the rest roll right off. It helped that we established a clear series of family priorities very early on in ministry. Here it is for anyone interested: 

1. God
2. My spouse
3. Our children
4. My extended family
5. My close friends
6. My personal ministry
7. Church
8. Everything else

Preacher's Wife: This seriously makes ministry/family decisions super easy if you follow it.
Wonder Twins putting on 'make up' to go to church. Yes, I let them go just like this. Don't judge me or my kids. They were so excited to be 'just like Mommy' and their Memaw gave it to them. (See List No. 3 and No. 4.)  Did they look ridiculous? Yes. Are they the example? No. They are kids. Nothing more and nothing less. Just children.

Example: My five-year-old child needs to be in bed by 8:00 p.m. Church goes until 8:30.
Decision: Children before church. I am going home to put the child in bed and not attending night church. (And I didn't attend night services until the kids were able to stay awake until 9:00 p.m., because there is no kind of nightmare like when a kid gets a thirty minute pew nap before going home to be put to bed. Yeah, you might be stupid enough to do that but I, madam, am not.)
Want me at a function? Better check the ball schedule.

Example: Sunday school party is at the same time as my child's opening volleyball game.
Decision: Children before church. Volleyball it is. (Because we will have five thousand other opportunities to fellowship with you at church, but my child is only playing volleyball four years if that. Yes, I choose her. Every time. Don't be obtuse.)

Example: My anniversary is on the same day as a large church event.
Decision: Spouse before church. Ask the Husband if he wants to celebrate on the actual date or the day before. Whatever he says is what we do.  (He'd pick the church and I'd go with him, because I love him more than the church.)

Example: Basketball game is at the same time as a budget committee meeting.
Decision: Children before church. Basketball game. Duh. (Again, how can the budget of our church be anything close to as important as encouraging my child? If you picked 'go to the meeting", I know what your relationship with your kids looks like even from this distance.)

See? Easy. On paper. But it's harder to actually stick to it, because in ministry, particularly if you are the preacher's wife, you don't want to hurt anyone's feelings on purpose. I still, as a wife and mother, have to put things in their proper place in order to honor God through my actions.

  • God is first, because I owe everything to Him. 
  • The Husband is second, because he picked me, and I picked him (well before his call to preach) to build this life together.
  • The Shorties are third, because they are the physical manifestation of our love for one another and our commitment should always first be to our family over any other people. 
  • My extended family is fourth, because without them I wouldn't even be here (and honor thy mother and father is sort of important to God).
  • My close friends are fifth, because they are a layer of my family that I got to choose.
  • My personal ministry is sixth, because that is the thing that God has called and tasked me personally with attending to in His Kingdom work. At this moment in my life that calling is to teach, serve, and work with youth in my church and at CCA where God has placed me to influence an entire generation of young people with the message of Jesus Christ. 
  • And last on that list is church, simply because I wasn't called into the pastorate. My husband was. I was called to my husband, and I will support him in every possible way, but I do not work for the church. I go to church because I love the Lord and wish to worship Him in a body of believers, but I don't work there and am not obligated by anything other than the Love of God to go there.
    Please God. He'll work the rest of it out.
I have been called by God to be obedient and faithful. Right now that obedience is being manifested in working with youth. (When He calls me to something else, I will jump directly into it.) That means that I have been told to work with youth in many different ministries and capacities. I teach youth at church. I teach youth in school as an English teacher.

But don't get confused. I do not in any way believe that I have job requirements placed on me by a church. God has done the calling, not the body of believers. And I will always do what God asks of me. I've been following Him 24 years now. I can hear Him all of the time and know from experience it's much easier when I obey immediately.

Case in point: I HATE Working in the children's department, but I serve in the children's church one Sunday every other month, because someone else did that for me and my kids once upon a time and I owe that as reasonable service to other moms.  I certainly don't serve in that ministry because the church expects me to. I do it for the Lord.

Need Proof? 
Want me at your event? Check the ball schedule.
Don't even think about asking me to teach a children's class on a regular. I will laugh in your face. God hasn't called me to that even in the slightest, so why on Earth would you want me to teach your children anything? I might teach them to hate coming to Sunday School, because "That evil, mean Mrs. C is always yelling at us" is going to be about all they learn from me. Seriously.

Some church folks would find that harsh or unhelpful, but it's still the truth whether you like it or not. I am NOT going to participate in ministries that I was not called to by God. Ever. I would do more harm than help. It's ridiculous to think that just because I'm married to the pastor I should be at everything and be everything to everybody. I'd lose my mind and myself trying to please several hundred people all of the time (who still wouldn't be happy because you can never do enough to please everyone).

And we don't do this to wives in any other profession. Do you demand that your surgeon's wife attend your surgery? Are you offended when your dentist's wife doesn't stand next to him while he checks your teeth? Are you bothered when your plumber's wife doesn't visit with him to make the estimate? People would think you were crazy for even talking that way. So, what makes the pastorate different?

Extended family is before all of you on the list.
I'll tell you what makes the difference--you ASSUME that both people in the couple were called into pastorate. You would be wrong. (I'm not saying He won't EQUIP both people for ministry, but The Husband was called. I was not or I'd be preaching too.)

(Personally, I'd rather that my husband chose to sell aluminum siding or install cable for his living. Then he wouldn't be on call 24/7 and have 200 people mad at him at a time and have to miss personal family stuff ON A REGULAR because of church demands.)

But I was called to be the pastor's WIFE, so I will stand with him and support him in everything he does. I will also heed God's calling in my own life and be true to that priority list He gave me.

I am not in the pastorate. I am not paid by the church. I do not work for the congregation. As a result, I don't have to do any thing at all in the church that God didn't specifically ask me to do Himself. It's incredibly freeing, if you actually apply it. But I guarantee that someone will get offended, because I was at the ballpark instead of at their first cousin's wedding shower. Sunshine, here's a newsflash: 

I don't care what you think unless you are Numbers 1-5 on that list. 

Shocking, I know. But God and I are on the same page here. If this is bothersome to you, you might want to do a serious spiritual check up on judgment, gossiping, nosing about in other people's business, criticizing the brethren, sowing discord, back biting, and harming the man of God (by harming his family). There's some pretty stout and direct scripture to deal with all of those things on your plate first before you critique your pastor and his wife.

So, before you call someone and gossip about what I did or did not do, keep in mind, I don't give a rip. I don't feel bad about it at all. I won't apologize for it. And God is listening very carefully to you. And He is remembering. I'm pretty sure He's got my back, since I'm doing what He told me to do and being what He designed me to be. The more important question is, are you?

We went to this event (after an over-night volleyball tournament on Friday/Saturday we drove two hours, ran a 5K, and danced for six hours, then drove two more hours home) that found us home by 2:00 a.m. on Saturday night/Sunday morning and we made it to church the next morning six short hours later. I want to model that nothing comes before God or worshiping Him. So, we do both--have fun at events and get to church, because I am teaching my children to make their own priority lists.

So, Church Member: Are you putting unrealistic, damaging, judgmental expectations on your preacher and his wife and family? Are you judging when they don't meet your made-up, Pharisee standards (not talking about God standards)? Do you critique their child-rearing? Do you expect their kids to be perfect and an example? (They weren't called into pastorate either.) Do you expect your preacher's wife to be at everything, to fill in for every ministry when a need arises (even if she's clearly not called to it), and to attend everything he is required to attend?

Then, I'm telling you that you are dead wrong and not in God's will. And I'm right.

Because the Love of Christ Alone Compels Me,
The Preacher's Wife

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Eccentric = Totally Awesome

I didn't say she wasn't weird. I said she was shy.
So...The Little Flower is a strange kind of shy. She isn't afraid of people, but she's terrified of being stared at or in the middle of a stage or in front of a crowd. She doesn't want to go up front and get an award, talk to strangers (or sometimes friends), or be noticed in any meaningful way.  It's an almost crippling sort of irrational fear of being noticed.
Once you get to know the kid you realize several things:

Myrtle Beach: Paper, clipboard, bag of pens

1. She's smart. Seriously smart. Her command of sarcasm and witty puns is spectacular. (She's barely passing math, but she's killing it with the one-liners on a regular.)

2. She's funny. She always, always gets the joke and is frequently making them.

3. She's talented. We competed in Elementary Fine Arts (which is what I'm getting around to) and she had to fill out this "Artist's Concept Form" explaining how she came up with the idea and how long the piece took her to make, (don't worry, I'm going to explain this further), but "It took me one minute" is the truth. It did take her one minute. Which is mind blowing. And that brings us to...

Fine Arts

The Sticks. Lilly's musical instrument.
We never go anywhere without paper, clip board, and bag of pens
I know that her band director, Mr. David, wanted to ring her neck several days in practice. (I know exactly how he feels.) Lilly can't (and won't) play an actual instrument. She will stare at the offending instrument and at you until you simple fold. So, he handed her the sticks. (Yes, the sticks.) Which she held in her hands and touched in time, but refused to actually hit together to make sound. (Not kidding.) She held the sticks an inch apart and sort of moved them toward each other.

And to get her up there with the band, the choir director had to promise (and promise and promise and promise) that the music stand and the music would cover up not just her face but her entire upper body from the view of the crowd. The stubborn child also refused to walk up on the stage by herself. She wanted me to walk on with her and sit beside her the entire time. I bargained until we reached the agreement that I would walk up there with her, get her seated, and then sit on the front row.

Ice Cream Shop: Paper, clipboard, bag of pens.
Mr. David also desperately needed the child in the second performance to hit the cymbals together.  She didn't just balk. She refused to even look at him anymore, because, seriously? You want me to hit together two pieces of brass loudly enough to draw the eyes of everyone in the building to me? Um, no thank you. I'll just sit here and take the failing grade without batting an eyelash. Watch me. (I have no idea where she gets that from.)

Candy Store: Paper, clipboard, bag of pens.
Other things Lilly refuses to do:
1. Walk into the church by herself. (She sat outside the door on the steps one time until I came out looking for her thirty minutes later when she didn't come in from Sunday School.)
2. Walk into the school by herself. (See: People looking at her.)
3. Talk to people she doesn't know. (And sometimes to those she does know.)
4. Order food in a restaurant. (She would starve slap to death first.)
5. Go back for seconds. (Again, people looking at her.)

That is some serious stage fright, Folks.

So, now back to Fine Arts... 

Our school has a state-wide elementary competition featuring art, drama, speech, music, choir, band--so many wonderful talents. The Little Flower is an artist. She has a talent that no one else in the household has--she can express herself on a piece of paper in seconds. She can turn anyone into a cartoon and capture mood, movement, expression, emotion in several strokes of a pen. It's amazing to watch.
Ink on white paper colored pencils. "The Escape"

Well, since the stick/cymbal playing was out of the question (naturally) I wanted her to participate in the one thing she is gifted in--art. Then she asked the Big Question:

Who is going to be looking at it?
Me: Judges. Your Classmates. Your Teachers.  Everyone.
Lilly: No.
Me: But, Lil, it's a gift that God has given you and you need to share it.
Lilly: No. I'll share it with Donovin (her best friend).
Ink on white paper colored pencils "Ship Crash"
Me: That's not big enough. We are told to shine our lights in front of men in such a way so that people are pointed to God through us and our gifts.
Lilly: God is doing all right without my help.
Me: (Sigh) We are filling out the paperwork and you are entering two categories. No more discussion.
Lilly: I don't think God likes you FORCING ME to do stuff.
Me: Yes, He does. That's why I'm the mom and you are my child.
Lilly: (pout) Fine. But I don't want to SEE anyone looking at it.

Ink on White Paper Monochromatic 2nd Place "The Nativity"
So, she won. First place in polychromatic and second place in monochromatic. For drawings that took her literally minutes to draw. And when she asked if she had to go up on stage to get her awards I said, Nah. We can pick them up later. No big whoop.
Ink and colored pencils on white paper 1st Place Polychromatic "Inside Outside"
That's right, Friends and Neighbors, I'm raising the Emily Dickinson of the art world. 

(And no advice on how you would address any of those Little Flower issues, please. I'll raise mine and you raise yours, thank you very much. We think she's perfectly wonderful exactly as she is. Eccentric is Awesome in Johnsonville in every possible way.)
Ink on white paper Self Portrait "Avatar"

Self Awareness is a Gift

Friday, March 11, 2016

The First Promposal at Casa de Johnson

And then this happened....

Sister asked T-Ray to her Prom (well, we call it a Junior/Senior Banquet...tom-a-toe, toe-mah-toe.)

He graduated last year and can't exactly ask her, so she had to go for it.

Anyhoo....she made signage (The Husband actually came through with a slogan). T-Ray is a motocross racer, so it fit.

She went to the Best Friend's House (Hey, Abby Jean) to make the sign and get the balloons.

She persuaded his little brother to film it (Hey, G-son). She enlisted his parental units in the scheme--had his mom set up the bike and his dad lure him home from work early.

It was quite a little production. I'm pretty sure she could run the world if she put her mind to it.

I think he liked it.
I'm proud that she thought he was worth the effort and really worked to make it memorable and special. They have been dating for several months now, so she could have just assumed he'd go with her, but she went to extra effort and it showed.

(I think that sort of business sticks with you later in life when the stakes are higher.)

He is an incredibly nice young man with a bright future. His people are fantastic. He's funny and smart and an all-around kind human being. Sure he's an idiot sometimes and flirts with being ridiculous and is a shameless kiss up, but he's the kind of boy you hope your daughters meet and date. (He's the kind of boy you hope your daughters marry one day.)

That might not happen, but then again, we've had a lot of marriages spawn out of our little school in our little town. (A LOT, a lot.)

The absolutely line in the sand at our house isn't your family, your skin color, your grades, your looks, your clothes, or your smarts. None of that really matters when you get right down to it. I've told my kids they can bring home anyone at all under the umbrella of one enormous condition--the human in question must profess Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and exhibit fruit. Like visible, tangible, obvious fruit of the Spirit. And T-Ray has fruit.

(He's not "A fruit" {well, don't ask for confirmation from some of his idiot friends or his brother}, but as in he is bearing Spiritual Fruit.) ;-)

But this is more about Sister than it is even about her boyfriend. She's thoughtful. And purposeful about showing her affection for people. And really makes an effort to make him feel appreciated. And has exhibited qualities and growth over the past few years that astound me. She's maturing into the kind of person you hope your boy meets and marries too. I'm proud of her and the young lady she is growing into.

The pay off? Of course he said yes.

She said, "He was cheesing so hard he could barely talk." :-) I think that means he liked it.

I'm pretty sure this is the definition of "cheesing so hard" right here.

Freedom of Speech Only for "Those Who Agree with Me" Isn't Freedom at All

 People who scream for tolerance are the most intolerant.  Watching the news coverage in Chicago is horrifying because of the sheer stupidity of the American people. I don't care which candidate you support.

My observation is that we have a generation of stupid, loud, obnoxious, angry, foul-mouthed young people who don't understand the concept of respect--for self or others. Every single person has the right to free speech. The protesters are so stupid they don't understand they just completely infringed on The Donald's rights as an American and on everyone who went to hear the man. (Let the man hang himself with his words or not. The truth will usually out on its own.)

Your free speech is not more important than mine.

If you try to silence the opposition, you are in favor of a straight up dictatorship.

Every person interviewed in opposition to the political rally appeared to be completely unable to articulate a single relevant or meaningful concept.  Most couldn't even tell why they were there or what they were protesting. They just gave Donald Trump a four-hour long infomercial on every major news network. For free. And they simultaneously showed the nation that people who protest Trump are borderline simpletons.

And think they won something.

 #deathtofreespeech #moronsonparade #freespeechgoesbothways #thesepeoplecanvote #youarethejokeanddontknowit #protestwithyourintellect #articulateyouropinionwithoutscreaming #orwellwasdeadonit

Monday, February 22, 2016

One More Hot Dog in the Pot

We have two house guests staying with us for two weeks. A woman in our church had to fly out last minute to care for her father who is very ill several states away. Her two teens are in classes with my kids. Instead of pulling them out of school for two weeks, we offered to let them stay with us. Someone at work heard and casually said, "Charlotte, you have a very big heart." I sort of scoffed, because I'm the least merciful person I know.

Before you think I'm being falsely modest, I'm not joking. I'm sort of infamous for being difficult when it comes to mercy. 

It's always crowded.
I believe we make our own way. I believe it's almost always personal fault, not circumstance or accident or something that happened to you.  I believe that you have to decide to live a different way before it can manifest, and most people choose wrong or not at all.

So, I blame personal failure for what most would call happenstance. It's why that mercy thing is so hard for me. But the weird exception in my life has been twofold: teenagers and dogs. (Maybe God thinks it's funny.)
Regular day in my kitchen.
It never occurred to me not to offer for the kids to stay with us. I didn't have to ask The Husband either. He almost always lets me have my way (because that is the kind of love he exhibits for me daily). I just said, "Hey, we are having house guests for two weeks."

He grunted and said, "Sure we are."

Then he cooked ravioli and homemade sauce and mozzarella bread and made sure each of those kids had two helpings.
Where would we all sit to eat?

Now, keep in mind that we have eight people in this house already. Eleven are rolling around here tonight. My mother lives next door, but she comes over for laundry and eats all of her meals with us. She's come over tonight, because she doesn't like to stay alone in the "weather" (if it sprinkles or f5 tornado it's 'weather').

We have five kids. We have four (FOUR) dogs (some of them are actually ours and some of them transplants aka neighbor dogs that came and never left). We have one misbehaving cat.  We have boyfriends who visit and family friends who come to fellowship weekly. It's like a circus all of the time.

What it looks like when only seven of us travel.
We have people in and out all of the time day and night. We are busy, stretched, half crazed. We can't eat a sit down meal together most of the time, because there isn't a table big enough in my house.

My washer and dryer have never been idle more than six hours at a time in two decades. I have four large stock pots and we always serve buffet style, because that's what it takes to feed a dozen people at every meal. We have two refrigerators and two freezers and have to set a shower schedule to get everyone cleaned up.
My living room is always this full
And you know what? We've never gone hungry or without. God has been good to our family, usually through the hands of other people. I can't even envision a world where I don't say, "Sure, you can just come stay with us. We'll work it out. We'll fit you in. We'll feed you. We'll take you. You are welcome here."

Loving people is going to cost you something. Be careful that you aren't talking about living a Christ-following life and then shoving your family into a bubble, not allowing other people to participate in the party. You need to have open doors, open heart, open life.

What it looks like to feed the whole show.

If it's  only "your four and no more" you have missed out on the best parts of fellowship. The messy parts. The real parts. The scary parts. The damaged parts. The fun parts. The lovely parts. The best parts.

Invite people in. Let them see you as you really are, not as you want or hope to be. And you'll be surprised at how God moves in those relationships. How He is revealed through your love and open, unprotected sharing. Don't be afraid. My unmerciful heart can do it, so I know yours can too. 
We love Chinese food. Man at the take out place asked, "How many people do you feed with all of this?" The Husband responded, "All of them, Buddy. All of them."
Regular nightly meal.
Always room for one more in the house. Sometimes you have to get friendly, but we'll get you in there.