Monday, June 5, 2017

Unfiltered Challenge

7 Days Unfiltered Challenge

Our youth group at Union Springs has been doing a study about being in a selfie-centered world--basically it's about Christ followers being inwardly focused instead of outward-facing.
How much of our lives have been retooled and reshaped to present to the world a false or modified version of the truth? How much are we shaping our image rather than being real? The challenge is to post seven truthful images that reveal the real you to the world rather than the created version most people are putting out there. The idea is simple—be authentic all of the time in a world that is trying to get likes instead of trying to please God.

Live unfiltered. Use the hashtag. Post one photo that shares the real, unfiltered you. No fear! It takes an incredibly brave person to share your true self!
Me and my friend, Allison

Day 1: post a picture that is odd or from a strange angle that isn't traditionally "beautiful" but illustrates your personality. (This couldn't sum it up any more accurately.) 

Day 2: Post a picture that is from your real living space. It can be just a portion or a section of your room/vehicle/book bag—something that isn’t necessarily flattering about how you actually live. (Don’t gross us out—just show something that is the REAL you.) 

Wonder Twins--both posted a photo of their desks. Ahem 
Day 3: Appreciate the ordinary. Post a picture of an ordinary object in your life that isn’t necessarily beautiful or valuable but is important to you. You can choose to explain in the caption what the object is and why it’s important or not. 

Day 4: Post a picture of a person who has made a difference in your life. Don’t choose a posed shot. Try to find or take a real-life circumstance photo. You can choose to explain why the person in the photo is important or not. (My husband is the king of the photo bomb.) 

Day 5: Post a photo of what you actually ate today. One meal or snack. Not filtered—show the whole counter or the whole area where you are eating—not just the attractive parts. The whole thing.

Play practice

Day 6: Post a photo of an activity that is important to you. If it’s a sport, you might not be in the most flattering position or flattering lighting. It’s more important that the photo expresses how you feel about the activity. 
#usbcyouth #unfilteredusbc #alwaysauthentic  

My son is wearing the mop on his head. 

Day 7: Post a photo that makes you happy. It can be recent or old. Just something joyful to your soul that maybe isn't obvoious. #usbcyouth #unfilteredusbc #alwaysauthentic

We might be the actual wild life

Things overheard at the zoo today.
Lillian: Those camels everyone pays to ride look like they are smiling, but really they are mourning the loss of their dignity.

Lillian: We have caged these animals for our amusement. Why? Isn't television enough?
Lillian: That's it. I'm becoming an animal activist. This place is sucking my soul dry. Look at that animal. It's depressed. 
The Husband: What about ground beef and chicken?
Lillian: We can eat them but not cage them. One is hamburger as In "fulfilling one's life destiny". The other is cruel and unusual punishment as in "there's a three year old making faces and grunting at me through glass how did I end up here?" (She even made the air quotes)

Lillian: Are we alone In The universe?
The Husband (pointing at me): No. There's your mommy.

Lillian to The Husband: Put the hat back on. Hide your shame. Seriously. No one wants to see that.

Lillian upon seeing lounging rhino: Oh look. It's the American human in its natural habitat.

Hunter: I'm not fat. I'm just easy to see.

Kid: (at the picnic pavilion) what kind of jelly is on these sandwiches? 
Me: the kind you are going to eat if you are having pb&j

Lillian: Look it's comic sans on that sign. the best font ever. The name means "without comedy". How funny is that?

Lillian (At the water splash pad watching a chunky 8 yr old kid collect water in his mouth and then spew it all over his sister's face not once, not twice, but multiple times): and that kid right there is why I'm sitting over here on my iPod and not wallowing in that giant bacteria pool.

Lilly: (in response to Elise) yeah, sure I'll get a twitter. Here's my only tweet. "I hate everything. Period."

If she ever starts talking you want to be sure to plant yourself right by Lillian Johnson. Social commentator. Life coach. Source of wisdom. Comedian.

God Directs Your Path

June 5, 2017
I don't really believe in coincidence. I believe in circumstance--you are led to a point in time for a purpose not randomly. God directs my steps and my path. So, here are some brief circumstances that have brought us to this Ukraine trip... The team was looking for experienced VBS leaders, specifically women and youth workers to focus on Bible study and devotions (my skill set), VBS (Becky's skill set), working with children (all of us), and sports activities (our kids).
The sports they want us to lead? Volleyball and Basketball (with maybe some baseball for fun). Not kidding. (Kaitlyn, Abby, Elise--all varsity volleyball team players who have more than 15 years of Volleyball between them and Carter Johnson who lives, eats, sleeps, and breathes basketball.) Abby, Kaitlyn, Elise and Hannah are also going to work up some cheer stuff for good measure.;-)
They speak predominantly Russian in Ukraine. So, two years ago when Elise downloaded the "speak Russian" app on her phone and we all made fun of her relentlessly, because, why not learn Spanish, Elise? Won't that be much more useful, Elise? And when are you going to ever speak Russian, Elise? And she kept right on walking around speaking Russian to herself and identifying common household items in Russian. And now guess who knows like oh, 100+ useful phrases in Russian? That's right, Elise. Like she can order food, find the bathroom, get and give directions, say formal and casual greetings. Not kidding. (Who's the joke on now? God's funny like that.) (Oh, and side note--Elise herself can't tell you WHY two years ago she decided to learn Russian. It just "came to her" and she did it. Ahem.)
We're taking our kids who have actually led portions of VBS BY THEMSELVES, specializing in recreation and music. Becky's kids have been just as involved in leading at church VBS as mine have. It's like God put together the perfect circumstances for us to go and do this particular ministry. And none of it is coincidence.
There have been several attacks in recent months in Europe. Someone asked me yesterday if I am afraid to travel there. Not even for a second. Because I know the God of all circumstances and He holds me in His Hand. Nothing can separate me from the Love of God, and I trust that whatever happens, it happens for His glory. So, in less than 30 days I am rolling with a powerful group of Christ followers to see what happens when the path goes this way. :-)

I'm asking that you consider donating craft items left over from your church's VBS to help us put on Vacation Bible School in Ukraine. I'm asking you to sign up for the photography day June 24th to support the mission effort or consider donating directly. But most importantly, I'm asking that you pray for our group and for the entire team traveling to Ukraine. Without God moving there is no mission, so prayer is always the most important part of any work.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Brief Highlights

I have no idea what to blog here. Like a million and five things have happened, but I've been really trying to "be in the moment" in my life. Like, not doing it from behind the phone camera lense, but to actually be involved actively in every second of my life. It seems like it's flying past now.

Some highlights:

The Little Flower has upgraded from sticks to the cowbell. I've been researching songs with cowbell in them like crazy. Her art still blows my mind.

The Number One Son is a skateboarding, camping, football playing, basketballing growth spurt eating everything and running to and fro like some kind of pinball. He never stops, even preferring to eat on the move.

The Wonder Twins are both licensed drivers. Nayhuh promptly had her first wreck totaling her new-to-her car in just two weeks of getting it. Everyone was all right. Well, the car not so much, but the humans are good, and that's all that really counts. She really let it rip when she did it too--like there was a pond and some foliage and a tree branch or two, and to hear Lilly tell it, there was some Dukes of Hazzard-like "yeehawing" happening from her mouth as they flew down the embankment.

Sister is in her senior year. That alone is enough to give me the hives. She's turned 18 and is gracefully moving into adulthood one day at a time. (I can't even believe that I have a kid old enough to graduate high school. It's like some kind of sick joke.)

We have two yard dogs and one indoor dog. The cat was voted off of the island after she couldn't stop peeing on everything. (When you have eight people and four animals everyone MUST hit the bowl and not the floor.)

All is well in Johnsonville. I hope 2017 is another wonderful year for you all.

Washington D.C. 2017

Well, we finished a whirlwind tour of Washington DC with Chilton Christian Academy. Had a beautiful time of it. The kids and adults were all spectacularly well behaved and on time and in good spirits. It was easy traveling with 25 people who were all ready and willing to have an adventure.
So many things were amazing that it's hard to narrow it down to one overall favorite, so instead I think I'll share my greatest overall impression--Majesty. The Capitol is a beautiful place. The memorials, monuments, and museums are all almost overwhelming in their grandeur. I'd never been before, so it was almost too much to take in.

We rode a large tour bus over night Monday night and arrived at noon on Tuesday. We toured two Smithsonian museums--the National Air and Space Museum and the National Museum of American History. Both places had so many human success stories and amazing things accomplished in the name of curiosity and an unfailing spirit of exploration and determination. We are a people of great perseverance. We win mostly by refusing to quit or ceasing to strive for something better, greater. It was moving to witness the American spirit of sheer grit on display in room after room of history. Paul Revere, the Wright Brothers, Neil Armstrong, Washington...and on and on.
That evening we ate at the Hard Rock, Washington DC. Then we toured monuments by evening/night. We saw the Jefferson Memorial, where I was reminded that a handful of dedicated patriots changed the entire world with the documents that forged our nation's beginning. We saw the Washington Monument from a distance--several helicopters low flying in the setting sunlight--reminding me that freedom is never, ever free. The West Potomac Park was beautiful with the cherry blossoms in full bloom. They made the whole place feel surreal and magical. 
Walking through the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial where the man's story was so profound it required seven acres to do it justice was moving. Then going into the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial and being reminded that one man with a dedicated spirit can literally change the world was humbling.
We traveled out of the city and stayed in a really nice hotel that night. (I've never been so glad to see a shower in all my life.) Our bus driver, Lisa, was quite incredible. She maneuvered that enormous bus through dense traffic deftly without a single hesitation. It was impressive.
The next morning the entire crew was loaded and rolling at 7:30 for Mount Vernon. I wish we'd had an entire day instead of until lunch to tour. There was so much to see! The home, the grounds, and the museum were beautiful. Seeing how the Washington's lived and what he was willing to sacrifice to leave his home for literally five years to fight to establish our new country was moving. The precedents he set for how the President of the United States is addressed and dealt with, and how the peaceful transfer of power is enacted--so many things he did that define our current presidencies. It's breathtaking the influence that this family had on our founding.
From there we traveled to Ford's Theater and the Peterson House to see where President Lincoln was assassinated. His impact on our nation cannot be understated either. Washington may have been pivotal in our founding, but Lincoln may have single-handedly saved the Union of the United States. His legacy is remarkable.
After those tours, we were supposed to tour the US Capitol Visitor Center, but through a series of unfortunate events, we couldn't get tickets. The tour company and our own efforts were unsuccessful. Several people mentioned that the National Cathedral was amazing, so we tried and succeeded in getting last minute tickets. Again, God was watching over us--at our scheduled time there was the shooting incident at the Capitol and all tours were cancelled. We were at the church instead. :-) This was the single most moving, beautiful thing that I personally saw. I can't even explain what it felt like to stand in that enormous room and see the efforts of dedicated, motivated, creative, talented artists come together to make a masterpiece that honored God and our nation at the same time. Everything from the hand cross stitched kneeling benches to the carved screens and altars. I can't even explain what it felt like in that place. It was jaw dropping.
We ate at the most interesting Italian joint--Bucca di Beppo--the food was excellent but the decor might have even topped it. We laughed, talked, ate, and had a wonderful time enjoying our experience. After eating, we rolled back to another round of monuments. We started in daylight at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. To say that is a holy place is an understatement. So many lives lost and documented all over Washington, but the feeling of sadness there was almost tangible. WWI had a clear objective and we were rallied to fight evil, but Vietnam has a muddier history. It made the losses feel heavier somehow knowing that Steve's uncle's name was on the wall and my father's could have been. It was very moving.
From there we walked to the Lincoln Memorial. I knew it was large, but standing there in the flesh I couldn't help but be awed by the enormity of it. It's overwhelming. And gorgeous. And sort of a happy, hopeful memorial. Looking out over the lawn to the Washington Monument in the setting sun felt extraordinarily patriotic. And joyful.
Then we went to what was perhaps my favorite thing on the trip, the Korean War Memorial. I wasn't that interested at first discussion, but the artistry in that display was spectacular. And moving. And disturbing. And awful. The artists who placed the 19 larger than life men walking in full infantry gear, ponchos, weapons, squinting against rain and wind in juniper bushes that simulated a rice paddy was...was...well, awful. The flag flying overhead in a full wind, watching the statues in the low light was a totally different matter. My heart literally stuttered in my breast at the overwhelming gratitude for the men and women who have served in the military. Their daily struggles and sacrifices for something Greater Than are often taken for granted. Standing there looking at that monument reminded me again that there are always things bigger than self that are worth fighting and dying for.
From there we walked to the WWII Memorial, which is amazing in its majesty. As understated as the
Korean and Vietnam memorials are, the WWII Memorial is as grand as anything could possibly be. It was lovely.
The grand finale of our evening was a stop in front of the White House to take photos. Again, I'm so thankful we live in a free nation where protesters were right on hand next to families taking photos of the President's house. :-) So awesome. We live in an amazing nation!
Thursday morning we were packed up and rolling at 7:45 a.m. headed to Arlington. Words can't begin to describe the feeling one has in that physical place. We watched the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier which was moving and crowded with people standing in total silence, honoring all of the men and women who were lost and left. We toured Robert E. Lee's house and several monuments including the US Marine Corps War Memorial or Iwo Jima as it is more commonly known. I didn't know how large it was in person and was moved. The flag unfurled in a stiff wind--you could literally see the veins in the men's hands as they raised the flag captured forever in bronze. It was inspiring to say the least.
From Arlington it was on to the National Archives where we saw the founding documents in the flesh. Again, some things are beyond mere words and seeing proof of the forefather's foresight was a gift and a privilege. I wrote this just so I'd have a record of it for later when my memory dulls a little with time. If you ever have the chance to take this trip to our nation's capitol I strongly encourage it. I am not the same for all I have seen. Over and over the message was the same--be willing to sacrifice every thing for some thing greater than yourself.

John 15:12-13 (Jesus speaking)
My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
A big thank you to everyone who traveled on this adventure--you made it even better just because!

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Books of Interest

Top Ten:

There is absolutely no way to narrow my favorite books to ten. So, I'll simply address books that are interesting in this part of my life: 

1. The Night Circus, Erin Morgenstern
Simply the best read in my library. Like buttercream icing. 
 “Most maidens are perfectly capable of rescuing themselves in my experience, at least the ones worth something, in any case.”
 “Learning became her. She loved the smell of the book from the shelves, the type on the pages, the sense that the world was an infinite but knowable place. Every fact she learned seemed to open another question, and for every question there was another book.”
2. Blood and Chocolate, Annette Klauss
The definitive work on werewolves. (The movie was crap.) Followed closely by The Silver Kiss, a really nice vampire love story. 
 "I am strong," she whispered. "I can run with the night and catch the dawn. I can kick a hole in the sky." And she struck out with a foot to prove her words. Then curled into a ball.
 "I want to lay my kill at your feet," he said, more growl than words, and held her tight by her hair as he marked her neck with his teeth.  
3. The Name of the Wind, Patrick Rothfuss
Fantastic adventure story. Takes fifty pages to ramp up. Don't give up. It's worth it. The narrator is unreliable and totally honest in the same breath. 
 “I have stolen princesses back from sleeping barrow kings. I burned down the town of Trebon. I have spent the night with Felurian and left with both my sanity and my life. I was expelled from the University at a younger age than most people are allowed in. I tread paths by moonlight that others fear to speak of during day. I have talked to gods, loved women, and written songs that make the minstrels weep. You may have heard of me.” 
 “Call a jack a jack. Call a spade a spade. But always call a whore a lady. Their lives are hard enough, and it never hurts to be polite.” 
4. The Thief (Entire series), Megan Turner
Best twisty ending in a while. Whole series is delicious.  Motives are never black or white in any human being--we are all made up of shades of grey. This is especially true of our teenage anti-hero Gen.
 “Sometimes, if you want to change a man's mind, you have to change the mind of the man next to him first.” 
 “He didn't marry you to become king. He became king because he wanted to marry you.”
5. Grimspace, Ann Aguirre
Not sure that this is the best book ever, but it's the best concept ever. And Sirantha Jax is my hero. Series is clever and interesting with a powerful, damaged female lead. 
 “Once exposed, a secret loses all its power.” 
 “They say an interesting life leaves its mark on your face, and if that’s true, she’s got one hell of a story.”  
6. Elenor and Park, Rainbow Rowell
Wonderfully awkward first romance story. Full of angst, abuse, doubt, first kisses, and hot mix tapes. 
 “Eleanor was right. She never looked nice. She looked like art, and art wasn't supposed to look nice; it was supposed to make you feel something.” 
 “He made her feel like more than the sum of her parts.”  
7. The Stand, Stephen King
Still the best book I ever read in my life. I re-read it every few years. You could make a career analyzing this story. 
 “Show me a man or a woman alone and I'll show you a saint. Give me two and they'll fall in love. Give me three and they'll invent the charming thing we call 'society'. Give me four and they'll build a pyramid. Give me five and they'll make one an outcast. Give me six and they'll reinvent prejudice. Give me seven and in seven years they'll reinvent warfare. Man may have been made in the image of God, but human society was made in the image of His opposite number, and is always trying to get back home.” 
 “No one can tell what goes on in between the person you were and the person you become. No one can chart that blue and lonely section of hell. There are no maps of the change. You just come out the other side. Or you don't.” 
8. 11/22/63, Stephen King
This was a fantastic time travel book. Seriously. Don't underestimate the genre. Not horror, but horrifying nonetheless. 
 “When all else fails, give up and go to the library.” 
 “...stupidity is one of the two things we see most clearly in retrospect. The other is missed chances.”  
“But I believe in love, you know; love is a uniquely portable magic. I don’t think it’s in the stars, but I do believe that blood calls to blood and mind calls to mind and heart to heart.” 
 "Sometimes a cigar is just a smoke and a story's just a story”
9. Serena, Ron Rash 
Powerful female lead who is flawed from top to bottom. She wants it all and gets it. 
 “She’d never known fear had a taste, but it did.” 
 “A kind of annihilation, was what Serena called their coupling, and though Pemberton would never have thought to describe it that way, he knew her words had named the thing exactly.” 
10. A Reliable Wife, Robert Goolrick 
Disturbing, thought provoking. What makes us love someone? What makes us change course and decide between right and wrong when we have no moral compass? 
 “Catherine Land liked the beginnings of things. The pure white possibility of the empty room, the first kiss, the first swipe at larceny. And endings, she liked endings, too. The drama of the smashing glass, the dead bird, the tearful goodbye, the last awful word which could never be unsaid or unremembered. It was the middles that gave her pause. This, for all its forward momentum, this was a middle. The beginnings were sweet, the endings usually bitter, but the middles were only the tightrope you walked between the one and the other. No more than that.” 
 “She believed in the miraculous. Or she had, until she reached an age when, all of a sudden, she realized that the life she was living, was in fact, her life. The clay of her being, so long infinitely malleable, had been formed, hardened into what now seemed a palpable, unchanging object. A shell she inhabited. It shocked her then. It shocked her now, like a slap in the face.”