January 7, 2015

2015 Word of the Year: Be

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At the beginning of 2014 I really felt called to embrace the words “Your will, not mine, be done.”  Six words, sprinkled with lessons in surrender and humility.  I knew it wasn’t going to be a piece of cake, but I don’t think I realized how God would lead me to learning the significance of those words in every aspect of my life.

Sure, I knew it was going to be a busy year:  thesis writing, new changes and challenges in ministry, plus we were just navigating through our first year of marriage, which is a whole new adventure in itself.  But I think the place where God really taught me the meaning of those words was when we were trying to get pregnant.  It took me a little while to realize that “Your will not mine be done” is NOT the same as “My will should be done on my timeline.”  Go figure.  In the end, I realized that God’s timing is absolutely perfect, and His will and plans are much better than anything I could come up with on my own.

Now here we are at the first week of 2015.

When I was praying about what the “word” for the New Year might be, I was surprised by how short and simple the answer was: BE.  While that word doesn’t seem like much, I feel called to live it out in on three different levels:

 Be {still and know that I am GOD}.

Psalm 46:10

In a world of constant go go go! and schedules that are always full of something…. then add a baby on top of all of that, it’s extremely easy to get caught up in the things to do and forget the simplest of tasks: to be still and simply be with God.  No lofty or complex spiritual plans or agenda… just the constant reminder to be still and acknowledge that God is God, and I am not.  That’s more important than trying to read 10 spiritual books or telling myself I’ll pray the rosary every single day before breakfast (though those are great goals to have!).  It all begins with learning to be still, to be silent, and to really soak in who God is. 

Be {in the moment}.

“Be strong and courageous, do not be terrified do not be discouraged, for the LORD your GOD is with you wherever you go.”  – Joshua 1:9  
 
As I step into my new role as Mom I know that there are many new moments ahead.  There will be beautiful moments of soaking in the the miracle of life, the joy of being a parent, and how our lives have been changed forever.  And of course there will also be some sleepless nights, diaper bombs, a lot of tears from both Mom and baby, and I’m sure there will be times of wondering whether I’m really cut out to do this.

But no matter what I am facing, beautiful or frustrating, I need to remember to step back and just be in the moment.  This is a new adventure!  It’s going to be a year of humbling moments mixed with baby giggles and spit up :).  In every moment, every struggle and every success, I need to learn to just be in the moment.  This will mean letting go of my expectations at times, and soaking in whatever it is we are facing.  

Be {Deanna}.  

When I was thinking about this last one I wondered if it was a little silly or childish to say it this way.  But the more I think about it, the more I realize it might be one of the more challenging aspects of life this year.  This year I’m going to learn a lot about myself, and discovering my role as “Mom” is just a small part of that.  I really want to be the woman that God created me to be.  I want to embrace who that is.  I want to be authentic and honest with myself, and not get distracted by trying to fit a perfect image of what I think the world expects me to be.  Of all of the models of Motherhood and Femininity, Our Blessed Mother is really the only one that I should be striving to imitate.   Knowing myself, this will be a hard one.  But I think that learning to be still and to be in the moment are going to help me to be myself.
2015 is going to be a great year.  In just a few more weeks our first child will come into the world and life will be different.  As tempting as it is to worry or wonder about the unknowns of this year, I’m more excited knowing that God is faithful and that His plans are far beyond anything I could imagine for myself or my family. 

I am looking forward to learning how to “be”.  
What is your word of the year?

be at peace
walk on water
be not afraid

d*

November 5, 2014

Settling into a New Month and a New Vocation

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There’s something very refreshing about flipping the calendar to a new month.  It’s one of those little “resets” that we get 12 times a year.
Didn’t get everything done I was supposed to do last month?  That’s OK.  New Month.
Didn’t do as well on my personal or spiritual goals the last few weeks?  That’s OK.  New Month.
Of course, that refreshing new month feeling quickly turns into What do you mean the month’s half over?! panic if I don’t pay attention.  But for the most part a new month means “Deep Breath. Let’s start again.”
So here we are in November. 
At the beginning of every month I usually take some time to figure out my major goals, projects, tasks, etc. for work and at home, and try to get a sense of what my schedule will be like for the next 4+ weeks.  This month is no exception, and it turns out I’ve got plenty to keep me busy between now and Christmas… and then life slows down for a moment while I finish making this baby. 

But in the midst of goal setting and calendar sorting, I’m also finding myself trying to balance the busyness of the month and just enjoying the moment.  Yes, there are classes to teach, presentations to give, paperwork to complete, and plenty of unscheduled excitement that ministry provides on a daily basis.  Yet as I slip into the third-trimester of this pregnancy, I’m becoming more aware that I need to just enjoy the day, the week, the month, and not worry so much about the things to come.
And trust me, I tend to lean towards the worrier sometimes.  I know for a fact that there’s plenty of things for me to potentially worry about.  Like some of the presentations I’m giving over the next two months, getting things ready at my office before I head out for maternity leave, preparing the house for Baby J…
…OR even just the reality that we’re having a baby… This little person is making his/her grand appearance in about 13 weeks and I have no idea what to expect.  That’s a little overwhelming sometimes. 
So I have a choice.
I can spend the next 13 weeks worrying over details at work, freaking out over the fact that I really don’t know what life will be like when Baby J arrives, plus a million other things I haven’t even thought to about yet….
OR I can enjoy this moment. This day.  This week.  This month.
Because things will get done, plans will be made, and this baby will arrive all in the proper time.
Plus, let’s face it.  Life is going to be a lot different come the end of January or beginning of February.  Becoming a Mom ain’t no small thing!  This vocation is taking on a whole new level of “Jesus I Trust in You!” and that’s exciting!
But I need to be at peace.
I need to rest in the moment and allow God to continue working on my heart and soul.
Yes, there are details to sort through.  There’s work to be done in preparation for being away from the office, and there’s practical “nesting” like things that I need to start doing at home.  There’s probably some books I should be reading about childbirth (started one. it was terrifying.), and I know I need to make time for the breastfeeding and birthing classes.
Still, with each week and each new month I know the ultimate goal is simply to be at peace and to rest in the moment with God.  
There’s no amount of reading or specific number of classes that will perfectly prepare me for the months ahead.  One of the best things I can do for myself, my husband, and our baby is to strive to allow God to form me into the woman He wants me to be.  That won’t happen with “to-do lists” or even the perfect birth plan.  
I need to be at peace.  I need to listen.  I need to trust. And I need to focus on Christ.

Surely, motherhood will be one of the best “life out of the boat” experiences to date!

be at peace
walk on water
be not afraid

d*

September 25, 2014

The One Thing I Did Well This Summer

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After graduating from the MA Theology program in May I had such plans for the summer!  Oh the books I would read!  The movies we would watch!  The home projects I would accomplish!  There would be wedding photos in albums and on the walls, I’d finally unpack all those boxes hiding in the closet in our basement, and I’d finally have time to blog.  I just knew that we’d get to September and I’d look back fondly on our summer adventures, proud of all that was accomplished during the last few months.

And here we are on the third day of Fall, and what did Deanna do this summer?

Well, I only finished one or two books… There’s one wedding photo in a frame currently sitting up against the living room wall (because I can’t decide where to hang it), and those boxes in the basement?  Yeah, they are still there.

But you know what I did do this summer?  I grew a baby human.

Yup.  That was my summer project.  Since June, Baby J has grown from the size of a poppy seed to the size of a small banana.  Baby J has arms and legs, fingers and toes, eyes, ears, a mouth, and is a big fan of kicking me in the bladder repeatedly…
And it is wonderful.  

On June 2nd during my lunch break I decided to take a pregnancy test since my husband was home with me.  This was probably the 4th or 5th stick I had peed on in the last few months, so I figured this would just be business as usual.  But when I looked at the stick, saw that undeniable plus sign in the circle, stuff.got.real.

After months of praying about it and really giving our best effort at discerning God’s plan for our family, God said yes, and something pretty incredible happened.

A new life.  A baby human.  Our baby.

I won’t lie, this summer has not been the most comfortable.  Kneeling before the porcelain god to occasionally deposit my last snack, the constant acid reflux, and the 12am and 3am trips to the bathroom are not my favorite.  Sure, baby bumps are cute, but figuring out how to dress myself when there are extra curves everywhere… that’s a little frustrating.

I’ve also come to accept that gas is just part of my life now, Sometimes I’m just going to cry for no apparent reason (like last night when my husband asked if I wanted to do squats and I burst into uncontrollable tears for 10 minutes. For real.), and midday naps are a real treat when I can get one in.  
But even with all of the discomforts, and the massive of list of things I didn’t accomplish this summer, it was truly one of my most productive summers yet.
There’s a human being growing inside of me.  A little person, that God already knows and loves, is now part of our family.  I think those words from Scripture hit a little bit closer to home now:

Wonderful indeed!  I don’t know who Baby Johnston will be, what plans God has for him or her… but we’ve been entrusted with the great gift of this child.  And sure, I’m the one carrying this kid around for another 19 weeks and providing for all of his/her physical needs, God is doing something even more miraculous.

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
before you were born I dedicated you…”
Jeremiah 1:5

He knows our baby.  He’s known our baby since before he or she was conceived.  Incredible!!!

I am proud of the fact that I’ve grown a baby human for the past 21 weeks and will continue to do so 24:7 for the next few months.  But I am also humbled by the fact that God is doing something truly miraculous here and He’s entrusted us with the great responsibility and honor of being parents.  

Motherhood/Pregnancy is a whole new Life Out of the Boat adventure, but I look forward to seeing what God has in store for all of us over the months and years to come.  

Praying for all expectant mothers, especially those who are facing a particularly challenging pregnancy!  
St. Gerard & St. Anne, pray for us!

be at peace
walk on water
be not afraid
d*

June 26, 2014

How the One Question You Aren’t Supposed to Ask Helped My Spiritual Life

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It was about mid-March when I met with a young Spanish speaking couple preparing to baptize their son.  I was really excited to meet with them because they had just finished marriage preparation the year before, and now it was time to baptize their newborn.  Nothing makes my day like seeing one of our newlyweds living their vocation!  🙂
Towards the end of our meeting the husband asked me, “I have a question for you, and I hope I don’t offend….¿Estás esperando?”  It took me an extra second to understand what he said because Esperar = to wait for, to hope for, and it’s actually one of my most favorite Spanish words.  
But then I realized he was asking me THAT question: 
Are you expecting?”   
I laughed and said I didn’t know.  I told them that my husband and I were really praying about having a baby, and that we’d find out in the next few days if we were pregnant or not.
What made this man’s question extra interesting was that right before our meeting I had spent some time in the adoration chapel specifically praying about our desire to have a baby.  In my journal I wrote something like, “Lord, you know the desires of my heart.  You know that we’ve been praying about having a baby and that we are open to becoming parents. No matter what Your will be done, and please help me to be at peace with that.”
So when the man asked ”  ¿Estás esperando? (Are you expecting)?”  I wasn’t really as mortified as I would normally have been.  His wife shook her head in disbelief that he had actually asked THE FORBIDDEN QUESTION, but we laughed and they said that they really hoped I was pregnant or would be soon.  
When they left I laughed again, wondering if maybe this was God’s way of giving me an “Annunciation Moment” or some kind of heads up that maybe our prayers had been answered. 
Fast Forward 2 days:  
Definitely not pregnant.  Definitely not laughing.
Suddenly all the humiliation that I would have felt just days before sank in.  Have I gained THAT much weight?  I look awful!  What sort of cruel joke is this Lord?  I cried, I whined, and I pouted.  
At some point during the day the question replayed in my mind:  Estás esperando?  Which literally means:  Are you waiting for?  Are you hoping for?  
God reminded me that during adoration I had specifically said “Your will be done.”  And now I needed to follow up on those words of surrender.  The question was not an offensive jab; rather, it was an invitation to trust.

Deanna, are you waiting for Me?  Are you full of hope and trust?  
Scripture tells us over and over again to wait for the Lord, to hope in the Lord, and to trust that God’s plans are perfect:

Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; yes, wait for the Lord!” – Psalm 27:14

“I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord.” – Psalm 130:5-6

And a personal favorite: 

“For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.  Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you.  You will seek me and find me; when you seek me with all your heart, I will be found by you…” – Jeremiah 29:11-14

That’s when I realized that it didn’t matter if I was praying about getting pregnant, or just praying about doing God’s will at home,work, and in the world.  God was inviting me to trust in Him, to surrender to Him, to wait for Him.  
And so, the next time I was asked “¿Estás esperando?”  (which was about a month later) I could smile.  Even though I had to answer that I wasn’t pregnant, I knew I needed to take a moment to reflect on whether or not I’ve been waiting, hoping and trusting God the best that I can.   
Today if you were to ask me “¿Estás esperando?”  I’d say that I’m working on it, and really trying to surrender a little more of that trust on a daily basis. 
I’d also tell you, “Si…”  
…about the beginning of February 2015.
P.S. No, we don’t know it is a boy. But those shoes were cute 🙂

Please pray for us 🙂

be at peace
walk on water
be not afraid

d*

Jesus en ti confio

June 7, 2014

How I Met My Husband {part 2}

This is the story of how God used the internet to not only lead me to my husband, but how this adventure in online dating taught us the beauty of God’s perfect timing and God’s plan for our lives.

{Part Two}

I’m sure you can understand the wave of relief that washed over the both of us as we walked towards each other confidently confirming that this was in fact the person we had spent the last six weeks speaking to.  
Michael wasn’t a creepy old man and neither was I.
  
So far so good.
We said our excited hellos and hugged each other.  I remember it was one of those good bear hugs you get from a dear friend.  “Wow, You’re real!  This is amazing!” he said.  
I think we both needed a moment to get over the shock that this was actually happening.  He was here.  I was here.  And now we got to spend the weekend figuring out what would happen next.
The original plan was ice cream, but due to a GPS failure we ended up at Starbucks instead.  The conversation was just as easy as before, only this time Michael got to witness my goofy smiles in person.  At one point Michael said, “The family that is hosting me and Sayf this weekend wanted to make sure that I told them where I was going and who you were, because you know… you could be an axe murderer or something…”
I laughed and pointed out that the company car I was driving did have space for a body or two in the trunk… but then realized, “Oh.  I didn’t tell anyone where I was going….”  We laughed and agreed that that probably hadn’t been my smartest decision of the week…

a kinda sorta really important side note:  

Don’t ever ever ever do that!!  I should have told the family I was living with where I was, because in all truth Michael could have been fifty shades of crazy from the darkest reaches of the internet.  I was confident he wasn’t going to put me in the trunk of my car, but hey.. you can never be too careful, right?  So if I can offer any online dating advice just don’t do what I did.  We laugh about it now, but seriously… what was I thinking?!?! Anyway, back to our story:  
 
Despite my failure to take the proper precautions, I really appreciated how comfortable I felt around Michael.  We stayed at Starbucks until it closed, and then I drove him back to his host family’s home and we sat outside and talked some more.
Towards the end of the evening, Michael asked if he could hold my hand (he had been told about the forced hand holding experience with the other guy I met from CatholicMatch).  When my hand rested in his for the first time I remember thinking It fits!”  I felt safe.  I felt like our friendship had the potential to evolve into something very special, and we had the entire weekend to figure that out.  
Now, it would be easy to say that from the moment we laid eyes on each other we knew that this was the ONE, but that just wouldn’t be true.  As wonderful as our first “date” had been, the next day was a little different. 
It wasn’t that Michael wasn’t a perfect gentleman on our trips to dinner, the bookstore, and a walk through the park,  but something was just different.  Perhaps it was his rant umm, prolonged and passionate explanation of the evil of shows like American Idol, and how they reflect the lack of values in our society (something else we laugh about now). But by the end of the evening as I drove back home I started wondering if this had been a good idea. 
I remember calling my parents that evening and telling them “I don’t know!  I just don’t know what’s going to happen!  I mean he’s nice but.. but I just don’t know!”  I think that I was waiting for that moment to knowto have that AHA! moment in which I knew exactly what was going to happen next…and it hadn’t happened.  Then my Dad gave me some advice that changed the entire weekend for me: 

“Deanna, don’t overthink this.  Enjoy the moment.”

I really appreciated my Dad saying that.  It could have been just as easy for him to tell me that maybe I shouldn’t hang out with Michael, or maybe this wasn’t meant to be, but he didn’t.  Don’t overthink this.  Enjoy the moment.  This wasn’t license to do whatever or to not care about the time I was spending with Michael.  But it was a solid reminder to be at peace, to have fun, and to put this in God’s hands.  
 
I prayed about it again that night and decided that my Dad was right.  Perhaps this was just another opportunity to get out of the boat and trust God with the details.  
I picked Michael up early Saturday morning, and we drove to a park close to the San Antonio Zoo.  Since I was still in the middle of the 54-day rosary novena, we decided to pray the rosary together at the start of our day.  This was about the time that we made Mary the patroness of our discernment/relationship.  
 
And once again, the Blessed Mother must have done her thing because the rest of the day was absolutely wonderful. 
 
Matthias the Mutt, keeping me company at work for 4 yrs
We did all sorts of things around town: a museum, lunch, a movie, a ginormous bookstore, ice cream, and even a trip to the toy store.  Michael insisted that I needed a buddy for my office, so he bought me a puppy (which remains on my desk to this day).  

If I could name the “aha!” moment in which I knew I was falling in love with Michael, I would say it was after seeing “Prince of Persia”.  I had gone to the restroom, texted my Mom something vague like “Oh my goodness Mommmmyy…..*smiley face*” and walked back out to Michael where my hand met his.  It was like a moment of clarity.  Yes, this is supposed to happen.

Sunday was just as fun as Saturday, and we spent the entire day together again, which included going to Mass, touring the Alamo, and lots more hand holding.  It had been a really good weekend. 

Now the big question was, what happens next?  We had finally met in person, we enjoyed spending time together, and we knew that this was definitely worth continuing.  But now that our weekend had ended we realized that we still had the challenge of long-distance in our discernment.  And this really was a discernment.  We weren’t playing around and this wasn’t a summer fling.  If we were going to start dating it was because we were discerning the vocation of married life, which meant God needed to play an active role.

July 2010: Making Ice Cream at Casa Johnston

And He did.

Michael and his family invited me up to Henderson for the 4th of July holiday weekend, and on July 2nd Michael and I shared our first kiss and officially became a couple.  At the end of July, Michael came back to visit me in San Antonio and he met my family who was visiting from Memphis.

By the end of the summer we had officially become a couple and already met the families.  So really, things moved much faster than I think we originally thought when those first emails and phone calls were made. 

In the months that followed, I moved to Dodge City for a new job, and Michael got a job in the Diocese of Tyler, TX.  We had a long distance relationship for a little over two years, and then Michael moved to Dodge City in November of 2012.  We were engaged after the Easter Vigil Mass in 2013, got married October 5, 2013

And I can’t help but see how God’s hand was part of every single detail. 

When I look back on how God led us to one another I can’t help but admit how perfect God’s timing was.  Michael and I didn’t meet one another a moment too soon, or a moment too late.  While my teens and early twenties may have had phases of frustration that I wasn’t dating, or worrying that God was the only one who would ever love me, I can look at my journey and see how God was just preparing me for my husband.

Sure, I had to wait 24 years for my first date, my first boyfriend, and my first kiss. 

But it was totally, 100% worth the wait.
be at peace
walk on water
be not afraidd*