September 25, 2014

The One Thing I Did Well This Summer

p a x

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

p a x

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*

May 30, 2014

How I Met My Husband {part one}

This is the story of how God used the internet (among other things) to teach me to trust in His perfect timing and perfect plan for my life…. and also why online dating no longer gives me the creeps.  

Photo by Tindall Farmer 
I had always imagined myself meeting my husband the “traditional” way.  And by traditional I mean the way it happens in all the good movies:  a coffee shop, the bookstore, the park…Or maybe I’d meet a good Catholic man at Mass or a conference or something.  These were all of the “normal” ways I figured I’d meet THE ONE, and we’d add our story to the adorable list of romantic comedies. 
 
Online dating?  Never. 
 
Meet someone on the internet?  Heck no!  Looking to the World Wide Web seemed like an act of desperation… only for folks who had completely given up hope of finding their soul mate and resolved to “settling” for an online match. 
 
But you know what they say… The best way to make God laugh is to tell Him your plans or give Him a list of Never Will I Evers…

Let’s rewind to 2010.

I was 24, living in San Antonio, and I had never dated.  This was not by my own choice, and it was f r u s t r a t i n g.  Sure, there had been the creepy guys at gas stations who would occasionally offer their best “Hey baby, what’s your name?”  But no one expressed any serious sort of interest. 
 
Where are all the good Catholic men?  Is there something wrong with me?
 
Sure, I knew that God was really the only One I needed.  
And yes, Jesus is the best spouse a gal could ask for.
 
I had wrestled with the vocation to religious life for a long time, and the desire for marriage and family just got bigger.  There seemed to be this constant war between “God you’re the only One I need!” & “GOD, are you the ONLY ONE who will love me?”
 
What I didn’t realize at the time was that God was writing a better story than I ever could have imagined.  And it would happen in a way that I least expected. 
 
In February 2010 I decided I would attend the National Catholic Singles Conference in San Antonio.  It was a BLAST!  Not only did I get more exposure to the Theology of the Body, but it was like God was helping me to find the joy and peace of being single.  He was working on my heart and a lot of healing was taking place.  
 
One of the presentations was by Brian Barcaro, the co-founder of CatholicMatch.com.  He talked a little bit about the Catholic dating site, the benefits of online dating, and encouraged us to just give it a try. 
 
Fine. Maybe online dating wasn’t so creepy/crazy.
 
By this point in time I had a friend who had met her husband on another Catholic dating site.  They were normal.  They certainly weren’t “settling”.  And it was obvious God was part of their love story.  So maybe, just maaaaaybeI’d give it a try.  But not yet.

Over the next month some things happened that, well, let’s just say that peace and contentment with being single was long gone.  Long story short, I had hit my limit, and I was frustrated with God.  
 
“OK GOD…if you’re not going to send anyone to me, I’m going to take matters into MY OWN HANDS.”
Defiant Deanna’s
Catholic Match Profile Picture.

And convinced that God just wasn’t going to help me in the dating department, I signed up for CatholicMatch.com and paid for a two month membership.

So there I was… Defiant Deanna with her CM profile. 
 
Two or three weeks into my membership I was in contact with a few guys from the area.  In fact, one of them took me out on a lunch date followed by a walk in the park… but then he forced me to hold his hand (really) and rattled off all the names of his future children…and somehowI knew it wasn’t meant to be. 
 

By the beginning of April I was back to being skeptical about this online dating thing.  Sure, it had connected me with a few guys in my area.  It had even provided an entertaining and awkward date.  But this really didn’t seem like it was going anywhere.  I decided that once my subscription ran out, I wouldn’t renew it.  Why did I think I could try to do this without God’s help?  I didn’t realize it at the time, but God was doing more heart and soul surgery on me.  I may have thought I was “gonna show Him,”  but really God was leading me into something deeper and more perfect.

Because He’s just good like that.
 
On April 16thI “cast the net wide” one last time before the subscription ran out.  I did another search, and sent a couple of “Hi, how are you? This isn’t awkward at all!” type messages. 
 
Before logging off I noticed the “Welcome to Our New Members!” box. 

And there he was.  

He had a really nice smile and the baby leopard was a nice touch.  According to his profile he was a lover of Promised Land chocolate milk (and chocolate in general) and Haribo gummy bears (the specificity of Haribo was important.  There are no other true gummies).  

I decided I would send him a message, which simply said something like: 
 
Note: Never underestimate the power of a smiley face 🙂
To be honest, I didn’t expect a reply.  I can’t even tell you for sure why I sent him the message.  I certainly didn’t think that this email would be the beginning of something life-changing.  But God did.  


Within a day or so, Michael actually responded. Before I knew it we were instant messaging and emailing almost every single day.  I think what stood out the most over those first few emails and online conversations was Michael’s ability to make me laugh, and the sincerity in which he said he would pray for me.  
 
On May 4thhe finally asked for my phone number, and we talked for the first time.  I don’t remember what we said that first night, but I do remember smiling and laughing a lot.  The conversation was natural.  Phone conversations became the new daily ritual, lasting anywhere from 1-4 hours.  


Stuff was getting real. 


By this point, Michael and I were becoming fast friends, and we started thinking about where do we go from here?  We figured we would eventually need to meet in person, maybe later in the summer, and we could see where things would go. 
 
I should mention that one of the things we love most about our experience with online dating is that it really helped us to develop a friendship before anything else.  Even if this didn’t turn into a romantic relationship, we had talked so much that we knew we would at least be very good friends.  
 
It also forced us to pray about this relationship.  A lot. So that’s what we did.  I started the 54 day rosary novena, asking the Blessed Mother to help us discern our relationship, and prayed that God could help us meet in person sooner than later.  
 
Towards the end of May, Michael told me that his seminarian friend, Sayf, (the man who would eventually celebrate our Nuptial Mass) agreed to drive him to San Antonio the first weekend of June. 
 
The Blessed Mother is fast. 🙂

Friday, June 4th was going to be the big day.  Michael and Sayf would be in town until Monday morning, giving Michael and I the weekend to get to know one another.  As the day got closer, I got more nervous and excited, and prayed that this would be exactly what God wanted it to be.  

Thursday evening, however, I got a bit of a surprise.  I was walking out of my evening Zumba class, covered in sweat when Michael texted me.  He said that they had gotten into town earlier and wanted to know how I felt about meeting that night..in oh, an hour or so. 

I don’t think I’ve ever driven home, showered, dressed, and done make-up that fast in my life.

I got the address to where Michael was staying, and headed out… but before picking him up I stopped by perpetual adoration and prayed.  I didn’t know what was going to happen, but I really just wanted God’s will to be done… I prayed the rosary on the drive over to pick up Michael, and with nervous excitement I pulled up to the house.

OK Lord, Your will be done.”


A handsome young man in jeans and a black T-shirt came out of the house.  I got out of  my car, and with a smile and a crazy bunch of butterflies in my stomach, walked towards the man I’d met on online.

PART TWO

May 9, 2014

Seven Quick Takes (#10): Life After Grad School

It is finished!

After submitting our thesis projects last weekend (which equaled a combined total of 54,000 words/171 pages). My husband and I are happy to report that we are done with our graduate theology program! 

Here are #7QT on all of the grand plans I have for life after grad school…

— 1 —
Unpack. Finally.

Right about the time we moved was the same time that thesis writing kicked into high gear, which means we have spent the last couple of months with boxes e v e r y w h e r e.  Praise God for basements, but seriously, it’s time to make this home sweet home.  I have these grand plans for wine and cheese nights, summer BBQs, and NERF wars at Casa Johnston…

And trust me, there are going to be some pretty epic NERF battles in our future…
Stuff just got real.

— 2 —
Summer Reading

The last thing I thought I would want to do after writing this paper was read.  But these are two books that I am super excited about:  Something Other Than God by Jennifer Fulwiler (host of #7QT at www.conversiondiary.com!) and The Sinner’s Guide to Natural Family Planning by Simcha Fisher (blogger at Patheos and the NCR).

I love these ladies, and they both remind me that when you decide to follow Christ there are bound to be some pretty frustrating yet hilarious challenges.  

— 3 —
Green Thumb?  Probably Not.

I’ve never been one to really enjoy working in the yard, but now that we are renting a home that actually has greenery to care for I’m willing to give it a shot.  My husband knows exactly what he wants to do, so I’ll at least be there for moral support 🙂  At the very least I’m bound to get a least a little sun this summer, and that’s not a bad thing!

— 4 —
Wedding Pictures

We’ve been married 7 months and I still haven’t had wedding pictures printed and framed!  I’m looking forward to making some photo books via Shutterfly and also picking out some favorites for the walls.  Any advice for picture framing and decorating?  It seems like there is an art to putting the right picture with the right frame, but I’m clueless.  I’ll be consulting the great wisdom of Pinterest, but if you have suggestions I’m all ears.  Arts/Crafts/Decor are not my forte.

— 5 —
Sharing Our Story

I’m really looking forward to updating and redesigning this blog.  For some reason I image I’ll have all of this free time now that school is over (ha!)  One of the stories I’d like to share is How I Met My Husband.  We’re coming up on the 4th anniversary of the day we met and when we started dating, and it’s a story I’d like to get down in writing.  Let’s just say God has a very good sense of humor…and you should never say never.  

— 6 —

Summer Adventures

It looks like we’ll be traveling at least once a month over the summer.  We’ve got a wedding in the Seattle, WA area in June, I’ll be heading to Philadelphia in July for the TOB Congress, another wedding in August in Texas, and then my 10 year class reunion is in Memphis sometime in September.  Sheesh, by that point it will almost be our one year anniversary.  Time sure is flying…

— 7 —

Spiritual Growth

I’ll be honest, most of my Lent involved just trying to survive the overwhelming task of research and writing. Lenten “spiritual growth spurt”… not so much.  At the same time, I did learn that there’s nothing too small (or too big) to take to the foot of the Cross.  Maybe that was the one lesson I needed to learn this Lent.  I’d like to think that studying theology the last 3 years was more than just an academic accomplishment, and actually helped me draw closer to Christ.  But this is not an automatic thing.  It takes work.  Saints aren’t saints because they had theology degrees.  The saints followed Christ and trusted Him with everything.  I want to do that.

Of course, these are all of the things that I think are going to happen now that grad school is over, but at the end of the day what I’m most looking forward to is seeing what adventures God leads us on!  Life out of the boat is usually never dull!  

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!