March 28, 2014

7 Quick Takes #8: Lenten Knots & Novenas

It’s almost the fourth Sunday of Lent you say?  Oh Lent where hath thou gone?  
Here are #7QT on what the first half of Lent has brought with it thus far….


— 1 —

Like good Catholics we properly kicked off Lent without the #ashtag.  Props to my friend Omar for getting this awesome selfie of some of our young adult family after the Ash Wednesday Mass.  You can clearly tell that we were stoked for this forty day journey (some of us more excited than others…).

Forty Days of Thesis Writing

The Johnston Home Office: Where Newlyweds Write Theses
My hairdresser asked me “What do you and your husband do for fun?”  To which I was only able to resond, “Netflix and thesis writing.”  This has been our Lent.  Books, writing, trying not to feel defeated, and taking breaks with Arrested Development.  
The blessing in all of this is that not only are my husband and I in the same graduate program, but our thesis topics are kinda-sorta-not really related.  I’m focusing on   New Feminism and Developing a Theology of Women, and my husband is writing about The Masculinity of God (or why we call God “He”).  Blessed John Paul II, Dr. Pia de Solenni, Dr. Monica Miller, and others have been huge helps in these projects.  My love for JPII and the Theology of the Body just keeps growing… and since our final project is due around the same time as his canonization, I figure we’ve got someone praying extra hard for us in heaven :).  

And we’d really appreciate all of your prayers as well! 
(No really, assault the heavens for us.  We need it!)

Did you know she takes care of knots too?
Mary, Undoer of Knots, pray for us!
How have I been Catholic all my life and I am just now hearing about this novena?  This is amazing!  If you’ve never heard of the Our Lady Undoer of Knots Novena, check it out.  My husband and I are finishing up this novena this weekend, and our big intention has been our thesis projects.  That knot is pretty huge right now, but it’s nice to know Our Lady is helping us work through it!
— 4 —
30 days with St. Joseph

Speaking of novenas, did you know there’s a 30 day St. Joseph Novena?  Neither did I until this past February.  That’s another new prayer that is going on my list of favorites.  I won’t lie … that’s a long novena prayer… there were nights we weren’t sure we’d make it through the whole thing… but we did it!  And we prayed for all sorts of things… our theses, the discernment of our family, family and friends, etc…  St. Joseph is a pretty neat guy… Happy to add him to the list of patron saints for our family!  

It’s already been a year!
The Proposal:  Easter Vigil 2013
March 30, 2013  just a few minutes before midnight my husband asked me to marry him.  A year later, I see how God’s hand has moved beautifully in our lives, and how God’s timing is so much better than my own.  We’ve been married almost 6 months and we’ve learned that marriage is beautiful, humbling, and requires the Cross to be at the center.  Something tells me the next year will be full of even more surprises and hugs from God! ๐Ÿ™‚

Let the Light In
My parish promoted the Sacrament of Reconciliation this Lent with the phrase “Let the Light In”.  Here’s the video our Director of Youth Ministry made for us, encouraging people to go to make confession part of their Lenten journey.  What do you think? ๐Ÿ™‚
I’m going to the 2014 TOB Congress!!!  
 I don’t even know how I can begin to put into words how excited I am about this trip!  This is going to be one of the highlights of my summer, and a much needed booster shot after graduation.  The speaker list is impressive… we’ll be hanging out with folks like Dr. Janet Smith, Christopher West, Damon Owens, and many others who have had a big impact on my formation.  Theology of the Body has played a key role in my ongoing conversion and it’s a pretty big part of the work that I do in the parish.  
To be honest, TOB saved my life… but that’s another story ๐Ÿ™‚

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!
March 5, 2014

Let the Light In!

p a x

At the end of February my husband and I moved into our new home.

We went from a dark apartment covered in 1970s shag carpet (complete with carpet in the bathroom and kitchen) to a duplex with a finished basement, and extra bathroom, and a kitchen with wood floors.  We’re still renting, but this definitely feels like home sweet home!  

My favorite room in this apartment is the family room because it has so much natural light… 11 windows and a large glass door to the backyard.  From the moment we walk through the front door it feels like light just bursts inside.  There’s even a skylight in the kitchen.  Light is everywhere and it makes the place feel a lot more like home.

The Old Apartment
The New Home

I didn’t realize how dark our old apartment was until we moved.  And now that we have a space with lots of natural light, I can’t imagine living in dark “Old Shaggy” ever again.
There are lots of benefits of letting natural light in.  Not only will it keep our energy bills down (hopefully!) but it also feels better.  Light is warm.  It is comforting.  It can put us in a better mood and can even help us appreciate our surroundings.  Light feels like home.

In the midst of completing our move and preparing for the start of Lent, Isaiah 9:1-2 came to mind:

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light;
Upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone.  
You have brought them abundant joy and great rejoicing…
I don’t know if I’d call “Old Shaggy” the land of gloom… but there’s dramatic difference from where we were to where we are now.  Being in an environment filled with light makes us realize just how dark our last home was, and it makes us more grateful for what we have.  
I think the same thing happens to us spiritually.  Sin loves darkness.  Sometimes we don’t realize just how dark the darkness within us is until we’ve allowed the Light of Christ to break through.  In my own life I can recall moments where darkness had been the norm.  And then at some point, maybe when I least expected it, Christ’s love and mercy broke through and the Light that entered into my life brought joy and rejoicing.  With God’s grace I was able to recognize the darkness that had once existed for what it really was.
Of course, I am human so I continue to make mistakes and fail… but that’s where the beauty of the Sacraments, especially Confession and the Eucharist remind me to renew that joy of being in the Light of Christ.

My friend and coworker, David McHugh (Noelle Garcia’s husband) made this video for our parish to help us reflect on how Confession helps us to Let the Light In:  

As we step into the Lenten season and think about what we’re “giving up” or “doing extra” over the next six weeks, maybe the first thing we need to do is ask how does Christ want to Let the Light into my soul?  What’s keeping me from allowing that Light into my life? And once I’ve allowed Christ’s light to pierce the darkness, what happens next?  How will that light make a difference in my personal encounter with the Lord?

I’ve said before that Lent is not my favorite and yet I realize that this is the time of year where the Holy Spirit really does a number on my heart if I’m open to it.  It’s a time of recognizing my weaknesses, but also allowing Christ to transform those things into strengths.  I feel like this year in particular Christ is asking me to let the Light in, so He can make me who I am called to be.  If I can open up my heart even just a tiny bit more, I think I can come to realize just how much I need Christ in my life and how much I want Him to be there.  

When the Light of Christ bursts into our hearts, we realize that it is beautiful.  It is welcoming and it is merciful.  It is where our hearts are at home.   

Lord, this Lent please let the Light into my soul… 
Pierce the darkness, and lead me to you.  Amen.   

be at peace
walk on water
be not afraid


Jesus I Trust in You!

February 7, 2014

7 Quick Takes #7: Words That Have Shaped Me

After celebrating another year of life last Friday, I thought I would share some of the words that have had a big impact on my journey over the past twenty-something years.


— 1 —

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”   
Philippians 4:13
From volleyball games, to giving my first speech, and eventually doing crazy things like going to foreign countries by myself and moving to the far off land of Southwest Kansas… this has been my go to verse.  Major props to my Mom for teaching me this passage, and always reminding me of it when I’m going through the crazy times.   
“For I know well the plans I have in mind for you, says the Lord. Plans for your welfare, not for woe. Plans to give you a future full of hope.”   
Jeremiah 29: 11
An oldie but a goodie.  I first saw this verse in high school, around the time of my knee injury that ended my hopes for playing college volleyball.  It has always been a good verse to go to in times of transition.  From high school into college, from college into mission work, from mission work to Kansas… God not only knows the plans for my life, He knows them well, and they are plans for a future full of hope.  God is so good (all the time!). 
“Do not be afraid! Life with Christ is a wonderful adventure. He alone can give full meaning to life. He alone is the center of history. Live by Him!”
Blessed John Paul the Great, pray for us.
This quote ties right in with Jer 29:11.  I love that JPII said “be not afraid” over and over and over again.  I need to hear this as often as possible.  Life with Christ is a wonderful adventure!
“God does not ask that we succeed in everything
but that we are faithful.”

Blessed Mother Teresa, pray for us

If you work in ministry of any sort, you understand how refreshing these words can be.  I remember when I first started working in full time ministry and just worrying all the time about failing at what God had called me to do.  Heck, I still worry about failing!  But recalling these words reminds me of what my job is about: to be faithful. 
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge him and he will make straight your paths.” – Proverbs 3:5-7


Summary: God knows more than you do, so trust him.  Don’t just trust him with a little bit of your heart, give him all of it.  Life is a little chaotic?  That’s OK, because God will straighten it all out in His perfect timing.  This also reminds me that I need make God a part of every aspect of my life, not just pieces and parts of it.  
I think the first time I heard these words it was one of those “Aha!” moments where it clicked:  There’s only one of me.  There’s no one else in the whole world like me.  And God created me for a particular purpose, something that only I can do.  What an incredible thought!  Each of us has a unique purpose that only we can fulfill, and when God is part of that journey then we really can set the world ablaze.  Mind.blown. 

Matthew 14:22-33
Peter Walks on Water (1806) by Philipp Otto Runge. 
My husband bought and framed this for me for my office. Best.Present.Ever.

If I have learned anything in my twenty-something years it is that life out of the boat is one of the best adventures when Christ is the focus.

I think all of these “words” can be summed up into one simple phrase: 
Be at peace * Walk on water* Be not afraid

What are some of the words that have shaped you?
Share in the comments below!   

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!
January 25, 2014

7 Quick Takes #6

Happy Feast Day St. Francis De Sales!  

Let’s kick off #7QT with one of my favorite quotes by this awesome Saint:

“Do not fear what may happen tomorrow.  The same loving Father who cares for you today will care for you tomorrow and every day.  Either he will shield you from suffering, or He will give you unfailing strength to bear it.  Be at peace then, and put aside all anxious thoughts and imaginings.”

Boom.  Thank you St. Francis.
Save all the babies!
Big shout out to all y’all who participated in the 2014 March for Life in Washington D.C.!   600,000 of you standing up for life during crazy cold weather?  Amazing.  I attended the March for Life in 2001-2004 with my high school (we even led the March my freshman year!) and it definitely made a huge impact on my life.  If only the media would pick up on just how incredible this event is….

Deacon Dad is famous again
My Deacon Dad served at the Vigil for Life Mass at the Basilica and he even showed up on EWTN a couple of times.  Not that you need any help finding the 6’9″ deacon… but just in case….

I’ve officially begun the adventure that is teaching Natural Family Planning!  This is very exciting but also one of those out of the boat experiences and I ask for your prayers!  I’ve taught theology of the body for 3 years, so now I get to combine faith with science and hopefully share with couples why God’s plan is the best plan.  One of my favorite parts of teaching NFP so far is having my husband right by my side.   Hearing him talk about why he is glad we use NFP and how he sees it strengthening our relationship just makes me love him even more.

If there are any NFP Teachers out there with some words of advice as we get started in this ministry, please share your wisdom and experience with us! 

The Nominees are in…
I was shocked and surprised to see that I was nominated for “Best Under Appreciated Blog” for the 2014 Sheenazing Awards!  Thanks so much!  God bless the dear soul that nominated me ๐Ÿ™‚    Click on that link to vote or just go check out the list of fabulous Catholic bloggers (and Non-Papists) and vote for them!  If you don’t do anything else, check out Bonnie at A Knotted Life. This woman is  amazing! 
Beauty & Body
Every now and then SoulPancake posts something that touches that special spot in my heart that causes tears, laughter, goosebumps or all of the above.  One of their latest videos did just that:


The poem at the end… dang.  Lord give me the grace and strength to say I have a beautiful body (and mean it!)

Still in my Mid-Twenties… right?

A week from today I’ll be 8 years into my twenties.  Thirty is just around the corner, but it isn’t here yet!  I remember writing a list when I turned 20 that had things I wanted to accomplish before I turned 30.  When I was thinking back to some of the things I put on the list I realized I’ve already accomplished several of them:  
  • Study abroad (DONE)
  • Help someone become Catholic. (DONE)
  • Do mission work in another country (DONE)
  • Get married. (DONE)
  • Go to Rome. (DONE)
  • Have an audience with the Pope. (DONE, bonus points for Pope Hand)
I need to try to find the actual list amongst my many journals, because I do have some time to get more things marked off.  I know one of the things I listed was to write a book, but we’ll see what 28 & 29 have in store.  For now I’m content with just trying to be a better blogger ๐Ÿ™‚

Birthdays are just a great time for me to remember that if God has done this much this far into my life, what other adventures are in store?

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!
January 11, 2014

7QT #5: New Year & New Adventures

Not gonna lie… I’m still trying to soak in this whole “2014” thing.  This means that it has been ten years since my high school graduation, six years since my college graduation, five years since I completed my mission year in Mexico, and almost four years since I met my husband.  A whole decade has just whooshed by…. and here I am married, working for the Church, and living in Southwest Kansas.  Whodathunkit?  
I have no idea what the best part about 2014 is going to be, and that’s actually really exciting.  This time last year I had hopes that Michael and I would at least get engaged in 2013.  I never would have imagined that the year would have included getting married on my patron saint’s feast day, going on an incredible 2 week honeymoon in Rome, and I certainly did not imagine getting to meet Pope Francis with my husband.  The year was full of blessings, and more than anything it was filled with reminders that God has bigger plans for me than I could ever imagine for myself.  

Like most Americans, I’d like to get into a shape other than round during this New Year.  Michael and I enrolled at the YMCA last month, and we started a 12 week program that’s supposed to help us have a better workout schedule.  Three words:  No me gusta.  Not because the workout is hard, but the facility is not near big enough.  I end up lifting my little dumbbells next to the Hulk and feel ridiculous.  Humility humility… but we’ll get the hang of it eventually I guess.  I might have to go there at weird hours when no one is there, but I gotta do something!  
I’ve been more motivated to work on my spiritual goals than my physical goals.  I’ve sensed the need to focus on the virtue of humility, so I decided to try to make the Litany of Humility part of my daily prayers.  I taped it to my desk and I’ve been praying it every day as soon as I get to my desk.  It’s still not my favorite prayer, and I still find some of the lines incredibly difficult to pray, but something tells me this prayer is going to help me a LOT this year.   
— 5 —

The New Year’s commitment that I’m most excited about is finally signing up for a Holy Hour at my parish.  I say finally because I’ve worked in the parish for three years, we offer 24 hr adoration, and up until this month I had never made regular visits to the adoration chapel.  Terrible!  My office is a 2 minute walk to the chapel and I was only making quick trips to adoration every now and then.  My prayer life has always been better when adoration is a regular part of it, and working in ministry has taught me the need to “sit at the master’s feet” and just be with him.   I know that there will be times when I really don’t “feel” like going, and I know there are times when I might not think that I’m getting anything out of those silent moments with Our Lord.  But I also know that this might be the best thing that I do this year.  Sometimes I need to be with Christ in the boat before walking on water..  
We found out today that we are moving next month!  Just to a new apartment… but it’s a big move for us nonetheless!  Michael moved in with me after we got married, so my 2 bedroom apartment got a little more crowded.  I’ve lived here since I moved to Dodge, so I’m looking forward to starting fresh in a new place with my husband.  The only thing we’re not sure about right now is when we’ll be able to move in and how that it going to work out with our current landlords.  But if everything goes smoothly the Johnstons will be in their new home before Lent begins.  Please pray for us!
Deacon Dad: The Meme.

I made this meme from one of my favorite pictures taken at the wedding. The ever hilarious “Catholic Memes” Facebook page shared it and… Oila! Deacon Dad is all over the internet. I know his meme is not “viral” like babies biting their brother’s fingers or sneezing panda babies, but for the Jones family dad reached a new level of internet awesomeness ๐Ÿ™‚

I also made this follow up for your everyday mass experience ๐Ÿ™‚

Thanks Deacon Dad ๐Ÿ™‚ 

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!