January 10, 2014

Life *In* the Boat

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I’ve mentioned before that the scripture that best describes my spiritual journey is Matthew 14:22-33, The Walking on the Water.  It seems like God is constantly challenging me to step out of my boat and comfort zone and trust Him with everything.  Hence the name, Life Out of the Boat πŸ™‚
But Wednesday’s Gospel reminded me that sometimes we need to be in the boat before we start jumping out in the wild wind and waves. 
Mark 6:45-52 tells the story of how Jesus comes walking on the sea towards the disciples as they are being tossed about in the boat.  The disciples are frightened, think they see a ghost, and Jesus tells them, “Take courage, it is I! Do not be afraid!  Jesus gets into the boat with them, and suddenly everything is at peace.  No wind, just calm seas now that he is in the boat.
During the homily, Father reminded us that sometimes we need to invite Christ into our boats.  We need to realize that the peace we are looking for in the midst of chaos and confusion is often found when we ask Christ to be part of our lives in a more concrete way. 
As I thought about this throughout the day I realized that this is where I am in my own “boat adventure” with the Lord.  January is the beginning of my busiest season at work.  It’s also the time of year where I’m looking ahead and realizing all of the many things that need to get done.  This year is a little different because I’m also preparing for some big changes in the months to come. 
I found out last week that my pastor is being moved to another parish, and that we’ll have a new pastor at the beginning of February.  I’ve gone through pastor changes before, but this is the first time that it impacts me as both a parishioner and a parish employee.  New pastor means a new boss, and likely some change in the life of the parish.  I’m certain that good things are ahead, but it is still challenging.  My current pastor is the one who hired me, and the one who has taught and formed me over these past few years.  He’s been an incredible mentor to me, and is the one who has shown me that ministry more than anything else is about serving the needs of the Body of Christ. His announcement about the upcoming move brought on a fair share of tears.  Change is hard, but it is also an indication that God is at work.
In the midst of this time of transition there’s a temptation to want to conquer all of these things head on without taking the time to pray about them.  “I CAN HANDLE THIS! Let me out of the boat!  I’m ready!!  BRING ON THE CHANGE!”  But the truth is if we don’t take the time to pause and pray before diving out of the boat we can set ourselves up to sink.  
I feel like God is putting on my heart to be still and invite him into the boat.  This is going to be a busy year.  It is going to be a challenging year.  But  I think that 2014 will be yet another opportunity to grow as the woman God created me to be.  Not only will I experience change and challenges at work, but I’m also learning and growing in my vocation as a wife and discerning when I’m called to be a mother.  In all of these things, whether at home or work, I need to make sure I’m resting in the peace of Christ before hopping over the side of the boat to conquer waves on my own.
Peter started to sink because he looked away from Christ and the waves and wind overcame him.  If we don’t take the time to look at Christ, particularly in moments of change and transition, we might not realize that God is preparing us for what is ahead by surrounding us with His peace. 

Walking on water is an incredible adventure, but it also requires asking our Lord to be part of the journey. 

Be at peace
Walk on Water 
Be not Afraid

January 2, 2014

The Pain & Beauty of Humility

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I’ve never had trouble reciting a prayer until this one: The Litany of Humility. It is the kind that is so good for the soul it makes me cringe.  

It starts off gently:  

O Jesus, meek and humble of heart, hear me! 
Me: Oh yes that’s nice. Please hear me meek and humble Jesus!

And then it continues:

From the desire of being esteemed, deliver me Jesus.  
Hm… OK Lord I guess I don’t need so much of that.  Yes, Lord deliver me from this.

From the desire of being loved, deliver me Jesus.  
Whoa there! Hold up now…

And it only gets harder from there with sentences like:

From the desire of being praised…being preferred to others…approved…  
But wait!  I like affirmation! Heck, I like being liked!
From the fear of being despised…ridiculed…humiliated…  
AH!  But that stuff is painful!

Then the litany switches gears, and just when I didn’t think it couldn’t get any harder, it does:
That others may be loved more than I,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be esteemed more than I,  
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be praised and I unnoticed…
That others may be preferred to me in everything…
That others may become holier than I, 
provided that I may become as holy as I should...

By the last sentence there is a small part of me that wonders what the consequences of this prayer will be.  What on earth did I just ask for?!  I like being liked!  I like being praised for doing a good job!  It kills me when I know people are unhappy with me.  Why would I want to embrace a virtue that makes me so uncomfortable?
Of course, the short answer is this:   
Because Christ did.  

 “…He emptied himself, taking the form of a slave… he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.” – Philippians 2:7-8
Though the cross is painful, we also know that it isn’t the end of the story.  Humility can be painful, but it can also be beautiful when it is united to Christ.   

There’s no doubt in my mind that the reason the Litany of Humility is so challenging for me to pray is because I need it so much.  Humility is hard.  It means embracing a cross that isn’t always so fun to carry.  It also means recognizing that I am nothing without Christ, and without Him playing an active role in my life, I can do nothing at all.  

In his December 19th homily Pope Francis said that “Humility is necessary for fruitfulness.” He explained that we cannot bear fruit in our lives without God’s help and that we must acknowledge that we can do nothing on our own.  He encourages us to pray “ β€˜Lord, I want to be fruitful.’ I desire that my life should give life, that my faith should be fruitful and go forward and be able to give it to others. Lord, I am sterile, I can’t do it. You can. I am a desert: I can’t do it. You can.”

As someone who works in ministry full-time, this is something I need to pray more often.  It is easy for me to fall into the trap of thinking that I can do everything on my own. “I’ll start this program!”  “I’ll give this talk!” “I’ll do it all!”  And in the middle of running my own show, pride is a comfortable thing to settle into.  Yet, it seems like the work I do is so much more meaningful and impactful when I get out of the way and take the time to ask “God, what are you calling me to do?”  Even my own prayer life and walk with Christ seems more life giving when I stop trying to push my agenda on God.  

I read through St. Josemaria Escriva’s 17 Signs of a Lack of Humility and there’s no doubt that I need a lot of work.  In this new year I feel like God is calling me to stop asking “What does Deanna want to get done?” and instead make the effort to pray “Your will, not mine, be done” on a daily basis.  And although it’s not my favorite prayer, I’m also trying to pray the Litany of Humility at the start of my work day.  These are just small steps that I think could lead to a very interesting and fruitful year! 

Humility will probably never be an “easy” virtue for me to embrace.  The good news is that this is where God’s grace kicks in.  By acknowledging our dependence on God, we make more room for him to work in and through our lives.  When we let go of things like the desire of being loved and the fear of being rejected we embrace the cross and the joy of our faith more fully.  

Jesus, meek and humble of heart, make my heart like yours 
(even if it hurts).

be at peace
walk on water
be not afraid


December 27, 2013

The Season of “Espera”

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One of my favorite Spanish words is esperar, which means to wait for, to hope forThe older I get the more I appreciate this word.  It reminds me that no matter how difficult the “waiting” might be, there is hope because God’s hand is at work.  There is (or at least should be) joy in waiting because God loves us and His plans are perfect. 

But even with this understanding of having great hope,  waiting isn’t always easy. Sometimes it’s annoying and painful.

I think about the time following my college graduation when I wasn’t sure what I was doing.  For a moment it felt like God was being silent, and that was frustrating.  In reality I only had to wait a couple of weeks to hear that I was accepted into a mission work program in Mexico, but the waiting felt like an eternityI wanted an answer before graduation and I wanted things to happen on my own timetable.  But God asked me to wait, and it paid off. 

Then there was the stressful time of waiting when I finished up my second year of mission work, and had no idea where God wanted me to go next.  I completed the year in Texas, packed up my car with everything I owned, and moved back in with my parents to await further instruction.  Again, while it seemed like God was being silent f o r e v e r, there were really only about 5 weeks where God just wanted me to be still, to wait, and to trust that His timing was better than my own. 

3 years later I’m still working in my dream job in the most unexpected of places (trust me, Dodge City was not on my radar at all!) and appreciating the fact that God’s plans are much better than anything I can come up with on my own. God asked me to wait, and it paid off. 

I have to admit that I am not always “full of hope” while waiting to see where God will lead me next.  Sometimes waiting is accompanied by tears, desperation, and complaining that God isn’t moving fast enough.  Yet it seems those are the times when God reminds me of His faithfulness. The waiting has always had meaning and purpose when I remember that God is part of it. 

Waiting is hard.  It is challenging.  Sometimes it hurts.  Sometimes it is stressful.  But when God becomes the focus of our waiting, peace enters the unknown and the uncertainty. 

In a way, that’s what Advent is about.  It’s a season of waiting, of joyful expectation, of hopeThe world was waiting for a Savior, a King, a Mighty Ruler… and God surprised everyone:

Christ’s coming was not only an answer to a season of waiting, but it was also an answer that was so much better than what people were expecting.  God became a tiny baby.  The King of Kings was born in a stable and placed in a manger.  God’s perfect plan was so much better than what we could have come up with on our own.  
Advent reminds us of Christ’s first coming, but it also reminds us that Christ will come again.  Advent takes us into a season of “espera”a time of waiting and hoping.  We await the joyful celebration of Christ’s birth, and we are also full of hope that Christ will return.  This waiting and hoping gives meaning to our lives, because it tells us that the story doesn’t end here.  
Waiting and hoping in the Lord means that we trust Him… We don’t know how long we have to wait, we don’t know how exactly God’s plan will unfold, but when we trust in His promise we know that things will turn out so much better than what we can plan for ourselves.  
Lord, teach us to wait and to hope.  
As we prepare to enter a new year, grant us a sense of peace with where you are leading us.  Help us to abandon all fear and give us the courage to step out of the boat and trust you completely.  Amen. 

be at peace
walk on water
be not afraid


December 20, 2013

7QT #4: Good & Great Things

My husband and I are celebrating our first Christmas together in Dodge City.  Christmas will be a little different this year, because it is the first time either of us has been away from our families on Christmas day.  Not gonna lie, I’m sad that we can’t make a trip to TN or TX to be with our loved ones… but at the same time I’m looking forward to being with my husband and beginning our own traditions as a new family. 

Dad shares a birthday with Pope Francis.  It’s like a double rainbow… I don’t know what it means but I’m sure it’s something good.    
Every now and then the culture gets it right

I’m not a parent yet, but this commercial melted my heart and made my day.  Way to go Coca Cola!  We think babies are pretty awesome too πŸ™‚

Speaking of babies… 

I’m an NFP Teacher-in-Training with BOMA!  I found out a few weeks ago that I passed the test and can officially start working on becoming fully certified.  Honestly, I’m freaking out on the inside a little nervous… but I’m looking forward to teaching Theology of the Body AND Natural Family Planning.   I’m a married TOB fanatic who is going to be teaching NFP (Catholic triple threat?).  I’m suddenly feeling dangerously awesome…. :-p But seriously, please pray for me because this is new territory and another lesson in stepping out of the boat!  πŸ™‚ 

Whyyyyy M C A?

My husband and I joined the YMCA this month, and kicking off a 12-week fitness program this week.  Going to the gym is always a humbling experience… and my husband is one of those natural athletes that will have a six pack after a week of doing pushups and crunches.  Me on the other hand… I need some work.  But I’m really excited about doing this as a couple.  Maybe I should buy some matching sweatbands for Christmas?  #TEAMJOHNSTON

New year. New Adventures.
2013 was awesome.  Between getting engaged and getting Pope-Handed by the new Pontiff, this year had more surprises and blessings than I ever could have imagined.  The best part?  This is only the beginning.  Like most folks there’s a lot of things that I’d like to see happen and a lot of goals I would like to accomplish before December rolls around again.  But before getting caught up in resolutions and weight-loss plans, or even dreaming up a magnificent “Things to Do” list… I really feel like I need step back and reflect on what it means to be a child of God and how this should impact my daily life.  It can be so easy to forget this, and I really think that God is inviting me to embrace this.  period.  Lead me Lord.
And finally… 
wedding picture o v e r l o a d….
We are very grateful to Tindall Farmer Photography for capturing some truly beautiful moments on our wedding day!  Just had to share a bunch few of my favorites!

Favorite kissy picture of all time.
Got married on my patron saint’s feast day!

My sisters πŸ™‚
Almost the first look!
I could have danced all night.  And I did!

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!
November 9, 2013

7 Quick Takes #3: On the First Month of Marriage

Learning to Live (and sleep) Together

It’s hard to believe we’ve been married one month already!  The first month has brought with it many blessings, a lot of change, and things I didn’t really expect… like learning how to sleep with my husband.  No really, we are trying to figure out how to sleep in the same bed.  We’ve both been used to sleeping in a full size bed alone, and we are quickly discovering that’s not enough space for the both of us. Blanket Hog is not something I expected to hear in married life, but alas, I am a robber of covers, causing my husband to lose sleep :-p.  Oh the drama.

Solution?  Queen air mattress in the living room.  A temporary solution until we make it over to the mattress store.  Oh the adventurous life of newlyweds :-p

NFP.  Stuff just got real.  

I’ve been using Natural Family Planning for the past three years.  I started charting before I even met Michael, and now that we’re married NFP is even more awesome.

Thank you iusenfp.com πŸ™‚

It’s one thing to talk about NFP as an abstinent single woman before marriage, it’s a whole other thing to start charting as a couple and really trying to be open to whatever God has planned for us.  “NFP-ing” together has been a great gift in our first month of marriage.  It has given me an even deeper appreciation for my husband and my fertility.  This has also been an opportunity to practice what I preach.  As spouses we are called to openness to life.  We said “yes” when my Deacon Daddy asked us “Will you accept children lovingly from God…” and we meant it.  And as we continue to chart, I think we are realizing that this is so much more than a way to “postpone or achieve pregnancy”; it is an invitation to pray about God’s plan for our family on a regular basis. I know that NFP-ing isn’t always going to be easy, but that’s why we need the grace of the sacrament!

Marriage is not for me or my husband…

I was one of the millions of people who liked and shared the “Marriage Isn’t for You” blog post by Seth Adam Smith that went viral this week.  I really liked what Seth had to say, and it was a wonderful reminder of what Michael and I signed up for a month ago.  But I also really liked Jeremy’s blog Response which brought it all together:  Marriage isn’t about you, OR your spouse… it’s for God

In my Theology of the Body presentations for engaged couples over the years we spend a lot of time discussing why marriage is a sacrament and what that actually means.  God’s love is free, total, faithful, and fruitful and as spouses we are called to witness that love to each other and to the world.  This is not about spending the rest of our lives trying to satisfy the deepest longings of our spouse’s heart and make them happy all the time.  That’s impossible.  God alone can satisfy the soul’s ache, and our job as spouses is to lead one another closer to himThis is one of my favorite Catechism quotes that seems to capture this well:

“The ‘natural desire’ for happiness…is of divine origin: God has placed it in the human heart in order to draw man to the One who alone can fulfill it.”- CCC no. 1718

Honestly, amongst all of the wonderful things that comes with being a newlywed, humility is one of those things God is helping me learn whether I like it or not.  I’ve talked and taught about marriage/TOB/NFP/etc… for the past three years as part of my job.  I think God had me in marriage preparation long before we were engaged because He knows how stubborn and hard headed Deanna can be.  The best way to learn is to teach… but it is one thing to teach it, it’s another thing to live it on a daily basis.  That’s where that grace kicks in. I’ve got a long way to go, but it’s so nice to know that both God and my husband are going to love me unconditionally πŸ™‚
She cooks!
Michael is the real cook in this relationship, but this past week I stepped up my game and made dinner and a dessert (for those who know me, this is kind of a big deal πŸ™‚ ).  We had a wedding reception at our parish last weekend and so I made Pumpkin Cream Cheese Cupcakes.  Yum.  The first couple of batches weren’t so pretty, but by round 3 I was baking like a boss.  

Last night I tried my hand at this Roasted Garlic Chicken Penne recipe minus the roasted bell peppers.  It actually turned out really well and I’m surprised at how much I enjoy cooking.  My next goal is to start cooking healthier and to also put our brand new crockpot to work.  The only thing I made in it so far is a bean casserole soup, but I’m ready to step out of my comfort zone and try something new!  If you have any favorite (easy) crockpot recipes please share!!
— 6 —

This is a picture of us making our way back to our group after getting Pope-handed.  I’d just like to note that my husband is a stud.  That is all πŸ™‚

I love my husband.  No Really.  I love him.   

In my single days I remember seeing Facebook posts from friends that said cheesy things like “I love my husband!”  or “I have the best husband everrrr!” and think Ok we got it… Thanks for sharing… But I have to admit that there are days when I just want to burst in the room like:

Sure, I realize we’ve only been married a month, and this “honeymoon phase” will end.  And yes, there have been moments when he is not my favorite person to be around… but I love him!  It’s not just that he is super smart, funny, a great cook and handyman, etc… but he is helping me get to heaven.  This is the start of a great adventure. πŸ™‚

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!