Category Archives: Church

Updates: Websites, Weddings, Work, Writing

Hi! Here are some updates of our life over the last few months.

Most of my blogging time these days goes to http://www.AverageAdvocate.com I have been excited because recently I have had people guest blog (finally)! I need the help, the other opinions/experiences, and the networks which other people have. So this is great. In addition, I was a contributor to the Human Trafficking Daily (a web news site) with my book review on Not For Sale. Score! In case you can’t tell, really getting this going has been important to me. Its the merger between some of my passions and a skill- my little small fish and loaves.

Of course, being mommy is still my main job (I hear this rumor I should expect this for at least the next eighteen years). Avi is now four and Josiah is now two. They are so much easier now, having grown a bit older.  We love them bunches! And it seems anyone else who meets them does too! As of yet, Avi is a drama queen and Josiah is a soft-spoken linguist.  They have had their fill of wedding this summer. My cousin Brett’s wedding in Wisconsin, Josh’s brother Ben’s wedding in New Jersey, and Josh’s dad’s wedding in Tennessee.  Annoyingly, none of these weddings were at a beach! Oh well. But, apparently, we discovered that getting down with sweet dance skills is my kids’ fave thing to do!

I have also been working for my church , J10 Church, as “connections chick” for coming up on a whole year now. I’ve learned a lot from this experience, and hopefully I have been a blessing there too. I wouldn’t say it has been easy at all in any way. But I think the job fits me; I feel content in it. Although I do confess, I also feel like I am about to screw something up at any moment! So, on a positive note, it draws me to God.

Because it is writing related, I can easily share with you the book review posts I randomly write for my friends’ website, Reading Teen. This is total fun and fluff for me. Here are some others posts beyond what I have shared to you before:

This is my most favorite review because I thought it was really funny, the author of the book asked me to write it, and a lot of people liked it 🙂

http://www.readingteen.net/2011/08/cascade-river-of-time-2-by-lisa-t.html

These are some other not-so-thrilling posts:

http://www.readingteen.net/2011/07/waterfall-river-of-time-1-by-lisa-t.html

http://www.readingteen.net/2011/07/choices-by-katrina-l-burchett.html

A buddy and I pretended we were the site’s typical authors, and did an IMM for them. They are on either side of us, coaching us on the books we were supposed to let their readers know about. To us, this was hilarious, but maybe its just because we are all friends. Here you go anyway!

Labels, Housewives, and L2F

I am part of an organization, L2F Needs Network. Actually, a best friend (the director of L2F) and I spend the majority of our non-essential-household-taking-care-of-time (there has got to be a better way to say that) running L2F. Well, her more than me- It’s her baby. But I like it too, partially because it categorizes some of my life under a label. I like labels. After studying things like psychology, sociology, and anthropology for so many years I am excellent at analyzing, categorizing, and labeling things. Ironically, we who study the social sciences proclaim the evils of stereotyping and labeling,  but that is pretty much what we do.

I’ve been thinking about labeling because sometimes I want another label in life. Typically I am labeled as a stay-at-home-mom, also known as a homemaker, housewife, domestic engineer. . . or my personal favorite (which is on my business card): domestic goddess. Lots of people understand this label as really meaning one (or all) of three things:

  1. Housewives are too stupid to do something else.
  2. Housewives are obsessed with their kids.
  3. Housewives are super traditional.

Of course, this is only my opinion of what others think, which might not be true at all. Regardless, I don’t like being stereotyped as such because I don’t feel as though I fit into any of these categories. Now, before you cynically remark about why I do fall into category number one, beware, before the character war begin! Case in point: these are the dangers of stereotyping. People only like being labeled into some categories, and not others.

In short, being a stay-at-home-mom is not my dream job. Raising my kids and managing my house are part of my dream job, yes. But, in addition to that I have been consumed with a little thing which I crave from the deepest part of me: Changing the world. I really want to reply, when someone asks me what I do, by saying “Oh, you know, I am a professional world-changer. For the better, obviously. What do you do?” If you really must ask, yes, my business card says “world changer” on it too.

I have spent countless hours psycho-analyzing why I am like this. Nurture, nature, life experience, etc. . .  might all go into it. I could write my life story here, if you really want to know why I am like I am. Thankfully, I will spare you this time.

I am pretty sure that having a label helps you change the world better. For years I have wanted to go back into an official position at an organization, church, non-profit, NGO, or have a profession, in part, just to have a label. People respect you, consult you, or consider you an authority when you have a title. I guess I don’t think people take me seriously otherwise, which annoys me because I think it hinders me. I wrote up the hours I spend doing various activities this week. Trust me, doing dishes and laundry were probably lowest on the list. Which explains why they are not done (and I don’t care). But, time spent trying to make a dent in the world was definitively at the top of my hours-spent worksheet.

Another benefit of the label is the accountability that comes with it. There is a set of responsibilities one has when they are a professional. Professional engineers, spys, dry cleaners, trash men, worm catchers, and even bad guys all have a standard they are expected to meet. Helping out on the side typically has minimal expectations and accountability. Even being an official contract signing volunteer, one has just a few standards to live up to. Yet, as a professional, with a title, the responsibilities and pressure to perform is actually there. I know most people view this as negative, but if you think about it, there can be a lot of positive motivational value as well.

I have semi-successfully been raising a family while trying to serve God by loving others for a few years now. Even though my label might not be what I prefer, I should only be thankful that I am able to raise my kids, that I am able to manage my own time, and I am therefore able spend so much of my time putting into what I believe matters. I might not feel fulfilled in having a dream job as a professional, but I am at least trying to be the first to admit how overwhelmingly blessed I am. I am content in my blessings; blessed by God and my husband, notably.  Regardless of whatever our label is, we can at least still make a difference where we are.

Hence, I wanted to introduce you to L2F (click here to see our blog, still in development). It is part of who I am, and its cool (so I think you should like it). In a nutshell, we pretty much find out about needs, communicate those needs, and try to meet those needs. It’s like we are Robin Hood, but we don’t have to steal from the rich. Which is good, because I would probably have some moral qualms about that. The vision goes beyond just helping people, it is really also just as much about giving others opportunities and teaching them to be world changers. Of course, I am the only one who is a little too ahead of the game, caught up on the phrase “world changers.” Most of us are just excited to be making a difference in Ashburn.  Our motivation is because we love Jesus, and we feel that this is the way He has guided us right now to show His love to our community.

A lot of what we do is through the local schools, but its kinda been all over the place. This week I delivered a bunch of diapers and formula to a social service organization, did some social media stuff, got school supplies for some kids,  talked about assisting a refugee family, helped plan a backpack program for hungry kids at our schools, and packed backpacks for the homeless. See, I told you its a bunch of random stuff! Personally, I love working with immigrants and developing contacts and relationships with those in need, as well as those who are already active in the community. Yet, there is always more to do! In fact, through our church (J10 Church), L2F Needs Network was really able to make a difference in an area that had no assistance directly after the earthquake in Haiti. I’ll conclude by showing a video of that experience below, and here is a link to some pictures a friend, Herb Looney, took while on this trip to Haiti.

Question: I know culture typically considers it morally good to want to change the world. But I have come to realize a lot of people don’t have that urge. Do you, personally, have that passion? What do you feel your responsibility is to your family, community, and the world as a whole? What is one practical step you can take right now, to make a positive difference?

Pray for a Recently Attacked Village in Burma

This makes me sad, knowing this is just happening. This sounds like a typical genocidal displacement the Burmese Army has been conducting with regularity for years. They target villages of minorities and/or minority religions (like Christians, as in this village) and randomly attack them, trying to kill or at least hurt those in the village. Can you take a few minutes to pray for those in this village today? I don’t know much about this ministry, although I have received their updates for awhile.The idea of making cards and sending them to encourage those who survived seemed to be a cool idea. I haven’t researched the organization enough for me to recommend donating to them. Below is the email I received (Somewhat in thick Christianese).

—————————–

 
Brothers and sisters,

   If you are reading this, I am confident in the Lord in you, that the recent events of which I shall describe will be prayed over fervently.  On July 22nd an entire village was assaulted and razed to the ground in E. Burma.  This might not mean that much, perhaps a blip of news from a faraway country that has problems like this all the time, I pray and trust it means not so to thee.  As I prepare to send my team leader in before the sun shines this very moment, hiding in the jungle are countless men, women and children.  The casualty total is not known just yet, nor will it be soon.  The very pulpit of a church in which my Pastor, Joe Tuccinardi, myself, and other brothers have preached in is ashes.  The very schools that were built with men’s hands through the donations of some blessed brethren stand no more.  As I write and hear the monsoon rains I know our brothers and sisters in Christ are burying their dead, hiding in the forest, wet, cold and hungry.  This is one of the brazen attacks recently, and there shall be more.  As I met with some strong brothers in the Lord this evening/night, as they prepare to answer God’s call on their lives going back “home” tomorrow, we lose not hope.  We are not discouraged, we are not destroyed, we will not give up in believing that God shall use this according to His Will, that His sovereign hand was upon all the comings and goings of the Burmese Army.  We prayed for the “enemy”, knowing that they are just in darkness, blind, needing love, compassion and grace to touch their hearts now.  We prayed for all those who are mourning, who have lost more than loved ones, who have no other desire but to till the land and worship Christ peacefully.  More than likely this very moment that you are reading this someone is being raped, someone is starving to death, someone is burying their child but they, nor we shall lose hope, for our hope does not disappoint.  Now is the time to pray more than ever, if I am a voice crying in the wilderness, so be it, I shall call upon the God of Jacob, the Lord of Hosts for only His arm is not shortened, it can save.  Until I have official clearance to release the full report of this massacre, God knows its name and more importantly His sheep that dwell within it.  Pray with us please, your prayers change things.  I am unworthy and so blessed to be laying next to my “miracle” son, and my wonderful wife right now.  I don’t deserve to have a roof over my head for my Savior had none, I don’t have a right to breathe if not for Christ.  As the faces and voices of the brothers and sisters in Muthraw District play over and over in my mind, only smiles, laughing, praying, worshiping, working hard with our hands, enduring hardship without a single complaint are their personifications.  I know not which ones I will see on this earth again, but I am confident that right now some are in a glorious new body, in the presence of the glory of the throne of God. 

   Weep with those who weep, yay, rejoice with those who rejoice, but I encourage thee ne’er to be tween the two, ne’er be in doubt, for our God is mighty, holy and the great I AM.  Please direct your prayers towards Muthraw District, E. Burma, specifically as the Holy Spirit imparts unto thee, or don’t if you have not the time, we still love you the same only because He loved us first. 

    I am writing this as fast as possible, and prayerfully tomorrow the first load of relief will arrive, but God is there and here now, so pray, I beseech thee, as you have been so faithful before to do.  If you feel like writing I will make sure whatever you send (letters, postcards, a hand drawn picture) will be hand delivered to a weary soul in search of a cold cup of water, good news from a far country. If you are moved with compassion to be a part of giving immediate assistance, please don’t hesitate, bibles, rice, plastic tarps, pots, baby clothes and medicine will get to those who need it, and we will rebuild the schools, the churches and the homes, so after the landmines are cleared and the SPDC retreats, warmth and love and fellowship in Christ will continue.  All information is below, all wisdom, power and authority is above, go boldly before the throne of God.

Unworthy to die for Christ,
P. James and the Love in Action team E. Burma
“Please don’t pray that God takes away whatever sufferings He has for us, we thank Him, please pray we may be steadfast and have strength to be faithful until the end”-  Thera Doh **** **, Karen Pastor of the main church that was burnt down when I asked him what does he want prayer for.

Mailing address:
LIA c/o James Garwood
P.O. Box 67
Mae Sariang, Mae Hong Son
Thailand, 58110

Paypal donations:fordomosake@gmail.com

In USA email Pastor Joe Tuccinardi for more details thaicalvary@aol.com

Love in Action
5353 Steamboat Way
Boise, ID 83713

What is Going in Life of Late

Life has pretty much been the same ol’ same ol’ here in Northern Virginia. Not that I am complaining. As usual, I have an obsession, which of late has been my FADs (Friday Adventure Day). I started a blog about these weekly adventures, adding in traveling tips for moms with little kids at www.adventureday.wordpress.com. So far, I really haven’t gotten too much done. I am learning a lot about official REAL blogging (not like this personal blog here) which is a whole new set of information to me. Web design, themes, and SLO & SEO  was equivalent to SOS in my thinking when I started! Considering it was kinda throwing off my focus, I think God helped remind me that its all cool and I don’t need to be obsessed. And, with that gentle reminder, I am not obsessed! I guess we will see where it ends up now, if anywhere.

Also, as is typical, I am still taking classes. I am so very ready to be done. Which is why it is especially nice that I will be done SOON- three more classes left! I have fun writing papers on poverty, justice issues, international relationships, and interpersonal relationships. I love what I learn, I just hate doing the work to learn it. This coming week I have a huge paper due on intercultural business. Fun, fun, fun! So, if I keep up with my homework after the kids are tucked in to their beds, I should graduate from Ashford University at the beginning of August. Thanks to Josh, the Hills, and Becky for getting me through this! I know I won’t regret it!

And, as usual, I am still involved in my church, facilitating a Bible study, hanging out with the people in my SPHERE (and hopefully making a difference in their lives, as they often make in mine) and helping Jill out with L2F Needs Network. Within this past month I’ve been helping a Pakistani family settle into their new home in America after they fled religious persecution. L2F, other community members, and people in churches have almost entirely provided everything they need. Also, we collected, packed-up, and had a team deliver a bunch of stuff (baby necessities and medicine) to an area in Haiti which was very close to the earthquake epicenter, and is not very reachable to large relief organizations. Here is a cool video about it:

In addition, I have been trying to create a home-garden. Its a fun activity for us to do outside and, yes, it was my obsession just prior to the Adventure Day Blog. I think my obsessions are always semi-creative (music, cooking, blogging, painting, gardening) which might mean I can blame them on my partial artistic personality.  I am even on the map as a Triscuit Home Garden! Wow, how THRILLING! Josh has even been adding to the flowers and vegetables, by practicing his slingshot off the porch, to his targets. Okay, I guess he doesn’t shoot my plants, but its nice to all have something fun to do in the same area together outdoors.

Lastly, and most importantly, I’ve been taking care of the kids. I like them. They are growing up. Maybe in honor of Josiah’s first birthday next month I’ll actually write out his birth story! He still has no teeth, but he is cruising around pretty good. He is a happy baby. Sweet little Avi is a mischievous lover of her brother. I don’t even know how to begin to describe Avilynne these days. Sometimes she makes my heart melt, yet other times I just want to lock her outside of our house. She is trying very hard to speak English, repeating our pronunciation of words over and over. I am terrible at pronunciation, as is she. But, unlike me, she is improving. Here is a link to a Spring 2010 photo album of them.

As always, if you haven’t, please support Thai Song, and what is going on in the makings of this awesome inspired fair-trade organization. Buying a bag, which these sweet women create from nasty trash, helps change lives! Feel free to check out and support the co-director (yes, my cousin’s) blog at: http://brittanyfox.missionsplace.com

So, these are the updates on the Johnston Family of late!

The Not So Brave Me In the NOVA World

Sometimes I wonder about my friends, my life, my place. My husband has been pretty sick recently, going to bed before nine, skipping out on life because he is too out of it. I also have been sick, but as its carried on for a good four weeks now, I have been trying to do stuff while sick as otherwise I go stir crazy (unless I just sleep constantly, which I actually think I could pull off). I don’t really think I hide behind my husband when it comes to social stuff. I just prefer his presence as a safe person to return to when there is no one else to talk to at the big party, I always have a guaranteed seat next to him, and its just nice to have someone to enter the room with you (making you feel like your not alone). I guess those are some of the nice benefits of being married, of which I am thankful for. I am generally pretty outgoing but I still have those brief moments of “What if I feel alone? Panic!”, and therefore like to have a comfort zone of people I know I am safe with when I feel unsafe.

So though I am trying to be more brave and be okay by myself in the NOVA World with older, more experienced, more knowledgeable, and more educated people than me . . . I am still practicing.

Example: Sunday I went out to lunch with people after church. It was pretty much a bad experience. Maybe I’ll tell you a little more about it in my next blog entry, but for now I’ll just say this part. I was there long before anyone else, and was beginning to think that they changed the location without telling me. In reality, they just took a longer than normal time to clean up and get there. Since I was first, I chose a spot that wasn’t the best, but I thought it was a guarantee that I wouldn’t sit alone. Ya right. Somehow in large groups things like that just don’t always work out. They were freaked out there wouldn’t be enough space, so little clumps of people saved other tables, and my large one was sporadic with people, with no one near me. I generally know everyone loves me. Yep. They are my family. But they didn’t feel like my family. No one wanted to sit next to me (Or maybe I should more honestly say that no one bothered to). I had been rather depressed that weekend and no one asked me how I was. It was annoying, because I really try to do that for other people (or at least I think I do), so that they don’t sit alone and have someone they can talk with. But apparently my efforts don’t go both ways. Finally another lady sat near me, whom I was excited about because I think she is generally lonely and I was hoping to maybe make her feel accepted. In turn, before I could move next to her, a couple who is pretty much impossible for me to have a conversation with sat down across from me because there was no where else for them to sit. I felt bad, because then I couldn’t move next to the lady I wanted to without being rude to them. But I felt bad for them because I wasn’t exactly the best person suited to make them feel welcome themselves, and I am sure they didn’t. As I thought they would, though I tried multiple awkward conversations attempts, they all failed. Then, my good friend who I was aware was pretty depressed sat on the other side of my baby. She also tried awkward conversation with those across from us though I knew she really didn’t want to talk, she was just trying to be brave herself. She was trying to be brave with people she know are her “family” but don’t always feel like it. All to say, the people I did want to try to talk with, her, and the other lady, were too far away in that busy loud room so we couldn’t actually hear eachother. I mean, there was some good too. A friend of mine knew I wasn’t doing well and tried to make me feel better, but he couldn’t really hang around me as it probably wouldn’t be best. And my pastor took my daughter from me, which was pretty nice of him. And though I am glad I didn’t go home, and feel depressed there instead, It wasn’t a great experience.

Example Two: So, outside of this church experience, there is my neighborhood experience. I love my neighborhood. I love the community we have here which was probably the biggest reason we wanted to move here. But honestly, I feel like I have an amazingly hard time fitting in. I look at the other families who don’t fit into the “click” of neighbors I am with, and I kinda feel sorry for them. How would they get into this ‘wonderful’ click? Is there a hazing ceremony I was unaware of that they can do? I am in the click by default, because we are best friends with some of the people in it. If it wasn’t for that though, I wonder how many of those people would have ever said hi to me. So often I can’t get beyond any small talk, and the small talk really doesn’t last long. I pretty much seem to have nothing in common with any of them, which is why. I get a long best with the men, but all I can pretty much do is ask about their work, which runs dry. They don’t ever ask me anything, which doesn’t surprise me. I could be the most famous artist or write New York Times Bestsellers, and they wouldn’t know. The women I can talk with about kids. Yet their kids are all a lot older, and well, how long can you talk about kids? Or maybe I should say, how long do I have enough patience to talk about kids? Especially when I don’t think any of us really want to talk that much about them. Okay, its not only people with kids. I’d probably fare better if I could actually play a sport. But I can’t, and because of that I really don’t add much to the neighborhood except a cute baby who makes all the kids go “ahhhh.” Yes, I am sounding pretty pessimistic. Yes, we like hanging out with our neighbors, heck, we went on vacation with them! I just don’t know how to get past those walls, and just everything else that makes me feel like I have a huge sign on my forehead that says “I don’t belong here just in case it wasn’t obvious already.”

Tonight someone in the neighborhood is throwing a party, an adult-only party. I was hoping on going, but as the person who invited me never actually officially invited me, it was kinda awkward to plan on going. Last night that finally got cleared up (though I guess somewhat awkwardly through my friend who was like, “Hey, weren’t you going to ask them to come? You never actually did!”). But as I was never really invited, I was never told what time it was, or the more important detail that it is a costume party. All to say, by the time it finally has come about, with my husband and I being sick, he went to bed. I don’t feel well, but I kinda want to go. Technically I could walk two doors down and go right now. But then I couldn’t find a costume. And just thinking about going to that party by myself is one of those things that I can’t seem to overcome in my mind. I really wish Josh was awake and would go with me. But as Stacy said, it is pretty much ZERO probability that after he is asleep he will go anywhere with me : ) If I went alone It would be fine. I’d probably have a lot of awkward small talk. I’d eat a few things, drink some sugary soda or something else bad for me while I am sick (or a fuzzy navel, which is bad for me when pregnant). I might have fun. I’d try to hum some Rockband songs which I can’t sing now as my singing-voice is pretty much non-existent with this cold. I could always sit next to stacy and jill if all else fails and they would get stuck being my “social comfort zone” because I just don’t fit in. So, I could have gone and still could go and be fine. In fact, I am kinda mad and unhappy that I am not. I mean going shows that I care about people in this neighborhood, that I want to be a part and give my part. It might be meaningful, which I hate missing out on. But, honestly, I have no energy to be a fake me hiding all that is real and deep down inside because people just don’t get me because I am not like them.

And maybe thats the thing that gets me so yucky about living with these relationships in NOVA. Is that I feel forced to not be me. Not because people are making me not be me. Maybe its just because I am beyond what is normal and they don’t have a paradigm to fit me in. Which isn’t bad, its just the part outside the paradigm is ignored because its not understood. And hence, I feel like I am fake because only the tip of my iceberg is being spoken too, whereas the rest lies underneath dying to break free and be recognized as existing. Or you could even say though I would love to be real with those around me, they don’t want that because that is something they don’t know how to deal with. Its like the time I had a conversation with a person who had just taught on being real with people. The person asked me how I was, and I said I was terrible. They were totally shocked by my answer and changed the subject right away. Hence, a lesson is learned that even if people want you to feel like you can be real, they really don’t know how to handle it. I wonder if I do the same to others.

Anyways, in this week I have had one successful example where I kept going and trying even when it sucked, and another which I didn’t fail at because I didn’t even try it out. Maybe next week I’ll be braver. Or maybe not. I’m still practicing.