Category Archives: Contentment

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!

Soundtracks: Changing the World in Humility

Sometimes I am pretty sure the only reason our lives are so dull is because we don’t have the appropriate music playing in the background constantly. I am convinced my life would be amazing as any Oscar-winning movie if some D.J. in the sky always had a perfect soundtrack going for me.

This evening, I was sitting here feeling slightly melancholy. It was one of those rare days when it hit me that my kids are growing up right before my eyes; the moment is precious and yet it will slip away. I know in my mind that these are the moments I want to remember forever. I am often told how cute my kids are. I remember what it was like before I had kids, finding myself momentarily impressed with the beauty, life, and adorableness of a child I would be watching. But I struggle with the infamous disease all parents seem to battle, just knowing this rather than experiencing it. You see, I wish I could typically feel these sweet moments for my own kids. They are like drops of water that I hold on a leaf, but will soon stream off, rushing into the river with countless other drops. Coldplay, Fix You.

I won’t say I was sad tonight. Just pensive and melancholy. And the amazing Pandora has been creating my soundtrack, playing in the background.  All at once I wanted to capture the moment: my children, this night, this day, the urge to read sacred ancient text, wanting to discover who God is. Mainly just for time to be penetrated in the depth of me. So I heavily drank down my coffee just to feel the warmth spreading to the inside of my body, imagining its heat to be the moment becoming unforgettably one with me. The music in the background seemed appropriate, creating the soundtrack I craved. Album Leaf, Red Eye.

I am still young, beautiful and sharp. I am blessed in my marriage and with my children. I am as rich as can be in every way.  I have a wonderful life. And then often I feel pride. I struggle to believe I am not the end-all, as if I matter so much that the world as a whole would be sad without me. All I can see is things through my own perspective. I guess I know that I will die trying to change the world, and so somehow I begin to think that I am important. David Crowder, Alleluia Sing!

I sat in a room today with other people who are also trying to change the world. It was energizing. If you could feel electric without it hurting, that is what this room full of hopeful world-changers felt like. It was that same feeling you might have gotten the first time as a young teenager when someone told you that you mattered to them. Or that you could be anything you wanted to be, back when you might actually believe them. I then glanced over at one woman, and I realized she just might be feeling the same way I often feel- important in her own right. I then remembered the awkward moments I’ve had with so many other people who have my same interests. Maybe its just that we are so used to no one else caring that we think of ourselves as better, or maybe its just too hard to get on the same page as someone else. Regardless, those focused on one cause or another seem to want to find others like-minded, yet when they do it might be hard to practice humility and work as a team. Florence and the Machine, Between Two Lungs.

And then I remembered I am just one person, whom God is called, amongst the millions. It doesn’t mean that I am not important. It just means that I am an essential part something more important. I am part of a group of people who is God’s own, His instrument of change within this world. Citizen Cope, Let the Drummer Kick.

My pastor mentioned The Beatitudes today, in a message focusing on the teaching of Jesus. When was the last time I read those? God is an Astronaut, Fall From Stars.

The Beatitudes

3 “God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him,[a]
for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.
4 God blesses those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
5 God blesses those who are humble,
for they will inherit the whole earth.
6 God blesses those who hunger and thirst for justice,[b]
for they will be satisfied.
7 God blesses those who are merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
8 God blesses those whose hearts are pure,
for they will see God.
9 God blesses those who work for peace,
for they will be called the children of God.
10 God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right,
for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.”

Matthew 5:3-10 NLT

I look at that and I think “There I am!” or “That is so not me!” And yet, although I feel like each verse has a right to be given special attention, especially in light of international or social issues, the one that is speaking the purest to me now is that the humble are blessed. They will inherit the earth. Jesus taught about humility while living an example of humility I can’t even begin to comprehend. Mute Math, Break the Same.

I feel like it is wisdom who speaks, reminding us world changers that in the height (or lows) in our hopes of affecting this world for good, we will make no difference and have no lasting change without humility. Yet, when our pride melts away, the promise is that we will inherit the world. How’s that for being a world changer?  The Kooks, Seaside.

If my life had a soundtrack it would have  music with a strong beat to keep me pushing forward, to make a difference. It would have a lot of happy, busy and excited music. And it would also have music to express my roadblocks and sorrow. But my soundtrack would also have a lot of melancholy music, although not in order to depress. Instead its purpose would be to assist me to stop and think. To remind me of what I have been given, and whom I am in debited to for marvelous love. The music might move me to slide off my bed, humbly curl up on my knees besides it, and ponder how life is just so much bigger than me. It turns out am lucky to have a part in it. Feist, The Water.

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?

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!

A Social Problem: Stay-At-Home-Parent


This is one of the short essay discussions I did a couple weeks ago for the current class I am in, Social Problems in the workplace (SOC 402). Please note that for reading ease, I used the term “mom” but this would really apply to any male or female caretaker and guardian who does not work outside the home. This post is not intended to prove that this job is harder than any other or better than any other. It is only intended to bring awareness to that fact that being a stay-at-home caretaker is a difficult task which can be improved with society’s help.

A Social Problem is defined by Lauer and Lauer as “. . . one whose causes and solutions lie outside the individual and immediate environment” (2008). Although being a Stay-at-home parent is not technically a paid job, anyone who has done it before can assure you that it is a very real job none-the-less. I became a Stay-at-home-mom because I didn’t have a career job outside the home. It was not worth it for me to work because of the child-care/traveling/income differences just were not logical. I could work, but would it be worth it to have someone else raise my child, instilling their values and not necessarily able to give them the attention they might thrive in, just so I could have a couple thousand extra dollars a month I can do without (if even that much)? Although I often wish I could work part-time outside the home, I was content with this decision when we made it.

Now I am not so sure I am as content with this job. Why? Well, let’s just say if I worked for a company in this job, I probably would have quit by now. I consider it a social problem because, firstly, it is a relational job. There is great social responsibility on my shoulders including taking care of kids/spouse, managing a household in which must respond to the repairman, teachers, insurance companies, etc…, and socially expected to act in certain ways towards people I should be involved with (such as volunteering, church, neighborhood, other moms, contacting family, etc…). I am my own manager in my own start up business. This “business,” The Johnston Estate, does not make money in itself, but I keep it running smoothly so my husband, the bread-winner, can do so.


A large portion of America’s children are raised by a family member who does not work. I read an article the other day, telling mom’s to ask for help, that they weren’t meant to raise their children alone. It was kinda going with the “it takes a village” theme, encouraging mothers to not be afraid of having their parents, in-laws, relatives, friends, and neighbors take some of the load. I thought that was sweet. Sweet and totally not possible. After all, who can I ask to “take my load?” With change in the economy and business, the workforce has moved to where there are jobs, whether it be in the city or the other side of the country. Extended family and life-long local friends don’t always follow each other around, let alone life-long acquaintances like your pastor and dentist.
My community has a population of 60,000; it is a community which didn’t even exist as more than a few small farms 15 years ago. Very rarely do I meet anyone is from here. East-coast Americans do not typically sit on eachother’s front porches drinking lemonade together, and neither do they ask the other neighbors for help if they have even met. I am luckily to live on a street which defies this status-quo, but its abnormal. I have a close church-family in my area too. Yet, for the typical mom in my area, there is no one.

All to say, I am aware of many moms who struggle with the difficulties of the task that is expected of them when help is just not there. Its easy for moms to become so stressed mentally and tired physically that they start to become less-than-mediocre in their childcare, and on occasion flat-out terrible parents. Or others deal with extreme depression due to being overworked, so much so they are not able to handle any other difficulties in life. I know a few moms who are suicidal because of the pressures they have on them, most which are not their fault. I also know many couples who have become separated for the same reasons, having too much to manage and without a local support network. These are not solely just personal problems, although the individual really can do more to help themselves. Yet these problems will not go away unless there is social help.

So, what makes this job so difficult? I might get help at my job from my spouse or friends, but I do not have time off (except when scheduled with my husband or babysitter for a few hours here and there). I work most of 24×7 hours a week. Although there are moments in my job I am able to sleep (like a firefighter can, still on alert for the siren to go off). Sometimes my job is very fun and enjoyable. But, can you imagine if your boss at XYZ INC. required you to work over 150 hours a week?

Monotony is another major issue. I do the same thing almost everyday. It can get very boring. I listen to my baby cry and my daughter babble mostly unintelligible words throughout the day. This is anything but stimulating. I can improve this situation by getting involved in as much as I can or trying to use any freer-time for stimulating activity. Yet still, there are days when I can’t get out or do anything I find stimulating. In general, not having goals set from outside can be hard. Days, weeks, months turn into years and nothing changes much.

At a typical job, management gives incentives. You are rewarded with bonuses, pay-increases, have performance reviews, and often have general encouragement, and feedback. As a mom, you often only get negative feedback (Your screaming child does not say “thanks mom for changing my blow-out again” while the dirty floor and piles of laundry testify that you are a failure). Your spouse might encourage and thank you but that is not a guarantee, and it might not be often enough. There is little recognition for the countless tasks you do all day.

Awareness needs to be increased of the challenges of stay-at-home parenting through the media, as well as encouragement for those with careers to look at us as equal members of society (besides grandma talking about it at Thanksgiving dinner). From most of what I see, being a working parent is what is glamorized. I often feel that other people think something is wrong with me because I choose to stay at home. Maybe I am lazy, not able to handle working a real job and being a mom (Which is why those who work have daycare, its not like they can do it all either). Or others just assume I am not smart, educated, and underclass. It is true that I am just shy of receiving my Bachelor’s degree yet, and it would be hard for me to find a high-paying job to make it worth me working outside the home. Yet, even if I did I know I would still be staying at home with my kids, at least until they are in school and I could work part-time elsewhere. Besides, the fields I enjoy working in the most are generally within the non-profit sector in which I would still not be able to make it worth it to pay for childcare from a financial perspective. Or on the other hand a stay-at-home mom can also both be looked at as too traditional or too hoitytoity, like a country club yuppie. Funny how all these perspectives of a stay-at-home mom of little children do not logically fit together. Can I be undereducated, poor, rich, snobby, and uber-traditional at the same time? Apparently. I don’t consider myself uneducated, snobby, or having characteristics worthy of discrimination. Yet, the Stay-at-home is often looked at oddly. I guess this is typical to encounter some prejudice, as most are partial and skeptical of anything outside of their experience.

Ways to ease this social problem can first start with the spouses. Ideally, spouses should try to balance the workload rather than just using their off-work time for their own pleasure. The mom, whether working or not generally takes care of the lump of the household and childcare for whatever reason. The more the husband can help, I have no doubt the more he will like who his wife is as relieved of burden. Also, local friends and family members can exchange favors, taking turns watching eachother’s kids. Although meeting trustworthy people is difficult when you are in a new place, challenging yourself to join a moms group, a church, and other organizations along with going out of your way to introduce yourself to neighbors and other moms at the park can go a long way. Even increasing encouragement in all forms is probably the best way to help us moms, especially moms with little children.

Communities/towns themselves, along with local organizations and churches should really go to greater effort to make support networks. Or if there already are, have ways to contact moms who are so secluded and depressed they don’t look for help themselves. Catchy yet simple mailers, signs, door-to-door invites, or even articles in the HOA magazine can all be effective. Although this seems ridiculous to even myself, could the communities provide free quality babysitting services once a week for stay-at-home parents? Yes, that is ridiculous. But I know having babysitting services in my community are very appreciated. A local grocery store offers has a childcare center in it for those who are shopping. Our HOA provides very low-cost babysitting at our gym, something which many gyms in our area do. A break from your children for even just an hour can be a life-saver sometimes. I wish there was a way I could have my children be watched long-enough to get some paperwork done, take a nap, or have some time to just breath. Or even cooking a meal, or sharing the responsibility with another family is an amazing blessing. I am so thankful to my friends and spouse who give me this on occasion. Giving moms a little more help a long the way might be cheaper than waiting until they go crazy and have to take their kids from them. This might sound extreme, but I know that this is actually a reality for some moms who are not handling the pressure very well.

In conclusion, Stay-at-home mothering is a job in itself, with challenges and difficulties. Some of these can be eased by outside help. If you have the ability to help a mom with small children, on their behalf, I ask you to please do so. Often the mom is in denial that she needs help, so don’t give her generic offers like “ask me for help sometime” because if you do it is almost guaranteed that she will not ask. Yet offer specifics instead. Offer to babysit a certain day so she can grab a coffee and read a book for an hour, ask her family for dinner a specific night of the week, or tell her you will come over at 11 a.m. the next day to talk with her while folding laundry. Do these things and you will make a very frazzled woman sigh and she will probably even give you a genuine smile.

References:

Lauer, R., & Lauer, J. (Eds.). (2008). Social Problems and the Quality of Life (11th ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill.

PhilD41. (2009, August 12). Life Support for the Stay-At-Home-Mom. Hubpages. Retrieved August 12, 2009, from http://hubpages.com/hub/Stay-At-Home-Mother?utm_source=fb&utm_campaign=newsfeed