Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Settling into a New Month and a New Vocation

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There's something very refreshing about flipping the calendar to a new month.  It's one of those little "resets" that we get 12 times a year.

Didn't get everything done I was supposed to do last month?  That's OK.  New Month.

Didn't do as well on my personal or spiritual goals the last few weeks?  That's OK.  New Month.

Of course, that refreshing new month feeling quickly turns into What do you mean the month's half over?! panic if I don't pay attention.  But for the most part a new month means "Deep Breath. Let's start again."

So here we are in November. 

At the beginning of every month I usually take some time to figure out my major goals, projects, tasks, etc. for work and at home, and try to get a sense of what my schedule will be like for the next 4+ weeks.  This month is no exception, and it turns out I've got plenty to keep me busy between now and Christmas... and then life slows down for a moment while I finish making this baby. 

But in the midst of goal setting and calendar sorting, I'm also finding myself trying to balance the busyness of the month and just enjoying the moment.  Yes, there are classes to teach, presentations to give, paperwork to complete, and plenty of unscheduled excitement that ministry provides on a daily basis.  Yet as I slip into the third-trimester of this pregnancy, I'm becoming more aware that I need to just enjoy the day, the week, the month, and not worry so much about the things to come.

And trust me, I tend to lean towards the worrier sometimes.  I know for a fact that there's plenty of things for me to potentially worry about.  Like some of the presentations I'm giving over the next two months, getting things ready at my office before I head out for maternity leave, preparing the house for Baby J...

...OR even just the reality that we're having a baby... This little person is making his/her grand appearance in about 13 weeks and I have no idea what to expect.  That's a little overwhelming sometimes. 

So I have a choice.

I can spend the next 13 weeks worrying over details at work, freaking out over the fact that I really don't know what life will be like when Baby J arrives, plus a million other things I haven't even thought to about yet....

OR I can enjoy this moment. This day.  This week.  This month.

Because things will get done, plans will be made, and this baby will arrive all in the proper time.

Plus, let's face it.  Life is going to be a lot different come the end of January or beginning of February.  Becoming a Mom ain't no small thing!  This vocation is taking on a whole new level of "Jesus I Trust in You!" and that's exciting!

But I need to be at peace.
I need to rest in the moment and allow God to continue working on my heart and soul.

Yes, there are details to sort through.  There's work to be done in preparation for being away from the office, and there's practical "nesting" like things that I need to start doing at home.  There's probably some books I should be reading about childbirth (started one. it was terrifying.), and I know I need to make time for the breastfeeding and birthing classes.

Still, with each week and each new month I know the ultimate goal is simply to be at peace and to rest in the moment with God.  

There's no amount of reading or specific number of classes that will perfectly prepare me for the months ahead.  One of the best things I can do for myself, my husband, and our baby is to strive to allow God to form me into the woman He wants me to be.  That won't happen with "to-do lists" or even the perfect birth plan.  

I need to be at peace.  I need to listen.  I need to trust. And I need to focus on Christ.

Surely, motherhood will be one of the best "life out of the boat" experiences to date!

be at peace
walk on water
be not afraid


Thursday, September 25, 2014

The One Thing I Did Well This Summer

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After graduating from the MA Theology program in May I had such plans for the summer!  Oh the books I would read!  The movies we would watch!  The home projects I would accomplish!  There would be wedding photos in albums and on the walls, I'd finally unpack all those boxes hiding in the closet in our basement, and I'd finally have time to blog.  I just knew that we'd get to September and I'd look back fondly on our summer adventures, proud of all that was accomplished during the last few months.

And here we are on the third day of Fall, and what did Deanna do this summer?

Well, I only finished one or two books... There's one wedding photo in a frame currently sitting up against the living room wall (because I can't decide where to hang it), and those boxes in the basement?  Yeah, they are still there.

But you know what I did do this summer?  I grew a baby human.

Yup.  That was my summer project.  Since June, Baby J has grown from the size of a poppy seed to the size of a small banana.  Baby J has arms and legs, fingers and toes, eyes, ears, a mouth, and is a big fan of kicking me in the bladder repeatedly...

And it is wonderful.  

On June 2nd during my lunch break I decided to take a pregnancy test since my husband was home with me.  This was probably the 4th or 5th stick I had peed on in the last few months, so I figured this would just be business as usual.  But when I looked at the stick, saw that undeniable plus sign in the circle, stuff.got.real.

After months of praying about it and really giving our best effort at discerning God's plan for our family, God said yes, and something pretty incredible happened.

A new life.  A baby human.  Our baby.

I won't lie, this summer has not been the most comfortable.  Kneeling before the porcelain god to occasionally deposit my last snack, the constant acid reflux, and the 12am and 3am trips to the bathroom are not my favorite.  Sure, baby bumps are cute, but figuring out how to dress myself when there are extra curves everywhere... that's a little frustrating.

I've also come to accept that gas is just part of my life now, Sometimes I'm just going to cry for no apparent reason (like last night when my husband asked if I wanted to do squats and I burst into uncontrollable tears for 10 minutes. For real.), and midday naps are a real treat when I can get one in.  

But even with all of the discomforts, and the massive of list of things I didn't accomplish this summer, it was truly one of my most productive summers yet.

There's a human being growing inside of me.  A little person, that God already knows and loves, is now part of our family.  I think those words from Scripture hit a little bit closer to home now:

Wonderful indeed!  I don't know who Baby Johnston will be, what plans God has for him or her... but we've been entrusted with the great gift of this child.  And sure, I'm the one carrying this kid around for another 19 weeks and providing for all of his/her physical needs, God is doing something even more miraculous.

"Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
before you were born I dedicated you..."
Jeremiah 1:5

He knows our baby.  He's known our baby since before he or she was conceived.  Incredible!!!

I am proud of the fact that I've grown a baby human for the past 21 weeks and will continue to do so 24:7 for the next few months.  But I am also humbled by the fact that God is doing something truly miraculous here and He's entrusted us with the great responsibility and honor of being parents.  

Motherhood/Pregnancy is a whole new Life Out of the Boat adventure, but I look forward to seeing what God has in store for all of us over the months and years to come.  

Praying for all expectant mothers, especially those who are facing a particularly challenging pregnancy!  

St. Gerard & St. Anne, pray for us!

be at peace
walk on water
be not afraid

Thursday, June 26, 2014

How the One Question You Aren't Supposed to Ask Helped My Spiritual Life

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It was about mid-March when I met with a young Spanish speaking couple preparing to baptize their son.  I was really excited to meet with them because they had just finished marriage preparation the year before, and now it was time to baptize their newborn.  Nothing makes my day like seeing one of our newlyweds living their vocation!  :)

Towards the end of our meeting the husband asked me, "I have a question for you, and I hope I don't offend....¿Estás esperando?"  It took me an extra second to understand what he said because Esperar = to wait for, to hope for, and it's actually one of my most favorite Spanish words.  

But then I realized he was asking me THAT question: 
"Are you expecting?"   

I laughed and said I didn't know.  I told them that my husband and I were really praying about having a baby, and that we'd find out in the next few days if we were pregnant or not.

What made this man's question extra interesting was that right before our meeting I had spent some time in the adoration chapel specifically praying about our desire to have a baby.  In my journal I wrote something like, "Lord, you know the desires of my heart.  You know that we've been praying about having a baby and that we are open to becoming parents. No matter what Your will be done, and please help me to be at peace with that."

So when the man asked "  ¿Estás esperando? (Are you expecting)?"  I wasn't really as mortified as I would normally have been.  His wife shook her head in disbelief that he had actually asked THE FORBIDDEN QUESTION, but we laughed and they said that they really hoped I was pregnant or would be soon.  

When they left I laughed again, wondering if maybe this was God's way of giving me an "Annunciation Moment" or some kind of heads up that maybe our prayers had been answered. 

Fast Forward 2 days:  

Definitely not pregnant.  Definitely not laughing.

Suddenly all the humiliation that I would have felt just days before sank in.  Have I gained THAT much weight?  I look awful!  What sort of cruel joke is this Lord?  I cried, I whined, and I pouted.  

At some point during the day the question replayed in my mind:  Estás esperando?  Which literally means:  Are you waiting for?  Are you hoping for?  

God reminded me that during adoration I had specifically said "Your will be done."  And now I needed to follow up on those words of surrender.  The question was not an offensive jab; rather, it was an invitation to trust.

Deanna, are you waiting for Me?  Are you full of hope and trust?  

Scripture tells us over and over again to wait for the Lord, to hope in the Lord, and to trust that God's plans are perfect:

"Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; yes, wait for the Lord!" - Psalm 27:14

"I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord." - Psalm 130:5-6

And a personal favorite: 

"For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.  Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you.  You will seek me and find me; when you seek me with all your heart, I will be found by you..." - Jeremiah 29:11-14

That's when I realized that it didn't matter if I was praying about getting pregnant, or just praying about doing God's will at home,work, and in the world.  God was inviting me to trust in Him, to surrender to Him, to wait for Him.  

And so, the next time I was asked "¿Estás esperando?"  (which was about a month later) I could smile.  Even though I had to answer that I wasn't pregnant, I knew I needed to take a moment to reflect on whether or not I've been waiting, hoping and trusting God the best that I can.   

Today if you were to ask me "¿Estás esperando?"  I'd say that I'm working on it, and really trying to surrender a little more of that trust on a daily basis. 

I'd also tell you, "Si..."  

...about the beginning of February 2015.

P.S. No, we don't know it is a boy. But those shoes were cute :)

Please pray for us :)

be at peace
walk on water
be not afraid


Jesus en ti confio

Saturday, June 7, 2014

How I Met My Husband {part 2}

This is the story of how God used the internet to not only lead me to my husband, but how this adventure in online dating taught us the beauty of God's perfect timing and God's plan for our lives.

{Part Two}

I'm sure you can understand the wave of relief that washed over the both of us as we walked towards each other confidently confirming that this was in fact the person we had spent the last six weeks speaking to.  

Michael wasn't a creepy old man and neither was I.
So far so good.

We said our excited hellos and hugged each other.  I remember it was one of those good bear hugs you get from a dear friend.  "Wow, You're real!  This is amazing!" he said.  

I think we both needed a moment to get over the shock that this was actually happening.  He was here.  I was here.  And now we got to spend the weekend figuring out what would happen next.

The original plan was ice cream, but due to a GPS failure we ended up at Starbucks instead.  The conversation was just as easy as before, only this time Michael got to witness my goofy smiles in person.  At one point Michael said, "The family that is hosting me and Sayf this weekend wanted to make sure that I told them where I was going and who you were, because you know... you could be an axe murderer or something..."

I laughed and pointed out that the company car I was driving did have space for a body or two in the trunk... but then realized, "Oh.  I didn't tell anyone where I was going...."  We laughed and agreed that that probably hadn't been my smartest decision of the week...

a kinda sorta really important side note:  

Don't ever ever ever do that!!  I should have told the family I was living with where I was, because in all truth Michael could have been fifty shades of crazy from the darkest reaches of the internet.  I was confident he wasn't going to put me in the trunk of my car, but hey.. you can never be too careful, right?  So if I can offer any online dating advice just don't do what I did.  We laugh about it now, but seriously... what was I thinking?!?! Anyway, back to our story:  

Despite my failure to take the proper precautions, I really appreciated how comfortable I felt around Michael.  We stayed at Starbucks until it closed, and then I drove him back to his host family's home and we sat outside and talked some more.

Towards the end of the evening, Michael asked if he could hold my hand (he had been told about the forced hand holding experience with the other guy I met from CatholicMatch).  When my hand rested in his for the first time I remember thinking "It fits!"  I felt safe.  I felt like our friendship had the potential to evolve into something very special, and we had the entire weekend to figure that out.  

Now, it would be easy to say that from the moment we laid eyes on each other we knew that this was the ONE, but that just wouldn't be true.  As wonderful as our first "date" had been, the next day was a little different. 

It wasn't that Michael wasn't a perfect gentleman on our trips to dinner, the bookstore, and a walk through the park,  but something was just different.  Perhaps it was his rant umm, prolonged and passionate explanation of the evil of shows like American Idol, and how they reflect the lack of values in our society (something else we laugh about now). But by the end of the evening as I drove back home I started wondering if this had been a good idea. 

I remember calling my parents that evening and telling them "I don't know!  I just don't know what's going to happen!  I mean he's nice but.. but I just don't know!"  I think that I was waiting for that moment to know... to have that AHA! moment in which I knew exactly what was going to happen next...and it hadn't happened.  Then my Dad gave me some advice that changed the entire weekend for me: 

"Deanna, don't overthink this.  Enjoy the moment."

I really appreciated my Dad saying that.  It could have been just as easy for him to tell me that maybe I shouldn't hang out with Michael, or maybe this wasn't meant to be, but he didn't.  Don't overthink this.  Enjoy the moment.  This wasn't license to do whatever or to not care about the time I was spending with Michael.  But it was a solid reminder to be at peace, to have fun, and to put this in God's hands.  

I prayed about it again that night and decided that my Dad was right.  Perhaps this was just another opportunity to get out of the boat and trust God with the details.  
I picked Michael up early Saturday morning, and we drove to a park close to the San Antonio Zoo.  Since I was still in the middle of the 54-day rosary novena, we decided to pray the rosary together at the start of our day.  This was about the time that we made Mary the patroness of our discernment/relationship.  

And once again, the Blessed Mother must have done her thing because the rest of the day was absolutely wonderful. 

Matthias the Mutt, keeping me company at work for 4 yrs
We did all sorts of things around town: a museum, lunch, a movie, a ginormous bookstore, ice cream, and even a trip to the toy store.  Michael insisted that I needed a buddy for my office, so he bought me a puppy (which remains on my desk to this day).  

If I could name the "aha!" moment in which I knew I was falling in love with Michael, I would say it was after seeing "Prince of Persia".  I had gone to the restroom, texted my Mom something vague like "Oh my goodness Mommmmyy.....*smiley face*" and walked back out to Michael where my hand met his.  It was like a moment of clarity.  Yes, this is supposed to happen.

Sunday was just as fun as Saturday, and we spent the entire day together again, which included going to Mass, touring the Alamo, and lots more hand holding.  It had been a really good weekend. 

Now the big question was, what happens next?  We had finally met in person, we enjoyed spending time together, and we knew that this was definitely worth continuing.  But now that our weekend had ended we realized that we still had the challenge of long-distance in our discernment.  And this really was a discernment.  We weren't playing around and this wasn't a summer fling.  If we were going to start dating it was because we were discerning the vocation of married life, which meant God needed to play an active role.
July 2010: Making Ice Cream at Casa Johnston

And He did.

Michael and his family invited me up to Henderson for the 4th of July holiday weekend, and on July 2nd Michael and I shared our first kiss and officially became a couple.  At the end of July, Michael came back to visit me in San Antonio and he met my family who was visiting from Memphis.

By the end of the summer we had officially become a couple and already met the families.  So really, things moved much faster than I think we originally thought when those first emails and phone calls were made. 

In the months that followed, I moved to Dodge City for a new job, and Michael got a job in the Diocese of Tyler, TX.  We had a long distance relationship for a little over two years, and then Michael moved to Dodge City in November of 2012.  We were engaged after the Easter Vigil Mass in 2013, got married October 5, 2013

And I can't help but see how God's hand was part of every single detail. 

When I look back on how God led us to one another I can't help but admit how perfect God's timing was.  Michael and I didn't meet each other a moment too soon, or a moment too late.  While my teens and early twenties may have had phases of frustration that I wasn't dating, or worrying that God was the only one who would ever love me, I can look at my journey and see how God was just preparing me for my husband.

Sure, I had to wait 24 years for my first date, my first boyfriend, and my first kiss. 

But it was totally, 100% worth the wait.

be at peace
walk on water
be not afraid


Friday, May 30, 2014

How I Met My Husband {part one}

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

Photo by Tindall Farmer 
I had always imagined myself meeting my husband the “traditional” way.  And by traditional I mean the way it happens in all the good movies:  a coffee shop, the bookstore, the park…Or maybe I’d meet a good Catholic man at Mass or a conference or something.  These were all of the “normal” ways I figured I’d meet THE ONE, and we’d add our story to the adorable list of romantic comedies. 

Online dating?  Never. 

Meet someone on the internet?  Heck no!  Looking to the World Wide Web seemed like an act of desperation… only for folks who had completely given up hope of finding their soul mate and resolved to “settling” for an online match. 

But you know what they say… The best way to make God laugh is to tell Him your plans or give Him a list of Never Will I Evers…

Let’s rewind to 2010.

I was 24, living in San Antonio, and I had never dated.  This was not by my own choice, and it was f r u s t r a t i n g.  Sure, there had been the creepy guys at gas stations who would occasionally offer their best “Hey baby, what’s your name?”  But no one expressed any serious sort of interest. 

Where are all the good Catholic men?  Is there something wrong with me?

Sure, I knew that God was really the only One I needed.  
And yes, Jesus is the best spouse a gal could ask for.
I had wrestled with the vocation to religious life for a long time, and the desire for marriage and family just got bigger.  There seemed to be this constant war between “God you’re the only One I need!” & “GOD, are you the ONLY ONE who will love me?”

What I didn't realize at the time was that God was writing a better story than I ever could have imagined.  And it would happen in a way that I least expected. 

In February 2010 I decided I would attend the National Catholic Singles Conference in San Antonio.  It was a BLAST!  Not only did I get more exposure to the Theology of the Body, but it was like God was helping me to find the joy and peace of being single.  He was working on my heart and a lot of healing was taking place.  

One of the presentations was by Brian Barcaro, the co-founder of CatholicMatch.com.  He talked a little bit about the Catholic dating site, the benefits of online dating, and encouraged us to just give it a try. 

Fine. Maybe online dating wasn't so creepy/crazy.

By this point in time I had a friend who had met her husband on another Catholic dating site.  They were normal.  They certainly weren’t “settling”.  And it was obvious God was part of their love story.  So maybe, just maaaaaybe I’d give it a try.  But not yet.

Over the next month some things happened that, well, let's just say that peace and contentment with being single was long gone.  Long story short, I had hit my limit, and I was frustrated with God.  

“OK GOD…if you’re not going to send anyone to me, I’m going to take matters into MY OWN HANDS.”

Defiant Deanna's
Catholic Match Profile Picture.
And convinced that God just wasn't going to help me in the dating department, I signed up for CatholicMatch.com and paid for a two month membership.

So there I was… Defiant Deanna with her CM profile. 

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

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

Because He's just good like that.

On April 16th I “cast the net wide” one last time before the subscription ran out.  I did another search, and sent a couple of “Hi, how are you? This isn’t awkward at all!” type messages. 

Before logging off I noticed the “Welcome to Our New Members!” box. 

And there he was.  

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

I decided I would send him a message, which simply said something like: 

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

Within a day or so, Michael actually responded. Before I knew it we were instant messaging and emailing almost every single day.  I think what stood out the most over those first few emails and online conversations was Michael's ability to make me laugh, and the sincerity in which he said he would pray for me.  

On May 4th he finally asked for my phone number, and we talked for the first time.  I don’t remember what we said that first night, but I do remember smiling and laughing a lot.  The conversation was natural.  Phone conversations became the new daily ritual, lasting anywhere from 1-4 hours.  

Stuff was getting real. 

By this point, Michael and I were becoming fast friends, and we started thinking about where do we go from here?  We figured we would eventually need to meet in person, maybe later in the summer, and we could see where things would go. 

I should mention that one of the things we love most about our experience with online dating is that it really helped us to develop a friendship before anything else.  Even if this didn't turn into a romantic relationship, we had talked so much that we knew we would at least be very good friends.  

It also forced us to pray about this relationship.  A lot. So that’s what we did.  I started the 54 day rosary novena, asking the Blessed Mother to help us discern our relationship, and prayed that God could help us meet in person sooner than later.  

Towards the end of May, Michael told me that his seminarian friend, Sayf, (the man who would eventually celebrate our Nuptial Mass) agreed to drive him to San Antonio the first weekend of June. 

The Blessed Mother is fast. :)

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

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

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

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

"OK Lord, Your will be done."

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

To be continued...

Friday, May 9, 2014

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

It is finished!

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

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

--- 1 ---
Unpack. Finally.

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

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

--- 2 ---
Summer Reading

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

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

--- 3 ---
Green Thumb?  Probably Not.

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

--- 4 ---
Wedding Pictures

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

--- 5 ---
Sharing Our Story

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

--- 6 ---

Summer Adventures

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

--- 7 ---

Spiritual Growth

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

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

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Infertility Awareness Week, 2014: A Catholic Perspective

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One of the great things about working in marriage and family life ministry is the ability share the beauty of life-giving love and how openness to life is an important part of the Sacrament of Marriage.  But over the years I have also learned the importance of being sensitive to and praying for those who carry the cross of infertility.  While it is important to encourage couples to be open to life and to see children as a blessing, we also have to remember that there are those who are very open to life and would love nothing more than to be able to achieve pregnancy, but  for one reason or another cannot.  

April 20-26, 2014 is National Infertility Awareness Week.  

My friend Rebecca from The Road Home asked me to share this post from a group of Catholic women who have experienced infertility.  In this heartfelt and personal message these women share helpful resources as well as ways that you can support a family member or friend who might be struggling with infertility issues.  

Even if you yourself are not struggling with infertility, or do not know of anyone who is, please read and share this message, and pray for those who are experiencing this cross.   

"Do not pity us. Yes, we have much sorrow. Yes, we struggle. But, we place our faith in God, lean on the grace of our marriage, and trust that someday, whether here on earth or in heaven, we will see and understand God’s plan."

Infertility Awareness Week, 2014: 

A Catholic Perspective 

One in six couples will experience infertility at some point in their marriage. Infertility is medically defined as the inability to conceive after 12 cycles of “unprotected” intercourse or 6 cycles using “fertility-focused” intercourse. A couple who has never conceived has “primary infertility” and a couple who has conceived in the past but is unable to again has “secondary infertility”. Many couples who experience infertility have also experienced miscarriage or pregnancy loss.

This week, April 20 – 26, 2014 is National Infertility Awareness Week.

We, a group of Catholic women who have experienced infertility, would like to take a moment to share with you what the experience of infertility is like, share ways that you can be of support to a family member or friend, and share resources that are helpful.

If you are experiencing infertility, please know you are not alone. You are loved and prayed for and there are resources to help you with the spiritual, emotional, and medical aspects of this journey....  

Friday, April 11, 2014

7QT #9 On the First 6 Months of Marriage

As of April 5th we've been married for SIX MONTHS!  Time flies by when you're having fun (and trying to make a thesis deadline...).  So here's #7QT on the first 6 months of married life :)
NFP ain't no daisies and roses all the time 
but it sure is awesome.

I have mentioned before that I've been teaching Theology of the Body and promoting Natural Family Planning for the past three years, but it's like a whole new ball game now that we are living it.  Call it "street cred", call it "life experience", but being able to share our journey with others while also continuing to learn has been incredible.  We started teaching NFP together back in January, and it is awesome to not only share the science of NFP, but also witness how it strengthens our marriage.  Plus, let's face it: NFP can be challenging sometimes.  And once we start having little baby Johnstons running around, I'm sure our challenges with NFP will be different than they are right now.  But at the end of the day NFP is really helping us to keep God as part of the conversation and discernment about our family plans.  

Thank you Jesus for all 'dem baby stickers.

Double Beds Are NOT for Married Couples... 
and other life lessons.

Seriously though.  Learning to sleep next to another person is hard enough, but when both tend to sprawl out (OK maybe it's just me..), ain't nobody getting sleep in a double bed.  Thankfully, we were able to upgrade to a Queen at the end of November.  But more than sleeping arrangements, I'm realizing that marriage is a great way to grow in humility and charity...even if I'm reluctant to do so. 

Sometimes we won't like each other.  
And that's OK.

I love this clip from Pope Francis' General Audience.  "Sometimes plates fly!  Seriously!... But there's no need to call in the United Nations..."  :)  Plates don't fly in our casa (maybe a few pillows...) but there are definitely moments where, like any normal couple, we just don't like each other very much.  But that's OK as long as we continue to get real comfortable with the words "I'm sorry," and "I was wrong," and of course, "I love you."

Nerf guns are also helpful.

Laughter is a must.
My Valentine's Day gift from Michael:
A homemade cake in honor of St. Valentine's martyrdom.
Marriage is hilarious. Sometimes we just have to laugh at ourselves (or each other... lovingly).  Laughter is a must in married life.  I'm very grateful we have this in our home.  

It really does take Three to Get Married

It doesn't matter how many JPII quotes we know.  It doesn't matter how many books we've read, or even how great we are at NFP.  If Christ is not at the center of our family then there's no point.  Lord knows we aren't perfect, and we could certainly be better at prayer... but we're getting there.  God has given us a great gift in this Sacrament, and as a priest told me during confession, "Your husband's soul has been entrusted to you, and yours to his."  Whoa.  No joke.  Our main job is to help one another become saints, and we're going to need God's help (and the intercession of all the Saints!) to help us do this :).  

Complementarity is a Beautiful Thing

Honeymooning in Rome: Oct 2013
And I'm not just talking about the male/female dynamic.  We balance each other out and we learn from one another.  I have a tendency to worry, Michael knows how to stay cool and reassure me that everything will work out.  Michael's extremely talented in the "Fix-It" department, and I'm... really good at cheering him on :).  I don't want to sound like I don't have anything to contribute to the relationship; I'm just more and more aware of the fact that there are plenty of situations where, if it were just me, I would have hit level 10 crisis mode, but Michael has been there to help us work through it together.  We're a team.  I look forward to seeing how this teamwork plays out when we become parents :)

This is only the beginning.

My sister-in-law made us a DVD with pictures from the last 4 years of our relationship with this song in the background.  The song is beautiful, and seeing our journey summed up in 4 minutes was definitely something to warm the heart.  The best part of the last six months?  It's only the beginning.  God led us to one another, and His hand continues to move in our lives in a really beautiful way.  We might not understand the timing of everything at the time, but God continues to prove His faithfulness in our lives.  If God can do all that He has in the past 4 years... I can't imagine what excellent adventures are ahead for us!

And of course, we continue to ask for your prayers :)  6 months down, many many decades to go!

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

11 Things About d*

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I recently discovered Kendra over at Catholic All Year.  
I just love finding other Catholic women out there who are loving and living their vocations as wives, mothers, single ladies, discerning, etc... It makes me appreciate the Body of Christ that much more.   Thank you for your witness ladies (and gentlemen!).  

Kendra had a lovely little link-up I thought I'd try out... we'll call it much needed break from thesis writing/a way to keep blogging without thinking too hard :)  

1. Where do you live? And why do you live there?

Dodge City, Kansas.  Don't know where that is?  Basically the middle of no where in the southwest corner of the state.  It's really not that bad... but who knew Dodge City was a REAL PLACE and not just the location of Gunsmoke?

Why am I here?  Short answer: Because God has a sense of humor.

Longer Answer: Because after I finished my second year of mission/volunteer work I saw an ad for a youth ministry position at a parish in a far off land called Kansas.  I got a call 2 weeks later from the Pastor telling me that the YM position was filled, but he wanted to create a position for me, which happened to be my dream job.  Almost 4 years later and I'm still here.  :)

2. What are you currently watching and/or reading?

I'm working on my thesis so I'm currently balancing several books with short breaks of Netflix and YouTube.  My favorite books from my research are:

by Dr. Monica Miller

On Netflix, I'm watching Arrested Development.  How is it 2014 and I am JUST NOW learning about this show?!  The episodes are just short enough that I don't feel bad when I take a break from reading and need something mindless and humorous.  

Life after the thesis....and I'm almost ashamed to say it... I intend on having a weekend marathon of Game of Thrones Seasons 2-3.  It's bad.. but it's so good....

3. What kind of Catholic are you: cradle, or convert? (Or considering?)

I am a cradle Catholic, but my parents didn't actually start attending Mass until we moved to Memphis when I was in the first grade.  My mom converted to Catholicism a short while later, and then my Dad was ordained to the permanent diaconate in the year 2000.  Since the early 1990s my family has been actively involved in Church life, and that's a big part of why I work for a parish today.   The older I get the more I appreciate my parents and their faith journeys and that they have given us the courage to be Catholic!  

4. Can you point to one moment or experience that made you a practicing Catholic? (Or want to be?)

In January 2001 my high school led the March for Life in D.C.  The night before the march after the vigil Mass we went back to the gym at Catholic University of America, and before going to bed on the gym floor they announced that confession and adoration would be available.  For some reason I felt compelled to go, and this was a HUGE game changer for me.  I already had a love for my faith, but that night at adoration something happened.  The Eucharist was really Jesus (I mean it always has been and always will be but this was the first time I GOT that) and somehow, on the floor of a racquetball court, Jesus became real to me in a very intimate and personal way.  That was the moment something "clicked" and I've never been the same!

5. How many pairs of shoes do you own?

That I actually wear or that are sitting in a box waiting to be thrown/given away?  Next question please?

6. Are you a good dancer?

Wedding reception = The Best Time of my LIFE!
Y'all the Cupid shuffle is my jam.  I love dancing.  Am I good at it?  Doesn't matter.  But I love to dance.  Zumba and wedding receptions (sometimes at the same time) are my FAVORITE.  In fact, do yourself a favor and go have a dance party to this song right now.  

Go ahead.  I'll wait.  

7. Who usually drives, you or your husband?

Depends.  If I promise my husband Promised Land chocolate milk or back scratches, he drives.  

8. What's your favorite holiday and how do you celebrate it?

Christmas is hands down my favorite holiday.  The music. The decorations.  The atmosphere... It's just the most wonderful time of the year!  Being newlyweds, this is one of those holidays we're still trying to figure out.  This past Christmas was our first one together, and it was also the first time we'd ever spent Christmas away from our families.  It was still special, but ideally I'd like to spend Christmas with family, food, and movie marathons in our pajamas with the fireplace going.  

9. Which is correct? Left or right?

What sort of question is this... LEFT of course.  There is no other way.  

10. Do you have any scars?

July 31, 2003* I tore my ACL and meniscus cartilage in my left knee during a tournament at the beginning of volleyball season.  It was my Senior year, and it was a rude awakening to the fact that I wouldn't get to play volleyball in college as I had planned.  But something amazing happened.  God's plans turned out to be so.much.better. than any of my plans for college or playing for the USA Women's team.  I can look at my scar and honestly thank God for it.  Without this scar I wouldn't have studied Spanish and I probably wouldn't have gone to Costa Rica. I wouldn't have ended up in Mexico doing mission work for a year, which means I wouldn't have gone to Texas the following year, which means I wouldn't have met my husband, which means I wouldn't be married and living in southwest Kansas.  Or at least that's how I see it :)

*This is St. Ignatius of Loyola's feast day, who also incurred a knee injury that changed his life.

11. What's the most famous thing you've ever done?

Best wedding present we received.  Hands down.

Well that was a fun break!  

Head over to Kendra's page for other excitement... and maybe even join in on the Answer Me This Link Up on Sunday!  

be at peace
walk on water
be not afraid