Friday, May 31, 2013

New Journeys

I stand with a friend, looking out the window at the beautiful beach scene. A dolphin fin flashes, and I smile. Life is good, and anytime I see a dolphin, I view it as a blessing of hope, freedom, promise. As I watch the dolphin play, a gigantic hand emerges from the ocean. I shake my head, but the hand remains. It reaches out and grabs the dolphin as a gigantic, monstrous head also emerges from the sea.
“This can’t be real. This cannot be real.” My friend continues her chant, disbelief running throughout her mind and body. How can a Greek myth be here right now in 2013? It doesn’t make sense, but as the huge mouth opens and the dolphin is thrust inside, we snap out of it.
“We have to hide,” I cry. I call for my girls and search for a place to hide.
My friend helps, but she says, “If it’s the end of the world, it’s better to be one of the first to die rather than fighting to survive and witnessing all of the death and destruction and loss.”
We both teach students to write about literature, and I think of “The Lottery” and of Ray Bradbury and Kurt Vonnegut’s stories. Is survival at any cost living? Is giving up living? Is it better to be a witness or a percentage or a fighter? Is the personal cost worth the freedom? Are we really living right now in 2013? Tornadoes, unemployment, hurricanes, war, school shootings, bizarre and strange stories…What is happening in our world today?
I set up a place for me and my girls to hide under a stairwell with blankets, water, and snacks. We settle in, and my friend goes to hide with others in a storm bunker. I want to shout and ask if we are hiding in the right place or if we should join them in the bunker, but I am terrified.
I wake up with the terror and fear lingering.
It’s not the first time that I have dreamt of mythological creatures rising out of the ocean nor of an Armageddon, and I usually dream of tornadoes when I am in emotional turmoil. Personally, I know what the dream means: it’s the question about whether to stay in Florida where I have made good friends and love living by the ocean or to move back to Missouri where I have family that I miss. It’s about the search for place and belonging, for safety and home.
Yet for all of us, the questions remain. What is going on in the world today, and where do we fit into what is happening?
Lexi graduated from high school this month, and she asked why I didn’t cry at graduation. I said, “Well, you’re still here.” She’s scheduled to go off to a performing arts school in NYC in October, and I’ve been trying not to think about that. However, on Tuesday, I sat down with Laina to write in the dates for her school activities this summer and next fall, and right there in October during the same week Lexi starts school in NY, Laina has an event scheduled.
That’s when it hit me. Lexi won’t be here to go with us to that event or the ones following. I still haven’t cried about it, but I’ve felt down, depressed.
Following my divorce, we created a close-knit family of three, and that is changing. Change is good, but it’s also difficult. Lexi will always be part of our family and have a place with us, yet now is the time for her to go off and have adventures and new experiences of her own. I hope that I’ve helped her develop confidence and a sense of herself and her place in this world, and I wish her a fun, crazy, fulfilling ride on her new journey.
Yet, yet, yet…as Laina has wailed, “What will we do without Lexi here?!”
She will leave behind a void in our home, a void in our hearts, a void in our happiness.
I know we will all be okay, but again questions remain.  Who will make us laugh after Lexi leaves?  How will we fit into our new lifestyle? What will our daily life look like then? And, where do we belong?
I don’t have any of the answers right now, but that’s okay. As Rumi says, live the questions. Besides, endings are really new beginnings, and so our new journeys begin…

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Blessing Lexi

Alexia Devin Johnson, daughter of Rachel, daughter of Barbara, daughter of Bonnie, daughter of Iva.  Alexia Devin, sister of Laina and daughter of Matthew, son of Doris and Clifford. Lexi, you have come from a long line of hard workers, innovators, and leaders.
Some of your ancestors have worked the land while others have educated future generations. Some have helped heal while others have helped govern. Still others have followed various artistic pursuits. Together, we leave you an example of people who make things happen. Together, we grace you with good genes and strong intellect. Together, we offer you our blessing.
Granny shared Proverbs 3:5-6. “Trust in The Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths.”
She said, “I pray The Lord will bless you with a spirit of wisdom and knowledge and the desire to seek Him with all your heart!! I love you!”
          Grandma and Grandpa Johnson wrote, “Lexi you are a beautiful person, both inside and out.  You have accomplished a great deal in the last year academically.  But more importantly you have grown spiritually.  You are a good sister to Alaina and a great help to your mom. Our prayer for you as you begin a new adventure in the study of dance is to keep God close to your heart.  Make the Bible a part of your daily reading.  It will provide you with wisdom and guidance. Love you, Grandpa & Grandma Johnson”

They shared these Bible verses:
          "Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint."  Isaiah 40:31
          “Let Christ Jesus be your example as to what your attitude should be."  Philippians 2:5
          "With God all things are possible."  Matthew 19:26
          "This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it."  Psalm 118:24
          "Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything.  Ephesians 5:19-20
Matthew wrote, “To my Beloved Daughter: may you know the joy of your authentic self and remain forever true to your highest ideal of who you are. I love you always without fail and am so proud to be your father. May you know joy, love, and be awed by the life you lead. I love you! Dad.”
Laina said, “Lexi, you are amazing, talented, beautiful, confident, worthy, and you are my role model. Your strong relationship with God and your confidence and worth all make me want to be like you every day. I don’t know how I will make it without you those first few months when you go to New York, but I know you will be amazing there.  I love you.”

10 Things I Know To Be True
by Alaina Beth Johnson
1.                  Lexi, you are my sister, and you are beautiful. You are tall and athletic with dark brown hair that has waves like the ocean. You have the deepest brown eyes with a hint of green on the outer circle.
2.                  You are amazing and talented. Dancing is your talent, and you are the most amazing dancer I have ever seen. Dancing is natural to you, and you dance with grace, flow, technique, sharpness, poise, and life. When you dance, you tell a story that speaks through your body.
3.                  You are my best friend. You have been there for all of my firsts. From the first time I did gymnastics to the first time I went to school in sixth grade to the first time I ate at Chipotle in Viera.
4.                  You are always there for me, and I can talk to you about anything. You have been there for me for every time something hurt us. I always have you to talk to when something terrible happens.
5.                  You have had to take on some parental responsibilities for me...You are always there for me in love and caring, being there for me whenever I needed you, and when I didn’t.
6.                  You build me up. You always say nice things to me. You build my spirit and complement me on beauty, which is also complementing yourself since I look so much like you. You somehow know just what to say; when I am sad, you make me laugh.
7.                  You are a strong role model, and I look up to you. From every time I have asked to borrow your clothes to every time I want to be just like you because you are so amazing and confident, you shine like the brightest star in the sky; you have a glow that no one else does, and you have this amazingly strong relationship with God. Sometimes I wonder, when you move out, how on earth am I supposed to be so amazing and strong, so able to hold myself and someone else up? I look up to you more than anyone else.
8.                  You are hilarious and always make me laugh. You do the funniest things when you are not trying to be funny at all; like when I am taking a drink of water and you are jumping on our trampoline dancing to Gangman Style, and you hit your hand on the ceiling and make me spit my water out everywhere. You always make me laugh; even when I am depressed and don’t want you to be funny, you still somehow make me laugh until my lungs hurt and I am out of breath.
9.                  You are crazy. You may be crazy, but whenever we are home and it is just us, you are the craziest, weirdest, funniest, loudest, freakiest person I know. You are so hilarious with how crazy you are that you make me crazy and weird and freaky. You make me crazier and crazier every day, and I love it.
10.               I love you, Lexi, and appreciate you and all you have done for me.
I want to share with you Jeremiah 17:7-8.  “Blessed are those who trust in the Lord
and have made the Lord their hope and confidence. They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought. Their leaves stay green, and they never stop producing fruit.”
God blessed me when I became your mom, and I love you so much!
Matthew 5:3-12
“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
    for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
    for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
    for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
    for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
    for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
    for they will be called children of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
Lexi, you are a blessed and beloved daughter of God. You are loved; you are wanted; you are safe; you are wise. Wherever you are, our hearts and love are with you. Wherever we are, your heart and love is with us. Our hearts and spirit are with you always.
Remember that you are doing a “great work” like Nehemiah and “cannot come down” from that great work. With who you are and the way you live your life and the way you love Jesus, you are such an inspiration to others. Stay true to who you are and continue attacking life with all of your heart and passion. Be courageous and fearless.
Lexi, you are an amazing, intelligent, talented, authentic young woman who is full of beauty, life, love, and fun. It has been our privilege to journey with you as you have grown from a baby to a young adult, and it has been my privilege and joy to be your mother along the way. We look forward to watching you grow on your new journey. Dance into your future with our blessing, our love, and our faith in you. Laugh, love, and live in your heart. Travel with God’s love, His presence, His Word, and His promises.
With all our love and prayers,
Your family




Wednesday, May 15, 2013

How to Lose a Cold in Ten Days (or Less)

Some people tend to have a cold off and on all year while others rarely come down with a cold.  What makes the difference? Once we have a cold, how do we get rid of it?

Check out my post as a guest writer here to read about my experience with losing a cold.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

“Something Extraordinary and Beautiful”

I’ve had a run of bad luck lately, or so it seemed. Things come in threes, and I went for over a month without a working dryer, laptop, and vacuum at home. Finally, I was able to purchase those items, but you know how it goes with new products. The learning curve is frustrating and time-consuming. I’ve spent hours attempting to figure out how to use Windows 8, to print from the new laptop, and to upload final grades.  On top of all of that, I have to deal with late child support (which finally came) as well as hearing of even lower enrollment numbers (which means that I may not have enough classes to make ends meet this summer).
As a single, working mother who pieces together a living from various jobs, I don’t have time for all of these extra challenges, and life has felt extra overwhelming again. When I am already that fragmented, any little thing triggers despair or anger. I’ve been yelling at God recently, asking why my life has to be so complicated, demanding to know why I have so much to handle.
Thus, I went into the weekend feeling defeated and worried, but today (Mother’s Day) reminded me that I am so blessed.
To begin with, my gorgeous girls spoiled me, starting with making me breakfast. Over green smoothies and farm fresh eggs, they gave me special cards, flowers, and gifts. I love the cross necklace from Laina and the framed photo of the girls of us from Lexi. Laina presented me with two supermom cards, saying that I am her hero, while Lexi made a card with photos of them, quotes from famous authors, and Bible verses such as “Her children rise up and call her blessed…” from Proverbs: 32-38 and “Do not forsake your mother’s teaching” from Proverbs 6:20.
After breakfast, we attended church, and during the worship, I cried. We sang “One Thing Remains” by Jesus Culture, which goes, “On and one and on and on it goes / It overwhelms and satisfies my soul / And I never ever have to be afraid / One thing remains / Your love never fails it never gives up it never runs out on me.” I felt so filled up with God’s love, and I felt so extremely blessed. Blessed with God’s love, blessed with my daughters.
I stood in the front row with Laina on one side and Lexi on the other. God has blessed me with these amazing, wise daughters. No matter how difficult things have been in the past, no matter how hard they are now, no matter how challenging they will be in the future, I am so blessed and privileged to have these two daughters, to have a close relationship with them, to learn from them, to share with them, to be here with them. No matter what Matthew (their dad and my ex) has said or done, no matter what he will say or do in the future, I thank him for Lexi and Laina. They are worth it.
The pastor’s message was on how to deal with difficulties. As normal, I heard exactly what I needed to hear at CAV. It’s important to be defined by Christ, and not by our suffering, to see our self in Christ and not in the despair. Sometimes that is just as hard as whatever we are dealing with. I’d lost sight of who I am and was focusing on my troubles, my pain, my fears. Now I will turn my focus onto opportunities rather than dangers, as the pastor said today, and concentrate on how God can use my challenges for good.
This afternoon, we decided to see The Great Gatsby, which was brilliant, and afterwards, we analyzed the movie, deciding that it proved why it is so important who we choose as friends and that we are glad to be a little different than mainstream society. My girls thanked me for the time homeschooling them and showing them a different way to live.
Tonight, I am hanging out with my girls. They made a delicious dinner of roasted chicken, fried okra, fresh corn on the cob, and chocolate covered strawberries, and I am grateful that I had a day to rest. So, I go into the new week refreshed and content. I still have problems to work through and definitely have challenges coming up; however, my eyes are focused on who I am in Christ, and my heart is full of love.  Fitzgerald wrote in a letter that he wanted to "write something extraordinary and beautiful and simple and intricately patterned,” and similarly, I am open for "something new--something extraordinary and beautiful."
Happy Mother’s Day!