Christmas 2012

Sorry for the long absence on the blog.  I feel like we’ve been super busy lately and blogging has not exactly been a priority.

This is the first year since Abigail was born that we’ve been able to visit family for Christmas.  Raymond’s new job allowed for about 2 weeks of Christmas vacation! So we took full advantage and visited both families!

Our first stop was with my family in Mississippi.  We spent 4 days here, which included Christmas Day.  For a lot of my extended family this was their first time seeing Charlotte in real life!  Both of the girls did a great job with traveling and meeting so many new people in such a short span of time.

The second stop was with Raymond’s family in Alabama.  Since we didn’t get to celebrate Christmas with them we spent about 6 days with his family. Abigail had a great time interacting with her cousin Mattilynn, who is one year older than Abigail.  And we are getting ready to add a 5th grandchild (the first boy!) to Mrs. Pat’s legacy as Cortney is closing in on her due date (middle-ish of March).

Here are a few of the better pictures from our camera.  There are quite a bit more…but those pictures are on other cameras, so please forgive us for the insufficiency of these photos.

Charlotte turns 1 in just a few weeks so look for a pretty full update on her next!

Christmas 2011

This Christmas season we stayed in Louisville, KY for two reasons: 1) Meghan has about 7 weeks until she gives birth to our second daughter, Charlotte, so traveling ten hours to either Alabama or Mississippi was undesirable for her tired body and 2) to allow me more availability to work for my managers who are so graciously flexible during the school semester with my work schedule.

So on Christmas Eve, I worked at Mitchell’s while Meghan and Abigail attended our church’s Christmas Eve service and spent some time with some of our friends from church who were also in town for Christmas this year.  Christmas day was very full of good things since it fell on a Sunday this year!  We woke up and opened a few presents before going to church where we were able to celebrate the birth of Jesus with our church family.  Afterwards we ate a Christmas lunch with Mrs. Millie and spent a few hours with her.  All of her family is connected with a minister of a church in some way so she celebrated with her family on Friday and invited us over for lunch on Sunday :) We returned home in time for a nap and then we finished opening our presents and had a very relaxing evening spending time together as a family!

While this is technically Abigail’s 2nd Christmas, this year she was definitely more aware of what was happening and it was a lot more fun for us to watch her open presents and play with her new toys!  We look forward to the next few years as her understanding grows and her memory improves and we’re able to teach her more about why we celebrate Christmas rather than just laugh at her playing in the wrapping paper (which is a lot of fun too!).

Here are A LOT of pictures from Christmas day and a couple of videos for you to enjoy :)

Abigail opens her first Christmas present (Meghan opened all of them for her last year…)

And this is how Abigail ended her day:

When Your Story is Not the Story that You Want: Discontentment & Its Satanic Delusions

“Why can’t you be more like his wife?!”

We argued a lot during that first year of marriage, more often than I would like to admit. Even still, I couldn’t believe those words slipped out of my mouth.  I had tried to resist comparisons in our marriage, in our fights.  I hated when people unfairly compared me to others.  But, it was too late.  She was hurt.  My wife did not find my painful comment helpful.  My carelessness with words and my discontentment in a petty situation led to another destructive conversation.

But why was I discontent?  Why am I?  Why are you?

Frequently, I have the opportunity to counsel individuals who wish that they were someone else, that they had someone else’s story (that is, someone else’s life).  They want someone else’s job or money, someone else’s home or car, someone else’s spouse or family, and various other things.  They want those things without working like that person had to in order to land that job and to purchase that home, without putting forward the necessary effort to care for that family or to dealing with that spouse’s annoying idiosyncrasies (they have them, we all do).

Over and over again, those I speak with yearn for these things, wishing that some blunder could be undone as if that would rectify everything that went wrong and would appease their covetous discontentment.  They long for some divorce to be reconciled, death to be reversed, some fight to be avoided, some gamble to be evaded.

They pine after these things because they have deceived themselves into believing that if they just had (fill in the blank) they would have purpose and meaning in life, that they would be happy and successful.

But, if they’re honest, if we’re honest, what they really want is what we all long for—a story without interruptions, a life without responsibility.  What they want is to live in a sinful world without the frustrations and restraints of a sinful world.  Sadly, far too often they are misled into believing that others actually have that story, that they have a life like people in the movies—one of never-ending romance, relative ease, money without work, happiness without effort, fellowship without vulnerability, peace without Christ.

Ironically, the Scripture tells us that it’s not just those with overwhelming counseling needs who crave for a new and/or different life.  The person working 50+ hours a week to the exclusion of their family misses out on the celebration that God intended for them and the spouse of their youth (Prv 5:18); they too are looking for a role in a different story, a story where their work validates them as essential, necessary, important.  The parent so discontent with the responsibility of children that they shush and shun their kid(s) so they can stay up to date with their Facebook status misses the blessing of children (Ps 127); they too are looking for another story in which to star, one without obligation where they are forever “cool.”  As a result, they miss out on a peace that surpasses understanding (Phil 4:7) by obsessing over a reality that does not and cannot exist.

Rarely, the Scripture tells us, do we yearn for another story/life due to some admirable aspiration(s).  Our passions are at war within us (James 4:1), so we pine after things like a more beautiful wife or more rugged husband or we want less unruly children, because the ones we have embarrass us or we wish we could go back and manufacture an exceptional high school athletic or academic career so that we had better stories to tell over and over and over again.  We desire these things, and things like them, but never receive them because we ask wrongly to spend it on our own sinful pleasures (James 4:3), to praise ourselves.  And, sadly, our discontentment drives us so sinfully wild and insane that we act irrationally (Gen 3)—sin is always irrational.  So insane that men look at porn, women leave their husbands, children rage against their parents until families are destroyed, jobs are lost, and legal action is necessary.

The Christmas season reminds us that the key to satisfying the perverted desires of discontentment is not indulging them.  Rather, according to the Scriptures, it is accepting the promise and offer of the gospel to be called into a story filled with war (Mark 13:7), a story where we are supporting actors to God in a cosmic drama (1Cor 8:6; John 1:1-3), a story where there is life and hope of resurrection in the name of Jesus (Acts 4:12; Heb 9:28) who is indeed Immanuel (Matt 1:23).  This Christmas season know that the key to satisfying the delusions of discontentment is acknowledging before God that we have much to be thankful for—this is the will of God in Christ Jesus (1Thes 5:18); recognizing that God’s providence in our life is a gift to both mature and sanctify us, to drive us into deeper repentance, more grateful thankfulness, and greater dependence.

A Progressive Dinner

Recently, our Bible Fellowship Group (AKA Sunday School class) participated in a Progressive Dinner to fellowship together during the Christmas season. About half of the couples were able to attend and we all had a great time eating, talking, and laughing.  Our Progressive Dinner included 3 stops (appetizers, dinner, and dessert) plus a game of Dirty Santa (of course).  Raymond was unable to attend because he had the flu that week (I think he’ll be getting the flu shot from now on…) but I was able to go and I’m pretty sure we contributed the best Dirty Santa gift ;)

Here are a few pictures from the evening:

Dinner, Christmas Candy, & Discipleship

Roll Tide Ray, Dr. Elieff, Jacob and Humphrey

On Monday, December 12, 2012 Meghan, Abigail, and I traveled across town to the home of my pastor and dear friend and mentor – Dr. Jeff Elieff.  We were there for the second annual Johnson-Elieff dinner and Christmas candy-making event.  We talked, laughed, ate, and made some delicious candy (the white chocolate covered pretzels are all that matter to me).

Highlights of the evening were:

1) Dr. Elieff firing off his aresol rifle, which is also his Christmas present, in the house

2) Humphrey, the dog, being scared by the loud rifle shot to the point that he would not forgive Dr. Elieff until there was food on the table

3) Jacob and Emily, the Elieff children, chastising their father for playing with his Christmas present before Christmas as well as for firing a gun in the home even though it wasn’t loaded

4) Emily checking her body to make sure that she had not been shot after she heard the rifle go off

5) Dr. Elieff saying, and I quote, “I’m gonna put so much vanilla in this fudge that I won’t be able to drive after I eat it”…he quickly replied that he was just kidding.

All jokes aside, it was a wonderful evening. No man has invested in my life so comprehensively as Jeff Elieff; few men have invested even a portion of the time he has. He recognizes that discipleship doesn’t happen in a one-hour long meeting once a week.  Rather, discipleship is teaching someone how to make their way through life, how to walk in the way of Christ wisely.  Sure, we talk ministry and do churchy things like preaching, teaching, worship, etc.  But, we also talk about family, college sports, how to manage money, politics, music, academics, insurance, our health and much more over food or some other place we’re hanging at that day.  As a result, we have become friends who help one another with home improvement projects, who pray for one another, who war against a satanic enemy together.

Dinner and making Christmas candy makes memories and provides an opportunity to hangout, but it is much more than another event — it is discipleship.  This holiday season I am thankful for Dr. Jeff Elieff.  He is a father in the ministry to me, a man I can look up to, and a man I can call if I’ve had a bad day.  I love my church.

Thanksgiving Part 2 and Christmas Pics

Caleb, Rebekah, Derek, Colton, Amy, Meghan (and Charlotte in the womb), Raymond, and Abigail #NAOBC4Life

On Thanksgiving day 2012 we ate with two families that we are exceptionally close with at our church, NAOBCthe Browns and the Drahoshes.  Gigi, Meghan’s mom, was there too.  We had a wonderful day together for the second year in a row.  We talked, ate, played with Colton and Abigail on the floor, ate, played Ticket to Ride, and ate (and after it all Meghan and I watched Psych!). You know that’s right!

Other highlights of the day: the guys tossed the football and reminisced on the fun of our respective high school football days,  Raymond and Derek pulled the kiddos around in a wagon, and the ladies did something but I wasn’t there to observe it so I don’t know what they said or did :)

Below are two Christmas pictures from our family photographer, Caleb Drahosh.  They are their usual awesome with Caleb-esque quality.  Though it looks like he took them at a studio, he did them in our living room.  Thanks bro!

The Johnson family

New Wine & Christmas Decorations

Recently, Meghan and I were paid a visit by our longtime family friend, Katie Anthony (Katie too is a USM alum with a degree in speech communication, #SMTTT!). But this time she didn’t make the trip from Lexington to Louisville alone, she brought her roommate (and our new friend), Julie Lasslo, with her.

We laughed, reminisced on our adolescent adventures at USM, shared graduate school woes, talked about C.S. Lewis and his impact on pretty much everything and everyone, ate at the illustrious BoomBozz Pizza, and decorated the Johnson Christmas tree.  It was a wonderful visit!  And while I went to get more lights from Target since Katie needed eleventy billion to beautify the 5ft tree fake tree we have (if you look outside at night you can probably see our tree, and probably our apartment, burning in the midnight sky thanks to Katie), they painted some frames Meghan plans to draw on to hang above our fireplace #crafttime

While the Ashland ladies were at our place they gave us a present–the CD that their band recently recorded.  The name of the band is New Wine (don’t fret if you’re hyper-baptist or obnoxiously spiritual, it has nothing to do with alcohol.  They got the name from from Matthew 9:17 and Luke 5:37 when Jesus talks about new wine being put into new wine skins) and the name of the CD is Long Way Back.  If you follow the link of the band name it will take you to their Facebook page; if you follow the link of the CD title it will take you to Amazon so that you can procure your copy of the CD while supplies last (they will probably last as long as MP3s exist…and the MP3 version is cheaper!).  Tracks 1 (Near the Cross), 3 (Footprints of a King), and 8 (Wherever He Leads) are worth the price of the album.  So, if you are interested in some fresh Christ-centered lyrics, rhythmic music, and beautiful gospel-saturated singing I would make the purchase.

Below you will find some pictures of our visit, enjoy.