Monday, December 29, 2008

Things that made me laugh this Christmas....

Well, its Monday...after Christmas.....before New Years and nobody is really in the mindset of going back to work are they??? I feel like the holiday has lasted about a month...but in a good way. I like that. I am almost ready for routine...but will enjoy this one last week of laziness!! And some work too....

I was looking through pictures, making some online albums for my family to enjoy and thought I would share a couple with you that made me just laugh out loud. Love those moments...don't you. You may not get them....and that is ok - but you might enjoy the thought behind them.

This is one of our Nativity Scene that Nick had when he was a toddler. Each year we bring it out...and it is placed in the bathroom. Odd I know - but when he was little...just like his two little brothers - it became the bathtime Nativity set. Seriously - so now, each time I see them in the bathroom I can tell that the boys have re-arranged them in some crazy way. Here, the donkey is taking on one of the wise men...or is that Joseph? I do see one of the wise men standing on his head. They used to put the baby Jesus in the Alligator mouth in the bathroom - that was a bit too far for me - you know?

This next one is not truly captured...but it is Nick explaining to Scout not to hit him in the head with the nerf darts....he wants the suction cups to stick to his back. "Get closer if you have to Scout!" I think those were his last words....

This one...I've already blogged about - but its worth repeating. Scout in a banana suit on Christmas Eve...too funny....and weird I know.

I love this one....the laugh I get from this one is just awesome. Its when the puppy we got the boys ran around the corner to see them. Nick's face....Scouts yell....Max's action to scoop the pup up....will stay with me for YEARS! Total awesomeness.

These last few are just some great family shots. To quote Scout as we left my mom and dad's house on Christmas day..... we have a great family...we are truly blessed.

The Johnsons celebrating in Young Harris, GA

The Men (and Dixie) at my parents house Christmas day

The Girls at my parents house Christmas Day

I hope everyone enjoyed a wonderful Christmas and also found time to be amazed at the true gift and miracle of Christmas. I look forward to 2009....who knows what we'll laugh at this year!!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

It's Christmas Eve

So its Christmas Eve....well technically its already Christmas Day because its after midnight. I have found myself somewhat my sweet husband sleeps on the couch. He is fighting a cold and though we still have much to do tonight....I'm letting him sleep. I am listening to Alabama Public Television - wonderful Christmas music and feeling content.

Tonight was wonderful - we had a beautiful first Christmas Eve Service at a2 with our new church family. My sister and her family came. So very special. Beyond words..... I held my niece while the pastor spoke and just felt blessed to have her with us. My sister and I enjoyed being together on Christmas Eve for the first time.....since I married 17 years ago. Lots of time has passed.....and now we are raising children together. I guess I'm pretty well ahead of her, but feel alot of the same things now. Here is a pic of them from our Candlelight Service.

Here is me and my men...minus Nick...he was talking.

One of my favorite parts of tonight was waiting for the Hoover Fire Truck. Nothing happened....its just a fun thing they do each year. For the last 14 years...maybe longer, but I only remember 14 - the Hoover Fire Department rides around on the firetruck - sirens blasting and Santa riding on top. The kids in the neighborhood love it. All 3 of mine love it still! So tonight...was no exception. They loved it. This year, Scout opted to greet them in a banana suit. He enjoyed every minute. I'm not certain why....but that didn't matter...he just enjoyed it. I think the firemen got a kick out of it too! eyelids are getting heavy...and like I said, there are still a few things to do so I need to wake my sweet husband and get this show on the road...Oh....did I mention there is a puppy keeping warm in Kevin's shed? Yeah....she's a sweet baby dachshund that will run to our boys with a big ole' bow around her neck. I can't I must sleep now so I can enjoy it. a few minutes at least.

Whatever you do on Christmas day - know that a Savior came down from Heaven because he loved you. Even if you were the only one on earth....he still would have left everything for you...because you are worth the cost. He loves you and me. I am thankful and celebrate today because of that one reason. My pastor reminded us that out of all the Christmas Bible Verses we can find in the really comes down to just one....John 3:16.

John 3:16 (The Message)

16-18"This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn't go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted; anyone who refuses to trust him has long since been under the death sentence without knowing it. And why? Because of that person's failure to believe in the one-of-a-kind Son of God when introduced to him.

Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Didn't quite get the song right....

You know, I can think of quite a few songs where I thought I was singing the right words, only to realize after YEARS of proudly....and loudly singing that I totally did not get what the song writer was really saying. My youngest son does this too! We listen to music on quite a few radio stations and that typically results in the kids knowing the words to all kinds of songs. (Nothing horrible....) Well about a year ago, Daniel Kirkley had a song on our Christian radio station, My New Dawn that sounds alot like Josh Groban. Anyway, after hearing this song a million times - Max shared with me just how much he liked that song. And as he told me....he was really feeling it. You know the feeling when you totally 'get' a song. It speaks to Chicago's 'Your My Inspiration' when you were in High school. Remember that? HA! Anyway, as he's telling me this - he's saying "Mom, he must really like his dog". My reply was...."What???" Max then asked, "He is saying this is my new dog isn't he??" I just died laughing....and we laughed for a bit. Because the song at that point took on a whole different meaning. Max had been hearing a 'boy' sing about his new dog and how it truly changed his life and took him out of the darkness into light.... see the lyrics below and substitute dog...each time you see dawn.

Hiding in the midnight
I’ve watched life pass me by
Haunted by each heartbreak
And mistake, I’ve let weigh
Me down
Now it feels like

( Chorus )

This is my new dawn
My yesterdays have come and gone
Walked in the dark too long
This is my new, this in my new dawn

I have washed my hands now
I’ve laid down all my doubts
I see that sun rising
Baptizing and shining
Straight into my soul

( Chorus )

Just like a child suddenly everything’s new
The colors collide and I see a beautiful view
Now I feel alive

Ok...can you see how his interpretation totally changed that song for him. A dog speaks volumes to him....totally life changing!! A new dawn does not signify as much to a 9 year old. HA! I had to laugh. We think about that often, and laugh each time the song comes on. He still feels Daniel Kirkley missed the mark on that one...or at least the opportunity to speak to 9 year olds all over the world!

In the same way, sometimes songs take a while before they resonate with our souls. Maybe its because we move so fast that we don't take time to let them sink in...or maybe its because we've never really sought out what the songwriter is really thinking about. What they want us to hear and feel with their words. I am finding that this season,a very familiar Christmas Carol is sounding much different to me than possibly ever before. O come all ye faithful. We've heard it a million times right? But did I really hear it all those years??? I mean wow.... we sing the words, "Now in flesh appearing.....O come let us adore him". Wow...God became dwell among us....Wow.....that's no ordinary thing. And many times have I sung it as Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.

Luke 2:8-18 (The Message)

An Event for Everyone
8-12There were sheepherders camping in the neighborhood. They had set night watches over their sheep. Suddenly, God's angel stood among them and God's glory blazed around them. They were terrified. The angel said, "Don't be afraid. I'm here to announce a great and joyful event that is meant for everybody, worldwide: A Savior has just been born in David's town, a Savior who is Messiah and Master. This is what you're to look for: a baby wrapped in a blanket and lying in a manger."
13-14At once the angel was joined by a huge angelic choir singing God's praises:

Glory to God in the heavenly heights,
Peace to all men and women on earth who please him.

15-18As the angel choir withdrew into heaven, the sheepherders talked it over. "Let's get over to Bethlehem as fast as we can and see for ourselves what God has revealed to us." They left, running, and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger. Seeing was believing. They told everyone they met what the angels had said about this child. All who heard the sheepherders were impressed.

Merry Christmas to you! I wish you and your family much peace, love and happiness this blessed Christmas season!

You know, just for fun...and speaking of words that we didn't get quite right when we were younger because we twisted them all up and made our own..... Well, in case you've ever wondered what Earth Wind and Fire was singing during the chorus of September. I'll tell you. I used to think I was making up my own words singing "Ba de ya...say do you remember....Ba de ya....Dancing in September...Ba de ya..." Remember that part? Well...guess what??? That is what they are saying! HA! Go figure. I was kind of shocked when I googled it. Thinking that i had missed something really good. Nope...just some fun grooving sound before the chorus. Man, that was great music as you would 'truck' around the skating rink...was it not?

Monday, December 15, 2008

Spend Less - Give More

This has been a wonderful - yet very different Christmas season for us. Don't get me wrong, it has been great - its just felt different. We've put far less emphasis on the gift part....and we've tried hard to spend more time just 'being' together. Enjoying the gift of our family.....and trying to be more mindful of what this season is truly about. Our Pastor has been leading a series of Sundays that have been amazing. The entire series is entitled Christmas Rebellion - Taking Christmas Back. If you weren't there....I wish you could have been. There are some great notes on our church here to read more.

The first Sunday we began this series, we talked about Worship. Worshiping the one we celebrate during this season. As we came in that Sunday, we were asked what burdens we were carrying. What was keeping us from truly experiencing the gift of Christmas. Was it money worries? Family issues? Depression? Name it....then write it down. After we wrote our words down on paper they provided - we tore them up into little pieces - then placed them in a bowl that was passed down each row. Chris asked us to just get rid of those things....give them to God. Worship him fully - and allow him to be the reason for movement and worship and celebration this season. At the end of the service......the tiny pieces of paper had been used to make a beautiful mosaic creation. Two hands holding a heart.

If the picture were closer, you would be able to see portions of the words that were written on the papers. I imagine there were all kinds of words. Being honest with you now...when asked what could hinder me from enjoying the true meaning of Christmas this year - I had to write down busyness. I can get so busy some times I just miss it you know? Not this year....I will not be busy about being busy this year. How beautiful it can be when we give our worries to God and truly worship him with everything we have....holding nothing back. Remember, he promises to give beauty for ashes right??

Last Sunday, we talked about the spending aspect....buying less. And giving more. We even talked about the wise men who set out on their journey to find the one who was promised. They followed a star in the dessert to find the one they knew would change history. Not a king in a palace, but one in a a barn. How God is that???? The art that was created this past Sunday was pretty amazing. We entered to find a painting of a lady who had a shopping cart full of packages. Through out the message, Chris had taken off packages that were glued to the front of the painting. The Macy's Star that was formerly at the top of that painting was taken off and a majestic star was painted at the top of the canvas. As we sang about the Glory of God and worshiped God....while thinking of changes we could make this season.....pieces of the painting were being cut away. The first layer was being taken off in certain places - where the shopper was once standing. What was unveiled underneath the lady who was in a hurry to shop....was a wise man, on a camel - following a star with a gift in hand...for His King.

It was pretty totally made you think. The question I left with yesterday was this; What am I giving this year to my King?? What am I teaching my kids to give? Have I taught them that it really is all about Jesus??? You know, I think my kids do get it. And I'm thankful. Grateful. Chris did ask us if we wrap up Christmas each year....thinking to ourselves that we missed the mark spiritually. You know, thinking that this year...I will make Christmas all about Jesus. Then, we get busy, don't do the things we planned, and still shopped and spent like every Christmas before. Did we not do the devotions...or read with our kids like we planned??? I think we have all felt that once or twice haven't we? He also commented on what the Wise Men must have talked about as they walked away from being in the presence of 'God with us', Emmanuel. Do you think that the Wise Men walked away saying..."yeah, I had big plans for this event...but it didn't really turn out as spiritual as I wanted it too...." No way....they walked away pumped...changed.....and totally fulfilled because their hearts were all about him. Wow...They followed the sign straight to Jesus.

I can't wait to see what next Sunday holds! If I can encourage you to do anything this Christmas besides the obvious of spending less and giving more...I encourage you to find time be alone and thank God for sending his be with us here on earth. Read the Christmas Story, you know..the birth of Christ. Click long has it been since you've walked through these words in the Bible? Its amazing.....inconcievable....and true.

In case you are wondering....yes, Kevin is partly responsible for the artwork you see. I am excited that he is using his talents again within church. We are so excited about what God is doing at a2 Church. We are growing....and Gods word is spreading and that is very say the least! We meet each Sunday at 9:45am and always have a fresh pot of coffee going. We have a special Christmas Eve service planned that will be wonderful I know!!!

Matthew 2: 1-2

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, "Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him."

Merry Christmas - May you spend less this Christmas as you give and receive so much more!!!!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Christmas Fun

Each year, I love creating our Christmas card. Its fun for me. Seriously.....I love it. I also love the craziness that is always behind the picture that nobody really sees but us. It takes a lot to for all 5 of us to take a good picture together. I used to dress us all in matching outfits - and take a cute, serious photo.....not any more. That stressed me out too much. You would think that making the boys dress alike for even just 30 minutes - was major torture. So...we adapted. It was either that....or keep creating these pictures that my kids NEVER looked forward to! What a fun family moment that would have been.

Anyway, we now enjoy silly pictures and we all discuss ideas and what would be fun. The ideas are hysterical sometimes! This past week we finished our new picture - and the photo shoot did not disappoint. It was funny....and had a bit of stress too. But not like the stress of the 'matching sweater' days. But...there was some stress when I was wanting to do something serious for a moment. But....looking back, I love how the boys crack each other up and do stupid stuff. They are having a good time! They will remember that far longer than taking a silly picture. Unless....I totally freak out and scream....that they will I refrain, with the help of Jesus of course. (I'm serious) As we were finding the good pictures we took...I enjoyed the funny ones too. I am glad Kevin just kept clicking even when we were not ready - it captures some honest moments. All but one were funny....we were all laughing and being this...

But then I ran across this one....when I was ready for them to be serious again. I cracked did my friend Laura when I shared this with her. Such truth in one little picture.....can you SEE what I am feeling???

Could not be more real could it? But you would never see that on any card I would send would only see the smiley face and perfect happy family. I couldn't resist sharing this with you and hopefully in some weird way....its an encouragement to you to are not alone. Every mother and father gets stressed and sometimes loses it. Even when intentionally trying to create a special moment. Ha! You know exactly what I mean!!! Nothing is ever as perfect as it seems. Sometimes we have no idea what happens before that perfect Christmas photo is taken. That has been brought home to me lately in a big way. There are families we are close to going through more than we could have imagined....they looked so perfect on the outside, but they are truly hurting on the inside. So...offer more love and more kindness than you have before to them on this Thanksgiving. Remind our kids that they may think others have it so much better than they do...more stuff....more gadgets....but if they have the love and security of parents who love them - who spend time with them, they are rich far beyond those who don't.

You know...I am glad to tell you that the picture above is as crazy as I got this was a silent show....just a pout only caught by my sweet husband. I didn't stop the silliness of the boys that day....believe me, they went on for a while. So....we joined in. And it was fun.....and it was real life in the Johnson house that day......

I love the candy cane on Max's ear in this one. Subtle.....sneaky.......where did he learn that?

So.....that is some fun from the Johnson house this week. And I guess you could say some silly, trivial....yet life making advice too. Remember, it doesn't all have to look perfect, be perfect, feel perfect...real life is fun, spontaneous and chaotic some times....enjoy it now before its gone! Oh....and don't be the stressed out mother during picture times that they will talk about to their future wives...OK??!!! We have a choice ya'll....Enough said???

Monday, December 1, 2008

A Special Thanksgiving Vacation

We have had an amazing week. It all started last Sunday, November 23. We woke early to drive to Nashville. That was Scout's 14th birthday present - Tickets to the Jets Vs. Titans Game. Brett Favre did not disappoint! He played great and the Jets broke the winning streak of the Tennessee Titans. Sad for Titan Fans....exhilarating for Favre fans.

Yes...that is a Jets Favre jersey...with the Packers Cheesehead combination. He's good with the compromise.

We enjoyed some time in Nashville - even though it was short. Kelly made a Thanksgiving dinner for us and we enjoyed being with our family.

Great food and fun as usual with this crew.

The next day, we woke early again to drive to Washington DC for a week of major site seeing and family time.

This vacation was so different for us. For one, it was during Thanksgiving and we are always with with other members of our family for Thanksgiving. As I was thinking how different this was for us....I began to remember that this is the way it was for me growing up. My family always took a family vacation the week of Thanksgiving. We would go to Navarre Beach every year. The special thing for me, was that there were other families who did this same thing and for years, we would go in anticipation of seeing these friends that we only saw once a year. My parents made friends as well and they would gather during the week and play cards in the sun room of the hotel we stayed in while the kids ran wild. It was GREAT! I loved my Thanksgivings. This vacation - was a perfect Thanksgiving for us.

We stay so busy with everyone's schedule that sometimes we don't have as much downtime as we all would like. The boys can nag each other TO DEATH at home. It can be crazy!! But this past week - they hung together and laughed constantly. The boys had a hotel room across from our room. Every time we went over there, there was wrestling, laughing, being goofy....just fun stuff. When we take them out of their environment.....they become the best of friends. Such a blessing for me and Kevin to see that.

Its neat to see them growing into young men and how their personalities are changing and growing too. Coming home, I'm determined to not put off trips like this anymore. We had an amazing time with tons of memories we will share for YEARS to come. We are already planning something for the spring....we hear Wyoming is wonderful....and I want to see my boys enjoy the site of the buffalo and those amazing mountains and valleys. Seeing my kids enjoy something new is a priceless gift. Experiencing new cities and sites together is special. It makes me wonder if that is a tad of what God experiences when we take delight in his word....and his world. He enjoys, enjoying life with us just like we do with our own families. Just a small reminder of how good God is.

There are some funny moments that stick out from this past week -

During our Thanksgiving Dinner at Hard Rock Cafe, our server gave Max a coloring book and set of crayons, he politely put his hand up and said, "oh, no thank you, I'm 10 now". The server, who had a GREAT personality, said "Oh! I see, so you don't color anymore! You are too grown up for coloring, huh???". We all laughed. Then Max said, "Well, you know, I am 10, but I still have a little left in me sometimes".
Typical Max.

Walking to the subway after dinner one night. Max saw this statue in the window of an antique store. He walked up to the window of this shop, pointed to the statue and yelled, "Look at this guy!!!! He looks awful!!!!" As soon as he did this, a man sleeping against the door in a sleeping bag rolled over....Max's foot was literally an inch away from his sleeping bag. None of us had noticed the man,until he rolled over and the sleeping bag moved. Only Nick, Kevin and myself noticed the movement and we grabbed Max and walked away quickly. I know...where was our Christian compassion? My first reaction was mama bear mode - move my child, because I didn't know who was in that sleeping bag and was not sure how safe we were. I feel bad now...seriously. But, back to the story - When we told Max what had happened - he didn't believe it at first and thought we were kidding him. But then he got really sad because he thought the man might have thought he was talking about him when he was really talking about the statue. (His brothers might have put that in his head too) Max talked about the man the rest of the way to the subway and then on the way to our hotel too. The next day while in Chinatown, we saw many homeless people. One man asked me if I had any spare change that I could give. My first reaction was no, but then I stopped and Max said, "mom you don't have any change you can share with him??" Of course I do...was the answer. I took out all the change I had in my purse and gave it to the man. We had walked almost a block and Max said, "Mom, I want to give that man my $7. Please mom". He had $7 left of his souvenir money. My first reaction was to tell him to save his money, but I could see that this tied into his experience from earlier in the week. He was thinking about the night that he woke the homeless man and his concern that he had hurt the homeless man's feelings and the fact that the man was sleeping on the sidewalk in the first place. I asked him if he really wanted to give all the money - and he said yes, and then ran all the way back to that man by himself to put his $7 in the man's cup. My eyes just welled up with tears as he ran back to me. Max smiled and said, "I feel good Mom, I think he's happy. He needs $7 more than I do". We thank God for his sweet spirit, tender and generous heart. We pray God continues to speak and work through Max as he grows up and that he always listens when the spirit tells him to move, give and speak.

Well, like I said, we are back and this day holds much laundry and some Christmas decorating for me too. I better get busy. But not too busy to enjoy my quiet house for a moment....everybody needs that the day after vacation right?