Wednesday, August 18, 2010

This is school at our house.

School looks like this
for my high school students.
There are two of them.
They are greatly outnumbered.
(Good scholars!)

The lone middle schooler moves
outdoors:  Science, handwriting, math...
with a pumpkin holding down the page.

(That's not dirt on the's paint from 
the time we built a ziggurat!)
After a reading lesson for the kindergarten kid,
the toddler quickly discards her princess dress and sparkly shoes...

 because we watered the carrots so we could pull them and
it was the first nice (not scorchingly hot)
day we've had in a long time
and sometimes little boys (and girls too) just
want to play in the mud.

And their mommy says, 
"Well...why not?"
Today, unlike most days, she can't think of a single good reason.
(She decides to classify it under a "Montessori-type" heading.)

Mud washes off,
first in the wading pool 
and second in the bathtub.
School was "had," 
reading, writing, 'rithmatic included.
And everyone, even the mommy, was very happy.

We - the Johnson Family - wish all of our friends and loved ones
a good school year - full of love, happiness, exitement over learning,
and maybe even a little mud.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

And just like that, we have a name.

 Large families are a mystery to many.  Some people can't imagine how we could name so many children.  We have struggled with a name for son number 6, baby number 9, but we have finally come up with a name.

After months of deliberations, here's how it went down.

Thanks to my brother, Jeff and I had a gift card to a restaurant.  (I include that part so that my brother can feel good about his role in this.)

We bribed the older kids to watch the youngers, and made the drive to the city. 

I knew that I wanted to talk about baby names.  It was time to nail this down.  Jeff just thought he was going to have a quiet supper, where he didn't have to cut anyone's meat or jump up to give refills.

We sat down.  We ordered. 

I pulled a piece of paper and pen out of my purse and said, "Okay.  It's time.  What are we going to name this child?"  I expected this process to take a good chunk of our time.

My husband is a quiet, laid back man.  (Mostly.)

He said, "Well, what are the names we have talked about.  Remind me of the ones we both said we would be okay with."

I wrote them down, there were two.  I said them outloud.  I said them in order.  They sounded good.  They fit.

He nodded his head and said, "I can live with that."

And that was that.  Our son has a name, and since that time I've enjoyed bonding with the little guy that is rolling and kicking and making me miserable.

I was worried that we wouldn't come up with a name that we would love.  I needn't have worried.  I love this child, and I love this name.

Sorry, but it's a secret for about 8 more weeks.  I know that's cruel - but that's the way it is.  :)

After all the struggle, it was that easy.  Just like that, and we have a name.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

After three months, it's back to work!

Today, Jeff did something that he's not done in three months.  He went back to work.

After a close call with death, after months of ups and downs, after worries and hopefulness - he's back at his job as a family counselor/social worker for a private social services agency.  When I spoke with him at noon - he had already been assigned 8 cases.  It doesn't appear that he will have any down-time easing back into the schedule.

He's been struggling these last few weeks with a very tender disk in his neck and a sore shoulder.  It keeps him up a lot at night.  His last surgery went so well and we were so hopeful that he could recover and bounce back quickly.  He did recover from the surgery, but it seems his spine was quite affected from the various surgeries/recoveries.  (If you've ever heard traditional hip replacement surgery described, how they have to pull the leg back behind the body and all - it makes sense.  They have new methods now, but that's not what he had.)  Regardless, it was time for him to head back to work, and we are praying for a quick healing of his pain issues.

Time for a little rumination, I think.  We've been through a lot, learned much, been reminded of many things.  I've hesitated to share some of it, not wanting to be misunderstood and not quite trusting myself to adequately frame my thoughts.  I've realized that I don't share my thoughts well in the midst of a trial, and along with that, there simply hasn't been time.  Some of our lessons have been difficult, and some time, I'd like to tell you about those.  For today, though, I want to recount the good things.  I hope that you will be encouraged, too.

For starters, my husband is still alive.  One of my biggest fears has always been losing first my husband, and then, any one of my children.  I've never been sure that I could survive that.  God has dealt with me so strongly regarding fear in this past year:  We have had so many brushes with death - Sam, Nick, Jeff - any one of these beloved ones could have been taken from me, from us, with a slight twisting of circumstances.  After Nick's attack and trial and Sam's accident, my heart was not sure that it could handle any more.  I begged God for a good year.  All the while He was continuing to knock down my propensity to fear.  (If only you knew how much fear controlled almost every minute of my life...)  And then, Jeff's illness.  It was allowed.  For whatever reason, God allowed a horrible, devastating bacteria to take up residence in his body and blood-stream - which took him to the brink and carried those of us who loved him along for a wild ride.  I wanted to put up some pictures from those early hospital days - but as I searched through them, I realized that there are very few I can share.  He was so sick.

I sat in the emergency room that first night, watching his intense pain, and at that point knew...knew that no matter what, we would be okay, and that God would be with us.   I sat at his side - thinking of him and thinking of our new baby growing that most others didn't even know about yet.  I wondered if he would be around to know this child.  Would I have to name it all alone?  I was numb, tired, certainly full of hope but not full of guarantees.  I know that I have mentioned this before, but one of my dearest friends lost her husband to this very thing.  I'd brought her home from the hospital, seen her raw pain and sorrow over the years as she mourned her husband and struggled to raise three young children alone.  I knew the worst that could happen.  I couldn't pretend.  Jeff later confided to me that he always knew that one day he would walk this same road - that he would battle the same disease.  I knew it too.  Neither one of us knew the outcome.  We just had to go through it, endure with hope of eternity intact but no guarantees for life here and now. But as I sat there - although I felt no certain warmth or assurance - I knew that God would be enough.  He'd still be God, regardless of outcome.

 He's smiling, but my heart is in my throat, here. 

Obviously, our story turned out happily.  I wish that it did for everyone.  Why us and not others?  I can't answer that.  I am still overcome with gratitude, though, when I consider what happened.  God took my greatest fears, fear in the flesh:  full of sweat and blood and fever and infection and pain and woundedness - and allowed me to love and care for and clean and cry and pray and trust.  He had me stare nasty, soul-stealing fear in the face and I relented:  I trusted no matter the outcome.  After the fact, I doubted my faith.  But no, faith was not gone, it was very alive.  Faith means trusting God with the big picture, in the over all.  It means trusting Him even when things don't end like you want them to.  My faith needed to be redefined, and it was.

In addition, we learned that the Body of Christ is alive and well.  God's body - in the form of imperfect Christians through all times, cultures and backgrounds - works very well when He speaks into individual hearts and minds.  He is the catalyst - and we've experienced the work and the gifts of His feet and hands.  God's body - His Church - took care of us.  It has been a breath-taking and humbling thing to be a part of.  There was no one church, no one denomination or background that has helped out.  Most never knew that the other existed.  No one ever asked what we would do in return.  Over and over and over we have heard or read this message: " This gift is from God.  He told me to send it.  He wants you to know that He loves you."  And after the last few years, those are the words we needed most to hear.  It is one thing to know with your intellect that God loves you and really does care about you - but another to believe it with your heart.  He soothed our hearts with His words.  It wasn't because we have been so faithful nor so faith-filled.  It came not because of anything we deserved.  All of the love and care and prayers and concern came because God called and people answered - His people, from the full spectrum of our lives.   What could have been a devastating episode in our lives was instead full of love, mercy, and grace.  We, and our children, have seen the Body, the Kingdom, in action - exactly as it is supposed to work - and we'll be forever humbled and mindful of the power of God.  It's easy to get discouraged about the state of the Church today - but if you had experienced what we have, you wouldn't.  It's alive, and powerful, and transcends all apparent chaos and divisions.  It flows like an underground river, waiting to bubble to the surface and flood our lives and our world.

Painting the little boy's room, post-surgery

So, the kids and I prepare for our new school year.  Cleaning (perpetual....), sorting, supplies, curriculum.   It's a different routine without Jeff here in the day-time.  We still have a few difficult months coming up as we prepare for two more surgeries (my parents,) and then the always joyous (but tiring) time of adjusting to a new baby.  I'm so glad the baby awaits us in October - what an exciting thing to wind down summer and to look forward to.  :)

Thank you, for your part and for your trials in tears and prayers on our behalf.  You've been a part of the exciting and powerful undercurrent that is the coming Kingdom of God as you've travailed with us.  May you, too, know His love and His strength.