For those of you who take interest in reading my yearly Christmas Letter, here we go again! I have been writing Christmas letters since 2002 and now, with the progress of technology, I will officially be blogging my Christmas letters from here on out. Know that I appreciate the interest, as I attempt to chronicle the uncommon life of the Johnson Family. This letter has become important for me over the years... it allows me the opportunity to see where we have been and where we are going, and thank God for all of the blessings in our journey through life. So... thank you for reading and enjoy a sneak peak into the Odd Life of Jeremy and Emma Johnson.
We really are odd people and our life sometimes feels, well...sometimes it feels as if we are a family of four traveling down the road of life in a '04 Jetta, with a guinea pig and a dog and windsheild wipers that won't stop wiping and the clicking of a turn signal that won't stop clicking. Oh wait. That was our drive to my parent's house on Christmas Eve, so I guess it's less of a metaphor and more of a reality.
Anyway -- here goes 2014:
Last January we were arriving home from a peaceful 3 weeks in Oregon to a disgustingly cold winter storm in Indiana that left more than a foot of snow and below zero temperatures. The storm was par for the course that winter, and despite having lived in Alaksa for 4 years, we hated it. We realized that we had no desire whatsoever to endure Alaskan-like winters anymore, especially after Jeremy spent a large part of the winter plowing. But, like any long and cold winter, the lack of ability to do much else caused us to think...think...think...
We needed to think because we had again, met a block in the road...Which isn't so hard to imagine when your lively hood is dependent upon being paid by a non-profit organization and an unemployment check. Our lives had been in transition ever since Jeremy's career path vanished into thin air almost two years ago and the job he'd never wanted was relocated to Denver (meaning he was laid-off). At this point (Feb of 2013) we took the opportunity to re-think our lives, exploring the possibility of making a living doing something we actually enjoyed. In January of 2014 we needed to think especially hard because Jeremy's unemployment was coming to an abrupt end and someone was going to have to have a full-time job. After a decent amount of thought and prayer, we arrived at a conclusion: I would officially become a full-time employee of Safe Families for Children and Jeremy would continue being a part-time musician and would add part-time homeschool/stay-at-home dad to his resume. This decision was purely experimental and we decided that it couldn't hurt to try this new role-reversal for a few months.
By Spring everyone was still alive, but there had been enough days where Jeremy ended up cross-eyed with frustration over homeschooling that we began to consider alternative educational choices. This was mostly because if Addi didn't feel like accomplishing school work that day, the whole house would suffer and many days she and her dad were still homeschooling at 6 pm.
Working full-time was new for me, but it was good we chose this route because Safe Families in Madison County was becoming a full-time position whether I liked it or not! A typical day for me can be rather ADD-ish and I wouldn't have it any other way. Working with Safe Families full-time means that I wear about 10 different hats each day, 8 of which I have never worn before. Sometimes I am a case coach taking crisis calls from referring agencies, placing children in safe family homes and working with the parent to establish stability (which is a broad generalization and can mean anything from finding resources for a backed utility bill to finding a suitable rehab facility and more). Other times I am attempting to find new grants and funding streams and planning fundrasier and awareness events (which is NOT my gifting but someone has to do it!). Still other times I am outreaching to new churches, recruiting new host families and scheduling church presentations. This is the part of the 'job' (and I use that term loosley since this is more of my calling than my job) that Jeremy and I enjoy doing together. His music fits well with the Safe Families presentations and there have been a handful of times that we have shared our story and his music... and it works out pretty well.
I suppose that's because both music and Safe Families have sprung out of our lives entirely organically. I did not set out, nor did I intentionally develop the skill set to start up a non-profit that helps families in crisis, nor did Jeremy purposely set out to be a musician. However, to some degree it seems as though God has provided an open door for both of us to pursue these endeavors... and I suppose it is THAT fact that allows us to continue along our nail-biting journey. I have to admit, there have been many days that I have felt completely unqualified for what I am doing; I will give you one example.
I have overseen one adoption case in Madison County (which was highlighted on the Safe Fam's blog here). During the hearing, our attorney asked that I testify on behalf of Safe Families and the host family wishing to adopt the little girl whose guardian was terminal with cancer. I nervously took the witness stand, but was confident both in our organization and the families' ability to provide a good home for this sweet child. The attorney asked about my background and training, right off the bat, "And what are your credentials?"
Um... I meekly said, "I have a bachelors degree in English...." which was probably not the response he was expecting. But what I wanted to say was, "I'm also a mother of two children. One is strong willed and has forced me to refine my parenting skills. I have endured a tumultuous marriage, and attended recovery groups and marital counseling because of the sorry state we were in. I know what it's like to need help, to feel that you are at the end of your rope and can only pray that someone will show you the way out...and I would never shame someone for asking for help...and those are my credentials."
But of course I made mention of none of those things and quickly followed my statement about being an English major with, "...however I have recieved training from our professional staff in Indianapolis, who oversees all of the placements in Madison County..." Shew, that seemed to work and we were on to the next question.
Come the Spring we also had a big scare with Sam. Ugh... I hate talking about these things because it still makes me feel weak in the gut and oddly ashamed.
It's totally normal for your 6 year old to fall 15 feet out of a tree right? In front of at least 100 people? At a funeral? I won't recount the whole story (I did make mention of it in a previous post) because if I did I would be ridden with parental guilt and probably just walk away from the computer and start eating cookies for no reason. Suffice to say, Sam got overly ambitious and decided to rescue a poor balloon that was dancing at the end of a thin branch. I watched his face, he was yearning for that balloon, and he felt that all eyes were on him (although they weren't...they were watching the other hundred balloons that were recently released, float upward)... but he felt like they were watching him, and he didn't want to disappoint. Anyway, despite Jeremy's firm but calm words, "son do not step on that branch it will not hold you" he did anyway, and he fell, and the crowd reacted in unison, and I watched and he screamed his back was broke and it was harrowing.
The whole ordeal hit me so hard. I practically yelled at Jeremy at the hospital while Sam was getting his catscan, "What the heck is wrong with me? Why didn't I see that coming? Why was I so relaxed and just watching from a distance? Who does that?" The truth was, Jeremy was handling it and I trusted his abilites... I actually think I really felt like Jeremy would catch him if he fell. Which goes to show that I think Jeremy is extremely capable, but I couldn't figure out why I hadn't gone over to help. It truly knocked me "off my game" for a while and I couldn't let it go. Sam's injuries were only a broken wrist and he was back to climbing trees before he was out of a brace. Darn agile monkey children.
On a lighter note, Sam turned 7 this year and made some pretty serious decisions as well. The kids and I decided to drive downtown to hear Nick Vujicic speak again this year. We have heard him speak at least twice before, but none of us ever tire of hearing a man with no arms and no legs call people out of their seats and prompt them to accept a life following a Saviour who can make even a limbless man feel whole. Every time I hear him, God shows me something beautiful.
The first time we heard Nick speak was Easter at our local High School. He did his thing, shared his story, called people to the front to accept a new life. Except no one really moved initially... there was just a lot of silence and quiet coughs. Then, chairs started scooting and everyone looked to the row where at least 8 people had to stand up and scoot themselves out to the aisle to allow a man with a walker hobble his way out of a middle row, into the aisle, re-situate himself on his walker, and clink and clank his way down the center aisle with hundreds of people watching, to receive a new life. Can you imagine the effort it took for him to do that? He broke the awkwardness and others rose up out of their chairs and followed this brave soul to receive the same gift. I have never forgotton that although it happened 5 years ago.
Anyway, this time was Sam's turn. Nick made is call to the crowd and encouraged those who wanted to receive the gift of Jesus to rise up out of their chairs and come to the front. Sam waved his hand wildly and jumped out of his chair, took himself down the steps to the center of the collsium to make his decision known. Addi watched with a surprised and careful eye, as did I. I made a point to let him do this on his own, and though he looked over his shoulder for me a number of times, a kind woman came to pray with him about his decision.
If I had to guess... this will not be the last time Sam will accept a life with Jesus publicly. Last year at Christmas he made a similar commitment by raising his hand during a "come to Jesus prayer" and tithed his precious lava rock to seal the deal. For some reason, he is very drawn to making this public declaration, and I think we will allow him to do it as many times as he likes.
|Visit from Nana and Papa|
|House Concert in Charlotte|
We drove ourselves to Carolina Beach for two days, where Addi and I happened to see a shark swimming in the ocean next to us. It was a small shark no doubt but it sent us sprinting out of the waves in an instant. My favorite shot at the beach was this one.
We sqealed back into Indiana just in time for Addi to be a flower girl (she was not so thrilled about the PDA) and for Jeremy's band to play side stage at the One Republic concert AND to see our new cousin, baby Maggie, enter the world.
Then it was off to school. For whatever reason, I seem to make things more difficult than they should be. Jeremy was feeling peaceful about putting out kids in public school, because we had given homeschool our best shot and it was obvious that Addi needed something different. I, of course, questioned and talked about it and racked my mind with reasons as to why I needed to freak out about it. After a few weeks of adjustment, our kids began to love school and I began to have a huge appreciation for their teachers that made a special effort to acclimate them into the public school setting...which mostly meant they needed to be reminded multiple times a day to actually turn their homework in. After that it was all good.
In the Fall we attempted to take one last trip while the whether was nice. We packed our bags, squeezed in one of Addi's friends and got the kids all pumped to go to Holiday World. It wasn't until we were 20 minutes down the interstate that we realized Holiday World wasn't open on Friday's in the off-season.
So we went home, packed up our camping supplies, and drove to Brown County for camping instead. Jeremy and I felt like it was better than Holiday World and anyway, he made this sweet spoon out of wood.
Along with carving spoons out of wood, Jeremy has kept himself busy with household projects while pursuing a variety of musical endeavors. Much of his time has been spent recording the new album that was released this past November. It's truly incredible and I'll tell you more about it at the end of this letter.
By late Fall, we were really starting to feel that things around the Johnson household seemed much more manageable and we have decided that this clarity has come for two reasons:
1.) Addi is in public school
2.) Addi is in gymnastics
|Addi's first gymnastics meet|
Our sharp witted, now 9 year old, spitfire daughter who normally causes turmoil and chaos in our family strictly out of boredom, is feeling much more calm these days as a result of staying completely busy. The challenges of a new 4th grade classroom, plus gymnastics practices 3 days a week for 3 hours keeps her (and us) on a tight schedule, however I am entirely impressed with Addi's ability to face these new challenges undaunted. I wish she knew how proud of her Jeremy and I are, but she tends to think that her parents accolades don't count. Addi is experiencing her first year with competative gymnastics, as she had earnestly expressed her desire to not return to my program at the YMCA and begged to do real gymnastics. So we let her.
|Jeremy and Sam at Addi's first meet|
Addi's spunk and world view has always been extremely deep for her age. She, like her dad, cares very much for those who are treated unfairly and seeks revenge on those who have wronged others. Sometimes, her vengeful spunk is justified, like when she and I were at a grocery store and saw a mom treating her 2 year old daughter harshly. I distanced myself in order to watch before making a judgement about her poor parenting skills. It was bothersome enough that I mentioned confronting her about it. Addi, as if she had been reading my mind said, "Yeah Mom let's do it, can I come with you please? That lady should NOT be treating that little girl that way." We ended up not doing it since she left the store before I could make an appropriate confrontation, but I wasn't surprised at Addi's desire to assist me. On a not-so-good day, her revenge is hyper-focused on her brother, and she verbally attacks him for the smallest of disturbances: breathing too loud, chewing too loud, blinking, taking up space, etc.
Last winter, Addi made the decision to be baptised at our church, along with her good friend Daejah and her cousin Anna. This was Addi's first attempt at making any type of public decloration about her faith, as this is a careful, well thought out subject for her.
Though she is the tiniest version of a 9 year old in the 4th grade, she is certainly fierce. It seems that she is determined to forge her own path in the world, and she is not open to my suggestions about which paths are best to take. She's a little more open to Jeremy's suggestions however... and I'm glad for that.
As 2014 comes to a close, Jeremy and I feel like we really are making progress and have no one but God to thank for giving us the opportunity to pursue our passions. We have likened our investments with Safe Families and music to 'growing babies.' As the year ends, my baby looks like 25 approved host families, 10 involved churches, almost 200 placements, and a few successful fundraisers. His baby looks like a brand-new 10 song bleedingkeys album (completely paid for by the band's hard work and financial planning I might add) a SOLD OUT album release at one of the best original music venues in Indy, and a sponsorship with Klipsch music company.
Beauty in the Black shares the roller coaster of emotions present when tragedy strikes, and the glimmers of light that can be seen amongst all the darkness. For us, those moments were represented through the tragic accident my very dear friend Andrea Vellinga endured, who suffered a traumatic brain injury at a Sugarland concert over 2 years ago. Redline is also a tough pill to swallow, but I think it's musics' job to help us humans better process the difficult emotions life hands us. After hearing about the purposeful death of a High School acquaintance, Jeremy was moved to write a song to the ones, namely children, who are left behind after suicide. Poison Gold and Slick Black Cadillac are both songs that were written on the tails of Jeremy's last corporate job…the former depicting what it feels like to work for someone else's gain, and the latter tells of what it's like when you are cut loose from that job… and happen to be in Vegas all at the same time :)
This album is worth it's weight in gold and I can only hope that God has plans to further his music in 2015. The album is available on iTunes & Amazon OR you can download a copy of the brand new bleedingkeys album HERE.
Below are links for following the goings-on of Jeremy and Emma. Be sure to check this blog for other musings from Emma in 2015. We hope and pray that God has plans involving more opportunities to share music and Safe Families. We feel very blessed and humbled to still be on the path we are on and are thankful for all that God has given us. Please stay in touch with us…follow us, like us, whatever.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all,