Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Sojourners of Christmas Grace

As I plop down, only to snuggled back up,  my dog on my right, laptop on my left, I see the mail man sprinting from stoop to stoop outside.  How perfect that is, as I race to quip this year's version of a Christmas letter.  Saving dollars on stamps and hours on stuffing, this year.  I apologize for those of you who much prefer the old fashioned traditional letter.  I am with you, there is something magical about a mailbox stuffed with greetings and updates from people near and far. I promise to not cheat next year. :)

As our year draws to a close, my nostalgia and reflectiveness is up there with the best of you. But I found Chritmas letter writing to be a puzzling challenge this year.   Perhaps it's because of the tendency of Christmas letters to be...conclusive.  Ya know, they seem to be putting a stamp on the year as they summarize what happened, and how it turned out.  There's almost this silent pressure to claim each event or struggle as complete, as the letters travel out. A Christmas card is almost like a pretty bow that ties up your year.

However, this December, I approach Christmas lacking any sense of arrival. I don't mean that to sound negative, in fact, I feel quite freed by this realization. And there is no bow of sorts that could sufficiently tie up this past year for us.  However, I could write a novel of the graces of God I have experienced since last Christmas, chapters upon chapters, but then the gifts would never get wrapped, the children dog never let out, and my husband wouldn't have anybody to listen to him talk about Fantasy Football. So, I'll attempt to simplify my heart's ponderings this holiday.

There aren't a lot of accomplishments to tell you (except that Micah told his kindergarten class that Santa doesn't exist. *sigh.) There are no vacations to highlight, or professional achievements to record.

But there is this. There is this journey we have been on, this adventure. It has included some blind turns and dark alleys but always this bright light.  This grace light, that has led like the star of Bethlehem.  And the Johnsons have been nothing but sojourners of grace on this journey.

The beginning of our year was tough, as many of you know.  Full of loving discipline and tender teaching, God ended our time in Denver. His grace hemmed us in, before and behind, pushing us to leave our home and friends of 7 years, and pulling us home, to Iowa. He seemed to have one hand working deep surgical-like changes on our souls, and another holding us together as a family.  How gracious and faithful he was to be nearer than ever as we traveled through heart work, loss, and changes.

As we journeyed through the Spring, his grace was sufficient still.  We first landed in Bettendorf, where my parents essentially broke our fall.  They listened as we processed changes, and counseled us through tough lessons of ministry.  Whether on a evening walk, or during commercials of Dancing with the Stars, we ate up their sermons of truth and grace. The boys seemed to thrive during this time, making up lost time with cousins and grandmas and aunts and more grandmas and more aunts....

The summer and fall were full of tons of extended family time, and we couldn't be happier about it! We journeyed west one hour and rented a home in Iowa City, where Matt got a job with Beisser Lumber and I began working at the University of Iowa Hospital in Oncology. (It's been six months, but all three boys still scream out "Herky!" whenever they see a Hawkeye icon.  When you live in Colorado, that's great.  But when you live in Iowa City, that's a lot of screaming.) God has been kind to excessively provide friends-old and new-along the way in Iowa City. In some ways, the pace of this past year has been slower, allowing us to refocus on our family of five, and we are beyond thankful for that. We have found new joy in Maxwell's humor, Mathias' mercy, and Micah's leadership. Many family dinners end with us laughing at Max, or learning from Micah, and holding Mathias.

One of the sweetest joys of our adventure has been in our new church. In April we joined my brother and Matt's step-sister at Veritas Church in Iowa City.  A church plant of 4 years, with a thriving college ministry, a church that preaches crazy grace and daily Gospel, a church that has provided refreshment and community.  And as if his graces aren't piled high enough yet, they brought Matt on staff part time just a few weeks ago. How I have loved watching him come to life as he gets to experience God in this way again. I, too, have gotten a few opportunities to speak to women and girls in the last few months.

Christmas grace is sweet, isn't it?  An opportunity to glance back and see how abundant God is to come to us, on that first Christmas night and every day of 2014. As Jesus draws us out as pilgrims of faith, sojourning towards himself,  may we feel freed by grace. This God is with us, not because we are good enough, but because He was perfect for us.

We pray you have a Merry Christmas this year!

1 comment:

  1. How wonderful to see all your faces. It is sweet to see how God continues to write your story, beautifully. His grace is sufficient and His love for his kids immeasurable. Singing His praises on your behalf!