My Hope is You

1st Sunday of Advent

A Reflection for the First Sunday of Advent

I’m a lucky woman.

I had thought that by my current age, I would have a husband, three healthy children, a PhD, a house, a growing list of publications, and a career that I was proud of.

I don’t. I have a divorce decree, two disabled children, a master’s degree that took me 7 years to finish, a tiny apartment I can barely afford, a small list of publications, and a job that could be much better.

I was scheduled for a job interview for a promotion last week. I was practically walking on air all week prior. I did not have the job, but I had the hope of having the job in the very near future. Hope is a powerful thing.

The interview was scheduled for tomorrow. They called me late on Wednesday afternoon, just before the holiday, and cancelled it. (It wasn’t anything that I did, it appears they decided not to create the position after all.)

"Look at that!" He decorated it himself.
“Look at that!” He decorated it himself.

I’m still a lucky woman. I had a great weekend. I went shopping with my kids, ate out several times, went bowling, and saw an amazing movie (Arrival—no seriously, it’s amazing, go see it). I had Thanksgiving with my kids, decorated the tree, and got to hear my autistic son yell, “Look at that!” for the first time ever. It wasn’t so long ago that I never would have spent a weekend like this.

It was only 3.5 years ago that I had no job, my then-husband was spending all of his time with another woman, I was pregnant and had no idea how I was ever going to take care of two kids alone, and my credit wasn’t good enough to get even a tiny apartment by myself. I wasn’t thinking of publications and didn’t believe I was ever going to finish my master’s degree. Hope found a way.

And while I mourn for my children’s struggles, I know it could be worse. I thank God they are a least physically healthy. They are beautiful and loving and like to run up to me and yell “CUDDLE PARTY!” I have great kids.

The first Sunday of Advent is the time to reflect on hope. I have a lot of it.

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My Son’s Expulsion from Daycare was the Best Thing to Happen to Us

autism_quoteAn Autism Journey

“So, we’ve decided that your son isn’t a good fit for our program.”

I froze in disbelief. A knot formed in my throat and tears welled up in my eyes.

She continued. “You should really have him evaluated for special needs. Has no one told you that before?”

I shook my head. She wasn’t mean about it, and she showed concern for my distress, but she was firm that their daycare was not the right program for my son.

It was only his second day with this new provider, and this was the second time in less than 2.5 months that my son had been abruptly dismissed from a daycare program without warning. It was the fourth time in that same time period that a childcare provider had bailed on my son.

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Anatomy of My Vote: November 2016

mail_johnsonI just cast my vote for the Tuesday, November 8th election via mail. While this blog isn’t about politics (and even my columns at The Hill should shift more to religion over politics once this election is over), I thought I would share who I voted for and why.

Voting by mail at all is new for me this year. From 2012 to 2015, I served as an election judge for the Republican party and generally took advantage of early voting so I could remain at my polling station. However, I left the Republican party earlier this year due to Republican leaders like Mike Huckabee telling us that if we weren’t going to support Donald Trump, we should just leave the party (k. bye!). I now consider myself an independent and a “conservatarian.” You have to declare one party or the other to serve as an election judge in Illinois, so I opted not to serve anymore.

Prior to becoming an election judge, I enjoyed going to the polls. However, with my lack of enthusiasm for the candidates this year, I have no desire to be anywhere near the polls on election day. As an Illinois government employee, November 8th will be a paid holiday for me, so I am going to enjoy the day off with my kids and try not to think about this horrible election.

Without further ado, here is how I voted:

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Review: Undaunted

Author and speaker Christine Caine, founder of the A21 campaign to end human trafficking
Author and speaker Christine Caine, founder of the A21 campaign to end human trafficking

Undaunted: Daring to Do What God Calls You to Do by Christine Caine [Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 2012; Zondervan audiobook read by Tess Masters, 2012]

I first heard Christine Caine deliver a sermon at Willow Creek Community Church the weekend of April 17, 2016. Her sermon was so good, I made up my mind on the spot to read every book she has written; sadly, I was rather slow to fulfill that promise until I figured out how to fit audiobooks into my life more regularly. I think I settled in on Undaunted among all of her other books because it was the one my local library had, though I didn’t finish the paper copy in May as planned. Now, armed with the audiobook copy on Hoopla Digital, I was finally able to “read” it.

Undaunted is a thoroughly enjoyable, at times painful, almost semi-autobiographical book that details how Caine founded the A21 Campaign to abolish human trafficking. The book begins with a very daunting bit of theodicy wherein a group of recently freed sex trafficking victims question how God could be real after everything they had been through and why someone like Christine Caine hadn’t shown up to help them sooner (her answer, a very honest, “I don’t know, but I’m here now”). The narrative then segues into different events in Caine’s life and the lessons about God that Caine drew from each, with the overarching message being that we should not be daunted in doing what God calls us to do.

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Review: After You Believe

After You Believe -- N. T. WrightAfter You Believe: Why Christian Character Matters by N. T. Wright [New York, N. Y.: HarperOne, 2010; HarperAudio audiobook read by Anthony Ferguson, 2010]

If C. S. Lewis had been in favor of women’s ordination and a Bible scholar (two things which naturally belong together ;-)), he would have been N. T. Wright. They were/are both Anglican, English, taught at Oxford, and have/had a preponderance of fondness for being known by their initials. Wright also, like Lewis, possesses a keen ability to reason from the Scriptures in a simple yet logical manner and a creative command of useful metaphors and analogies to bring his points to life. His Simply Christian (which I haven’t read) has been compared to Lewis’s Mere Christianity, with obvious similarities in the titles. No word on whether or not Wright shares in Lewis’s fondness for cigars, but I digress.

After You Believe: Why Christian Character Matters is a sequel to Simply Christian, but I can attest that you don’t have to read the first to understand and be edified by the second. As the subtitle suggests, After You Believe is about the development of character and what that means, a call for Christians to return to the pursuit of virtue. Central to Wright’s message is a breakdown of what the “Royal Priesthood” is: that Christians are meant to be both rulers and priests, and that this life is but the small opening part of a much longer existence (there are echoes of deification in this theology, although Wright does not use that term). The pursuit of virtue is not a matter of salvation, Wright is clear, but something we should seek earnestly in anticipation of and preparation for what God means for us to be. Wright makes the case that virtue is not something we are automatically given by the indwelling of the Spirit, but something that we must make a conscious effort to build up and pursue—with the Spirit’s help, of course.

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