How Did We Get Here?

If you’re reading this, let me first say “Thank you!” for checking out or following along with our blog about God’s big plans and our little selves. We are so excited for what the next chapter in our lives has in store for us. But before we look ahead, I’d like to look back and answer one question in particular; how did we get here?

This story begins early last April, when our thoughts were far from post graduation plans and even further from New England. It was the time of the semester where there is a bit of a lull before major papers and finals start coming due. I had taken advantage of the slow pace by deciding to take a day trip to see a St. Louis Cardinals game with a group of friends and professors.

You see, while many graduating seniors were scrambling to secure future plans, Elisa and I were confident in our choice to move to Indiana. Elisa had been offered a perfect job and we were looking forward to being closer to family. While we were still waiting on a few things to fall into place, we felt so secure that we had just turned in 30 day notices to both of our jobs and our landlord. Just as I was about to leave for St.Louis, I got a call from Elisa, and suddenly we knew our plans were needing to be reevaluated, if not completely changed.

I was only able to have a short conversation with Elisa before climbing in a 12 passenger van and spending a long day of both nervous prayer and confusion juxtaposed against the experience of my first MLB game with a great set of friends. I arrived home very late that night and because of our busy work and class schedules, we were only able to come to the conclusion that we had no idea where we’d be living in six weeks and that the odds of us both finding opportunities in our fields of ministry were basically zero. We felt stuck.

Just two days after things changed for us, I had to leave home with CIY’s traveling conference “Believe.” We still felt completely helpless. What was God doing? Didn’t He know that His timing couldn’t have been worse? Is He somehow punishing us by making us go through the stress of yet another job search? These thoughts swirled in our heads as I left, but we knew that the only place we could turn, and the only we place we really should ever turn, was to the Lord. So we spent the next few days fasting and praying for God to move. Spoiler alert: He did.

After two days out on the road, working long hours and blasting my resume out to the four corners of the map, I was the antitheses of “calm, cool, and collected.” I took a second between conference sessions to look at Facebook, a constant relief to those seeking distraction. When I pulled it up, I had a message from an old friend and role model, Josh Adsit, wanting to catch up.

I told him a bit about what had happened and he was FLOORED. You see, Josh and the staff at Movement Christian Church were praying for God to send them people to join them in what He is doing in Merrimack. We soon set up a time to talk about possibly moving to New Hampshire and joining Movement as residents.

When we sat down to talk, they told us about how Movement had gone from a core group of around 50 to over 250 people! They asked us what our dream roles would be. I told them that I’d want to be jack-of-all-trades minister, with the chance to work as a supporting minister in the creative arts, youth, and teaching ministries. Elisa said that she would want to work to help connect the church with local nonprofits to meet the needs of the community. They were elated. The church was in need of another hand on deck to support the three ministers, and they were dreaming of ways to make missional living a part of the church’s DNA. We were a PERFECT fit!

During that call we also figured out that the SAME DAY that God changed our plans was the day that the team at Movement started praying for Him to send them fellow workers! While we were worried that we had no plan, God was placing us EXACTLY where we were supposed to be! This has been affirmed time and time again, through our trip to New England and many conversations with friends, family and the staff and members of Movement Christian Church.

Now that you know how we got here, I’m so excited to be able to continue sharing this journey with you as we move into the future! So many of you have reached out to us with encouraging words about our site and our upcoming move. It has been an honor for us to express ourselves and tell our story in writing. Elisa and I are both so grateful for you and for this season.

Prone to Wander

Come Thou Fount is one of my very favorite hymns. My sweet summer spent in Yellowstone gave me a renewed appreciation for many things; hymns are just one of them. While I enjoy newer songs, singing words to Jesus that have been used to worship him for years and years is so precious. Leading worship in the mountains, using mostly older hymns, solidified this truth in my heart. Come Thou Fount is one of my favorites, because it reminds me of who God is and just how much we need Him. Each word seems to call out to Him in both praise and longing for redemption.

Some of its verses seems especially relevant to me these days. The hymnist writes:

Jesus sought me when a stranger, wandering from the fold of God… Prone to wander, Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love… Here’s my heart, O, take and seal it, seal it for thy courts above.

While these words are surely full of familiarity and comfort to some, they probably sound foreign and strange to others. This song reminds us that although Jesus is always pursuing us, we are easily distracted and tempted by things that aren’t nearly as good as he is. Even so, we long to return to God and allow Him to hold our hearts.

I don’t know about you, friend, but I am surely prone to wander. The title of this post could just as easily be the title of a memoir about my life. Moving around so much as a child taught me to be on the constant hunt for anything new- a new experience, a new friend, place or sight. While this is often a strength, it can easily develop into restlessness and discontentment as my curiosity takes me on paths away from God’s design. Being prone to wandering doesn’t have to be a bad thing, but when it leads me away from the God I love, it can end in nothing but destruction. It can be easy for my “wandering” heart to lead me to sin when I sacrifice my commitment to Jesus for lesser experiences.

During our trip to New England, Rhett and I had time aplenty to really wander; not toward sin, but through travel! Josh and Mark, two of the ministers on staff at Movement, sent us on our way in a rental car full of gas. They wanted us to fall in love with the area we’re moving to, and this couldn’t have been a better way for us to do so. Rhett and I were able to explore to our hearts’ content and take in all the beauty the Northeast has to offer, from a curvy mountain highway to a lighthouse on the coast.

I’m not gonna lie, we had a ton of fun and made memories we’ll be able to treasure for the rest of our lives. As someone who loves to travel, this was a dream come true. Travel is often a privilege and I am so grateful for our ability to drink life in through such a magnificent straw. But at the end of our time exploring, I was reminded that I have not been created to find contentment in my wandering, whether it’s through physical travel or something that might be sinful. As thrilling as it is, I wasn’t created for airplanes or road trips or new food and new songs. I may love the feeling of blustering wind on my face as I gaze at crashing waves, but this does not satisfy or fulfill me. Neither are we satisfied in jealousy, anger, cutting words or idolatry. Rather, I have been created to find wholeness in God and God alone, and so have you. Traveling is amazing, but it should only lead me to hunger after the Lord even more. I pray that God might take my heart and seal it for Himself. Today, I pray this for you as well.

Of course, our trip to New Hampshire was about so much more than experiencing the landscape of New England. We were able to attend church and several meetings, allowing us to meet so many new friends and get a taste of Movement’s community. Although we were only there a few days, we have come to love Movement dearly and we cannot wait to be back. We are so grateful for each and every one of you, whose kindness and welcoming hearts made us feel so encouraged and loved. Thank you.

Right now, our lives still feel a bit unsettled. We’re in Tulsa for the month of June, traveling some more for most of July and then we’ll be with my family in Indiana for August until we move to New Hampshire. Everything we own, save for some clothes and a tent, is packed away in my family’s garage. Although I love the transition new experiences have to offer, and I am so incredibly grateful for this time and our amazing families, I am also looking forward to being more stable come fall. Sometimes we’re prone to wander, and sometimes life puts us in seasons where wandering is inevitable. Either way, God is always, always, always calling us to Himself. Let us constantly allow our wandering to lead us back to Him.

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Joyfully exploring the White Mountains near Lincoln, New Hampshire.

 

Go North, Young Man! 

As I sit down to write this, days later, we are still recovering from one of the most incredible weeks of our lives. Elisa and I had the chance to fly out to New England andIMG_1186 get to know the people and the place that will so soon be our family and our home, and in so many ways already is.

We touched down in Boston at 1:30 A.M. on Thursday morning and from that moment on we were launched into a whirlwind week full of new experiences, faces, names, sights, tastes and joys. Being a mid-west boy who was born, raised, and educated in cities within 2 hours of each other, I discovered so many wonderful things while in the northeast. I learned that shrimp have legs, that they are sometimes served with legs, and that I should be excited about that. I learned that it’s “Dunkin” Donuts, and there isn’t a billionaire breakfast tycoon named Duncan. And I learned that they call sprinkles “Jimmys” but they taste the same when sprinkled (or jimmied?) on my ice cream.

Of all of the different new things I learned and experienced this last week, there were some very important things that were the same as what I’ve grown up surrounded by. I was able to gather with my new friends and worship the very same God that I worshiped in Missouri and Oklahoma. God loves the people in New England with the same powerful, amazing, redeeming love that I have seen my whole life. I saw the Holy Spirit move with It’s same unspeakable power and beauty as I have seen in my childhood, and the truth that Jesus Christ came to earth to redeem and restore every soul back to relationship with Him still stands. Jesus is desperately, head-over-heels in love with the people of New England, and I was so blessed to meet a wonderful, loving, welcoming, crazy group of people who love Him right back, and who long to see all of New England come to know Jesus like they have.

Throughout the entire world, God is moving closer to His people and inviting them to move closer to Him. I am truly humbled that I might spend my life moving closer to God and others as He continues to bring His lost children home to Himself.

All praise be to our God who moves.

Airport Thoughts

Hi friends!

Right now, we are sitting in a crowded airport terminal in Nashville, waiting for our flight to Boston. By the time you’re reading this, we should be in Merrimack! We’ll be there for the next few days to see the town we’ll be living in come fall, spend time with the staff of Movement and begin to get to know the church. Rhett is playing bass in the worship band Sunday and I am looking forward to meeting the church community.

Today we were able to explore Nashville a bit with one of my very closest and dearest friends. I’ve known Elizabeth since I was eight years old, and while we’ve only ever lived in the same town for about six months, we’ve stayed very close over the years. I was there for her high school graduation and she was in our wedding. In a perfect world, everyone would have a friend like Elizabeth; a friend who always knows just how to encourage you, who remembers your awkward phases and the seasons when the Lord felt far away and who has walked with you through many of the joys and trials life has to offer.

We went to not one, not two, but three coffee shops, so I’m feeling just a little caffeinated right now (a perfect way to feel before hopping on a plane, right??) In the midst of enjoying unique espressos, such as coffee soda infused with orange peel, we were able to share our hearts with one another, trade stories and encourage each other toward Jesus.

She had recently attended a seminar about fear, so she had some wise words to share. She reminded me that while control often seems like the safest option, it is actually a betrayal of trust. We fail to trust in God, and instead choose to tightly grip to our own plans. We might then feel “over-responsible” for our lives the lives of those around us as we do our best to make sure nothing ever catches us off guard. This leads to a life of fear, anxiety and depression. However, as children of the Lord, we are called to deep trust in a God who always provides for us.

She also gave us some locally made, gluten free granola from Chattanooga and a sweet card to celebrate our graduation. In it, she wrote out Matthew 6:26 in the Message version, which says “Look at the birds, free and unfettered… careless in the care of God. And you count for more to Him than birds!” This verse is exactly what I need as we begin our visit to New Hampshire. While there is still so much unknown, in my life and probably yours too, we get to be careless and free in Jesus’ love.

Today, I extend this prayer to you. I pray that you, friend, would be able to trust deeply in the Lord, no matter what season you’re experiencing right now. I pray that today or tonight or this morning, whenever you read this, you would find space to rest in God’s incredible love.

Please pray for us as we travel and meet people and explore this week! We can’t wait to share our stories with you all.

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Faithfulness & Graduation

Just recently, Rhett and I graduated from Ozark Christian College. This was such a day of joy and celebration after years of hard work! Leaving friends behind is always tough, but I felt an overwhelming sense of peace and happiness as I walked across that stage. Throughout the weekend, I was reminded time and time again of Jesus’ faithfulness. Walking with Him in the moment can sometimes (if you’re anything like me) be accompanied with fear and worry the minute I take my eyes off of His presence. But looking back, His faithfulness is always so evident.

As a junior in high school, I had to experience something most teenagers would hate to have happen. My family moved halfway across the country from Charlotte, NC to Evansville, IN. While I was happy to experience a fresh start, I was also afraid to have my entire life dismantled and rebuilt. However, God has showed me time and time again that this was the best thing for me. If my family had never moved to Evansville, I never would have gone to Ozark. If I hadn’t gone to Ozark, I wouldn’t have met my husband or countless other dear friends. I wouldn’t have a degree in a field I am immensely passionate about or gotten summer opportunities that took me from Yellowstone National Park to Tulsa, Oklahoma. So many incredible things have come out from a difficult transition I experienced as a sixteen year old. I am grateful.

Because of the move, I never felt too closely attached to my high school graduating class in Indiana. When I woke up the morning of graduation, the last thing I wanted to do was spend the day out in the sun, surrounded by lots of people I barely knew. Thankfully, my parents allowed me to choose to not walk, and I spent the day with family instead. As I was trying to make the decision, I told my mom that while this graduation didn’t hold much meaning for me, I knew my college graduation would. Never had I imagined then that I would be graduating with a different last name, so many wonderful memories and countless dear friends.

All that to say that graduating from Ozark Christian College was pretty special for me. Spending time with both of my families together is always a blast, and last Saturday was no exception. One of my best friends even surprised a few of us by flying from New Jersey to celebrate with us! I feel so grateful for all that Ozark is and was for me, and for the opportunity I had to walk across that stage. I am thankful for each of you that supported and prayed for us over these past four years.

I enjoy taking time to reflect on the past and praise the Lord for his goodness. But it’s also thrilling to consider the future! Tomorrow, Rhett and I will be flying out of Nashville to spend a week in Merrimack! This will be our first time visiting the town that we’ll soon call home and meeting lots of people that will soon be friends. We’re really, really excited. We’ve still got some packing to do, but mostly we’re just enjoying our day before we say “bye” to my family here for a while.

Thinking about moving far away from our homes, depending on the Lord to provide for us financially through friends and family and settling into a new town and culture comes with its own set of worries. But ultimately, I am glad to be able to trust in a God who has proved His faithfulness to me time and time again. I can rest, knowing that years from now I’ll be able to look back and see how He has moved.

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“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.” Hebrews 10:23

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What are we doing?

In just a few short months, the Johnson fam (Rhett & Elisa) will load up a truck and move far, far away. We are going to New England; to Merrimack, New Hampshire, to be exact. We’ll be residents for a young church plant reaching lots and lots of people who don’t know Jesus. We’re lucky in that both of us have opportunities to work in our areas of passion as we serve New Englanders.

Movement Christian  Church opened it’s doors on December 31st, 2016, just a few months ago. Starting out with about 40 members, they have since grown to around 250! This was their projected attendance THREE YEARS from now, but Jesus has had some pretty big things in store for them. The heartbeat of Movement is to move people closer to God and to others. This is definitely something we can get behind.

In these past few months, Movement has shared the Gospel with, loved and encouraged countless people. They’re allowing people to utilize their building to make a difference in the community. They are baptizing people and reintroducing them to a God who has never abandoned or stopped pursuing them.

While there, Rhett will be working alongside the Next Generation team, specifically with high schoolers. He also has the chance to grow as a worship leader, preacher and teacher. He will also be able to help coach the local middle school soccer team!

Elisa will be working to create a culture of justice within the church. She will be organizing opportunities to serve, strengthening relationships with para-church organizations and helping foster community engagement through Movement’s small groups.

With Rhett’s passion for youth and worship and Elisa’s heart for justice, this is a truly unique opportunity that will allow us both to explore and grow in the gifts God has given us. While there, we will both be working to develop relationships, make disciples and become a part of the Merrimack community.

This is not something we can do alone. So many of you have prayed for and supported us throughout our lives, and now we’re inviting you on this venture with us again.  Please follow along, explore our site and join us in this journey!

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