He Leads

I’ve been wanting to write about this election for the past couple of days, and have continued to put it off because I truly don’t have the right words to bring peace to everyone. Not all of my friends are believers, and not all of my friends who are believers, believe as I do.

You can understand my predicament in trying to help bring peace.

What I do know for myself, as of today, is that He leads.. He leads my steps, my actions, my thoughts, my prayers, and my life. Psalms 23 has rushed into the forefront of my mind and has truly been an anchor for me today.

“He leads me…”

The outcome of this election matters so much to so many people that I hold dear to my heart, on both sides. I’ve always felt like an outcast from both sides, though. There are things I strongly agree with both on, and things I STRONGLY disagree with. I’ve felt like an outcast among believers and the world, and haven’t always been able to freely share my opinions in fear I’d be belittled by either side. And trust me, it’s happened. I’m reminded daily this isn’t my home. I’m reminded daily that Jesus is coming back for me and I won’t have to deal with confusion, frustration, or anger ever again. That knowledge doesn’t stop me from being broken hearted for the people this election is going to impact and it surely doesn’t make me complacent.

I’ve been so “refined by fire” this year. My eyes have truly been opened to so many things that I know for a fact God has laid on my heart to stand for, to stand against, and to speak up for. Adversity has followed quickly behind every step that He’s lead, and it’s made me all the more confident in those actions that I’ve taken.

So, as I’m typing this and praying the Lord speaks peace into your anxiousness, know this: I’m here to talk to. I’m here to pray for you. I’m here if you just need a safe nonjudgmental place to speak your mind. I will never have all answers or the correct words to say, but I’ll listen and let you be. And He’ll lead me into the next thing to do.

This year and this election has opened my eyes greatly to a lot of people, like myself, who truly just feel disconnected. You just feel like a wanderer. (I am by no means saying that I am a prophet, so don’t twist my words) I relate to the prophets who wandered, who didn’t have a home, who felt ridiculous and ridiculed. Who didn’t make sense to anyone. I get it and I’m so thankful He continues to lead.

I’m so thankful He’s my protection and that I’ll lack nothing (this year is my biggest testimony of that!)

I’m so thankful He’s lead me to rest and restoration.

I’m so thankful He’s lead me on the paths that He has, to bring glory to His name (even in the times I’ve had people tell me I’ve done the opposite).

I’m so thankful He’s protected me and my family through every dark valley, and has kept my character from being slandered.

I’m so thankful that when people have come for my character, there has been an overflow of people to remind that it’s the enemy speaking those lies and not the truth. He’s anointed me for such a time as this. My spiritual cup is so full. And the results of this election do not stop the love of God from pursuing us for the rest of our lives.

.. and I am praying for crazy amounts of peace and rest for everyone. I’ve felt the heaviness of this year and this election like never before. I will never belittle someone for their anger and frustration. It’s been a ride of a year. I’m broken for a lot of you. There’s a lot of cocky people I’d love to suck punch in the throat (can I get a hallelujah), but I’m mostly broken that this year has caused so much grief and turmoil. But I’m relieved that the light has been shown on the places we need to change as a nation, and for that I’m so grateful.

He leads.. if you let Him.

Pregnancy

I so love this season of pregnancy. Everything is so new and exciting. I get butterflies and waves of relief at every sign of life in my ever growing belly. I get way too thrilled at each new baby gift we receive and buy, and I’m moved at the thought of Nick being a dad. He’s just as elated as I am every time we open up a new package with baby accessories in it. I’ve adored and appreciated his encouragement and support through my mood swings, my random crying (I’m not a cryer, so it’s incredibly foreign to him), and each new symptom that pregnancy brings. I’m mostly thankful for how ‘go with the flow’ he’s been with all of my ideas for our nursery and our baby boy. I truly cannot imagine a better spouse to raise a baby with.

We’re just about to the point to where have everything we need for our buddy, and we’re finally in double digit (79) days until he gets here. We’re eager, anxious, but mostly just joyful. And grateful that we’re so close to having him in our arms. I think we’re ready? We tell ourselves that we are, but we’re also not naive to the many sleepless nights and storms of emotions that bringing a baby into the world brings. I think how easy things have been up to this point, has given us some false hope.

We’ve both enjoyed this pregnancy, besides my early nesting! It’s not been the easiest on me physically because I’m a wimp and a hypochondriac (haha, I wish I was kidding), but it hasn’t been hard. I’m proud of my body for doing a part of what it was created to do. I say ‘part’ because I want to be considerate of those who don’t have a desire to be mothers, or who are unable to physically give birth to children. We’re more than just having babies, but I’m proud of that capability in my own body.

I’m proud of it for all the things it’s endured so far (limited mobility, heavy breathing, separating hips 😂), and will still continue to endure. It’s strong, way stronger than I’ve ever given it credit for. And it’ll just keep getting stronger!

This body that I’ve beaten up and neglected, time after time, is going to feed a baby. It will literally produce nutrients to another human being if everything decides to work out like I plan. And that still blows my mind. These arms are going to hold and comfort that baby, and these chubby beautiful legs are going to sway that baby back and forth in midnight dances. This body. I’ve learned to appreciate it so much during pregnancy.

I’ve learned to pray over my body and rejoice in the health God has given me. We’ve had an incredibly healthy pregnancy so far, and I’m believing it’ll stay that way. There were so many different things (don’t be like me and google stuff) that I had been terrified would happen to me, and they haven’t. The amount of gratification that I hold for this vessel is ridiculous. I know how strange that’s got to sound, but it’s true. It’s created life. It’s just one of the many fascinating characteristics that women’s bodies reflect our creator, and it’s BEAUTIFUL to me.

The more I think about everything that has gone on with this season, it’s humbling to me that God set Nick and myself apart to be this baby boy’s parents. He chose this body to bring him into the world, and the overwhelming emotions that I feel when I truly comprehend that, floor me. I was chosen to be someone’s momma. Me, Mandi Johnson. I was chosen to help raise this beautiful little boy to be a man of integrity, strength, gentleness, kindness, and compassion. All the things his daddy already is. How wild?

It’s not something that I’ll ever take lightly. I’ve always heard women talk about how it’s an honor. And although I appreciated the thought of that, it doesn’t really stick with you until you’re in that position. Until you’re so close to doing it!

Women are remarkable. Pregnancy has opened my eyes to that. It’s made me appreciate my body, along with it’s strengths and weaknesses, it’s curves and stretch marks, and it’s ability to create. It’s drawn me closer to God, because it’s something I have in common with Him. We can create life. And even if we’re not physically capable of that, he’s placed the maternal instinct into us. These arms and this womb were made to home another living human being, and that’s so crazy to me.

Women, if pregnancy has taught me anything, it’s be gentle with yourself. Pregnancy, birthing a baby, and then raising said baby, is hard. Like I said before, I’m not naive to the hardships it’ll all bring, but have grace for yourself. Have mercy on your weight gain, your stretch marks, your mood swings even. Have mercy on yourself if you’re not physically able to bring your baby into this world. You are still so remarkably set apart. You are still so cherished, even on the days that you feel like a total failure and blob of a human being. Have grace on yourself, and know that God’s power is made known through our weaknesses.

It’s relieving to know that I don’t have to know everything, and I won’t always have to be strong. It takes a weight off of motherhood for me. Knowing that I have and get to rely on God, and my people, to help me. That I don’t have to have this all figured out and that is perfectly good.

I can’t wait, and I’m absolutely terrified, for all that motherhood has to bring. I’m excited to grow, to be refined, and to constantly seek God to be better. What a beautiful journey.

Rest and Peace

I know I’m not even technically a mother yet, but that doesn’t stop me from worrying and praying over this baby in my womb. I’ve been praying over this boy since the day I found out we were going to be his parents. There’s been tons of sleepless nights for me because of anxiety. He’s not our first baby. We lost his sibling at 10 weeks, several months before he was even a thought. And for every woman that has experienced that kind of loss, and then became pregnant again, knows the anxiety that I’m talking about. I felt anxious our first pregnancy, but it’s heightened this go around.

I worry if I don’t feel him kick every hour. I worry about if he’s developing as he should. I worry about if I’ll make it full term. I worry every time I consume something. I just always feel like I’m unconsciously worrying.

Worry and anxiety comes in waves. I can just be sitting in the car, not even thinking about anything, and get a gut sickening feeling out of nowhere. I pray, and I pray hard every time that feeling comes. I pray peace over myself, my baby, my husband, and our families. It doesn’t always happen, some times I give into worry before I’ve even realized it, but I try to make an effort to pray Philippians‬ ‭4:6 over my anxiety:

“Don’t be anxious about anything; rather, bring up all of your requests to God in your prayers and petitions, along with giving thanks.”

It’s not always easy, but I do it when I remember. And every time, it helps. Every time I feel peace, even if the feelings of anxiety still linger. I have this verse hidden away in the deepest parts of my heart for moments like this. I bring my requests before the Lord, and then I thank Him. I thank him for my beautiful life, my husband, our baby boy, our families. I thank Him for his continued provision, even when it doesn’t always feel like provision. I thank Him, I kid you not, for literally every experience, good and bad, until I feel peace.

The words rest and peace (this one came along when I found out we were expecting) have been my words for this year. At the beginning of this year I was lost mentally. I was still very heavily dealing with the loss of our first baby and I didn’t know how to grieve. I pushed my brokenness so far back until it unleashed itself in mannerisms that were very foreign to me. There was no peace or rest for my heart or mind. I wasn’t where I needed to be in my walk with God, I was honestly incredibly angry at Him. I was always angry and bitter. Angry that the life forming in my womb was lost. Angry at Him for the year 2019 in a whole had been for me. I was just an angry person. I was jaded and mostly numb to those around me, and I didn’t feel like praying. I didn’t feel like growing in my relationship with Him. I didn’t feel like being around other believers with their “helpful intentions and cliches Christianese quotes”. I wanted to be alone in my anger, deep in my thoughts, brooding in bitterness. I’m aware of how dramatic that sounds, but those were the only emotions I could comprehend during this season, so I clung tightly to them.

If it weren’t for Nick, I probably would have stayed there. But God knew what he was doing when he gave me this man as my partner and spouse. Besides Christ’s, I’ve never known a greater love than the love my husband pours out on me daily. He gave me room, space, permission (whatever we want to call it) to feel, and to feel deeply. And then went a step further to tell me to get out of the situations that were keeping me there. NO ONE HAS EVER DONE THAT FOR ME. It’s always been, “tough it out!” Or “this is just how life is”. I’ve never experienced that type of permission to just break and then heal. And I don’t think my husband will ever truly understand how heard and seen that made me feel. And how much value he brought to his wife by doing that.

He allowed me to do this right before this pandemic hit, and it was the healing that I so needed. I’ve been able to find peace and rest. I’ve been able to reconnect with God. I’ve been able to feel like myself again. And despite feeling worry at times, despite the turmoil that rages on in our country, this year has been my favorite in a very long time.

This year has truly given me a new perspective. This year has caused me to pray over my family with a new heart. I started praying over August as soon as we found out we were pregnant with him back in April. I began praying that the baby in my womb would be a peacemaker and would seek justice for others.

I’ve been anxious about raising a baby, especially a son, in this world because he’s going to be exposed to things that me nor Nick ever had to face.

I originally chose his name “August Cash” because I loved the flow of it. It’s different and unique, and that’s how I want him to be. The more I’ve prayed over him, the more and more I’ve “begged” God to make him a man of peace, a man of love. One who others experience Jesus’ overwhelming peace, rest, and love through. I didn’t know the meaning of his name until a couple of weeks ago. And I had unknowingly been praying his name’s meaning over his life.

August means venerable (accorded a great deal of respect, especially because of age, wisdom, or character.) and exalted.
And Cash means peacemaker and flexible.

My prayer for my buddy has been this: August Cash will be a peacemaker. He will bring peace wherever he goes and will cause others to see their “enemies” side. He will be known for his wisdom, he will be exalted because he has the wisdom of God flowing through him. And because of that wisdom, there will be peace and rest in his wake.

It’s a weird thing praying over your children. It’s a terrifying feeling knowing the things they’ll encounter and knowing I won’t always be able to protect them. BUT it’s reassuring knowing the God I serve. Knowing that before I’ve even met this sweet boy of mine, God has called him to be a peacemaker. Peacemakers are justice seekers. What a terrifying and beautiful calling. He’ll experience rejection, but I pray my boy’s faith is strong in the Lord and he leans on that. That my little peacemaker will know true peace and will be able to fight for others.

And even though I’ve had many moments of anxiety during this pregnancy, it’s brought me rest and peace. This little boy growing in my womb has brought so much healing, rest, and peace. And my prayer for myself and Nick, is that we are always that for him, even in times of discipline. That’s become my prayer for my family. That wherever we go, whoever we come in contact with, people feel the true peace and presence of God. And they find true rest. That they have the freedom to reveal all their emotions, but then find freedom from them and they rest. This world is harsh and unforgiving, and we need peacemakers who give peace and rest to the broken down, to the weak and weary.

We are living in a time where the world is probably the most broken it’s ever been. I’m not aligned to anything of this world, I’m aligned with Christ. And if my actions begin to be more aligned with the policies and the thinking of this world (church world included in this), then I’m doing something wrong. My job is to love, and it’s his job to bring conviction. Not condemnation, not judgement, conviction.

The church needs to start viewing people as lost souls again, instead of people who are ready to persecute us at every corner. This world isn’t our home, so stop treating it like so. Stop being so shocked that the world is being the world. We’re called to be salt and light. We’re called to bring rest and peace for the broken down and weary.

“ Come to me, all you who are struggling hard and carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest. Put on my yoke, and learn from me. I’m gentle and humble. And you will find rest for yourselves. My yoke is easy to bear, and my burden is light. ”
‭‭Matthew‬ ‭11:28-30

“He said to me, “My grace is enough for you, because power is made perfect in weakness.” So I’ll gladly spend my time bragging about my weaknesses so that Christ’s power can rest on me.”
‭‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭12:9

“Oh, I must find rest in God only, because my hope comes from him! Only God is my rock and my salvation— my stronghold!—I will not be shaken. My deliverance and glory depend on God. God is my strong rock. My refuge is in God. All you people: Trust in him at all times! Pour out your hearts before him! God is our refuge! Selah”
‭‭Psalms‬ ‭62:5-8

Insecurity

Her name is Insecurity, She’s the main reason for my disgust and Hate.
She’s full of malice and jealousy, destruction is her fate.

Her goal in my life, in your life as well,
is to fill us with hatred and overwhelming pain that swells.

She gets to us in little ways, the ways almost no one ever will see.
She tears us down in our Beauty, Beauty that she once did flee.

See, she once was beautiful and kind
But she let Satan turn and corrupt her mind.

He promised her beauty and power
But now she’s starving for something greater and dying in this hour.

So there She lies both day and night,
searching for the innocent that she can prey on with all her might.

The more she preys, the more she dies
And the more Satan corrupts our minds with his lies.

“You’re not pretty, you’re too fat!”
“You’re not worthy, you’ll never be like that!”

It’s been this way for thousands of years
But now it’s time for us Women to stop shedding these worthless tears.

The God of the universe never intended our lives to be like this,
He wants to ease your pain with the most loving and gentle kiss.

So, put Insecurity in a box and throw her in the dark abyss,
And live in the Greatest lovers wonderful bliss.
“For You formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I PRAISE You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are Your works, my soul knows it well.”
~Psalm 139:13-14

“Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.”
~Galatians 1:10

“Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
~Matthew 11:29-30

“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”
~Psalm 34:18

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the PEACE of God which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
~Philippians 4:6-7

“For I have learned to be content in whatever situation I am in.” ~Philippians 4:11

“Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward.”
~Hebrews 10:35

“Cast all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.”
~1 Peter 5:7

“Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.”
~1 Peter 3:3-4

“Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.”
~Proverbs 31:30
“Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else.”
~Galatians 6:4

“I believe God USES people who are BROKEN! It’s like the enemy uses tactics to tear you down: insecurity, fear, rejection, hurt, envy, unforgiveness, and so many more to break you into a million pieces.
Then God, loving YOU unconditionally, picks up those pieces and restores you into this beautiful masterpiece He can use for His kingdom. He doesn’t wish for you to be broken, but honors faithfulness. Stay strong. Be faithful. He has a purpose for you!” – Fearless Ministries

“God is in the business of taking old pieces of our lives, refinishing them, and at just the right time, surprising us with new found beauty.”
~Susan Duke

“But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead.”
~Phillipians 3:13

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”
~2 Corinthians 5:17

Dry

Dry

Inside, dusty.
Inside, filthy.
Inside, empty.
Inside, I am dry.

Here I am, heaving. Heaving from the lack of oxygen, the lack of nourishing water that my body craves. The sun, the heat, too overwhelming for my weak body to handle.
I can’t tell you how long I’ve been like this, or when I even became… This.

I used to be a beautiful tree planted by the most beautiful stream. People used to come and sing praises of the fruit that they’d eat from my limbs, saying how the creator used it to give them life.

As time passed, more and more people came. I watched as my stream began to dry up, but I never seemed to worry. I was doing His work.
Gradually, I watched as my fruit stopped producing and my leaves and limbs began drying out. I never seemed to worry, because I was doing His work.
Then, violently, I watched as the people who used to love me, began to tear my branches to shreds, and use my branches as fuel for their fires. I started to worry, but I was doing His work.

After a while, everything started dying down, and I watched them all leave.
There was peace, but there was nothing left of me.. I was no longer a resource of finding the creator. I was a dry stump that began collecting termites, left only with the memories of what I used to be.
There was no one to take care of me. I called to the creator, but my ears and my eyes from Him had been destroyed. My skin from Him became so numb, that if He was touching me, was trying to comfort me, I couldn’t hear, see, or feel Him. I was left with skin, ears, and eyes that only saw desolation, rejection, and bitterness.

So, I uprooted myself in hopes that I would find Him, and now, here I am. Heaving from the lack of oxygen, the lack of nourishing water that my body craves. I am barely hanging on. I am constantly going in and out of the darkness, and ‘Desolation’ feels like my new name.
Exhausted, I lay on my back, the sun is beating down on my face as I’m gasping for air. The sun that once gave me warmth and life is now my enemy, and he’s telling me to just go ahead and give up. To die. I roll over onto my belly to try and drain out his vicious words. I look up to see how much farther I have to go, and see dark grey clouds rushing towards me from the green lifed mountains that lay before me.

I feel hope.
I feel excitement.
I feel like maybe I won’t die.

I get up, covered in the dried mud, and I run.

I run to the clouds who are heavy with rain.
I run to the storm that terrifies most.
I run to the rain that destroys all things desolate.
I push myself as my body screams in agony, cursing my lungs who exhale nothing but fragments of dust.
Seconds feel like months.
And then my knees buckle.
I collapse to the cracked dying earth beneath me and I weep.

I see the storm in the distance.
I’ve never wanted anything so dangerous in my life.
I’ve never hoped the I would be completely destroyed, like I do right now.

I look at the storm one last time before my world goes black.

I’ve been in slight showers since all of this has happened, and each time, my hope has been crushed, when the rain stops only moments later. Giving me barely enough energy to seek out the next storm.

I get startled awake, as the sound of thunder roars right over my head. I gasp and I can taste the scent of rain.
I stand, open my mouth as wide as possible, and beg for the oncoming rain to drown me.

Slowly, the rain starts to fall.

The rain hits my skin, and I watch as sprouts spring up, only to wither moments later. I stretch my mouth open wider, and then something happens. The rain begins to pour!

I hear a thunderous wind, and then it violently comes and lifts me up, shaking the termites, the calloused bark, and dust off of me.

I can’t tell you how long this goes on for.. But.. I see new life growing on me. I’m starting to feel Him, I’m starting to hear Him. He is the storm that’s come to destroy me. And I’ve waited so long for this.