Merry Christmas 2015!

Johnson Newsletter, Volume 28

It has been an exciting, sad, crazy, and adventurous year! But what else would you expect from the Johnsons? In lieu of mailing our regular Christmas letter, we decided to just write an “End of Year” blog with a few highlights from the year.

Spring Breakers
Spring Breakers

The first big highlight was in March when Kyle rolled into town on his final college Spring Break with 10 friends…a conglomeration of roommates, girlfriends, ex-girlfriends, and people who sunburn easily. It reminded me of a shortened season of Big Brother, minus the in-house cameras and weekly evictions. They packed a lot into the week, including deep-sea fishing and a day at Universal Studios. They are a super group of youngsters…the kind you’d want your child to bring home from college.

Catching Supper
Catching Supper
Living Near the Butlers
Living Near the Butlers

In April we sold our house, unloaded most of our belongings, and took possession of our new RV. Yes, it was time to move full-speed ahead on our dream to travel the country as full-timers. We are nomadic by nature, a by-product of being a tad adventurous and a second-generation military family. So, after 7 quite wonderful years in Florida, it was time to continue exploring that great big world out there. Ken and Syndi Butler, our friends, were kind enough to let us park the RV on their property for the remainder of the school year. They also let us stay with them for several nights as we had some work done on the RV. We learned that Ken is quite the prankster, as we were regularly met with golf balls in the bed, monsters outside windows and around corners, and other shenanigans. Just when we thought we had successfully navigated the house without being pranked, there was a bleeding, severed foot in the shower. Syndi would then comfort us and calm our nerves with a tub of buttered popcorn and a cheesy Hallmark movie (spoiler alert: they always kiss at the end).  After finishing up the school year, saying goodbye to our friends and enjoying a wonderful final send-off party, we set off on our journey.

Peggy Johnson, 1937-2015
Peggy “MeMe” Johnson, 1937-2015

Sadly, our first mission was to head to Tennessee to help my dad, sisters, and others care for my dying mom, who had been diagnosed with advanced bile duct cancer in January. We are thankful we were in a position to help and encourage them after all that they have done for us. It was also a blessing to be able to say all those things you want to say to a loved one who is nearing the end of their journey. Her love for her family, and many years of taking in people with physical and mental disabilities, has left a legacy that will long be remembered. After my mom’s funeral, we headed north for Minnesota, in order to begin an incredible journey down the Great River Road. To read more about our experiences with my mom, along the Great River Road, and since then, be sure to check out our blog at bigsteveandliljan.com. We have appreciated the 24K+ views and positive comments the blog has gotten, and based on that feedback…I guess we’ll keep telling our story.

Our New Home
Our New Home

As for Jason and Rachel, they are enjoying life in Dallas, Texas, where Jason is pursuing a graduate degree in Prosthetics-Orthotics at UT Southwestern Medical Center’s School of Health Professions. Kyle and I regularly encourage Jason in his studies with really bad and inappropriate puns about artificial limbs. Seriously, though, we’ve got to hand it to him for getting a foot in the door in his new profession. Meanwhile, Rachel is a Speech Pathologist Assistant and has several students that she works with. For more on their marriage, experiences in Dallas, and raising cats, check out the blog we did on them…A Leg Up in Big D.

Jas & Rach
Jas & Rach

Kyle is in his senior year at Harding University, where he has kept busy finishing up his Bible degree and serving as the Student Association President. The highlight of his year was taking young Miss Laci Genry of Helena, Alabama, to the summit of Sugarloaf Mountain and asking her to be his wife. To learn about her response and other partially accurate details of their courtship and engagement, be sure to check out our blog, The Great River Road, Part 17, Kyle-Laci Engagement, An Oral History. (Spoiler alert: their wedding is May 14th!) Needless to say, we are so excited to be adding another awesome daughter to our family!

She Said Yes!
She Said Yes!

Without a doubt, the best part about being full-time RVers is being able to re-connect with family and friends around the country, and we’ve done a lot of that this year. This Thanksgiving was especially nice spending time with our sons, their wife/fiancé, their in-laws/future in-laws, and the amazing Brad and Jenny Diamond family. The Diamonds are one of those joyous, loving, giving families that really epitomize the Christmas spirit, even when it’s not Christmas. Spend a week with them and you’ll not only hear the sound of world-class singing and the hum of the blender (at almost every meal), you’ll be reminded of the good in the world…despite all the negativity on the news.

Thanksgiving at the Diamonds
Thanksgiving at the Diamonds

As for our upcoming plans, we’ll spend next week in South Carolina with Janet’s family…and then spend the week after Christmas in Destin, Florida with Steve’s family. We’ll spend most of January and February in central Florida on sojourns. What’s a sojourn? Check out our blog…Mission Possible: The Sojourners. Then, on March 12, at about 9 o’clock in the morning, Steve plans to depart Springer Mountain, Georgia on a 2190-mile thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail. As you might expect, there will be blogs related to that…at least until he’s eaten by a bear. Stay tuned.

Hiking with the Genrys, Oak Mountain State Park
Hiking with the Genrys, Oak Mountain State Park
Hiking with the Diamond ladies
Hiking with the Diamond ladies

This year, we’ve experienced some heartache, as we’ve said goodbye to Steve’s mom, learned of terrorist attacks, and seen a divided nation and world become seemingly less dependent on God and farther away from Him. At the same time, we’ve also been reminded of the good out there…friends and family who have shown hospitality to us and strangers we’ve gotten to know at campsites, on hikes, at Habitat builds, and elsewhere. Despite the tough times, heartaches, and endless cycles of bad news, we’re reminded that this world is not our home and is temporary. A much, much better place awaits us and draws closer every day. That hope of something bigger and better, a place of happiness and peace, is a result of the saving work of a loving God, and the selfless sacrifice of his son, Jesus. He’s not just the reason for this season, but for every season. Our prayer for 2016 is that we will draw closer to Him, and in doing so encourage others to do the same.

So, from a van down by the river, we wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

We Da Johnsons

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8 thoughts on “Merry Christmas 2015!”

  1. Hope you and your family have a very Merry Christmas and a safe, adventurous and rewarding 2016. We love you all and miss you tremendously, awaiting for your travels to Virginia!!!

    1. Thanks, Jana! My next trip to Virginia will be by foot, carrying a backpack. Feel free to bring me a pizza or ice cream or both! Merry Christmas!

  2. Hope your travels continue to bring wild new adventures and may the Spirit of Christ remain in this Christmas season. Uncle Phil

    Ps I heard of a new species of frogs recently discovered in S.America that have very loud unusual sounds emitting from them—– be careful if you travel to that part of the world!?

    1. Uncle Phil, you’ve been blaming frogs for more than 7 decades now! Hope you and the family have an awesome Christmas! See you out on the road.

  3. Love your “year in review” blog!!! Sorry about losing your mother, but I’m sure she’s in a much better place. Have a very Merry Christmas and a blessed New Year! Looking forward to seeing you in Florida.

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