Bitter Sweet

I don’t think my mom will ever get it. And I can’t say that I blame her. I never thought I would EVER get it either. In fact, I judged many divorcees for it. Didn’t have a clue how they could even go there. But now, it’s no longer a concept I bashed….it is my life.

It’s that place where you’re done with bitterness.

Perhaps the fact that the love of my life has walked into my life, filling up my tank with joy. Maybe there’s just no space for bitterness anymore when a human’s heart is so big that he walks into our messy life and only stirs up peace.

Maybe it’s the fact that carrying bitterness is much heavier and stressful than just letting go. Maybe the Sunday School teacher was right all along – forgiveness is for you, not for the offender. It’s pretty exhausting to think of the comebacks, the disagreements, the right cut of the eye anymore.

Maybe it’s my daughter’s face when she sees no disdain on my countenance as her father walks up to the door – a nine year old’s release; a nine year old’s confirmation that mom and dad weren’t a mistake. She wasn’t a mistake. And everything is going to be ok.

My conclusion: it’s all of the above and so much more.

This is where we are. Life is different. It looks entirely different than what today was “supposed” to look like in my pretty little handbook of ‘life plans’ ten years ago. It’s messier. Far from cookie cutter. But the imprints on our hearts carry much more eternal value than any picket fence ever could.

I can speak to him audibly. Look him in the eye [sometimes]. Watch him small talk with my new love and the future step father of our children and not shoo him away. I can have a conversation instead of cutting him off with a, “Just text me.” I can hear his voice and no longer miss him. I can open the door and show grace – the little bit of grace my human heart can show. Because in the end, what he did will never fall on me. Never will I condone it, yet never will I have the place to judge it. It is his mess. No longer mine.  And when the mess isn’t yours anymore, you do like any good daughter would do – you pass it on to Abba and you move on, with grace.

Goodbye bitterness. There is no space for you anymore.

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The Light IN The Tunnel

You know what’s mind boggling? It’s amazing how many “fish in the sea” out there are SO incompatible to me. Cheers to online dating and how much it totally shows you what you DON’T want. Haha! Yes, I have entertained the online world. I never thought I would. But I also never thought I would be a hundred things I am now: divorced, single, not on stage leading worship as often, alone, searching, crawling. Yeah, nothing in life is surefire. So take it from me: don’t put all your eggs in one typical expected basket. God has plenty of other baskets in mind.

But in all seriousness. It has been a whirlwind past couple months. I ended a relationship that I wished so deeply would work. I browsed others. I’ve experienced thought processes I never thought I would. I walked in the shoes of people I used to judge for years. (God kinda does that)

And the most daunting of it all, I had the overwhelming scary conversation with my daughter that I totally hoped wouldn’t come till like five years from now. Well no, it happened. In the car about two weeks ago. I am so grateful that I now understand God’s grace so much deeper that I could actually have a conversation about my husband’s decisions without a single bash at him. Let’s just say, that wasn’t completely me speaking throughout that conversation. That was a mix of my amazing counselor’s words of grace and wisdom, and God’s very obvious presence and words spoken through me.

I’m sure you’re curious how on earth I navigated that conversation. Well, in a grace-filled nutshell, I shared with my daughter a concept that was probably very foreign to other eight-year-old’s in the 50’s. I shared about the choices people make today to love whoever they want to love because they can’t help it, even though it’s nowhere near God’s original design for them. And I shared why God wants us to love through that. To love through our disagreement, through our pain, through our shock because in reality, that’s exactly what He would do if He were in our shoes. It doesn’t seem right to us, to the church, to my mother for that matter. LOL. But it’s who He is and if we claim we want to be like Him, it might take a little discomfort and offensive grace to get there.

Speaking of discomfort, for some reason, something hit me this morning.

I caught up with a precious friend this weekend. It was like an ordained conversation in the fabric isle of Hobby Lobby. (You never fail me Hobby Lobby. In more ways than one). I shared with her that I feel like I’ve been crawling. This valley is darker than I ever imagined it to be. I’ve become things I never thought I would be. This journey of divorce is lonely. Loneliness that one could never understand or relate to unless they’ve walked it. You don’t know where you belong anymore. And although you know you will belong again someday, right now, in this tunnel, you don’t have a place to belong. You’re just crawling, surviving, making mistakes and then experiencing little victories. But overall, it’s dark. And you wonder, how can God see me through this? He is light. I’m in the dark. I’m lost.

I’m trying to find my way, fighting off my flesh and moments of self-pity. Fighting off the anger of comments left and right from people who don’t have a clue what this is like. Pushing through the exhausting nights of single motherhood only to brush off the comments ringing in my ear – “You’re too nice to your kids,” “Really it takes you that long to get them to bed?” “They’re tramping all over you. Lay down the discipline. You won’t break them. Just do it.”  And then there’s fighting off the temptation to settle and miss my destiny, because really, nothing ever turns out how you planned, anyways? Right? What’s the point?

Maybe He’ll meet me at the end of this. He’s loving enough to meet me at the end of this tunnel, but for Him to dwell here? That’s impossible.

And then, it hits me.

He never would have said He is the “light in the darkness” if He didn’t plan to be WITH me IN the darkness. He may be the light at the end of the tunnel, but He’s also the light IN the tunnel. He’s watching me crawl, settle, succumb to my flesh, fail, come up for breath, come back down and then come up again. And He’s walking it all out BESIDE me, not ahead of me. He’s not so “great” that He’s above this darkness and every ugly moment, but His patience is great enough that He will stay IN it with me.

Just like He endured the darkness of the Cross…He could have come above it. Because of course, He’s greater and stronger. But He endured right in the center of the darkness. He endured the whole process. And He’s enduring MY whole process for the sake of what comes next, with no judgement and condemnation along the way.

“…for the joy set before Him, He endured the cross…” Hebrews 12:1-2

He knows what is set before me. So He’s enduring everything it’s taking to refine me and get me there. I can’t wait to “see the light” at the end of this season. But what’s so unexpected is that I also see it NEXT to me…even in the darkest of moments – places where you think He would cringe and disappear; places where His holiness wouldn’t fit. And yet, He’s there. And He’s not going anywhere. Talk about a lesson in GRACE.

Never What I Expect

It’s been quiet around here. I know. Well, let’s just say I’ve been distracted. Yes, distracted by a boy. Haha! What excitement, right?! But it feels different. Much more different than I expected dating to feel. Dating post-divorce is never what one would expect. Yes it’s fun. And it feels SO good to be wanted. SO good. It’s so different from the 10-year marriage that, in hindsight, seems to have been “forced” on my husband who never wanted to marry that young anyways. This time, someone wants me and no one and no standard is forcing him to. HE wants it. It’s no longer one-sided.

And yet, my mind is racing, searching for what is the right thing for me. That’s the last thing I thought would ever be on my mind when I was finally dating again. It’s supposed to be daily butterflies and daydreaming, right?
And yet, there’s doubts and fears that what I’m doing and who I’m kissing may be affecting my destiny. Does it fit with the perfect “comeback” story I had in my image-controlling mind? Is it the karma-cause of my slow going finances for the first time since my husband left me; the cause of my distance from friends who I feel might not approve of this imperfect guy yet makes me laugh and feel wanted? Is this a blessing or a curse? Is God punishing me for exploring this? Does He even want me to date? How do I even do this “adult dating” thing when all I hear in my head is my family’s hope for a rich man or my youth pastor’s spit-raging sermon ringing loudly in my head, “Don’t date! Don’t kiss! Don’t date! Don’t kiss!”

What do I do with this now? What does the church girl, worship leader, abandoned wife do with this? This is exhausting. Do I just give in to single life to avoid all the questions, fears, and imperfections?

For some reason, life for me has always had no meaning without a mate. And when I’m finally enjoying the company of someone who shows any remote desire for me, I’m starting to find, there’s more to me than a mate. There could possibly be meaning in just me alone. I’m not sure what it is yet, but it’s strange to think for the first time in my life that life as a single person isn’t exactly the hell I always judged it to be. And maybe dating is showing me that.

Do I miss the ex? Do I miss being a wife? Do I miss belonging to someone, watching the kids play outside of our “white picket fence” home while we waited for daddy to come home from work? Yes. Yes I do. But not as deeply as I did six months ago. I never thought I’d reach this point of contentment. And yet here I am. Open to singleness. Who am I?!!

Yes, I like dating. I like dating him. But the thought of “just me” isn’t quite as scary anymore. At least for now it isn’t. For several years maybe, until I know without a shadow of a doubt that who I’m dating will make me happy for the rest of my life. And no, not the ‘cliche happy’ that every little college girl dreams of before that cute boy finally gets down on one knee. The realistic happy – the happy that still carries love, joy and true commitment past the sad days, the ugly days and the “nothingness” days of life and marriage.

I can’t say that this fun dating thing has helped me find myself yet. As much as I thought it would, to be honest, I’m more lost than I’ve ever been. I don’t know where my life goes from here. I don’t know where I’ll end up. I actually don’t know where I belong. I was the church girl who was supposed to be married for a lifetime, singing on stage, loving on the members of her church community, guiding other young women who dreamed the same dreams I dreamed at one point in my life. But someone’s choice decided to turn that all around for me. And now, I have to find my new destiny -or perhaps the one God had for me all along. And I have a feeling it looks very different from what was in my head the first twenty years of my life.

Does that destiny include this guy who makes my heart flutter at the moment? I have no idea. All I know is, I don’t really ever know what my future looks like. And somehow, I’m having to let go of what I thought my dreams were and I have to open the door to what will actually be. Because in the end, I have no control. I never did. None.

Release

The only way to describe yesterday is – sweet release.

I went to see my counselor yesterday and she opened this sweet door of release for me. I walked into her office with so many burdens. Worries over the emotional state of my daughter;  worries about what I would tell her when that eminent question comes, “Mommy, can boys kiss boys? What does gay mean? Is it ok?”

The funny thing is, we didn’t even touch on those things until after we touched on THIS…

From the moment my husband left me, I’ve been walking on egg shells, making sure that what I do [or don’t do] does not hinder any good that could possibly come next for me. (i.e., a good, faithful, godly husband and emotionally healthy kids).

You see, I’ve lived my whole life under the law. I was the rule follower; the goodie girl. It worked for me. It kept in line with this level of perfection I constantly tried to attain. It helped me keep control of what my life looked like from the outside in. It kept me “ministry worthy.” And now I see that it kept me far from the reality of GRACE.

So when the desire to meet someone would arise, I would suppress it. “I’m not allowed to feel this yet. It’s not in the rules. I’m supposed to suffer longer, endure this valley longer, learn what I need to learn in it and wait. I’m supposed to be that beautiful, pure redemption story. And to have that story, I must follow all the rules. Otherwise, God will give me a less than desirable husband and broken children. And then, I’ll just be another statistic.”

But my counselor reminded me that no one’s life is perfect. From the very beginning in the Garden, everyone’s story has a fall and a redemption. It’s just the way life is. It is the story of all creation. No one can really hold on to that “perfect plan A” for their family or their life. Without a fall, there’s no redemption. Not one person who has walked this earth has bypassed a fall. So who am I to think I could avoid mine? While it may not be in the form of divorce for everyone, there is always a fall, because without that fall, you would never recognize redemption in your life. Wow – what a release to know that when perfection fell in my life, it was only to open the door to sweet redemption – a life and husband that would gloriously surpass my perfect little box. It will gloriously surpass my “plan A.” Because in reality, as my pastor would say, “There really isn’t a plan B. God’s always had you on plan A. Your plan A may look like it failed, but in His eyes, you’re still right on track to where He’s been taking you – even with that little valley interruption.”

She asked me, “What would it take for you to release your husband? To release him from that anger and unforgiveness because he destroyed your “plan A” for your family?” I didn’t know how to answer that question. But all I knew was that the only moments that have given me (and even my daughter) a glimpse of release have been the moments when we’ve allowed our minds to picture what could come next;  better yet, who could come next. It is then that we find peace and joy. It is then that I can actually release my ex-husband and say, “I’m ok. I’m full. You might have ruined plan A, but boy does this new view look great. There is no room in my full heart for more bitterness towards you.”

To which she responds, “Then why do you think it’s against the rules to pray for that? Pray for it. Pray for his arrival. I give you PERMISSION to ask God for him. If it is there that you will find release; if it is there that you will release your ex-husband, then by all means ask for it. Rest assured, if it is in that place that you have found an inkling of freedom, I’m pretty sure God wants it for you. You don’t have to follow the “rule” that first you must find total healing, then comes the prize. You can have it now and you can find freedom in it.”

“Remember, Jesus didn’t live under the law. He changed the rules around all the time. It’s not about the rules. Every moment is about reminding us of His grace. His grace comes first. His plan comes first. And if it looks different than the ‘rules,’ it is still His plan.”

{sigh} release….

I was beginning to think that I was just a big mess of a woman. The 30-year-old woman who never quite lost her high school boy-crazy. But no, I’m just a woman who is wired to be a wife and my heavenly Father is very aware of this and working out His plan for me right now, regardless of what I do or don’t do. He will redeem this. His IS redeeming this and my husband IS coming. And I am allowed to visualize this, claim it and thank Him for it. I’m allowed to surround my kids with other blended families, where they see hope in redeemed marriages and families. Just this past weekend we attended a wedding so beautifully full of His redemption. My daughter was memorized at the story that was unfolding before her eyes! A new family was forming from the ashes of two broken homes. Two people so devoted to God’s direction were now experiencing their redemption. I’m allowed to show my children that cookie-cutter isn’t necessarily God’s plan for us, but oh how beautiful His plan will be!

{sigh} sweet release…

And then, I wonder: what is a Christian mommy to tell her daughter when she asks me about homosexuality? Where does grace come in here? How do I set aside “the law” in this moment and answer with grace? How do you tell them that we are to love everyone, even though what they are walking out might not have been a part of His original plan for them? Do I look her in the eye and give her the truest, honest answer that, “Yes. Daddy walked away and chose a man. It was not God’s plan for him, but it is what he chose and we still love him and so does Jesus.”  How do we love through this? We just do. We love. We know truth, but we love. We know what God feels about it. We know He is probably really sad about it. We know that He created marriage and said a man would leave his father and mother to be with his wife. We hold to this truth. Yet, we love. There goes His grace again. There goes my rule-breaking Jesus. We work around it and love anyways. We stick to His voice and in the end we are safe, in His arms and in the middle of His beautiful redeeming plan.

There is so much release in His grace.

And now, as one of my sweet friends suggested, I’m going to the store now…and I’m going to purposely walk in through the exit door. Because really, I’ve gotta break out of this ridiculous, perfectionist, law-abiding box I’m in. Haha!

Making Up

When I was married, one of the worst feelings in the world was not being on speaking terms when we were in a disagreement. It stopped me in my tracks and nothing was OK until we were back on good terms. Whether it was a day or a few hours, it was torture. Right now, divorce feels like that’s exactly where we are, except, we’re trapped in it forever. I’m on non-speaking-terms with my best friend in the world, but this time, it won’t go away.

Yesterday, we argued. (Via text, because of course, we still can’t come to terms with speaking audibly to each other unless it’s extremely necessary). It was over something so small. But I felt that horrible feeling. That feeling that I am not on speaking terms with my best friend. And this time, there’s no making up.

There’s no intimate makeup conversation. There’s no, “I’m sorry. Let’s move forward together.” There’s no makeup dinner. No makeup sex. There’s none of his funny jokes that always came at the perfect moment to lighten up the mood. He’s not here to cut the tension like he always did so smoothly; so humorously. There’s nothing. There’s silence. And I can never get him back. I’ll never see his smile again. I’ll never have that moment where we exhale and know that “we’re going to be OK.”

Because, we’ll never be “OK” again.

Sure, there’s “being civil.” Every co-parent gets there. But we’ll never go back to that love that reminded us why we started this journey together and won’t give it up.

I watch other couples go through the motions of every day married life and wonder if they realize what they have. I wonder if that wife realizes that although life doesn’t feel like a fairy tale, life still holds more “make-up” moments for her. Life still includes a man who made vows to her and isn’t going anywhere. He may not look at her every day the way he looked at her on her wedding day, but he’s there. His love may not ooze with romance like it did when they were dating, but it goes deeper now, because he’s STAYING. Even when life sucks all the romance out of him at times, he STAYS. They’ll celebrate their 10th anniversary. Maybe on a couch. Maybe at a coffee shop. Maybe on a beach somewhere exotic. But they’ll celebrate it. Because he stayed.

Sometimes I feel strong and ready to face what’s new. And other times, I just wish I could wake up from this never ending fight, and just make up.

No strings attached. No hurdles to cross to consider us a “normal” couple again in the eyes of our family and friends. (If there is such a thing as “normal.”) No walls. No barriers. Just making up and moving forward.

Never take for granted the option to make up.

Loss + Lostness

We lost our grandfather this past week. While I wasn’t very deeply close to him, my family and I felt the loss together. I felt the pain for my mother who lost her father. He was a blessed man for having the opportunity to kiss every child, every grandchild and every great-grandchild goodbye. We all surrounded him as he took his last breaths. I sang a hymn of peace over him along with my mom and dad who are both blessed with beautiful voices. And then we sat. We sat and watched grandpa slowly die. We watched the monitors as the numbers went down. We watched his body grasp for air until it had no more. I think that was the most somber moment I have ever experienced in my life. I had never seen somebody die. Or have I?…

I couldn’t help but feel the reality of loss in that moment. The reality that we have people and then we lose them. I thought about my husband. (Well, my ex-husband…I’m still getting used to that). He came to my mind as I watched my grandpa lose his life. And I wondered – did my husband even see it coming? Here is my grandpa who knowingly experienced the last hours of his life. He knew it was coming. He said his detailed goodbyes to every child and prepared himself to walk into his death. Did my husband see his own “death” coming? Did he notice that I was slowly watching him die? I was watching the monitors of his life. I saw him slowly deteriorate and there was nothing I could do. The world was eating away at every bit of life in him until death (disguised by “adventure” or “finding himself”) was all he knew.

Adultery was no longer a flaw or something to be looked down on or mourned…it was an excuse that the world allowed him because he was “being honest with himself.” God only knows how different this “death” would look to others if it was a woman’s arms he walked into. (The utter unfairness of that is a whole ‘nother blog post).

I experienced the deepest of loss in October of 2013. I know physical death is the highest form of loss. But when a man who was your “every day” walks straight into his death, their is no deeper form of loss than to lose “all you’ve ever known” to walk into the unknown – alone.

I feel LOST.

I visited a new church this weekend. All I’ve ever known is my church. The church where I played dolls in the pews while my father led the worship team practice; the pews where I cuddled up in my sweats at 6am morning prayer meetings with the college interns; the platform where I learned to plug a microphone in and discovered my voice; the pews where I held my first born with my arm warmly pressed to my husband’s arm next to mine; the church where I have always belonged.  Sometimes I wish the church knew how to embrace the suffering. Sometimes I wish they knew that distance doesn’t help. I wish they knew that when life hits and you can’t devote the hours that a young student can…that doesn’t mean you’re useless. I am all the more useful because this valley is the closest I have ever been to this savior they want to glorify. But they don’t see it. They see a situation that doesn’t fit within their box of solutions. And it’s uncomfortable.

It’s embarrassing to be the new girl. This is where my husband’s ‘death’ has led me to. I no longer belong. I’m the visitor. I’m in the back pew. I’m the one who doesn’t know where the bathroom is. I’m the single mom who needs help. I’m the one who’s heart no one in the room knows. Is she a christian? Does she need a small group? Has she ever been to church before? The shame.

This new pastor gave a sermon on understanding why God came to Earth. Not just to die for us…but for us to experience Him; to know Him firsthand. He wanted us to know what He would do in the circumstances we face. He wanted us to know what He would do when everything you’ve ever known is now in shambles; When you can’t seem to fit your traditions into the jigsaw puzzle that is your life now. When religious theology no longer helps bear or categorize divorce because now, it’s your actual life. When the one who “came out of the closet” is no longer a statistic you can brush off with a sermon, it’s your precious husband who came out, and now he’s gone. What do you do with that now? What will your traditions and rules do for your life now? What is God going to do with this? What does His grace look like here? Does it look anything like what we’ve conjured up for the last thirty years of my life?

I had a dream last night that my ex-husband asked me if I was ready to attend an event where he would also be present. Basically, I was asked if I was ready to ‘suck it up.’ But I refused. I was not ready to be in the same room with him and bear the fact that I no longer belonged to him.

I’m not sure where I belong anymore. And it’s the scariest feeling in the world. I know I belong to my God, because frankly, it seems to be the only place I belong these days. But I’m no longer the picket fence wife. I’m no longer the worship team regular. I’m no longer the young family that fits into the young family small group. I don’t know where I fit, and I yearn for Him to place me somewhere – soon. Very soon. Because this shameful isolation is hard.

This journey is lonely. And I can’t say it’s anyone’s fault that it’s lonely. Most people can’t help that they just don’t get it. But if writing is the only way to find others who get it…than that’s what I’ll continue to do.

And of course, God places this passage in my devotional this morning. Glad to see He’s paying attention to my heart:

“Instead of shame you shall have double honor, and instead of confusion they shall rejoice in their portion. There in their land they shall possess double, everlasting joy shall be theirs.”
Isaiah 61:7

Instead of your shame, you shall have double honor. My friend, for everything that you have LOST get ready for God’s restoration. Expect to receive double and even more for every trouble.

Excerpt from Joseph Prince’s devotional, “Destined To Reign

This hurts.

Two nights ago I experienced what may have been my lowest point after court date. I listened as my hurting daughter cried, screamed, and targeted me for this heartbreak. She doesn’t know where to put the blame for the worst nightmare of her little life. But I am her safe place, so that night, I got the beating. I listened to her anger towards me. Every word punctured me deeper and deeper. I should’ve “stood up and made him stay; fought for our family; maybe a new family is better than ours; we’re the only ones divorced in our whole family,” ….what failures we are as parents.

This was all his doing, but I couldn’t tell her that. I couldn’t bash her daddy in that moment as much as I wanted to so that she would lift that heavy weight of blame off of me. I couldn’t tell her how much I did fight in prayer, in words, at times pleading with him via email to stay. She just wouldn’t understand. I had to take it. All of it. Until I fell to my knees in my bathroom to recover from it.

Divorce hurts. Divorce hurts double when it hurts your children.

Sometimes I feel like this is punishment for idolizing marriage. That couldn’t be farthest from God’s character and how He works, but I can’t help but feel that way sometimes.

Boy did I follow through with “valuing” marriage when I pledged my commitment to someone I knew struggled with their sexuality. I pledged to “walk out his freedom with him.” That’s probably the deepest form of commitment – when you KNOW they can fail and yet, you still sign up.

Go me. I was an all star in the world of betrothed wives.
I had mastered “in good times and in bad” before I even walked the isle.
And isn’t this how Christ loved the church? Knowing she may fail Him, yet He is unwaveringly committed to us? Maybe I should’ve never compared an earthly marriage to the ultimate heavenly marriage.

I thought, surely, my commitment combined with God’s mercy would see us through, and we would make it. He was an open book. He shared his struggles in hopes of keeping the darkness in the light and overcoming it. He shared his story with people who were doubting God’s love and mercy…proving to them, God is with them and has a plan for them no matter what they’ve gone through or what they struggle with. Surely, we were going to make it. We were going to beat the odds.

And then free will came along. Life got boring (for him). In came a mini mid life crisis mixed with the weariness of “waiting on God,” and we were doomed. I’m not sure what he was waiting for. For the desires to disappear? What if freedom didn’t consist of them actually disappearing but freedom would be found in overcoming his actions? Maybe overcoming your actions comes first, and then the desire disappears? I don’t know. What I do know is this was not God’s original plan for anyone -whether born into it or not. It was not the original perfect plan for me, for him, for marriage in general. So we shouldn’t be surprised when it comes accompanied with so much pain. When “life gets boring,” anything looks better than home – even the personal destruction you’ve been fighting your whole life to avoid.

I’m not sure how I’ll ever explain free will to my seven-year-old. I’m not sure what I’ll say next time she throws a tantrum and blames mommy for not stopping all of this. Or how I’ll continue to use self control when all I want to do in those moments is call his phone and set it down next to her so he can hear her pain. He doesn’t see this pain. She doesn’t show it when she’s with him.  I can only hope He’ll give me the wisdom. For her sake; for her heart.

He alone knows why He let this follow through. He let it follow through. I’m still coming to terms with that. I’m still coming to terms with free will and how it can wipe away God’s will in your life in an instant. Not that He can never restore it, but the wipe out, oh the wipe out. It’s so hard to watch it go down. But if He let this follow through, there must be a purpose here.

I am learning why God let’s some things go; let’s marriages go – unhealthy marriages.

I am walking in the significance of the absence of the breakthrough I expected -a concept I never fully understood until I heard this sermon. This is so worth the time to listen to:

Answers Matter, by Bill Johnson
Bethel Redding