The virtual Elisa Johnston is deceiving.
Online, when someone asks me what I do I say something like,
“I help ordinary people figure out how to change the world.”
In real life, I’m probably drinking trice-warmed coffee while hanging out with my neighbors, besties from my church, or maybe mamas who are much better at homeschooling than myself (which wouldn’t be that hard to do).
It’s true, in real life I am adulting with paperwork, adventuring or carpooling with kids, doing phone meetings while walking in circles around a playground, cursing Costco-sized items that don’t fit in the tiny kitchen, and reading some fantasy novel while trying to coax myself to write something instead–something soooooo amazing that will change the world (no pressure).
But online Elisa, without pretense, she declares that she help people discover who to be who they are meant to be, and from that, guide them to make the difference they were born to make. But she does. I mean, I do.
People come to Average Advocate when they care about some problem in the world, like human trafficking, or poverty, but are overwhelmed with life, detached from the issues, need direction or someone to ignite their dreams. These ordinary people are my slice of pumpkin pie (I highly value pumpkin pie).
However, in my offline world I never stop being amazed that people let me speak into their life this way.
I come alive when I empower others. And it only gets better once we start brainstorming together, laying out the vision, putting together plans, and breathing life into dreams that are almost unimaginable. And oh, how those unborn dreams will create such good . . .
Okay, maybe my virtual life and my everyday life aren’t so different.
Online I try to empower. Offline I try to empower.
Where does an Elisa get “empowering others ” credentials from?
You’re right. Just because I love to do something doesn’t actually mean I am any good at it. Here are some of the reasons you can take me seriously:
-I lead. I have over fifteen years of leadership and mentoring experience, mostly with small groups and one-on-one, although I have spent a my fair share of time at the helm of organizations as well as manning the trenches as volunteer coordinator.
-I make visions come alive. I’ve founded or been part of starting over a dozen orgs/teams/movements that make a difference in the world (two of which are dedicated to ending modern slavery: NOVA HTI and the LBD.Project).
-I did the school thing. I have a degree in social sciences, my concentration in anthropology, or the “study of what it means to be human,” focusing on how to use this understanding of culture to effect change in society and global affairs.
-I was developed. I myself have been mentored and trained by leaders investing in me to become a leader since I was in my teens and I still pursue guides to speak into my life.
-I write. I’ve been blogging since 2005, and Average Advocate has been on the grandiose world-wide-web since 2010. I am also a regular contributor to HuffPost and have written five workbooks, guides, and novels I haven’t decided what to do with just yet.
-I influence. Whether it is through public speaking, mentoring, coaching, or the combined 1670 people I reach through social media (although, who am I kidding? They are probably all the same people), my circles aren’t huge, but they are there.
You’re still here?
Fascinating Facts About Elisa Johnston:
But first, make a guess at how far apart in time these difference balloon pictures were taken:
When I originally founded Average Advocate in 2010, I thought it would inspire and give people ideas on how to take action on global affairs. But, it didn’t go as I expected. (Here is more of that story: How Becoming a Humanitarian Blogger Went Better Than Planned).
I am actually a wannabe
I have a thing for flamingos and peacocks. I just really enjoy looking at birds. I have not achieved bird watchers status, nor do I want to own any birds. But there is something about colorful bright birds (or even stark white) which I find fascinating.
Sometimes I too get overwhelmed with all the social problems and life. Occasionally I cope with this by standing in front of my bathroom mirror, softly practicing pronouncing my name, “Elisa. Elisa. Elisa?” in flickering candlelight. I am trying to figure out how my face, my name is supposed to categorize and encompass who I am. On these rare occasions I always put on red lipstick and am typically crying, because that is what I do when I feel all the things. (I might also be on my period.)
Haha. But in all seriousness, even though I do find myself acting out the above scene every few years, I usually write. I also practice what I teach here, like forcing myself to pay attention to the tension, forcing myself into the discomfort even more rather than ignoring it. Even so, there is a time to establish boundaries. I don’t need to know every sordid detail of a sex trafficking case to intervene on behalf of the victim.
I am actually a very serious follower of Jesus. I don’t hide this, but I also don’t talk about my faith here on Average Advocate all the time, because I know many of my readers have differing beliefs than I do. However, it is inescapable, simply because Average Advocate flows from me, and I am founded on Jesus.
As Jesus is such a big part of my life, people wonder why this isn’t a Christian blog and why I don’t preach here. To the first question, this isn’t a Christian blog because I want to work and connect with people who aren’t just from my worldview. To the second question, here is a parable: A house doesn’t plaster signs about what it’s foundation is made of all over itself. However, if someone thinks, “this is a lovely house, I want to buy it” the buyer is going to ask about the foundation of the house.
I am originally from California’s beautiful central coast, but then did some international work off-and-on, and eventually found myself married in Northern Virginia (part of the D.C. metro). In 2015, after a whirlwind move that broke my heart, I found myself back out on the West Coast in San Diego recovering from a life-lived significantly, although rather exhaustingly for over ten years.
Wait–Do you hate the suburbs? Or are you just a West Coast Girl?
When I was eighteen, I told God I would go and be anything for him–anything but being a stay-at-home mom in the U.S. suburbs. So I do think I had a problem with the suburbs in general, although the East Coast–specifically in all its glory of the “perfect” American made it more difficult. But after years of fighting living in Northern Virginia, I finally learned to love it, loved the people and embraced it.
I still live in the suburbs, just sunnier ones.
Do you want to settle in perfect San Diego?
Eeek! Don’t ask me that! I hate committing for more than a few years to an area. I love exploring the world and suffer from chronic Wanderlust. (Here is my dilemma, likened to ice cream flavors.)
So you mentioned that you are married. Who’s the lucky guy?
After eleven years (by the grace of God), I am still married to my perfect opposite. That is, except in the smarts & hots department–we are pretty much at the same glorious level there 😉 I met him in my hometown while he was there briefly, launching a rocket, and I was trying very hard to stay in Europe.
Typically, we either get along wonderfully or terribly, but we’re committed to the long-haul and are continuing to learn to love each other more perfectly.
He is rather private and I am rather an “EVERYONE LISTEN TO ALL THE THINGS” version of transparent, which makes respecting him while publicly vulnerably blogging a really fun art form to excel in.
Are you a mommy?
I’ve somehow just “happened” to have three kids with my man. The first girl (Avi) and boy (Josiah) reflect my husband and I as little miniatures; we still aren’t sure about our toddler (Elijah). Most of my time is spent taking care of them, so if I am neglecting you, it is probably so that I am not neglecting them.
What is being a mom like for you?
I have been entrusted as a homemaker for these awesome little people. In some ways it is pretty great. I love the conversations and worldview building. I am a fun mom, but I am not really that great at cleaning, the routine of household management, or childcare. I am improving, I strategically befriend the people who can help keep my kids alive.
What do you like to do with your kids?
I think I only survive being a stay-at-home-mom because I spend much time and effort not being at home. It used to be part of our weekly ritual to explore the D.C. metro area on our “Adventure Days” because, well, we could and it is D.C.! I enjoyed getting lost in the seedy areas on my way to some impressive museum or another because I thought it was interesting. At least it is more interesting than cleaning my house!
The same principle of exploration seems to be holding true in our new life, as we adventured across the U.S. together and are now discovering San Diego and California. It helps that we semi-homeschool. In homeschooling, I think I enjoy learning what the kids are learning more than they do.
What is your favorite part of being a mom?
I might not be the best traditional homemaker but what I think I am good at is getting in deep moral discussions with six-year olds while pondering the universe together. At least I’ve got something going with these three precious bundles of legs, energy, innovations, and, well, they aren’t really that bundle-y are they?
What is something else you like?
I really like people. I know it is “cool” to hate people, but I just don’t. Sometimes they drive me crazy, but I love them. This is probably why you will usually find me networking, always talking to the new person, playing the host or social engineering (i.e., creating community). Heck! One of my former jobs was officially titled “Connections Chick.”
What are some other jobs you’ve held besides being a parent? Or, what was your first job?
Well, like most teenage girls, babysitting was kinda first. But before that I was a little entrepreneur, trying to pick people’s flowers from their garden and sell them mini bouquets. I also did tutoring, but my most notable first job was an ice-cream scooper at Baskin Robins’ Thirty-One Flavors. I also worked as a nanny for awhile.
What about other roles you’ve played? Specifically ones relevant to Average Advocate?
Over the years I have helped start weekend food backpack programs at local schools, helped lead and act as volunteer coordinator for a needs network for those in poverty, and dabbled in a few other community efforts. I was also staff for the women’s ministry at my church and helped start a new one. Before that I worked with Youth With a Mission (YWAM) as a missionary.
Human trafficking seems to be the area you are most associated with. Why is that?
Probably because I am the founder of the Northern Virginia Human Trafficking Initiative, from the beginning research and networking stages until it matured and was in the process of becoming a fully-functioning non-profit in the community. I then switched to being on their Board of Directors, and also was the lead of their communications team.
Although I hold the title of “founder,” I always fear that is misleading. I was never fully alone. Other people led it while in that first stages before I took over, when it was just an idea with some valuable time invested in it. Then, when I was the director, the current director was under me, and then has brought it to where it is now. It has been an amazing experience to start something and see it bloom! You can read this story here: How I became and Accidental Expert and Then I resigned.
What about the Little Black Dress Project?
This is another anti-trafficking effort that’s my baby: Little Black Dress Project, which you can learn more about at the above tab or go to our new website. Or read The Real Reason I Started The LBD Project.
So in all the things you’ve done, have you learned anything vital from them to pass on to us?
It is obvious I like to serve people and start things, but at one point I realized my love for serving was also unhealthy. You can learn more about that here: An Average World Changer’s Identity.
What about your hobbies?
In my free time, I like to create to process life, usually in some form of communication to God or to the world. I started with creative writing, then song writing as a child/teen. I started my first blog in 2005. For awhile, because I love literature and excelled in English, I tried studying linguistics to teach ELL. It wasn’t until I was almost failing that I realized I simply tolerate the formulas of grammar (or maybe grammar tolerate me). I simply excel in the subjective world of creation and communication. My pronunciation and phonetic spelling leaves something to be desired.
I write short stories at www.LesNomsDePlume.com. I am slowly plugging away at two novels, a steampunk YA high-fantasy and an adult contemporary/fantasy about an insecure Winifred.
In general, though, I just like to do anything creative. I love color, dinking around with different mediums, refurbishing junk, and gardening. I also like listening to music and playing it–singing, piano and composing music which I assume God alone hears. I will be no means claim to be great at any of these, but I can say I love to let the creativity loose.
But most of all, I love people. Books and movies are nice, too. But so is the beach. Actually, the beach is really nice. Like ice cream. And coffee. Tea is pretty great too…