Archives For Extraordinary You

“I can do it Grandpa, I promise!!”  My argument continued to fall on deaf ears as I tried to convince my grandpa I could indeed jump off the dock on the lake and not drown.  He continued to silently rock back and forth on the porch swing that hung from the big, shady oak tree by the lake.  This was one of his favorite spots on his property.  But I was destroying the peace he loved so much.

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Maybe he didn’t hear me.  “GRANDPA!!  I’M ABLE TO SWIM, I PROMISE!”  The desperation to take that coveted leap may have made me embellish my 1 lesson in the water that barely consisted of introductions and instructions to never talk your grandpa into allowing you to jump off a dock into a deep lake until all water education was completed.

However, I was a very busy 8-year old at the time!  I had rocks to skip, tadpoles to catch, trees to climb, grandparents to manipulate.  There was no time for this silly nonsense of actually learning before leaping.

Besides, my cousin, Shelley, 5 months my junior was always allowed to jump off the dock into the lake.  When my grandpa tried to explain Shelley had taken several months of swim lessons in the very lake by which we argued, he was met with a scoffing sound.  I looked around for the rude person who would have the nerve to be so disrespectful to my short-tempered grandfather.  Unfortunately, I realized I was that person.

My irritated and exasperated grandpa, tired of the fight, decided it was pointless to continue to argue with a stubborn child who insisted in learning things on her own.  “Go jump in the lake!” he yelled.

I bolted from the swing before he could change his mind, ran straight onto the dock, and splashed through the puddles left from the many flying leaps my cousin had already taken from the “stationary diving board.”

As soon as my toes touched the end of the platform, I jumped and sailed through the air, arms outstretched.  Feeling the wind in my hair, I closed my eyes and enjoyed my moment of victory and took pleasure that I was doing something my parents would surely incarcerate me in my room for later.  But right now, I was free and I was going to squeeze every bit of pleasure I could from this adventure.

Relishing the moment a bit too long, I forgot to take a breath before plunging into the dark, murky water.  Only taking into consideration how to get into the water, I had not given thought to how to get out.  It was then I realized the wisdom in the advice to learn to swim before leaping.

It seemed like minutes as I sank deeper and deeper underwater.  Wondering when I would stop, I suddenly felt my feet sink into the squishy, gooey mud at the bottom, leaving nothing hard in which to push off.  Already feeling as if my lungs were on fire, I began to flail my arms and legs in an attempt to reach the top that felt 100 feet above.

Disoriented, I could only wonder if I was traveling upwards toward that cool breath of fresh air or if I was just spinning in circles.  My lungs screamed for air.  I couldn’t hold out much longer before my body would instinctively gasp for air only to take in dirty lake water.

Realizing I couldn’t save myself, I knew I needed Jesus!  Nothing else mattered in that moment.  Schoolwork, the fight with my sister, my cousin being able to do things I only wished I could, all of it went away.

It was just me and Jesus.

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I prayed for Jesus to save me.  It was in that moment my hands escaped the pressure of the water and felt the freedom of fresh air.  Finally my mouth and nose broke through the surface and I was able to gasp for air.  I choked and sputtered while thrashing around, trying not to be swallowed by the water again.

Suddenly, I felt strong hands grab me under my arms and pull me to the safety of the dock.  My grandpa stood looking down at my face as I lay on the dock, sucking in as much air as humanly possible.  We stared at each other too shocked to say anything for a full minute.  When I finally stopped choking up water, he said, “I told you!” and walked away.  Gotta love a softhearted man.

Do you feel as if you’re drowning because of choices you’ve made?  Are you flailing trying to save yourself knowing it’s futile?  Call on Jesus!  He can bring you back to the surface and provide a breath of fresh air.  Give Him your mistakes.  He’s the Master at taking our ashes and turning them into something beautiful.  Ignore the “I told you’s.”

Nothing else matters at this moment.  It’s you and Jesus.  Call on Him.  He’ll save you.

“…..He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted…. to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes….” ~ Isaiah 61:1,3

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Hateful words spewed from my “friend’s” mouth.  I had worked hard in my volunteer position only to have her cut me down and question my motives.  At first, I was defensive.  Then my heart began to agree I was a terrible person.  My mind raced wondering who else may think the same of me.  Finally, I determined not to open myself to anyone ever again and was tempted to quit the position.

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Have your thoughts ever spiraled out of control leading you down a destructive path after receiving an unfair criticism?  We’re tempted to believe all criticism is true.

When trying to determine if criticism is constructive or unfair, consider the following:

  • Is the criticism meant to help me change in order to grow?  Or are the chosen words meant to cut me down and doubt my abilities?
    If someone is interested in seeing you succeed and proceed to the next level, their words should be considered.  However, if the person’s words are not constructive and are destructive then reject their opinion.
  • Is the person acting as a caring friend or is jealousy coloring their words?
    My “friend” was not being caring.  Her credibility was damaged when it became apparent she was jealous and desired to assume the position I held.
  • Is the person criticizing me in an open forum such as social media or are they using proper channels to speak with me privately either through a private message or phone call?
    Social media allows people to speak in haste.  It allows us to depersonalize others giving us permission to say whatever we feel without regard to how it will be received.  Most of these harsh comments can be disregarded.
  • Did the person share their thoughts anonymously or did they use their real name?
    As soon as a letter is received through the mail, I immediately glance at the end to find a signature.  If it is unsigned or is signed, “Anonymous,” it gets thrown in the garbage.  Anyone who is not brave enough to use their name has nothing of value to say.

After deciding the criticism is from a credible source and is meant to help you grow, it’s time to determine if it’s valid.

  • Take time to pray, look through scripture to determine if there is truth in his/her words, and read your affirmation file.  An affirmation file is a file to keep all complimentary notes received, quotes that add to self-worth, verses from the bible that reveal how God feels about you, and even verbal compliments received that have been written down and filed.
  • After seeking God on the matter, reading the bible, and looking at the affirmation file, you will be able to see things clearly.  Thoughts crowded with false, accusing, negative self talk are replaced with truth.  You’ll be able to see if there is room for growth.
  • Decide if the comments are to be disregarded or considered.  If the person’s words disagree with God’s and the comments in the affirmation file, they can probably be disregarded. However, if God uses the person’s words to reveal truth to you through convicting scripture and if there is nothing in the affirmation file to disagree, then their words should be considered.

Once you’ve determined the words are valid, make a plan of action.

  • Pray and commit to making the changes needed.
  • Take time to write down how the changes will impact your effectiveness.  This can be used as an ongoing motivational tool.
  • Determine if help is needed in making positive changes.  Will counseling or additional training improve your chances of succeeding?
  • Enlist accountability partners who will be honest with you about your progress.
  • Write down the positive impact when following through on the changes you’ve made.
  • Thank God for helping you make positive changes to your life.  And thank the person who set you on the path of growth through their constructive criticism.

When criticism is unfair, we need to ignore it and ask God to remove it from our minds and hearts.  When criticism is truly constructive, it can help grow our effectiveness and impact.

“Whoever heeds life-giving correction
will be at home among the wise.”  Proverbs 15:31 (NIV)

This post is part of a blog link up at 

http://rachelwojo.com/replacing-negative-inside-chatter-with-praise/ 

and

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Are You Insignificant?

August 7, 2013 — 10 Comments

“Connie, you’re just a slut and I have no doubt you will be pregnant before you’re 18.”  Those were the words of my “Christian” Vice Principal at my private school after he learned I sneaked out of my house the night before.  He presumed upon what I had done (and was wrong by the way) and chose the most hurtful words possible.  Words I found devastating!

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The news reached the other teachers and each, with the exception of one, treated me as if I wore a scarlet letter.  I was a disappointment.  I was someone who failed at life before I had even reached the age of 16.  I better marry rich because I would never amount to anything in life.

They had me convinced.  If they, being Christians, thought so ill of me, I couldn’t imagine what God thought of me.  So by the end of the day, I decided I was done with Christians.  I was done with church.  I was done with God.

Have you ever been belittled?  It can be through biting sarcasm or serious insults.  Have you ever ached to have that all-important person in your life believe in you only to have them ignore your greatest accomplishments?  Has anyone made you feel as though you would amount to nothing in life?

Take heart, there are others also.

David, in the bible, is also among the rejected.

David is the youngest of 8 boys.  The runt of the family.  When Samuel, the prophet, shows up at the door to anoint a new King (per God’s instruction) among one of the brothers, David was not even invited to the feast.  He was told to keep the sheep while David’s dad paraded each of his brothers in front of Samuel.

After each son is rejected by God, Samuel has to ask if there are any other boys.  Only then, did David’s dad mention his existence.  David had killed bears and lions to protect the sheep but those accomplishments did not impress his dad.  He thought of him as the least.  The hobbit.  The one who would probably never advance above the lowly position of shepherd.

When people we admire don’t believe in us, their negativity can seep into our conscious and breed insecurity.  It’s not long before we are repeating their words to ourselves, convinced of their validity.

But David did not buy into the belief he was insignificant.  How did he escape the prison of insecurity?

He believed in the person God said he was more than the person his dad and brothers said he was.

Can we drown the voices of the world?  The loud voices telling us we’re not good enough?  That we’ve made too many mistakes?  That we will never do anything of importance?

Is it possible to listen to the voice of God telling us we are valued?  We are worthy?  We are significant?

Yes!

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Thankfully, the day I walked away from God on that dark day in High School was the day He pursued me.

When I came home, my mom could tell something was wrong.  Even though I didn’t want to tell her knowing she would be mortified from the embarrassment I caused her at school, she would not leave me alone.  I had to tell her.  I told her word for word what the Vice Principal had said.  Her face became red and little veins popped out in her forehead.  I knew it was a mistake to tell her and braced for the punishment to come.

Instead, she turned, grabbed her keys, and walked out the door.  I had never pushed her so far that she had to escape from my presence so now I was terrified.

Later, I learned she drove across town, marched into that Vice Principals office and made him wish he had wandered into a Mother Bear’s den.

That was the day I realized my mom was on my side.  She saw something in me that deserved to be defended.  She believed in me.  She knew I was capable of being great and that I could do something significant with my life.   And she didn’t appreciate anyone telling me differently.

My mom taught me imperfect Christians who make frightful mistakes is no reason to give up on a perfect God.  People cannot do what God has already done.  God is the One who gifted me, assigned my value, and wrote a perfect plan for my life.

If you are struggling with insecurity, I encourage you;

  • Look past the bad others think of you and the mistakes you’ve made.  God forgives and redeems.
  • See the value God assigned and the beauty He gave you.
  • Rather than walking in the plan others presume on your life, walk in the perfect plan God already wrote for your life.  Remember, He even took into consideration all the mistakes you would ever make as He made your life plan.

You are significant, worthy, beautiful, important, gifted, and have value.  He believes in you!

“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 very well.  My frame was not hidden from you when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth.”  ~ Psalm 139:13-15

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  ~ Jeremiah 29:11

 

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Waves of Grief

July 19, 2013 — 4 Comments

My family recently visited a water park.  My husband and I grabbed a double raft and hit the wave pool.  I was sitting on top of the raft while my husband stood at the side guiding me through the water.  Since the waves are only turned on every 15 minutes, we entered when it was calm.  We placed ourselves in the back half of the pool and visited with friends while waiting to ride the waves.

87799167The screams from those next to the “wave wall” signaled the waves were coming.  It was then I learned we had set up our raft at the breaking point in the waves.  My husband was having so much fun, he didn’t notice I was spending most of my time under the water resulting in him pushing me into the breakers and not moving away from them.

So instead of the fun ride on top of the surf I expected, the relentless waves continued to break over my head.  I could barely catch my breath before the next breaker.

I’ve found that mourning can look similar to my experience in the wave pool.  I lost my cousin and very best friend, Shelley, to brain cancer in October of 2011.  The grief was immense then but the mourning continues even today.

Sometimes the waves of grief comes on unexpectedly and I find myself drowning in the breakers of sadness.  This week has been especially hard.  There was a little girl with long blond hair at church last Sunday who reminded me of Shelley as a child.  Then someone wrote a Facebook post about their grandchild and used a nickname Shelley used for her daughter.  Another day, something funny happened and I thought about texting it to Shelley.  Then I remembered.

At times, when triggers catch me by surprise, I have to excuse myself to go somewhere private until I can gain control of my emotions.

Other times, I see the waves coming and the turbulent feelings that threaten.  Shelley’s birthday is one such occasion.

While most women stop celebrating and make self-depreciating comments about getting older, Shelley viewed it as a time to laugh and have a great time.

Since her birthday falls on May 21, she lightheartedly deemed the month of May, “Shelleypalooza” and would invite everyone to celebrate.  Tongue in cheek, she would share her wish list “just in case someone wanted to buy her a gift,” and would surmise nothing bad could happen to anyone during that month.

Because I see crashing waves of grief on May 21st, I make a plan to deal with the emotions.

I take the day off and spend it alone.  I allow God to comfort me by praying and reading the Bible.  Many memories Shelley and I shared were only humorous to us, which made us laugh all the more.  Now I think on those memories alone.  The entire day is a roller coaster of emotions, laughing and crying.  My family is warned about my warring emotions and the effect it may have on my patience and temper.

56385631If you find yourself in mourning over the loss of a loved one, please keep in mind the following:

Cut yourself a break when unexpected waves of grief hit – There will be times we are taken by surprise by a trigger and find ourselves grieving all over again.  There is nothing wrong with emotion.  If you’re in a professional environment, excuse yourself and find somewhere to be alone until you can gain control.  But accept you are dealing with very real human emotions and that’s okay.

Plan for expected waves of grief – Everyone mourns differently.  Some celebrate the lost loved one’s birthday with family and friends.  Others need to be alone.  Holidays may offer opportunities to honor our loved one by volunteering in one capacity or another.  Plan ahead and give yourself time to express emotion.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help – If your grief is monumental or you find that you can no longer function because of overwhelming sadness, call a good Christian counselor, your doctor, your pastor, or a crisis hotline.  The following site offers phone numbers for a myriad of hotlines.  http://www.healthyplace.com/other-info/resources/mental-health-hotline-numbers-and-referral-resources/.  Reach out.  There are many who are waiting to come alongside you.

Waves of grief will come.  But by accepting our emotions, planning for the expected waves, and asking for help when needed, we can live a healthy life.  And I’m sure your loved one would want you to live a fulfilled life and not a holed-up existence refusing to carry on.

Most importantly, allow God to comfort you.

“Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.” ~ Matthew 5:4

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Disclaimer:  Material in this blog post is provided for informational purposes only. It is general information that may not apply to you as an individual, and is not a substitute for your own doctor’s medical care or advice.  The inclusion of any link does not imply my endorsement of the linked site or its affiliates, or any information, content, products, services, advertising or other materials presented on or through such web sites. I am not responsible for the availability, accuracy, or any information, content, products or services accessible from such sites.  NEVER DISREGARD MEDICAL ADVICE OR DELAY SEEKING MEDICAL CARE BECAUSE OF SOMETHING YOU HAVE READ ON OR ACCESSED THROUGH THIS WEB SITE.

Forgive to Live #3_test

From my guest post on Suzie Eller’s blog – http://tsuzanneeller.com/2013/07/08/forgive-to-live-frenemy-or-real-enemy/

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Today, I’m guest blogging on Suzie Eller’s website regarding forgiveness.  Please click over and check it out.  http://tsuzanneeller.com/2013/07/08/forgive-to-live-frenemy-or-real-enemy/#more-6097.  Suzie is a Proverbs 31 speaker and author.  Her latest book is The Unburdened Heart: Finding the Freedom of Forgiveness.

She talked with my entire family except me.  When I tried to engage her in a conversation, she snubbed me and walked away.  Confused, I asked a mutual friend why this person would be upset with me.  Apparently, this woman was under the impression I insulted her father-in-law and she was quite angry with me.

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I called and tried to seek her out to ask about the situation and offer my apology but she would have nothing to do with me.  Whenever I see her, she makes it clear she is unwilling to forgive.

Have you ever sought forgiveness only to be rejected?

What are we to do with the hurt and rejection from those who are not interested in forgiving our mistakes or unwilling to talk though misunderstandings?

  • Do not allow the hurt to result in more damage.  Hurt can sometimes cause us to react negatively and say things we will later regret.  Our goal should be to repair the relationship.  This cannot be done if we continue to further the damage.
  • Once a sincere apology is offered, there is no need to continue apologizing about the situation.
  • Continue to be a good friend.  Try to engage in conversation if the opportunity arises and if she is willing to speak, genuinely listen.  If she is experiencing a crisis, drop off supper or send a card.  Avoid coming on too strong by constantly seeking her out.  Give her the space and time she needs.
  • Pray for a resolution.  Pray she will open her heart to you again and the rift will be healed.  Pray for your own heart to heal from the hurt of rejection and to be patient in waiting for God to work in the situation.

Unfortunately, it’s been a few years now that my friend has been upset.  I’ve accepted she may never forgive me.  It saddens me but I’ve come to the realization some relationships just come to an end due to no fault of our own.

I continue to offer friendly greetings upon seeing her and attempt conversation.  However, God has healed my heart of the hurt and has helped me move on even as I continue to pray and hope for a reconciliation someday.

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Jeremiah ch1 vs 5

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While traveling on the interstate to visit family in the midst of a blizzard, through complete whiteout, we suddenly saw brake lights.  My husband slammed on the brakes and we began fishtailing on the icy road.  Although we barely missed hitting the cars in front of us, we found ourselves sandwiched between two other cars at an angle.  We then watched in terror as cars slid toward us as they came out of the whiteout and slammed on their own brakes.  They slid helplessly on the ice.  Many ended up at angles nearby, some slid into the ditches on both sides of the road.  Miraculously, all of them missed us.  Cars were all over the road and in the ditches.  Traffic was backed up for miles.  Or so we assumed as we sat in the midst of this traffic jam at a complete halt in our journey.  To preserve fuel, we turned the car off, only turning it on every half hour to add a little heat to the car.   An hour went by without explanation as to why we were stopped.  Then hour 2 slipped by.  Not knowing the reason for sitting there was beginning to really test my patience.  After hour 3 of sitting in the exact same spot, I could stand it no longer.  I had to know why were stopped.  I got out and was immediately slapped with the cold wind and wet snow.  Undeterred, I began walking past car after car.

after snowfallAfter passing only 2 cars, I could no longer see our own vehicle through the thick, falling snow.  My hair was plastered to my face from the wet snow.  I was freezing and the wind was so strong I had to walk at an angle to move further up the road.  After walking past about 10 cars, my hands were completely numb, my eyes burned, the cold was sucking away each breath, and I was shivering uncontrollably.  I turned back.  Each car possessed other impatient people who rolled down their windows asking what I had seen.  “Snow!” was my pithy answer.  When I finally made it back to the refuge of our own car, I ripped open the door and fell inside.  My husband took 1 look at me and dissolved in laughter.  My face was splotchy red, my hair was saturated and stuck to my face, and snot was running out of my nose.  I did not share in his amusement.  Now I was wet, cold, miserable, angry, ugly and I still didn’t know why we were sitting there!  Yes, it is safe to say patience is not a virtue of mine.

Yet when I read Sarai’s story in Genesis 16, I want to scream at her for being so impatient.  God had promised Sarai’s husband, Abraham, a son.  But after years and years of waiting to become pregnant, Sarai becomes so impatient she actually tells her husband to sleep with her servant girl, Hagar.

What???  I would never tell my husband to sleep with the maid!

Maybe not, but there are obviously many mistakes I make when I feel God is moving too slow.  I may pray about a decision but don’t wait for an answer.  I begin my “to-do” list and start working.  I think, “Surely He will appreciate my help and all the hard work I’m putting into this.”  I pat myself on the back just before the crash and burn.

153516435Sarai knows all too well the disaster of running ahead of God.  Hagar becomes pregnant and despises Sarai.  Sarai blames Abraham and then mistreats Hagar so severely that Hagar finally runs away.

Sarai’s story forces me to ask hard questions of myself.  How many times have I taken matters into my own hands thinking God needed my help?  How many times have I, too, cast blame when the guilt is too much for me to bear alone?  How often have I taken my guilt and shame out on others?

There are 2 key ways we can avoid the trap of running ahead of God right off the cliff of despair?

  1. Pray about every decision and wait on His answer.
  • Philippians 4:6 – “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”
  • Psalm 27:14 – “Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.
  1. After hearing His answer, trust.  No matter how long it takes.  Many people in the bible had to wait years before God’s promises were fulfilled.  I believe the word for this is patience (Yikes!  I would like to vote to move that word to the cuss word list, please).
  • Proverbs 3:5 – “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”

The good news is God can redeem our mistakes.  Sarai finally becomes pregnant with the son promised to Abraham.  She was way past the point of being able to have children but God, being God, can overcome any challenge.

Speaking of challenges, returning to the traffic jam, after waiting 4 hours in the same spot, cars began to move slowly up the road.  Although we were in whiteout conditions, I was never so happy to be moving along in a car.  At the next exit, we turned around and drove home rather than going on to visit our relatives.  We later learned a semi carrying 6 brand new cars had overturned in the road.  Not only did the semi block the road but all the cars scattered, also blocking traffic.  Each car had to be towed along with the semi.  No wonder we had to wait 4 hours.

God can overcome any challenge including giving us what we are lacking.  Even giving us the patience to wait.  Since that virtue is slow in coming for me, I continue to receive lessons in order to learn.  Meanwhile, I may just lose my patience and go look for it up the road.  Just kidding.

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Bottomless heart quote

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Do the Impossible!

March 13, 2013 — Leave a comment

Doing the Impossible quote

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