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The request came at a point in my day when I was exhausted.  “Mom, will you come outside and watch for meteors with us?”  The request materialized a couple of hours ago at 10 PM.  One of the nights of the Perseid Meteor Shower.  Not only was I physically drained but I still needed to make a grocery list and write a blog post.

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“Mom, over here!”  On a beautiful and cool night we had been invited to a friend’s house for a party.  I had just filled my plate with food and was heading to sit by the pool with some friends when I heard my son call to me.  I noticed he was sitting alone and my heart evoked the pain of having nobody to talk to when everyone else is having a great time visiting with each other.  So I quickly diverted my path from the table filled with friends laughing and having fun to sit with my little boy.

“Mom, will you play volleyball with me in the yard?”  Although, my body was tired from already doing a hard workout and looking at a daunting to-do list, my daughter’s request could not be ignored.  She was working hard to expand her skills in the sport she loved most.  I mustered the little bit of energy I had left and used it to bump the ball, run after serves, and dive for kills.

With three kids, the requests for Mom seem unending.  Unfortunately, my task list and schedule also seem endless.

When my kids asked if I would join them on the deck for the meteor shower, I was tempted to say, “Not tonight.”  But then I thought back to the days when they were smaller and the many bedtime stories I would read to them.  Scheming against going to sleep, there was always, “Just one more, Mom.”

Now I searched my memory for when the very last request for a bedtime story came.  I could not remember that night and I was left to question, did I end with a, “Not tonight,” or a “You bet we can read one more.”

Our kids only grow up once.  Someone wise once said in describing raising kids, “The days are long but the years are short.”  The long days often tempt us with a “no” answer.  There is always something else competing for our time on a daily basis.

But as our kids grow, it’s important to remember there will be a last time for certain requests.

  • “Mom, will you hold me?”
  • “Mom, will you play a game with me?”
  • “Mom, will you read me a book?”
  • “Mom, can I make cookies with you?”
  • “Mom, can we do something special together today?”

The thought of not knowing when the last request will come encourages me to say, “yes” more than I say, “no.”

After considering my children’s fleeting requests, I donned a sweatshirt and sweatpants and headed outside with my two excited children to watch for meteors.

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Without computers, phones, video games, iPods, and other distracting influences, we began a lovely and focused conversation.

  • We contemplated if bugs sleep.
  • We questioned God’s choice of sound for certain animals upon hearing an owl hooting.
  • I answered questions about the bible.
  • We discussed the upcoming school year and all the fear and excitement it’s generating.
  • We oohed and awed over each meteor we saw and took a tally of how many each saw.
  • We saw a bat.  A BAT???  Okay, I’ll admit the bat sighting made me ponder if my love for my children really needed to supersede my grocery list.  But I planted myself in my seat and proceeded to fling my arms in a frenzy when a moth would pass by fearing it was the bat.  I soon became the entertaining headliner eclipsing the meteor shower

Although my grocery list sits blank on the kitchen counter and I’m working on this blog post at midnight, I feel good about my decision.

Grocery lists will await me the rest of my life.  The opportunity to write will most likely continue long after my kids have grown and moved on with their own lives.  However, the time I have with my children at home is fading fast.  I want to make the most of it while I have the opportunity.

Are you in the midst of busy days while raising kids?  Are you inundated with your kid’s requests?  Which ones will you miss most someday?  Will you begin to say, “yes” more than, “no”?

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©2013 Connie Davis Johnson

 

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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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©2013 Connie Davis Johnson

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View more pictures at Susannah Cushman’s blog here.

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©2013 Connie Davis Johnson

Bottomless heart quote

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©2013 Connie Davis Johnson

Flying from Venice to Amsterdam in Europe, my traveling companions and I had the privilege of passing over the Austrian Alps.  It was stunning.  Snow-capped peaks as far as the eye could see.  It never seemed to end as if it was wrapped all the way around the world.  I couldn’t tear my eyes away from the view outside the plane window.  It was truly the most beautiful and amazing natural sight I had ever witnessed.

Alps pic 1More astonishing than the incredible vista outside the plane was what was going on inside the plane.  Shades were closed.  Nobody was looking at the majesty just beyond the glass.  Engrossed in books, magazines, or computers, some were unaware of the beauty they were missing.  Others had grown so accustomed to the view, they had lost their awe of its magnificence.

As I sat there astounded something so marvelous could be so easily disregarded, I slowly realized I was guilty of the same thing.  I may not live near majestic mountains but there are many striking sights within my own neighborhood and my own walls that I take for granted every day.  I’m guilty of shutting the shades on:

  • My own surroundings  –   On a warm day in September, my son, Colby, and I went for a bike ride that was quite eye-opening.  Colby admired beautiful landscaping in yards.  He pointed out two playing squirrels.  We stopped to ogle a tractor.  We took time to play on the swings.  We went up countless hills (is it possible to go uphill both ways?) and raced down streets.  And that’s when I realized, somewhere along the way, I had shut the shades on the world around me and no longer viewed it with wonder like an 11-year-old.
  • My children – Their faces, toes, and fingers were something that stole my breath in the delivery room.  Where had I lost that admiration for the miracle of their creation?  I had shut the shade on adoring my children.
  • My husband – On the day of our wedding, he enraptured my attention.  Everything and everyone disappeared into the background as I became lost in the moment.  As I regarded my soon-to-be husband, I was overwhelmed with love and how much I treasured this man.  Although, I love my husband even more than that first day of our marriage, I no longer look at him with rapture.  The business of life and managing many responsibilities had allowed me to shut the shade on cherishing my husband.
  • God  – God and I spend time together every day but many times I do not marvel at His presence.  The ability to talk with Him anytime, anywhere has become routine.  The idea that I’m walking into His throne room no longer impresses me.  I had shut the shade on revering God.

Have you shut the shades anywhere in your life?  What no longer impresses you?  What once took your breath away that has now become routine?

149076772Let’s determine to throw open the shades and regain our sense of wonder.

  • Be intentional – Choose one day a month when you will determine to adore what you’ve closed the shades on in life.  Today is my birthday, so I’ve decided that today and each month on the 14th, I will slow down and intentionally look out my windows of life with amazement.
  • Be amazed – Ponder the special qualities of the place or person you want to notice.  I’m determined to think about my husband’s amazing qualities and all the reasons why I love him.  I will hug my children and admire their beautiful faces.  I will be mindful of the landscape, people, wildlife, and everything else surrounding me and marvel at its beauty.  And I will walk into God’s presence with a renewed mind.
  • Share – Tell the people in your life why you love them and what makes them special.  Share your thoughts of your beautiful surroundings with whoever you are with at the time.  I will be purposeful in telling my husband and kids why they amaze me.  I plan to share in my kid’s wonder of the world around us and point out the extraordinary.  I’ll praise God for who He is and not just for what He’s done for me.

When we are intentional, we begin to see all the beauty and blessings we take for granted.  I urge you, open the shades and gaze at life with a renewed sense of wonder.  Share it with those around you.  And let’s resolve to never close the shades on our lives again.

“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.”  Ecclesiastes 3:11

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©2012 Connie Davis Johnson

Shopping Cart Joyride

December 10, 2012 — 4 Comments
This story is such a wonderful tribute to friendship.  It is written by Phil Luciano.  Please enjoy!
92150817A final wish – to see cellphone photo of shopping cart joyride
By:  PHIL LUCIANO
In the sunset of her life, Jean Jachman enjoyed an unexpected, whimsical joyride with a childhood friend.

In a rickety shopping cart. Through a crowded shopping mall. Wheeee!

It was a welcome act of inspiration for a pair of fun-loving 71-year-olds. Late for a hair appointment, the cancer-exhausted Jean couldn’t walk through Northwoods Mall. So her best pal since the third grade, the aptly named Patty Rush, dashed her through the mall – the twosome laughing all the way like schoolkids, as shoppers gawked and smiled at the crazy sight. And later, just for fun, they made a repeat run on the way out.

The adventure puts an exclamation point on the treasured friendship, buoying Jean’s spirits in her final days. But she has just one final favor, if anyone can help.

Marveling at the cart ride, a young man stopped the two women and took a photo on his cellphone – then vanished. Jean would like to take a last peek at the photo.

“We can’t seem to find that picture, eh?” she asked me Wednesday.

I’ve been trying to locate the photo-taker since Tuesday, when I first heard about the story. The tale actually began 62 years ago, in the third grade in St. Mark’s Grade School. There, a Peoria native named Patty befriended a newcomer named Jean, whose family had arrived from Baltimore so her dad could take a job at Block & Kuhl. They became and stayed fast friends, through graduation at Academy of Our Lady.

“Then Jean went to college, and I went to work,” Patty Rush says.

In the mid-’60s, Jean Jachman and husband Paul Jachman bopped around the country during his tour with the U.S. Air Force. In 1969, they settled in Minneapolis so he could take a job there as a pilot with Northwest Airlines. That same year brought the birth of daughter Andrea Jachman, whom over time the couple would bring to Peoria to visit relatives, along with Patty Rush.

Fast-forward more than four decades. Jean and Patty remained tight friends. But not long ago, Jean called with harsh news: She had been diagnosed with myelodysplasia, a type of blood cancer.

Jean underwent chemotherapy, but recently stopped. The treatment hadn’t stopped the disease from progressing relentlessly. So, to lessen the physical toll, she and her family decided to skip chemo in favor of more energy during her remaining time.

As her daughter says, “She is quite physically weak, though pretty much still as stubborn and feisty as ever.”

Recently, Jean decided to make one last road trip to Peoria, to see her pal Patty get married to John Rush last Saturday. Though Jean and Paul Jachman are divorced, he agreed to accompany her to Peoria to help her get around.

The small wedding went fine, but left Jean a little weak. Still, the next day, she wanted to get her hair washed and styled before the trip home. Patty called around and found an opening at a salon in Northwoods Mall. So they drove over and headed inside.

Suddenly, Jean felt too weak to walk. As she sat on a bench, Patty looked around for a wheelchair, but found none. She thought of asking for help, but saw her friend looking weaker.

“I didn’t want to leave her for any amount of time,” Patty says.

Then she spotted a shopping cart. She hurried over, grabbed the cart and rolled it in front of Jean.

“We can do this,” Patty told her best friend.

Without comment, Jean pushed aside her exhaustion and rose to her feet. Then she gingerly stepped onto the front bottom frame of the cart, facing Patty. Then Jean grabbed onto the sides, like kids sometimes do in grocery stores.

The two buddies locked eyes, then smiled. Patty began to push, and began to laugh, more so as the cart picked up speed.

“We were going pretty lickety-split,” Patty says.

Shoppers began to point and chuckle. At one point, a security guard took a long look, but stayed put. Were they afraid their geriatric “Thelma and Louise” act might get them arrested? Perhaps for speeding?

With a laugh, Jean says, “I don’t think she was going that fast. We’re a bit hobbled by age.”

They skidded to stop – well, kind of – at the salon. After Jean got her hair done, the pair went outside: the cart was still there. They looked at each other for a second, then jumped back into place for another mall run. Cowabunga! They felt like little kids, like the old days.

“She was having a good time. I was having a good time,” Jean says. “She has been a good friend since the third grade. You don’t get many like that.”

During that repeat jaunt, a laughing young man rushed up. Impressed by their joyful spirit, he asked to take their photo. They smiled, he thanked them, and he vanished.

And all too soon, Jean was headed back to Minneapolis. There, she shared the story with her daughter, who immediately and desperately wanted to find that photo.

She says, “In a time of life devoted to good-byes and soul-searching and many, many tears, this image of two of the oldest and most devoted friends, one pushing the other and both pushing the limits of decorum, is one that has brought my family great joy and laughter over the last few days. It would be a real treasure for us to have it.”

I have done some legwork here. I posted a call-out for the photo on Facebook; though scads of people loved the story, none has a clue as to the photo-taker. I contacted the hair salon, Regis; no men work there. And the mall does not have security cameras in commons areas, where most of the cart ride occurred.

So, right here, right now, we put out a call for that photo. Share the story, by whatever means you wish. It’s a needle-in-a-haystack hope. But maybe this story can find the photo-taker. He could be in Switzerland; he could be in Bartonville. Yet maybe he – or maybe someone else who took a photo – will see this simple plea from a dying woman and her family. You can reach me with the info at the end of this column.

On Tuesday, Jean’s health took a dive for the worse. She has very little time. She would love to see that photo. So would the rest of us, as a precious testimony to friendship and perseverance.

PHIL LUCIANO is a columnist with the Journal Star. He can be reached at pluciano@pjstar.com, facebook.com/philluciano, 686-3155 or (800)225- 5757, Ext. 3155. Follow him on Twitter @LucianoPhil.

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I’ve always struggled with feeling dumb and with forgiving myself.  Both feelings collided in a life-changing way in 1999.

Shortly after we gave birth to our first child, we wanted to add more children to our family.  We began trying to get pregnant almost immediately.  Month after month, I was convinced I was pregnant only to be crushed with yet another negative result.  These ongoing heavy emotions caused my husband to outlaw home pregnancy tests.

We began medical testing to find the problem.

After many tests, we graduated to the hysterosalpingogram (HSG) test.  A dye is injected and an X-ray taken of the uterus, fallopian tubes, and the area around them.  A blood pregnancy test was required the week before the HSG to make sure I wasn’t pregnant as the test could harm the baby.

Again, convinced I was pregnant, I was utterly shocked when the blood test was negative. Undeterred, I called my OB/GYN office every day trying to convince them the test was wrong.  The staff was very compassionate but assured me I wasn’t pregnant.

I was so convinced I was pregnant, I called my doctor’s home at 11:30 pm the night before the HSG.  I’m sure he was thrilled I kept his number from the years I worked for him.  He very sweetly explained a blood pregnancy test is extremely sensitive and shows a positive result within 24 hours of conception.  Therefore, I could not possibly be pregnant.

I went to bed and prayed asking God why I continued to experience such strong feelings while everyone disagreed.  Only three times in my life has God spoken so clearly, it may as well have been audible.  For the first of those three times He said, “I promised you a baby, cancel the test.”

I immediately began thinking of all the reasons I couldn’t possibly cancel the test.  My doctor was making a special trip to my chosen hospital at 6:30 am before he planned to rush across town to another hospital for surgery.  The Radiologist and nurses also made special concessions to come in early for my doctor’s sake.  I would not be able to cancel in time.

My concerns also involved how dumb I was going to look if I walked in refusing to take the test saying, “Well God told me……”  I felt stupid enough already!

There was no way I was cancelling the test.

The next morning when the test began, I knew I had made a big mistake.  I prayed and asked forgiveness for disobeying and asked God to cover the baby with His hand if I was pregnant.  After finishing the test, I felt nauseous and left.

As much as I tried to put it out of my mind over the next month, I finally couldn’t deny my symptoms any longer.  I bought a pregnancy test.  The result?  Positive.

The doctor confirmed I was indeed 4 weeks pregnant during the HSG.  He informed my husband and me the baby would not be able to handle that much radiation and fully expected us to lose the baby any time.  However, if in the off-chance we carried the baby to term, he or she would have a high chance of developing childhood leukemia.  He offered us an abortion.  We declined and went home with instructions on what to do when I miscarried.

I climbed into bed and stayed there for a week.  A deep depression set in.  I hated myself.  I couldn’t even look at myself in the mirror.  I had killed the child I coveted because I was afraid of looking dumb.

Crying and praying, I begged God not to take my stupid mistake out on our baby.  After a week, God spoke clearly for the second of three times, “I covered that baby with my hand.  Now get up.”  This time I believed.  All my fears dissipated and I worried no more.  Seven months later, we gave birth to a beautiful baby girl.

Our daughter celebrates her 13th birthday today.  And other than a sensitive stomach, she is perfectly healthy.

My daughter’s birthday a reminder of my worst mistake?  Yes.  But I also have a wonderful daughter who reminds me God loves, God forgives, and God redeems.

“For You formed my inward parts;
You covered me in my mother’s womb.”

~ Psalm 139:13 NKJV

©2012 Connie Davis Johnson

It was just an ordinary day when I needed to go grocery shopping.

On my way, I saw a mom running with a baby in a carrier on her chest, pushing a toddler in a stroller, and holding a leash as her dog ran alongside.  This mom was dedicated and included her kids in her determination.  What an inspiration!

After parking my car at the grocery store, I got out and just happened to witness two women excitedly greet each other.  I overheard them as they eagerly told each other about their lives because they had apparently not seen each other in years.  What fun!

Pushing my cart down an aisle, I noticed a woman having trouble reaching an item on the top shelf.  I decided to offer my high-heeled help.  Before I could, a man walked by and in one swoop, grabbed the item, threw it in her cart, smiled, and kept walking.  What thoughtfulness!

As I was finishing up in the produce section, I observed an older woman talking with a young man.  She was apprising him of all her ailments,  many of which would have embarrassed her own mother.  But the man was completely absorbed in what she was saying, providing her much-needed attention.  What compassion!

Waiting in line to pay for my groceries, the woman checking out was paying with cash.  She was ready to hand over the money when she learned she needed some change.  Immediately, the man behind her handed the cashier the necessary money with a smile.  He saved her from having to dig for her wallet as a long line formed behind her.  What kindness!

Driving home from the store, I looked into a cornfield and saw a farmer’s family having supper together in a field.  A table and chairs had been set up along with a buffet table laden with food.  Not even harvest was going to stop this family from being together.  What devotion!

As I arrived home, I realized there really is no ordinary errand.  There really is no ordinary day.  If we just open our eyes, we will witness extraordinary in the midst of ordinary.

 
@2012 Connie Davis Johnson

Each time I visit Colorado, I feel as if I’ve entered God’s Spa.  He feeds my personal needs in many ways.

He rejuvenates

He awes!

He surprises!

He thrills!

He’s unconventional!

But the most extraordinary are the friends He gave me to share all of this with!

@2012 Connie Johnson

I love decorating my front porch with pumpkins and mums. Do you decorate for the Autumn season?

We make time in Fall for bonfires, roasted hot dogs, and s’mores. What Fall activities does your family enjoy?

Fall ushers in some really wonderful scents. Candles, baking special Fall treats, caramel on the stove for caramel apples, scented soaps, bonfires, pumpkins, mums, and more. My favorite scent is Bath and Body’s Wallflower plug-in Sweet Cinnamon Pumpkin. What’s your favorite Fall scent?

Hayrides bring back many wonderful memories with family and friends. What wonderful memories have you made in Fall?

Corn mazes are a big deal in Central IL. Do you have some activities that are a big deal in your area?

Fall – another reason to look around and realize we are in the middle of an extraordinary day.

@2012 Connie Johnson