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By Angie Faulstich

There is a danger in becoming a parent.  After I bundled up my newborn and took him into my home, that wee little one took over my entire world. It took all of my effort and more strength than I thought I had to keep my little guy alive.

From midnight feedings to mid-afternoon snacks, my mission was to keep my little one fed, dry, warm, and safe. But, as time has passed, Aidan is becoming more and more independent, and he needs me a little less with each passing day.

After an extended break from school over the Christmas holidays, Aidan went back to school, and a large chunk of my heart left with him.  The loss feels like- well, to be honest, it feels like you may just as well have carved out a piece of my heart with a spoon.

That’s how it felt in the beginning as well.  His first semester of kindergarten did not go well for me.  I felt alone and lost, without a purpose.  I grew tired of spending my days alone at home.  And while still not sleeping well most of the time, I just felt tired.  So as the days of Christmas break came to a close and there were no more snow days or 2 hour delays in sight, I began to fear that the emptiness would return.

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It was an emptiness that could not be filled by anything of this world.  Not hobbies that I enjoy.  Not my favorite foods.  Not entertaining movies- even the good clean ones.  Not even the thought of taking on a job outside of the home could fill the empty hole in my heart.

My life lay before me as a beautiful tapestry cut into a 1,000 piece jigsaw puzzle.  The puzzle was finished save one last piece that should have filled a hole near the center of the picture.  And as hard as I searched, high and low, around the puzzle, on the floor, inside the box, in the cabinet from which the puzzle came, I could not find the missing piece.  It was lost.  And I could not fill the empty hole in my heart that I knew had been stolen from me when my son went away to school, and I was no longer needed.

I sunk into bed after their first day back to school, and I cried, “Lord, I cannot live alone anymore.  I feel like I’ve been left behind.  There is emptiness in my soul that I cannot fill, and I do not want to be alone anymore.”

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And then startling words flooded into the cavern of my soul.  From somewhere deep within, I heard the words: “You don’t have to be alone.”

Instantly, I knew He was right.  The Savior of my soul was the missing piece of the puzzle.  And it suddenly dawned on me.  No matter what stage of life I find myself in.  No matter whether my children are home or away at school.  No matter where in the world I find myself, as I often dream of traveling and going on great adventures.  No man, child, friend, food, or entertainment can ever become the missing piece in my puzzle.  For if they do, I have left myself in grave danger and in desperate need of the only One who can ever fill the missing piece of my heart- and that is Jesus.

He has now promised to walk with me through these days of uncertainty.  And I will each and every morning invite Him to lead me through them.  And somehow now I feel hope.  Hope that one day I will feel whole again.  Peace that He will mend my broken heart.  That He is and always will the missing piece to my puzzle.  If I make Him that piece, I will be whole.

I just have to keep inviting Him in, and I can’t let anything else take His place.

Is there an emptiness in your life that needs to be filled?  Is God the piece that is missing?

My incredible guest writer today is Angie Faulstich.  Angie is a child of God, a mother of two bright and wonderful sons, and a wife to an amazing husband.  She is the author of a weekly newspaper column entitled “Finding Peace” that encourages readers to turn to God for all of their needs so that they, too, may experience everlasting peace.

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© 2014 Connie Davis Johnson

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The amusement park’s jungle cruise boat captain entertained us with silly jokes and warned us to watch out for the water-spitting elephants.  At seven years of age, I was enjoying myself immensely as I sat between my mom and dad in the full boat.

However, the captain’s voice suddenly turned serious.  He warned we would have to go through a dark cave full of headhunters in order to get back home.  There was no other way.

The captain shared there was no need to worry since the headhunters mostly attack little blonde-haired girls.  This presented a dilemma since I was a little blonde-haired girl who wished to keep her head.  I covered my eyes to avoid seeing my fate.  However, I realized by covering my eyes with my own hands, I could not see if my dad was still there to protect me.  So I covered my eyes with his hand instead.  And with that move, I upstaged the captain as our fellow passengers dissolved into laughter.

Over the years I have often turned to my dad when I was scared or upset.  My dad was always available when I needed him.  He would “cover my eyes against the scary” with words of encouragement and promises God would be with me even when he couldn’t.

Fast forward 35 years from that jungle boat cruise.  A different scary outcome lay ahead.  The cave replaced with my parents’ house.  The boat for a hospital bed.

I longed for my dad to cover my eyes against the “scary,” but his hand lay limp at his side.  My dad was dying.  Although hospice provided a book to inform us what to expect, living it was much worse than reading about it.  Each stage much more horrible than the last.

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I heard the death rattle in my dad’s chest and throat.  Not being able to draw in much breath, he fought for air.  The hospice nurses had promised he would feel nothing as he neared the end.  However, even though he was sleeping, it seemed to me he was suffering.

My every instinct warred within me to help.  But I knew there was nothing I could do.  He was ready to go so I was forced to helplessly stand and watch.

There was no other way home.  My dad was about to enter heaven and this was the only way.

As I watched my dad take his final breaths in this life, my body was wracked with sobs.  I needed my dad to cover my eyes and encourage me everything would be okay.

But he couldn’t.  My dad would no longer be here for me to turn to when I was facing something scary.

Then I remembered the principle my dad taught every chance he had.  My Heavenly Father would always be with me even when my own dad could not.  So I turned to God and begged Him to help me get through this horrible scene playing out in front of me.

I was reminded of Stephen in the bible who was stoned to death for his faith.  Before he took his final breaths, he saw heaven open up before him and saw Jesus standing at God’s right hand.  There was no suffering as he took his final breaths and entered heaven.

If God could open Stephen’s eyes to heaven and “cover his eyes against the scary,” then He could do the same for my dad.  This became my prayer.  And I choose to believe it was answered.  Just as Stephen died peacefully amidst being stoned, my dad died peacefully amidst straining for breath.

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And now He does the same for me day by day, moment by moment.  God opens my eyes to the knowledge my dad is with Him.  Unable to walk in the last 3 years of his life, he now runs the streets of heaven probably playing a pick-up game of basketball with Joseph.  He is visiting with his own mom and dad, many other relatives, and the people in the bible he studied much about over the years.

These reminders allow God to hold me up with His right hand and “cover my eyes against the scary.”

As I continue to travel the “valley of the shadow of death.”  He strengthens me, gives me wisdom when I ask, and comforts me.  Although my dad’s hand is no longer available to me, God’s hand will always be there.

God’s there for you too.  What “scary” are you facing?  Pick up God’s hand and cover your eyes.  Allow Him to hold you with His right hand as He soothes you with words of encouragement and provides strength to face what lay ahead.

Trust Him.

So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you w
ith my righteous right hand.  ~ Isaiah 41:10

Copy of 1970 dad with connie

This post dedicated to my dad who went to heaven Oct. 16, 2013. 

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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

 

Strategic placement

 

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But I Don’t Wanna!

May 13, 2013 — 3 Comments

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I’m a Christian Women’s Speaker.  God called me to this profession 17 years ago but I argued with Him for 14 years before agreeing.  I tried to appease Him by teaching Sunday school, bible study, kid’s clubs, and emceeing events but it wasn’t exactly what God had in mind.  So I finally threw up my hands and said, “Fine!”

Desiring to be “real” I share much that makes me extremely vulnerable.  Opening up and sharing personal stories can be scary and sometimes gets the best of my emotions, making me nervous.

So was the case when I spoke recently.  After speaking the first night of a retreat, I became so nervous about speaking again the next day, I made myself sick.  So I did what I always do when I’m scared.  I called my husband, Craig.

I informed Craig that I had no idea why I was doing this speaking thing and I must have heard God wrong.  After all, He wouldn’t call me to do something I hated so much.  And I just wasn’t going to do it anymore after this weekend.  My emotions were obviously in overdrive.  Although I felt the need to share my feelings with Craig, I think he got the idea from the shaky inflections, short and breathless words, and just general panic in my voice.  Continuing on, I filled him in on my plan of calling and cancelling all speaking engagements on my calendar and removing my speaking information from my blog.

Craig’s response?  A very flat, “Uh huh.  Whatever you think God is telling you.”  He’s obviously heard this many times before and doesn’t realize just how serious I am.  This time!

After saying goodbye to Craig, I picked up my bible hoping God would calm my heart enough to be able to sleep.  I just opened my bible and it fell to Psalm 40:8-10;

“I delight to do your will, O my God, and your law is within my heart.’  I have proclaimed the good news of righteousness in the great assembly; Indeed, I do not restrain my lips, O Lord, you yourself know.  I have not hidden your righteousness within my heart; I have declared your faithfulness and your salvation; I have not concealed your loving-kindness and your truth from the great assembly.”

105643580Seriously???  This bible roulette thing wasn’t working out too well.  I was tempted to let it fall open again.  However, I knew God had already said what I was supposed to hear.  He really knows how to rain on my parade and my plans.

I texted Craig the verses I read.  He wrote back, “So I guess you won’t be cancelling any speaking engagements then?”   My response?  A very succinct, “Well, duh!”

By the end of the weekend retreat, I left extremely blessed meeting so many wonderful women, hearing their stories and what phrases touched them, and filling my car with the gifts of chocolate (there are definitely some benefits to this speaking thing).

So I continue to speak.  Unfortunately, I’m sure I will quit many more times in the future but these verses are ingrained in my brain now.  God is in the business of stretching us.  And although I may threaten my husband with quitting, he will not listen, God will continue to speak, and I will continue to obey.

Am I alone?  Are you scared to do something because it will stretch you out of your comfort zone?  I would love to hear about it if you’re willing to share in the comments below.

Blessings always follow obedience.  Be sure to visit on Thursday when I share the unmistakable blessing that followed this particular time of obedience.

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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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Being True

February 27, 2013 — Leave a comment

Being self love quote

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  1. Tell the manager when an employee offers good service.
  2. Pay for someone behind you in line.
  3. Allow another driver to merge in front of you.
  4. Share your snack with someone while waiting for an appointment.
  5. Offer a smile!
  6. Offer to take a picture for a couple or family so everyone can be in the picture.
  7. Leave a big tip.
  8. Give compliments generously.
  9. Hold the door for others.
  10. Say “please” and “thank you.”

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I have always loved everything about my grandma’s house.  She lived on acres and acres of land that made the perfect playground for my cousin and me.  The tree-house my Grandpa built in the backyard always waited with new adventures.  A pond with a paddle boat entertained us until our legs hurt.  We tromped through the woods for hours.  We swam, climbed trees, and threw rocks down the well.  Grandma’s house spelled F-U-N.

92682757As much as I loved all the many forms of entertainment available at Grandma’s, none could vie for my favorite reason to visit.  What I loved most was my Grandma’s greeting upon my arrival.  Each and every time I walked through the door of her house, Grandma would meet me in the kitchen beaming with a wide smile.  Always waiting with a big, sloppy, Grandma kiss and a giddy, “How are you, honey?”

I always felt special walking through Grandma’s door because her face would light up with excitement.  She was genuinely thrilled to see me.  Every single time.  Although a greeting may be considered ordinary, when sincere and filled with love, it becomes extraordinary.

Reflecting on those special Grandma greetings one day, I had to wonder how my kids feel when walking through our door.  Sadly, I had to admit they probably don’t feel special.  Even though I always say an enthusiastic “hi,” and ask about their day, I don’t beam.  I don’t light up.  No kiss or hug awaits them.  Many times I keep working at my computer or in the kitchen.  My greetings are simply ordinary.  I suddenly realized I was missing out on the many fleeting opportunities to convey how special they are to me.

That day, I opened the door to my kids, lit up upon seeing them, gave hugs and kisses, and asked about their days while looking them in the eyes.  It was distressing to see their shocked faces.  To see them look at me as if I was one fry short of a Happy Meal.  It was obvious serious changes were in order.

I now attempt to greet my kids with sincerity and love.  It doesn’t happen every day but it happens more than before.  My prayer is they will fondly remember their mom conveying genuine love even in the midst of an ordinary greeting.  And just like my grandma, my legacy will be built one greeting at a time.

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Burned!

©2013 Connie Davis Johnson