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Me and Cauri

My daughter recently went with me to a speaking engagement where I shared the journey of my pregnancy with her (you can read about it here). It was one of the most distraught times of my life. Although Cauri had heard the story many times, she had never heard the feelings I experienced during that time. It moved her to tears to know I loved her so much.

And that broke my heart.

I realized although I sometimes share reasons for my teaching or discipline with her, many times I don’t share what I’m feeling.

So my dear, darling, challenging daughter, I want to share with you what I feel almost on a daily basis raising you.

I wake in the mornings and feel worried.

Worried that your heart will be hurt by unkind peers or impatient teachers.

Unfortunately, as the morning continues, I feel angry.

After fighting to get you out of bed, we argue about running late, lost homework, complaints about nothing to take for lunch, and leaving a huge mess in the kitchen for mom to clean since you “don’t have time.”

When you leave for school, I feel relieved.

Relieved we have time to get over ourselves and come back together in the evening for a fresh start.

Relief quickly turns to sadness.

Sadness that I am the one who caused you hurt before the day even had a chance to begin.

The day is then spent feeling helpless.

Helpless as I wonder about your day. How the test is going for which you spent so much time studying, if your friend is still upset with you and turning mutual friends against you, if the bully who sits behind you in two classes is calling you “stupid,” again, about your decisions and if they are wise or made out of emotion. And knowing you’re dealing with all of it away from me and beyond my help or rescue.

By the time you waltz in from school and you look content and happy, I feel reassured.

Reassured all went well during the day.

Reassurance quickly turns to feeling irritable.

Irritable from the complaints over what I’m making for supper, from all the arguing between you and your siblings, from all the things I’m trying to remember: which kids have activities, who is driving what carpool, everything on my to-do list that did not get finished earlier in the day, how much homework each of you has for the evening, calls or emails I need to return before the evening is over. I’m irritable and don’t listen well. I’m short with my words and yell.

As the evening progresses, I feel tired.

Tired from not knowing how to help with homework, from not knowing how to give you direction with your life question, from the sibling arguments, from disrespectful talk toward your dad and me, from feeling unappreciated after having worked at my job and on the house and taking care of all your needs throughout the day, tired from my brain working in overdrive, and tired from all those feelings I’ve been experiencing.

When the evening is over and we all go to bed, I feel guilt.

Guilt over not handling your questions well, not listening when you were trying to tell me something important, saying things to you I shouldn’t have, not having all the answers to your needs.

And guilt for feeling worried, angry, relieved, helpless, irritable, and tired. All of which reminds me of my shortcomings as a mom.

I leave my bed to check on you sleeping kids and I feel thankful.

Thankful God gave me such wonderful kids, thankful all of you are tucked safely in your beds in our warm house, thankful you made a decision to accept Christ’s sacrifice and are guaranteed eternal life, thankful you are mine.

I feel thankful and I kiss you on the forehead as you sleep.

And then I pray! I give all of my feelings and all those things out of my control to God.

Through it all, I feel indescribable love for you.

But know love is MORE than a feeling. While feelings change, my love for you never does! And that love, dear child, will never be compromised!

Pearl Buck quote

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© 2015 Connie Davis Johnson

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One of our family’s favorite Christmas traditions is packing shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child.  Operation Christmas Child is part of Samaritan’s Purse who sends gifts throughout the world to needy children.

We choose three shoeboxes, fill them with gifts, and take them to a distribution center during collection week.  Since we are able to choose the gender and age range of the child we believe would enjoy our gifts most, we allow our children to choose the same gender and age they are currently.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our kids have a great time choosing items they not only would love to have but also the necessities that are sometimes taken for granted.  They learn the majority of children in this world have very little and begin to appreciate their own blessings a bit more.  And all of us are reminded of the importance of Hebrews 13:16, “And do not forget to do good and to share with others.”

Following Operation Christmas Child on Facebook, we’ve had the privilege of reading many heartwarming stores about the children who receive shoeboxes.  The following is an example:

“At an OCC shoe box gift distribution in Ecuador, a volunteer noticed a boy who was six or seven years old. His shoes were torn and she could see his toes through the holes. His clothes were bedraggled and dirty. She wanted to make sure he got a special gift, and made plans to give him a large box, since she thought he was in so much need. Before she had a chance to find a special big box for him, the boy was handed a small box from another volunteer. When he opened it, there were two pairs of socks, a pack of crayons and a couple of toys. She went to him and asked if he would like to exchange his box for a larger one, although that is not the norm at a gift distribution. She thought, ‘He needs so much, but only got a couple of small things.’ But the boy refused to exchange his box, exclaiming: ‘I have socks, I have socks! These are my socks!’”

I want to be as wide-eyed and excited as this child is over something as simple as socks.  How can I possibly capture this excitement when I have more than I even need?  Giving is one way.  After all, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”  (Acts 20:35).

Although collection week for Operation Christmas Child is finished for the year, many other great opportunities to give still exist.  I encourage you to find your favorite and give, give, give.  Get the family involved.  Call some friends.  Start a new tradition.

Here are some suggestions:

  1. Volunteer at a local soup kitchen.
  2. Buy a toy and participate in the Toys for Tots campaign.  Find a drop-off location here.
  3. Collect canned goods from your co-workers, church members, neighborhood, kid’s sports teams, etc. and take to a local shelter or food pantry.
  4. Visit someone in a nursing home that doesn’t normally receive visitors.  The nurses will be able to direct you to a lonely resident.
  5. Adopt a family and provide gifts or Christmas dinner.  Find struggling families by contacting local churches.
  6. Drop off gifts or treats throughout your neighborhood as a surprise.  Leave on the front porch, ring the doorbell, and run away.
  7. Give a gift card to a frazzled department store worker.
  8. Send flowers to a widow.
  9. Take treats to those who patiently wait in the ICU waiting room.
  10. Adopt a soldier.  Send a soldier a few gifts to enjoy while sacrificing time away from their families protecting our freedoms and defending the defenseless.

And remember to put Operation Christmas Child on your calendar for November of next year.  Starting a new tradition of giving will bring blessings and excitement that sometimes get lost in the ordinary everyday life.

©2012 Connie Davis Johnson

Do you have a box of family heirlooms?  Unfortunately, heirlooms cannot be enjoyed when hidden away in a box.  Wouldn’t it be nice to put them on display?  They can then be appreciated by everyone in the family.  And the next generation can learn more about their family.  But how can we bring them into our living spaces without making our homes look like a giant garage sale or a bad episode of Hoarders?

I had several meaningful family heirlooms that I wanted to display but I despise clutter.  So I came up with a plan to use them tastefully as decorations.

My mom owned several sets of paper dolls as a child and loved them.  She kept them into her adult years to remind her of her childhood.  On special occasions, my mom would allow my sisters and me to play with her paper dolls.  We knew their emotional worth so we were always careful while playing.  Once my sisters and I were grown and on our own, she decided to pass along her precious collection.  We each took the ones we liked the most.

The last thing I wanted was to hide them in a box in the basement.  The goal was to enjoy them.  The simplicity of their grandparents toys is also a good lesson for my kids who often take their own toys for granted.

Four frames came in handy in the basement as I prepared to display my precious heirlooms.

  • Once the back of the frame was removed, I placed the paper dolls on the glass of the frame.
  • Rather than replacing the back with the same cardboard backing, I replaced it with the glass from another frame.
  • Sandwiched tightly, the dolls have not moved since finishing this project.  The frames will be painted at a later date.My mom also passed down some beloved doll furniture and toys.  I bought a shadowbox and some hook and loop Velcro.
  • I kept the hook and loop parts of the Velcro attached to each other and cut them into pieces to fit each toy.
  • Peeling off the back of one side of the Velcro, I attached the entire piece to each toy.
  • Then I arranged the toys to my liking on the backboard of the shadowbox.
  • After that, I peeled off the remaining tape from the Velcro and attached the toys according to their placement.

Another shadowbox displays a few other items I received from my parents and grandparents.  All items are attached with hook and loop Velcro as described above except the handkerchiefs which are pinned to the back with a few straight pins.  The items included are:

  • My paternal grandma’s glasses.  She always had a chain attached so she wouldn’t lose them.
  • My maternal grandpa’s watch.
  • Two of my great, great, great grandma’s handkerchiefs.
  • My paternal grandpa’s keys.  He had many keys due to his position in the community along with owning his own business.
  • A recipe for Pumpkin Bread written in my paternal grandma’s handwriting.
  • A small new testament filled with notations of my dad’s.

I inherited two of my paternal grandpa’s bibles, the black and brown bibles in the picture.  These are my favorite heirlooms.  Grandpa read his bibles until they fell apart and liked to write in the margins.  I love reading his notations regarding certain verses and speculating what may have gone on his life at the time.

The bibles sit on my dresser along with a few other meaningful items that include:

  • A white bible engraved with my name given to me as a baby.  It was later used at my wedding.
  • One of my great, great, great grandma’s handkerchiefs.
  • A framed letter my sweet daughter wrote for my birthday.
  • The purse I carried to all my proms.
  • My wedding veil.

My husband’s maternal grandpa served as a paratrooper in World War 2.  We were blessed to hear some of his stories before he died.  My husband’s parents and I tracked down replicas of the medals and ribbons he earned and I attached them along with his military picture inside a shadowbox as described above.  This was one of my husband’s favorite Christmas gifts of all time.

Shadowboxes, frames, and creative table displays allow heirlooms to be showcased.  We can honor our older generations while educating the younger generations within our families.  What heirlooms would you like to remove from storage and enjoy in your living space?

©2012 Connie Davis Johnson