Let’s Build a Village

Can we, you and I, enter a symbiotic relationship for a bit?

Where you help me help you?

I’m a writer. Okay, you already knew that. I’m hoping to make a career out of it. Maybe you knew that, too. But the thing is, for writers to reach the people they care about with a message they’re passionate about, it truly takes a huge online village. I’m needing people in my village.

So here’s what’s going on. Almost two years ago I started:

  • this Mother of Pearls weekly blog,
  • bi-weekly devotionals on my Facebook writer’s page Cheri Dee Johnson (previously on Mother of Pearls page),
  • bi-weekly Facebook live videos on the Cheri Dee Johnson page,
  • and began sharing everything except the videos to an Instagram account (also called Cheri Dee Johnson).

All of this is an effort to reach more nonbiological moms with messages of hope. Messages that assure moms they are not monsters, their children aren’t evil, and God is faithful to fulfill His purposes for them and their children.

Even though Mother of Pearls has a good visual message to it, …

Professionals encouraged me to drop it. The topic of “pearls” is way overused. And authors do better if they simply use their names for all their online work. With a name like Cheri Johnson, that’s a bit of a faith step. After all, how many ways can you spell Cheri? And how many thousands of us Cheri (Sherri, Sherrie, Cherie …) Johnsons are there? So I added my middle name to help distinguish me.

As I’m learning what it means to be a writer, I continue to work on my online brand—not an easy task for this not-so-techno grandma. I started working on a new website last October—11 months ago, y’all!

Finally, it’s ready! Woo hoo! I’m so excited to introduce you to …

CHERI DEE JOHNSON: Discovering God’s Heart for the Mom Raising Nonbiological Children

So, here’s how you can help me build a village.

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1. Check out my new place and subscribe.

Read any page, scroll to the bottom of the page, and subscribe to receive my blog straight to your email.

2. Inform me if the subscription process doesn’t work.

Because I so appreciate your allowing me into your inbox on a regular basis, I have a free gift for you: a printable of The Nonbiological Mom’s Declaration of Truth. Once you subscribe, that gift should download straight onto your device. Boom! Just like that. And in short order you should receive a thank you letter from me in your email.

This should all happen automatically but in case it doesn’t could you please let me know?

3. Spread the word and help me grow my email list.

My dream is to publish books—books that will land in the hands of moms who need healing from the wounds they’ve encountered while raising children from hard places. But publishers now require authors to do most of their own marketing. The first statistic a potential publisher considers is how big an aspiring author’s email list is. In fact, just yesterday I heard it needs to contain at least 5,000 subscribers. Y’all! I think I have like maybe 25. I’m really struggling to find my “tribe”. So you can see why I’m reaching out to you and asking for your help.

But, I want this to be as organic as possible. Meaning, you don’t have to tell every single soul you know. But if you know any nonbiological (adoptive, foster, step, grandmother, aunt, etc) mom who could use the regular encouragement I offer, please, please, please refer them to my site. (Yes, I would love it if you told every single one of these souls.)

4. Evaluate my site.

I need people, other than my husband, to visit every page (No need to worry about the Write 31 Days page). I’m looking for feedback, especially if something’s not working: it doesn’t appeal visually, the content isn’t clear or meaningful, the technical transitions aren’t smooth, etc. Let me know how I can better serve you and those you know.

I’m used to pretty tough criticism, and if I’m going to enter the publishing world, I’ll have to face it anyway. So, don’t be gentle. Kind, yes, but be as honest as you can. Remember, you’re helping spread encouraging messages to people you care about. You want them to have meaningful engagement with me and my content.

5. Interact with me.

Again, I want this to be organic. Many friends tell me they love what I share even though they never comment. But, it’s those comments that help spread the encouragement. First, they let me know what’s working. Second, they extend messages of understanding and hope with other moms who walk a similar path.

Also, write me personally. Corresponding through email, allows for conversations to happen privately. In fact, by subscribing to my site, I’ll be able to send notes privately to subscribers. But you don’t have to wait for me to initiate conversations; you can email me at cherideejohnson@cherideejohnson.com

In the end, my goal is to step into the kind of opportunities Paul’s mentions in 2 Corinthians.

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I’d love to be that “come-alongside” person for you, and for those moms you know whom I’ve not yet met. Would you help me in doing this? Would you become a part of my village-building team? It would means so much to me, bless your friends, and help grow God’s kingdom.

To get start just head on over to Cheri Dee Johnson website and subscribe. My next blog will land in your inbox next Monday.

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

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I Just Want to Hold You

I’m not a crier.

Or, at least, I didn’t used to be. But one day my quivering voice confessed to my mom the realization that I’d never hear an enthusiastic toddler sing “Mommy,” as he ran to me, his arms reaching wide. I was wading through grief after coming to the awareness that I’d never be my children’s first mom. My arms would not likely be the ones they’d long for.

Have you been here with your nonbiological child? When all you want to do is hold them tight and tell them how precious they are—and have them believe it. To see that belief reflected in their eyes; and hear it in their voice; and watch it as they walk through life.

This desire is one of the strongest for any mom. But some of us have become painfully aware it’s not a desire that will necessarily be fulfilled. And so we find our arms achingly empty.

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This desire. It’s innate. It’s a God-image part of us. It mirrors Father God’s base nature.

This I-long-to-hold-you characteristic of God is seen throughout Scripture.

The eternal God is a dwelling place,
And underneath are the everlasting arms;
Deuteronomy 33:27a (NASB)

We see it depicted in God as our shepherd in Psalm 95:7 (NASB), For He is our God, And we are the people of His pasture and the sheep of His hand. Psalm 23 describes Shepherd-God as the provider for our every need: places of rest, nourishing food, refreshing drink, restoration for our souls, guidance toward righteousness, comfort in the darkest places of life, safety from our enemy, empowerment for our calling, abundance, goodness, mercy, and eternity with Him.

And can’t you just picture this from Psalm 116:1-2 (NASB)?

I love the Lord, because He hears
My voice and my supplications.
Because He has inclined His ear to me,
Therefore I shall call upon Him as long as I live.

And how about this image?

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
Will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
… He will cover you with His pinions,
And under His wings you may seek refuge;
His faithfulness is a shield and bulwark.
Psalm 91:1-4 (NASB)

In fact God delights in our presence so much, He is never far away.

O Lord, You have searched me and known me.
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
You understand my thought from afar.
You scrutinize my path and my lying down,
And are intimately acquainted with all my ways.
…You have enclosed me behind and before,
And laid Your hand upon me.
…Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, You are there;
If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there.
If I take the wings of the dawn,
If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea,
Even there Your hand will lead me,
And Your right hand will lay hold of me.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will overwhelm me,
And the light around me will be night,”
Even the darkness is not dark to You,
And the night is as bright as the day.
Psalm 139:1-12 (NASB)

God is intimately aware of this longing in our hearts to draw our children close.

He smiles with us those moments we stand in moon-lit rooms, gazing at our sleeping cherubs. His heart swells with ours as we cheer from the bleachers and applaud from the auditorium. His heart aches alongside ours when a defiant one turns away from our instructions.

But one thing He does not do is embrace the emptiness that Satan’s lies have attempted to forge. Because this Father knows there is always hope. Always. Hope.

Why? Because when it comes down to it, He’s the first parent. He’s also the last parent. He is our Creator—He is our children’s creator. Author. And Finisher. The final say-so.

And whether our children want it or not—whether we believe it or not—His arms are eternally long. Our children are never out of His reach.

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Behold, the Lord’s hand is not so short that it cannot save; Nor is His ear so dull that it cannot hear. Isaiah 59:1 (NASB).

Now What?

It was another Help, Lord! moment.

One of my children had just blindsided me with another, never-before-used, boundary-challenging technique. Dumbfounded, frustrated, and weary, I asked my heavenly Father, “Now what do I do with THIS?”

I once considered writing a book titled Now What? because it was a question I asked on a regular basis. Too frequently I felt thrown off kilter. The misbehaviors I faced—almost daily—required the wisdom of an experienced professional. I frequently felt like Tim Conway, in the Carol Burnett Show episode years ago, when he jabbed himself in the forehead with Novocain. But I knew I had to formulate some sort of immediate response to the inconceivable situation, so I typically used anger to fight through the stupor.

In one of those crying-out-to-the-Lord moments, I told Him, even if there are books out there to help me, I don’t have time to read them. And even if I read them all, they still wouldn’t have prepared me for this new issue. I needed divine insight, and I needed it right now.

Have you heard that phrase, “What would Jesus do?” Asking this question actually helped me. Jesus said anyone who had seen him, had seen the Father (John 14:9). I figured no professional insight could begin to compare to the wisdom of Father God. So if I took a good look at the way Jesus handled “out-of-the-blue” behaviors, I might get some clues about my current situation.

• Because He was confident in His identity, no surprise attack ever threatened Him.

• Because He never felt threatened, He could remain in control, think clearly, and respond appropriately.

• He used Scripture to guide His responses.

• Even when lied to, lied about, misunderstood, misrepresented, belittled, betrayed, crushed, and crucified, He remained confident Father God’s purposes would be accomplished.

• He was therefore free to patiently instruct, guide, provide for, heal, forgive, encourage, beckon, comfort, and even die for a fickle, unreliable, self-centered, wayward bunch of children.

When “what thens” fly in our face, it’s time to return to the most basic truths. We are God’s and He’s the One calling the shots.

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! (1 John 3:1, NIV).

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28, NASB)

But our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases. (Psalm 115:3, NASB).

The Lord of hosts has sworn saying, “Surely, just as I have intended so it has happened, and just as I have planned so it will stand,” (Is 14:24, NASB).

Time and time again, God took me back to the basic—yet earth-shifting—truth that He loved me. He delighted in me. My identity was based on who He declared I was an eternity ago, not on what my children did a moment ago. As long as I took regular time to remember this, I would find myself at peace and able to parent the tough stuff from a place of confidence.

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I’ve talked with many moms the past several years. I’ve heard stories of horrendous misbehaviors. But you know what? I rarely hear anything new. Crazy lying. Stealing. Feces smearing. Destruction of property (even brand-newly decorated rooms). Explosive episodes. Sexual acting out. Drug usage. Alcoholism. Debt-incurring financial choices. The list goes on and on.

No matter how horrible, none of these behaviors can ever change who God is. None change who we are. None threaten God. They don’t need to threaten us either. None steal God’s peace, or joy, or love, or decision to lay down His life. None thwart His eternal plans.

So, what then? Then is when we sit down, breathe belly-deep, and wait. Wait until the dust that clouds our thinking settles. Wait until we remember how deeply we’re loved. Wait until we’re confident in who God is, what He’s able to do. Wait until we have an answer from God.

But those who wait on the Lord Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint. (Isaiah 40:31, NKJV).

Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, indeed everything that is in the heavens and the earth; Yours is the dominion, O Lord, and You exalt Yourself as head over all. (1 Chronicles 29:11, NASB).

The Morning Star for a Heart Haunted by Nightmares

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I remember it vividly. I was lying flat on my back, surrounded by total darkness other than the 2 x 5-1/2 foot opening six feet above me. I felt like several heavy blankets had been piled on me. As I looked up at the dimly lit opening, I saw my children standing around it, shovels in hands, nonchalantly but in a cooperative effort, burying me.

Even now I have to remind myself to breathe as I recall this dream from probably ten years ago. My five kids were teenagers—a clue as to why I’d have such a dream. Gratefully, I had this dream only once.

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But I did have several recurring dreams. The circumstances and locations changed, but the characters and storyline were the same: my kids running rampant and totally ignoring my demands to cease and desist. I still have this one once in awhile.

Dreams allow our brains to process real emotion-loaded events. Dreams work to lessen the emotions while filing the events in our long-term memories. In doing so, they reveal the things we struggle with and what we hope for.

So, I’m curious. Do you have nightmares regarding your children’s behaviors? Do your dreams reveal fears or pain that need attention?

I think Satan loves to take the things we fear and exaggerate them—not only in our dreams but in our waking moments as well. I’d like to offer you some reassurance. You are not the wimp he makes you out to be. You are not the victim. You are not defeated.

In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. (Romans 8:37, NIV)

Furthermore, your kids are not your enemy. Yes, their behavior can seem to communicate that. But deep inside they too are hurting and afraid, and coping the only ways they know how. And deeper inside, they are crying for love and acceptance, and they know—they know—you are the one that can provide that.

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Ephesians 6:12, NIV)

And what about your hopes? What longings do your dreams reveal?

I had another recurring dream. My husband and I were looking for a new house—one with plenty of bedrooms for our family of seven. These were fun dreams. We’d walk into a house barely big enough and begin to discover room after room hidden in unsuspecting places. These dreams had all sorts of craziness to them. I’m certainly glad I never owned these houses. I wouldn’t have wanted to clean them.

I don’t know if these dreams revealed my desire to hide, the need for a place to breathe, or both. Sometimes finding that place in my dreams was enough. But, in my conscious hours when I felt like screaming, that place had to be the presence of God—at times tucked into my sanity chair behind my closed bedroom door, other times in the shower, or sitting on the commode.

I can tell you this:

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Pay attention to your dreams and what they are really saying about the state of your soul. Then let Bright Morning Star redirect, heal, comfort, and fulfill those deep stirrings.

“I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.”

The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost.

Revelation 22:16-17 (NASB)

O God, You are my God; I shall seek You earnestly;
My soul thirsts for You, my flesh yearns for You,
In a dry and weary land where there is no water.
Thus I have seen You in the sanctuary,
To see Your power and Your glory.
Because Your lovingkindness is better than life,
My lips will praise You.
So I will bless You as long as I live;
I will lift up my hands in Your name.
My soul is satisfied as with marrow and fatness,
And my mouth offers praises with joyful lips.
Psalm 63:1-5, NASB

Would You Like a Refill?

 

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Sometimes when you sip a cup of warmth, the contents can turn a bit tepid. So how about a top-off of this week’s cups? It’s Thursday, the day I re-serve the warmth shared throughout the previous six days of the Write 31 Days challenge. That way if you missed anything, or simply want a refill, the offerings are here for your enjoyment.

And for those who drink til the last drop, you’ll find a link to a generous offer from DaySpring. (DaySpring, the Christian branch of Hallmark, is an official sponsor of Write31Days. They have something very special for the faithful readers of our posts. They are saying thank you for me in a way I can’t.) But you only have one day left to respond—deadline is Oct 28.

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Feel free to take your time soaking in the warmth of God’s graciousness, served in my little nook of the world. There’s nothing better than enjoying a cup with a friend, so feel free to take a seat and share your heart. My cup is warm but my heart is warmer—eager to hear your thoughts.


Friday, Oct 21, defined the flavor of true humility.

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Humility for a Heart Enslaved by Pride


Saturday, Oct 22, served the reminder of where to place legitimate expectations.

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Reality for a Heart with Faulty Expectations


Sunday, Oct 23, offered hope for the recognition we desire.

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Recognition for a Heart Overlooked


Monday, Oct 24, placed unforgiveness on the table so we could examine what it really means.

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Freedom from a Heart of Unforgiveness


Tuesday, Oct 25, offered an assurance that sometimes walls are necessary (and I’m not talking about geographical walls).

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Assurance for a Heart Protected


And, Wednesday, Oct 26, served a reminder of who’s really in charge

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A Pry Bar for a Heart Clutching


Now for that offer. DaySpring is an official supporter of Write31Days and they are offering our readers a chance for a $100 gift certificate. $100! That’s awesome! So click the link and it will take you to the special signup page.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Be sure to use the Rafflecopter giveaway widget before October 28th. If you’re the winner DaySpring will contact you directly.


I can’t believe there are only four days left of this challenge! Thank you for being a dear friend and reading the messages God has burned into my soul during the years I had kids at home. I pray that you are encouraged and that those spots of your own heart that have grown cold, have been warmed by God’s grace and faithfulness.

I will resume my weekly blog again on Monday, November 7th. November! Oh my how this year has flown by. But, I’ve more material to share and a few surprises in store. So stay tuned.

New Vision for a Heart’s Shattered Dreams

 

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This past week I had the privilege of sharing a guest blog on Shelby Hughes’ The Content Mom website. Shelby just welcomed a brand new little girl into her family—her second. She wanted to have the next few months to enjoy those precious first moments, so she has welcomed insights from other moms. I was honored she chose to share my adoption story, and how I learned to choose contentment instead of resentment when I didn’t get the family I had dreamed of.

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Hop on over to read about it here:
http://www.shelbylhughes.com/2016/10/short-sweet-not-family-dreamed-of.html?m=0

And while you’re there, take a few moments to get to know Shelby and her heart for moms.

Thank you, Shelby, for the opportunity to share my story. Joy in abundance to you and your family.