Check Out My New Website

Dear Faithful Friends,

Just a reminder I’m no longer writing here at Mother of Pearls. Please join me at my new website – Cheri Dee Johnson: Discovering God’s Heart for the Mom Raising Nonbiological Children.

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In fact, you can click on over to read today’s thoughts: What Mom Gets a Labor-Free Day?

While there, you can scroll to the bottom of the article and subscribe to continue receiving my weekly blogs in your email. I’d love to have you follow me there. Not only will you get my blog articles but you’ll also receive more personal notes from me and have a place to visit more privately if you’d like.

Also, if you’d like to receive more of my devotionals, I share once or twice a week on Cheri Dee Johnson Facebook page, where I also share weekly live videos. My Facebook devotionals also appear on my Cheri Dee Johnson Instagram page.

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I hope to see you soon at my new places where my goal is to come along side you with lessons I’ve gleaned through the years of parenting nonbiological children.

Aug 28 - Come Alongside

Blessings from God’s Heart,
Cheri Dee Johnson

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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).

When God Became a Father

He wanted more. He wanted something else. Though surrounded by a multitudinous army who unceasingly lavished Him with resounding praise, He craved a smaller audience—an audience of one. Someone He could talk to—face-to-face, soul-to-soul. In a intimate place … like … a garden.

And so He dreamed and planned and designed. And out of nothing, using only words, He created a home—an explosion of microscopic grandeur. But this one—soul of His soul, breath of His breath—He formed intricately, purposefully, with His own hands.

And He became a Father.

In a single moment, He knew love.

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Joy of joys! Better than merely “good”! One of His heart!

He called this one Adam. Man. Red from the earth. A name to remind this one that without the breath of God, he would cease to be—he would return to dust.

He provided for this Adam a beautiful garden, supplied with every item the dust part of him required for survival. And He provided His own presence, necessary for the God part of him to thrive.

He assigned Adam a job: tend the garden.

He warned Adam of the one choice that would siphon his breath and doom him back to dust. He protected Adam, as long as he said no to that one choice.

Father wanted man to love Him back—if even a fraction. He wanted this child to experience the same ecstasy He felt. And so He secreted His presence from man—a divine hide-and-seek—hoping Adam would long for Him and seek him out. And, like any good father, He always allowed man to find Him.

He left that one tree to test man’s love. Would Adam trust Him enough to choose obedience? Would Adam look at everything God had provided for him and know deep satisfaction? Would Adam crave the presence of God above all else?

But if, heaven forbid, Adam chose the one thing God forbade, then God was ready. Man would have to leave the garden—banished from His tangible presence. But some day He’d provide a way back. It would be a long journey, but Father knew the way.

He would always be Father. He would always provide—though now that provision would require toil and bitterness. He would always protect—though sometimes His ways would seem cruel. He would always warn and instruct and guide—reducing His love to a set of laws and consequences. He would have to enforce these laws because man would fail—over and over and over.

Eventually, He would surrender His own breath so man could be redeemed. But He would revive and send it forth again as a Spirit. His very Spirit would breathe renewal to the Father-child communion He’d always longed for. And once again, Father would embrace His children. Though marred and scarred, they’d be back. Back in His arms.

And that’s all that mattered.


I don’t know what kind of human father you had. No matter how wonderful, or how horrible, he can’t begin to compare to Father God.

Father God designed you, created you, and named you His own special name. He walks with you, plays hide-and-seek with you, and stirs a longing for Him deep within your soul.

He provides for your every need. He guides you, instructs you, expects obedience of you, and disciplines you. He knows your frailties, and understands you are but dust.

He died for you, forgave you, rose again for you, and redeemed you. He set things right for you and now dwells moment-by-moment with you.

He comforts you, holds you, sings over you, and assures you.

You are His joy of joys, apple of His eye, breath of His breath, love of His love.

You are His child.

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We all watch ourselves parent just like we were parented. Don’t we? Unfortunately, our parents fell short—some more than others—leaving us less than adequate models to follow. But God in Himself has provided a better—a perfect—example. To become the best moms possible, we need to study how God parents.

For the next several weeks, we’ll look at God’s role as Father in the Bible. I have a feeling we’ll find that God didn’t necessarily employ a set of skills or follow a list of “how to’s”. I think we’ll find He parented out of the deep recesses of His heart.

I don’t know about you, but I love delving deep into God’s heart and learning what makes it tick. So, pull out your shovels, and let’s dig in. We’ll start next week, going back to just after the very beautiful-but-sad beginning. We’ll look at the ways God parented the children He’d just kicked out of their garden home. Though they may not always have known it, He did not send them out alone.

I look forward to discovering with you what He was up to.

So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

And God said, “See, I have given you every herb that yields seed which is on the face of all the earth, and every tree whose fruit yields seed; to you it shall be for food. Also, to every beast of the earth, to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, in which there is life, I have given every green herb for food”; and it was so. Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good.

Genesis 1:27-31 NIV

 

Offerings at the Heart’s Table

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So here we are, the last day of the Write 31 Days Challenge. Wow! What a journey for me as a writer. Thank you so much for your encouragement along the way.

How are my readers doing? Have your hearts been warmed? Have you been able to partake of cups of God’s grace, truth, and love for the areas where you’ve grown cold?

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Yesterday in our church group, sweet Judy shared how the day before God told her that emotions like self-pity, shame, anger, frustration, doubt, and so on are simply temptations. That’s all. They are offerings set before us that we have a choice to say yes or no to. I loved how the Lord boiled it all down to something we actually have control over. We simply choose.

So this month I’ve talked about what we can to choose. Warmth or cold?

• Fullness of the Holy Spirit or Emptiness from our own efforts?
• Letting God write His symphony in your life or complaining about the discord?
• Accepting God’s forgiveness or being smothered under the blanket of guilt?
• God’s empowerment or my ineptness?
• Safety of God’s loving embrace or slavery to fear?
• God’s light or disillusionment?
• Hope or grief?
• Belonging or isolation?
• Peace or anger?
• Dependency on God or self-reliance?
• Value based on what God says or what you think?
• Healing or woundedness?
• God’s redemption or self-degrading when we make mistakes?
• Commitment to God’s vision or shattered dreams?
• Truth or the enemy’s lies?
• Vindication from God or defense against misjudgment?
• Humility or pride?
• God’s reality or unrealistic expectations?
• Freedom or unforgiveness?
• Setting boundaries or being trampled?
• Release or control?
• The Bright Morning Star or nightmares?
• Learning to trust again or mistrust?
• Rest or exhaustion?

The choices we make determine how our days go, our years pan out, and how successfully we serve as moms. They determine whether we walk in joy or dread. They reveal what master we serve. They make way for God’s miracles or Satan’s victories.

Which cup will you choose today? Poison from the one who came to steal, kill, and destroy? Or complete satisfaction from the Fountain of Living Water?

We will frequently choose the wrong cup. I’m so glad God continues to offer His cup of redemption.

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Every day we get to choose His offering of mercy. Let’s drink full of Him as often as we need.

Rest for the Heart Exhausted

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I’m done! I am sooo done!” How many times did I say this? Countless. Sometimes I would think, Go ahead, lock me in jail. At least there I can be left alone and maybe get some sleep.

Once I packed my suitcases (two huge ones) and was ready to leave the next day. Didn’t know where I was going, but I was done. I was calmer the next morning but by then my husband had found places for all the kids to stay overnight and had reserved a room at a nearby bed and breakfast for him and me.

Another time my husband arranged for me to house-sit for a week for friends going to Europe. All I had to do was feed the outside cats and water the plants. That’s it. I slept as late as I wanted, watched oodles of movies, and spent hours sitting at the kitchen table, staring out at the tall pine trees while I read and prayed and journaled.

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The truth is, we all have limits. At times we come to a point of physical, mental, emotional, and even spiritual exhaustion. It’s normal. There’s no need to feel guilty about it. But there is the need to do something about it.

For a short period of time our church provided semi-monthly respite for us. Wednesday nights my husband took the kids to church while I enjoyed a few hours alone at home. My adoptive moms support group met once a month. And daily I retreated to my bedroom where I sat in my sanity corner (in a stuffed orange swivel rocker) and escaped into a world of fiction, while my husband monitored the kids for the evening.

Yes, I had a wonderful husband and a pretty good support base. We did have to do some educating to build some of this base. But whatever it takes, you must be sure you get regular rest. By “rest” I mean time when you’re something other than Mom. When you’re simply a wife, a sister, a friend, a woman, a person, a human. Just YOU.

YOU: a beautiful lady and cherished child of God.

You need to get the rest it takes for this truth to soak in deep.

And you know what? God commanded it. It’s one of the ten foundational commands (Exodus 20:8). Probably the only of the ten disobeyed regularly. The word for Sabbath means to take an intermission. Like the safety breaks you have to take every few hours at the swimming pool. Just sit down. Quit your activity and rest. The word holy means deliberately appoint. Don’t wait for a break to come along. You know that’ll never happen. You have to make a plan then heed the plan.

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We have every right and reason to demand it for ourselves. We have God’s rubber stamp on it. Let’s take it. Let’s make it happen starting right now.

Unless the Lord builds the house,
the builders labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city,
the guards stand watch in vain.
In vain you rise early
and stay up late,
toiling for food to eat—
for he grants sleep to those he loves.
Psalm 127:1-2, NIV

Restoration for a Heart Eroded by Lying

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She stomped her foot and insisted she hadn’t gone in the house I had just watched her go into. Or was that me who stomped her foot out of complete frustration? (I can’t remember.) How could one lie so blatantly in the face of evidence clearly stating otherwise? They call it crazy lying and it’s probably the most common behavior SAFE (Step/Adoptive/Foster/Every other nonbiological) parents battle. I’m not sure I know a single SAFE mom who has reported differently.

SAFE children lie—a lot—like, every day. I’ve come to believe it’s not a moral issue for them; rather, it was a matter of survival that became a lifestyle. Think about it. In Russia not that long ago, Christians met in secret; the poor stole wood or coal to heat their shackish homes in the winter; and street kids told heart-wrenching stories in order to procure food. In impoverished environments, lying is simply a means for meeting basic needs.

Needless to say, once those needs are consistently being met in our homes, the habit of lying gets used for other purposes: avoid punishment, fulfill desires, or affirm a false sense of being in control (another practice necessary for survival).

But for us raised in an environment where basic needs were readily met and love cradled the needs of the heart, lying is taught as evil. To utilize it would result in uncomfortable consequences. Honesty, however, was a prized characteristic—a mark of respectability. Most SAFE parents were reared with this moral code deeply ingrained.

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So when you have a mom raised where honesty is exalted, trying to parent a child who learned lying is a necessity, battles, confusion, and heartbreak result. When that mom spends years having trust eroded, her view of the world is tarnished. She has learned to evaluate people through the grid of distrust.

This is the place I landed after fifteen years of parenting habitual liars. A place where I kept a guard up that said, “Yeah, right! I’m not buying that story.” And I didn’t like it one bit. An innocent, basic trust in mankind had been destroyed and it felt icky. I didn’t mind being wiser and more discerning; but I missed the ability to watch for the good in others instead of the bad. My youngest child moved out for good the summer of 2012. Four-and-a-half years later, I think I’m learning to trust again.

So what do we do when we swim in a tank of devious sharks? How do we keep from being swallowed by cynicism? Well, I’m still learning this and God has been gracious with me. I think it’s simply taken time for the beauty of others to soak back in.

I remember making huge strides in this recovery when I visited my parents in Ukraine. I met all these people with Russian sounding accents that were honest and upright. Part of my brain was shocked that such godliness could accompany that accent. I mean my frontal cortex was saying, “Well, duh. Not everyone is a liar.” But a deeper part of my brain took some time to absorb that truth.

My kids, by the way, rarely lie to us anymore. I suppose they don’t always paint an accurate picture about what’s going on in their lives. But since I’m not responsible for their choices anymore, their decisions don’t carry the weight they used to. And frankly, I have a pretty good idea about their lives and I love them anyway. They are maturing by leaps and bounds and I know little by little the need to lie in order to live or to impress others is slowly diminishing. They’ll get there.

As for me, I’m learning to take my cynicism to the Lord. I think I’m learning to love people even if they aren’t telling the truth. The Lord alone knows what’s driving their need to lie and I can leave that brokenness with Him. If God wants to use me to reach them somehow, then I have to start by loving them right where they’re at.

Maybe the key lesson for me, is that it’s no longer my job to confront the liars of this world. My job is to love them anyway—fully aware of their tactics—pray for them, and let God fix them.

If you have kids who frequently crazy lie, I would say just expect them to. Don’t take it as a personal affront. Call it, communicate it’s wrong and no longer needed, and implement disciplinary action. Be consistent and don’t back down. But also know that love and safety will eventually erase their need to lie. I say eventually because mine were adults before they got to this point.

One more thing. We’ve all done our own fair share of lying. Only God can not lie.

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I probably say it one way or another in everything I write—all needs are met in God alone. When you need to remember what Truth looks like, look to Jesus. Sink into His Word. Live there. It makes being a light in this dark world a whole lot easier.

Make me know Your ways, O Lord;
Teach me Your paths.
Lead me in Your truth and teach me,
For You are the God of my salvation;
For You I wait all the day.
(Psalm 25:4-5, NASB)

“I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” (John 14:6, 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