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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Family, the Beautiful

What comes to your mind when you think about Independence Day?

I think about …

  • The brave who’ve fought, and died, for our freedom;
  • The stars and stripes swaying proudly at front doors;
  • Sizzling hot dogs, watermelon drenched grins, and homemade ice cream;
  • Parades, glow sticks, bug spray, and fireworks;
  • And a kaleidoscope of people from sea to shining sea.

July 3

We’ve so much to be grateful for. Don’t we? Abundant resources. Awe-striking landscapes. Amazing people.

We’re not perfect. Not by any means. But we sure are beautiful. Yes, we are!

What a great picture of our families.

We’re not perfect. Far too frequently we display our shameful ugliness: unyielding division, stinky attitudes, embarrassing ineptness, agonizing failures.

But ever so often we need to put all that aside and throw a party. Celebrate what we are together.

Rescued. Redeemed. Renamed.

Merciful. Hopeful. Strong.

Beautiful.

July 3 R&A citizenship

There will be more battles to fight, mountains of litter to discard, sturdier bridges to build, and necessary paths to clear.

But today is a good time to stand. From table-end to table-end, stretch wide and grasp tight. It’s a day to raise our anthem: God bless and guide our home sweet home … our family, the beautiful.

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Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!

Psalm 133:1 (ESV)

 

 

Souvenirs for the Soul: Lessons Learned on Summer Vacations

Ah, the summers of my childhood.

Raised in a typical middle-class home, my parents somehow managed to take our family to new places across the country. Camping on Minnesota lakes. Visiting friends in the Missouri Ozarks. Stopping at the painted dessert, petrified forest, white sands, and the Grand Canyon, enroute to extended family in Arizona. I’ve a bucketful of memories from up-close-and-personal interactions with America the Beautiful.

My husband also enjoyed childhood opportunities to experience life beyond his home town. His parents took him to amazing places in the Northwest such as the Oregon coast, Crater Lake, and Yellowstone National Park.

So it’s no surprise we wanted to pass similar experiences on to our children as well. We are so blessed in this country with breath-taking panoramas, incredible histories, and opportunities to interact with both. I’m grateful our family has been able to experience so much of it together.

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Bryce Canyon, Utah 2001

Father God loves it when we experience new people and places.

He gets to show us a new dimension to His creative powers and His love for mankind. In fact, as I’ve reflected on some of the places I’ve visited, I can think of several lessons God has taught me.

We don’t plan to travel this summer. As empty-nesters we have the privilege of avoiding the summer crowds, heat, gas prices, and bugs. But I thought it would be fun to share about some of the places I’ve visited over the years and the fun little treasures God has shown me along the way.

I’m titling this summer series Souvenirs for the Soul. I look forward to reliving some memories as I share them with you.

But you know what else I love?

I love to go places vicariously through other travelers.

I love the free ride their pictures and stories provide. Whether to the neighborhood pool or to the other side of the world, please, please, please, may I join you? All you have to do is share your pictures and stories in the comment section.

Oh, and this summer as you go, keep your eyes open to little lessons God has for you. In fact,

To give you an idea

… of what I’m talking about, let me share a quick lesson with you.

It was the summer before my senior year in college. I was actually by myself and it wasn’t a vacation. I was on the longest airplane ride I’d taken so far in my life, heading from Des Moines, IA to Anchorage, AK, where I was going to serve as a summer missionary. A couple hours into the flight I looked out my window and saw a view of endless, rugged, massive snow-covered mountains. The Yukon Mountains. I grew a bit spooked—thinking if this plane goes down in those mountains, we’ll never be found.

Before my imagination could spark a panic attack, I chose to focus on the beauty beneath me. I chose to allow utter awe to seep in deep. Total amazement at God’s incredible handiwork. Then God whispered a sweet little message into my soul. A message I turned and shared with the gentleman sitting next to me.

Isn’t this view spectacular? Such a testimony of God’s creative genius and ability. But the Bible says that when God created this He looked at it and called it merely “good”. Yet when He looked at the earth after He created man, He called it “very good”. We are the pinnacle of His creation. His prize. Wow! Isn’t it great to know we are valued that much? Loved that much?

If you find yourselves in places of breath-taking splendor this summer,

… remind yourself that to your Creator, you are even more captivating. You are so much so, that you were worth His laying down His life so He could bring you back to Himself.

June 5 Captivating.

Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good. So the evening and the morning were the sixth day.
Genesis 1:31, NKJV

I Often Don’t Like Easter Services

I often don’t like Easter services.

I don’t. I like parts of the service—usually. But I often come away less than satisfied.

The Easter story is packed with lessons:

The prophecies of Passover fulfilled
“Not my will but Yours”
Peter denying Christ
Christ bearing the punishment for our sins
By Christ’s stripes we are healed
The crushing of Satan’s head
Light in our deepest darkness
The defeat of death and the grave
Eternal hope
And so on, and so on, and …

It must be rather difficult for preachers to decide what to focus on. Most usually choose a topic that will speak to those who rarely attend church. (I think that’s a great idea.) And for those who want to break the story into meditation-size pieces, many churches offer several services the week preceding Easter Sunday. (Another great idea.)

But if I was the one planning the Resurrection Sunday service …

Continue reading “I Often Don’t Like Easter Services”

Experiencing Eternity in Moments

Five of us circled around a corner booth. We snuggled cups of warmth while sharing about our Christmases, wedding plans, and future concerns—close friends who never tire of laughing and crying and praying together. We stayed so long, one friend left an extra tip and I ordered dessert just to give a little extra money for the use of the corner. (Besides, I had resisted ordering the gluten-free turtle bar way too long.)

Are there people in your life you could spend hours with and be so content you fail to watch the clock? Like when you first fell in love, or when you get to escape the house to meet with other adult people. Time is simply not noticed. That is, until it starts blaring at you, “Time’s up! Gotta go! You’ve duties to fulfill!”

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Ah, time. It can be our dearest friend, yet strictest taskmaster.

My husband had January second off work so I took the opportunity to sleep late. I did eventually tackle some projects but first I enjoyed as much time with the Lord as I desired. My mood put me in an odd frame of mind, evaluating the way we humans measure time. Or more specifically, why we make such a big deal out of a new year.

Why do we bang pots and pans, toot kazoos, kiss our sweethearts, and cheer as a silly ball drops? (What’s with the dropping anyway?) Why do communities ring church bells and set off fireworks? Some years I think, “It’s just another tick on the clock.” I wonder, what God thinks of all the hoopla each 86,400th second of every 365/6 days?

So, I asked him. He answered me in the strangest of ways. He said,

“Eternity to me is little moments like this, loving my child. It’s right here. Right now.”

To God, time doesn’t matter nearly as much as people do. God’s not slow, yet not in a hurry. He just cares about being with us. Face-to-face. Heart-to-heart. That’s what He celebrates. God with man residing.

Time with God. It can be scheduled. It can put into a neat little box. God doesn’t care. He doesn’t notice how long or how short. He just delights in being with us. And He longs for us to notice Him and to take a moment to slow our steps and look Him in the face. That’s what sets off the fireworks in His heart.

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We often quote that a thousand years are like a day to God. It’s true. It’s written in Psalm 90:4 and 2 Peter 3:8. In comparison to the God of eternity, a lifetime can fly past in a blink. But we often miss the middle of 2 Peter 3:8: “One day is like a thousand years.” Just think. God has the ability to turn those moments with us into a millennia of time. He can stretch the sweetness of an embrace into a galaxy of star bursts.

I don’t know exactly where to go with this response the Lord gave me—other than to revel in the idea that nothing matters to God nearly as much as being with His children. The only way to keep our world, and calendar, and to-do list in order is to be deliberate about ordering it all around time with Him—even if that time is for a few brief moments. Long enough to look in His face. See His love. Hear His whisper. Receive His hug.

This is the God who lives outside of time. When we meet with Him, He funnels eternity into moments. And those moments explode in our souls and change our perspectives, so we are not longer confined to the circumstances of “now” but free to live beyond now. Free to choose to not be defined by our current situations, but by eternity.

Believe it or Not, You are the Gift Your Family Needs

He swindled his parents repeatedly in order to support his prodigal lifestyle. He was intimidating and demanding. For years his mother sat in our adoptive moms’ support group as we encouraged her to buckle down. Eventually she attempted to make a stand, but the entire family, including her husband, turned on her. In grief and self-rebuke she back-pedaled quickly to restore peace.

Years later on a Mother’s Day, this son posted—for all his friends to see—how much he loved his parents and how grateful he was for their support. He sent her a long appreciative private text as well. My jaw dropped when she read his thoughts to us.

Lesson learned: successful parenting only happens when parenting according to your own gifts.

Christmas is the time of year we reflect on the gifts God has given us.

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So many gifts to unwrap and examine, embrace and soak into our souls.

But have you ever considered that …

you are a gift?

Like those Christmas goodies you make and offer with pride—feeling oven-warmed in your middle as people mutter mmm’s around mouthfuls—you’ve been stirred, shaped, baked, and proudly shared by God for people around you to enjoy. Of course there are those moments your soda zings a little too much, or your edges crumble, but the Master-Baker can apply a little extra frosting and His sweetness will overcome any messiness.

You’ve been enhanced and empowered, in a one-of-a-kind way, by the Holy Spirit. You know those things you do that people compliment, while you think “What’s so special about that”? These are likely your innate gifts—the tools God has given you to succeed. And whether you realize it or not, these gifts are what make you a great mom.

God’s never expected you to parent like I do, or like your sister does, or mom did, or neighbor or church friend does. He intends you to parent according to your natural abilities. Yes, we all need to work on our weak areas. But we also need to capitalize on our strengths.

Maybe you’re a kitchen dweller. Then joyfully serve your family there.

Maybe you’re an over-the-shoulder homework assistant. Use that time to love the most.

Maybe you crack jokes, play piano, whistle, snuggle, wink, wrestle, tickle, or make beds. I think you’d be surprised if you knew how much these gifts impact your children. They provide a sense of well-being and a deeper-than-conscious awareness of belonging. The overflow of your gifts provides a sure foundation as your children go to school, friends’ homes, jobs, and eventually independent living.

So, as your serve your family according to your natural tendencies, do so, first, as unto the Lord.

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, (Colossians 3:23, NIV).

Then, do so confident you serve according to God’s design.

There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work (1 Corinthians 12:4-6, NIV).

We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully (Romans 12:6-8, NIV).

When you serve as unto the Lord and according to the way He’s designed you, then your Creator is glorified. This, then, is our perpetual Christmas gift back to God.

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This is when He gets that same oven-warm joy deep in His middle.

Does This Gift Come with a Return Receipt?

In April of 2010, Tory Hansen put her seven-year-old adopted son on an airplane and returned him to Russia. Her reason was that her son frequently exhibit violent behaviors and she had run out of ideas for how to safely manage him. While the world reeled with scorn at Tory, my reaction was, “Good for her. Finally, someone is letting the world know what we moms are going through.” We, who are attempting to parent children with early-childhood trauma, attachment issues, fetal alcohol, and other effects due to the disruption of their original families, totally understood why Tory did what she felt she had to do. Few of us would do the same, but we understood.

In the first year or so of our new family, I asked a friend if she ever wanted to send her biological child back to where he came from. She quickly affirmed my suspicion. Children are just plain hard at times. We all long for days without the headaches no matter what level of difficulties we wrestle with.

Sometimes terminating a parent/child relationship is necessary. The same day the Tory Hanson story hit the news, another similar story appeared in our local papers. My close friend’s adopted son had taken a gun to his middle school.

This child had also exhibited dangerous and destructive behaviors. The parents had emptied their bank accounts for countless therapies, rehabilitation homes, and every measure possible to help their son. Yet the country insisted this child return to live at home. My friend and her husband refused. They longed to continue a relationship with their child, just not at home where he was a danger to his siblings and family pets. Eventually, as efforts with the country deteriorated, my friend had to terminate the adoption. I sat in two court sessions with her as she grieved—and rejoiced—her way through the termination process.

Exactly a year after she had written a letter warning the country of her son’s dangerous tendencies and her concern that he was now living in a home with young children, her son broke into his new family’s gun cabinet and took a loaded gun to his school. Gratefully, he had loaded the wrong bullets and no one was injured. How we’d wished the county had understood the true needs of this child and those of the foster/adoptive family. Had the help needed been available, maybe this boy would never have taken a gun to school and, consequently, spent several years in juvenile detention and prison.

In my own experience as a mom, I too dug in my mind’s drawer many times, looking for that return receipt. We had numerous icky and scary situations, including a few times when police had to be called. It wasn’t until our children matured, lived a few years on their own, became parents themselves—and after we had remained steadfast with our boundaries and consistent with our love—our kids eventually settle into a strong relationship with us.

So if you’re in a place where you wished you could return your child, first I want you to know you’re not alone. You are understood. And it’s okay to feel this way. After all, God Himself regretted creating mankind—more than once (Genesis 6:6).

Second, remain consistent with your boundaries. Children need these and need them communicated even if they continuously violate them and have to suffer consequences over and over. It doesn’t matter if the consequences achieve their desired effect. The fact that boundaries are communicated and consequences carried out, still provides a desperately needed sense of stability (for both child and parent).

Third, remember there is no child beyond God’s reach.

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Some things we just have to learn to leave to God. It’s at times like these we can rest in the truth that only God is the Father to the fatherless (Psalm 68:5).