How God Became More Real to Me

A Chapter from Shawn Johnson's book, "Winning Balance", and how she grew closer to God.

 Chapter 28


Where there is great love, there are always miracles.

Willa Cather


One day, my trainer introduced me to Ryan, a redshirt football player for the University of Iowa. I learned he was in town to support his older sister, who was battling stage 4 non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. He’d come to offer encourage-ment and help her with her four kids. I immediately liked him, and it seemed ­reciprocal. After a Facebook mix-up (in which he sent a message to the wrong Shawn John-son), we began hanging out: I went to his games, we hung out in Iowa City, and he even came to my mom’s birth-day party.

One night, I had an idea.

“Why don’t you come to West Des Moines? I’ll take you out for a real date—my treat.” Even though I love it when guys act like gentlemen by paying for dates, I sometimes feel bad when they’re always expected to pay. He was a college student, after all.


The next week, he drove to West Des Moines, and I took him to HuHot, my favorite Mongolian restaurant. It’s a little loud and decidedly not romantic—in other words, it was perfect. We ordered our appetizers and drinks and then walked around to the grilling area to decide among the many food options. At this restaurant, the customers select vegetables—my favorite!—meats, and then sauces. We piled our bowls high, passed them to the chef, and watched as our food was prepared on a huge grill.


We ordered a lot of food—partly because Ryan is a big football player who needs to eat large portions, but mostly because I wanted to treat him to a nice evening. After we ate our meals, we ordered the cheesecake empanadas, desserts that look like ravioli but are actually filled with cheesecake.


Why not? I thought. Since I was paying, we just kept racking up the bill. When we got the check, I made a big show of grabbing it and handing the waitress my credit card.

“Remember,” I said, “this is on me!” As we finished nib-bling the last of the empanadas, I felt our date had been a resounding success. But just a few minutes later, the wai-tress sheepishly approached my side of the table.

“Miss Johnson,” the embarrassed waitress said, slipping my credit card into my hand. “There seems to be a problem with your card.”

“It didn’t work?” I asked. But then I could tell by her ex-pression that she was trying to help me save face.

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