Friday, December 31, 2010

Hope...and A Brand New Year

So it's a brand new year...almost. Just a few more hours until 2011. Will it be full of that you dream of? Most likely there will be good times and challenging times--that's life. But maybe, just maybe, it's time to "wake up" to some things in our lives.

In the quiet of a winter day, think about what you really want in this next year, your big dreams and your little ones. They all matter. Then BELIEVE that things could be different. We do our part; God does His part and amazing things can happen.

Your dreams of the future may seem to be asleep now, but they can arise. And like you stir and rustle and finally get outta bed...your hopes and dreams can get up and get going too.

It's a new year, and it's time for some things in your life to wake up. I'm hoping they will in mine.

Snowfall on tall pines,
Sunrise and stirring
Of quiet and big dreams
As a new year awakens.

Dark-covered winter with
Dormant believing
Leads joyfully into
Spring’s hope-filled returning

When flowers and faith
Resurrect from earth’s slumber
Alive and reminded
Of God’s faithful goodness.

Monday, December 27, 2010

What Path Will You Choose?

So the new year is only a few days away. You may still be reeling from your Christmas sugar hangover. You may be back at work. Either way it's coming: 2011. What will you do with it?

Do you want things to be different? Do you long for significant changes in your life? I do. On one hand I am supremely happy for my friends and their blessings. One close friend just heard news that her adoption is coming through. After years of longing, fulfillment. Another friend in a warm state has a fantastic boyfriend who loves and cares for her in ways that are startlingly kind. I am amazed. She is almost engaged.

To be sure, I am not bemoaning my own life. I am thankful to have published two books, with a third on the way. They have boyfriends or babies, I "birth" books.

I guess all this end of year stuff has me thinking. I am grateful for what I have, but what do I want to change in my life? How can I actually get there?

If I have been following a certain path, how can I get on the one that leads to lifetime love? Maybe that's what all this mulling is about. We have career goals and weight goals and all sorts of goals. What about love goals? Weird, perhaps. But maybe necessary if the trajectory of life is to ever change.

I want to "live a life of love." You know, be kind to others, help people, give them grace when they mess up, really listen, and truly care. But I also want to receive love...give and a good volley in tennis--back and forth so both players are satisfied.

Hmmmm. My prayer for this new year, 2011 and beyond is that you would walk forward on the path that makes your heart soar. Take a step, take the hand of the One who loves you most, Jesus Christ. Ask Him to lead you into all He has for you in this life...and not to miss it.

I plan to.

I don't want to miss love...of all kinds.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

A Merry Christmas to You!

It's that time of year, and I wanted to share this holiday poem with you. It is, to me, about the true meaning of why we celebrate Christmas. Enjoy! May your heart be merry and may you take the time to help someone else's heart be merry too.

What is Christmas?
To some it is Santa and snowmen and toys,
To some it’s the shopping, bright wrappings and noise,
To others it’s family and everyone’s home,
To me, it’s much more. Let me share in this poem…

Christmas is where it all began,
An infant child who became a man.
Eternity came down so we could understand,
The child of Creator, the true Son of Man.

He was not unexpected, for the prophets foretold
The events that had happened would surely unfold.
Four hundred years later the miracle came,
The star over Bethlehem shone where He lay.

They came to attend Him from near and from far,
The shepherds and wise men who followed the star.
All were rejoicing that first Christmas night
At the child of a virgin, a humbling sight.

So what is the meaning of that first Christmas night?
Simply, He came to make everything right.
For the Child had a purpose in coming to Earth.
He came as a light and to give us new birth.

He gave us forgiveness and paid with His life.
What kind of love would pay such a price?
For death could not hold Him; He rose from that grave.
And freedom and life were the gifts that He gave.

No longer divided, no longer alone,
Because of His love the wall had come down.
Live free forever! O, what a gift!
Both now here on earth and forever with Him.

Wise men and angels followed Him then.
Wise men still seek Him, again and again.

-- Jackie M. Johnson

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Flirting with the Best Man

Flirting with the Best Man

Staring at the bridegroom
Stands a radiant, stunning bride.
Draped in silk and taffeta
And yet her vision slides…
To the man standing beside him
With a grin a mile wide.

Looking handsome as he can be
Is the bridegroom’s own best man.
The bride looks down and clutches hard
The bouquet between her hands,
Wondering how this new distraction
Will affect her wedding plans.

The best man tries to woo her,
The bride becomes confused.
She thought the bridegroom was The One,
Yet now she has to choose.
Will she pass the tempter’s test?
What does she have to lose?

Though lured for just a moment
Her heart cries out, “No, wait!”
For the bride could see the look of love
Upon the bridegroom’s face.
How could another ever take
Her dear beloved’s place?

A test, indeed, for we, the bride,
The Church, have often spurned
The One, True Bridegroom, Jesus Christ.
O, how our hearts have turned!
We try to seek and find true love,
But lessons must be learned:

No flirting with the best man.
Don’t let the feelings start.
For the best man is not always
The best man for the part.
The Bridegroom is the Chosen One,
And He must have your heart.

-- Jackie M. Johnson

Monday, December 13, 2010

a winter poem

A Wintry Day in a Pine Grove

I stood alone in woods
Of pine
With head upturned
Toward winter’s sky,
And found refreshment
For my soul
In pine boughs laden
With new-fallen snow.

And stopping there I
Paused to ponder
God’s creative wonder.
And thank Him for
The forest green
Amidst the stark, white
Wintry scene.

Walking on, I turned
To see the branches
Waving back at me,
As if to say, “Come back
Again another day
To laugh and dance
And dream and play.”

- Jackie M. Johnson

Thursday, December 9, 2010

When It's Hard to Wait

A Time for Everything

When waiting seems hard
And things seem to be slow,
When the stoplight says, “wait”
And you just want to go,
Here’s a lesson in timing
For your life and mine:
God is not slow.
No, He keeps perfect time.

Can you say to a newborn,
“Get up and run?”
Or make the moon rise
In place of the sun?
Can you order a rosebud
To open up now?
Or hurry a calf
Being birthed from a cow?

To everything there’s a time
And an hour,
For our lives to unfold
And for roses to flower.
There’s a reason and purpose
For every delay,
And with patience and timing
We’ll get there someday.

For the work of waiting
Is finally believing
That it all comes from God
Who delights us in giving.
And His power will bring forth
What is best, and we’ll find
That deliverance will come,
For He keeps perfect time.

-- Jackie M. Johnson

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Watching Wild Geese Fly

Watching Wild Geese Fly

Pepper in the sky
Flying south, flying high
Little black dots swaying
Back and forth
Specks that soar
Above earth’s golden treetops.
A whisper of wind
And they’re gone again
Leaving a blank azure sky.

Waving goodbye to summer,
Watching wild geese fly.

-- Jackie M. Johnson

Friday, November 19, 2010

You Deserve a Rest Today

Rest, Relaxation, Chillin’, Sabbath. Whatever you want to call it, rest comes easily for some, but for others it’s hard to rest. Seriously. We have a generation of super busy people, many with a “taskmaster” mentality.

It’s time to stop the insanity and reclaim our right to rest.

Mark Buchanan wrote a fantastic book on this very topic. It’s called “The Rest of God.” In it, he talks about people who don’t really understand the whole rest concept—especially the Big Why—why it’s okay to rest.

He says, “The lie the taskmasters want you to swallow is that you cannot rest until your work’s all done, and done better than you’re currently doing it. But the truth is, the work’s never done, and never done quite right. It’s always more than you can finish and less than you had hoped for.”

Then he gives us the true scoop?

“The rest of God…is not a reward for finishing. It’s not a bonus for work well done,” says Buchanan. “It’s a sheer gift.”

A gift? Huh. That means if someone gives us a gift, we need to receive it and put it to use. We need to know more.

“(Rest) is a stop-work order in the midst of work that’s never complete, never polished,” Buchanan continues. “Sabbath is not the break we’re allotted at the tail end of completing all our tasks and chores, the fulfillment of all our obligations. It’s the rest we take smack-dab in the middle of them, without apology, without guilt, and for no better reason than God told us we could.”


God told us we could rest. Well, who am I to argue with the Highest Authority in the entire universe? I can rest. You can rest.

It’s Friday, ponder that while you unwind this weekend and remember who you are.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Where have you seen "When Love Ends"?

My new book, "When Love Ends and the Ice Cream Carton Is Empty" is now available online and in stores everywhere--like Barnes and Noble, Family Christian Store and other random places.

Mim in Florida saw "When Love Ends" in the gift shop at Troyer's Dutch Heritage Restaurant in Sarasota.

Where have YOU seen the book?

Let me know and I will post it on my blog. And, if you have a photo (of you with the book, or a photo of the place), send it along. Photo or no photo, it's always fun to find out where in the world you've seen it.

Thanks! And may you find hope, encouragement, and joy today!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Reawakening Your Hopes and Dreams

(Photo credit: Dave Frahm)

Dormant Dreams

Desires and dreams encased in a seed,
Released in the black earth of faith.
Time to let go of what I think I need,
And hold on to the hope of His grace.

Longingly gazing at empty brown dirt,
Can’t make your dreams grow any faster.
For the seed in the soil is dormant, not dead.
Look up, to the face of the Master.

Call out for courage, have patience, have faith!
A mystery’s unveiling, my friend.
For a small, simple seed can yield sunflower gold.
Surely, this isn’t the end.

In the fullness of time, resurrection.
The earth births a tender young shoot.
Nurtured and tended with strong, loving hands
The flower grows deep, solid roots.

And the seedling unfolds to a blossom,
Pure artistry formed in the dark.
In His perfect timing the Harvester brings
Fruition to desires of the heart.

-- Jackie M. Johnson

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Pray On!

Let's face it, life can be hard sometimes. But when we pray, things change...people change...we change. I wrote this poem and thought I'd share it with you. It's about many of life's challenges--whether it's a trying season or day-to-day living--and how we need to PRAY anyway. Enjoy! And pray on...

Pray On

When the bills are due, when the pain lingers on,

or the adoption agency is taking too long.

When you’re trying to balance family and work,

or your boss is annoying or simply berserk.

When a prodigal child simply will not come home,

or the debt collectors won’t leave you alone.

When the car wreck leaves you with metal to mend,

or the man that you loved left you for your best friend.

When you feel overwhelmed—always busy and stressed—

or you can’t seem to focus and your house is a mess.

When you’re lonely, depressed, or stuck in your life,

and you wonder if you’re a good person or wife.

When there’s trauma or pain, or just day-to-day living,

or you find that you always do most of the giving.

When you’re pondering daily the life you’ve been dealt,

with finances, job, relationships, health.

When you’re searching for wisdom, or purpose, or faith

some heart healing, joy, simplicity, space.

When there’s less in your wallet and more on your thighs,

and your mind reels with questions, like “What? How? or Why?”

When you don’t understand and you can’t see the way,

You need four simple words: “Lord, teach me to pray.”

Don’t give up, don’t give in, even though strength seems gone,

Just hold on to hope and pray on, friend.

Pray on.

-- Jackie M. Johnson

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

San Antonio Baby

A Confident Child!

This is Elliana. She's almost two, and she's my godchild. As a single person, it's a blessing to have children in your life to remind you how fun--and sometimes silly--life can be. I'm very happy to be able to see her this weekend in San Antonio, Texas. Children can be such a delight!

Monday, July 19, 2010

New Beginnings

“Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end.” – Seneca

Life is about endings and new beginnings, but I don’t always like it. Sure, some endings are necessary. You have to leave high school to get to college. You have to leave college to get a job. You may join the military, get married, move to another city, or start a new business. Things end and new things begin. I get it.

But the hard thing is when endings happen that you didn’t choose. You didn’t want it, and you sure don’t like it.

It could be disappointing—not a big deal, but something that annoys you—like being late for a meeting because of road construction, or finding out that the guy you met over the 4th of July forgot to tell you he has a girlfriend.

Or it could be big-time discouraging, like an unexpected bankruptcy or a miscarriage. Maybe you’ve had a messy relationship breakup, a death in the family, or a divorce. Or, your job suddenly ended because the economy tanked. Could it be that you’ve lost money in the stock market and your 401k now feels more like a 201k?

Whatever it is, you can choose how you deal with endings. I’ve heard that Chuck Swindoll says, “It’s not always what happens to you, it’s how you respond to it that makes a difference.”

You can choose to ignore your pain, numb out, or do nothing. Or, in the midst of your pain and darkness, you can look to the light of God’s truth for hope, healing and wholeness. Either way, it’s your choice. How you handle endings, or don’t, will determine how you move forward.

What will you choose?

To take things into your own hands,
or wait on God for His way, His will, and His timing?

To lean on what you can grasp with your human mind,
or believe that God really does know what He’s doing, even when you do not?

To believe the lies that say, “My life is over. It’s too late for me.
I’m too old, too broke, too far gone, too _____ (fill in the blank)”
or reject the lies and have hope?

Hope, that maybe one day things really could be different.

Hope, that the One who knows and loves you most could already be at work with good plans specifically for you, “plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jer. 29:11)

Whether you chose your ending, or it chose you, a new beginning is possible.

Consider the acorn—the little cup-shaped thing with a hat that falls from an oak tree. From one small seed grows an amazingly tall and strong tree. Beauty and purpose (like shade and wind protection) spring up from this small, hard piece of potential.

Your new beginning is like an acorn, it’s filled with possibilities. Dreams surrendered to God, like an acorn planted in the soil, will grow. Held solely in your hand nothing happens. Nothing.

As you surrender and release your desires and dreams to God, He grows in your life new things…new opportunities…a new life.

Small beginnings, big results.

It’s time to begin again.

Photo credit: Dave Frahm

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Finding Comfort When Life Hurts

When life hurts, what do you do for comfort?

Most people don’t like a heart vacancy or a blank calendar, so they seek to fill the void with excessive eating, drinking, partying, or jumping too quickly into another relationship just to ease the pain. We are quick to want to cram the heart holes with what we think will satisfy.

But these unhealthy ways of coping are false comforters that promise relief from pain yet turn out to be harmful, unhealthy or temporary. And the vacuum remains.

When the intensity of an empty heart comes over you, everything in you just wants to feel better. You need consolation and reassurance that your feelings are valid, and that one day it really will be okay. How will you find comfort? What brings you relief and reassurance?

Here are some helpful ideas to help you get the support you need:

Let yourself cry. Tears bring cleansing and comfort. Author and speaker Jill Briscoe once said that “God gives us enough tears to keep our clay moist so He can mold us.” We are the clay, He is the potter, and God is reshaping your life for good and holy purposes.

Find true comfort. When false comforters leave you emotionally and physically stranded, it’s time to say goodbye to imitations and hello to the real thing: the true comfort found in “the God all comfort” (2 Corinthians 1:3, 4). His love, His presence, and His word are healing gifts.

Talk to God. Prayer is a vital key in your healing process. Why not start each day with prayer for wisdom, guidance, and favor and end each day with a prayer of thanks and gratitude for all He’s done for you that day (whether you enjoyed it or endured it)?

Release and receive. Picture yourself standing before the Lord with open hands, palms faced up. Ask God to help you to be okay with empty spaces in your life right now, and trust Him to fill your open hands with good things.

Worship also brings healing and comfort. In worship, you’re not just singing songs. You’re focusing on God, not yourself. You are entering into His presence with a heart to give—communicating your love, gratitude and adoration—but you also end up receiving hope, healing, joy and a fresh encounter with God.

Talk with trusted friends or family members. Albert Schweitzer once said, “At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.” Telling your story can help to ease your heart’s pain and bring emotional healing. When someone listens we feel validated. When someone empathizes we feel comfort and relief.

Write in a journal or notebook. Writing your thoughts and prayers in a journal can be helpful and healing. When your feelings appear on a page (or even typed online) they are no longer swirling inside your head. You can vent your emotions, release your pain, and do so in the privacy of your personal journal. You may even want to ask God, “What do you want me to learn from this?” And write the life lessons you learn.

Nurture your spirit. When your heart is hurting it’s helpful to take care of yourself and remember what makes you feel good. What would best nurture your soul, mind and body right now? Comfort comes in a variety of ways and uses some or all of our five senses, like:

the touch of a friend’s hug, a therapeutic massage, or a warm comforter around you as you rest in an overstuffed chair by a roaring fire;

the sight of the stunning beauty of God’s creation (on vacation or right in your own backyard), or a redecorated apartment;

the smell fresh cut flowers filling your living room, or a new perfume;

the taste of your favorite comfort foods (like creamy mashed potatoes or a hot caramel latte);

the sound of relaxing music, the melody of a flowing river on a nature walk, or a phone call from a kind friend who is really good at cheering you up.

May your unfailing love be my comfort…
Psalm 119:76

Monday, July 12, 2010

Friendship --One of Life's Greatest Blessings

Thinking about friendship, and what a wonderful gift it is. Here are some though-provoking quotes on friendship:

Friendship doubles our joy and divides our grief. (Swedish proverb)

Books, like friends, should be few and well chosen. (Samuel Paterson)

A friend is someone who reaches out for your hand...and touches your heart. (Anonymous)

A true friend is someone who thinks that you are a good egg even though he knows that you are slightly cracked. (Bernard Meltzer)

There comes that mysterious meeting in life when someone acknowledges who we are and what we can be, igniting the circuits of our highest potential. (Rusty Berkus)

Remember, the greatest gift is not found in a store nor under a tree, but in the hearts of true friends. (Cindy Lew)

Some people come into our lives, leave footprints on our hearts, and we are never the same. (Anonymous)

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Learning to Wait Well - Part 2

The art of waiting well begins as you learn how to live as you wait.

As you wait, prepare. Sometimes we need to develop more of our inner life so we are ready for the next season God has for us. We spend an amazing amount of time on the outside of our bodies with clothes, hair and makeup, but we also need to grow on the inside.

Preparation to grow up on the inside begins as we first “grow down,” much like the like the roots of a bamboo tree. For the first six years, an extensive root system is developed under the earth. If you stood there and looked at where the bamboo tree was plated you’d think nothing was happening. Finally, in the seventh year, the bamboo plant shoots up 80 feet tall! But only with such a widespread root system could the tree have the support need for such explosive growth. Although it seemed like nothing was happening, God was at work preparing for growth.

As you wait, pray.
You can never go wrong when you put God first. Waiting is a time of realignment; to get first things first and line up your heart with God again. You may think you are too busy and don’t have time to pray. But think of it not as spending time in prayer, but investing time in prayer. Just as you invest your financial resources to get a return, you invest time in prayer and the return is greater than anything you could imagine. Answered prayer, yes, but more importantly a closer, enjoyable relationship with God.

As you wait, have patience. How do we endure delay when we don’t know how long it will take to get to our destination or even how to get there? Life often has unexpected twists and turns, and we need patience—persistence and staying power. Thankfully, God gives us guidance to stay on the right track. Our job is to listen and obey Him.

On the western shore of Lake Michigan, along the Wisconsin coastline, is Harrington Beach. One sunny Saturday I decided to drive there which, according to the map, should take less than two hours from my home in Milwaukee. As I drove along, I could finally see the lake on my right and thought I’d be there shortly. But suddenly the highway turned inland and soon I was driving past farmland and bright red barns. It didn’t seem like I was going the right direction since my car was headed farther away from the lake. This can’t possible be the way. I want to go to the beach, yet I’m driving inland past farms!

I stopped at a gas station and asked the attendant if this was the right way to get to the beach, and he assured me it was. While the road had twists and bends, it would eventually lead to my destination. Hmmm. I guess I just needed to follow his directions and wait for the right exit. I pressed on.

Finally, there was a sign that pointed to the correct road to lead me to the beach. I parked my car, and walked through a short wooded path, and down a few wooden stairs. As I descended, I looked up and saw most amazing expanse of sand and water I’d ever seen at a Midwestern beach. To my right and left, miles of sand beckoned me to walk. The waves crashed on the shore, sea gulls cawed, and a gentle breeze blew off the lake and cooled me.

God knew the entire time I’d get to that the beach, even as I drove on winding roads that seemed to be going in the opposite direction. He knew the way; I did not. And I learned a big lesson in trust and patience that day. Waiting means that we trust God is leading us, guiding and directing, enduring delay even when the journey doesn’t look how we think it should.

-- from “When Love Ends and the Ice Cream Carton Is Empty,” by Jackie M. Johnson. (Moody Publishing, 2010)

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Learning to Wait Well - Part 1

I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope. Psalm 130:5

Much of life seems to have a time lag—we expect things to happen in the amount of time we think it should take. Single people wonder when Mr. or Miss Wonderful will appear. People who are married often wonder when they’ll have kids, or when the kids will grow up. We hunger for the day we’ll get a better paying job, or finally use our talents in work or ministry. We long to lose weight, change a bad habit, or finally take that dream vacation—and we want it to happen right away. Whether it’s for a delayed flight, or for cookies to bake, we wait.

We don’t like waiting. When things seem to take too long for our own liking, instant gratification replaces waiting, and we may take matters into our own hands. We try to make something happen because it’s often hard to accept delay. Maybe you’re afraid you’re missing out on something. Perhaps you’re tired of the lingering heartache and you think getting into another relationship right away will fill the void. You don’t know what to do with the spaces in life.

So we wait for guidance, direction, and for answers—or we don’t—and pay the consequences.

For instance, if you drive through a red stoplight, another car could careen through the intersection and hit you, harming you and wrecking your car. Or, if you start another romantic relationship without waiting on God’s timing, you’d carry the unhealed pain with you and you won’t be able to give and receive love in the most stable or emotionally healthy way possible. You may end up driving the other person away or crashing the next relationship because you are simply not ready. There are consequences of not waiting on God.

God has good reasons for delays. We may not always understand what He is doing and why, but God wants us to obey his commands—not because He is a tough taskmaster, but to protect us and guide us. In learning obedience, we also learn wisdom.

Like the wisdom of keeping your hands off the cocoon of an emerging butterfly. While you may want to help, it is not wise to pry it open for the little creature. He needs to build strength as he exits his temporary shelter or he will die. Know when to keep your hands off and trust God’s ways and timing for things to unfold.

How to wait well
God doesn’t seem to be in a hurry because He is not on our timetable, we are on His. In addition, we tend to be more focused on the results, than the process of getting there.

The truth is God is God, and we will never fully know His reasons. But we can take comfort in the fact that He is good, loving and faithful—and he is always at work, even in the dark, putting together the pieces of our lives for His good purposes.

During seasons of waiting in our lives we learn that:

Waiting is active. Waiting is more than just passing time; and it is not doing nothing. The work of waiting is believing God. Not just believing in God, but believing Him. It’s trusting and having faith that the One who delights us in giving will provide what is best for each of us.

We wait on God, not man. God had good purposes, so your waiting is not in vain. You don’t have to be afraid that God will forget. He knows your heart; He knows you want love, affection and attention. You can be confident and stand strong when it’s Him upon whom you wait. "My soul, wait in silence for God only, for my hope is from Him. He only is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold; I shall not be shaken." (Psalm 62:5-6)

Waiting draws us closer to God. Enduring delay builds intimacy and a closer relationship with Him. Jerome Daley in When God Waits says, “God’s greatest purpose in seasons of waiting is to draw you close to himself, to reveal the depth of his commitment to you, and to equip you for your destiny.”

Waiting is for a purpose. God uses the seemingly dead times in our lives to heal, replenish and prepare our hearts for the next season in our lives. Think of your heart as a fallow field. Like the farmer who leaves his land crop-free for a season, your heart may feel barren or blank, but it’s only for a time. Leaving the land empty replenishes the soil and replaces the nutrients so a better, healthier crop grows the next time. In the same way, your “in the meantime” can be a time to heal and replenish your own heart land and, in time, gather a better and healthier yield in how you handle relationships—and life.

God keeps perfect time. Things unfold “in the fullness of time,” when He is ready, when circumstances are ready, or when we are ready. You can’t tell a newborn baby to run a marathon and then be disappointed when he does not. It’s not time yet. He has to grow up first, and gain strength and muscle. You can’t order a closed rosebud to “open up now!” It simply will not happen. In time the graceful flower unfolds.

Waiting is a time of healing, transformation and preparation. You do your part and God does His part. The art of waiting well begins as you learn how to live as you wait.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Raspberry Moments

I had a bowl of fresh raspberries this morning. And when I took the very first bite of the little red fruit suddenly I was eight-years old again.

I could see my younger self walking across the gravel road outside my grandparent’s cabin in the Wisconsin north woods toward a long patch of wild raspberries. We'd pick them and eat them with cereal or right from the vine when we just couldn't wait. I can still remember those long summer days of freedom and adventure--just me and my two sisters at my grandparent’s lake cottage every two weeks, every summer. Bliss!

I remember swimming in the lake until "our lips turned blue" as Grandma would say. Walking through the woods with my nature-loving grandfather was a given; he’d point out different kinds of birds, plants and animals. He knew a lot and longed to share woodland wisdom with us, but most of it didn't sink in. However, I’ll never forget one important plant: the wintergreen. When you snap the firm leaf in two, it smells like gum! That one I remembered.

We'd take drives in the pine-covered countryside, go horseback riding, or go into town for supplies. Minocqua was a quaint nearby tourist town with water-ski shows and Mass on the lake. Leisurely strolling down the main street, we’d stop to buy trinkets with our allowance. Grandma would always want to look at fall clothes, and we couldn't image why anyone could even THINK about autumn when summer was right here, ripe for the picking. I wanted to stay in my summer state of mind forever.

I remember the smell of Folgers’s coffee brewing early in the morning. As I chomped on Frosted Flakes, I wondered why grownups drank the stuff when it tasted so bitter. Most days Grandpa would take us for a boat ride on the lake. He taught us to fish (and made us bait our own hooks) and clean our catch. Then Grandma would fry up a fresh perch or bluegill dinner, complete with a baked potato and big green salad. Yum.

After dinner we’d take a short walk down the pine-covered peninsula that jetted out into the water. As night fell, you could hear the distant sound of a loon singing his own unique tune and return to the cabin walking on a soft bed of pine needles and mossy green ground.

But back to the raspberries. Funny how a taste can incite a memory. Good memories. What foods give you good memories? What could you taste right now that would transport you back to a time that was happy, carefree, and wonder-filled?

Today mine was a bowl of red raspberries. It sure felt good to be eight again.

Friday, June 11, 2010

When Work Ends

So our company had layoffs yesterday. (Yep, I work full-time in addition to writing books.) It was a total surprise to me and the rest of the staff—including the five others who had their positions eliminated. The economy is to blame for our losses.

But, thankfully, all is not lost. I am keeping the faith and having hope for a better, brighter future. A new road to follow…a path to new adventures…

When a job ends, and when you face unemployment, there is hope. Just “do the next thing” (as wise sage Elizabeth Elliott says) and trust God every step of the way. Invite Him in to your job search process. Ask the Lord to lead and guide you, to find favor and open doors for new oppportunities. Start talking to the people you know, and ask them who they know…and so the process goes.

Sure, you want to do the practical things, like update your resume and look for jobs online and in person (check out, the site that posts jobs from all the other job sites—convenient and time-saving!). But all your hard work will be naught, without the guiding hand of God.

He knows. He cares. He comforts. And the Lord has the power to make real and lasting changes in your work life and your whole life.

So you keep on…

And one day, things begin to change.

And you get that phone call you’ve been waiting for. You go to the interview. And you get the job. It’s your turn. It’s your time.

You may feel like the "land" in your life is fallow (empty), but growth and harvest will come. Today I read, "The LORD will indeed give what is good, and our land will yield its harvest. (Ps. 85:12)

Press on! Have faith. And God will grow His harvest of blessings in your life.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Women are Like Apples

Many times women will say, “What is wrong with me? When is it my turn to have a boyfriend, or get married?”

Sure, we all need to do a little introspection at times, and become the best version of ourselves. But other time a little perspective is in order. Sometimes it’s not about you—it’s about him.

Sometimes the guy just needs some courage to pursue…to make a commitment…to take a step toward real and lasting love. This anonymous post sent to me recently says it well:

Women are like apples on trees. The best are at the top of the tree. But most men don't want to reach for the good ones because they are afraid of falling and getting hurt. Instead, they sometimes take the apples from the ground; they aren't as good, but they’re easy. The apples at the top think something’s wrong with them, when in reality, they're amazing. They just have to wait for the right man to come along, the one who is brave enough to climb all the way to the top of the tree. (emphasis mine)

Wait for the brave man. You are worth it.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

When Love Ends: Book Excerpt

Excerpt from When Love Ends
by Jackie M. Johnson


Breakups are hard. Whether you’re trying to get over someone who left or you’re the one leaving, breakups are messy, complicated and often devastatingly difficult. That’s because we’re designed for attachment and connection, not separation and disconnection. Yet, for many singles, our dating lives are a series of hello’s and goodbye’s—attaching and detaching—from our teenage years until we stand at the altar (or don’t). We date and breakup, date and breakup in a crazy-making cycle. Often, people who marry and divorce find themselves back in the same pattern, too.

Whether you dated briefly or for a long time, the loss of love can be shattering. Your mind swirls with questions: What did I do wrong? Why did he leave? Aren’t I worth being loved well? What if I never find anyone like him again? What if I never find anyone again?

One day you’re sad, the next day you’re angry, and suddenly you’re just numb; you don’t feel anything because it just hurts too much to feel. Maybe you feel rejected, betrayed, or broken-hearted. If you’re the one who left him, you may be suffering guilt and shame. Either way, you just want the pain to stop. You want healing and you want answers.

Is it possible to get through this fragmenting process without falling to pieces?

Yes. Thankfully, yes.

Every story has a beginning and an end. This book begins with an ending, the “heart sunset” of your fading relationship, and it ends with a fresh start in the land of new beginnings.

When Love Ends
is an integral part of your healing journey. In this four-part book, you’ll follow the cycle of a day, from darkness to light, as an analogy that parallels the healing process.

Twilight is a time of endings. The sun and the relationship are both disappearing, and you learn that, sadly, loss and brokenness are a part of life. Yet how you deal with endings, how you handle the emotional fallout of your breakup, in healthy or unhealthy ways, will determine the quality of your future love relationships—and your life.

Night is about healing emotional pain. You've lost love, friendship, physical touch, and the hope of being with this person forever. You seem to have misplaced your worth and value, and your self esteem is in hiding. Repairing heartache comes as you learn to process your emotions and discover some essential keys to healing the hurt. With the “night lights” God provides during life's dark times, like His comfort, wisdom and unconditional love, you are well on your way toward the daylight of joy, freedom and peace.

As the first fingers of morning inch across the horizon, the light of Dawn awakens hope. You begin to understand more about God’s character and how He redeems losses and restores brokenness. Illumination brings restoration, and as you discover your true identity as a dearly loved child of God, you gain greater confidence and learn to make wiser choices in love.

Finally Day breaks and you find that letting go of the past is truly possible. It’s time to move forward into your future. As the sun’s rays shine into the dark corners of your life, you reawaken to important things you’ve forgotten or put aside, like: gratitude, serving others, building friendships and community, and maybe even living your dreams. With renewed vision, you are no longer hiding in the shadows of yesterday. Radiance has returned, and with the light of Christ in you, you are ready to be a light to the world.

If you’ve just broken up from a dating relationship, or are still in the process, When Love Ends is an excellent resource. It provides encouragement and hope along with biblical insight and practical help to get you out of the darkness and back into the light of a brighter future.

One of the most important things you will encounter on your expedition from breaking up to beginning again is learning to grieve—to process emotions, not avoid them, stuff them, or handle them in unhealthy and or destructive ways. Doing so is essential to moving forward.

In fact, Bernard McGrane, PhD., professor of sociology at Chapman University, says that, “unresolved grief is the major underlying issue in most people’s lives.” It’s what’s blocking our emotions from being heart healthy in the area of relationships. When you deal with emotional wounds and let God heal them, you can be better equipped to find the healthy and lasting love you truly desire.

However, instead of dealing with the emotional rubble from a broken heart, a lot of us turn to our favorite comfort foods—like ice cream, potato chips, chocolate, creamy mashed potatoes, or fresh, hot bread lathered in butter—to try and fill the emptiness and soothe the sorrow. Others loose their appetite completely.

Could it be that your comfort choice has gone down a darker path, like drinking away your pain, taking drugs or having sex with someone you’re not married to—another Mr. Wrong just to try to feel good about yourself for just a little while?

Others, like my friend Alice, turn to books for comfort. She loves to snuggle up with a cozy blanket and a cup of hot tea to read a good book that meets her right where she’s at—and that’s what I hope this book will be for you. Comfort, yes, but so much more. When Love Ends is a heart healing journey that will lead you from the darkness of your breakup pain and into the light of brighter and better days ahead.

In the long run, comfort food in moderation isn’t going to hurt you, but it’s not going to heal your broken heart. It may seem to satisfy you for a time, but the void remains—the heart holes of loss, loneliness, rejection or regret. What are you going to do to get past the pain when the pint or plate of food is empty?

Heal your heart, change your life
It’s time to put down the ice cream carton and pick up your Bible—and this book—to get through the sadness, past the pain and back into joy, life and love again. When Love Ends is not just about healing your heart it’s about changing your life.

Do you need comfort and support to cope with your disappointment? Do you want to get unstuck and move forward with your life? If so, read on.

God heals brokenness; He redeems loss and pain and heals the heart to love again. He is all about restoration and transformation—from sadness to joy, from rejection to acceptance, and from brokenness to wholeness. The One who loves you most can help you reconnect again—to God, yourself, and others—and in the process to discover what real, healthy love looks like so you can make wiser choices next time.

Each chapter in When Love Ends includes a short healing prayer and discussion questions for use with a small group or Bible Study, or for your own personal use. Day by day, step by step, and choice by choice healing comes. The good news is that despite your soul injuries, you can live a full and joyful life. It may feel like “The End,” but your new beginning will come.

Nightfall is approaching. But you don’t have to be afraid of the dark, for you are not alone. Not ever. Even in the diffused light of dusk, when you can hardly see the way, God’s lantern of truth and His presence remain constant. He will be with you through the night and lead you to hope, healing and brighter days ahead.

You just have to follow the Light.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

What We Learn from Crazy Wind

The wind in Colorado has been intense the past few days. Crazy wind. It blows with such a strong force that you think it’s gonna scoop you right up! It stirs up the dust to make my view of the mountains hazy. And most people here think it’s generally annoying.

Despite our irritation with this annual rite of passage from springtime to summer in the West, is there a lesson the wind can teach us?

Yep, there is.

I read recently that trees need wind in order to grow tall and strong. Years ago scientists learned this from the Biosphere 2 experiment in Arizona where they lived in a man-made underground environment to see how vegetation would survive. Without the wind, they discovered, trees drooped over and crept along the ground. No backbone.

Perhaps the same is true for men and women: when the winds of change, or the winds of adversity blow, the strong breezes serve to make us stronger.

Hmmm. Strong winds, strong character.

So blow on, blustery breezes of springtime! And then disperse and let us bask in the glory of summer—stronger for it and full of joy.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Preparing Your Heart for Easter

What are you doing to prepare for Easter? Not just coloring eggs or getting a new dress. Not just searching for Grandma’s au gratin potato recipe or inviting guests for dinner. I mean, how are you preparing your heart?

Easter is the biggest holiday in the Christian faith, the main event. Sure, Christmas always seems to get top billing in the media and the preparations go on for weeks before the actual day. But what about Easter—Resurrection Day?

The snowdrop flowers in the photo above remind me of the contrast of this holiday. The dark black background is the Good Friday sorrow of holy surrender and death. And yet, there is also the triumph—the bright white good news is that Jesus Christ rose again. Alive and free! So we could be too.

Darkness and light. Death and resurrection. Hopes dashed and hope renewed. The messages of life played out in the events we celebrate each year in this Easter Week.

What are you doing to prepare?

Me? I’m pushing aside worry and focusing on WORSHIP. I’m spending more time in prayer and less in putting my own agenda first. I’m choosing to CELEBRATE the best news ever from the One who loves me most. Jesus died and rose again to give us life, hope, freedom and peace. And that is so worth celebrating!

It may be Easter, but this holiday carol still applies, “Let every heart prepare Him room…”

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Awakening Your Dormant Dreams

Spring is just around the corner. It's the time of year when the earth wakes up. Purple crocus' and bright yellow daffodils pop from the ground and display their vivid colors, despite the lingering snow.

Perhaps it's time to "wake up" in your own life too. Do you have dreams and desires that never seem to come to pass? You think they're dead--never gonna happen. But maybe they are merely dormant.

Consider the sunflower seed. It's small and unobtrusive. Yet, with the warmth of the sun and the moisture of rain it grows to be one of the tallest plants.

To me, a sunflower in bloom represents a dream come true. From a seed, planted in hope, fruition comes.

Give your dream seeds to God and see what grows. You may just get a field of dreams that you never could have imagined.

Dormant Dreams

Desires and dreams encased in a seed,
Released in the black earth of faith.
Time to let go of what I think I need,
And hold on to the hope of His grace.

Longingly gazing at empty brown dirt,
Can’t make your dreams grow any faster.
For the seed in the soil is dormant, not dead.
Look up, to the face of the Master.

Call out for courage, have patience, have faith!
A mystery’s unveiling, my friend.
For a small, simple see can yield sunflower gold.
Surely, this isn’t the end.

In the fullness of time, resurrection.
The earth births a tender young shoot.
Nurtured and tended with strong, loving hands
The flower grows deep, solid roots.

And the seedling unfolds to a blossom,
Pure artistry formed in the dark.
In His perfect timing the Harvester brings
Fruition to desires of the heart.

-- Jackie M. Johnson

Thursday, January 7, 2010

A New Year and It's Full of Possibilities!

Our choices matter...

It's a brand new year, a blank slate, a path yet unwalked. I love the freshness of a new year...full of possibility. Where will this year take you? No one knows for certain, but as we trust God and make right choices the path unfolds. Walk by faith...and walk on!