1. Do something different

The first Christmas after my daughter’s death I went to the beach with my brothers and their families. It was the best therapy for me – long walks on the beach, listening to the waves, feeling God’s presence in the sunrises and sunsets. This year may be a year when you can’t get out of town, but when the grief is fresh, do something that does not remind you of the traditions you shared with your loved one. Our choices are limited during this pandemic but make a plan ahead of time.

2. Accept your feelings, whatever they are.

Sometimes we feel guilty if we have moments of joy or happiness. Maybe you feel as though you should not laugh or smile. Sometimes we can’t laugh or smile. This journey of grief is yours, not your spouse’s or siblings’. If we push down feelings of sadness, they just grow bigger and stronger, pushing themselves up to be exposed. Recognize the feelings you have TODAY and accept them. Write them down in a journal, then take some deep breaths. Regain balance by counting your breaths or repeating a phrase such as, “He is for me, He is for me.” Listen to “The Blessing by Kari Jobe.

3. Skip any tradition that doesn’t feel right.

The problem with traditions is that we sometimes hold on to them so long, we forget there is no law or rule that says you have to open presents first thing Christmas day. Memories during the holidays bubble up unexpectedly. Even taking out ornaments to decorate the tree. After Jennifer’s death some years we just skipped putting up a tree ; I just couldn’t face the memory of going as a family to pick out a tree, setting it up, and decorating. The first time I pulled out ornaments, memories slammed into my heart. Each ornament reminded me of when we got it, or when Jennifer made it for me. Just skip what you need to skip.

4. Call friends and family for help.

Pick and choose among your support group who will understand what you need. Ask a friend to go shopping with you. Invite the people you need to be with over for brunch or lunch. Don’t assume that anyone will know what you need. Decide what would make you feel better and then ask.

5. Schedule “me” time.

Be deliberate in finding time for self-care. What will fill up your emotional tank? A massage or pedicure? A quiet walk in the woods? Strolling through the mall? This is the year we have to be creative because of the limitations of the pandemic. If Hallmark movies will cheer you up, binge watch some. Giving to others can be considered self-care. Bake some cookies and share with the single mom next door.

Above all, be kind to yourself. Give yourself some grace. Let go of self-criticism.

The verse closes each chapter in my book, Where Is Joy? Let it guide you through these days.

Don’t worry about anything.

Pray about everything.

Tell God what you need.

Thank him for all he has done.

Philippians 4:6 New Living Translation

  • Read more about my journey here.
  • For more resources on grief, check out this page on my website.
  • You can find my book at Amazon.

Taking Care of Yourself

During the days of a pandemic . . .

The days stretch before us, and we can’t see the when the end is coming. The uncertainty and danger can cause great anxiety. When you add the restrictions of staying at home, loss of income, we can be in a world of turmoil. Besides — who has all the toilet paper????

As I prepared for a grief seminar in February I created a checklist for wellness and self-care to use when a person is grieving. As our confined days have turned into weeks, I find that I need more structure to my day, more words from God’s Word, and reminders to take care of myself. I offer these checklists here. You can download them print them off to place in a spot where you will be reminded of First Things First.

A Wellness Check is making sure you are doing the important things to keep yourself healthy in body and spirit. A Self-Care Check reminds you to be sure you are refilling in some creative way. Spring Cleaning is not for everyone, but I know some folks who feel so much better when a closet is reorganized! You can download the file for the wellness card in the link below the cards.

I pray this psalm using “our” and “us” meaning: our nearest and dearest, church family, community, city, state, country, world.

In these days of pandemic in the year of 2020,

May our Jehovah God (Yahweh) answer our cries.

May the God of Jacob keep us safe from this virus so we will not be the carriers or the infected.

May He send us help (a cure, treatment, vaccine) and strengthen us.

May the LORD accept our petitions and cries.

As we align our desires to His will, grant our heart’s desires and fulfill our plans (that come from You, LORD).

May we sing joyously on the day victory is declared, and we can once again gather in community.

May Jehovah Rapa (our healer), Jehovah Yireh (our provider), El Shaddai (God Almighty), Jehovah Shalom (God of Peace):

         heal our sick,

         keep us safe from the virus,

         give our leaders wisdom to guide and provide protection for us,

         keep health workers safe from harm,

         show the indifferent and selfish how their risks affect many,

         give all first responders the protection they need to meet daily needs,

         bless the poor, marginalized, and weakest among us with the comfort they need.

open our eyes to the needs around us.

Now, Elohim (the Sovereign God, our Creator),

 We know You rescued our King Jesus and that You will answer from heaven and rescue us by Your great power.


PROGRESS REPORT: 10 things I’ve learned after foot surgery

It’s been quite a summer for health issues for me. A routine endoscopy resulted in a knick in my esophagus and a gastric bleed. Three days in the hospital, a blood transfusion, and two months of anemia kept me on the couch and postponed the foot surgery I needed until the first of October.

My left foot pain became so severe this summer that I could only wear flipflops (Skecher brand). I needed bunion removal and fusion of the arch for the painful arthritis.

In 2007 I had the same surgery as I had In October. It required eight weeks off work, foot in a boot and no weight on it. I used a rollator and moved around the house fairly well. I continued to use it when I went back to school until I was back to speed.

Much to my surprise the rehab for the surgery this month has been more challenging than in 2007. Here’s what I’ve learned in the last five weeks.

Home from the hospital with a nerve block. Feeling NO PAIN and foot elevated to reduce swelling, etc.

My post on Facebook with this picture before surgery said I had what I needed for recovery. Ha!

1. The knee scooter was not the great improvement I expected. Carpet is the enemy of all these devices. Plus it needs a wide arc for turning. I found myself picking it up to turn around.

2. My 72-year-old body is not as flexible, cooperative, or agile as it was as a 60-year-old! I find myself unable to maneuver from couch to knee scooter or rollator. My balance is laughable which is what Larry and I do when I start down the steps and just fall into his 6’2″ frame. I’ve fallen out of the wheelchair, the knee scooter, crutches, and the rollator. Thankfully, no broken bones, just bruises.

3. The extra 10 or 15 pounds around my middle (okay, probably 20) do not help!

4. My good knee – the one that was replaced in 2012 – cannot take all this bodyweight alone! I can’t wreck this good knee, so I’m back to wearing a brace. (I’ve learned not to get rid of any of my orthopedic equipment).

5. A wheelchair is my friend these days. I borrowed two different types and found this snazzy red one to work well once Larry cleared all the clutter off the floors.

6. This walker has come in handy in this room and my closet.

7. It takes lots of planning to get me out of the house. Three steps down to the remodeled garage require sitting on the steps, moving down slowly and then to the wheelchair, through the crowded office, and very carefully part way down the steep driveway. Larry moves the car up on the grass as near to the door as possible. The second option is to place a large rug on the front steps, which are made of rough river-washed stone, and I scoot down to the wheelchair.

8. My husband has gone above and beyond expectations as a caregiver!

9. Teaching Bible class Sunday morning. I have been teaching for the past two Sunday mornings. Gotta keep that foot up, no matter what!

10. It is now the sixth week of recovery and I can tell a huge difference. As soon as the doctor gives me the word, I’m ready to drive! I can now make it to the car at the bottom of the driveway using the metal walker. The end is near!

LISTEN to this Podcast!

I love to listen to podcasts while I am in the car. I have a 20 minute drive to the YMCA for water aerobics, and I am usually listening to a podcast.

I discovered a treasure last week while scrolling through the iTunes library. Kate Bowler has a compelling voice, delightful word choices, and a remarkable story to tell. “She is a young mother, writer and professor who, at age 35, was suddenly diagnosed with Stage IV cancer. In warm, insightful, often funny conversations, Kate talks with people about what they’ve learned in dark times.”

I love listening to her story but her interviews demonstrate a deep compassion for others who suffer. The episodes provide a window into the lives of a wide variety of people who suffer and grieve in different ways.

A recent episode with Jayson Greene touched me personally; he shares the story of the sudden accidental death of his two year old daughter. Kate calls this episode “The Language of Grief”. Their conversation is filled with insights that will help other grieving parents but also will help those who want to help. Jayson calls them “First Responder Friends”.

Follow this link to listen to the episode.

Check out Jayson’s book as well as Kate’s.

Amazon Link
Amazon Link

WHAT A WEEKEND! Blessed by Estes Ladies

Spent Saturday morning with sweet sisters from Henderson, TN and surrounding area. They were so welcoming, and the Ladies’ Day Planning Committee organized everything beautifully! It was delightful!

TEAM JOY: Sara Sills, niece and Marie Johnson, sister-in-law made the day so much easier for me.

What’s It Like to Drown in Grief?

I recently saw a video on Facebook, posted by a grieving friend. I am unable to link it here or embed it. Look for it on my page (Conquering Emotional Pain, The GoalCast). This is what I wrote:

Before you watch it, let me make some suggestions. First of all, it is powerful, and I agree with most of it. The images of waves in the ocean and the feelings described match my feelings after Jennifer died.

But if you are deep in fresh sorrow from the loss of a child, this may not be easy to watch.

I avoided movies, videos, and moments like these. When grief is like a cut in the skin,
raw and open, you are not ready for these emotions, ONE MORE TIME. Overwhelming emotions come on their own like waves, often unexpected and threatening to swallow you whole. I suggest watching only as much as you can handle. You know the condition of your heart, how weak or strong you feel today.

If you are a friend of a grieving person, watch it and develop empathy with the overwhelming emotions of a parent who loses a child.

But, don’t push the solution or suggestion of this video on your friend. Watch the whole video and understand the slow process of healing. Writing a letter to a child who has died is a wonderful healing process. I wrote that letter not long after Jennifer died. But not everyone can do it. And timing is critical. The grieving parent knows when or even if writing this letter is possible. He or she has probably written one in their heads, asking questions, wondering what would have changed the outcome.

NOW watch as much as you wish and then see my thoughts following.

A passage from Psalm 107:23-30 provides words to the images in the video:

Some went off to sea in ships, plying the trade routes of the world. They too observed the Lord’s power in action, his impressive works on the deepest seas. He spoke, and the winds rose, stirring up the waves. Their ships were tossed to the heavens and plunged again to the depths; the sailors cringed in terror. They reeled and staggered like drunkards and were at their wits’s end.

“Lord help!” they cried in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress. He calmed the storm to a whisper and stilled the waves. What a blessing was that stillness as he brought them safely into harbor! Let them praise the Lord for his great love and for the wonderful things he has done for them.

Words from Scripture that describe drowning and overwhelming fear.


Without hope for a calmer sea, for a better day, for less pain, we continue to drown in the seas of grief and pain.

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever. Psalm 107:1

What A Week! March Came Roaring In!

The theme of Women of Hope for 2019 is Women of Courage, hence the Wonder Woman photo booth

Team Joy supported me at every turn.

Carlene, Carole, Jackie, Virginia, Clo, Marsha, Pam, and Traci made this convention experience a success!

Another Joy Johnson!

Hendersonville Church of Christ, Ladies’ Bible Class


Surprise! Kathy and Lark plus husbands showed up to support me.
Elizabeth: Former student from 8th grade came to the taping of Stories of Amazing Grace. So proud of her — she is a teacher for special needs students at a middle school where I taught AND was teacher of the year last year.

Completed Interview

My husband, Larry, interviewed me at our church. Follow the link above to watch on YouTube.



What Does Time Do for a Broken Heart?

What does time do for a broken heart?

What does time do for a journey of grief?

After writing my book Where Is Joy? I can share a few things I’ve learned about time.

  • The rawness of pain fades slowly.
  • The passage of time does not diminish memories or missing my daughter.
  • It took years for my heart to heal.
  • Healing does not mean my heart returned to same state as before April 13, 2002.
  • Healing from grief is not a gradual improvement; it’s two steps forward, then one step back.
  • Or it’s 20 steps back, and I’m flat on my back on the couch.
  • It takes more than the passage of time to heal.

It took a network of supportive friends and family, research and locating helpful tools, the practice of quiet moments for Bible study, prayer, and communion with the Father.

  • Healing required me to learn and accept my limitations. I was a slow learner in this area because just when I thought I could move ahead, I was reminded that everything had changed.
  • I am not the same person.
  • Time helped the rawness of pain, but I had much to learn in my journey of grief.

In time I learned to be thankful for even the hard things in my life.

Today I am thankful for

  • the people who supported me through all the years of healing
  • the lessons I learned about God’s glorious grace and love
  • the ability to look back and reflect — to see God’s hand through 17 years of my journey


Control: A Confession


Father of the Universe, Creator, my Abba

I confess my weakness and ask Your forgiveness. 

I need to feel control, and too often I let this need rule my life.

I know in my head You are in control, but my heart jumps in when I see something is out of control. 


I know I have no ability to control the weather,


the political atmosphere in our country, choices other people make,

accidents, poverty, disease, danger, or war.

But sometimes this need for control allows the Teacher in me to jump in.

For 33 years my goal was to be in control of my classroom.

I knew my students needed guidance to learn self-control.

But chaos in the classroom does not provide

an ideal classroom environment for learning. 

Controlled chaos is different;

my friend and co-teacher Emalie taught me this.

I know I cannot control other people.

I know that without Your grace my salvation would be impossible.

But I desperately need patience and insight

when I feel the need to take control of a situation.

Thank You for:

Your forgiveness,

Your grace,

Your patience,

Your love. 

Your child,