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,


New Pages to the Blog

This is a favorite drawing by a former student (8th grade). I included the background because it has details on the whiteboard about the book we were studying  (Gathering Blue), my charts, even the lamp in the back. 

I’ve been working on this blog to improve it in the last few days and hope you will check out the new pages. I have added a booklist of some of the books I recommend for those in grief. I also have a list of websites that provide many types of help for a wide variety of broken hearts.

Please share these resources with people who need them.

The first week in March is packed with several events. Check out the list here. Just added another one this week.

Thank you for all who have purchased my book. Please write a review on Amazon, even if you bought it from me.

Ten Things I Learned in 2018

Emily P. Freeman says, “I believe in order to move toward those things we most want for our lives, it’s vital to first look back.” Each quarter of the year Emily reflects on things she has learned.

Modern Mrs. Darcy makes a list each year of things she has learned.

I learned to make these reflective lists when I began blogging several years ago. It’s such a good practice for reflecting on life and personal growth, so this is my list for 2018.

1. I learned that writing a book is only half the journey; self-publishing seemed harder to me.

www.joymsouder.comNot that writing was easy – it did take me six years to complete it! The process of publishing with Kindle Direct seemed so easy at first, but perhaps I was a bit impatient. Just thankful for the help Gail and David gave me. (See Acknowledgements in the book.) Where Is Joy is available on Amazon.


2. I have incredible encouragers in my life, especially during book writing and publishing.

Family, church family, neighbor, and friends provided me with words of encouragement throughout this whole process. It took a village to get this book finished.

3. I have missed water exercise more than I imagined.

I love to swim; in 2003 I began an early morning routine of swimming laps. The last few years I dropped my YMCA membership but this July I rejoined and began attending an 8:00 water aerobics class. We have a great time — a bunch of seniors who don’t care how our bodies look in swimsuits, a super motivating teacher, and a prayer circle at the end. Inspiring and motivating every day.

4. Writing alone for a week moved me past my biggest hurdles, but by evening I needed to be with people.


A winter sunset in Henderson

In January of this year I spent a week in brother Paul’s empty house to concentrate on writing. I accomplished my goal by completing the 2nd big draft, getting up as early or late as I wanted, snacking, and even watching a few Hallmark movies I had not seen. The quiet and lack of distractions gave me the focus I needed, until the evenings. I needed to talk to people!

Brother Steve and his wife, Marie, just happen to live in Henderson also, and we enjoyed several evening meals together. It was the best of both worlds.

5. Studying and teaching the book of Hebrews led me into a richer understanding of God’s plan for us.


Class Notebook Cover

My co-teacher and I collected our resources for Hebrews, outlined our plan, and led a slow but deep study of this book of the Bible.

Hebrews provides a background for Jewish Christians who probably lived in Rome during severe persecution. You just can’t teach this book without referring to the Old Testament; it opens your eyes to God’s plan from the beginning of time.

We are almost finished! One more chapter.

6. I like to wear dresses again because of tights and leggings!


My newest dress from Zulily!

I’ve only worn pants for years because of pantyhose and the need for comfortable shoes. With leggings and tights and these cute swing dresses, I can be comfortable and warm in the winter.

Old Navy and Zulily have the cutest and convenient sources.

7. The Enneagram is a fascinating way of viewing personality types and learning how to become the person God made me to be. Some days I’m still not sure of my number, but I’m learning to recognize behaviors in myself I need to change.

The Enneagram Institute is a great resource for reading about the Enneagram.   Click on the link to take a test and find out your classification, but every time I take a test I get a different result.

www.joymsouder.comThis book is a short overview that is easy to understand: The Back to You by Ian Cron and Suzanne Stabile.



8. Podcasts are my new favorite listening source in the car. Some of my favorite podcasts are:

For the Love with Jen Hatmaker

Typology with Ian Cron: a great resource for understanding the Enneagram.

The Enneagram Journey with Suzanne Stabile

Newsworthy with Norsworthy with Luke Norsworthy

You can find thousands of podcasts on thousands of subjects! Go to Itunes and start searching.

9. As my extended family has grown to grandchildren and great-grandchildren it’s harder and harder to gather everyone in one spot, but it is important.

An October wedding in a barn during a monsoon is probably not my first choice for a road trip but we enjoyed a great celebration for a nephew who added two little girls along with his bride.


The boys in sunglasses carried the rings!

Thanksgiving provided an opportunity for some cousins to meet for the first time.


Cousins from Arkansas and Texas


Cousins from Texas and Georgia

10. I’m learning to paint! Brenda Frye’s classes provide a great creative outlet that feeds my soul.

www.joymsouder.com  www.joymsouder.com