June 25, 2018

Our Love Story

Me and my love
I wrote this on our 30th anniversary and I am reposting this today, with some updated content. Enjoy!

I actually heard Keith's voice before I ever saw him. I was nine years old and my family had just moved to Ruston, Louisiana and we were visiting area churches. That particular Sunday landed us at Emmanuel Baptist Church on Farmerville Highway. I had already started fourth grade at Hillcrest Elementary and I didn’t see any of my new friends there so I was suitably unimpressed. But during a rousing rendition of 'How Great Thou Art' a melodic, distinctly masculine voice from the pew behind me reached my ears. I nonchalantly turned my head and in my peripherals I beheld the most beautiful sight my nine year old eyes had ever seen. He was tall, he was tan with dark tousled hair, and he was extremely handsome. And I was immediately and soundly smitten. But he was a sophisticated THIRTEEN year old in the eighth grade, much too old to take notice of a bespectacled, skinny, brace face in grade school. 

Me around the time I fell in love with Keith lol. 
Well my parents did eventually join Emmanuel and I didn’t protest. Our parents even became close friends much to my delight. And better yet, my cousin David became his best friend which put him at our house on a regular basis. When David allowed it, they let me tag along after Sunday night church for pizza. Thankfully Keith wasn't unkind. He included me. He teased me. He gave me a nickname- Bug. That’s all he ever called me. I absolutely loved it. I wrote his name on the back of my school notebooks and then drew pictures over them. But I knew what was underneath. And I never quit hoping. Every bit of attention paid, every perceived flirtation, all my tender young hopes of romance were wistfully penned in my diary. My dream of one day marrying Keith Johnson never wavered. 

Our first date. (One date before we got engaged lol).
Well, the years passed and he joined the Navy when he was nineteen. Before he left, he hugged me and called me my name, not Bug. I wondered if he was finally seeing me as a woman (after all I WAS now sixteen years old). But life took us in opposite directions. I had high school to complete and the Navy took him far away so what might have begun at that time was delayed. He got into relationships. I got into relationships. He was stationed in Florida and then South Carolina and I was stuck in Louisiana. But one Christmas he came home on leave and I finally caught his eye. And although I had a boyfriend, we started writing each other letters. He called me one day when I wasn’t home and although I wanted to, because I was in a relationship, I never called him back. Then on the very day I broke up with my boyfriend, I finally returned his call. And we talked. And we talked. And we talked some more.  We talked so often and so long that Keith eventually had to sell his truck to pay his phone bill. My dad knew Keith and his family and he knew he was a catch. At that point in my troubled young life I'd made enough wrong choices that my dad was nervous I might miss this golden opportunity (He needn't have worried). He viewed paying our enormous phone bill as an investment in my future and he did it without TOO much grumbling ;). For four months we talked every day for hours on end. I was a senior in high school and many a night I reluctantly hung up the phone an hour before my alarm was set to go off. Keith often showed up to work red eyed after talking to me all night long. Then oh happy day- he finally came home on leave. By our second date, we were engaged. He flew back home once more before our wedding in the spring to attend my senior prom with me. 

I graduated high school in May and a month later on June 25, we married.  
June 25, 1983!!

And here all these years later, I have no regrets. I can truthfully say that I have spent the last three+ decades with the man of my dreams and my best friend and it has far exceeded my girlhood expectations.

We’ve been blessed to travel the world with the Navy, to have four beautiful children and now four grandsons (and a granddaughter due next month!). 

We've lived in South Carolina,
Newly married in Charleston, SC
Florida, Hawaii (twice), Connecticut (twice), Scotland, Louisiana, Missouri and back full circle to Ruston Louisiana where we met. We've moved more times than I can count. 

But maybe the most beautiful thing has been discovering and journeying together in our pursuit of God. We’ve grown up together. We’ve gone from foolish and worldly to curious and hungry, to ultimately determined that ‘as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord’. 
In Scotland at Dunnottar Castle

In Edinburgh, Scotland

Nottingham England

Brittany, on the westermost point of France with our oldest two

And then God gave us two more :) In Hawaii with ALL our kids :D

Keith's ordination in Hawaii
We’ve laughed a lot, dreamed a lot, loved a lot and have prayed a lot. Now don’t get me wrong. We’ve made our share of mistakes. We’ve had disappointments and failures. We’ve suffered loss and rejection. We’ve walked through a lot together these many years. But I can stand here all these years later and say that we are profoundly blessed and I wouldn’t change a thing.

There's not another person I would rather do life with than Keith Johnson. There's not another person on earth who understands me and sees me as I am yet accepts me and loves me and honors me. And there's no other who I respect like I do him, nobody who can make me laugh like he can. He's a man of great wisdom. There's a high level anointing on his life to preach and prophesy. The authority he carries bring a sense of peace wherever he goes and young people are drawn to the shelter of his daddy's heart. He has selflessly provided our family with a protective covering and a loving foundation. 
Our relationship has matured and evolved over the years. It's amazing what God has done. There's so much more to our love story that is locked away in the secret places of our hearts but our beautiful story is still being written and I look forward to many more decades of love, laughter and adventure together.
Me, Keith and three of our beautiful grandsons
(Gabe, Levi & Jesse Ortego)
Our forth grandson (Beorn Lane Johnson)

So today on the anniversary of our marriage, I want to honor this man who caught my eye when I was nine years old. I've loved you since I was in fourth grade, Keith Johnson. We've come a long way! I am blessed among women. Happy Anniversary honey. You still are my sunshine!
Us and all our offspring, their spouses and our beautiful grandbabies. Isn't God good? 

May 26, 2017


"Yes, I (Jesus) am the Vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in Me and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from Me you can do nothing... If you abide (remain) in Me, and My words abide (remain) in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples. As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide (remain) in My love." John 15:5 & 7-9 (Italicized emphasis mine)

I have at times wondered about this scripture. Ever practical, I've asked:  "Lord how does one abide/REMAIN in Your love?" Then I see where in that same chapter, down in verse 10 Jesus says: "When you obey Me you remain in my love." Then the thought: 'So Lord, are You saying if we disobey that You no longer love us?' 

And then He reminds me of the story of the prodigal son- The son chose to leave home. HE chose to not remain in his Fathers love. He ran away from it. He did his own thing and did not do the things that pleased his Father.  But his Father never stopped loving him. He never stopped looking for him. He never stopped longing for him to come home. 

So although the son decided to not remain in his Fathers love, the Fathers love never wavered. It remained right there, waiting for the son to return to it. And when the son finally came to his senses in the pig pen, he wisely returned home to the loving embrace of his Father. And there he found his Daddy...standing at the gate, waiting, watching for him, longing for His dear child to come home. 

And I have a feeling that after that, the son had no problem remaining in his Fathers love. Because he found that there's just no better place to be.

February 24, 2017

The E String

When tuning a guitar you find the exact pitch for the top string- the E string- and tune the other strings according to the accuracy of that E string. If the standard of the E string is off, the rest of the strings will also be off and the sound will be chaotic and not nice to listen to. (Trust me there's nothing worse to listen to than an untuned guitar! 😜) It's the same with truth. If we have no absolute standard for truth, everything in our lives will be out of balance and out of tune. Just as 2+2 will forever and always = 4, whether or not we like it, agree with it, feel like it or find it culturally relevant, Gods word will always be our standard; the unchanging, solid, timeless, absolute measurement for truth. Lord knows, my feelings change minute by minute and my perspective has not always proven to be correct. There must be a standard that is bigger than me, stronger than me, wiser than me, more loving than me and transcending culture and time. Because if it's all relying on my own understanding, then my foundation will not remain solid when life gets shaky and seasons change. If it's all up to me to tune the strings without a standard to go by, then my sound will be confusing and my message will be muddled. Our lives are meant to be a beautiful song based on the unchanging, solid standard of that top string. Gods truth is our E-string.

January 20, 2017

Golden Rule Day

Examining my own heart today and I had couple of thoughts I’d like to share on this Inauguration Day…

Those of us who are urging for prayer and respect for our new President and his supporters and backing it up by quoting the scriptures about respecting authority and praying for our leaders, can we honestly say we did this when Obama was our President?

And to those of us who are ridiculing and rejecting our current President and his supporters, how did we feel when President Obama was likewise rejected and denounced yet not prayed for?

And to those whom this doesn’t apply, good for you. I honestly cannot say it doesn't apply to me (but I will not share on which side of the two extremes I have fallen.)

Understand, I’m not talking about disagreeing with a president, opposing his policies or standing up for our beliefs and convictions respectfully which is healthy and a privilege we share as Americans. But can we just be honest and admit we don’t always practice what we preach when it comes to respecting and praying for authority- especially when we don't like who's in authority? We tend to point out loudly when those we disagree with are breaking the rules but we justify it when we do it ourselves.

Truth is truth. It doesn't change and it is no respecter of persons or political party.

If the Bible says pray for and respect your leaders, it meant Obama, and it means Trump.

Like it or not.

So can we have a moment of humility and just admit today that we sometimes are hypocrites (hanging my head and raising my hand here). Can we not shame those saying what we have said ourselves when the shoe was on the other foot? And beginning with this Inauguration Day, can we agree to go forward from here and attempt to adhere to the Golden Rule, and do unto others as we’d have them do unto us? 

We don't have to agree. We do have to respect and pray. 

So whether we are celebrating and thankful or are angry and grieving, let us not be critical of those who are saying exactly what we were saying 8 years ago today. 

Let's make today- Golden Rule Day.

The End.

December 26, 2016

The Now...

This year has not been the easiest for our state, country or family. There has been so much division in our country, tragedy in our state and disappointment on a personal level. Many we love have suffered devastating loss and tragedy. It’s honestly been unprecedented in my own lifetime. But at one of the many funerals I attended this past year my sister-in-law said to our family, "Let this be a lesson to us. We never know when will be the last time we are together. We need to really BE together more." It struck home with me at the time but as I was reflecting today, it finally sunk in. If I’ve learned anything this past year, it’s been that life is fragile and all too often we don’t know what we have until it’s gone. Why do we spend our days looking back wishing for a simpler time or looking ahead hoping for some future breakthrough and never valuing the beauty and opportunities of today? I am the guiltiest of all at this. I spent a good portion of this holiday season sad- sad that my kids weren’t all with us, sad that my grandbabies were 500 miles away, sad that our parents are declining, sad that our kids aren’t little, sad for those who are no longer here, sad that so much has changed- that I missed many ‘now’ moments that I’ll never get back. 

So I want to vow this upcoming year to do as that song says, "Live like you are dying". We only are guaranteed today. If this all sounds depressing, thats not my intention.  But I'm fed up with not having the perspective of Now! I want to view life differently this year. I don't want to waste precious time grieving moments passed or longing for moments ahead. But instead I want to value the opportunities in the NOW that may not be here tomorrow, that cannot be held onto or saved for later, but are meant to be lived and enjoyed today. 

Can we strive to prioritize relationships this year and to value every moment with one another, not wasting another second with regret, selfishness, division, grudges, unforgiveness, resentments or unspoken love? What better time is there than the holidays to say the things we have always meant to say but have put off. Who knows if we'll have another chance. What better time than now to patch up those misunderstandings, to let go of those grudges, to ask for forgiveness and to give it. What better time than now to speak to each other the things we would say if we thought it was the last time? 

Think about it. And do it. With God’s help, I am determined to. 
May God bless each of you and enable us all this upcoming year to recognize and to live in the now and to be grateful for all God has done in our lives.  It’s a lot more than we realize. Amen

October 11, 2016

What I Know (concerning this election)

The political climate of this current presidential election has been the most controversial, confusing, sensationalized and polarizing I’ve seen in my years of living on this earth. I can’t speak for the generations before me, but of mine, I think this takes the cake. I can’t stomach a whole lot of it, but thanks to Facebook I am as informed as my friends are and their friends’ friends’ friends are and so on into infinity. It's confusing and peace-stealing. By not tuning into the endless political pontificating in the news, and by choosing to watch football instead of the debates, we try to not let it affect us. But despite these precautions, we still are sometimes in places where we cannot help but be exposed to the news, to hear other’s unasked for opinions or to be pulled into political discussions and so on. Unless you live on a lonely mountain somewhere or deep in the swamp without wifi, internet, satellite or cable its pretty much impossible to get away from it and it’s hard to be blissfully uninformed these days. (To be clear, I'm not advocating being uninformed, I'm just sharing how I cope). :P

But I’ve never seen such polarization even among Christians. For every article on why you can’t be a Christian and vote for Hillary, I see just as many questioning the salvation of those who are voting for Trump. Its ridiculous and upsetting and confusing. It's easy in this season to question what matters most when so much is wrong. Different church and political leaders who I have respected in the past, have added to the confusion with such differing views from one another. There’s no clear good vs. evil like in the old days. There's so much legitimately wrong with both candidates that it’s looking like a case of 'pick your poison' and nobody wins. The other day I got dragged into a political discussion and by the end of it my stomach was in knots and I was despairing of life and the future of my grandkids. I seriously wanted to throw up and just had to get away. It took me nearly three days before I could feel peace return. So much concern for my country and for the body of Christ which appears divided. So many questions. So much I don't know:

Which side is right? Are they both? Are neither? Are we doomed? Should we vote or not even bother? And who the heck should we vote for? Should we just give up? Should we fight harder?

I don’t know.

And I still don't entirely know the answer to every single question. However, after wrestling with my thoughts and praying a lot, I have emerged with some things I DO know and that the Lord has placed on my heart and reminded me of... Here they are:

1. Trump and Hillary and each person who loves them, hates them and those who don't care- were each created in the image of God.

2. Jesus gave up His life, He died on the cross for Trump and Hillary and for those who love them, those who hate them, those who don’t care.

3. Since this is true and God loves and values them, He expects me to also love and value Trump and Hillary and those who love them, those who hate them and those who don’t care.

4. God’s not a Republican or a Democrat. He’s not even American! He loves each one and each nation equally. Now that doesn’t mean we should disrespect our nation, those who fought for it or those who govern it. But He does love universally and He never violates that love by being unloving to another He created. 

5. God isn’t worried. He’s not up in heaven wringing His hands in anxiety. He’s not wondering what to do. He’s not taken by surprise. He’s not angry at whoever is wrong (I guarantee we each are wrong in something). But He’s got a plan… even if we screw it up- which leads to the next thing I know…

6. God causes all things to work together for the good of those who love God and who are called according to His purpose. There have been dark times down through history, times darker than this, people in authority who were worse than these- and through those times people drew nearer to God, things in their hearts were exposed and they dealt with them. Their character grew, their wisdom grew, their love grew, their roots went deeper and the Kingdom of God was advanced. Which leads to this last one…

7. We don’t need to be so distraught, so angry, so worried, so distracted by and caught up in the horror of this current political mess to miss this opportunity to shine God’s light and love on a dark world that desperately needs Him.  We need to get this into perspective: There are worse things than our chosen candidate not winning. Worse things like people dying without hope and without knowing how dearly loved and valuable they are. And troubled times are a great revealer. They expose where we really are and what’s the most important. If your house was on fire (or being flooded as my friends in south Louisiana know all too well) what would you grab first? And what would you not bother with? Troubled times cause us to cut to the chase and get real about what is important. “Everything that can be shaken will be shaken.”… we are being shaken and its showing our true colors and our greatest needs. And the world needs Jesus. And we are His only representatives on this earth. While the darkness is increasing and the heat has been turned up, let us not be so distracted by and focused on the political whirlwind around us that we miss this golden opportunity to focus on what really matters to Him: people. And to share and represent the hope we have in Jesus and to tangibly show His love.   

Yes, I will vote on November 8, for the one who I think will best elect the Supreme Court judges who will make laws which I feel are the most important. I encourage each of you to go to God and get His direction. And remember, there’s nothing wrong with sharing your opinions- if it's done in a way that respects and honors those of differing views- and to stand up for the truth in a loving way unique to you.  But let us get this whole thing in perspective- people before politics, relationships before opinions. Find common ground with those you differ with and love them where they’re at. And be humble. Remember you may be wrong! And if who you think should be elected isn’t, don’t despair. Our hope isn’t in a political party or a president, or in our rights as citizens- our hope is in the Lord. It’s always been that way and it always will be. We just know it now. And for that I am glad. Amen.

July 20, 2016

If the answer was Yes.

One thing I’ve realized that I do with this blog is I wait until I feel I’ve kind of worked through something and have what I consider insight into it before I share it with the world. Hence why my posts are few and far between. But I have many thoughts in the meantime- some thought provoking, some not so much- that I feel I’ve not processed it enough to merit a blog post. But this morning as I was praying, I felt that (not going to say “God spoke to me!” because it wasn’t that obvious, but…), I felt that I may need to share anyway. That maybe some of my in-the-process thoughts might be worth reading as I am working them out in my head and heart. It may cause someone to start working out some similar thoughts themselves in a way and with a conclusion that is unique to them. Also I’ve decided that I don’t have to write a novel for it to be worthy of a post. :) So with that in mind I hope to post more regularly. I hope. That remains to be seen…

So here’s one thing twirling through my head of late. I heard a message someone posted on Facebook where a minister asked this question- ‘If we knew the answer was going to be ‘yes’, how would we then pray?’ Then he followed it up with this scripture: For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us.” 2 Corinthians 1:20.

So this got me thinking how God is my heavenly Father. I am His kid so to speak. So as   Mom with my own children- or maybe to put it where I am in life now- with my grandsons, if one of them said, “Mimi? Would you help me with this?” Goodness, I’d be so eager, that I’d be knocking over furniture to get to them quicker. So is this how God is with me when I ask Him something that is obviously His will? Or if I ask something that is already declared as a promise in His word? I think the answer to this would obviously be Yes. (I realize He doesn't always say 'yes' when we pray for various reasons beyond our limited understanding but for the purposes of this post understand that I'm referring to those things which we KNOW are His will.) The things He has promised and that are His will are things that He obviously wants to do. It’s not like I have to twist His arm. To be honest, a lot of times I think my prayers have been more like vent sessions than intercession. Or I’ve viewed my prayers kind of like writing the President a letter that he probably won’t read but maybe I’ll get lucky. Now there have been many anointed moments where I knew I was breaking through and making a connection in prayer but it seems that should happen more often than it does. Now that I’ve been turning this recent thought over in my head I feel it has given a boost to my faith. There’s this scripture along the same vein that encourages my faith when I pray:

1 John 5: 14 This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. 15 And if we know that He hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of Him.” 

So if I’m asking for wisdom, direction, peace, to not be afraid, to be able to love or to forgive, then I think I can be pretty confident that God’s answer will be YES. The pressure isn’t on me to ask a certain way or to pray harder or more often. Really my only responsibility is just to ask and believe. And like my children and grandchildren would hopefully do, I can feel confident that of course my Father’s answer to these requests will be- yes.

For example, yesterday I had a doctor’s appointment and for some reason I was feeling anxious about it and some other things. Instead of just accepting that feeling and going on as I was, I prayed about it on my way there. And I thought about God’s promises concerning what I was feeling. One was- God has not given us a spirit of fear. But He’s given us a Spirit of power, love and a sound mind. So it’s not God’s will that I be anxious. So I asked Him to help me not be anxious with the thought in mind that I was praying according to His will and of course the answer would be yes, And guess what- He answered and I wasn’t. Yay! :D

So anyhow, I haven’t got as good a handle on this as I’d like but since I started thinking this way I have been praying with a lot more confidence and faith than I was. Now God is so good and He’s answered so many of my prayers in the past despite my puny faith. But I feel like I have a new way of thinking of prayer and of thinking of my heavenly Dad. It really makes me love Him more and want to talk to Him about stuff.

Nothing profound and it’s not totally processed but I’m working on it.  I hope that despite it not being fully formed that it’s something that blesses you, helps you in your prayer life and your relationship with your heavenly Father. So anyhow… that’s all I got. Bless y’all! :D