Be More.

"Laughing, crying, tumbling, mumbling.
Gotta do more, gotta be more.
Chaos screaming, chaos dreaming,
Gotta do more, gotta be more!"
Charlie “Nuwanda” Dalton (Dead Poet’s Society, 1989)
For the past few weeks this has been the phase that pounds through my head.

Be more loving. Be more true. Be more extravagant. Be more elegant. Be more honest. Be more adoring. Be more trusting.

Be more.

I don't want to be a person that just accepts what I have as the end all conclusion to my life. I am bored with comfort and trying to find the silver lining on normality. That's too easy. It feels untrue. I want to be all I can be, not a shadow.

I'm saying enough! Enough to forced smiles, enough to trying to fit into some mould that I can't shape and contort my body and personality to fit into. I want to be more.

I want to lay my life on the line, over and over again. I want to be brutally honest down to the quick of my existence. I don't want cautious words passed around me, I want to learn from mistakes and grow from them. I want to be right and righteous and honorable.

See, it's just too easy to stay in my comfort zone. It's too easy not to pull people closer when they sting like lemon on a paper cut. It's easier to push people away. It's easy to stop drawing because I'm not as good as other people. It's easy to compare and say making pictures aren't worth it for me because I'm not that good and I don't have time.

I've got this big doubt monster living in the space next to my bed. It's not nasty, it isn't mean. Sometimes it even comforts me.

"You're good enough at this, just stop where you are. 
Don't fly too high, Icarus. 
Look, you're reasonably happy here. 
You're reasonably satisfied. Let's not push it. 
Don't be crazy." 

I catch myself listening to this little voice. I lift up my blanket and let it cozy up to the small of my back, like a satisfied cat. It knows it can win me over, it knows I'm scared of inconsistency and change.

And that's okay. I know who I am. I know what I'm comfortable in, I know what makes me shiver to my very bones. I know what makes me stop, I know what makes me go. If you know a lot about yourself, if you spend more time on learning who you are than trying to fit into something else, there's not a lot that can change you. I'm still learning that. This past year was a year of exponential growth. Honestly, it's still hard for me to understand what exactly changed in my life. Or if there even was real change, maybe it was just growth. I kind of feel that I'm jumping the gun here. Whatever that means.

I see so many other people older than me, much older than me, who say I'm wise. Who say I have my life together. That it took them 20 years to get where I am today. Maybe we all just have different struggles. Maybe they're all the same, but we deal with them differently.

My struggles are something I write a lot about. Body image, friendlessness, anxiety, poor health. I'm not ashamed of them. Like I say, I know who I am. I just don't know who I'm going to be.

Amy Poehler talked about her monster in her book Yes, Please as something that you never lose. And the only way you can carry on is if you say "I know who I am. Yup, you're right." And keep going.

So hey there, little monster, I'm going to be more.

The social networks are filled with posts talking about reflection and goals from the past year and the new one. I'm not going to try to be different or original in mine. This is one of the trends I can fully get behind and not concern myself with being above it all. If there's anything I like, it's knowing yourself and what you're capable of.

2014 was a good year. I say that a lot. I keep describing as full because it was. It was so full to the brim of every good and not so good thing I could imagine.

The whole year was completely unexpected, I was shaken by it, blindsided, humbled, charmed, loved. It's like this year took me by the shoulders, gave me a little shake and said

"This is your year, are you going to run with it?"

And I did, I think. I think I ran the year down to the very quick; wrung it out a few times and hung it up to dry. I launched a magazine, and published four successful issues and a bunch of articles. I finished writing my first book. I traveled... a lot. I went to Chicago, and Mexico, and Mississippi and Arizona. I graduated high school and spoke in public. I navigated the O'hare airport without crying (....much.) My best friend asked me to be his girlfriend and after like 2 seconds of deliberation I said "Gosh, yes" and pretty much wanted to hug him forever.

I've grown into someone that I truly like and love and want to spend time with. I can value my time and my work, and the effort I put into things.

But, still... I can't help looking at choices I made and wishing they were slightly different.

Not that I have regrets, please understand! Just the fact that I realize that things could have been better shows me that I grew from them. There are definitely thing I want to be different in this new year. Last year, I didn't take many pictures that I truly care about. Part of that I'm okay with. I wanted to live in the moment, I wanted to fully be alive and not focused on what the outcome of a picture would be. How many likes it would get, how many times it would get pinned or reblogged. So, I'm thankful for that. But I also look back on my notebooks and journals and see a lot of empty spaces. A lot of times where I was so busy that I couldn't say "today, I explored a city with people I didn't know." Or, "today, I ate spicy food at a stand on the side of a dirt road, and I still don't quite know what it was."

And I don't have many pictures of those moments, I don't have a lot of pictures of my siblings-- dirty faces and all. I swore that I was going to do better. I guess in the end I was still too concerned with my image to say to hell with it! I'm going to do what I love. 

So this year, I'm just going to live. I'm going to take as many selfies as I want to, and take pictures of every dog I see. I'm going to carry my big ol' camera around and take pictures of the people I love more. I'm going to write about things that aren't pretty, I'm going to talk about things that are. I'm going to live bare faced and brave and throw myself into everything I do.

"Never half-ass two things, whole-ass one thing"
Ron Swanson
That's my goal. I'm not trying to make a bunch of little resolutions and goals that just make me feel bad at the end of the year. I just want to take everything I do and weigh it so I don't settle for less. I want to suck the marrow out of life, as Henry David Thoreau said. I want to live deliberately.

Whatever shape that may take.

Are you with me?

xoxo Johanna

A Woman Who Loves

I'm tired of backbiting women with hurt in their teeth and nails like claws who smile so prettily and own a thousand masks and everyone says "Beware, she's like the nighttime, dark and soft but she'll blind your step. She's a woman." I'm bored with society, with culture, with people, who hold a woman like she has a bomb ticking slowly inside her, and no one knows what will set it off. I'm tired of wearing clothes like battle armor, that will shield, and defend. I'm tired of women being proud of men who "put up with them" like they're crazy, like they are the witch in the stories. Up in her tower with a birds nest of hair, waiting, watching, stirring her spells. Wanting someone to love her, agreeing she's too rough to be loved.

Let's root out the bitterness that sits on our tongues, ready to spill into someones life. It's corrosive, it's vile. No more comparing other womens bodies like they're doll pieces put together incorrectly. No more comments about celebrities, like they're not people, like they're owned.

"She looked better before she lost so much weight." 
"I hate her haircut now." 
"I can't believe he'd even date her. She's crazy."  

Ladies, why is this so ingrown in us? Why do we compare ourselves with others, why do we compare strangers with strangers? People point to many of the males in our culture for making problems, and I'll be the first to backup the truth quiet sexism we're faced with. But honestly, I think there's a bigger problem and it doesn't lie directly with our counterpart.

We women don't love freely, openly, without fear. There's bitterness in our hearts started generations ago, from great grandmothers down. It's become our heritage, the passing of a torch, an inheritance laid up for us by those we love, those we trust. I want to burn it.

The only inheritance I want to pass down, above any words of wisdom, gold and precious jewels, is this:

be a woman who loves. 

Start with loving yourself.
The truth of the matter is, the only person whose opinion truly matters to you, is yourself. Think about it, you go without makeup for a day and your father says "You look more beautiful like this, don't cover up." and you smile and say thanks. But behind your teeth are the words forming stop lying. I know the truth. No one person can keep you from thinking like this. Or another way, you wear a dress you're not sure of, you're not sure of yourself, you wear it and your boyfriend says you look great, but you don't believe him, you think he's confused. He can't be thinking that, really. This isn't natural.

Don't you remember when you loved who you were? Think about it, think about it hard. Close your eyes, go back to the moment when you first thought "I'm pretty."
Maybe you were a little girl, trying on a new hat, covered in dust from playing outside, you catch your wildness in the mirror and you love yourself. You were little, you didn't think that way long.

Do you remember when that changed? I do. I remember this root of comparing, I remember I wasn't popular. I remember my face was round and my fingers (baby fingers) were chubby and I was nine and I couldn't wear t-shirts without a training bra. I wasn't beautiful any more.
In my mind, being a girl wasn't too great. I was furious that I wasn't the first born son I was sure my daddy wanted. I was furious that all the girls wanted to wear pink and talk about how to raise a baby (we we so young, so young) and the boys wouldn't play because I was the same way. A girl.

And ugly.

It took me eight years to overcome that. To where I could once again look in the mirror, dust on my makeup-free face, a stained pink shirt pulled over baggy jeans and say "I am beautiful."
Do you know how that came to be? It started with anger. It started with me giving up. Saying "I'm not good enough for anyone." There was a quiet voice and He spoke through time, a lesson that took me hard years to learn,"you're good enough for me."

Wash me clean, I'm white as snow again. 

It took stubbornness, it took cursing. It took me saying "No, I'm going to love myself, you can damn well try to stop me." And I could feel God smiling and saying "'atta girl" (At least that's how God talks to me sometimes) and pulling me up from the dirt with the strength only He has.

The next step is loving others. 

Do you know what true ugliness is? An ugly heart. A bitter, selfish heart that keeps and sits and waits. It's a lazy heart, a joyless spirit, it's refusing to change and staying the same. It's whispers behind a friends back, it's that thing we women in the south laugh about doing (all those how are you doings that fall from dead lips onto deaf ears. All those light pats on the back. All the gosep, the hurt, the knowing that no one has your back because you don't have theirs.) Ugliness is comments from women responding to Angelina Jolie having her breasts removed so that she can live to see her babies grow up with biting words that you can imagine coming from the mouth of a victorious cartoon villain.  Ugliness is claiming you can't get along with other women. Ugliness is being defensive over "your" man because you think some other woman would steal him away from you. Ugliness is women not hearing a victim's cry and siding against the evidence and saying that if their allegations were true, they would have said it 20 years ago.

That's ugly.

Your lack of a thigh gap is not ugly, your un-toned stomach is not ugly, your snaggle tooth is not ugly, the bags under your eyes that you have from staying up late to study for that really important test? They're not ugly.

Ladies, let's be women who love. Let's flee from comparing ourselves, let's run from the faintest idea of needing to be petty with other women. Have an honest face, have a true grip to your handshakes. Don't hug someone if you don't mean it.

Here's a challenge: take a day and correct the way you think. Change each negative thing you say to something positive. Kill them with kindness, so they say. Take every good thing you say and coat it in honey, find that your words were more bitter than you thought. Share your stories with me, if you will! Join me on instagram @imjohannagrace and use the hashtag #womanwholoves on your pictures and passion. From now until...always?

xoxo Johanna Grace

hello again.

Do you ever start something and swear you'll finish and walk away, fill your coffee mug,  do some yoga, read a book and then you look back and it's been months since you blogged?


I'm afraid I know that feeling too well.

It's not that I haven't wanted to blog, it's not that I haven't tried. I actually have quite a few drafts in my folder which started out strong and ended with a windy "eh." I closed the tab, swore I'd blow the dust off it sometime and say "It hasn't been that long from my last post anyway." I'm a mess.

But anyhow.

I'm trying to find my groove in blogging again, I think it's going to take me a while. I feel like a lot of my old roots in blogging are wanting to show again. If you've followed me since the Growing Up On A Farm days, you know... the ~~humor~~ stage. (Jess knows it well. SIDE NOTE! She's blogging again. SIDE NOTE TO SIDE NOTE! I met her and hugged her a lot. WHAT. Post about that soon.)
I'm not sure if that's what will happen with this blog, but I know that I don't take myself too seriously. If I can't laugh at the world, I'm not at my happiest, and lately I'm happy. The world is beautiful, the weather is perfect, I have a wonderful family, a fun job, a God who loves me and calls my name, a boyfriend who makes me laugh and loves Jesus as much as I do. So, naturally my writing is gravitating to happiness.

That makes it kind of hard to write poetry easily. Words seem to swell in the depths of my soul and overflow onto paper when I'm melancholy. It's that search for answers, that balm for a sore. When my soul is at ease, I don't want to write about it. I want to paint the world with every bit of light I can. I want to plant seeds in good earth, talk to every interesting person I see, fill my head with new ideas and goals and ambitions.

I guess I should start writing about those again, I'm going to try.

I'm learning that life is so much more than just celebrating when times aren't hard, and trying to get out of the times that are. It comes down to simply celebrating living. So that's what I'm working on.

Call it an early new years resolution.

I'm striving to celebrate all the moments, work on remembering all the moments. Take pictures of things I love more. Write about things I love more. I don't want to look back in my blogs and notebooks and only see descriptions of the days that were hard, though that's important too.

Here's the first step.

Today was one of those round days. No sharp edges to catch your hips on. It was an early morning, light streaming, coffee drinking, pop singing, Jesus talking day. It was a day when a total stranger leans over at the orthodontist and talks about Jesus and says "the minute you sat down, I could tell you we're full of the Holy Spirit. It's spilling out of you, girl." And she tells you about her hard week, she says that Jesus, no matter what, is always there and oh how she loves him. She tells you that you're really beautiful, and smiles when you respond to her statement of "you'll have no trouble finding a man in this world. You can be picky, I can tell you are." with a simple nod and "I think I've got that figured out." She also stops trying to get her son to look your way, that's a bonus.

Your appointment aligns with friends you love and this room full strangers, people who didn't know each other before, praise God. They talk about how He's moving in their hearts and lives, and these people don't have anything in common in this world, only Him.

You leave that office with Jesus' name on your lips and a handful of first names of people you probably won't see again. But that's okay. You just met the church.

xoxo Johanna Grace

four pictures

I don't even know where to start with this. Life always has its ups and downs, but lately my life has been a steady stream of up and ups. These instagram pictures (follow me!) pretty much sums a lot of things up.

  • The first one is of Noble and I, my sweetheart and incredible friend. So much I could say about this guy. But all that is for another time. 
  • The second is of the farm, home, and the celebration of waking up earlier and running before the heat bakes you. 
  • The third is from my new job. I'm a nanny for a big, beautiful family with lots of loud boys with a lot of life who like to play under the house. 
  • The fourth is from my letter writing, which I do a lot of now. I never knew how important it would feel. 
God is so good, my friends. I'm just so amazed every single day at how much he loves me and cares about me and has given up to let me live. It's mind blowing and astonishing and it seems that every day this feeling grows more and more in my mind and heart. I always knew God had the best in store for my life, but I never imagined just how rich and good it would truly be.

The rest of this month holds a lot of good and some bittersweet. I'm starting the Perspectives course on Wednesday, I'm visiting my cousins in Mississippi and photographing the promotional pictures for Jessica's album, Noble's heading to college in Florida so we have to say farewell for a while, and God is good.

So catch me up in your lives, lovelies. What's new for you? How is your 2014 going so far?

xoxo Johanna Grace


I'm home again, not for good but for now and it's like a sigh I've been holding that's finally been let out. These past few months, and really this whole year, has been a whirlwind of life. They've been good. So good and I'm still sorting through the memories and living in the hazy glow that travel lends you. I'm also trying to figure out how my siblings got so tall in just two months while I've been gone. That's the hard part for me. John is shoulder-to-shoulder with me now, Lydia's head comes up to the base of my neck, Stephen and Hannah don't stand on tiptoe too much when they're trying to give me a kiss, I don't have to bend down very much. It feels like I've been gone longer, to be honest. It was late spring when I left, it's midsummer now (for Texas anyway, we have a long summer still ahead.) 

I decided in the early days of my Chicago trip that I was going to enjoy my time, not document it for the world. So I didn't take a lot of pictures. I took video and made vlogs throughout the month and tried to focus on taking 1 picture of something great, opposed to 50 of something I wouldn't care to see again. In some ways I wish I had taken more pictures and shared more here, but my head is full of stories and laughter I got to join in on, and my journal is getting fatter with the weight of words.

I did the same thing in Mexico, except this time I took tons of pictures. Over 3000 or so. It's going to be a lot of fun to try culling all of those and making room on my hard drive for other adventures (I mean that though, I miss it already.) It was good for me to focus on living and experiencing life, not just being there to document it. I'm excited to share the images I made though, now that the pressure I could have had to share is over. There's a lot to see.

xoxo Johanna

Before I Knew I Loved You

Before I knew I loved you, I wrote the world down,
The blackened bottom of a kettle to the sunlight on the sand, 
I carved words into my bones where no one else would see them,
And held myself tight while my heart strings shook and swore all would be alright. 

Before I knew I loved you, I wrung my heart out, 
Each night I'd hang it out to dry and remembered the way the wind blew,
Exaggeration fuels imagination until you discover limitations to the person that you are,
And I stapled these into the lining of my soul so I would not forget. 

Before I knew I loved you, I made a hurricane out of sighing,
Turned my face toward the sun and pulled my sweaters close,
I watched the world go by my window and pretended I was taking part in it,
And I wrote another poem between my ribs, where my heart is meant to go.

Before I knew I loved you, I swear my life was whole, 
I don't believe in missing halves or being healed with love from people, 
But I put my pen away sometimes now and close my eyes and hear your voice,
And I think that means you make me better, I don't have to force my bones to remember you.

xoxo Johanna 
ps. Sorry about not posting at all this month! It's been crazy and I've been focusing on enjoying life, rather than capturing it. If you'd like to keep up with my trip through pictures, you can hangout in my Flickr and curl up for a while. 


My name is Johanna and I'm 18 years old. I'm many things. like every human is. A lover of beauty, midnight book reader, coffee drinker. I believe in hard work, the best kind is when my hands are covered in earth and stirs a feeling of belonging in my soul. I raise animals, and vegetables and pet every dog I see. I love Jesus an awful lot and I can't stop talking about Him. Books are my forte, and I'm trying my hand at writing my own, I fall in love with writing more every day. I'm a graduate from homeschooling my entire life, a student of experiences and the drive for knowledge. 

Owner of Johanna Grace Photography, Editor in Chief of Grafted Magazine

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On Being 18

A few weeks ago I realized that the permission to be a childish was slipping away into a thick soup. It's always the strangest things that set me off and make me sad. I was standing in the kitchen making breakfast, a few days after I got home from Chicago, a few days before I left for Mexico. I was frying eggs and sausage and the sky was already shimmering with the Texas heat, and I thought "I'm going to be an adult next week." And I was fine. Then I thought of Narnia and Peter and Susan having to leave and move on to greater adventures... and it broke my heart. I've spent so many hours this past year reading C.S. Lewis to my siblings. We've gone over it page by page (we're at the end of The Horse and His Boy now), I make all the voices, I cry too much. Narnia has always been home to me, I've always dreamed of walking into a closet, or opening some drawer and crawling in, just to find that there's a whole world there. I've never wanted to be too old for Alsan to call softly into His world.

I told all of this to Rachel (my sister) and she gently reminded me that we can always find Aslan in our world, and that C.S. Lewis said someday... I'll be old enough for fairy tales again.

It's a week since she told me that and my birthday came and went (yesterday) and I've realized that I'll never be too old for fairy tales. They're with me and they feel as true as writing words on a page.

Growing up is confusing; it pulls your heart in ways you didn't think could hurt, and puts you together again softly. But you know what? I think I like being 18 so far. And I look forward to every year to come.

xoxo Johanna

Too Huge World

“What is that feeling when you're driving away from people and they recede on the plain till you see their specks dispersing? - it's the too-huge world vaulting us, and it's good-bye. But we lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies.” ― Jack Kerouac, On the Road
I don't like saying goodbyes. They never feel right, they feel forced, or too emotional or not emotional enough. You never feel like you've spent enough time with a person, you feel a little cheated, wonder why you're going anywhere at all. Hugs are never long enough, kisses never sweet enough, and no words can truly express what you're feeling. You try to make it easier say "I'll be back soon!" Or, "the month with be over before we know it!" But mostly you just want to hold on for a little bit longer, take their hand in yours, smile and say "never mind, I'm not going anywhere."

Last Saturday (or Sunday, really) after one of the longest days of my life, I finally made it home. I loved Chicago, I loved it a lot. I loved the people I saw in the subway and busses, with their stories to tell that I'll never know. People with crazy colored hair, or men wearing high heels and beautiful clothes and holding hands with pretty girls who don't smile unless they're laughing. I loved the city and the parks and the cute tourists pulling each other along with excitement as they try to see everything before they have to leave (I feel you there, friend.) I loved the museums and chatting excitedly with Emy and Avi and Lidia about science (we mostly know nothing, but it still makes us wide eyed and happy). Basically, I loved it all and it was hard to say goodbye.

Now I'm saying my goodbyes again, though I've only been home for a few days since I'm headed to Mexico on Thursday for a month. Started with the first goodbye yesterday, which I didn't like at all, but who likes goodbyes?

xoxo Johanna
ps. How are all of you guys? Long time no see (write?). How has your summer been so far? Anything new and exciting happening?


It's weird being a tourist in your own home country, but the more I think about it, I realize that it isn't completely true. I'm a tourist in my own town, I drift easily between handfuls of people who don't know me but know my name. We nod to each other and exchange pleasantries but I'm never embracing the place I call home, I take pictures when the sunlight is pretty, drop a dollar in the pot at Christmastime to help feed the hungry, and try not to talk to strange people too long. But here's the thing, at home I always look people straight in the eye, we're from the same place, we feel the same heat, we're together on that. Humans seek solidarity and it's funny to remove yourself from that when you go somewhere else. Stick with what you know, take pictures of the famous sites, sit in dewy, glowing light.

It's like a toss up between feeling slightly out of place in the big city, with people moving a thousand miles a minute, people with stories under their fingernails and stuck in their teeth like spinach, and feeling at home. The book I'm writing talks a lot about traveling, it's at the core of the story, what drives it, so to speak. There's a part in it where one of my characters is telling his son that traveling makes you heartless. You start leaving bits of yourself all over in the places you've been until your heart belongs to many different homes. I'm starting to think that's not a bad thing, because... Chicago, I think you're winning a little piece of me.

xoxo Johanna


I'm in the state of Illinois for a few weeks to stay with some dear friends in Chicago and stretch my wings a little bit.

So far, it's lovely. Trying to balance waking up later, and going to bed at different times is a little bit new to me. But the people are dear and feel more like family. I could get used to this.

A few days ago we took a walk to the zoo and hung out with a bunch of animals and walked until our knees hurt and our bones felt heavy like led (or was that just me?). I'm excited to see what this city holds for me!

What are some of your summer plans?
xoxo Johanna

On Going // Ongoing

It's 10:30 pm on a Wednesday night and I just finished shoving the last sweater in my bag before my trip tomorrow. (You can never have too many sweaters, except when your bag is small and you're traveling long.)

I'm typing mostly with my left hand right now and it's funny to feel it struggling to keep up with my right (which despite being injured, still moves faster and with more precision.) I always wonder what would happen if I was short on limbs. Would I crawl into myself and act like just a shell, or would my other parts be stronger, blossom into something they never thought they could become. The thing is, I didn't want to know literally right now. But here I am, a hand cooked slightly and a "oh bother, not again" expression on my face.

But anyway.

This year I'm going to be gone from home for longer than I ever have before. Tomorrow, my journey begins in the city of Chicago where I'll be staying with dear friends for a month and hoping I enjoy every second.

I've always liked the idea of going new places. I like the idea of living there just long enough to feel like it's almost home, and dropping a few pieces of my travel-heart there along the way. (You'll remember me there, right? You won't let me get too far away?) I like the idea of coming home, dropping my bags and what's left of my heart on the floor, my soul a little fatter and my bones a bit more sore.

But I've never liked getting there.

I've never liked the stress of preparation. Trying to fit your whole life into a few small bags just so people can go through them. I've never liked waiting in places you feel all alone in, with weird light, and strange colors and people who would never care to learn your name.

I guess it's true that the road you travel forms the place you stay, but mostly I get comfortable at home and don't want my legs to ache. Still, tomorrow morning I'll wake up and stretch my arms up toward the sky that doesn't hold light yet. And I'll breathe into the lungs that don't hold more than air from places I've never been and worlds I've never seen. I'll pull on my shoes over thick, white socks, and push my sunglasses into my hair and face the day.

I'll have to do a lot of listening to do, listening to the speakers high above, to the words on my page, to God in my heart. And I think maybe this time I'll start to like the going part too.

xoxo Johanna

He Leads // Some Words I Spoke

Yesterday, I graduated highschool with a group of fellow homeschoolers and friends. I had the privilege of writing and giving the commencement speech in front of 600 or so people. It was terrifying, but God was moving in a big way and I never would change a thing.

Sharing my speech here today for my friends and family who did not get to hear me give it with almost perfect poise. You guys missed out, I rocked it.

I'm hoping to blog a lot more in the next few weeks. I'll be in a new city, with good people and a full heart and probably missing people at home. I'll have a lot of words to share. But for now, here's this.

Friends, family, my fellow graduates, today is a new page in the grand story of our lives. Today is a blessing, we’re alive, and awake, and this day is still so new and fresh and full of the potential for greatness. We’re here to celebrate, as if we needed a reminder of why, the newest group of fresh faced graduates ready to throw off our years of highschool and embrace adulthood without looking back.
We forget sometimes in the rush of preparation for this one day, that tomorrow we’re going to be the same people as we are right now. The same problems we faced yesterday are going to be waiting for us tomorrow, but instead of our mothers grading our math tests, it will be somebody else grading something in our own lives and isn’t hardly as nice as she is. That is sort terrifying to all of us here, I think.

We want to move on from yesterday, push anything that isn’t pretty under the rug and try again. There are so many things we want to step away from and sometimes we have this idea that tomorrow we’re going to change. We’re not. And while that is scary, today is also incredibly exciting, in a short while we, the graduates, are considered adults. We can buy those sugar frosted cereals our parents wouldn’t let us eat when we were kids and pay taxes. We have the chance to go out into the world, follow the yearnings we’ve had in our hearts our entire childhoods and the question is now; what do we do. What steps will we take to lead us to the place we want to be?
If we continue our story metaphor, we have all of these blank pages and no clue what is going to fill them and turn them into chapters. It’s pretty hard for a character to write their own story any way. All we know is past; bound and pressed, un-editable. We can’t cut things out or move words around, no matter how much we’d like to and that’s okay. The future is not in our hands. We have a friend, the bible says in Proverbs 18:24, who sticks closer than a brother. Which, judging from this homeschool crowd and our “unsocialized” ways of being close friends with our siblings, is very close. We are not drifting carelessly through this world without a place to stand. We have this solid rock of Jesus Christ who guides our paths and leads the way.
The past is frozen and still, the mistakes we have made are there and part of us. These mistakes are the reason we are who we are today. The future is scary, but Jesus Christ will never leave us nor forsake us. He knows who we’d become long before our existence on this earth. He leads us, and he has the map of every possible outcome of our lives. There has never been a mistake in his sight. It’s all according to his purpose and glory. We are who He has planned us to be.
So I exhort you today, brothers and sisters because of the life of our Lord Jesus Christ, that we in this room would not only put him first, but that Christ would be everything to us. Our comfort, provider, our strength when we are weak, the rest when we can’t sleep. That the trials and tribulations of this life would be nothing because of the joy we that have in Him. That even the pleasures and good things of the world would pale because of the infinite, all-powerful Lord who lives.
I pray that we open our hearts and minds and spirits, friends, to a more excellent way. The straight and narrow path, overflowing with his bountiful love for us. We need not be afraid of the days ahead, his path is easy and his burden is light. There is nothing in this world that can keep Him away.  Here’s a secret, folks: the book has already been written and it’s beautiful. It speaks of God’s massive love for us. From the very beginning when he formed us with his hands and gave us his own breath, until the very end where He reigns victorious. If we follow His steps, and let Him guide our lives, we will not have to worry about what’s filling these empty chapters of our little lives. God is in control and he will direct our paths.

So today, graduates, I want to remind you; as we’re here surrounded by loved ones, the people who have helped build our lives into who we are today. Let us remember that today does not mark the end of learning or growth. Every day we learn something, we’re making new experiences and each day brings more potential for becoming more like Christ. We are His body, His beloved bride. Remember the verses in Jeremiah 29:11-13, which says this so much better than I ever could.

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you. And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.

Let us seek Him with all our heart, friends. No matter if you’re graduating today or here for one that is, God has always been in control, and His plan for our lives and His glory has never changed. It never will. While we’re celebrating this step in our own lives toward adulthood, let us also remember the work Christ is doing in his kingdom and how His love will never end. That is my prayer for everyone here, that we would yield to Jesus and that our faith would be trusting and pure. That we would never lose the childlike excitement for His Glory, not matter the circumstances we are placed in. He leads us, and guides us and we will never walk alone.

xoxo Johanna Grace

Be Still and Know

Psalm 46:10
He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.”

I woke up early this morning without knowing why, read some verses sent to me by a friend so dear and ran until my lungs were screaming and I couldn't think or cry. If you'd look at me right now you'd think I'm in a heartbreak. That my outside is caving in to my center and if you blink, I'll flicker and fade away. I'm covered in a strange sense of peace, I can feel my stomach churning and my heart beating like a bird against the top of a cage or against a closed window. I like my days to be spaced out equally, I like for one thing to happen in each, something you can hold onto and touch. This week has been a layered cake, full of things you don't expect and are nice on their own but maybe too much together. It's been sweet, like candy. But like candy, sometimes it's too much. So I'm learning to be still, because He is God and he will reign.

The truth is, there's no heartbreak. I'm tossing like a plastic bag on the breeze, watching these paths unfold in front of me and it's hard giving in. Saying not my will but yours be done is easy until it's hard and it feels like you're breaking your bones.
I ran this morning to stop the dull beating in my head, so that my stomach wouldn't be the ocean and cause a wave in my heart. I keep whispering "Christ is everything. He'll be all."

That's all I really need to hold onto.

xoxo Johanna
p.s. I finished high school forever yesterday.
p.p.s. I'm graduating next Saturday and my speech won unanimously.
p.p.p.s. You guys are beautiful and great.

Broken Quietness

I like being quiet, I like listening to the tiny sounds that you can't catch on your ears when they're covered in the noises of everyday. I like being gentle and soft and sweet and caring. I like sitting still for long periods and reading quiet words and basking in the sunshine of a strange, but beautiful world.

But lately, I've been those things and my heart is tugging and pulling and it makes me want to shout instead of whisper. My head says to listen and my heart screams for me to add to the noise and live. And I wonder if living means all of those things. If being so full of joy that it overflows your chest cavity means it touches someones shoes and creeps up into their souls, give me joy that overflows. If you can't stop touching and holding and caring, turn those touches into blessings and hold the cares of another soul. The way I figure, being quiet only lasts as long as your heart isn't shouting for joy, and when that happens all you can do is touch it to another human brow.

xoxo Johanna

If I Ever Have a Daughter

Darling, I want you to know, the world isn't nice. It'll try to wrap itself around your head and cover your crown with lies and tell you you're not good enough to live in it. 

It's lying. 

You're more than enough, everything about you, from the tips of your toes to the top of your head is perfect. Don't listen to what the world says. 

When crowds of people are telling you to step down, and be silent, remember that before your lips were for kissing, they were made for speaking. Remember that when the Hebrew army was lost, Deborah raised her voice and shouted for charge and brought peace to the land. Your mouth is worth more than using it to mold the clay of love. 

 My love, when someone holds your hands and says that you are not complex enough for God to move mountains with, remind yourself of Huldah, who read the scripture and spoke to the God she never forgot, and reminded a nation, spoke forcefully to a King, that God promised destruction. Remember that her words broke years of hatred and shattered the frozen hearts and they turned toward the Father they ran from. You are more than enough for His work. 

 There will be days when you're covered in dirt, and your beauty is used like a rag to wipe the mud of mankind on, but don't despair. Remember Esther, the mother of thousands of brave hearts, who turned her heart toward God when she was treated like an object to judge and drop. Her heart was soft and brought a nation to its knees before the only living God. You are more than your looks and gentle voice. 

Darling, before your heart gives in to sorrow and you cradle your arms against your chest, and they're empty and raw, remember Hannah,  the mother of Samuel, who stained the temple floor with her tears. When everyone around her thought her insane, and a drunkard and not worthy of the place where her knees were bent, God heard her prayer and quieted her soul, and she spoke quiet words of prophesy and raised her children in His light. She was enough, you are enough. 

Remember that woman were made for more than you'd think, remember that they're warriors, they're whispers in the night, as well as lovers, and caretakers. Remember the how Yael was prophesied to take down a leader. Remember that she did it with gentleness and obedience to God, and yet it was never pretty. It was violent and ugly, but she was a force for His will, she did her duty and saved a nation. She was enough.

When people call you Jezebel for speaking and learning and never giving in as if she was the only woman that ever drove mountains to dust, remember Mirriam who sang songs of Praise to the Lord after the Egyptians had fallen and the People of God crossed a sea of red. Remember her flaws and that she was still deemed worthy in the eyes of God and she grew and learned in honor. 

Love, for some reason (and I don't know why) someone passed around a dirty thing they call a secret. They whisper "there's no room for you at the feet of Jesus Christ" they'll tell you that the woman of the new testament were followers, not leaders. That the apostles were all men and no one of your sex picked up the banner of His name, think about Lydia, Martha, Mary Magdalene, Mary who raised the Son of God (and the other Mary's so important and loved). Think about Priscilla, and Phoebe, and Joanna and Dorcas. Remember Anna, and Damaris, and Eunice and so many women who loved Jesus. They loved him and followed him first, they cared for him, were missionaries. They were single girls, and married women, and widows and orphans. They were cherished and loved, just as you are.

Daughter, when people say there's no place for a woman to speak up, and that even the One who formed her bones found her an after-thought, almost a mistake, don't you dare believe them. Sweet child, there is more to you. There are stars in the heavens created just to make you smile. There are hundreds of biblical woman that God exhorted in His word, and please, never think for one minute that you were created for anything less than His glory. 

Sweet child, you're enough. 

xoxo Johanna
ps. There's a great Wikipedia article that has SO MANY amazing woman from the Bible in it. Get's your blood pumpin' ladies (and gents, good reading here for you too). 

Dear Stranger... I'm beautiful

Dear lady I met when I was 12 and unsure of myself and my body, you cupped your hand under my chin and said "Well, you look like you'll be pretty enough someday, maybe when you're in your late teens. You'll probably get a boyfriend."
You were a stranger holding my self worth on the tips of your fingers, you could have covered it in honey (they say it heals wounds) but instead you took a little girl and made her feel that everything depended on her body.

You may have felt you had given a compliment, maybe you thought that this fact was important. Maybe the man who was leaving you made you feel that all that was important was your looks, and you thought you had to tell me. But oh stranger, do you know?

For nights I stayed up worrying about how much I needed someone. How my skin felt too big for my age, how I could never shop in the girls section and my clothes were stretched and tight.

Stranger, do you know?

For weeks I couldn't look in the mirror and my hair was in shambles and I wasn't eating right. I heard your words when I closed my eyes and they sounded angry and slowly turned into my own. And they said "you're not good enough now, how will you be then?"

(Oh baby, you're good. You're good now and you'll be good then.)

And I hid my tears and blamed my red eyes on allergies and said I just wasn't feeling too well, but inside I was crawling, and I tore myself to shreds and when I couldn't fight anymore I wished myself dead.

Stranger, did you know how your words would touch me? Did you think when you stood there and demanded respect, that you were giving me some gift like a scented oil touching my brow?

Did you know when you baptized me with that flood of poison words that I'd cry to my mother.

And I'd say

I hate myself 

And I'd stare into my reflection and it didn't seem right and I'd wish that I wasn't myself. I'd wish that I was someone else.

It didn't matter any more that my daddy would hold my hand and smile and say "baby, you're so beautiful. You're turning into a wonderful young lady." because all I would hear was your voice in his mouth and I'd think, "he's lying, or he can't see the truth."

Dear stranger, to tell the truth you weren't the first. Nor the second or the last. But your words stuck to me and I couldn't shake them off and it was the last time I even saw you.

Dear stranger, but I want to know, I love myself. I love my body, I love my smile and my hair and eyes. I love my feet because they take me places. I love my legs because they make me run. I love my tummy because it's strong and I even love the wrinkles it has. I love my hands because of the other hands I can hold with them. And my arms and shoulders so I can hold and nurture and cherish. I love my neck because it helps me look up at the great night sky, dotted with stars that my eyes can't count and my mind can not begin to fathom. Stranger, the Venn Diagram of things I love about myself is a circle. And if I ever see you again, I'll take your hand and say "You're beautiful, you have been since day one, and nothing has ever changed, and nothing ever will."

Because stranger, anyone who would tell that to a child, when she's growing up and trying to fit in with expectations for everything shackling her feet, doesn't love themselves and maybe they never have. Their eyes are clouded in anger and hurt and hatred but you can change. It's not too late.

It wasn't for me.

Oh, and by the way.

I'm almost 18 and graduating. I'm starting college in the fall. That 'someday I'll probably be pretty' never happened. I always was and I'm not waiting for anyone to see that.

xoxo Johanna

“You are not a mistake. You are not a problem to be solved. But you won't discover this until you are willing to stop banging your head against the wall of shaming and caging and fearing yourself.” ― Geneen Roth

A Memory / I Remember You

A silhouette of a girl. A portrait of a boy. Broken glass in the bottoms of creeks from bottles of coca-cola bought for a dime at the country store. Skinned knees and dirty jeans. Hair caked with dirt and mud from the creek. A swingset, splintered wood and metal slides so hot they’d melt a candle. Mudded sneakers on cracked pavement, running, the sound of drums, background music to lives under four feet high. Crooked smiles, gaps between teeth, bloody noses from pointless fights. Sweat beading on skin, soaking through tee-shirts, sweaty palms gripping handle bars to swing across invisible caverns, pits of lava. Brown braids tied with yellow ribbons, faded and frayed. Games of tag in the cold sunless world of dusk. Faded light brushing faces with light kisses of a mother, sending her children off to bed after they had been cleaned and scrubbed. Fresh and pink, ready for another day. Toes curled against cotton sheets, last minute stories told to help feed the little minds before they drifted off to dream. A secret handshake. A stolen kiss. A borrowed pencil at your desk.

Brown eyes looking into pools of green.
Green eyes looking into pools of brown.

Picnics in the shade. Climbing trees, pretending to be brave. Holding hands on narrow paths, shoulders brushing, knees knocking into the other. Yellow light, red roads. Dust crept in between wiggly toes. Quiet smiles, loud songs ripping through lungs and out of throats, bursting out of small pink mouths. Not caring about the day after tomorrow.

A teary goodbye, a soulful hello. Bone crushing hugs that shook down to your toes. This is childhood.

A capture from my story, Juvenility. It's about childhood and losing people you love, running, leaving home and coming back, trying to sweep up the burned ashes of your life and make it new again. Two people with lives intertwined in a rich history of hot summer days and long nights on highways with the radio blaring. Mostly, it's about living with who you are today, holding your past in your hands like soft soil, and planting seeds for the future in it.

xoxo Johanna

Three Leaves

The smell of spring is a hearty one, it's full of things you'd never expect to rest upon your tastes with pleasure. It's that feeling you get when you've hurt yourself, but a scab starts to grow and heal inwardly out, all you've done is washed it clean with a bit of soap and warm water, it stings but it's the good kind. The kind that feels real. Today I didn't want to get out of bed, I put my pillow over my head and wondered if I could just stay right here for a little while longer, if everything would be okay.

There's a woodpecker outside my window right now, he's in a heavy tree hanging above the garden (the one I thought was going to fall last time we had a storm and it was covered in sheets of frozen rain). He doesn't seem to care too much about everything else, and I wonder what it feels like to use your head as a battering ram and never fix any problems. The wood probably smells good too, a small release of sadness in the air.

I always forget what the air tastes like after it rains for days and suddenly the sun is shining and the sky couldn't be any more blue. It reminds me of a huge store window that never looks dirty, until you see it right after it's cleaned and you see how much you've been missing. Sometimes I think I'm like that, a little bit messy but you can't really tell, until part of me is washed clean and you see all the mess you've been breathing into your lungs.

xoxo Johanna