Music has been an intricate part of Johanna's life since before she was born. Her parents' college friends were often entertained as they observed two-year-old Johanna singing her little heart out from her car seat . She grew up singing around the house and in church with her parents and younger sisters & brothers. Begging her parents to learn piano, she began at the age of five, and started singing harmony by ear at the age of seven.
In September '95, she trusted fully in The Lord Jesus, that He had died on the cross for her sins and rose again from the dead so she could have eternal life and know God. That's where the walk with God began, and it's far from over. She says "He changed my heart and mind so completely, and continues – to this day – to mold me into His image and show Himself to me! I am definitely still a work in progress, and I'm so grateful for His Amazing Grace!"
Although she can claim #MeToo and PTSD from a childhood trauma, as well as years later suffering miscarriage and other difficulties, she focuses on Jesus faithfully being her Redeemer and Healer through the years. Reflecting back on these events, she says "Those things have affected me deeply, and become part of who I am today... but they do not define me. They are chapters in My Story. I am defined by who I am in Christ. God is using everything - both beautiful and difficult - to mold me. I want to come through the fire like gold - reflecting a good God who knows what is best for me and will work it out according to His purpose. The Joy of the Lord is My Strength!"
One of her favorite verses as a musician is Zephaniah 3:17. "For the LORD your God is living among you. He is a mighty Savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs." She says, "I think it is so amazing that God is a musician, and He sings over me! He gives me songs in the night. This verse has comforted my heart on so many levels. God who is all-powerful cares about little me and sings over me?! I can't even begin to comprehend the full extent of His love! But I'm grateful for it."
Through her school years Johanna participated in musicals, plays, choirs, ensembles, and helped her family produce a few CDs. She participated in an all-state high-school choir two years in a row before moving to South Africa in her senior year.
Going to Africa caused her to grow up fast. "I found" - she recalls "How desperately I needed God, and how close He could be when I felt alone, far away from my friends. Those years really pushed me into the Lord's arms and my faith began to grow stronger and the roots went deeper. It was my own faith, not my parents' as I dug into God's Word for myself, and worked in villages teaching women the Bible."
She met her husband in Africa, when he went there on a missions trip to help her dad. They were later engaged at Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe. "I couldn't ask for a better man! Life has been an adventure with him, and I'm looking forward to many more years together!" she smiles. "We have three handsome boys, who are full of energy and are musical too."
God has faithfully carried their family through valleys and fires in life. Through it all, Jesus has strengthened Johanna's trust in Him. His Presence has become the most precious treasure that she craves above all else.
In 2009, The Holy Spirit worked in Johanna's heart as she processed Scriptures which applied to real- life situations. Sitting at the piano, she began to write these thoughts out as songs. Through various trials and blessings, there was a newfound passion and deepness and a more devoted worship for God.
Her prayer became "Lord, please be glorified. Let me just be an instrument of Your Grace. Use me however You choose.” There was a new yielded attitude as she more fully understood -- it wasn't about her talents or abilities: all that matters is JESUS!
She recalls, "One evening I realized that these songs were my sacrifice of praise. Praise is a sacrifice when it's the hardest to do it, but that’s when it is a pleasing sacrifice to God! So no matter what I would go through – good times or bad – I made it a point to be thankful and focus on The Lord." This thought still drives her and motivates her to sing in the shadows, when it isn't easy.
God patiently continued to reveal to her that these songs would bring Him glory, if she would just be vulnerable and share them with people. In 2013, God miraculously spared Johanna's family in a tornado. "After that, I realized that my songs would have died with me. God so gently, lovingly showed me that I needed to share them."
The next several years were ones of refining, growth, and continued song-writing and travel. God opened doors to learn from excellent vocal coaches and meet other amazing Christian songwriters. As well as opportunities to lead worship in Women's Ministries, and speak and sing at Ladies' Retreats and events. But as far as recording her songs, she continued to wait on the Lord, for His perfect timing.
As she shared her songs and her heart, people would be in tears, moved by the power of God's Spirit. It was very humbling to Johanna. She was simply sharing them out of obedience to the Lord, and the response was overwhelming.
"I so deeply value transparency and authenticity. I can't stand 'putting on a mask of perfection'," Johanna passionately expresses. "On Sundays when we walk through the halls of church, it's so easy to ask how people are doing, to say 'Fine', and just keep walking. And I think some of us are so worried about what people think, that we don't want to say out loud the struggles in our hearts, minds, or even some of the trials we suffer. But I'm learning how to really ask, and really stop, and really pray with that one person when they need it. If we aren't vulnerable and have accountability in the Body of Christ - and not just on Sundays - how will we be able to truly pray for each other, rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep? How will we be able to bear each other's burdens and in doing this fulfill the law of Christ?"
She continues - "So, I suppose, because of this mindset, what comes out through my songs is rawness and vulnerability - like modern-day Psalms. And maybe that honesty is what really gets to people's hearts. This is real life and these are real struggles. We have to talk about it, but I also wanna turn the focus to a very real God who has a loving purpose through it all. As I sing from my heart these emotions and truths... perhaps that's how other people are feeling too."
"My hope for these songs is that they would touch somebody’s heart and motivate them to love God passionately. Maybe someone who is confused and broken will find healing. If I can just encourage even one person to praise God with an eternal perspective - in spite of what they're struggling through - then it will be worth it!"