More about Joanna…
1. How did you become a writer?
It wasn’t anything I ever planned or dreamed about. But as John and I were walking through a transitional time in our lives many years ago, things started to come out in my journaling that seemed more like articles or essays than entries. With the help of a friend, my first piece was published in our denominational magazine. A few years later, the Lord confirmed it was indeed His call and not a fleeting interest. (For more see “My Writing Journey”) Though my submissions were rejected regularly over the following year, I realized this writing idea had to be God because up until then my life motto had been: “When the going gets tough, give up!” Or at least go do something you’re good at, like shopping!
2. How do you balance writing and family life? How do you balance “work” and worship?
I struggle like everyone does in this area, but one of the “balance” things I try to do in every area of my life is to schedule counterbalance. Counterbalance means that if I’ve spent a lot of time doing ministry, or if I’ve been away writing, I schedule extra time with my family when I get back. My husband and I try to go on a date night now and then. And I love hanging out with Josh on the couch while we all watch a movie or TV. No writing, no research. Just me and them. (At least, that’s my goal!)
But, balancing my life spiritually is vitally important as well. While I try to spend the first part of my day with the Lord, I’ve found that getting away for a half-day of prayer alone with God really supercharges my walk with God. Especially when I’ve been over-busy ministry wise.
3. Are you able to mentor me or read my manuscript for endorsement?
While I wish I could help everyone who asks, the responsibilities of family, ministry and writing doesn’t make this possible. But in an effort to help those of you who want to be published, I’ve put together a page outlining my own journey as well as a list of books and resources that guided me along the way. I hope you find it helpful. Click on “My Writing Journey.”
4. I heard there is a 14 & 17 year age span between your older kids and the youngest. What is that like?
It was a total shock when we discovered we were expecting, but Joshua has brought incredible joy to all our lives! I definitely didn’t plan on being pregnant at 40. Like I told a friend, “Who knew I’d be shopping for cribs and colleges at the same time.” But she reassured me it could be worse. “You could be shopping for diapers and Depends!”
Many have asked how Joshua is doing after I shared about his development delays in Having a Mary Spirit. He’s doing great! Although he didn’t talk in full sentences until he was 4 and a half, he’s definitely playing catch up now. Whew, that boy can talk. Though his low muscle tone affects his motor skills and focus, Josh loves school, reading and video games. All along, we’ve asked God to give us the keys to his personal kingdom, and though he’s still behind in some areas, he is growing into an amazing young man who is an absolute blessing in every way!
5. I hear you speak at retreats and conferences…would you come to our church?
Speaking to women is one of my greatest joys and passions, but it isn’t my only calling. In order to be a good mom, an effective pastor’s wife and writer, John and I have chosen to limit my speaking to 8-10 engagements a year. While I love the intimacy of smaller venues, we’ve realized that larger venues (250+) are a better stewardship of those limited opportunities.
If you‘d like to invite me to speak, please fill out the speaker inquiry form. While I can’t accept every invitation, please know I am honored you would consider having me as a guest. Whether I’m able to join you or not, I will be praying for God’s blessing and His best for your event.
For smaller events, you might want to check out the retreat option we built into all of the DVD Bible studies. I’ve had wonderful feedback from churches who have used the retreat guide to turn the teaching sessions into a special event. (Here’s the Having a Mary Heart Retreat Guide)
6. What are three things people don’t know about you?
I’ve gone skydiving–something I said I’d NEVER do. For quite a while, the Lord had been asking me to trust Him more–to choose faith over fear. When my daughter graduated from high school, we all–John, myself and the two older kids–decided to go skydiving. After spending nearly two decades giving our kids roots, it was time to give them wings!
Mmmm… let’s see, number two… I’ve been mostly sugar-free for over twelve years. Again, it was something I never thought I could do, but I feel great. I have a lot more energy and my food cravings have really diminished. My weight still fluctuates at times, but with the Lord’s help, I’m able to bring it under control if I’ll just say no to my sweet tooth.
And the third thing that people don’t know about me is that, for most of my life, I’ve secretly dreamed of being Christie Yamaguche, the Olympic ice skater. Despite the fact I’ve never actually taken skating lessons and have the vertical leap of a turtle, I still believe that one day I’ll stand on a podium and finally meet Christie Yamaguche.
7. What is it like being a pastor’s wife?
I love being a pastor’s wife! I grew up wishing I could be a PK–a pastor’s kid–so I married one and gave birth to three. I truly believe serving the local church is the greatest privilege anyone could ever have.
I’m often asked me how I deal with people’s expectations in the ministry. It isn’t other people’s expectations that keep me up at night–it’s my own! However, I’m learning that the only things that have any value are the things I allow God to do through me. Which brings me constantly to Jesus’ feet, asking Him to live and love, move and minister. First in me and then through me.
8. In what way are you a Mary or a Martha?
I’ve diagnosed myself as a schizophrenic Christian! I want to worship like Mary but the Martha inside keeps bossing me around. Like everyone else, I’m faced with a choice. I have to daily make room for my quiet time with the Lord–the Mary part of my life–it doesn’t just happen. But when I do, I’m amazed how better the Martha part of life goes!
On a practical level, I’m somewhat schizophrenic as well. I wish I enjoyed cleaning and cooking, but I can never seem to find my inner-Martha when I need her!
9. Tell us about your DVD projects.
Several years ago, the Lord dropped this thought in my heart: “There will be video Bible studies to go with your books.” Over the years, opportunities arose, but none of them really served the books, something that I felt was a priority. We were all set to create a website and some basic intro videos but then my publisher decided that it was time to produce actual video curriculum for the books – to which I said, “Yippee yahoo!”
It’s been an amazing journey! From the beginning, WaterBrook Press gave me the freedom to shape the format as well as choose a producer and curriculum consultant for the projects. In a sweet series of events, the Lord brought me Frank Gamble of One Stone Media and Kristie Kerr of Fourth Floor Ministries. It has been an absolute joy to work with people who love Jesus and love getting out His Word!
The first project, Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World: The DVD Study, was filmed at my house in Hamilton. It was so cool to teach about Living Room Intimacy in my actual living room! My mom and sister and daughter were in the audience, which made it extra special.
Having a Mary Spirit: The DVD Study was filmed on a sound stage in Springfield, Missouri, my producer Frank’s home stomping grounds. He built a beautiful set and Kristie filled it with women from many different denominations. The presence of the Lord was so sweet during the three evenings of filming.
The last project, Lazarus Awakening: the DVD Study, was literally a dream come true! After visiting Israel with John two years previously, I couldn’t imagine filming the study any place else. WaterBrook graciously allowed our team to spend nine days there, traveling to different locations so I could teach the analogies and spiritual truths God had dropped in my heart during the initial trip. It was amazing!
10. Which book would you suggest reading first?
While they can be studied in any order, if you have a choice, I recommend studying Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World first. In my own life, I’ve discovered it’s a lot easier to hear and heed the rebuke of the Lord when I’m enjoying the intimacy of the Living Room.
Having a Mary Spirit makes an excellent follow-up study as it gives practical tools for transformation, showing us how to cooperate with the Holy Makeover the Lord desires to give each one of us.
Lazarus Awakening, on the other hand, kind of stands alone and can be inserted however you wish. If you are doing it as a group study, it’s 8-week format makes it a great study for those hard-to-fill weeks just before summer break. Because it is more gender-neutral than the other two books, it can be a good choice for mixed settings such as home groups or Sunday School.
11. What do you want your readers to take away from your books?
Number one, I hope they come away with a deeper understanding of how very much they are loved by God, no matter their personality type. Whether we’re more like Martha or Mary, or even Lazarus, we are all invited to sit at Jesus’ feet.
I also hope readers will go away with a refreshed hunger to really, truly know God – not just about Him – and armed with life-long tools to help them in their pursuit of being fully devoted Christ-followers! I was a twenty-eight year old associate pastor’s wife before I discovered the methods that helped me carve out a quiet time with the Lord.
Something incredible happens when we spend time in the Word, just sitting at Jesus’ feet. His mind becomes our mind and His heart becomes our heart. It’s a divine exchange! And a Holy Makeover is the result – more of Jesus and less of me!