Today, I’m thrilled to share an interview with Brenda Johnson – a graduate of my BLAST Mentoring program. I’m truly humbled to be able to mentor aspiring authors, leaders, speakers and teachers and always excited to cheer them on as their ministries blossom.
Brenda’s ministry is for those who cannot change the regretful choices of their past yet long to find release. It is not based on theory or textbooks, but on her own personal experiences of surviving the guilt of abortion, the shame of divorce, and the embarrassment of financial despair. Brenda discovered she did not have to settle for God’s “second best” but could enjoy “promised land” living at its fullest by reconciling who she used to be with who she is today. She has helped thousands of others do the same through conferences, speaking events, her blogs, website, and everyday living.
Your ministry has stemmed from an event in our past that included a dark secret. Is that correct?
Brenda: Yes. At a young age I had an abortion and had kept it a secret for over 20 years. I lived with tons of guilt and shame that I basically had heaped on myself. I later became a Pastor’s wife and so for over 20 years I thought if anyone knew my secret that I would just die so I kept it deep inside. It basically destroyed our marriage and destroyed me inside. I put on a smiley face hoping no one would ever find out but it just kept eating away at me day after day, year after year.
Why do you think millions have abortions but we never hear from them?
Brenda: It is a sin that we are ashamed of. It is so hard to deal with the fact that you literally took a life. We don’t feel anyone will understand because it is a decision that we made. However, we have all made wrong decisions…We just tend to live a lifetime watching our babies grow up in our hearts only. 1 out of every 4 women (including in the church) have had abortions but you will never meet but a very small number of them. Most of the time we had the abortions to cover we were pregnant to start with so that is another reason we continue to hide it. The church has done a good job of standing against abortion but has failed to reach out and help those that have had them.
Your ministry reaches farther than just abortion. What other issues do you talk about?
Brenda: After 25 years of marriage to a Pastor, I went through a divorce. A divorce in itself can lead to so much shame but add the fact you are a pastor’s wife and it is even more so. We were at one of the biggest churches in Alabama at the time so the shame that came from telling that big church was insurmountable. There was nowhere in town I could go without seeing someone from my past. I finally moved to another town to get away. I also went from being financially stable to almost losing everything I had. Divorce is absolutely the fastest way to poverty. I felt only despair and failure. I felt as though I had failed my church, my children, my life, but most of my God.
Why is this ministry important for others?
Brenda: After my own healing I realized that 1) I could be healed. 2) I could be forgiven 3) I could be restored 4) I could be redeemed) and 5) God could take my story right where it was and write me a true fairy tale ending. I look at my life now and I am awed and humbled that God loved me enough to make this my story. He wants the very best for us but we have to trust Him to give it to us. He takes over our story wherever we hand Him our life and continues from there. Many of us want to trust in ourselves instead of in Him. When I gave my family, my future, and my finances to Him…everything changed.
Why do you find this topic of letting go of your past so important?
Brenda: It’s there. No matter how hard we try and forget it, we can’t deny the past exists. We find ourselves living in our personal hells trying to hide the secrets, when we should be spending our time releasing them and moving on. Many believe “we have made our bed, and now the only thing to do is to lie in it.” Yet God commands us in order to be whole we have to take up our bed and walk. He doesn’t say to leave the bed or to drag it behind us, He says to carry it. For me, that bed included some pretty heavy things like abortion, divorce, and financial ruin among other things. Yet, once I decided to carry them, my life would forever be changed.
Psalms 34:18 says “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” He doesn’t want you to stay down but wants to pick you up. Many times others have crushed our spirits and sometimes we keep crushing our own. I am trying to give people the tools they need to pick up their own beds and walk into freedom.
SO, how do you reconcile the past with the present?
Brenda: You own your past, You ask for forgiveness. You forgive yourself and others. You move on and allow God to rewrite your story. Simply wrote but not simply done…but possible!! Our website is a place that moves you through this process. Many times someone can attain courage simply by seeing that others have walked the same path. We want this ministry to be a safe place for confession and restoration. We help each other by sharing our own journeys. Once a person comes to terms with their regrets they can move through the forgiveness process. This can be the hardest step and many times it’s not just about forgiving others but about finally forgiving yourself.
How did you get yourself out of those feelings of shame, despair, and regret and begin to change?
Brenda: I was reading the story of David and Bathsheba. To make a long story short – David committed adultery with her and she became pregnant. David had her husband murdered. He tried to cover his sin just like I had done. God was so angry with David. The baby died. Yet David cleaned himself up and worshipped God and was forgiven. That very day he also went in to console Bathsheba. The Bible tells us she became pregnant. Then the next words were: “And God Loved Solomon”. He did not just like Solomon or accept him, He LOVED him! What a story of grace. God did not hold a grudge or shame – He not only forgave…He blessed instantly. That’s what He has done in my life.
What did that process of forgiveness, restoration & redemption look like for you?
Brenda: I realized that if God loved Solomon then God did not hold any grudge nor did he heap shame on me. He had forgiven me the moment I had asked years ago – I just had not accepted it or believed that He would. Jordan went from being my dead baby to being my partner in ministry. God forgave me – restored me, and redeemed me. I am now married to the most wonderful Godly man He ever created and am also financially blessed so that we can help others. He took my story where I handed it to Him and rewrote it and I am so blessed to be living it every day.
What does your website have to offer?
Brenda: It is full of my stories and my reader’s stories that offer hope and healing. Unlike most websites, it is interactive. I love that so many are taking this journey with me – We rejoice and cry together, we celebrate and mourn together. I can tell we are becoming a family with everyone eager to read what’s next. So excited to see what God has in store. I feel as if we are all changing the world by sharing our testimonies (we call them Your Stories, you can share yours today!). My website is a safe place to share your past anonymously if you choose.
What final piece of encouragement do you have for our readers?
Brenda: Because of redemption nothing in our past is wasted. Just because we are a product of our past it doesn’t have to control us. We can be forgiven, restored, and redeemed and go on to live fully blessed lives And like the playwright Oscar Wilde once said,” All Saints have a past and all Sinners a future.” It is never too late for healing!!!
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