Dena Johnson: I grew up in small-town Oklahoma in a wonderful Christian family. I have spent my life loving God, sharing that love with others. And I’ve known since I was about ten years old that my entire life was meant to serve God in ministry.
I spent 17 years as a pastor’s wife, exactly what I had always dreamed. But, when my marriage fell apart, I lost my ministry, my position. I thought I was finished, no longer worthy of serving God.
Isaiah 43:18-19 says, “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing!” Somewhere along this journey, God spoke to my heart about a new ministry, a ministry of bringing hope to those whose lives have been broken. And that’s where Dena Johnson Ministries was born.
Deily: What is “Picking Up The Pieces” about and what gave you the courage to share your story?
Dena: I live in tornado alley. In 2013, we had yet another massive tornado tear through our area leaving nothing but rubble and devastation. As I drove through neighborhoods reduced to nothing, God spoke to my heart. He told me that the EF-5 that had devastated my life would not be an end, but instead a beginning. He promised that in the end, my life will not only be rebuilt, but bigger and better than anything I had before.
Picking Up The Pieces is a message of hope to those who have walked through the devastation of adultery and divorce. It’s a practical guide to clearing the rubble and rebuilding. It’s a reminder that God still has great plans and that divorce is not the end of life.
I have found that sharing my story has been a source of healing for me. Not only have I found purpose for my pain by helping others, but I also have the opportunity to rehearse God’s faithfulness through this journey. When your life has been touched by the Savior, you can’t stop telling your story.
Deily: What is your goal/message with this new book?
Dena: Unfortunately, many in our church hold to a set of religious rules. Many who have suffered the pain of divorce walk into our churches in hopes of finding healing; instead, they encounter judgment. I want to help everyone realize that life happens. Divorce happens. Even to strong Christians who love God. Nothing makes us immune from the pain of this life. And I want the church to embrace people walking through the pain of divorce. After all, only God can heal our wounds and restore our lives.
Deily: After the affair, did you deal with any prejudices or issues because of this?
Dena: For the most part, I was blessed to have my church family stand solidly behind me, loving me and supporting me every step of the way. However, I have endured comments about “divorced people” from the pulpit. The majority of issues I face come from strangers who read my blog and feel the need to remind me that I have failed God by divorcing, that I will be forever an adulterer if I choose to remarry one day. As I have studied scripture and dug into my relationship with God, I have become convinced that we have misinterpreted many scriptures about divorce.
While I will always stand firmly on the one man, one woman for life ideal, I always want to extend grace. I believe that’s what Jesus would do.
Deily: What are the most common issues single mothers and/or divorcees of infidelity (and their families) are dealing with? And how do you help them cope? What is your goal when working with them?
Dena: One of the most common issues is the sense of failure. When your spouse, the one you chose to give yourself to fully and completely, rejects you for another, it makes you question everything about yourself. What did I do wrong? How could I fail at the most important thing? Why wasn’t I enough? You find yourself questioning your worth, your ability to love and be loved. You wonder if you are even worthy of being loved.
My message is to remind them that those are lies from our enemy. God wants us to know and believe the truth: that we are dearly loved children of God, chosen, treasured vessels, masterpieces created by God to do good works that He ordained before time began. We must get those truths deep into our minds and into our hearts if we are ever going to move forward.
Deily: How has motherhood changed you?
Dena: Can I just say that I have the world’s best kids? I honestly don’t know where I would be without them. They were my motivation to move forward, to be healthy. I knew that I owed them a safe, healthy environment in which they could grow and thrive.
My kids have made me an all-around better person. They challenge me to love life, to live with a sense of awe and wonder. They encourage me to step out of my comfort zone, to take risks to learn and grow. They bring laughter and joy!
And they challenge me to go deeper in my faith. When scripture talks about a child-like faith, I can completely understand. My kids can face difficult situations and simply let go–trusting God to make something beautiful out of the mess.
My kids are my heroes!
Deily: What is a current project you are working on?
In addition to publishing my first book and seeking to build a ministry, I am embarking on a journey with author and speaker Shannon Ethridge and her mentoring program. Ultimately, I would love to be able to write and speak full-time.
Between trying to build a ministry, working a full-time job as a nurse, and being a solo-parent to three teen/pre-teen children, my days are pretty full!
Deily: What other organizations are you involved with?
Dena: At this stage in my life, I am focused on my kids and my ministry. I attend Life.Church and participate with Arise Ministries to minister to single moms. That pretty well keeps me booked from sunrise to sunset.
Deily: Why did you decide to join Deily?
Dena: Deily is an interesting concept to me. I think so often we find ourselves fighting, even fearful of, other religions. Yet, at the heart of most religions is a desire to love. And, what an opportunity! For someone who is undecided and seeking a religion, Deily provides an opportunity to search out all religions. I pray that my participation in Deily will lead others to a saving faith in my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Deily: How do you think Deily can be useful for you and your (target) community?
Dena: My only goal is to share the love of Jesus Christ. Any time I can share His words of love and forgiveness and grace, I’m going to take that opportunity.
Most of my connections are on exclusively Christian locations. I have spent most of my life in exclusively Christian environments. And yet Jesus calls us to go into the world to share His love. I think that’s what I find intriguing about Deily. It gives me an opportunity to move beyond my safe little Christian world.
Deily: What content are you adding to your page?
Dena: I attempt to add a blog post every week, typically around Wednesday evening. My posts can be about divorce recovery or single parenting. I may write about my kids or my friends. I often write about faith and forgiveness.
No matter what, I always write honestly about the struggles of life. I never want anyone to think that I have it all together. I am a fellow traveler, often fighting to keep my faith. I don’t have all the answers. But I do have Jesus.
Deily: What else do you want our readers to know about you?
Dena: My readers are an answer to prayer! You see, when this journey began, I asked God not to let my pain be in vain, to do an amazing work in me so He can do an amazing work through me. Each person who reads my work and finds the courage, the hope, to move forward in this life represents an answer to that prayer I prayed back in 2009. I thank my God for each of you!