How did I come to know Jesus as my personal Savior? Let me take you back to the beginning. I was born in Lynchburg, Virginia, and even before my birth, it already had been decided I would be placed for adoption.
My adoptive parents had prayed for 10 years for a baby, and God answered their prayers with the blessing of my older brother. When Bill was still a baby, my parents were asked if they wanted to adopt a little girl, and so then I was welcomed into the family. The name my adoptive parents gave me was Joanna (God’s gracious gift); however, before that the name on my birth certificate read Karla Elise, which means strong and devoted to God. I did not know this until 50-plus years later after Mom gave me my adoption records.
Bill and I were always told how much we were prayed for and how God had answered those prayers, so we always had a Christian foundation in the family and grew up in the church. We grew up with picture story Bibles being read, Sunday school, and a family full of love. I grew up knowing that God had placed us with the parents He wanted to raise, nurture, guide, and love us, so from as early as I can remember, I already had the seed planted of God’s faithfulness and love.
As I’ve grown through the years, I’ve seen how God literally had His hand on my life – my whole life. Growing up I always loved watching Oral Roberts, and I loved the song his son, Richard, sang “Greater Is He That Is in Me (than he that is in the world)”. It was the summer before my freshman year in high school, and we were staying at our lake condominium because the house Mom and Dad were building wasn’t quite finished yet. During that summer, I watched a Billy Graham crusade when I decided to make Jesus my Savior. The next Sunday at church I publicly professed that faith before our congregation.
I then went on to grow up in the youth group at Hyde Park Baptist Church in Austin and was always drawn to all of God’s wonderful promises in the Bible and had a thirst for knowing more. At church, there were so many men and women of God who led and taught us, from our youth leader to our pastor, music minister, Sunday School teachers, and so many more. I’m still privileged to be in this same church family as an adult.
It was such a wonderful youth group with Bible study on Mondays, prayer meetings on Wednesdays, Chapel choir Sunday mornings, and rehearsals Sunday evenings. Many ski trips, vacation Bible schools, and choir tours in the summer. So, from my teen years, I was being shaped and constantly learning more about God’s word.
I wrote my first song at age 16 – “Someday Might Be Today” – and have composed numerous songs, poems, and writings since then. I’m humbled by this gift from God and honored I can share the gift with which He has blessed me. I always pray in some way that what I write or sing will bring others closer to God in whatever way they need.
I think we have a notion when we are saved that from there forward life is just going to be perfect because we have Jesus. I didn’t learn until I was an adult it’s a growing and molding process. There were times in my younger years when I fell away from God, but He was always there to welcome me back.
I’ve gone through many challenges through my adult years. My ex-husband and I divorced when our children were still young (8,5, and 3), and I ended up being the one who raised them 99% of the time. That came with its ups and downs as they all faced challenges of Autism, ADHD, and other behavioral or learning difficulties. I’m thankful during their formative years I had so much support and love from my family and friends as well as my God who watched over all of us and brought us through each trial.
He has guarded over all three of my children’s lives. My oldest – at 13 months – went through a prolonged one-and-a-half-hour seizure. God guarded his life. My middle boy had a seizure in his 20’s in a tub. God made his younger brother aware something wasn’t right and had him where he needed him to be to rescue his brother from drowning. God guarded over his life. My youngest had a severe crash on a motocross bike. They thought his neck and back were broken. It ended up he just had a concussion, but that crash led to a nurse walking into the ER and noticing at just the precise moment there was something wrong with his heart rhythm. It ended up he was diagnosed with Wolff Parkinson’s White syndrome, and he later had to have a heart ablation. God guarded over his life. Then myself – I got into a business situation that financially about depleted me, but God opened up doors and led me right back into the same career I had 20 years before and just 10 minutes from my house. God watched over my life.
It is interesting to note that the field I work in is neurology, and that is the field in which I was working while rearing the kids with their unique challenges. I was fortunate to have access to the best doctors’ advice and care for each of them. When I went back to work, it was at a time when my brother and I were helping out with an aging mother, who was also showing signs of memory difficulties.
I don’t find anything in life coincidental. I know it is always God. People will ask me, “How do you know He’s there?” I know because He has been with me my whole life. He has guided me. I can have something on my mind and I get a nudge from the Holy Spirit to read certain scripture, and it will be exactly what I need in my situation. I know some Bible verses by heart, but scripture memory is not my forte.
There have been times in my life I have struggled to stay close to God. The Devil will always whisper doubt into you, and during those times, you must dig in deeper with God. He will always remain faithful to His children.
The Bible says in Jeremiah 29:13, “You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.” These words are so true. Start each day with Him. Pray to Him. Talk to Him. Listen to Him. Learn of His mercy, love, and grace. Feel His peaceful presence. My personal verses over the last few years have been Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths.”
There have been so many things in life I don’t understand, but my faith is in my strong loving Father who has proven His love and protection over myself and my family again and again. There is nothing more important in this life than a relationship with Jesus Christ. All our days have already been written. How wonderful to put your life in the hands of the one who created it and to put full trust of each day He will give us in His hands.
Being a Christian doesn’t mean everything will be perfect, but it does mean we are forgiven of all our sins. Christ has made us right by his sacrificial death on the Cross. It means we walk each day with God and our trust is in Him. He is a loving Father who loves us unconditionally. He doesn’t hold things over us that we have done wrong. There is nothing to compare to His mercy and grace. Jesus is truly the Truth, the Life, and the Way to lead us in this life and right into our eternal life forever with Him.
I’m so thankful for my Jesus who gave His life for me – a sinner saved only by His merciful grace. I said yes to His call on my heart many years ago. That was the best decision of my life, and it can be the best decision you can make, too, if you haven’t already. Trust in Him. Believe His words.
Jesus says in John 10:10, “The thief cometh not but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” Believe that promise. In Romans 5:8 it says, “But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Believe that promise and most importantly in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Believe in that verse and believe on the one who offers forgiveness and eternal life.
Life is so much better with Jesus. To welcome him in and to learn who He is – that is one decision in life you will never regret. Trust Him.
A native of Virginia, Joanna briefly lived in Arkansas before growing up in Austin, Texas. She is passionate about music and wrote her first song at the age of 16. Through the years, Joanna has shared her love of music via the church and social media platforms. Following her studies at University of Texas and Austin Community College, she had the opportunity to work with Austin EEG Clinic in conjunction with Austin Neurological Clinic. After her three children (Drew, Daniel, and Will) were born, she went from working full-time to staying home to rear her sons. While her youngest was involved with Motocross, Joanna took up photography and operated the now defunct company “Josmotophotos”. During that time, she traveled to many tracks taking several hundreds of thousands of pictures of riders. Joanna went on to work with another neurologist in the city of Kyle, Texas, where she now lives with her eldest, Drew, along with a Border Collie named Kato and an Alaskan Malamute grand dog called Gohan. Through all these endeavors, Joanna says she has always had the privilege and opportunity to share Christ. She feels telling others about Jesus and what He has done in each of our lives is so important. Joanna says God will lead us through things to gather knowledge and understanding so when someone we know is facing the same things, we can minister to them because we have already walked through and persevered – God always has a purpose. Joanna strives to spend each morning in quite fellowship with God. She has been a long-time member of Hyde Park Baptist Church where she has been part of the choirs, both as a teenager and an adult.
If you like and are blessed by the content created by Outrider Ministries for Christ, we encourage you to regularly visit our website while also telling your family and friends about us. Never forget – you are important to us and vital to our success at spreading the word of God and the Gospel of Jesus Christ to all the world. May His abounding love, mercy, and grace be upon you.