I was only a child when my parents divorced, remarried, and welcomed additional children into their new family units. I felt displaced, and I dealt with that feeling by rebelling. I partook in all the fleshly gratifications the world could offer, mastered manipulation skills, and played the role of victim. I invested everything into friendships and maintaining appearances. The year I turned thirteen, God gripped my father’s heart and changed him. He was born-again and continuously spoke of Jesus, Scripture, and prophecy. I couldn’t understand, and mocked him. My rebellious spirit grew. I was disrespectful to both parents, and at the tender age of fifteen, I earned what I thought I wanted: independence. I moved out and accepted a job at a gas station to pay rent. I began looking for love in all the wrong places. Still, God extended grace. My love for art, composition, lighting and design fascinated me, and kept me enrolled in high school. At seventeen, my dad and I attended Heaven’s Gates, Hell’s Flames. The captivating message stirred me and I responded to the altar call. Weeping, I asked Jesus to come into my life and, for a brief moment, the power of the Holy Spirit washed over me. But, I quickly reverted to old habits, dropped out of high school, and once again, embraced my sin. But praise God; he did not allow me to flounder forever.
On November 4th, 1994, I fully surrendered to God. An amazing peace, better then anything I had ever experienced on this earth descended over me, bringing laughter, and then weeping for my lost friends, then laughter and joy again. I put off sleep afraid I might lose the abundant, feeling of God’s Unexpected Love. I started reading the Bible and was encouraged. I was a new person. My friends wanted the old Julie, but there was no going back. God had set me free and filled me with an insatiable hunger for His Word. I couldn’t get enough of it. My friends eventually dropped me, and my Dad’s social circle became my closest companions. Through employment, I met a worship leader from a local church and I shared my yearning for Christian friendship. A few weeks later, while tearfully expressing this desire to God, the youth pastor from that church called and invited me to an event where I established friendships of my own age. I was so thankful. Soon after, I met Norman, also a new believer. We dated and later made intimate choices that resulted in pregnancy. As a very outspoken evangelical Christian, this was very humbling when our sin was exposed. God continued to love us and lead us with a unconditional love despite the embarrassment we brought to to family of God. We married within a few months and welcomed our first bundle of joy, Jessica, in June of 1998. The Unexpected Love for her was incredible, I thought to myself “Is it even possible for me to love anyone on this earth as much as I love her?” Then my second child Madison was born in October of 1999 and our son Jacob in January of 2001 and again this unexpected Love came for them also. Throughout my pregnancies, God revealed the similarities between my unconditional love for my baby and His unconditional love for me. I fell madly in love with the Lord and my daughter. This unconditional affection toward my children continually pointed me back to God. My children are completely dependent upon me, just like I am (or should try to be) dependent upon my Father.
I can’t force my children to love me or have a relationship with me, and God gives me free will to choose to relate to Him. My children need to be taught how to function in this world. Similarly, I need to learn from God’s Word how to live and act according to His will. It breaks my heart when my children rebel, much like it breaks God’s heart when we wander. These observations prompted Unexpected Love: Letters of Love to My Baby. In the fall of 2001, I began praying to God for a career that would allow me to be at home with my precious children. I could have never imagined anyone else raising them. I was madly in love with them and wanted to document every part of their lives. We could not afford professional photography, so I took the “do-it-yourself” approach. I would set up backdrops and props, use natural light, and snap away. Photographs by Julie Johnson was born October 4, 2001. Within four years I was voted Burlington’s Best Portrait Studio and have carried that title for ten years (and counting) consecutively. In September of 2006 I felt called to become a corporation and rename the company to Vine Images Inc. The new name is based on my favorite Bible passage: “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5 NASB). Without Him, I am nothing. Since establishing my business in 2001, my work has grown to include a host of published books featuring my photography, Prayers for My Baby Girl, Prayers for My Baby Boy, Welcome to Our Table, A Friendship to Bark About, You’re the Cat’s Meow and others.