A musical artist’s tribute to her father

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Shelly Johnson, a member of First Baptist Church in Woodstock, has become a noted Contemporary Christian songwriter and artist. Part of her work relays the pain and grief her family experienced when her father, Jerry, died from cancer. SHELLY JOHNSON/Special

WOODSTOCK — Shelly Edwards Johnson grew up in Marietta and was from a wonderful Christian home. Shelly and her parents, Jerry and Cathy Edwards, were faithful members of Eastside Baptist Church.

As a young teenager it was obvious that Shelly was gifted to sing as she also played the piano with excellence and ease. Those who knew her well sensed  she was destined for a special place of service in God’s divine plan.

“He was a great picture of a loving husband and a loving father,” Shelly Johnson says of her father, Jerry. SHELLY JOHNSON/Special

Shelly attended Belmont University in Nashville, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in Commercial Music. Upon graduating from Belmont in 2007, her songs began to gain the attention of the Christian music industry.

Her global musical hit “Power of the Cross” was awarded Song of the Year by the Gospel Music Association, and her song “Draw Near” was awarded Scripture Song of the Year.

According to Shelly’s website “Power of the Cross” has been recorded by Natalie Grant, Steve Green, and is being used by churches worldwide. Shelly has served as worship leader alongside Beth Moore, Tony Nolan, Andy Stanley, and toured North America with renown Irish Hymn-writers Keith and Kristyn Getty.

Shelly signed her first publishing and recording deal with LifeWay Worship in February 2011. She continues to write music that thrills the soul and makes her one of the most popular Christian songwriters and female worship leaders in the nation.

A mission born out of tragedy

Shelly recently wrote, “As many of you know, when I was 14 years old I lost my daddy to cancer. God used that event to drastically alter the course of my life and set me on a path of ministry. I wrote the song “Mosaic of Grace” in 2008, reflecting on that dark and painful season of my life.”

Shelly recently produced a video that tells the story behind “Mosaic of Grace.” She explains that her dad’s death plunged her family into a dark, crazy season of life.

“My dad was such a great man,” Shelly declared. “He was so much fun. He had the best laugh. He loved Jesus. He loved us so well. He was such a hard worker. He was a great picture of a loving husband and a loving father.

“But even though it was a dark and painful season for me as a 14-year-old, it marked the beginning of this wonderful new journey with God. I was filled with such wonder of what God was doing inside of me and the calling He put upon my life to start writing. And I was so focused on what was happening inside of me that I don’t think I fully grasped what had actually happened in my life.”


The journey after a loss

Shelly then reflected upon the birth of her child, Mary Carson, two years ago when she and her husband, Jack, and her mother, Cathy, were in the room with the nurses. She said, “When the nurses handed her (Mary Carson) to me the first thought that I had was, ‘I wish he (dad) were here. I wish he were here to hold her. I wish he were here to experience all that we were experiencing together. There was that moment of missing him.

“One of my favorite things as a little girl was to stand on top of his feet and he would hold my little hands and we would twirl around and dance around the living room. I remember as a little girl thinking, ‘I can’t wait to dance with him at my wedding.’

“When you lose someone, there is an ongoing journey throughout your life when there are all these things that pop up that make you miss them all over again. There is a closeness and beauty that you can only experience through deep pain.”

Shelly then began to illustrate life as being like a mosaic of glass in a stained glass window. The broken pieces of glass by themselves seem to be so plain and insignificant, but when they are placed together in a specific design they become a beautiful mosaic of light, color, and meaning.

From the pain and loneliness Shelly has frequently experienced from her father’s death, she wrote the following words that should encourage and brighten the path of those who have lost their fathers or who have experienced the broken fragments of a shattered life.

Just a pile of broken glass
Pieces of a painful past
Shattered by the storms of life
This is all that’s left inside
He can take the fallen pieces
And lay them in the perfect place
When His work is finally finished
You will be a mosaic of grace
In your pain you may not see
The beauty of the masterpiece
But there’s a great work of art
Than what each piece alone imparts
Allelujah, Allelu
To the God who makes all things new
Hallelujah, Allelu

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