“One Day at a Time” By Marijohn Wilkin

Posted on June 6, 2021.

Many of the songs that are meaningful to Christians were born out of human adversity. Many times it is difficult to see the path ahead. All we can do is take things one day at a time. That would be an understatement concerning the writing of the song “One Day at a Time” in 1979 by Marijohn Wilkin, Marijohn went from one joy and success to another, but between those peaks were valleys filled with excruciating mental suffering and extreme heartache and loss. A straight-A student, by age fourteen Marijohn was thrust into the family business, Melson’s Veribest Bread, when her father Ernest was stricken with cancer. Before his death three years later, Ernest secured a twofold promise from her that she would go on to college to study music. Three years after she graduated from college, Marijohn’s husband, Bedford Russell, whom she had married two months after commencement, was killed during World War II in South Africa, where he was a pilot. By age thirty-seven, in Nashville, Tn, she became one of the leading songwriters in the country. She had remarried and had a young son named John Buck. She wrote more than four hundred country songs, many rose to the top of the charts, and was associated with with many of the top country song greats. Despite considerable success, she later struggled with alcoholism and depression. her story as told by her.
“I really could not understand why I was having so much success in the country music field. Although I had enjoyed quite a rush as a country writer, I had reached the end of my rope. I truly felt that I had been called to be a gospel writer, but I couldn’t seem to get there. I was in the music scene up to my ears in Nashville. Wherever it was ‘happening,’ I was there, helping to make it happen. Yet I became frustrated! I’d had it!
“I stopped by a small church and asked a young minister if I could talk with him. I found out later that I was the first person he had counseled. I drove up in my new, midnight blue Cadillac, dressed in a full-length mink coat with sparkling jewelry and my cowboy boots. I said, ‘I have all kinds of problems.’ He looked at me and said, ‘You look like you don’t have any financial problems.’ I answered, ‘No, I don’t.’ He said, ‘You look pretty healthy.’ I said, ‘Well, I guess I am.’ He then asked, ‘What is your main problem?’ I said, ‘I don’t know.’ He didn’t seem to know what more to say to me.
“At that point in our conversation, he said a funny thing, but it was okay, because it worked. He asked, ‘Did you ever think about thanking God for your problems?’ (Ephesians 5:20). I left his office and drove back home.
“When I reached the house, I found it was empty, and I was glad. I sat down at the piano and began to play and sing—out loud—the entire chorus to ‘One Day at a Time.’ ‘That’s all I’m asking from You. Just give me the strength to do every day, what I have to do.’ It just dropped into my heart. And when I had finished singing, my ‘Nashville mind’ said, ‘That’s a hit!’ That was the first thing that popped into my head. I then recognized that the song was a prayer—and I got some relief.
“I wrote the chorus on the back of an envelope as fast as I could write. I then continued to sing, ‘Do You remember when You walked among men? Well, Jesus, You know, if You’re looking below, it’s worse now than then.’ I wasn’t quite sure the Lord knew where I was. I’d never quit believing in Him, but I was in Nashville and God was in heaven, and never the twain shall meet. I really didn’t know if God actually knew where I was. I realize that some don’t believe that, but that was where I was at the time.
“The following morning, my mind went back to the song. I had the second verse and the chorus, but somehow I couldn’t get the song started properly. Kris Kristofferson and Rita Coolidge, who were married at the time, were in town. They had just had a huge hit, ‘Why Me, Lord?’ written by Kris. Their recording had won a Dove Award for them. I called Kris and asked him to help me with the first verse. He had written songs for my company, Buckhorn Music, and we’d had some pretty big hits as a publisher.
“When I showed him how I started the song, ‘I’m just a mortal . . .’ he looked at me and said, ‘Why don’t you say, “I’m only human, I’m just a man . . .” I said, ‘That’s good! That’s what I need.’ We finished the first verse in about twenty minutes. The lines just flew out from each of us.”
The song has been recorded by numerous artist and hit #1 on multiple charts. Marijohn Wilkin recorded several albums. The first, I Have Returned, held the track for “One Day at a Time.” This was her statement of faith to let the world know she had come back to the Lord. She is now a happy, alcohol-free Christian, she’d returned to Christ.                                                                                                

I'm only human I'm just a man
Help me to believe in what I could be and all that I am
Show me the stairway that I have to climb
Lord for my sake teach me to take one day at a time
One day at a time sweet Jesus that's all I'm asking from you
Give me the strength to do everyday what I have to do
Yesterday's gone sweet Jesus and tomorrow may never be mine
So for my sake teach me to take one day at a time Do you remember when you walked among men
Well Jesus you know if you're looking below it's worse now than then
Pushing and shoving crowding my mind
So for my sake teach me to take one day at a time
One day at a time sweet Jesus that's all I'm asking from you
Give me the strength to do everyday what I have to do
Yesterday's gone sweet Jesus and tomorrow may never be mine
Yes just for my sake teach me to take one day at a time