Book 3 of the Southern Hearts Series, Tackling the Fields, will likely release early so that it will be available at the Lemuria Signing, August 13th, and the Mississippi Book Festival in August. I must warn you, though, that this is a story I didn’t want to write, but felt called to tackle. The loss of the dream, the loss of innocence, and life’s other unfair struggles can challenge our faith—can make us captive to fear and disappointment.
The sensitive topics in this story seemed particularly sad, but relevant in our society. Trust me, I didn’t prefer to research acquaintance/date rape or human trafficking, but both are going on all too often in communities both small and large. There are a number of organizations set up to help victims of these crimes if you feel a calling to help.
Also, the story is about football. In the South, we love football. In writing this book, I’m not trying to make a statement for or against the sport. My husband and son loved playing the game. After my son suffered a torn ACL, torn shoulder labrum, and four surgeries, he could no longer participate in the game he loved. He mourned the loss of the brotherhood of his team. I saw the popular pastime differently from his eyes. For young men, I believe it is a bond between friends for a common goal. Though the character in this book is totally fictional, I’m dedicating this book to my son, Luke.
Some who read this story may have had something terrible that happened in their past or may know someone who has. God is able to set free the captives, set you free from the bonds that hold you. My prayer is that you find comfort in that truth.
I promise that book 4 will be lighter. For example, there's a hairless cat named Mr. Darcy.
I'm on a blog tour that offers prizes this week.
($50 Amazon gift card, $25 Amazon gift card, signed copy of books...)
The winner may as well be you. Enter here if you want.
Just scroll down until you see me.
I'll also be in Starkville, Laurel, and Mendenhall in the next week or two, and I don't know many people in those places. If you live nearby, come say hello, or if you know someone who lives nearby, ask them to come say hello. :)
Jul 16, 2016 11:00 AM Starkville, MS Book Mart
Jul 18, 2016 5:00 PM MENDENHALL, MS Mendenhall Public Library
Jul 23, 2016
2:00 PM Laurel, MS Jitters Coffeehouse and Bookstore
Aug 13, 2016
1:00 PM Jackson, Mississippi Lemuria Books
Aug 20, 2016
JACKSON, MS Mississippi Book Festival
As my second book releases next week, I wanted to celebrate real life mission trips. The characters in Going Up South travel to Honduras in the novel and have their own funny adventures, but here are some of my friends' amusing mission trip experiences.
1. Guatemala~ There was rooster given by a patient to pay the dentist. Somehow the rooster ended up being placed in the nurses’ hotel room. Once caught and removed, the thing crowed all night outside our windows.
Lisa Cantrell and Roy Kellum
2. Honduras~ The whole congregation and the mission group went down to the beach for a baptism. There was a young man swimming. We didn't think anything of it and commenced with the baptism and afterward sang some songs, fellowshipped. When we were leaving, we noticed the pile of clothes. Apparently this guy thought he had a secluded section where he could take off his clothes and go for a swim. He stood sheepishly about 50 yards from shore waiting for us to leave.
o3. Haiti~ Picture several women standing more or less in a row fighting to hold this chunky little sweet Haitian baby. In the end, as the women were called away to help with everything from medical situations to finding where someone put some paint supplies, the one left holding the baby was a 225lb 6' tall bearded guy who happens to love babies (that would be me).
4. Guatemala~ We were told we would drive for 3 hours, stop for dinner, and drive 3 more hours until we reached the rural city of Poptún. We got on the bus with people we didn’t know, road for about 3 hours. We stopped for dinner. We got back on the bus… for about 8 more hours. At one point, we stopped at quarantine roadblock. We were already sketched out… but you’re telling us to get off of this uncomfortable, old school bus stand in the dark and let some strong men in military uniforms carrying large guns come look for fruit? Well yes, I did think that we were about to be lined up to get shot, but we got out anyway. We made it through (they didn’t see the bananas we had… awkward).
5. Honduras~ The youngest guy on our team, Hall, had the unique talent of coming up with the most outrageous an random stories right on the spot. We enjoyed his wild tales every evening while we rocked in hammocks to wind down.
What's your mission trip experience? Or would you like to go on one?
First, thank you for all your support and kind words! I never would've published without your encouragement.
I'm nervous and excited to have my first book signings scheduled. If you're in the area and want to drop in, that would awesome!
Here's the schedule so far.
Jun 4, 2016
2:00 PM Ridgeland, MS Barnes & Noble
June 25, 2016
1-3 PM Brandon, MS Bay Window Books
Jul 16, 2016
11:00 AM Starkville, MS Book Mart
Jul 18, 2016
5:00 PM MENDENHALL, MS Mendenhall Public Library
Aug 20, 2016
9:00 AM JACKSON, MS Mississippi Book Festival Book Signing
Book 2 in the Southern Hearts Series, Going Up South, releases June 15th. If you like the Kindle version, it can be pre-ordered for a lower price on Amazon now.
(A few of you have asked about Lemuria in Jackson carrying Leaving Oxford. They have agreed and should have signed copies in about a week!)
I get obsessed sometimes.
While researching Central America for my first book, Leaving Oxford, a burning desire to know more about mission trips grew. I harassed family and friends with questions about their trips. I read several books about mission trips and also about Central America. One book that really rocked my thinking was Enrique's Journey, which told of kids who'd jump on trains over and over at literal risk of life and limb to escape their circumstances and try to get to the U.S.
A yearning to go on a mission trip began. I wanted to help, and I wanted to see these places for myself. But the timing or finances never seemed right, so I decided that in book 2 of the Southern Heart Series (Going Up South), I would send my characters to Honduras...since I couldn't go. I was always pretty good with my imagination and pretending. (Maybe now I'm putting that to good use?) Not terribly long after I finished the first draft of that book, our youth minister announced he wanted to take our teens to Guatemala. I was stunned because they needed chaperones and because my teen son said I was allowed to go as a chaperone.
I'd heard it said that mission trips were listed in surveys as a top, life-changing experiences in a person's faith. I will agree with that assessment. Instead of telling you more about my experience or more about my books, I thought I'd let friends/family share 5 moving mission trip experiences~
1. Elizabeth Thompson: The most moving experience that I had in Honduras was at the city dump. Every Wednesday, Honduras Hope (the ministry that we were working with during the week) brings water and food to the dump. The dump is the most poverty-stricken place I have ever seen. People from all walks of life are literally digging through piles of trash to find any recyclables in order to sell back and get money to buy food for their families. I was so in shock how people could possibly work and sometimes even live in such a stinky, dirty, buzzard-filled place. However, while we were handing out the food and water, the people were so grateful and filled with joy; this was truly the joy of the Lord because there was no way anyone could have joy in such a hopeless and sorrowful place. I will forever be changed by this place and what the people there taught me about hope and joy in the Lord.
2. Brad Lister: That would be seeing the generosity of the people in the local congregations in Trujillo, Honduras. One thing that I saw at all of the congregations that I visited was a collection for widows (They seem to have a lot in Trujillo. Aside from traffic accidents and illnesses often proving fatal. I've heard of many men committing suicide because of the lack of work or lack of ability to provide for their families.). Each Sunday people would fill a basket with items, mostly groceries, and a widow would be selected for the basket to go to. Seeing that basket overflowing was a good visual representation of the generosity of the people. Generosity of people who mostly lived in mud huts. Even the wealthiest of people that I saw in Trujillo have very little when compared to 99% of North Americans, yet they were still able to give significantly to ones who were less fortunate.
3. Lisa Cantrell: A young girl from a village visited one of our Health Talents clinics in Guatemala. She came by herself and was seen by a physician who diagnosed her with an incurable skin disease. She had been shunned by her village and even by her mom since her earliest memories. Other than the few hugs she received at the clinic, she was unfamiliar with affection. When Rick Harper (of Heath Talents) told us this story in February, several of the team members discussed how to get Maria to the surgical clinic and do a biopsy. The Lord worked it out and Maria made it to Clinica Ezell the day before we left! Needless to say, we lavished all the hugs we could on her and was able to see the amazing power of God's touch in more ways than one!
4. Matthew Simoneau: The most moving thing I've seen is a 4:30 church service at a neighborhood church in Haiti. That early in the morning, most people at home would barely be stirring, but in Montrouis, Haiti, men and women of all ages got up and came to worship the Lord who they love and rely on, before they went off to start their day doing everything from selling fruits in the market to working construction and translating for others. Loud as you can stand praise music with 20 or so people who show up almost every morning and memorize bible verses (someone actually stands and recites so everyone can memorize together) sing worship songs and pray for each other. It's a beautiful and moving sight to see. Oh, and the service is called "Manna of the Day."
5. Ginny Wages: When we first arrived at the Ahikam Children’s Orphanage on Tuesday, the children repeatedly shouted, “Los gringos, los gringos,” which translates into, “white people, white people,” so much for trying to fit in! We could tell that the children had been told we were coming and had been waiting all morning for us, which meant that we had big shoes to fill. We followed the children into the dining hall and the women in charge finished preparing lunch for the children while we led a few songs. When the children started following along with words, motions, and welcoming smiles, we knew that they had accepted us. The afternoon went on with arts and crafts, dancing and music. When I stayed inside to help the women in charge finish cleaning, I learned some new techniques. The style of mopping used involved throwing cups of water onto the tile floor, which I could deal with, but where were the mops? The woman showed us that she cut a hole through the middle of a towel, stuck a broom in the hole, and started mopping. I remember looking at my youth minister and saying, “I will give you every penny I have to buy her as many real mops and mop buckets as I can.” I have visited a lot of places, loved a lot of people, enjoyed a lot of food, and played with hundreds of children, but nothing will ever compare to the week that I spent in the small city of Poptún, Guatemala.
Next month, I plan to share humorous mission trip experiences. :)
Have you had a moving mission trip experience? Leave a comment here or on my social media outlets to be in a drawing for a copy of book 1 of the Southern Heart Series, Leaving Oxford. Or if you win and are willing to wait until mid-June, I'll be releasing book 2, Going Up South.
I had my first panic attack in my mid-thirties. Before that experience, the concept sounded stupid to me. I watched a news show about the problem and thought, Just get over it. Do whatever it is, and move on. Funny how my judgements like that come back to bite me.
Driving along on the interstate with my second baby in tow, my palms began to sweat, and my chest locked up. I couldn’t breathe, and my vision began to blur. I had no clue or warning. My first panic attack.
We think a bad car wreck I’d been in while pregnant with my first child was the major contributing factor. My anxiety in vehicles had increased exponentially since that accident.
Anyway, zoom out a decade or so. Problem still here. Along the way, though, I met others with various anxiety or depressive disorders—disorders I had never given much thought to before, and probably never would have, if this hadn’t happened to me. These disorders are miserable. No one wants to go through the symptoms, much less the stigma or the embarrassment.
The whole experience became one of two motivating incentives for me to write a book. (More about the other motivation another time.) Somehow in my quirky brain, the book became a sort of romantic comedy set in Oxford, Mississippi. Go figure.
If you'd like to read the book, I've discounted it to really low price for a Kindle pre-order. It's 99 cents until the official release date of April 15, 2016. It will be available in a variety of formats after that date at regular price. If you enjoy the story, it would really help me if you leave a review on Amazon.
Blessings and thank you,
Pre-order the Kindle version here.
When I married, I dreamed I’d be this remarkable wife and cheerleader for my husband, a wife who cooked fabulous meals and kept the floors clean enough to eat on--all while staying in good shape, being a terrific mother, and volunteering with the church or other worthy causes.
Um... that was not quite how things went. Okay, that was not at all how things went. And don’t chance eating off my floors.
Maybe a few meals tasted okay, I was in shape now and then, volunteered here and there, but never were my lofty goals/fantasies achieved at the same time … or even in the same year.
A question has pestered me because of my failures. I’d made a vow to love and to cherish my husband, and I’d loved him. But had I cherished?
Disasters had interfered. Distractions, too. Some were important and urgent—like children, aging parents, work. Some were because I’d overcommitted myself elsewhere. But many times I was simply tired and lazy.
My husband and I both knew, deep down, that time away as a couple was important--part of cherishing each other. So when my youngest left for college, we decided an anniversary trip, even a close/cheap one, was in order.
We travelled to the Mississippi Gulf Coast for a few days to just hang out together.
One area we enjoyed walking around was Bay St. Louis. Quaint and full of character, I wanted to know more about the town.
I checked with my friend, Donna, who grew up there. The following is a bit of info she had to offer.
Bay St Louis has lots of festivals considering its size. The annual Crab Festival started off as a small church fair to raise money for Our Lady of the Gulf Catholic church but now has grown to 100 arts and craft booths and attendance of around 50,000 people over the 2.5-day festival, not bad for a town with a population of 11,000. Bridge Fest is an annual festival to celebrate the re-opening of the bridge over the Bay of St. Louis which connects Bay St Louis and Pass Christian after the bridge was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. They also have Harbor Fest which is a weekend music festival. Over the past 20 years they have enjoyed Second Saturday Art walk where shops in downtown stay open later, Main Street is blocked off so that people can gather and enjoy live music. There are no “chain” stores in downtown BSL. All of the stores around the beach road and the beach end of Main Street are all local shops with antiques, art, crafts, and unique restaurants.
The people of BSL are very down to earth and friendly. You can tell that they are resilient too by looking at how they rebound after each Hurricane. I witnessed the devastating effects of Hurricanes Camille and Katrina to BSL, and the entire MS coast, but in both cases, the residents shared what they had with their neighbors, even when what they had left after the devastation was not much, and helped each other rebuild without whining about it or waiting for someone else to come and take care of them.
“Resilient.” “Rebound.” I like those words she used for her hometown. Perhaps when life throws disasters and distractions my way, I can be resilient and rebound. I can work on cherishing by being deliberate and intentional. Rebuilding relationship.
I have to plan not to be lazy and not to neglect my vow to cherish my spouse—even if it’s just a cheap date like watching the sunset or walking along a quaint, resilient harbor.
I'll take all the help I can get! Do you have a favorite cheap date or way of cherishing your spouse?
I’m an old mom now.
A year ago, a ministry was started at my church where the older women mentor the younger. Somehow, my children were born, and then after hundreds of baby videos, recitals, ballgames, laughs, tears, and tension headaches, a whirlwind happened—I landed on the other side of motherhood. My babies grew up. So I’m one of the older women who are supposed to teach the younger, according to Titus 2.
Basically, a group of us who’ve gone through that same time whirlwind make dinner each month and share how we tried, how we messed up … hoping our openness helps the younger women.
There was a conference this past weekend in West Monroe, Louisiana, about this whole mentoring thing. I thought I’d better go, because I needed guidance in this new role.
Monroe has that Louisiana look with flat delta land and bayous. And of course flavorful food. A friend and I ate at Waterfront Grill and enjoyed their specialty, Catfish Desiard, and a lovely view. Many of us made our photo at the famous spot in front of the Duck Commander store. A river divides the area into two cities—Monroe and West Monroe, but everything was really close. I heard there are more interesting stores on antique row, as well as restaurants near the river, but the conference was our priority this trip.
A slew of great speakers talked, including Jeremy and Addie Camp, the Robertson ladies, Joneal Kirby, and Shellie Tomlinson, all with moving and powerful encouragement.
They really didn’t go about telling everyone how to be a better mentor or person or mother, so much as, inspiring women to not give up—to be the light for their generation and the ones coming behind. While the world goes crazy and life gets scary, we women can rise up boldly and speak life into our families and our communities for the good of our country-our world.
I was inspired.
So, ladies reading this … being an old mom is no excuse. Rise up and speak Words of Life.
My home church's Christmas project this year is to donate funds to Touch A Life (https://www.touchalifekids.org/), a ministry that rescues exploited children from slavery. Our theme leading up to Christmas naturally became "Rescue." Members shared their personal rescue stories for a daily devotional, and I contributed the following.
I once owned a ski boat. My husband says I owned it three years and talked about it twenty. But, hey, they were a great three summers! (He’s probably just jealous because we weren’t dating then.)
Back to the rescue story…
People can lead you astray when you don’t follow what you know to be true.
The second day I took my beloved vessel out for a ride, I wasn’t supposed to pull a skier. Since it was brand spanking new, I had to log hours to break in the boat. A friend, her boyfriend, and I took her up river, and then, as the afternoon dwindled, we headed back down. Two people came into view, jumping and waving on a sandbar, so we swung by to see what was wrong. They happened to be a married couple that we knew, and their boat was dead.
I was pretty sure that if I wasn’t supposed to pull a skier, pulling a boat was a no-no. But… the other people involved were positive it would be a good idea to tow the boat. I reluctantly agreed to pull them to the closest dock. But … everyone thought I should just take them all the way to where they parked. I gave in. The sun was setting as we neared the turn for the last gas station before our dock. We still had a ways to go, so I wanted to stop and fill up, but again, the rest of the crew thought my worries were silly.
Until my boat stopped. In the middle of the reservoir. At sunset.
One other boat passed us in the distance, and we went nuts, waving for them to stop. They waved back and kept going.
Most April nights in Mississippi aren’t unseasonably cold—like this night where the temperatures dipped into the low forties. The temptation to jump ship and try to swim toward a glowing light a couple of miles away pecked at me, drove me mad, but the risk of hypothermia was too great. By midnight, I lay flat in the hull of the boat to get out of the wind and cold, while the other two couples huddled together for warmth.
One of the worst nights ever. All because I didn’t go with what I knew to be true. My whole life at that time seemed to be following that same pattern in other areas. Instead of following God’s truth, I followed man’s.
At first light that April morning, I heard a distant rumble. I scanned the surface of the misty water and spotted a lone fisherman. We waved and yelled until he quietly neared in his little boat and tugged us to the closest dock. Yes, he looked at us like we were idiots, and I finally understood why someone would kiss the dirt.
We all end up in situations where we need to be rescued, sometimes because of friends or culture or self-centeredness, other times, through no fault of our own. Whatever the reason, when we call out to Him, our gracious Lord quietly comes alongside us, rescues us in our disasters… pulls us onto solid ground. Sometimes, He may even be looking at us like we’re idiots, but He still loves us just the same.
Do you have a rescue story?
Pass Christian, Mississippi, which residents lovingly call The Pass, is the charming beach town I had the opportunity to fall in love with through my college roommates. With diverse architecture, from Greek Revival to Creole to Victorian, I adored the gorgeous homes and beautiful live oaks that lined Scenic Drive looking out toward the Gulf of Mexico.
The small, quiet town boasted a family oriented Mardi gras and an upscale Yacht Club. The residents refused to allow the touristy businesses that marred many coastal towns. They did have a couple of restaurants, one I specifically remember called Pirates Cove, which served up delicious po boys, and there were quaint gift and antique stores. I always looked forward to visits where we’d dine on fresh seafood and go out to stroll the beach.
August 29, 2005, forever changed the landscape and life for the delightful town and its residents. Eighty-five percent of Pass Christian and virtually every single public building was damaged or destroyed. The monster storm tore through with a thirty foot storm surge, ripping away homes, including the one where my former roommates grew up and their parents still resided. The town they’d known was no more. They lost their very way of life. There were no Sunday lunches at Grandma’s, because there was no place to go.
With no infrastructure, no street signs, and dangerous debris (like boats, trucks, school buses and more) littering the landscape for miles, mainly just work crews were allowed to enter the area for months. Wreckage piled thirty feet high in some places. I came with a church work crew after the storm, and there were very few landmarks left to even recognize where you were. I felt as though I was walking through a Salvador Dali painting.
This week, my husband and I cruised down Highway 90 that treks along the Mississippi Coast from Ocean Springs to Bay Saint Louis, Mississippi. There are still miles of empty coastal property, sidewalks and driveways that lead to nothing but empty lots. It’s mind boggling to see, ten years later, a place that I cared about forever changed.
However, though wounded and scarred, the Mississippi coast and Pass Christian are slowly showing signs of recovery. We walked around downtown Pass Christian and enjoyed a latte at the Cat Island Coffeehouse and Bookstore. New homes are being built on some of the empty lots. Shops have returned—The Pass Christian Soap Company and The Purple Pelican are a couple of lovely examples.
The people who endured one of America’s worst natural disasters and survived often feel as though Katrina’s devastating impact on the Mississippi Gulf Coast is forgotten or overshadowed by the deadly flooding in New Orleans.
I lived three hours inland, and the storm howled and roared uprooting trees in every yard in my neighborhood, a number of them landing on rooftops. We had no power or phone service for a week, which was nothing compared to what happened south of us. My heart and my prayers are still with my coastal friends.
For more about Hurricane Katrina and the Mississippi Gulf Coast, I’ve attached links below.
Recently, I went to Dallas for the first time in over a decade, but I only saw the city through car and hotel windows. From what I remember on my last visit, it’s a great place with great food, but this time, my view consisted of a whole slew of twisting highways on the ride to my hotel near the airport. (How many scary spaghetti junctions do they have in Dallas now?) Once I checked into the Hyatt for the conference I was attending, I didn’t leave the building for three days and was happy about it!
Have you ever played that get-to-know-you game—sort of a mixer—where you tell everyone three things they might not know about you? I have a couple I always think of on the fly. I’m deaf in my right ear, I was only engaged for a little over three weeks before I married my husband, and I once shook hands with Gerald Ford. I’m adding a new one to the list, but I’m not sure which one I’ll take out. Probably the deaf ear thing because if you’re around me more than a few minutes, you can probably guess as I circle and ask you to repeat everything you just said. The new exciting event is that at the American Christian Fiction Writers annual conference I met and took a picture with one of my all-time favorite authors—Francine Rivers! Not only that, I met many other Christian authors.
Few things could thrill me more than meeting AND worshipping with writers who don’t think I’m weird for making up stories with characters talking in my head. I know some people don’t really get fiction, but I believe stories have power. Power to change lives. In the Old Testament, the prophet Nathan convicted King David of his affair using the made-up tale of a rich man who took and ate a poor man’s pet sheep. Jesus used many parables when he taught—from the prodigal son to the unmerciful servant. Stories have also been a fun way for me to learn about history, culture, and even science.
Really, all of our lives are part of a bigger interconnected story being played out through history. John Eldridge writes about this in his little book called Epic. He says we’re all part of God’s story. And I believe there’s a happy ending. If you’re reading this, I’m glad you’re part of my story!
Have you met someone you admire? Do you have three facts about yourself people might not know? And what do I need to see next time I’m in Dallas besides the freeway and the airport??
Under the Southern Sun
Janet W. Ferguson