Some of you have read about or heard me share about the reasons I write, but in case you missed it, I've posted them here.
Twenty-six years ago, a car ran a red light and crashed into the vehicle I was a passenger in. At the time, I was pregnant with my daughter. Time seemed to move in slow motion as I watched the car coming toward us.
On impact, we spun around and landed an inch away from a telephone pole in the yard of a fire station. I left in an ambulance, due to neck pain, but my fear was for my unborn child. She’s grown and perfectly fine, but what I didn’t know would stay with me, other than some aggravating neck problems, after that wreck….was anxiety.
I began feeling tremendous anxiety in vehicles. And eventually, I began having panic attacks on the interstate while driving, which was odd because my wreck wasn’t on an interstate. The wreck triggered something in my brain that had to do with the fight or flight mode—an acute stress response.
I’d heard of panic attacks on a news show and thought, That’s silly. Just do whatever it is, and go on with life. But that judgement (like so many I’ve made) came back to bite me.
The issue that I thought was silly became a problem I would deal with for the rest of my life. So far.
I’m an open person. I am what I am. This is it. I share about my problems. I joke with my friends about the fact that if we’re going somewhere requiring us to drive on the interstate, we can take my car, but I’m not going to be the driver. Because I’ve been candid about my anxiety issue, over the years, I’ve met a lot of people who confided that they too had panic attacks, or some suffered from depression, bipolar, or another brain disorder.
I also learned something else that made my heart ache. Not only did these people suffer from a disorder that, in and of itself, was miserable, they also endured shame because of it. They experienced embarrassment because they felt no one would understand--that people would think, like I used to, they should 'just get over it.' People like me before I had suffered my own first panic attack.
I wanted to write a story that showed no matter what the weakness or problem or disorder, we are all still useful to our families, our churches, and our communities. We can be a part of doing good things in God’s kingdom, even while we are still suffering. Sometimes, we just have to accept ourselves and look outside of that issue. Look outside and see how we can be a good friend, a good family member, a listening ear, a volunteer—do a job that we can do. And know that God loves us.
So that’s one strand of how I came to write a book.
The other reason? I was a prodigal. No excuses. I had a good family. They taught me right from wrong and raised me well, took me to church, supported my extracurricular activities. Still—in my late teens, I chose to wander a different path. It was the path culture sold through media and song and books--an alluring path that promised happiness, but one that ended in sadness. No, I didn’t end up in a literal pigpen. I went to college, got a degree, worked at my job, and made friends. I knew and still believed in what was right, but didn’t want to give up control of my life.
Inside, though, the old expression held true. I had a hole in my heart only God could fill.
At twenty-six years old, I hit my knees and begged the Lord to take me back. I was finally willing to go where He led me if only He would have me.
From then on, I heard the prodigal story anew. The parable was more about God than it was about the prodigal. The fact that our loving Father is waiting, watching, and searching us out. And He yearns to have his children back with Him. In Luke 15, Jesus describes a scene like that, where a father is waiting. He runs to his son who has finally turned down the road toward home. The father throws his arms around his long-lost child's neck. He puts a ring on his finger and throws a party to celebrate.
Like our Father does when we come back to Him.
So, I write stories with prodigals as characters because that’s what I know. The messes of our past also don’t eliminate us from being useful in God’s service. Isaiah 61 says God gives beauty for ashes. He can transform the ashes of our pasts into something beautiful if we give Him the chance. If we let Him take over. That was the second message I wanted to share in that first book, Leaving Oxford.
And I want to share that message in all my stories. Otherwise, this writing gig is way too hard for me. Honestly, I'm always surprised when I finish writing a book. If it's good, it has to be God! The mess-ups...all me.
My book Leaving Oxford is temporarily free as an eBook. Do you know someone who needs that message of God's love—the message about His ability to take our messes and make something beautiful? Maybe share the freebie with them?
I also have some Audible codes to share. Tackling the Fields is the latest production by narrator Naomi Karez, and I'll give away five codes to audio readers who comment on this post that you're interested in receiving them. (Void where prohibited.) Here's a sample:
What's coming up? I am currently writing a story that deals with addiction, a painful issue which affects so many families today. I would appreciate your prayers that I follow God's leading as I write.
Finally, how can I pray for you today? Feel free to send me a message on my contact page.
Janet W. Ferguson
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 judgments 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.
I was a painfully shy child. If you’re my friend, you might find this hard to believe, because I have no problem talking … once I know you. Still, every now and then, the social anxiety takes control of my brain, tongue, and body. Like making small talk—that’s hard for me.
My husband and I spent our honeymoon in the small Southern town of Natchez, Mississippi. We wanted a low key time to hang out and relax. Our bed and breakfast, The Briars, was an antebellum home situated on a bluff overlooking the Mississippi River.
During the Civil War, the fires and destruction that ruined most other Mississippi towns skipped Natchez, therefore it retains beautiful examples of antebellum architecture. Not only that, you can revel in the view of the river, ride a horse-drawn carriage, and discover the abundant antique shops and good eats. If you’re lucky, you can get a ticket in November to the elaborate Angels on the Bluff Cemetery Tour, where actors play the part of the deceased and give a live history lesson.
All that said, we enjoyed Natchez enough to return for a few anniversaries over the past twenty-something years. (We didn’t get far from our kids very often.) On one of these occasions, I made reservations to eat at a mansion. Excited, we arrived to find other couples waiting in a side room, a sort-of den, eating hors d’oeuvres. That was fine.
But then—a door opened, giving us a peek into the dining room—one long table where all the guests would sit. Together.
Immediately my anticipation of the romantic dinner tanked and my anxiety spiked. I'd have to talk to strangers on my anniversary. I nudged my husband and whispered, “Let’s sneak out and go somewhere else.”
He’s probably one of the most introverted engineers you could meet. He said no. We had a reservation, and he was eating there.
It became one of those stories we laugh about, or rather he makes fun of me about. Blundering through with my nervous chatter, I survived.
We dined on delicious gourmet food with lovely people I don’t remember.
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Under the Southern Sun
Janet W. Ferguson