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
As Christmas nears, some are in the midst of pain and brokenness. This season is marred by the loss of a parent, a child, a friend, or another dear person. Some may have been in the path of the storms which came with floods, fire, and wind. Others received that diagnosis, those divorce papers, lost a job. Addictions, betrayals, and pain may have shredded your peace, damaged your hope.
How do we go from brokenness to praise in this holiday season?
Over the past year, I have wrestled with learning to give God praise and glory, not because of my circumstances or my perceived blessings, but because He is God and He is good—because He is my Father in heaven who will hold my hand during the pain, who will comfort me during loss, who will give me peace despite the storm.
Faith is not at its strongest when all is well in my life, but faith kicks in when it seems all is lost, yet somehow, He still offers hope.
I have to catch hold of that hope and hang on with a white-knuckled grasp. I must believe that He catches my tears and that He is enough to get me through whatever season I’m in.
As we celebrate a baby born in a stable, wrapped in swaddling clothes, let us remember that the baby became a man who carried a heavy cross on a back that was torn for us. He was tempted in every way, a man who knew sorrows, but for the joy set before Him endured the cross and shame. Because of His great love for us, He looked past the temporary brokenness to the eternal, and He has defeated death! He is preparing a place for us!
This is Good News!
Hebrews 13:15 says …let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God…
So while my circumstances rise and fall from mountaintop to valley here in this present age, I so desire a faith that clings to Hope and the Good News in the midst of my brokenness.
My prayer is that you will find that Joy and Hope this season!
Janet W. Ferguson
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Under the Southern Sun
Janet W. Ferguson