Welcome to the last day of the Thankful Hearts giveaway! I hope you have been as blessed as I have to hear from the hearts of these 10 authors! Just as a reminder – You can keep up with all the posts in the giveaway series by clicking on the Thankful Hearts giveaway graphic in the sidebar. The Rafflecopter will continue accepting entries until 11:59 pm on November 25th to make sure everyone has a chance to catch up with each post!
Today, Janet Ferguson closes us out with a thankful reflection on grace for prodigals.
Grace for Prodigals like Me
I was a prodigal.
I had a good family. They taught me right from wrong and took good care of me, took me to church. My father was an elder. My parents supported my extracurricular activities… Still—in my late teens, I chose to wander a different path. It was the path culture sells through media and song, an alluring path, but one that ended with emptiness. I didn’t end up in a real pigpen, but more of a soul 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 I didn’t want to give up my control. I tried to “be good” here and there, by my own strength, but I was never willing to give up everything to Him.
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 give up everything: job, friends, boyfriends, location, everything… if only He would take me back. And He did.
My life changed dramatically but in small increments. I met and married my husband that year, had a child the next, and became a children’s ministry volunteer. A few years later, I led a children’s ministry, fully feeling inadequate, but relying on God’s strength. During those years, I began volunteering with our youth group. I could certainly relate to what they were going through, having messed up so often myself. After five years in paid ministry, I felt my time had ended there, but wasn’t sure what God had in mind next.
My husband said, why not apply for a job at the school because at least we’d have free insurance for me, ha! So I did apply at all the schools nearby. I ended up certifying to become a high school librarian. I worked at the large public high school with teens for seven years. Reading and searching for clean fiction became my passion. I read whenever I could and became part of our church’s Christian fiction book club.
Somewhere in those years, a story tugged at my mind and heart. A story about a prodigal who’d messed up a lot, but ultimately comes home. Life isn’t immediately perfect or straightened out for her, because there is some baggage you haul around after leaving God’s will, but the character struggles and stumbles along this time keeping close to her Father. That story finally became my debut novel Leaving Oxford.
While working on and rewriting that novel for four years, more prodigal story ideas kept barraging me. Those characters wouldn’t leave me alone. And maybe Someone Else. Because there are a lot of us prodigals around, aren’t there? Those other characters show up in what is now the Southern Hearts Series.
Over the years, I came to believe the story of the prodigal son was more about God than it was about the prodigal. The fact that our Loving Father is waiting, watching, and searching us out. He yearns to have all His children back with Him. In Luke, Jesus describes a scene where a father runs to his son when the lost child turns down the road to home, the father throws his arms around his son’s neck. He puts a ring on the son’s finger and throws a party to celebrate. Doesn’t that sound amazing?
There’s nothing you or I’ve done so bad that His sacrifice can’t cover. Nothing He can’t use for good when you finally give up all that control. All that baggage, let Him have it, use it. He is able. Trust me, I’ve been there…
So I write stories about prodigals because that’s what I know.
And I’m thankful, so terribly thankful, for grace for prodigals like me.
One of the books included in the Thankful Hearts giveaway is Janet’s newest release and the fourth book in her Southern Hearts series, Blown Together.
When love storms in…
Wealth manager Sam Conrad is accustomed to his domineering father ordering him around, especially at the bank where they both work. But when his father demands that Sam manage the inheritance of his bossy ex-fiancée, Sam has finally had enough. He leaves in search of a new life, and attorney Big Roy Bosarge from Mobile, Alabama, agrees to mentor Sam on his quest for direction. Sam didn’t expect to be thrown together with Big Roy’s eccentric and opinionated daughter.
Storm damage forces lonely romance writer Elinor Bosarge and her hairless cat, Mr. Darcy, out of her Fort Morgan Beach cottage. She plans to take refuge in the boathouse on her parents’ estate, but finds the place already occupied by one of her father’s “projects.” She’s shocked her father would allow another young man onto the property after his last mentee robbed her family and broke her heart. And from the moment she meets Sam Conrad, they disagree about everything from her cat to how to best renovate a local nursing home.
Between her mother’s health issues and the hurricane brewing in the Gulf, Elinor feels like her life is being ripped apart. It doesn’t help that she’s falling for the man she’s determined not to trust. Sam finds himself drawn to Elinor, wanting to help her and this new family he’s grown to love. But can he overcome the barrier she’s built to keep him out? When the storm rages and the two of them are blown together, can Elinor find the faith to open her heart again?
Janet W. Ferguson grew up in Mississippi and received a degree in Banking and Finance from the University of Mississippi. She has served as a children’s minister and a church youth volunteer. An avid reader, she worked as a librarian at a large public high school. Janet and her husband have two grown children, one really smart dog, and a few cats that allow them to share the space.
Comment on this post by answering the question below and then head over to the kickoff page to claim the new entry for today!
Question for giveaway entry: Could you write a story of grace and prodigals too? How has God been faithful?
This is the last post in our Thankful Hearts Giveaway! Thank you so much for joining us each day – you have been a blessing to me!