Magnolia Storms (A Coastal Hearts Novel) by Janet W. Ferguson ~ a review

Magnolia Storms

Romance, Christian Fiction

With Hurricane Dorian bearing down on the Bahamas as a Cat 5 this Labor Day weekend, I decided to finish reading this emotional novel of devastation, hope, and love.

The author skillfully achieves a sense of foreboding from the very beginning. Hero and Gulf Coast river bar pilot Josh Bergeron attempts to board a cargo ship in rough water and his foot slips off of the rung of the metal ladder. I am mostly a detective story reader and/or action-adventure. The most exciting parts of this novel for me were Josh’s scenes out on tumultuous seas.

Later in the story, we learn that heroine Maggie Marovich’s father, also a bar pilot and Josh’s mentor was swept away and lost during Hurricane Katrina. She left the Gulf Coast, never to return, but now her sister Cammie’s horrid accident and hospitalization forces Maggie back to their childhood home as another hurricane looms.

As a Christian reader, I appreciated the Bible verse that kept repeating: “Though he slay me, yet I will trust in Him.” Job 13:15

All of the characters were highly likeable and well developed in this emotional romance story. I’m not a romance reader and didn’t absolutely and totally fall into their lives. My favorite character was Aunt Ruth. I do recommend this novel to romance readers who enjoy a realistic, exciting clean read.

Purchase Magnolia Storms on Amazon

He Chose His Mother ~ over his wife

50 Something Woman

I’m no expert on marriage, but I’ve been on this planet several decades and have observed a few things. So, Let’s talk about three couples (nice people) where the husband chose his mother over his wife. Minor details will be slightly changed to protect the innocent…there’s really nobody guilty here. They are couples who went into marriage seeing hearts and roses and made terrible mistakes.

Couple number one: He was raised by his mother in a rural American community after his abusive father abandoned the family. His mother sacrificed and insisted that he go to college, which he did, majoring in business. In his senior year he met and fell in love with a young nursing student who grew up in a middle class suburb of a medium-sized city. They were both ambitious and wanted success in their respective careers, they wanted children in a few years (and had one), they read the same novels and liked the same movies,  went crazy for the same types of food. What could go wrong? Those are similarities in life-style and that’s important, very important. But are these things core values? She was startled and dismayed when he insisted on using money she thought they were saving to go on a luxury cruise to move his less-than-affluent mother to an apartment in their town. He also wanted his mother to babysit their child. She thinks his mother has too much say in their immediate family’s life. The marriage now has serious cracks.

Couple number two: He was born in India and came to America as a teen and grew up seemingly very American. Now he’s a manager in a fast food chain. His parents and cousins live in a close-by neighboring city. He calls them and sees them fairly often. She’s working in the Big Apple and is an energized, happy-go-lucky New Yo’Rican. She’s born and bread in New York City with a family heritage from Puerto Rico. She has some serious family baggage (don’t we all). When they met, she frequently said of him, “He’s amazing.” He commented that she knew how to do so many things. What they shared in common was a burning desire to make some money and build a successful life in New York City. She had no idea that when push came to shove, he’d revert to culturally eastern core values. He’s very close to his mother, and now that his parents are struggling financially, he’s been helping them out in a significant way. His wife is not pleased with the money leaking out of their bank account.

Couple number three: He’s a bit of a buttoned-down middle-management guy who came from a working class Puerto Rican family. His father died young and his mother worked hard to make sure the family of two stayed secure. His wife is a millennial with pink tipped hair and a certified professional in her field. Her family background is more middle-class. They share similar professional goals, want to own a house and be seen as successful. She was shocked when he insisted his mother move from another city (where she had no family) and come live with them. Although his mother is quiet and tries not to interfere, shortly after she moved in, the marriage began a downward spiral.

What I see here is making the mistake of thinking lifestyle choices (what TV shows they’re both fans of, what foods they like, if they’re both athletic) are core values. And yes, these are very important. But they might not be bedrock values. Core values are things that will take precedence. They will rise up and over-rule other likes and lifestyle choices.  Core values might be deeply held religious values. When it comes to raising children, this core value will be very important and could become a source of huge conflict. Core values rise and move to a prominent place when trouble comes. Is it a core value to care for an ailing parent? Then again, what do you want for your children? Is it really totally okay to place small children in daycare while both parents pursue careers? Or is resentment brewing over this choice? What about when he has a picture in his mind of a successful professional couple, then she announces she wants to be a stay-at-home-mom because she’s found profound value in motherhood? Then again, it could be that one partner in the marriage has a firm concept of family legacy and what their children can and will become, while the other partner has a much more lais·sez-faire attitude toward parenting?

Today we lose sight of the fact that marriage is a contract. That’s why they had a longish period of “courtship” in days gone by. It’s important to take the time to intentionally find out if this other person is really suitable to be your life-partner and the parent of your children. It’s important to discover who your in-laws are and how they live…and if you can live with that. Because that is what you are doing. You are entering into a life and living contract with another human being. That’s marriage.

 

When the ‘Strong Ones’ Come to the End of Self ~ and let Jesus take over

Wonder Woman Doll

I think often its Christians who see themselves as the ‘strong ones’ who have the biggest problem surrendering totally to Jesus, and I include myself in that group. It’s not that we don’t believe, we do. It’s not that we don’t honor Him, we do. It’s not that we don’t see Him as Savior and Lord, we do. It’s that we have a human history of taking care of everyone’s mess that gets in the way of us giving it all to Him.

Here we are saved, in some cases saved for years, and the mess around us is getting worse and worse. Family members not only are not saved, they’ve had numerous sexual partners, are having abortions, getting arrested, drinking excessively or taking drugs. Our spouse just asked for a divorce. We have aging parents with encroaching dementia and since we’ve always been the ‘strong one’, the siblings have abdicated all responsibility…and we’re now at the point where our knees are bending under the weight. Or, we support not only ourselves, but also an out-of-work sibling and now we’ve had a job loss and the fear the bank will soon foreclose.

The so-called ‘strong ones’ have been running from pillar-to-post picking up the pieces, holding it all together, but now, after years of this, are literally shaking apart. We might even be developing mental health symptoms. We think, how can that be? I’ve been saved for years. As we sink to our knees in utter defeat, I kinda think God says, “Finally, you’re handing it to Me. I couldn’t do anything with what you were holding on to.”

I think sometimes we have a secret sin (missing the mark), which involves shame…shame for things we could not control. We could not control our mother’s or sister’s or daughter’s promiscuity. We could not handle, heal, or successfully hide our father’s, brother’s, son’s alcoholism or drug abuse. We could not have prevented our own sexual abuse as a child. Yet we are dying inside from shame. Literally dying. We developed agoraphobia, obsessive-compulsive disorder. Some of us have cleaned and recleaned our homes until they sparkle. We’ve literally been on the verge of losing our minds. But how could that be when we are saved? And not only saved, we’ve always been the ‘strong ones’.

And Jesus says, “I’ve been waiting for you to hand it all to Me. My yoke is easy and my burden is light.” When we come to the end of our own strength and admit we do not in fact have the stamina or the wherewithal to fix everything, we can finally surrender to Him and begin to heal.