Karen Ferguson is an author, content creator, and the owner of Illuminate Communications, LLC. She is also a lover of words, family, animals, and Jesus, which makes her perfect for penning a children’s picture book. Her new book, Guess How Much God Loves You, releases in July.
Karen, who also holds an MBA and has a background in sales, accounting, education, and Human Resources, resides with her family in Tennessee.
What started you on your writing journey?
I’ve loved books for as long as I can remember, and I secretly wanted to be a writer since middle school, but just didn’t think I was that good. Writing seemed to come easy for others, but not so much for me. Looking back I realize it was my perfectionism and fear of rejection that made it so hard because I second guessed myself and was my own worst critic.
It was in college when I realized I actually could write. I enjoyed writing those long research papers and received generous support, encouragement, and positive feedback from my professors. This was a huge boost to my confidence, so I began writing in many forms for personal enjoyment, and to help friends and non-profit organizations.
It wasn’t until a career crisis more than ten years ago that I considered the possibility of writing professionally. At the time, I had a diverse professional background, having worked in several different industries, but I had grown burnt out from the traditional 9-5 scene. After a layoff due to the recession, I went deep with God to see if there was another path He had for me. Something that would fit my personality and lifestyle better. Something I would find more fulfilling.
I kept coming back to writing.
It’s a long story you can read more about on my BLOG but, basically, I put out the fleece and God answered in a big way. It was then I knew I wanted to be a published author. I believed it was a calling from Him.
Quite a few years passed before I self-published my first book, a 21-day wellness devotional, and now I’m signed on with Ambassador International for my first children’s book, which will be released in July.
Just as all good novels include a plot twist, the Author and Creator of our lives often writes in a twist that ultimately blesses us more than our original plan. Have you ever experienced such a “Divine Detour”?
Oh yes! After starting a family, my original plan was to be an elementary school teacher. I’ve always enjoyed working with kids and looked at this as more of a ministry than a career, as I understood from personal experience the importance of a caring and kind teacher.
I made it all the way to student teaching and was unexpectedly faced with a detour. There had been a mix up with my school records and I was informed I wasn’t supposed to be student teaching at all because I did not take one of the key courses at the beginning of the program. The fact that I had my final project sitting in my closet, with my instructor emailing the administrator saying she remembered me well didn’t matter. My request for review would have to go through a lengthy board approval process which would delay graduation and add more expense to my already expensive college degree.
It was unbelievable! I was shocked, but I can’t say I was devastated. I had been questioning my decision to teach for a while. I just didn’t know if it was overwhelm that was causing me to question this path, or if it was divine discontent ordained by God to move me in another direction.
After much prayer, a series of circumstances that only God could orchestrate revealed He was indeed directing me to a different path. So I dropped out of the program, much to the surprise of my professors and mentors.
Although that decision was extremely difficult, and a hit to my ego (I never wanted to quit or drop out of anything), I really believed I was following the Lord’s plans. Looking back, I see that it was a blessing in disguise.
I switched my major to business and earned my MBA degree through distance learning. This gave me much more time, flexibility, and breathing room to raise my young daughters, and to spend more precious time with my mom before she passed away just one year into the program.
The skills I learned also proved valuable when I started my own business, Illuminate Communications.
Now I’m writing exclusively, and loving it, with my first children’s book Guess How Much God Loves You scheduled for release in July. I’m still ministering to children but in a different way!
Let’s talk about your new book, Guess How Much God Loves You (Ambassador International, July 2022). Please tell us about it.
Guess How Much God Loves You is a picture book series that teaches young children biblical principles important to building a strong faith in God, and an understanding of His great love for all people, including them! This first book is about the Creation Account as revealed in Genesis.
The main character is seven-year-old Lucy Lu, a colorful, creatively curious first grader who is starting to have serious questions about God. Questions like: How old is He? Does He sleep? What does He do all day? And the biggest one of all – does God really love me?
After one particularly hard day at school, bullied by her classmates and feeling like she doesn’t matter, Lucy sits with her Papa Joe who has promised to answer these questions and more, launching them onto a journey through the Bible to discover God’s never changing, never failing, never ending love.
What follows is an exciting adventure, where Lucy and her Papa literally find themselves in the middle of it all. On each page of the powerful story of God’s love and faithfulness for ALL people throughout ALL of history!
What was the inspiration for it?
Frustration. I was seeing too many children’s books promoting anti-biblical principles. I remember how important it was for me to teach my girls about God in a way that was engaging, easy to relate to, and Bible based, and now that I’m a grandmom it seems even harder to find these types of resources. Young children are so impressionable and unfortunately they are bombarded with ungodly messages every day, in ways that would have been unbelievable ten years ago.
I wanted to be part of the solution and create something dynamic, fun, and creative – grounded in the truths of the Bible – for parents and grandparents to share with that special child in their life.
As far as the format of the book, I wanted to draw kids in and hold them through a series. I didn’t want to just present facts from the Bible, I wanted those facts to be part of a personal story they could relate to. And I wanted to create an experience for readers, something along the lines of the Magic School Bus series, so kids feel like they are living it firsthand.
My mission was to create a book that upholds the authority of God’s Word. I want children to know these aren’t just ‘stories’ from the Bible, but historical accounts. Something that really happened. Something they can depend on.
While Lucy’s character is a compilation of several people, Papa Joe is modeled after my own dad who went home to be with the Lord in 2019.
A few fun questions…
When the words aren’t flowing—or when you want to celebrate if they are—what is your favorite comfort food and why?
Oooooh, that’s a hard one! My all time favorite comfort food is mashed potatoes, but I don’t go to that too often (it takes too long to make ;-). So I will have to go with dark chocolate. That could be in brownies, chocolate chip cookies, or the very best snacking chocolate on the market…barkTHINS Dark Chocolate, Almond and Sea Salt.
Stories and/or parables are an integral part of both the Old and New Testaments. Is there a Bible story, parable, or passage that has been particularly important to you and/or describes your personal journey of faith?
Yes, without a doubt it’s the prodigal son in Luke. I was a prodigal myself. I accepted Jesus at seven years old, but went through a rebellious period beginning at age 12 that led me to some very dark, scary places. It wasn’t until I hit rock bottom at 20 that I rededicated my life to the Lord. At first, it was hard for me to accept His love, because I was carrying so much shame for turning my back on Him and choosing a life very far from Him. But thankfully, He didn’t leave me in that place.
Over time, as I read His Word, I discovered that no matter how often I had ignored His voice and rejected His ways, He had been waiting with open arms to receive me as His beloved child. The whole time.
He had been waiting for me to return to Him, and once I did He covered all my sins. I was a new person in Jesus! Perhaps the most life-changing revelation I had at that time was that there was nothing I could do or not do that would make Him love me any more or any less, because He IS love. That’s just WHO He is.
The Prodigal account was a big part of that understanding.
In the story that is your life, are you the strong, female lead; the girl next door; the mysterious woman behind dark glasses; the super heroine; or the little girl trying to walk in high heels?
Love this question! When I first read it, I figured I would choose only one, but as I gave it more thought, I suppose you could say I’ve played each role in different seasons of my life.
As moms (of young children particularly), I feel like we all must play that strong, female lead, even when we don’t feel like it. Our kids look to us for guidance and an example to follow, and we are faced with so many daily decisions and tasks to juggle that we naturally take on that lead role.
The girl next door? That was me in middle school. I was a people pleaser so I did my best to remain pleasant and easy going. I didn’t express my opinions unless asked, and I certainly didn’t make waves. I also didn’t feel special in any way. In fact, at the time I preferred to blend in. I didn’t want attention. Or at least that’s what I told myself. Unfortunately, I believed too many of the enemy’s lies that kept me quiet and insecure for far too long.
I played the mysterious woman behind dark glasses in my late teen and early adult years. I was detached and often somber because of some heavy life choices that caused a lot of pain and shame. I tried to hide my true emotions and tried to hide the way I was living from close family members.
Now, super heroine is a bit of a stretch! But I will say I went through a season as a young mom where I enjoyed being stretched both physically and mentally. I was juggling many things that felt outside my comfort zone but at the time felt great. It was exhilarating! I served as a leader in several capacities and, honestly, I think I got a little too full of myself. I acted as if I were irreplaceable (and outside being a mom and wife, we all know that’s just not the case… ;-). I prided myself in taking care of everyone and everything, knowing that if I didn’t ‘do it’ then it wouldn’t get done. Or at least it wouldn’t get done right. This led to a season of burnout and anxiety that caused some significant health issues. It was a wakeup call. I had to repent of trying to control circumstances, people, and outcomes.
I learned in that season that I’m not meant to be the super-hero. That’s God’s job and He’s more than capable.
And that little girl trying to walk in high heels? That’s one way to describe how I feel in this season, navigating some big life changes. We recently moved across the country after 23 years in the same house, same church, and same community. Now everything is different! I’m also on a huge learning curve in my career, and while I do consider myself a lifelong learner, it can be overwhelming at times. It’s been awhile since I’ve felt like an ‘expert,’ which is humbling. But I continue to cling to one of my favorite promises in God’s Word that says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6
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