When I moved to Northern Illinois from the South were I was born and raised, one of the biggest surprises (besides the snow not melting for weeks at a time) was that so many people preferred the colder weather. They had snow mobiles, ski lift tickets, and ice skates. One friend even had snow shoes like the old mountain trappers wear in the movies! Then when things finally began to thaw in June, we had friends who fled north to Michigan to escape the “hot” summer months. I was completely shocked. Some folks like cold weather.
Wasn’t that awfully nice of God to provide so many different ways of living so we could each discover where we fit best? In the desert, beside a mountain stream, toes in the sand or layered in wool socks on a snowy hike, God puts it all out there before us. He understands we don’t all like the same things and even when we do like the same things, we like them in different ways. A snowy hill might be perfect to ski or just watch from beside the fire with a mug of hot chocolate.
And I believe he uses all these differences to pull us each to him. To fill our hearts and senses with a wonder that draws us to search for him. That longing can only be filled by him, but it seems to be expressed in so many different ways. As I grew up and raised my kids, my heart turned time and time again to the ones who had no experience of God. Who hadn’t turned away from him, but had no idea there was anything to turn towards. They’d never entertained the idea of there actually being anyone, or anything, bigger than what they see around them. People who basked in nature’s beauty and explored the heights and depths of this magnificent world. Who loved and enjoyed being human, with all the emotions and physical abilities. Yet they credited it all to, well, to nothing really. Until… And when I would see the awakening in a person’s eyes that there might possibly be a God behind all this? Well, that sparked a flame in my heart.
As a believer, I know there is so much to God’s story. So many parts of it to tell and share. I believe at this time my part is aid in the awakening of the many who aren’t looking. To help them form those first questions: What if there really is a God? What would that look like? What would it mean to me and my life?
So, that’s where my story in Chancey finds a bit of its grounding. Along with the differences between suburb and small town, and north and south, there’s believing in something more than what my characters see and not believing what they can’t touch.
Carolina is very much a here and now person. She’s a person who likes to maintain things at a steady pace and keep it all under control. She’s managed to do this in her life up to this point, then one slip and it’s all out of whack. But not completely out of whack. Just enough out of whack that she has to readjust her thinking. Can I live with a ghost? What happens in my marriage if I’m tempted? If I let people in a little bit, can I keep them out when I want to? Why are things changing? How did I let things change? And how do I change things back?
God loves every person. God wants every person to love him. God made us all different and created so many ways in which we express those differences. Many are raised to see God from the very beginning and never look elsewhere, although often we decide the God of our childhood isn’t all he’s cracked up to be and we search elsewhere. But for others, their first glimpse of him comes in the eyes of their child or in a sunset. Some only find him in the midst of darkness and despair.
Then there are those that find the beginnings of belief in the words of a story, even if they don’t realize it because they are busy enjoying the words on the page.
I’m grateful God has a use for each of our experiences. To be able to tell my funny stories of a little town in the Georgia Mountains is a grand blessing. For God to let me use them to possibly introduce him, is even better!
“A new voice in Southern Fiction” is how a recent reviewer labels Kay Dew Shostak’s debut novel, Next Stop, Chancey. Kay grew up in the South and graduated from the University of Tennessee. She then joined her husband moving around the country as they raised their three children. Always a reader, being a writer was a dream she cultivated as a journalist and editor at a small town newspaper in northern Illinois. After moving to Marietta, Georgia, Kay submitted several true life stories which appeared in a number of compilation books over the next ten years. In 2011, she and her husband, Mike, moved to Fernandina Beach, Florida for Mike’s job.
Seeing the familiar and loved from new perspectives led Kay to write about the absurd, the beautiful, and the funny in her South in both her fiction and non-fiction. While Next Stop, Chancey is her debut novel, she has completed two more in the series and is working on the fourth book. Chancey Book number 2: Chancey Family Lies is now available.
About Next Stop, Chancey:
Looking in your teenage daughter’s purse is never a good idea. When Carolina does, she ends up accidentally selling their home in her beloved Atlanta suburbs to move into her husbands dream home. It’s a big, old house beside a railroad bridge in a small Georgia town. And now he dreams of her opening a B&B for Railroad buffs while he’s off doing his day job. Carolina’s dislike of actually saying “No” leaves an opening for the town bully who wears a lavender skirt and white gloves. Soon, of course, Carolina is opening the B&B with the aid of the entire town of Chancey, Georgia, and it all makes her hate small towns even more than when she was growing up in one. And did I mention there’s a ghost? Yeah, teenagers, trains, and a ghost. This stuff didn’t happen in the suburbs.
Another Great Read by Kay Dew Shostak: Chancey Family Lies:
Carolina is determined her first holiday season as a stay-at-home mom will be perfect. However …
Twelve kids from college (and one nobody seems to know)
Eleven chili dinners (Why do we always need to feed a crowd?)
Ten dozen fake birds (cardinals, no less)
Nine hours without power (but lots of stranded guests)
Eight angry council members (Wait, where’s the town’s money?)
Seven trains a-blowin’ (all the time. All. The. Time).
Six weeks with relatives (six weeks!!)
Five plotting teens (Again, who is that girl?)
Four in-laws staying (and staying, and staying …)
Three dogs a-barking (Who brought the dogs?)
Two big ol’ secrets (and they ain’t wrapped in ribbons under the three, either)
And the perfect season gone with the wind.