By KATIE EUBANKS and MARILYN TINNIN
Twenty years ago this month, Marilyn Tinnin launched a little monthly newsprint magazine called Jackson Christian Family. Today that publication has morphed into not just a magazine, but a scholarship program, a growing digital and social media presence, a yearly women’s retreat, and so much more. Marilyn and current MCL Editor Katie Eubanks look back on God’s provision over the last two decades.
It is no exaggeration to say that Mississippi Christian Living, originally Jackson Christian Family, began because of my mid-life crisis. It is also no exaggeration to admit everything I knew about writing and publishing I learned in kindergarten, or rather at the age when most children attend kindergarten.
While my contemporaries were eating popsicles and learning their ABCs, my mother, a string reporter for several regional newspapers, was driving around the dusty Delta, with pen and pad in hand, scribbling out human interest stories on an array of local characters. Her preschooler rode shotgun beside her without a seatbelt or car seat and lived to tell about it. I loved watching my mother interview, and my heart, like hers, was in telling other people’s stories. And yet, I did not pursue journalism at all in college. What independent 18-year-old wants to become their mother?
It was not until 2002, when I faced the emotional void of an empty nest, that the idea of a Christian lifestyle magazine came to my mind. I did not give a prudent thought to my lack of credentials or business savvy.
If I had truly known the ins and outs of publishing a magazine, I would have been too fearful to attempt it. My father, famous for his quick wit, often said, “God takes care of orphans and fools.” There were probably many who put this midlife ex-soccer mom in the second category.
But God did indeed bless my efforts, a fact that affirms my belief that He equips those He calls. I was willing to work hard, but it was the Lord who day after day showed up and brought the advertising support, along with the talented pool of contributors, photographers, salespeople and administrative help that walked with me for 17 years.
Relationships have always been the strength of Mississippi Christian Living. Mark Twain’s advice to writers was, “Write what you know.” What I knew was small town warmth, traditional faith and family values, America, and apple pie. I smile remembering how naïve and unsophisticated I was, but our stories resonated with a loyal audience. The world was on the cusp of a virtual and digital age, but there was still a hunger for personal connection. I like to think we encouraged our readers with positive information, inspiring testimonies of overcomers, and reminders of the difference a relationship with the Lord makes in one’s life.
When I was a high-school senior, my creative writing teacher made me editor of our literary magazine, and I have been in love ever since. Give me any set of words and pictures, and I will want to see them laid out on a printed page.
I actually tried to get a job at what was then Metro Christian Living in 2010, after graduating college. Marilyn didn’t have a place for me then — but God provided other opportunities that wound up preparing me for when she reached out in 2018 and asked if I wanted to buy the business!
My dad, who worked his way up from nothing and knows the power of saving a dollar (or several), bought the business for me. Just before Labor Day 2018, thanks to God’s ridiculous grace, I became the owner of Mississippi Christian Living.
That weekend, I attended a Christian leadership retreat in the Oregon desert. While in a van in the middle of nowhere, I got a call: MCL’s September edition would arrive at our storage unit late. I eeked out a few texts to the delivery drivers — and then immediately lost all cell service. I prayed, “You’ve got it, God!”
Nearly four years later, 20 years after the magazine began, He’s still “got it.” He has proved His faithfulness over and over, and has taught me so much about relying on Him, seeking godly counsel, and deriving my worth from the cross — not from my “performance” as a business owner.
I hope God has impacted your life through MCL as much as He has mine, and I’m so excited to see where He takes us next! Here’s to 20 more years!
MCL through the years: Memorable covers and cover stories
Marilyn looks back
Premier issue with Bill Buckner and family, July 2003
The late Bill Buckner, legendary state director of the Mississippi Fellowship of Christian Athletes, was a friend, a mentor, and a former employer. His story set the tone for all the cover stories that followed. Gridiron fans of the 1960s and 1970s remembered his football career, but few knew that behind his outward success were quite a few broken dreams and disappointments. His transparency sent the message that what was then Jackson Christian Family would be about real people in a fallen world and the hope that is found in Jesus Christ.
Kathy Thibodeaux, December 2003
Ballet Magnificat! was approaching its 20th anniversary. Kathy and I strolled through the large facility she had turned into an impressive headquarters for the world’s first professional Christian ballet company. Ballerinas of all ages practiced their plies and pirouettes under the tutelage of seasoned performers, and contemporary Christian music echoed faintly through the hallway. The story of how God took Kathy’s talent and used it to bring multitudes of believers into His kingdom is one that should never be forgotten.
William and Elise Winter, May 2004
As usual, I was nervous as I crossed the porch and rang the doorbell at the front door of former Gov. and Mrs. Winter’s Jackson home. I also had the sense that they were having second thoughts. The magazine was relatively new. If they had done any research at all, they knew my parents had not been William Winter fans. Although warm, they were guarded in their responses at first. It was their adorable schnauzer that broke the ice. Karla Pound, my photographer, insisted we put the dog in the cover photo. The dog posed perfectly. Something about focusing on the dog made us all relax! It was a great interview and a memorable cover!
Pat Fordice, May 2005
Mississippi First Lady Pat Fordice greeted me in pink curlers the afternoon of our interview. Although she confessed to having written the wrong date in her calendar, she invited me in — embarrassed but gracious. We did the interview and returned a few days later to take the cover photo. Her story involved a fairytale marriage that wasn’t, and that beautiful silver-haired lady was candid, classy, and oh so real.
Boo Ferriss, June 2005
Boston Red Sox pitcher and long-time Delta State baseball coach Boo Ferriss had been a celebrity hero to me for as long as I could remember. Although a shoulder injury had sidelined his dreams, his strong faith in God never wavered. He was still answering fan letters that he received on a daily basis over 50 years after he made headlines as an athlete. He was the epitome of all that was best about the Greatest Generation.
Going independent and changing the name, June 2006
2006 was a defining moment for many reasons. Jackson Christian Family had been an affiliate of a Birmingham parent company in its first four years. When the leadership transitioned to a different business model, I chose to become independent, thus requiring a name change for the magazine. We had morphed beyond the city limits and were much more of a tri-county publication. Sandra Goff, our graphic designer, suggested the new name. With fear and trembling, we launched. A sidenote of interest: I launched the new name in the middle of breast cancer and divorce — a very upside-down time in my life.
Judge James Graves, September 2006
Now a member of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, Judge Graves was a Mississippi Supreme Court justice in 2006. His story included a close-knit family and a dad who worked two jobs to support his wife and six children, and who made sure nobody took a bite of breakfast until he recited a memorized Bible verse on Sunday mornings. Judge Graves, too, was a committed husband and father who prioritized transferring his father’s values to his sons. He is a brilliant jurist, but there was nothing pretentious about him. He was funny, gregarious, and loved a pickup game of basketball or concocting his original recipes in the family kitchen.
Wendy Putt, May 2007
“A Bride’s Best Friend,” the cover’s title, was true then, and it is still true all these years later. Wendy, the CEO of Fresh Cut Catering and Floral, is the poster child for Matthew 5:13-14, when Jesus speaks of being salt and light in the world. She makes wedding dreams come true regardless of a bride’s budget, but along the way, she takes seriously the opportunity to point a starry-eyed couple to the only steadfast anchor for their life together.
Robert Khayat, August 2007
I remember being a nervous wreck the day I was meeting Robert Khayat at UMMC for our interview. It was 2007, and his leadership at Ole Miss had made him quite a rock star. I could not have been more intimidated as I headed to meet him. He was real. He was gracious. He was fun, and he was wise. I made a lifelong friend that day. I interviewed him again in 2015. Although retired, he was the same faith-filled, down-to-earth guy. I incorporated his prayer outline into my life. He prays every day for wisdom, courage, energy, and peace. Yes.
Sister Dorothea, February 2009
Sister Dorothea was a complete surprise. Presbyterian that I am, I was just not sure how I might connect to this Roman Catholic icon, the face of St. Dominic Hospital and its myriad health services. Meeting Queen Elizabeth was about the only thing I could imagine as more daunting. Instead, I met a warm forever friend with a great sense of humor. I immediately loved her and knew that we loved the same Lord. She has been the guiding force behind much generosity from St. Dominic’s to the surrounding community.
Changing the name (again!), May 2014
The magazine continued to travel in those first 10 or 12 years. We were picking up subscribers from all over the state, and when we paid for a reputable survey on readership, we discovered a much larger audience beyond our metro area. A knowledgeable marketing executive looked at the data and advised us to go statewide — hence the name change to Mississippi Christian Living. It was always a challenge to go into new cities, simply because we were so small in staff, but we gave it our best and made many friends. We also found many inspiring stories along the way. The culture, even here in the Bible Belt, continues to change. It is a daily prayer that God shows this little magazine how to be a conduit of truth and encouragement to all who read it.
This issue was one of my favorites and one of our most popular issues ever. By 2017, secularism was entrenched in our culture and there was a hyper-sensitive demand for leaving Christian conversation out of the public square. We thought it would be worthwhile to give prominent church leaders a platform to speak freely about the challenges they anticipated in the current environment. It was encouraging to see amid much diversity, there was a great sense of unity in belief. The gospel is still the great remedy for society’s ills on every level.
Katie looks back
John Perkins, January 2019
Oh my word, I love this cover so much! Sometimes the traditional, look-at-the-camera-and-smile pose is wonderful, but in this case, a candid shot from my interview with Dr. John Perkins was so much better. If you don’t know about Dr. Perkins’ legacy, I would encourage you to search “John Perkins” on our website and read the story. If you’ve ever heard Switchfoot’s 2009 song “The Sound (John M. Perkins’ Blues),” the band sums him up pretty well: “John Perkins said it right / Love is the final fight.”
Maggie Wade, February 2019
I think everyone who gets to know Maggie, even just for an article, comes away feeling like her best friend. I certainly did. Her notoriously media-shy husband, André, was perfectly willing to share hilarious stories about his wife, and their chemistry together was undeniable. Maggie is just as sweet as she seems on WLBT, and I loved getting to know her better.
Christy Henderson, April 2019
When I interviewed Pinelake pastor Chip Henderson’s wife about her mental health journey, I was dealing with a bit of a crisis myself — to the point that I got emotional after our interview. Instead of backing away slowly, Christy reached out in genuine concern and prayed for me on the spot. She is the real deal. And I wasn’t the only one impacted: Later, I ran into a man whose niece sought help after reading this article.
Jill Ford, May 2020
Ah, COVID. What you might not know about this beautiful shot of state representative Jill Ford and her husband is that we did not shoot it. We planned to photograph Jill in the House chamber at the state capitol, but around that time, the governor issued COVID restrictions. Fortunately, the Fords had just had some gorgeous family portraits done. Also, read Jill’s story if you haven’t. She doesn’t hold back!
Betsy Primos, September 2020
This is one of my favorite cover shots — and stories — ever. Three women let me into their lives and shared the most painful memories any mother could have: losing their sons to suicide. Betsy Primos, Janet Ingram, and Kysia Owens each explained how they’ve found hope in the aftermath, and how they want to help other young people. When we photographed Betsy in one of her late son’s favorite outdoor spots, she played “There Was Jesus” by Zach Williams and Dolly Parton on her phone, and the results were perfect.
The new logo, January 2021
Y’all, I love our new logo! I still say “new,” even though the Braddys’ son has shot up half a foot since we debuted the logo more than a year and a half ago. I wanted to be sure we had a clean background that would make our new graphic stand out, and Broadmoor Baptist Church turned out to be the perfect place. Not to mention, the honesty and vulnerability displayed by the Braddys in this interview prompted me to visit Broadmoor, and I’m now a member! PS: Many thanks to Noble Motive Graphic and Web Design for making the words “Mississippi Christian Living” look better than ever.
How MCL has made an impact
Here are the words of just a few readers, writers and others who’ve been impacted by Mississippi Christian Living.
“I just wanted to say thank you so much for putting on the ‘Christian Leaders of the Future’ event each year and for choosing me to be a part. You will never know how much this has blessed me, and I am so grateful for you and everyone who helps to put on this event. I don’t take being awarded the scholarship lightly and feel more encouraged than ever to spread the light of Christ (every day) because of it! By God’s grace, I will do everything I can to strive to live up to the investment you’ve made in me. Please extend my gratitude to everyone on the committee and the others who worked with you!” – JM Holmes, 2022 Christian Leaders of the Future scholarship recipient
“I love your magazines. I love reading the feature stories of various people and their backgrounds and how God (has) blessed them in many ways. I am hearing impaired. I lost my hearing to a childhood illness. I faced many challenges like school … I have (a) high school diploma, a BS from Southern Miss, and a master’s degree in Christian education. (I) will never give up because God is always there (to) help me get through. Thank you for (the) wonderful magazines.” – Nicole Duckworth Pounders, reader
“The opportunity to step into stories of life change, heartache (and) triumph, motherhood and every life stage in between is perhaps one of the greatest gifts that Christ has given us this side of heaven. Jesus was a storyteller throughout the New Testament … stories connect us to the greater message of Hope, and MCL has been bringing Hope to the people of Mississippi each month. Thank you for sharing our stories, MCL!” – Libbo Crosswhite, reader and former “Modern Motherhood” columnist
“Terry Grove Missionary Baptist Church … has been receiving (Mississippi) Christian Living Magazine since 2011. We were honored to have a submission in the magazine during the building of our new church in 2012, and we have been blessed with the wealth of Christian-filled information, topics and articles that have not only touched my heart as a pastor, but the hearts of our entire congregation. I want to give a heartfelt thanks to Ms. Robin Latham and Ms. Valree Jennings for their tireless dedication to initially connecting us with the (magazine), as well as getting it delivered to our church.” – Pastor Dion Porter
“As a Christian business owner in Jackson and Madison, I try to use Christian businesses whenever possible. One of our favorite Christian businesses to read and support with our marketing budget is Mississippi Christian Living. I’m very comfortable placing this magazine in our reception rooms. It’s hard to believe it’s been 20 years since Marilyn put that first magazine out — and when Katie bought the magazine from Marilyn, it was a ‘God thing’! The Savior is glorified in each edition of MCL, and the magazines are free to pick up, as the budget is completely from advertising dollars. Pick up several for your office, to send to out-of-town friends, and to take to nursing homes, hospital waiting rooms and your churches! It is great to know my marketing dollars are supporting a God-honoring company!” – Dr. Eugene Brown, Smiles By Design