Categories
Hope and a Prayer

Reach for Rain

I was recently inspired by this photograph on Twitter to write a poem. The poem led to a book. It’s amazing how quickly the words flew onto the pages. Inspiration will do that to you. The photograph is entitled, Reaching for Rain.

reaching-for-the-rain
Photo by Raymond Troumbly

Rain has been a literary symbol for sadness, rejection, or despair. But rain has also represented refreshment, hope, and is vital for life. The plants in the picture are drying out and appear to be reaching for refreshment from much needed rain. Even though they are dry they are still standing, still reaching.

The National Institute of Mental Health reports that an estimate of more than 2.8 million adolescents ages 12 to 17 suffered from a major depressive episode in 2013 (http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/prevalence/major-depression-among-adolescents.shtml). As a fourteen year teacher of junior high age students, I have seen firsthand the effects of depression on student academic performance, social relationships, family relationships, and their ability to cope during stressful situations. Many of them are like the plants in the picture–in desperate need of a refreshing rain called hope.

The book I’m working on is called Reaching for Rain and tells stories of how some young people have faced their depression and used creative ways to come out of the darkness.Not all children have unlimited support from family and they rely on members of the community in programs such as Big Brothers and Big Sisters, the Boys and Girls Clubs, and adults they encounter on a regular basis. Others find hope in reaching out to help the less fortunate while others overcome their personal darkness by creating works of art, performing on stage, and writing poetry, music, and inspiring stories.

The young people in Reaching for Rain learn to change their own lives through volunteering, discovering their personal talents, initiating community service projects, setting and achieving personal goals, and participating in youth groups at their local churches.

I wrote this book for young people because every year I meet some wonderful kids who are having a tough time dealing with life. Some of them suffer from medical conditions they have no control over. Others have broken school and society’s laws and need someone to give them a fresh start. There are other kids who appear to have everything they could ever want, but don’t know how to get along with others. Many young people try to find their identity in the friends they make or from celebrities. They believe if they try to be like the people they think have it together, life would be better. In reality, there really is no specific formula for making life better. There is no perfect life. The key to making life better is to never give up on hope.

Hope is like rain. Hope can refresh the dry places in life. Hope can restore lost faith. Hope can energize individuals to create something extraordinary. Hope can change someone’s outlook on life. Hope can ignite a passion that can flood a life with more possibilities than could ever be imagined.

Encourage the young people in your life reach for hope.

 

           Reach for Rain

Rain refreshes earth.
Rain recolors landscapes.
Rain washes windows.
Rain cools heat.
Rain replenishes ponds.
Rain inspires creativity.
          Rain brings hope.
                                                     Reach for rain.
By Ci Mosley

 

Categories
Hope and a Prayer

When Your Role Model is a Tree

I often encounter people who are looking for their purpose in life or they are wondering the next step in their lives. Many of them are really wondering if it’s time for them to move on. They are wondering if they need to walk away from a current relationship, a job, or a friendship that seems to be more draining than friendly. I’ve been in similar situations asking myself, “Why am I here?” “Is it worth it?” “I can do better than this, right?” I’ve been tempted to give up on my dreams or give up on people in my life. But every time I am tempted to quit or encounter someone who talks about giving up, I usually think about trees. I know. Weird, huh? I guess that’s why I often paint trees.

I started this painting earlier last week and left it to dry. For the next three days I walked by it and thought, “This needs something.” I couldn’t figure out what to add.20160918_151458 I rarely paint unless I feel inspired and when I do, I am either listening to worship music or there is a song playing in my thoughts. I left the painting alone until today.

This morning at church the minster used a mangrove tree as a metaphor in his message. He described the mangrove tree as an unusual tree that grows in unusual conditions. The tree grows in salt water, can survive strong winds from tropical weather, and when water levels are high from flooding or low in times of drought, it still stands. I was intrigued and Googled “mangrove tree” to look for pictures. I discovered that the tree has a strong root system and often times is the life source for new trees.

I was so inspired by the message that when I got home, I added mangrove trees to my painting. It’s amazing what God uses to teach us lessons. I don’t know if I have ever seen a mangrove tree, but I know that there is a lesson to learn from knowing about it.

20160918_201340-1The mangrove tree growing in salt waters makes me think of the negative people in our lives. Instead of letting them discourage us, let’s look at them as inspiration to count our blessings. The wind blowing on the trees makes me think of the negative self-talk we might have. Instead of thinking “this is impossible”, let’s remember that with God all things are possible to those who believe. When the wind blows on trees they aren’t silent, the branches and leaves are waving and making natural music.  We should listen for songs in the wind of the Holy Spirit in our lives and let’s remember to sing to the Lord during tough times. The root system is our memory. The roots continue to grow even in salty soil. The salt doesn’t kill the roots like it would in other trees. Instead of becoming bitter because of our pains and hurts, let’s use what we endure and overcome as a reminder of where we’ve been and remember to forgive those who may contribute to our difficulty. We must forgive in order to be forgiven (Matthew 6:15). Having a root of bitterness can hinder our growth. Finally, the water levels are our life situations. There are times when it seems like one stressful thing after another comes upon us. We feel overwhelmed or like we are drowning. Then there are other times when we feel lonely or abandoned. We may even feel left out when others seem to be enjoying their season of blessing. I’m thinking that the branches of the mangrove tree are still stretched out during drought or flood, and so should we. We can always find a reason to praise the Lord. Let’s stretch out our hands in praise. This may be the only exercise some of us gets!

In closing, when we as Christians are facing difficult times, we need to remember that we have everything we need to overcome. God has provided us everything we need that pertains to life and godliness in Christ Jesus (2Peter 1:3). Instead or running from our difficulties or expecting to be rescued from them, there are times when we need to just stand and allow the Lord to do the work in us that fulfills His purpose for our lives.

I pray that your week will be blessed, that your leaves do not wither, and that you bring forth much fruit. I also pray that the love of God will be in you always and that you love others with that same love.

Have a great week!

Categories
Hope and a Prayer

Peace in the Storm

Krysta entered her cabin and shivered. The rain had started again and she was soaked. “I think I will start a fire,” she said aloud as she started to peel off the wet clothes. She changed and took a long hot bath before curling up in a chair near the warming fireplace. She picked up Hope and a Prayer and began reading My Heart’s Desire again.

Cici folded the last of the towels and put them away. The house was quiet except for the low volume of the television. Andy and the kids were in bed asleep. Cici usually stayed up just a little later than the family so that she could have a few minutes alone with God. As she sat down to Cynthia Heald’s Becoming a Woman of Excellence workbook and prayer time, she began to think about her concerns. She had approached Andy about having another child last week, but he didn’t want the responsibility of a baby at the time. Tessa was their first born and they adopted six year old David when she was five. They now had two school age children and Cici longed to have another baby. However, it takes a couple to make a baby and Cici respected Andy’s feelings on the issue. He did offer a compromise in the form of adopting another older child. So Cici added that to her prayer list.

Cici picked up the remote to switch off the television when the news cast announced that a newborn baby had been found in a dumpster near their neighborhood. Cici’s heart broke. She couldn’t believe that someone could toss a baby away like that. Cici immediately went to her knees and began to pray for the mother and the baby. She told God that if He wanted her to raise other people’s children, then she would gladly reach out to an older child. Cici wept for the baby whose mother threw her away and she wept for the baby she wanted.

For the next few weeks Andy and Cici worked on updating adoption papers. Since David’s adoption was finalized only months before, they could forego most of the adoption red tape.  They held a family meeting with David and Tessa to hear their thoughts about adopting more children. They thought it would be a great idea.

One Wednesday night during the following weeks, Cici’s Bible study group leader, Mrs. Christian, announced that Baby Noel had visited her office. She told the group that Baby Noel is the baby who was abandoned in the dumpster in December. Mrs. Christian worked at a social service agency and Baby Noel’s case worker was in the office showing her off. She shared that they were having a difficult time finding a family to adopt. Lack of family background information and unknown medical history kept couples away. Group members began to comment about their disbelief that someone would not want to adopt an innocent baby. “I would take her in a heartbeat, if I could get my husband to agree,” Cici chimed in. “I cannot believe she is still not placed.”

The following Thursday evening, Cici found a message in her mailbox at work from Mrs. Smith at the adoption agency. At first Cici didn’t recognize the name, but she did recognize the telephone number. When she got home, she asked Andy if he recognized the name, he told her Mrs. Smith had called him as well. “She had called to see if we would consider adopting Baby Noel,” he explained.

“What did you say to her?” Cici gasped.

“I told her we would talk about it,” he chuckled amused at her reaction.

“Well, we just talked about it. What is your answer?” Cici exclaimed.

“If you really want to, I think it would be a great idea. Mrs. Smith said to call her in the morning with our decision.”

“Thank you, thank you, thank you!” Cici clapped her hands, hugged and kissed Andy, then hurriedly went to find a piece of paper to begin making a list of all the baby things they would need.

The next morning Cici called Mrs. Smith as soon as she thought the agency was taking calls. Mrs. Smith scheduled an appointment for them that afternoon. During their Friday meeting, they learned about Baby Noel’s health and lack of background information. Mrs. Smith arranged a meeting for the family to meet Noel on Monday and advised they could take her home if we wanted to after meeting her. There was no doubt in Cici’s mind she would be the mother of that sweet little baby Monday afternoon.

The weekend passed quickly with the family shopping and stocking up on baby items. On Monday afternoon Cici held her breath as Noel’s foster mother brought her into the living room. She was beautiful. She looked so much like Cici’s baby sister did when she was a baby. When Cici took her into her arms, she knew that God had given her the desires of her heart. Noel snuggled into Cici’s arms and her heart. She instantly became a member of the family.

Categories
Hope and a Prayer

Tea and Leaves

Eli returned to the table with two hot mugs of tea. “Since I don’t know what you take in your tea, I brought some packets of sweetener.”

“Thank you. I take a little sugar. I am a Southern lady after all.” Krysta smiled and began to sweeten her tea. “This view is amazing. Are you writing about vacationing here?”

“No, I’m writing a novel about looking for love.” Eli watched Krysta’s face to gauge her reaction.

“Well, that sounds interesting. Are you writing about personal experiences or is it a fiction?” Krysta asked. She began to feel uncomfortable because she was not wearing her wedding band. She usually wore a band to discourage potential love interests. She was a widow with three young children.  “The last thing I need is a new relationship,” she thought.

“You could say a little bit of both. I have pursued numerous relationships that have failed for some reason or another and decided to write a novel about my experiences. I have incorporated places I have visited and created fictitious characters based on some of the women in my past. I’m also incorporating some ideas from other men I know with similar experiences,” Eli explained.

“Sounds like this might be a good book to read. I love to read.”

“Oh, what types of books do you like to read?”

“First, my Bible. Then I read Christian living books, spiritual growth books, and I’m almost embarrassed to say I read historical romance novels.” Krysta smiled into her cup of tea.

“Really? Why feel embarrassed about what you like to read. I have read some very good historical romance books. Who are your favorite authors?”

“If you were to peek at my book shelves and eReader apps, you will find I read almost everybody. Reading Cynthia Heald, T. D. Jakes, Charles Stanley, Cindy Jacobs, Jack Deere, Henry & Richard Blackaby, and Liz Curtis Higgs changed my life.”

“Wow, what a diverse group of Christian leaders — Experiencing God to laughing your head off with Higgs. I like that. Have you read anything by Ever Faith?”

“Yes! I recently bought Hope and a Prayer. I just started and I love it so far. Do you know her?”

“Him. Yes, I know him very well.” Eli smiled, wiggling his eyebrows.

“Him? Are you Ever Faith?” Krysta squealed.

“Yes, guilty.”

“Oh, I get so much out of that book. I love how you are sharing people’s faith stories.”

“What is your favorite so far?”

“I have to say My Heart’s Desire. What a wonderful story about God answering prayer.  I just finished that one this morning.” Krysta sighed. “God is so wonderful. Is that a true story?”

“Yes, I know the family very well. You know, when you think about it, everyone has a story to tell about what God has done for them. They may not know how to share it creatively, but everyone has a story.”

“You’re right. I’m glad you figured out a way to share the ones I’ve read so far. I’m feeling less depressed.”

“Why are you depressed?”

“My best friend died about ten months ago. It was unexpected. We did everything together. Her birthday is tomorrow and I decided to take a trip like we had planned this year. She would be turning thirty and we were going to celebrate all weekend. We would not have chosen this place, but I wanted to be alone. I chose a place close enough from home to drive instead of flying off to some tropical paradise.”

Eli listened attentively as Krysta described her friendship with Shakyra and some of their adventures when they graduated from high school. “So, what is your faith story?” He asked when she finished.

“Which one?”

“You said reading your list of authors changed your life. What did you mean by that?”

“Oh, that’s easy. One day I was visiting a small Christian book store in San Diego looking for a Bible study. Someone had given me a book about being a Proverbs 31 lady and I laughed and thought, “Who could do all of that?” After I finished the book, I was hungry for more.  I can still remember standing and spinning a rack of books when found Becoming a Woman of Excellence. I figured I might as well go for it. I learned so much about myself and what God really expected from me. It was life changing. What impressed me the most is learning that Jesus prayed for me long before I was born. It doesn’t matter what I’ve gone through, I keep remembering He is with me and I am not alone.”

“So why did you say you came here to be alone?”

“Because, I know I’m not really alone. I came here to get some direction from God about what I am to do next. I recently finished college and I know that I have something more to do than what I’m doing right now. Coming here is meant to be the beginning of what lies ahead. Does that make sense?”

“Yes, it does.” Eli and Krysta sat quietly and watched a pontoon carrying a family glide across the lake. They watched as the family chatted and took pictures of the fall foliage reflecting on the lake.

Krysta stood up to leave and said, “Sitting here by this lake reminds me that we are always transitioning. We really are like the trees planted by rivers of water in Psalms 1. Thank you for sharing this spot with me. I’d better head back to my cabin.”

“You’re welcome to visit this spot while you’re here. I hope I get a chance to see you again before you leave. I enjoyed your company.”

“We’ll see. Thank you for the tea and I look forward to reading your new novel.” They shook hands and Krysta returned to the trail leading to her cabin. Eli watched as Krysta disappeared into the trees and thought, “Yes, I’m looking forward to meeting you again, pretty lady. I wonder if you will be the final chapter in Looking for Love.”

Categories
Hope and a Prayer

Hope and A Prayer

Krysta sat at the dining room table overlooking a glistening lake in the mountains of Arkansas. She sighed as rain tapped on the red and gold leaves of the oak trees that overshadowed the stone lined walking trail leading to the lake. It was raining on her mini vacation and she was content. “I needed this.” Nothing but peace and quiet for three days. Krysta decided to treat herself to an autumn getaway at a resort on the outskirts of Hot Springs, Arkansas in hopes of shaking the heaviness of depression at the loss of her best friend of twenty years. It had been almost year, and this weekend would have been filled with the girlfriends celebrating Shakyra’s thirtieth birthday. But Shakyra was gone. A blood clot had claimed the one friend she had shared her most intimate secrets and dreams. “I can do this. I have to keep living and not let the end of our journey end my life,” she thought as she pulled on her rain jacket and rubber boots to hike to the lake.

She loved walking and meditating in the woods. “Lord, I know you have Shakyra now, but I miss her so much.” She whispered as she slowly descended the steps of her cabin. The rain had stopped, but droplets fell from the leaves sketching trails of water down her jacket. “You gave me Shakyra and I thank you for our friendship. What do you want me to learn from this experience? I am here this weekend to be with You. I want to know Your plan for the next journey in my life.” As she approached the lake, Krysta spotted a covered pier occupied by a café style table and two chairs. She looked around to see if there was a cabin nearby before deciding to sit down to admire the picturesque scenery surrounding the lake. Since there was no sight of a cabin or people, Krysta sat down and inhaled deeply, “Lord, this is so beautiful. Shakyra would have loved it here. She would have gotten bored in just a few minutes, but she would like to have her picture made here. Thank you for drawing me to this place. You paint a very pretty picture, Lord.” She smiled and said, “I would name a painting of this place Peace.”

“So would I,” a deep voice startled Krysta. She jumped from her seat. Standing at the rail a few feet away stood the most handsome man Krysta had ever seen. His ruddy complexion was highlighted by his auburn hair and dark eyes. He wore a blue plaid shirt which hung untucked at the waist of his jeans. He smiled a crooked smile and lifted an eyebrow. “I hope I didn’t scare you. I saw you sit down and thought I would come to see if I could be of assistance. I’m staying at the top of the hill there.” He pointed to the trail leading way from the pier.

“I am so sorry. I didn’t mean to trespass. It just looked so inviting.” Krysta apologized and began to walk towards the trail.

“You don’t have to leave. Please stay and enjoy the view. My name is Eli.” He extended his hand for a handshake.

“I’m Krysta and thank you,” Krysta shook Eli’s hand and noted the contrast of softness and strength in his shake. “I don’t want to intrude.”

“You aren’t intruding. I am renting the cabin and the pier comes with it. Frankly, I would love to have someone to talk to right now. I have been here for a month and you are the first person I have encountered other than the people at the store when I go buy supplies.”

“You’ve been here for a month. That’s a long time to be away from home. Don’t you miss your family?”

“I miss my parents, but they are enjoying their retirement in Arizona. I’m not married and have no children. I live in San Diego, but I travel a lot for work.”

“Oh, what kind of work do you do? If you don’t mind me asking.”

“I’m an author. I write for magazines and I am currently working on a novel. I came here for the solitude. Too many distractions at home and on the road.”

“And here I am intruding on your seclusion.”

“You are not intruding, believe me. I was just thinking I needed to have a conversation with a human before writer’s block sent me into depression.” He smiled. “Please sit. Can I bring you something to drink, like a cup of coffee, tea, a glass of wine?”

“A cup of hot tea would be great.”

“Wonderful, I will return shortly. Enjoy the view.” Eli hurried up the hill to his cabin. “Well, that was fast, Lord. When I asked for some company, I didn’t expect such a lovely answer so quickly,” he thought as he heated a mug of water in the microwave for tea.

 

When I started writing at the beginning of this week, several thoughts came to mind. I really enjoyed writing the hope stories and felt drawn to writing about answers to prayers. Hope and A Prayer is the introduction to a novel that is turning over in my mind. We all know that God doesn’t always answer prayer as quickly as we would like to. But over the next few weeks I am going to share stories of prayers I have witnessed God answer. Eli and Krysta are starting a journey together and will narrate stories of answered prayers. I invite you to and I hope you feel free to share your stories of answered prayers in the comments on this page. Psalms 34:1 says, “I will bless the Lord at all times, His praise shall continually be in my mouth.” I believe we praise Him when we acknowledge that He is the answer and solution to every victory in our lives.