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A Prayer for the Beloved

Bless Your people, O Lord.
Touch them with Your love.
Remind them they are Your children
The apple of Your eye.

Restore what was lost.
Revive what seems dead.
Speak peace in their storms,
Answer prayers, and hear their cry.

Open their eyes and hearts.
Prepare them for Your glory.
Bring to their remembrance
Your kingdom is nigh.

Your people need You, Lord.
Apart from You they are lost,
Thirsty, and dry for the blessed promise
All needs You will supply.

Your people are watching and waiting, Abba Father.
You’re their only hope for salvation.
Come abide within them
As they call upon You, Our Adonai.

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Psalm 18:3 

I will call upon Jehovah, who is worthy to be praised: So shall I be saved from mine enemies.

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Bible Verses Christianity Devotional Difficult Times Encouragement Faith Hope Hope and a Prayer Inspiration Jesus Loneliness Love Ministry and Inspiration Poetry

This is Living: Poetry for Dry Bones

I woke up this morning feeling that there are many who need encouragement. If you feel lonely, afraid, or just need someone to understand during a difficult time, I pray that you find your life refreshed today with the Spirit of the Most High God.

This is Living

“I am the creator of all things. Is there anything too hard for me?” God. (Jeremiah 32:27)

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Uncluttered Part 13: Rest, Reflect, & Refresh

My favorite thing about the weekend is I get to rest, reflect, and refresh. When Monday comes I am ready to start again. This weekend during my reflections, I was reminded of conversations with several people who want to see changes in their life but they don’t know how to start.

I believe that we can apply my 3R’s for a great weekend to making changes that we desire in our lives.

Rest

The process for change requires us to rest.  We need to rest from worry, stress, self recrimination, unforgiveness, and the pressures we place on ourselves to be perfect. Resting helps us quiet our minds and gain new perspective.

What is causing us stress? What makes us doubtful of our worthiness to have something better, to dream for a higher call? What grudges are we clinging to that stifles our personal growth? Who are we comparing ourselves to that makes us feel we don’t measure up?

Choosing to rest and let go of everything can help us discover God’s plan for our lives. God intended us to rest. He even gave an commandment for it (Exodus 23:12). Jesus says we can come to Him and He will give us rest (Matthew 11:28 – 30).  Meditating on these words places us in the position to get a fresh look at ourselves and opens the door for reflection.

Reflect

Reflection is a proven strategy to winning battles, learning new skills, and creating something new. There are numerous studies on reflective practices. Experts tell us to use reflection in business, education, and our personal lives when success is our goal. Reflection is also essential for our personal and spiritual growth. Throop (Christianity Today) encourages a reflective approach to learning what the bible says about our lives, our faith, and our purpose.

When we reflect about what we have accomplished, where we’ve been, and our hopes for the future, we can begin setting goals for what comes next. This leads us to a greater sense of purpose and helps us face what lies ahead refreshed and ready to make the changes we want to see.

Refresh

Refreshed doesn’t always mean completely rested, it means we have a new perspective on our lives, our plans, and our dreams. Dictionary.com defines refresh as providing vigor and new energy, stimulating, making fresh again, or refreshing appearance. I really love that they have added this computer definition:

  1. to access (the most recent version of a webpage) from the Internet instead of from the cache:
  2. to display (an image) repeatedly, as on a CRT, in order to prevent fading.
  3. to read and write (the contents of dynamic storage) at intervals in order to avoid loss of data.

I believe the computer definition applies to this message. Do you know the world longs to have access to the latest version of you? You refreshed can bless the world around you. You refreshed can display the love of Christ in your own unique way. You refreshed know when you need to return to the states of rest and reflection so that you don’t lose momentum. You refreshed can see yourself in a new light and appreciate the process of change.

Remember the 3R’s for a great weekend can be applied to  your personal relationships, your work life, and your dreams. Everyone has the power to change. We are never without hope for something better when we intentionally look at where we are and set our minds to making things different.

As this weekend comes to an end, I pray that you have rest, that your reflections lead you to the life Christ paid the price for you to have, and that you face the future refreshed with vigor and new energy.

Step Into a New Life

2 Corinthians 5:17  
Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he/she is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.

 

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Bible Verses Devotional Emotions Encouragement Hope Hope and a Prayer Inspiration Loneliness Love Ministry and Inspiration Poetry Prayer

Help Me Stand Tall

Grief is a strange inspiration, but today it is just that.

Tomorrow we will say “until we meet again” to a very sweet and loving family member who left us very suddenly. As I think about how my family is grieving, I am also thinking of the families in the UK where terror is falling like rain on them. It would be easy to lock ourselves away and give up if we succumb to sorrow, fear, and despair.

Instead, let’s choose to stand tall. To you who are grieving and are afraid of the terror, I pray that you will find comfort in this prayer that helped me through a dark time in my life. I pray that you will find the courage to stand tall.

In times of trials and testing,
Lord, help me stand tall.
When the way seems cloudy and my enemy's infesting,
Help me stand tall.
When I cannot seem to find victory and I feel despair,
Help me stand tall.
When I fall on my face beneath my burdens and care,
Help me stand tall.
When my focus grows dim and my enemy says, "Give in",
Help me stand tall.
When my heart is heavy and I feel discouraged within,
Help me stand tall. 

Lord, help me stand on Your truth.
That you are with me forever.
That I am not alone.
That nothing can separate me from Your love.
And You are not done.

Help me stand tall.
Isaiah 41 10
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When a Nation Prays Together

When a nation prays together
What differences would we see?
There would be more love
And less focus on what separates you from me.

When a nation prays together
What would happen to each child?
There would be less violence
And more hopeful, cheerful smiles.

When a nation prays together,
How many prisons would seize to exist?
There would be fewer desperate people
And deeper understanding about the crimes they commit.

A praying nation would change more lives.
There would be more cause for hope, more evidence of peace.
The world would begin a transformation
The hunger and devastation of negligence would seize.

Today is the National Day of Prayer.
God hears and sees each need.
He will respond to our cry and act
When a nation prays and believe.

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2 Chronicles 7:14-15 (NLV)
14 if My people who are called by My name put away their pride and pray, and look for My face, and turn from their sinful ways, then I will hear from heaven. I will forgive their sin, and will heal their land. 15 Now My eyes will be open. And My ears will hear the prayer that is made in this place.

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You are Here

I come to You silently.
You hear me.
I come to You in prayer.
You draw near me.
I speak to You in my heart.
You know me.
I ask for your guidance.
You show me.
I feel pain and get sick.
You heal me.
I ask You for truth.
You reveal me.
I make mistakes and fall short.
You love me.
I ask for Your presence.
You’re in, around, and above me.
I reach out to You.
You hold me.
I seek Your fellowship.
You enfold me.
No matter what I do
You are there.
No matter where I go
You are there.
No matter how late or how early
You are there.
Thank You for Your presence
And for always being here.

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Photograph Provided by: Vicki Massey

Psalms 139:7-10 (ESV)

Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me.

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Hope and a Prayer

Sadie’s Rain: Surviving Domestic Violence

             I knew something was terribly wrong. I’d been having the same bad dream off and on for two weeks. They weren’t just your typical bad dreams of being chased by monsters or spiders crawling up your arms. In these dreams I was caught up in one natural disaster after another. First I was sinking in a giant hole as the Earth shook in a 7.0 earthquake. Then a super vortex tornado lifted me out of my home. The last dream was an enormous tsunami rising high over the house and washing my family away. As I turned the corner leading down the street to my home I could see three police cars parked in front of my house. “Great,” I thought.

I slowly approached the house and saw my little brothers and sister sitting on the curb with a female police officer. Katie was crying. Davie and Jonnie each had an arm around her shoulders. They were always protective of six year old Katie. Davie was nine and Jonnie was ten. I’m the oldest of my parents’ four children. I was fifteen at the time and was pretty much in charge of looking out for my siblings. “Hey, guys, what’s going on?” I asked.

The police officer stood up and introduced herself, “Hi, I’m Officer English. You must be Sadie.” She extended her hand for a handshake.

“Yes, ma’am. I’m Sadie. What’s happening?” I asked offering a limp handshake.

“Well, Sadie, there was an incident here today. Your dad was shot and taken to the hospital.” As she was talking to me she kept an eye on my brothers and sister. Then she started leading me a few steps away from them. “According to your neighbors, it sounded like your dad was beating your mom. The next thing they heard was a gunshot. Do your parents fight often?” She asked.

I hesitated to tell her what really goes on at our house. It was so embarrassing. My parents argued a lot. My dad was always angry or frustrated about something. He complained about almost everything–the food was bland, the house was too hot or cold, the kids were too loud, our rooms weren’t clean enough, and sometimes he would ask Mom if we were really his children because we didn’t look much like him. He wasn’t always like that. I can remember having some really fun times when I was little. After Jonnie was born, Dad got hurt in a car wreck. Mom said he had a traumatic brain injury and it changed his personality. The worse I ever saw him act was when he found out Mom was expecting Katie. He yelled for days about our family not needing any more kids since he couldn’t work the same job after the wreck. He slapped mom that night in front of us. I was really scared. I took the boys outside to the backyard and we hid in the treehouse. We didn’t come down until the next morning. Dad apologized to us, but I never trusted him after that. From time to time over the next three or four years, I knew he was mean to Mom when he thought we weren’t listening or looking. Every now and then I would see bruises on her arms or scratches on her neck. I did my best to keep the other kids from noticing. When I thought there was going to be an argument, I would take the boys bike riding and push Katie in the stroller to the park a few blocks from our house. I would keep them out for a couple of hours just to make sure the fighting was over before I took them home. If Mom had shot dad, the fight must have been really bad. I looked at the officer and fought the tears that began to well in my eyes. I just nodded. “Maybe my parents can get some help now.” I thought.

“Sadie, I need you to talk to me. It’s very important for you to tell me about your parents’ fighting.” Officer English said.

I took a deep breath and told her everything I knew. “Can you help them?”

“I hope so, Sadie. I am hoping we can help all of you. Your dad didn’t appear to be seriously injured, but he was admitted into the hospital.”

“What’s going to happen to my mom?” I asked. I wondered if they were going to take her to jail. I still couldn’t believe that she shot Dad.

“She is in the house now packing some things for you all. She is taking you and your siblings to a shelter for abused women. You should be safe there. Your father will be released from the hospital in a day or two and she needs to take you all someplace safe.” Officer English explained.

“A shelter? Where is the shelter?” I was hoping that I wouldn’t have to change schools. I knew a girl who came to our school because her family had moved to a shelter. She had to move away from her friends. I really didn’t want to be the new girl at school.

“We found an opening at a shelter in Bridgewater. It’s not that far from here.”

“Will I get to go to school?” Going to Bridgewater meant that I would have to change schools. I was very disappointed, but I knew it was best for my brothers and sister to be somewhere safe.

“I don’t know exactly how that shelter works. Some shelters provide homeschooling for their clients’ safety.”

“Do I need to go help my mom?” I looked at the house and saw mom carrying suitcases to the car and an officer was loading a box into the trunk.

“Officer Davis is helping her. Why don’t you take your brothers and sister over and get them settled in the car?”

We loaded up into the car and waited from Mom. When she finally got in the car, I looked at her. She had a lot of bruises on her face. Her mouth was swollen and her eyes were red from crying. She had a patch of hair missing just above her right ear. Looking at her let me know that this fight was the worst ever. I reached out and touched her hand. “Mom, are you okay?”

“I will be, Sadie. I’m sorry. I hate to take you kids away from your home, but I can’t go on like this. I need to feel safe and I need to know that you all are safe. I know you have been taking care of them,” she tilted her head gesturing toward the backseat, “but that isn’t your responsibility. It’s mine. I’m going to be the mother you all need from now on.”

The shelter was a really nice place. From the street the place looked like an old plantation style house. It made me think of the movie Gone with the Wind. It was white with black shutters, tall columns, and a huge porch with a swing and rocking chairs. The house sat on a corner and had a white wood fence around it. The yard was pretty with flowers and if you looked at the windows, you could almost picture old Southern ladies sitting in front of the large window sipping tea and gossiping about their neighbors (I love to read historical fiction). When we turned the corner, we pulled into the garage of a two story brick building that looked like it had been added to the house.

We were met at the door by a short perky lady with wavy blond hair. “Hi, you must be the Carsons. I’m Nancy. Come in.” She held the door open for us. She was very nice and helped us get our things put in our rooms. We ate dinner with the other families in a large dining room. There were four moms and ten kids. I was the oldest. The kid closest to my age was a twelve year old named Sasha. We didn’t stay in the open area long after dinner. We were tired and went to bed early. I didn’t know what would happen to us next, but for the first time in a long time, I felt safe.

Over the next few weeks Mom’s bruises healed and she found a job. The shelter did provide online homeschooling to us kids. Teachers from the local public school volunteered to stop by to help us with our online lessons. One teacher, Mrs. Fugle was an art teacher. She taught us how to do all kinds of crafts. I really liked to paint. She told me I was a natural and she would bring me paint supplies when she came. One day she asked me if I would like to enter a painting in a contest they were having at the local community arts center. I agreed and began to plan my entry. The contest theme was “Peace”. Contestants were to create something that represented peace. It took me a few days, but I decided to paint a picture of the front of the shelter. The director of the shelter made sure the place look so pretty. For days I would sit across the street under a tree and look at the shelter. I sketched until I captured the place to my satisfaction. After I painted the picture, I named it, Refuge in a Storm.  I gave it to Mrs. Fugle. She made a big deal about how pretty it was, but I knew it wasn’t that good. What I did know is that I loved to paint and I felt at peace every time I picked up a pencil or paint brush. I didn’t win the contest, but I did get Honorable Mention which came with a ribbon.

The time came when we were able to leave the shelter. My mom found a good job in another state and we moved. My dad recovered from the gunshot wound, but he didn’t come live with us. He went to therapy and found a job. He apologized to us kids and told us he wanted us to feel safe so he would stay away. We missed him, but our lives were so much happier after we got settled into our new place. I even found an art teacher who owned a studio. I learned more paint techniques and graphic design. She thought I was very good and hired me to work after school to help with her other art classes. I found my peaceful place in art and helping others discover their artistic talent.

Sadie’s Rain is a story from my latest book project, Reaching for Rain: teens finding hope in unusual places.

dv-awareness-monthOctober is Domestic Violence Awareness Month and I wanted to raise awareness that:

  • “The majority of children who live in homes where there is domestic violence have observed the violence at least once (75–87%, depending on the study).”  http://www.childwitnesstoviolence.org/facts–myths.html
  • According to the Texas Council on Family Violence 2015 Family Violence by the Numbers Report: http://tcfv.org/resource-center/learn-the-facts/

    • Family Violence Incidents: 194,872
    • Adults and Children Served: 69,107
    • Adults and Children Sheltered: 24,391
    • Adults and Children receiving nonresidential services (i.e., counseling, legal advocacy, etc.): 45,478
    • Unmet Requests for Shelter: 15,869
    • Hotline calls answered: 183,294

This is my plug to encourage my readers to be aware, show some care, volunteer somewhere, and please, please, please say a prayer for the safety of our children.

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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

 

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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!

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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.