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Stories of Hope, Triumph and Inspiration.

"The Triumph Of My Soul" by Elissa Gabrielle
Terror filled the room moments after Mary’s groan. All’s to be heard was the doctor’s voice that yelled to the nurse, “The baby is in distress!” He rushed from the place he was sitting, in preparation of delivery of another human life, instead he flew to grab an instrument to aid him in getting the child into the world alive. The responsibility that laid on his shoulders was intense and he knew he not only held Mary’s life in his hands, he also had the burden of delivering the child, a healthy child.

Blood poured continuously from Mary’s womb onto the operating table. The nurse, in a heated panic, yelled, “Oh God!” as she rushed over to assist the doctor.

“What’s wrong with my baby?” Mary screamed and questioned as she tried to get up off of the table. The nurse then moved in closer to Mary, gently restrained her and made her relax.

“The baby is in distress, but everything will be okay,” she expelled, while caressing Mary’s hand.

Heavy sobs left Mary’s now lifeless body, as she went into shock.

“Doctor! We’re losing her,” the nurse spewed, tears flowing down her cheeks.

With a pair of forceps, the doctor carefully pried the baby from Mary’s limp body. A team of physicians were by the baby’s side, as they planted her on the table, clearing her airways. The sound only God could create left the baby girl’s mouth as she yelled to the world, informing everyone of her safe arrival.

“You have a girl. A healthy, baby girl,” the doctor smiled as he handed Mary her daughter.

“She didn’t make it, doctor,” the nurse sorrowfully revealed, as she took the baby from the doctor, and gently placed her onto her mother’s breast.

"Julian's Grace" by Jessica Tilles
In a heated rush, traffic barreled up and down Georgia Avenue, NW, in Washington, DC, going nowhere too fast. Julian Winters stood before the bay window, peering through the blinds, wishing he were amongst the traffic, escaping the sterilized smell that caused his stomach to flip about like a fish out of water. This wasn’t one of his favorite days, but then again none of them had been lately.

“Life wasn’t meant to be lived so hurried,” he fussed between clinched teeth. “But then again, it’s short as hell.”

He pressed his palms against the cool windowpane and lowered his head. Desperately trying to suppress the inner pain, after spending so much time at Howard University Hospital, was difficult for him. As much as he wanted to scoop her up from her sickly bed, and fly away to a destination where cancer didn’t run rampant, he knew it was impossible and the inevitable was around the corner.

As he raised his head, he slowly opened his eyes and gazed up at the blue sky, challenging his once strong faith in God. Daily, Julian questioned God, not knowing what He was trying to prove by taking away the most precious life that meant the world to him. Was it something he did in his past, to build anger in God? As far as Julian was concerned, God must have been harboring anger toward him, and taking his beloved Grace was his punishment. All his life, he felt God was a forgiving God, so why couldn’t He forgive Julian of his past sins, whatever those were?

"Word On The Street" by Jarold Imes
Seven young black men wearing black baseball caps that said “Jesus Saves,” long black T-Shirts, baggy but not sagging jeans and various brands of sneakers stepped out of the white, silver and maroon van. From a distance, they could have easily been mistaken for a reincarnation of the Wu-Tang Clan, and by the way they attracted attention from the crowd, people at the nearby shopping center flocked to them expecting them to put on an impromptu rap concert in the middle of the street. After the last man stepped out and pulled the door shut, the driver of the van drove off cautiously trying to find a parking space near the barbershop at the top of the hill. The young men made their stop on this popular hill that was on the corner of Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard and New Walkertown Road of Winston-Salem.

"A Test Of Faith" by Lorraine Elzia
God has a way of slapping his rebellious children upside the head every now and then and demanding the respect that He deserves.

Too often, we are full of ourselves, thinking we are untouchable even by the hands of God. We assume that we are doing our part spiritually, by attending church on Sundays and saying a few properly placed “Amen’s” at the end of other people’s recognition of His worth. Somehow, in our feeble minds, we think those small gestures of respect for God will be enough to put a cloak of protection over us and shield us from all evil. We feel that because we speak of His existence in our daily banter with others, that we have done our part to spread His word. If others ask, “How are you today?” and we answer with “Too Blessed to be Stressed” we feel that we have honored God. We have done our part because others know that we love God and are Holy rollers, so to speak, because we are not ashamed to mention God in our everyday conversations. But is that enough? As humans, our answer is “Yes,” but would that be the answer of God?

There is a difference between “Respect” and “Faith”. Anyone that believes in God has Respect for Him. The two kind of go hand in hand. But not all that “Respect” God, have “Faith” in Him, and God is much more appreciative of the latter.

"A Stroke Of Purpose" by Keshia Dawn
“Can she recover? Will she? Will she remain in this form?” Asking as his hand covered his trembling mouth.

“This form? Oh God what has happened to me?”

“Right now, nothing can be said for anything. Leslie can go in any direction, but we are praying for the best. She’s in a coma and you know…it’s going to be up to Leslie and her body to pull through.”

Allowing the tears that were knocking on his ducts to rush as they wanted, Derrick could only think of one thing.

“Praying,” said more to himself than to the doctor. “Does the hospital have a chapel? I need to go…now!” He almost begged while standing and clasping his hands together behind his head.

Taking it upon his duty, Dr. Thornton lead Derrick out of the hospital room and toward the hospital’s chapel, planning to stay and pray with the young husband as he sent prayers on him and his wife’s behalf.

"A Mother, Her Son, And The Father" by Fon James
“Sterling please… tell me what’s going on!”

“Lani, I’m sorry to tell you this, but McCall is missing. When Courtney told you what happened, you fainted. The police are aware and they are looking for him now.”

“What do you mean he’s missing?” she queried.

“We can’t find him, Lani. Nobody has heard from him since he went to meet with that guy about the rims. The police are looking for that guy right now to question him. I had my friends at the station push his missing case file to the top. I help them out a lot during my investigative reports for the paper, so they owed me a favor. Courtney provided a recent picture of him to the police for flyers. His friends are canvassing the area too.”

Alana couldn’t do anything. She just sat there and listened as Sterling filled her in. Tears were streaming down her face. She couldn’t even fathom losing McCall. He was her only child. She was his mother. He was her son. She closed her eyes. She needed to connect with her heavenly Father.

"Death At A Church" by Jacqueline Moore
April could see the church on the horizon. She often passed by it at night when she was working. It had always seemed so warm and inviting. She would listen to the soothing sounds of the choir practicing, late into the evening, as she strolled the block. Every now and then, one of the songs would stir something deep down within her soul; creating the need to fill a void that had existed deep within her spirit, for as long as she could remember.

She didn’t quite understand why hearing those songs saddened her. They were often happy and full of hope. Why did they bring tears to her eyes? April often wished she knew the answers to something she didn’t even identify with. She didn’t understand her feelings enough to try to explain them to her friends. They would just laugh at her and tell her how stupid she was. Yeah, her friends were good for that. Always reminding her of how dumb she felt when she tried to find the answers to questions everyone else seemed to know.

"Discovering The Joy Within" by Allyson Deese
"Oh God, NO! Please don't take my babies!" Jordyn cried as she tried to jump into the six foot pit that stared up at her. Held back by her sobbing father, the young mother stood looking down into the grave of her two beautiful twins. The two tiny caskets were light pink, and the rain was hitting them ever so gently, as if God himself was crying, because they were coming home to Him. But Jordyn, a new mother, didn't see it that way. She wanted them home with her. For home was they place they belonged. Safe and warm in her arms. All she could see were her two beautiful babies being taken away from her. It was just a few days ago that she gave birth, welcoming them into this world. Within an hour, they were both gone. Instead of bringing them home to their awaiting nursery complete with two cribs and a glider, family and friends had gathered to say good-byes to the two that never got a chance to say hi. Her heartfelt tears of pain began anew as she recited a poem to her babies.

"Doors" by Ebonee Monique
I followed his last order to me, hesitantly. "Look at yourself," I heard his voice say in my head.

Spinning around I faced myself. My slanted brown eyes were red and puffy from the hours of crying. My hair was a mess and my face looked swollen. I smoothed my shabby hair down and wiped clean the traces of mascara on my cheeks. My body hurt, my heart hurt and most of all my pride hurt. But regardless of all the pain, my appearance in complete disarray, I was still standing. I'd told myself that as soon as he was removed from my equation, air would cease to exist, taste would disappear and sound would have no meaning. I told myself that being alone, at my age, wasn’t an option.

But I was standing tall. I was here, physically all alone, but I wasn’t alone. I could feel God’s presence enveloped all around me; as I inhaled and proudly stood back admiring my finished bedroom door, a grin came over my face. It was nearing five in the morning and my eyes were growing heavy. I jiggled the door knob of my bedroom door and awkwardly opened it. Flopping on my bed, I scooted my shoe box of memories to the side when something sticking out from underneath my bed caught my attention. Reaching down, I picked the heavy book up and smiled. It was my Bible.

"I'm Still Here" by Kim Robinson
I was brutally raped by a preacher at the age of five. Traumatized, confused and scared, the preacher took advantage of it all. His shameful programming was, “If you tell anyone, everybody you know and love will die and go to hell.” From that day, I took everyone’s illness as something that I had caused. I felt the shame and guilt and though I did not tell anyone, I wanted to tell my father but those words just kept running through my mind. Six months later, I was told that he was going to die, though he is still alive today, I felt like it was my fault that he spent so much time in the hospital.

For thirty years, I suppressed the memory of the rape somewhere behind a door in my mind.

When I was old enough to discover drugs, they helped me to keep that door closed. Drugs helped me to ease the pain that was growing and festering like cancer in my soul. When I was high, I could feel no pain. No memories would consume me whole. No shame, no guilt, no betrayal.

I felt like God did not like me and I did not like Him. I refused to go inside of a church and I would not read the bible or listen when people spoke of religion. God was no friend of mine. If God was the God everyone said He was, then why would he let a precious five year old little girl go through so much turmoil?

"He Loves Us, Always" by Linda Wattley
I was ashamed of my self-pity. Down on my knees, I wept. The tears I shed that night were tears not even I recognized as being my own. These tears came from deep down in my soul and filled my heart to an overflowing groaning. It was like an earthquake erupting through my being. Shaking, as I surrendered my soul to God, I prayed for forgiveness for not wanting to live anymore.

God let me know what he knew I had in my heart. I never told anyone I did not want to live anymore. But God knew it was corroding the space in my heart that belonged to him. God told me he knew my private abyss that was justifiably growing and he wanted me to know he loved me and understood my pain. He also promised me he would restore the years of the locust and my joy would be full. I cried the more in knowing God did not punish me for my bitterness. Knowing God was embracing me, Lyn, not the mother, sister or daughter this time, but I the one who needed comfort made me want to live again.

"Marathon" by Bill Holmes
Alex’s recurring nightmare began at the starting line of the 1600 m run. The hot sun was beating down on the athletes and the spectators with its ferocious intensity at Franklin Field. The excitement of competing at the Penn Relays increased every time he participated in this event. This year was no exception as anxiety permeated throughout his body. Bobbing his head and pacing back and forth, he cleared his mind of all thoughts and focused his attention to the sound of his cleats digging into the track. That would be the only noise he would hear for the next four minutes. His chest expanded slowly to the last breath he inhaled before taking his place at the starting line along with the other participants. Clenching his fists in anticipation, the starter’s instructions became mumbled until he aimed the gun in the air, pulled the trigger and Alex took off with reckless abandon down the track along with the other runners.

"One Woman's Journey" by Linda R. Herman
Once upon a time. I figure, if I start with that beginning, I can end with happily-ever after. Right now my life is a far cry from happily ever after. The truth is, I’m an emotional wreck. Monica has Tyron and two beautiful kids. Zora has Marc, and the two of them are planning an elegant wedding. Once upon a time, I had Craig and hopes of a family, but now Erica has my man and she’s having his child So, where does that leave me? Yep, that leaves me sitting here, at my small dining room table with a glass of wine in one hand, and a bottle of sleeping pills in the other.

Craig had promised to always be there for me. He was my rock and my world. When I lost my parents in a tragic car accident, Craig was there. He promised, that I would never be alone. Knowing how much I adored them, he promised that he loved me as much as they did. I believed him because I needed to. I needed him even more because I didn’t have them. And as a result, my world revolved around him.

Recurring nightmares invade my psyche when I think about my parents. It seems as if I dream about them more and more often. Seeing their car crashed repeatedly in mind, from the night it happened, sends waves of agony through my heart.

"The Ministry Of Motherhood" by Cheryl Donovan
God placed many people in my life to help me make my transition. How did I do it? I sought the Lord and he answered me. He told me in his word that I could do all things through Christ who strengthens me. He said that a good woman, a worthy woman was worth more than rubies and that is what I wanted to be. He said that he would do exceedingly and abundantly more than I could ever ask him for. He said in his word, that if I made myself at home with him, and made his words a home in me, that I could be sure that whatever I asked, would be listened to and acted upon. God became my ultimate source. He did not give me a spirit of fear, but of love, power and a sound mind. I became like Paul, it mattered very little to me what others thought of me, or my situation, because only God could judge. As a result, I can now stand firmly and testify to the fact that God is faithful, and that he will honor His word.

My journey was intensely rough, and the challenge of rising to the top, made me want to crumble at times, but the footprints in the sand were not my own. I had to make a commitment to God, to myself, and to my children. This was the only way that we could make it to where we are now.

That commitment involved going to work, going to school, and being available to my children at all costs. Partying, staying out all night, and otherwise neglecting my responsibility to my children was out of the question. It simply wasn’t an option. Trivial pursuits would have to be placed on the backburner. I was on a mission. The mission of being a virtuous woman, of being a dedicated mother; I wanted to be worth more than rubies.

"The Vanilla Room" by Agnes B. Levine
And then I heard a whisper among those thoughts. “Jesus.”

In reflex, my spirit responded in kind to the whisper. “Jesus?” I simply whispered.

The various thoughts persisted, but so did the whisper, “Jesus.” I continued to concentrate and repeat His name each time I heard it. But I could not control the thoughts and images of my difficult life of living with a drug user in and out of recovery, borrowing money or working overtime to replace what he stole from the family, his frequent job losses, hoping the household goods did not end up in the pawn shops, the drug binges that kept him in the streets many nights, and being constantly afraid he would meet a violent, tragic death in those streets. The daily challenge of hiding his addiction from family and friends who figured it out long before I did, my fear of AIDS, and the burden of keeping the family together despite the impact of his drug use bore down heavily on my mind. I was hopelessly and co-dependently trapped inside superwoman who was stuck on the floor of the Vanilla Room.

The badge I had worn so proudly most of my life was slowly being torn from my chest. I made one more futile attempt to regain control.

"When You Least Expect" by Dike Okoro
Help me Lord,” I heard myself uttering, “Help me get out of this forest of pain and regrets. I’ve fought the battle alone, and time has not been kind to me. Yet my spirit refuses to succumb to the memories mocking my silence.”

Shadows of my past have turned me into a believer in half-truths. In the company of friends and people I know, I imagine and ponder what they think of me. Like the night breaks its silence to condemn the desires of lovers, I reach into my inner thoughts daily, to dig deep and search for the burning candle threatened by the fears that plague my past. My group meetings and counseling sessions in church have only helped to delay the wrath of the nightmares I have tried so desperately to run away from.

Each day I stand in front of the mirror and slap and rub cream on my cheek and brush my hair to my satisfaction. I have fed my heart to those words I have not been courageous enough to disclose to Safisha. How do I tell my fiancé and best friend of three years that I am jobless, with our wedding date only two months away?

Many a time, I have sat in bed in the condo overlooking the lake on Sheridan Road, alone, fumbling through the classified job section of the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Sun Times, seeking possibilities in the flooded and yet convoluted job market. Twice in one month I have been to Pastor Wright’s counseling sessions. And twice I have gone home buried in disappointment. “Brother, you’ve got to keep the faith. But you must first seek God’s guidance in prayers,” I recall the ever modest Pastor telling me.

"Breaking The Chains Of Abuse" by Casche Russell
"Are you sure you want to do this?" Raynard, the love of my life, asked. I was squeezing his protective hand tightly. My palms were sweaty and I was swinging my left leg back and forth as it dangled across my right one. He could sense uneasiness as I prepared to take my place on stage. Facing an auditorium filled with women and children who had been victims of abuse, would serve as a heavy responsibility. Like me, they were here to tell their stories and pray that not another person would suffer the abuse that we alike had suffered.

"I'm ready," I answered nervously. Even though I feared public speaking, I knew I had to tell my story. These women needed to know about men like Darian Wright. They needed to know that his evil was not greater than God's love. They needed to hear it and I was the only person there that could tell them of the personal hell he put me through. I was well equipped to testify how God saw me through it all. I refused to be a victim, and with the strength God has given me, I will prevent every soul I can touch, from being a victim too. If I had my way, this day would mark the end for abuse, forever.



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