Wednesday, September 1, 2010

After the Rain

“For His anger is but for a moment, His favor is for life; weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning,” Psalm 30:5, NKJV.

This scripture has a particularly moving meaning for me today. Years ago, death was all around me. If it wasn’t a grandparent, it was an uncle or some other family member. As somber the thought, death is a part of the cycle we call life here on Earth. In Genesis 23, a chapter in the Bible that speaks on death, it’s important to understand that grieving is healthy in moving beyond the loss.

In this issue, I interview an author whose debut novel explores the life of a grief-stricken individual who rises above adversity. Jennifer L. Dean, author of My Rising Up, gives an inside look on why she writes what she writes and how a fictional story can help those experiencing similar situations in real life; shedding light in the midst of darkness.

Later, it is a pleasure to have Renarda Williams, freelance writer and columnist, discuss his true life story of overcoming various trials, issues, and situations in his life. Over the years that I’ve known him, Renarda has kept a positive attitude in moving beyond death, trials, hardships, and tribulations on to restoration.

Both Jennifer L. Dean and Renarda Williams drive home the fact that God is indeed with us.


 ~Introducing Christian author, Jennifer L. Dean~

Jennifer L. Dean, author of My Rising Up, enters the literary scene with a powerful story that not only explores hardships that may occur in life, but also the overcoming power of God. As the story opens, the reader is immediately pulled into the life of Brendan Maxwell--a young man who encounters death from an early age. This sets the tone of a seemingly troubled journey that rocks his world into adulthood.

I found this novel an interesting and enjoyable read. Situations and circumstances in the book reminded me of what it was like to live a college life, but more importantly, how it should be done with God as the head in every area. As the story was drawing to a close, I found myself flipping the pages even faster to get to the end!

This story is definitely one where I can relate. I think it is very important that stories like this one are told because so many lose hope in the One who gives hope. It is apparent that this author has an intimate relationship with the Lord because it shows in her writing ... and I appreciate that above all else.

My Rising Up is a wonderfully crafted faith-based read that adults of any age group would appreciate. 

The interview, in her words...

SUN: Please tell us a little bit about yourself.

JLD: I am the fifth of six children born in rural Mississippi to two blessed and hard-working parents. Living a fairly normal life, I graduated second in my high school class and went on to pursue a degree with honors in Medical Technology from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Currently, I reside in Birmingham, Alabama, but will probably always consider myself a true Mississippi girl at heart.

SUN: How long have you been writing?

JLD: Though I entered the workforce as a clinical scientist, I have been writing for as long as I can remember. I was one of those students who actually enjoyed English composition, Literature and creative writing classes—an oddball, I’m sure. Even outside of class, I found myself writing. I wrote several short stories when I was younger—mostly for my own entertainment—and managed to win first place in an essay contest as a high school freshman on the topic of What Makes America So Great. I was also blessed to see one of my poems, Serenity, published in 2000 by the Famous Poets Society. It did not occur to me, however, to write novels on a professional level until almost three years ago. But when the idea began to bud, so did the excitement.

SUN: Tell us a little bit about My Rising Up and what prompted you to pen it? What was the process like?

JLD: My Rising Up is a novel that portrays the life of a young man named Brendan Maxwell who, after a period of estrangement from the Lord when grief, disappointment and pain drives him away to the streets, is now centered in the Lord’s will for his life as an older, mature adult. He’s back in college and church, back connected with his family, and working hard on his job. Mainly, Brendan learns to rise from the ashes of the past and present trials and move forward with the aid of God’s power inside him as he faces daily realities of life: love/relationships, family changes, judgments from others, etc.  

This novel has several themes resonating throughout its pages:

1) trying to maintain mental stability in a stress-filled life

2) learning to trust God again after tragedy (or any situation that leaves doubt in God)

3) finding restoration of a broken heart after a failed relationship

4) discovering one’s spiritual gift

5) the reality of miracles

I would have to say that one of the stronger themes in My Rising Up is finding comfort and the ability to live again after the loss of a loved one. As a health care worker in the medical field, as well as in the experiences I’ve had with the loss of friends and family, I have seen the effects of death, the damage and despair it causes. Even while publishing this novel, my own grandmother passed away suddenly. It was totally unexpected and shocked the whole family.

Death, regardless of whatever form it takes to steal a life, is a subject that needs to be addressed with the wisdom and understanding of God’s perception, as I believe that He wants His people to trust that there is a bigger side to death than what usually transpires here on earth. And the process of writing this novel was really just a creative way of portraying the enlightenment I’ve received over time in my own quest to understand the effects of death.

In essence, My Rising Up has many messages, and my hope is that its overall impression will prompt readers to take away whatever message benefits them.

SUN: What is your motivation for writing? Who do you think your audience is, if any specific group?

JLD: My motivation for writing is simply the God-given drive I was born with to do it. Now, I’m not always in the mood to write, but that inner desire to write never leaves. Initially, my audience is myself and God, as I write what flows out of what we have communed about or simply what He shows me, using my fingers as His pen. Eventually, the process of creativity develops into a form that can be appreciated by an audience of various ethnicity and age groups, male or female. But always, at the end of the day, when I look at my work, I ask myself, Will the Lord be a fan of what I’ve written? For me, it always goes back to what will please Him. As an author Himself, God understands the need to portray reality creatively, yet still be responsible to exemplify the righteousness for which He stands. I try hard to follow His example.

SUN: Do you consider writing as another occupation or a passion?

JLD: I consider my writing both an occupation and a passion. It is a job in a sense that it takes dedication, hard work, discipline and time to bring forth into fruition that which is in the creative recesses of one’s mind. But it is also a passion, as it does take that burning inner desire to sustain the process of molding myself into the best writer I can be. Writing, for me, involves a certain level of vulnerability, and to be passionate about what I write is a must-have in order to birth an honest reflection of what I want to represent. If the passion for one’s writing is not behind the words they write, most of the time the reader can pick up on it.

SUN: Do you see yourself writing years from now, if so, what other projects would you like to see come to fruition?

JLD: I do have a vision to write years from now, as I believe that what God births in you to do is a lifelong process of cultivating, learning and nourishing that gift. I have not ruled out any projects that might come to fruition as a result of utilizing the gift of writing, and with that perception, I constantly work on ideas that I believe are from the Lord that will come to light in the future. Whatever opportunities He brings my way, whether it be more book ideas, screenplays, poems, etc, I’m willing to take on the challenge!

SUN: Being a writer, what do you like to read?

JLD: I am an avid reader! It is probably my most favorite pastime; I can smoothly juggle reading several books at the same time. (Is that a talent?) Usually I choose works that are geared to educate and inspire. I like to read self-help books, biographies and autobiographies, as most of them are testimonies to what a person has triumphed over and learned from during life’s struggles, as well as books about America’s history, specifically historical accounts of African and Native Americans. Mostly, though, I read Christian fiction by authors who, I believe, write about the realities of life’s experiences with not only a measure of entertainment, but most importantly, with a standard of Christian responsibility and ethics.

SUN: If you could sum your life up in one sentence, what would you say?

JLD: I was born for a purpose, and regardless of the ups or downs I encounter as I carry out my mission, my destiny belongs to Christ.
~ ~ ~
To find out more information about this budding author whose sophomore novel will be released next year, please visit her online:

Websites:, Amazon, My Rising Up Facebook group, and other online retail stores.

Life Changes as We Grow Older
By Renarda Williams

In July I, along with my wife Helaine recently visited my mother Mrs. Audrey F. Williams, in Lafayette, La. During that visit I also visited with dear friends from my old college days at the University of Southwestern Louisiana (now the University of Louisiana at Lafayette).

While in Lafayette I reflected on how I, at 49, have changed. I wondered how my limited finances and hectic work schedule would ever allow me regular visits to my mother; older brother Darren in Houston, TX; other family members in Alexandria and Baton Rouge, La., and Houston; and additional friends in Louisiana and across the country. I also noticed how my loved ones' lives have changed ... and realized how difficult it is for us all to have stable lives.

Generally, people plan their lives during their teenage and young-adult years, and hope that everything will work out. But as we know, life does not always go as planned. I'd planned to become a commissioned officer in the U.S. Air Force. That plan was first laid during my childhood. I prepared for this career as an Air Force Reserved Officers Training Corps cadet in both high school and college. But such a career was not to be. God led me where He needed me ... back home to my old south-side neighborhood, the "Sonia Quarters," a predominately black lower income area in Alexandria, La. There, I served as a substitute teacher, staff writer/columnist for two black newspapers, and social worker at the Boys and Girls Club of Alexandria. I was a Big Brother/mentor and active in my church as a Sunday school teacher and public relations director.

After five years, God led me to Monroe, La., where I was a columnist/reporter for a black weekly newspaper. (That was my official title; actually, I was more like an advocate for Monroe’s black communities.) In addition, I worked as a part-time caseworker for two juvenile diversion programs under the Ouachita Parish District Attorney's Office, and was a mentor for the office's Big Brother/Big Sister program. I went on to begin my own mentorship for youth and young adults. Also, I volunteered for a non-profit grassroots spiritual organization in Monroe that worked with the homeless. I also became a lobbyist for non-profit national children's, social, and African non-profit organizations.

Three years after I attended the Million Man March, I founded The Umoja Network (TUN) -- a nationwide information network that provides writing services ... magazine articles, editing and ghostwriting services for authors, speeches, press releases and the like. I also provided a free monthly printed newsletter, The Empowerment Initiative, which today is an online newsletter.

In July of 2003, God led me to a wonderful Black queen, Helaine Palmer Freeman from Little Rock. I relocated to Little Rock in Sept. 2004, and we were married on May 7, 2005. I continued with The Umoja Network. I, along with Helaine, volunteered as public relations/communications directors with the African Women's Health Project International (AWHPI), a nonprofit African organization in Little Rock. In February 2006, we traveled to Lagos, Nigeria with AWHPI’s founder, Princess Deun Ogunlana, on a medical mission.

I continued to lobby for national children's and social organizations. Helaine and I also volunteered with Sandra Wilson for her former organization, the Arkansas Housing Support Network. We now volunteer for the Arkansas Homeless Coalition, also founded by Wilson.

Throughout my years in Lafayette, Alexandria and Monroe, I faced a series of trials and tribulations, including job layoffs and and deaths of family members and dear friends. I’ve experienced even tougher trials and tribulations in Little Rock.

At 49, it’s hard for me to understanding why God has not YET allowed me to have a comfortable and stable life -- especially from a financial standpoint -- to provide more for Helaine, my mother, family members, friends, and those who are unfortunate in America and worldwide. But when I'm down, God taps me on the shoulder and makes me realize that it's about His will, not ours.

God often allows us to prepare for one thing so that He can take what we've learned and move us into what He really wants us to do: improve our world as much as we can, from a spiritual, educational, economical, political, and social standpoint.

And then I realize … my plans didn't go awry after all.

 In Closing,

I'd like to thank both Jennifer and Renarda for their wonderful contributions and insight. Although a little rain may fall in our lifetime, that doesn't mean that the sun won't ever shine again. As we keep our hope and focus on the Lord, He'll bless us with that peace that surpasses all understanding.

Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee,” Isaiah 26:3, KJV.

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