Book Cover Illustration by Caramia

Caramia's Art


Several years ago, my faithful friend, Sherry Jenkins, shared this with me:
Sometimes we must walk through mud puddles to find out how good our shoes are.

On February 6, 2009, Sherry lost her beloved son, Danny, who was just 35 years old.  Suddenly and without warning, I watched as her world came crashing and tumbling down around her.  Oh, how I wanted to comfort and console her—and to take away her pain—but, all I could do was just sit with her, listen to her, cry with her, encourage her, and pray.  I often wondered during that time how God must have felt when His only Son, Jesus, was nailed to the cross.

Even though Danny is in Heaven now, there were times when I, too, felt that same suffocating darkness of grief, sorrow, and despair.  I have two children and two grandchildren of my own—I can’t imagine the depth of Sherry’s pain—words cannot express the deep sympathy I feel for Sherry and her three beautiful daughters, Tasha, Jacy, and Kirsten, her wonderful Val, and her precious mother, Lois. They’ve gathered enormous strength from the many friends who have continuously gathered around to support, comfort, and console each of them.  

I know how important it is to remain strong in my faith and to keep my eyes open to the little things I can do for Sherry and her family.  As I look back now, God was and is with each of us every step of the way.  He knows our own special needs, and I know that He will never leave nor forsake us.  It’s so important that we lean on Him day by day.  Sometimes there just are no answers to the whys, what-ifs, or what-nows.  

We each are given a choice when faced with life’s most difficult tragedies or challenges:  to become bitter or better. Sherry and her family have chosen to celebrate Danny’s life and to cherish the wonderful memories they have of him.

Sherry knows there will be many tough days ahead, but she has learned how important it is to cling to God’s Word in the toughest of times.  She has surrendered it all at Jesus’ feet.  And just like Danny, she, too, has been a reflection of Jesus to so many of us. She has learned how important it is to love deeply, to laugh out loud, and to live life to the fullest! 

Sherry is learning to dance in the rain.

In Loving Memory of Sherry’s beloved son,
Daniel Oliver Jenkins
   July 6, 1973–February 6, 2009
This book is dedicated to
Sherry Jenkins
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I believe one of the greatest gifts we can give another is the message of hope.  By no means am I saying that I have arrived at any destination—but I am well on my way to learning how to dance in the rain—and you can too! 

Is fear, hopelessness, anger, pride, or depression paralyzing you from being the best that you can be? Maybe your marriage needs healing or you have just gone through a heartbreaking divorce.  Maybe you are suffering from an addictive behavior or from a traumatic event that happened to you.  Maybe you have lost everything in a fire or from a hurricane.  Maybe you are overwhelmed with financial debt, in the middle of a foreclosure, or have just lost your job.  Maybe you are battling a life-threatening disease or—maybe you have just lost a loved one. 

We all have suffered or will suffer sometime during our lifetime.  If we look close enough, we can find broken and wounded people scattered everywhere—looking for someone or something they can cling to in the midst of life’s most difficult storms.  In this book, you will find The Message of Hope—it’s found in Christ Jesus who loves you unconditionally and with an everlasting love.  He will never forsake or abandon you!  He would have died for you—even if you were the only one in the entire world.  That’s how special you are to Him.  I’ve heard it said, "Sometimes the Lord calms the storm, and sometimes He lets the storm rage and calms His child."
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When Darlene Ballard asked me to paint the cover of her book, Learning to Dance in the Rain, I was, of course, honored. However, when she asked me to write the Foreword as well, I began to see God’s vision unfolding in a new design on my life’s canvas.

In the past, God always gave me the vision for each project I approached. And, they all appeared like a sheer photo image, floating mere inches before my face until each painting was complete. Learning to Dance in the Rain was no different. However, the finished product on the cover was not the only vision God gave me. He had bigger plans. You see, Learning to Dance in the Rain wasn’t completed in just one painting. Nor, was it completed in two paintings. It was completed in the glorious number of our Trinity—THREE—paintings.

Upon completion of the first painting, to my surprise, Darlene soon informed me that she just didn't think it was right for her book after all. Can you imagine my dismay? But, she said she did feel it would make the perfect cover for a book celebrating cancer survivors. I was disturbed by her change of heart until I realized that God had given me the vision—and I had heard Him—but the painting would just have another owner. You see, I had painted it of a bald-headed rain dancer.

As I thought back over the birth of this painting, I remembered how much I had been praying for my friend, Kathy Bailey, because she has been on her own journey while learning how to dance in the hurricane called cancer—hence the bald head in the first painting. It was during this time of reflection that I received a revelation from God. This painting was actually meant for Kathy, and I felt led to present it to her as a gift. Kathy REJOICED! The painting now hangs proudly in her bedroom, with a plaque beneath it that reads, “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s about learning to dance in the rain.” I’m happy to report that Kathy is now cancer-free and has survived 18 months longer than the doctors originally predicted. Kathy’s loving husband, her precious little girls, and supportive family and friends prayed constantly for her and are forever grateful to God for answering their prayers—as am I. Kathy now travels everywhere—singing and sharing her amazing testimony!

It wasn’t long before God gave me another vision for a second painting—this time of a ballerina and a rainbow. I named the painting “Broken No More.” But once again, Darlene discerned that it was still not the right painting for her book. I asked God, “If this one isn’t for Darlene—then who does it belong to?” I heard His answer—loud and clear—this one was for me. You see, I’ve had my own lessons in rain dancing throughout my lifetime—but more so in the last few years. Although that long story will have to wait for a book of my own, suffice it to say, the storm that hit my home—the Smith household—was no gentle rain. It nearly capsized our entire family.

It was right in the middle of a torrential downpour that God instructed me to focus on the ballerina in my second painting as He allowed the storm to rage around me. In time, the storm began to subside and the torrential downpour turned into a spring shower. But, I soon discovered that I had been transformed in the middle of the storm, and I had even learned to rejoice in the rain. In the aftermath, I kept the ballerina hanging in my room until I realized that I didn’t need her as much anymore. Just as a butterfly outgrows the security of its cocoon, I knew it was now time to pass this second painting on to another friend who was experiencing her own storm. She told me it is one of her favorites.

I have to admit that after the first two paintings were not accepted by Darlene, I felt I was somehow missing the vision she expected for her book cover, and surely this project was over. Imagine my surprise when Darlene called me once again asking if I would try one more time. And, regardless of how it turned out—she said she would pay me for it. Concerned, I expressed to Darlene that I honestly didn't have a vision this time for what to paint. I was even doubting my ability to see and hear from God at all. Darlene felt God was stretching my faith, and she encouraged me as she is so good at. So, out of obedience, I began painting without any vision while trusting God for one. With each stroke of the brush, the design began taking form. It was then I knew I had become too reliant on the gift of vision rather than the Giver of the vision. As I painted, it became less about my sight and all about God as He spoke to my heart, reminding me to trust Him and walk by faith—not by sight.

As you can see from the cover, Darlene joyously accepted the third painting. She was especially happy when she learned she had purchased the painting itself and not just the rights to use it on her cover. I wanted this one to be hers, because it was her vision. And, as I obeyed God, Darlene’s vision was revealed before me on the canvas. For me, there is nothing that can compare to knowing I have a relationship with God, or Daddy as I fondly refer to Him. It thrills my heart to know that Daddy hears me, but just as importantly—I hear Him. He knew all I needed was that timely gift of encouragement.

I have learned many lessons through this process. One of which is that I must walk by faith and not by sight. Second, I have learned that obedience and trust are the keys to a deeper walk with God. And, last but not least, whether I am in the midst of a gentle rain or a raging storm, I may have no vision … I may not understand why I am there … but God is always faithful—always beside me through it all reminding me to keep my eyes on Him as He teaches me how to dance joyfully in the rain.

—Caramia (Charlotte Smith)
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