Sometimes it’s difficult to know what kind of gift to present to a friend or relative who is grieving or experiencing an extraordinary challenge. “A little something,” I’ve often mumbled to myself as I prowled the aisles of a local store in search of just the right item that will convey a message of hope, caring, and unconditional support to that special person. Often, I’ve looked in vain for a book that will serve as a long-lasting reminder of my affection and compassion, as well as an inspiration when everyone has departed and the person in turmoil is alone with his or her thoughts . . . and fears.
Cheryl Ricker’s A Friend in the Storm is the volume I have been searching for. A beautiful, affordable 96-page treasure of quotes, Bible passages, and Ricker’s lyrical poetry, A Friend in the Storm is the perfect gift for a Christian, especially one who lives too far away for you to deliver your gift in person. I’m confident that opening a package and finding this powerful little source of strength, courage, and optimism will brighten anyone’s day. It certainly had that impact upon me when I arrived at home after a long, stressful work day and found it waiting for me among the bills, advertisements, and other items delivered by the U. S. Postal Service that day.
Welcome to the Litfuse Publicity Group Blog Tour for A Friend in the Storm
Cheryl Ricker grew up in Canada. After a high school English teacher recognized and affirmed her talent, she decided to major in Creative Writing at a Bible college. She and her husband married after college and are, according to Cheryl, a perfect match: “We both endured difficult childhoods, we’re both overly sensitive, and we’re both recovering anger-a-phobics.” They have two sons, ages ten and fourteen.
Cheryl believes that “bad things happen to good people” but those bad times present opportunities for Christians to extend love and compassion to others. When her young friend, Chantale, was fighting lung cancer, Cheryl was inspired to write comforting poems for her. The result is A Friend in the Storm. “If I hadn’t known grief, I’d have nothing to say,” she writes.
Cheryl has written columns and articles for various magazines and newspapers. She’s been writing poetry all her life and her poems have won awards in fine arts and literary magazines. Currently, she resides in Rochester, Minnesota.
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I write on my treadmill. I like to prop my laptop in a magazine holder and type as I go. The quirkiest part is I when I get tired and put my feet on the sides when the thing keeps running!
You’re a mother of two boys. Do either of them share your talent?
I write poetry; they write songs they like to play on their instruments. My ten year olds’ songs are lively and worshipful. My fourteen year olds’ songs reflect the same honest-to-God emotions I like to capture in my poetry.
Most people don’t understand the stress, work, and joy of writing. Do you ever feel like giving up?
Not particularly. I was born to write. Besides, I don’t know what else I would do. Certainly nothing remotely connected with math or numbers.
Writing’s my therapy. My faith grows as I write about things like God’s love, Sovereignty, and perfect timing. It stirs my hope.
Writing’s a stress reliever. Some people shop ‘til they drop. I write ‘til I drop. Hopefully, it will always be that way.
Who are your mentors and supporters?
“The perseverance of the saints consists in ever new beginnings.”
~ Alexander Whyte
Until now, I only had mentors at a distance. You know ~ the kind of people you love to watch and learn by. I mostly chose the strong Christian leader type who knew how to balance family and career.
I always wanted a “real” mentor (one who would love me and speak into my life), but I didn’t find one until recently. A neat older couple from my church decided to “adopt” me as their granddaughter. I’ve been overjoyed. Of course, I wish we’d connected before, but I guess it’s never too late.
As far as supporters and fans, my husband and sons are tops. For several years my little boy would bow his head at night, and say, “Dear God, please help mommy get a coin on her book.” He was thinking about the shiny round symbols you see on the top right corner of award-winning books. Now, that’s faith!
Beyond my family, I also feel supported by my amazing Facebook fans on my A Friend in the Storm page. They’re all a blessing!
Did anything happen in your life that made you more interested in the topic of pain?
A lot of things happened. Many I can’t get into; but I will say that I was sick a lot as a child. I had bad allergies and asthma, but I was also emotionally sick. For years I struggled with fears, phobias, over-sensitivities, rejection and depression.
Pain followed me into marriage. My husband and I had to work out a lot of tough issues for several years. We’ve had a lot of serious issues with our children too. Because of that, though, we love to help others. It’s like Christ says in one of my poems: “My comfort pours new life in you, in perfect time for others too.”
The fact is, I don’t think I could talk about hope and healing without first talking about pain and suffering. It’s universal. It’s the gate to talking about Christ’s healing love and transformative power, which we know is for available everyone.
What do you enjoy most about writing poetry?
I love communing with God while I write. Nothing beats those ah-ha moments when He gives me a fresh insight. As a poet, I love when truth collides with metaphor and rhyme. I get excited when I can draw a word picture with soothing sounds that makes truth memorable.
What’s something most people don’t know about you?
When Justin, our second son was born, he was in critical condition. For two years, he suffered from severe colic that turned into horrendous night terrors. It was hard for me to deal with the fact that my difficult delivery probably had something to do with it.
In my seventh month of pregnancy, my doctor was fired, so I had to quickly find a new one. The only one available had a terrible bedside manner, and wanted nothing to do with my “birth plan” as my other one did. Matter of fact, she said with a deep slow voice: “I don’t do birth plans.”
She quickly assessed that I was getting too big too fast, and claimed I needed to induce the baby before his time. When I didn’t like this idea, she started using scare tactics, until finally, I caved.
I was induced for two days straight, and baby Justin was in the wrong position the whole time. The doctor didn’t know this until the end because she hadn’t been checking on me. Then, when Justin was born in distress, one of the nurses commented, “He looks like a preemie. His ears aren’t fully developed yet,” and the doctor told me she misread the notes. I didn’t need to induce him early after all.
Then when he had problems, I had to deal with guilt and anger. Why didn’t I stand up to the doctor more? Why did God allow her to do this to me?
Justin is a delightful ten year old boy, but he has a few problems like sensory sensitivity and speech issues that are believed to be related to trauma on his central nervous system at birth.
It’s been a difficult journey that most people don’t know about. They don’t see him going ballistic at the table because his nervous system sometimes misfires when people chew their food.
That’s where the poem Rest came from:
Throw Me all your passing worries,
pressing thoughts and testy weights,
past confusions, mass intrusions;
Throw Me all your human hates.
Letting go, you’ll find true lightness
from the One who took your shame;
I’m a pro at trading burdens;
After all, that’s why I came.
What prompted you to write A Friend in the Storm?
It all started in 2005 when I went to a Mothers of Preschoolers group. As we were going around the circle introducing ourselves, I learned that one of the ladies, Chantale, had stage four lung cancer.
After a few weeks of getting to know her, she invited me to meet with her in her home for a time of regular prayer and Bible reading. I was honored but nervous because I didn’t know what I’d say. When God reminded me I could write her comfort poetry, it made sense. When I was growing up I used to write poetry to help me deal with my difficult emotions. Besides, people had been turning to the Psalms for comfort for ages.
Some people bring casseroles to hurting friends. I could bring poetry. (Trust me ~ Chantale wouldn’t have wanted my casseroles).
When it turned out she received a lot of comfort in my poetry, I kept writing ~ right until the day she asked if I’d read some of my poems at her funeral.
The month after she died, I attended a writer’s conference because I was interested in publishing a children’s book about a skunk. I quickly came to the conclusion that it stunk, but several people encouraged me to turn my poetry into a comfort gift book. That’s how A Friend in the Storm began. Five years and a thousand revisions ago.
How would you describe the book?
A Friend in the Storm is a personal conversation between God and a hurting person. It’s a healing treasury of quotes, Scripture and poetry that leads to lasting hope. It covers forty-five hope-related topics and takes readers on a healing journey through the stages of grief before it crescendos with the splendor of Heaven.
What’s the big premise behind A Friend in the Storm?
Why would a God who loves so strong,
allow this blow of senseless wrong,
enwrap me in a shock of pain,
that tries to snuff what’s kept me sane.
With failing strength I’m struck down low,
so where’s this peace supposed to flow?
Inside this hole where dreaming dies,
beneath bare groans and screaming cries?
A Friend in the Storm addresses the question in the world: “why would a good and loving God allow this to happen?” The majority of the book is Christ’s response to that question.
Why did you choose A Friend in the Storm as your title?
It’s had several different titles, but this one definitely describes it best. Christ wants to be our friend in the storm. He offers comfort like no other. Besides, He’s the only one who can truly say, “I’ve been there. I understand.”
I also like the title because the book itself is a friend in the storm, a valuable companion people can reach for in the dark.
How did you select the quotes used throughout A Friend in the Storm?
With difficulty. I went on a long quote hunt. It was like digging for gold. Picture me on the floor of various bookstores, pouring over pages for hours. That’s what I did. I also worked at home because I’m blessed with a huge library of great Christian books.
Finding the perfect quote to fit with the perfect Scripture and poem was as tedious as writing the poems themselves, but in the end, as rewarding.
Can you share a neat story behind your book?
Love to. My husband works with a guy who’s turned off of Christianity. The same week A Friend in the Storm released, that gentleman lost a close friend. My husband handed him a free copy of A Friend in the Storm, not expecting he’d even receive it. My husband was surprised that every time he walked by the fellow’s office, he was intently reading A Friend in the Storm. The gentleman later told my husband that he wanted to pay for his copy because he thought it was the perfect gift to share with the grieving family.
There’s nothing like watching unbelievers share the Gospel this way!
Can you share a story of how someone was personally affected by your book?
A lady who had fallen away from God for awhile told me she started talking with God again while reading A Friend in the Storm. She even returned to church. Stories like this is make it worth every sleepless night!
What do you love the most about poetry? Do you feel that poetry elicits (and expresses) certain feelings that no other form of literature can elicit?
I love poetry because of its compact musicality and mystery. Using sound and rhythmic language it plays on our imaginative awareness to evoke the most emotional responses.
Poems are sacred trusts. They’re songs of sorts. We all know how music reaches the heart like nothing else. Poems move people to change.
They play with words, sculpting them to help people to see differently.
Other forms of literature lack their quality of creative distillations of truth.
Poems are shiny golden nuggets you can repeatedly turn in your mind to catch different angles of light.
Cheryl is hosting a contest in conjunction with her blog tour for A Friend in the Storm. Readers have an opportunity to win a Kindle or one of five signed copies of A Friend in the Storm by submitting an original poem, story or snippet about a time when someone was a friend in their storm! The winners will be selected at random and announced on October 4, 2010, during Cheryl’s Facebook party! Visit Cheryl’s site to get all the details!
I read A Friend in the Storm in conjunction with the 2010 Read ‘n’ Review Challenge and the Fall Into Reading 2010 Challenge.