Look to the Cross

 

jpegOverlooking the vast ocean and waves crashing up on the shore; the setting and sounds were breathtaking. I could close my eyes and fully surrender to the peace surrounding me. The location of the setting that was chosen on this 22 mile stretch of beach was my absolute favorite. Something stirs deep inside of me every time I see it. Something very heavy and monumental in the shape of a cross that washed up from the ocean serves as a reminder to everyone that passes by. Beyond the shore into the waves as they crash mightily over it. As I gazed and looked at the cross for countless hours that day, my heart was enveloped in the deepest love.

The cross where Jesus paid the ultimate price for everything. Once and for all. He was bruised, beaten, pierced and left to die on the cross for you and me and everyone in this world. All sickness, sin, trial and pain, temptation, wound, heartache, and anything you could ever imagine or experience was covered by Jesus on the cross.

Passion stirred within my heart. A deep sense of humility and thankfulness filled within me. Something that neither you nor I ever deserved. Christ died for me. He died for you. I visualized the setting of that dark day when Jesus was crucified. Tears welled up within me. I could see Him there. The pain in His eyes. The weight of the world upon Him. Then He began to say give me all that concerns you. Each and every thing. Leave it here at cross. Look to Me to complete you. Words can not even begin to describe the transactions that took place. It was something heavenly.

I have been pondering on that encounter that happened last week. It is embedded in my heart and mind forever. I pray that you can also grasp the reality of the cross. That you can look to the cross. Look to Jesus in every situation you face. He is there for you. He is always with you. By your side. He longs to be the one you seek first and foremost. If you are seeking healing, restoration, salvation, rescue, anything and everything can be found when you look to the cross.

A sweet bloom of ours texted me from out of the blue today with the following message:

I’ve been thinking about you lately! I really wanna dedicate myself to the Lord. I feel the closest to Him now more than ever and I’m just so happy! I wanted to share with you! Love yaaaaa! I just feel so good and blessed. I’ve become a different person. I feel like no one seen this coming I feel like God gave me the opportunity to share His love with my friends that need peace in their heart and I am. I just wanna be good all around! I love EG and hopefully I can be a part of something BIG eventually! I wanna change lives! God made me wanna feel this. It’s so awesome I can’t help my happiness! This is just so beautiful! He loves me and my family so much! He has great plans for me.- EG Bloom Vanessa D.

She is awakened to the new life, love and happiness that is found in Jesus. You can experience this too!

Look at this sweet belly pic of Bloom Vanessa during her pregnancy:

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 You are invited to experience the same happiness and love that Vanessa is feeling right now. You can dedicate your heart and life to Jesus.

Simply pray this prayer: Jesus, I look to your cross. I look to you to save me. Rescue me from the life I have been living. I ask you to come into my heart and fill me full of joy, peace and love. I surrender my life into your hands. I know that you have the best for me. I want to feel close to you.

If you just prayed that prayer, the angels are rejoicing in heaven! We would love to rejoice with you too! Many promises await you.

For all of God’s promises have been fulfilled in Christ with a resounding “YES!” And through Christ, our Amen (which means “Yes”) ascends to God for His glory. It is God who enables us, along with you, to stand firm for Christ. He has commissioned us, and he has identified us as His own by placing the Holy Spirit in our hearts as the first installment that guarantees everything He has promised us. 2 Corinthians 1:20-22

 

Perspective

b9b27b6feb38135db6d9f413e290fea4At Embrace Grace we are able to meet so many amazing girls with such big loving hearts. The girls that always leave me speechless are those who choose adoption for their little ones. This young momma never actually was able to be a part of EG because she lives in Houston (so if you’re in Houston and reading this maybe this is your hint to start an EG Houston) but she is so sweet. I came across her blog and knew you all would enjoy it as much as I do. So here’s one of my favorite posts from her own personal blog. Enjoy!

 

       I’ve been living my life after Parker’s adoption as though it was a second chance at making my life the way that I have always dreamed it would go. My life now would have never happened had I not had Parker in my life. It was a wake up call that I so desperately needed, it was a second chance from God showing me that my current life path wasn’t the path I needed to be on. It wasn’t a path that had any potential at the end. Finding out I was pregnant was heartbreaking but also in a weird way a relief. I knew I had to give up my lifestyle and I badly needed something drastic to happen to set my life straight.

      During my pregnancy I grew very strong in my faith and felt so close to God. Every prayer I had was so clearly answered…not always in the way I wanted but I heard so clearly that it was what God had planned. My whole pregnancy, the people I met, the messages I got, how visible God had been brings Goosebumps to me. It’s awesome how God’s plan was so cleverly put into action. I love everything about my adoption story and how it is shaping the person I am now.

      I have changed so much from 24 year old me to 26 year old me. I would never go back to the person I was then. Frankly I’m embarrassed by how I was back in the day. The things I did and the things I said showed how rude and selfish I was. It’s just embarrassing. My life now is something I always wanted but never thought I could achieve. I love the quotes that says, “What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?”  it spoke to me. There are so many things I want to accomplish but never thought that I could achieve them. So this is my life living with no regrets, living my second chance at doing what God has called me to do, doing what makes me happy.

-Megan 

 

What an incredible view on life this beautiful bloom has. I wonder how our own lives would change if we lived with the same perspective. What’s your second chance moment?

 

 

A Forever Family

shutterstock_142216768I have had the privilege and honor to walk alongside a few sweet birth moms that have chosen to bless another family with their baby through adoption. I can’t even put into words how impactful that was for me – to see the whole process … even from both sides: the birth mom and the adoptive mom.

Each relationship I have with an Embrace Grace girl is such a special gift, but when I hear a story about a birth mom—a mom who carried life within her to gift to another family, I am changed. I am intensely moved by every detail; the story of where they have come from and what they have overcome, to finding out they are pregnant; the entire decision making process; the captivating way God brings two families with the same hearts together during the pregnancy; and then there is the most amazing part of it all … the beautiful exchange. The transfer of one life over to someone else, entrusting the most valuable gift you love more than anything else in the world to another just blows me away. I am in awe of a mother who chooses for another family to provide her baby with a life she could not have provided herself; to become an answered prayer for someone who may have prayed her whole life for a child of her own. Witnessing the sacrifice a birth mom makes, rejecting abortion and sacrificing her body for nine months to save a baby’s life is one of the most beautiful acts of love I have ever seen. And then to see an adoptive mom open her family, heart and home to love and raise a baby as though it came from her own womb, is breathtaking.

It takes work on both sides. It takes sacrifice. It’s hard and love can hurt. I’ve seen the other side of it too when babies get taken away because a broken-hearted mommy turned to drugs and couldn’t cope with life’s circumstances. I’ve seen birth moms choose adoption but within those first 48 hours after birth, decide they want to parent and an adoptive family that prepared for month’s walks away with empty arms.

Love can hurt. Love is raw and vulnerable. Love is authentic and breath-taking. Love is a sacrifice. Love is a decision. Love isn’t always butterflies and roses. Love can be hard … but beautiful.

I’ve seen some birth moms that watch and cheer for their baby from afar with pictures and updates. I’ve seen others that play a much more active role in being a part of their birth child’s life with frequent visits and celebrations together as a family. Each one is unique and amazing.

I ran across this video last week and I can’t stop thinking of just how AMAZING people are. This is one of the sweetest videos I have ever seen about adoption. A teenage girl that finds out a family is choosing to make her their very own. She has a mom and dad now. She has siblings. She has love. She belongs. Check it out here: MEREDITH’S BIG SURPRISE.

Adoption is the heart of our heavenly Father. We are all His. We are His sons and daughters. We belong. We are His forever family.

Written by Amy Ford

In my arms

538749_10150860881676133_99411280_n       When my baby was in my womb he was nestled safely within me. I knew he was safe and secure. He was ever so close to me. Heart to heart as I could feel his heartbeat. He was protected and fully covered, surrounded and nourished with everything he would need as he was being fashioned and formed inside me. God’s loving arms were creating, tending, and designing every little feature that this precious body would become. Inside and out was given delicate attention and creativity as his cells, DNA, skin, facial features, personality traits, and all that he would become were forming. I could not transparently see all that was taking place inside my womb, but I knew that my Creator, my God cared about every little detail from the top of his head to the bottom of his toes.  Psalm 139 tells me so.

     When he was born they laid him on my chest and our eyes met for the first time. I held him so closely in my arms. I looked into those precious eyes that had just met mine and the love and adoration and tenderness of all that had been building up inside of me was finally here for me to embrace. Rivers of tears and thankfulness that had been shed for this tiny little life. This long awaited miracle. This precious 9 lb, blonde hair, blue eyed baby boy filled my heart with so much joy! 

     We watched in amazement with each new day as he would grow, develop, and learn something new. Every moment seemed to be a celebration of some sort. Recording the precious details. Rolling over, smiling, crawling, first teeth, first birthday, so many milestones and much more. Each day holding memories and building the sweetest moments and recollections within my heart. 

    A song by Plumb In My Arms came out shortly after he was born. I would always sing this over him and dedicated this song to him. It became words of life, hope and faith sprang forth from the words of this song. I still to this day sing this song over him and declare the words to him. 

   My baby boy is now 7 years old and growing rapidly every day. He is so energetic and life giving and shines the love of Jesus with everyone he meets. He has this precious glow about him. Something so special. I awoke him this morning singing the words over him. He was nestled and cuddled up so sweetly and peacefully. His little eyes met mine and the memories of his first moments of his life flooded my eyes with tears of joy. Wonder and awe as I watch him breathing, living and loving life. The love that is shared around him is beautiful! I whispered the sweetest prayer of thanks for this little gift of life. 

    As you hold your baby in your womb or in your arms know that he/she is safe in your arms. As you treasure and cherish each and every memory and milestone shared with them; capture the moments. As they grow, always know that no matter how old they become, they will always be your baby. Forever and always. Whisper those prayers of thankfulness, peace and safety over their lives. Speak life, love and share loads of laughter and silliness. Enjoy the playtime, wonder and amazement of a little child. 

You can sing this song over them too: 

Your baby blues, so full of wonder
Your curly cues, your contagious smile
And as I watch, you start to grow up
All I can do is hold you tight

Knowing clouds will rage
And storms will race in but you will be safe in my arms
Rains will pour down, waves will crash all around
But you will be safe in my arms

Story books full of fairy tales
Of kings and queens and the bluest skies
My heart is torn just in knowing
You’ll someday see the truth from lies

Castles they might crumble
Dreams may not come true
But you are never all alone
Because I will always, always love you
Hey I, Hey I

When the clouds will rage
And storms will race in but you will be safe in my arms
Rains will pour down, waves will crash all around
But you will be safe in my arms, in my arms

 Plumb – In My Arms Lyrics

I love you more

Tree Silhouette Against Starry Night Sky

Have you ever been desperate to hear from God? That’s where I found myself last night at Gateway’s habitation service. Desperate to just feel God’s presence and hear him speak to me, I worshiped with abandonment. Worship has always been one of my favorite times with the Lord and this night was no different. 

If you’ve ever attended a church service there were probably words to songs on a screen for everyone to follow along with. Every now and then there are pictures as well. While worship was sailing along I glanced up at the screen and saw space. A countless amount of stars were floating on black space. Softly I heard, “Olivia do you see all of those stars? I love you more than that.” I was taken back by the thought because see as much as I wanted to hear from God I can honestly say I didn’t expect to. I just kept staring the screen as I heard,”Can you count how many stars are in the sky? It’s a number that doesn’t even exist… I love you more than that.” I just began to cry as I continued to feel God’s love for me. The last thing I heard was, “Like stars burn and shine, my love for you is a fiery passionate love, but the difference between my love for you and the stars is that my love for you will never burn out.” As you can imagine I was a mess and also overjoyed. I felt God’s tangible love all around me. 

It’s hard to believe that a holy God could love a sinner like me but he does. See it doesn’t matter what you’ve done or where you’ve been. God loves you with the purest of loves. He died to show you that love and he’s just waiting for the moment when you realize what you mean to him. As humans we can be so tough on ourselves but God is saying hey, forget all that just come spend time with me. I’ll show you what true love is. 

My encouragement to anyone who may read this is to remember that God loves you. That romantic, sweep you off your feet love is real in Jesus. Run to him and let him show you his love. 

Romans 8:38-39  For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

-Olivia 

His banner over me is LOVE

A banner is a flag or some type of paper or cloth bearing a symbol, logo, slogan or other message. Did you know that God goes all out and to extreme measures to send banners of His Love and adoration for you daily? Even beyond the normal & ordinary ways. His wonder is all around.  Are your eyes opened to see? He uses creative ways to speak to you.

This little story happened this week and watching it unfold was pretty cute.

My son begins his venture into high school in less than two weeks as a freshman. He is at “fish” camp this morning learning all about the new journey he is about to jump into. He’s ready to start this new chapter of his life of growing up. He realized Homecoming is only 2 weeks away from the first day of school. He started thinking of a girl he wanted to ask to go with him. The whole ask process is way different than when I was in high school. Friends would just simply ask someone to go to homecoming with them and that was it. Nowadays there is a lot of thought and preparation going into the question. It’s a big deal!

My son and his friends came up with an idea to hand make a really big banner with the question …(girl’s name) Homecoming? They spent two hours stenciling and hand painting 12×12 letters on a giant 10 ft banner. They were so happy with their creation and artwork. They rolled up the banner, trying to keep the wind from blowing it away, and fit into the back of my truck. They stopped at central market and he purchased a long stem rose and gummy bears as a little gift to go along with the banner question to homecoming. His friends set up the meeting place with her friends. He hid behind the rose bushes and fountain at the town square and waited for her to walk up with her friends and he popped up from the bushes with rose in hand and then she saw him with this huge 10ft banner asking her to homecoming. She almost cried! She said YES!  This sounds like a setting to a cute movie I would like to watch. Boy asks girl to homecoming… I know I’m mommy here and seeing my little boy growing up makes my heart happy!

This began stirring in my heart seeing this rather large banner and the expression of time and thoughtfulness it took to plan this invitation out. This banner got me thinking of the ways that we can speak to others or receive words from others. Along those lines was the thoughts of how God creatively designs banners for us to see.

God will send out His rays of love and grace and share it in the most creative ways. In a banner held high, He will speak of His love for you. He will shout it from the mountain tops. He will declare it from the roof tops. He is in love with you! He will also show you in your little baby the love that He has for you. When you look in that sweet little reflection that is a part of you… God’s grace in one tiny face.

Slowly, sweetly, He speaks. Listen. Look around and see. Capture the signs and sounds around you.

He brought me to the banquet room, and His banner over me is love. Song of Songs 2:4

No Limits

IMG_8748Embrace Grace is an outreach. 

We reach out to the community, the unchurched and the atheists. We reach out to the girls angry at God. We reach out to the poor. We reach out to the rich. We reach out to the broken.

We also reach out to the girl sitting next to you in the pew. We reach out to the girl walking the hallways at church, so scared to share with anyone that she is pregnant and not married. We reach out to the young women carrying shame and regret. We reach out to the lonely and outcast.

We are an outreach. 

Sometimes people ask me if we allow young women in our program that are pregnant with their 2nd, 3rd, 4th or more. It’s easy for our mind to naturally sum up a quick judgment of a girl that is pregnant … AGAIN. But before you do, I would like to ask you something.

Have you ever sinned more than one time in your entire life? 

Are there limits to God’s grace? 

Embrace Grace is a one-time class. Whether a girl is on her first pregnancy or her 5th, we are honored and privileged to be able to pour into the life of a young woman for a season. It is a one-time class to show them how much God loves them. It is a one-time class for us to wrap our arms around them and walk hand in hand. We get to introduce them to a Jesus that they may have never known in an intimate way. It is our honor. After our class, we help get them plugged into after classes like Embrace Life or Single Parent Family ministries or even the weekend services. Embrace Grace is that introduction into the church, breaking down walls and barriers around their hearts.

When you hear real stories of these brave young women, your brain doesn’t tend to automatically judge anymore. When you hear stories like rape, sexual abuse from a young child, their father being in and out of jail their whole life, raising themselves, or tragedy in their life, compassion compels you to love without limits. Sometimes they’ve waited their whole life for someone to stop and see them as valuable and worthy. Sometimes they are craving validation and for someone to speak life into the gifts and talents that God has placed inside of them. Sometimes they just need someone to inspire them to dream again.

So before you formulate judgments about a girl, or why they messed up a few too many times, think about how much grace God has for you. If he forgives us 70×7 …. that means we have a lot more chances to get it right. The closer we connect with God, the more our heart transforms and we see ourselves the way God sees us.

By each of us reaching out to the community or within the church, the more IMG_8718transformations and glory stories will happen. It takes me and you, reaching out and creating an atmosphere where the Holy Spirit can heal hearts and touch lives. His grace is without limits and His love knows no bounds.

Cardboard testimonies is a special time at the end of the semester where an Embrace Grace bloom reflects on how she felt before she started the class and how God changed her heart to feel completely different by the end of the class. GOD CHANGES LIVES! We just have to reach out and show them how. Pics posted are from Embrace Grace in Frisco, Texas at Gateway Church. 

Written by Amy Ford