PRAY FOR LIFE


parkbench

February 25, 2003

I made a choice on this date. It was not to marry my husband. It was not my first date. It was not my salvation date.

It is the date of my abortion.

It is the date I ended not one life but two. It is one date I cannot forget.

10 years.

I struggle to breathe this morning as I remember ten years ago.

I am struggling. There I said it. Putting my heart out there. No walls. No fake smile. This date is forever burned in my heart.

Even through tears this morning, I have to choose to walk in freedom and remember I am forgiven and set free. I have to choose to hear His words of love truth and understanding over the screaming pain in my heart and words being whispered in my ears.

Today I can choose to lock myself up inside my home all day, and make this day all about me or I can make today all about the babies who are gone because of abortions. I can make today all about women who at this very moment are struggling with the abortion they had. I can make today all about women who are thinking about choosing abortion. I can make today all about the brave moms who choose life instead.

I can choose life over death. I can choose that today be about life and a day praying for life.

This is what I am praying for:

1. For our government today to see with their eyes that life begins at conception. That life be valued at the first moment it is conceived. I am praying that today will be a day of new truth be revealed to our leaders.

2. For all women who have been through an abortion to be able to forgive themselves and walk without the chains holding them down. That His love be revealed to them in a real and tangible way that they understand. That today be a new journey of freedom.

3. For all the moms who may be considering abortion that there would be an intervention today. That today there would be a word spoken to them that would change their mind or an event that stops them.

4. For all the pro life people out there who share their message in a hateful way. That today be a day their messages are changed, that they see hate will never change a mind, but love never fails. Today be the day they start a new way to lead.

5. For the men involved to be able to stand and take responsibility. That today be a day where men learn to say yes to life and no to abortion.

6. For generational curses to be broken today. That abortions that have been passed down from generation to generation end today. Today that curse be broken in the name of Jesus.

7. For all who have been hurt by abortion. That today be a day of healing. Abortions don’t just kill the baby and hurt the mommy. Abortions hurt the daddy, the grandparents, the friends and other families. Today, wounds will start to heal and lives redeemed.

8. For the abortion industry. The counselors, the nurses, the doctors and the clinics. That today doors start to close. That a burden is put on their hearts to see what they are truly doing. That these men and women be called to a new career. That today to be a start of a new vision for many.

9. For the girls and boys growing up in the world. Today will be the day children are taught that ALL life is precious. Today be the day we teach them to be brave, bold and speak up for those who do not have a voice. Today be a day of protection over all life.

10. For the moms who are in the midst of criticism and chaos but still chose life. That hope and provision come to each and every one. Today may the moms be loved on in a way that they know choosing life was the best choice.

Today I am praying for life. So many years on this day I would have picked death. Life truly is better. Will you pray with me?

Written by Kaleena Barnett

Unexplainable Satisfaction

generationofhandsHave you ever had a day where you felt like the entire day was full of mistakes? You try so hard all day to keep making things right, spinning your wheels trying to fix what went wrong but still at the end of the day, you feel like a failure. But then the day take a twist when your boss comes up and pats you on the back and says “great job today!”  When we reflect back on our day, our mistakes are at the forefront of our memories when others only saw the good and how we were working so hard and doing a really good job!!

When I got pregnant in high school between my junior and senior year I got all kinds of looks … “she’s too young to be a mom” looks and “how can she be a good mom at such a young age?” I got the sighs and shakes of the head in disappointment from a lot of people. It would be great to say it didn’t bother me … but it did. In fact, it sometimes made me question it myself. Could I be a good mom when I haven’t even graduated from high school yet? What kind of life can I provide for baby?

I had lots of questions and lots of hurdles to overcome before I even gave birth! My husband and I got married while I was 4 months along. There were people (relatives) that didn’t even come to our wedding because they had already decided that, “they’re just getting married because she’s pregnant, they won’t last 5 years!” People were against us before we ever got started …

As time went on and we had 3 more babies, all still while we were very young, I started ignoring the looks of others because I loved my life! I loved my kids and if they can’t accept me for who I was, then oh well!

My husband worked 2 jobs most of the time and I worked full time in a day care so I could be with my kids. I often wondered if I was spending enough time with my kids. Was I giving each child the quality time they needed? I hoped so.

I made plenty of mistakes as a mom!! From forgetting to pack lunches for school to leaving a child at home on accident!! As they grew up I had moments where I felt that maybe I wasn’t cut out to be a mom at times. I felt like a failure at times when they would misbehave or act out in public. I could feel those disapproving eyes again … the same ones that would look at me that way when I was younger. I felt like I had something to prove but sometimes I felt like I was proving them right.

By the time my two oldest hit their teen years, I really felt awful. At times, they were simply out of control!  I can’t tell you how many times I heard “I hate you mom!” Yes, it hurt in case your wondering, but as a mom, they say you develop a thick skin. I never did. There have been times throughout my life when I have gone to bed crying feeling like I just wasn’t good at being a mom.

As you read this, your most likely thinking, “Why has she titled this unexplainable satisfaction?”

About two years ago my daughter found out she was pregnant at age 18. The exact same age I was when I got pregnant years ago. I cried of course, again, thinking I had failed as a mom. I cried knowing that her life would be hard and that I know exactly what she’s headed for. I dreamed she would go to college and get married and THEN have kids. The same dreams my mom had for me.

Throughout her pregnancy, the excitement in our family grew! We couldn’t wait for this precious little girl to get here! I did the best I could to protect my little girl from those hurtful looks and disapproving eyes of others! Of course she had resources I didn’t! She had a huge family that was backing her, a church family from 2 states that loved her, and Embrace Grace where she met other mommies her age.

As I watched my grand daughter come into this world I just couldn’t stop the tears! They were happy tears by the way! I also prayed constantly for my daughter, that she would have the strength to do this. I wanted her to not only be a mom, but to be a great mom! I didn’t want her to make the mistakes that I did!

Ireland Grace is almost 14 months old now and she is the sweetest baby girl. She has my heart. My oldest son is about to graduate high school and has aspirations of being a lawyer! (That’s going to cost a pretty penny!! LOL!) He has a part time job as well. My youngest son is still set on going into the Air Force and he wants to fly planes! I’m very proud of all my kids.

Throughout this past year, I can’t tell you how many times my daughter has said, “Thank You.” Two very simple words that make my heart skip a beat.

“I never realized how hard it was to be a mom, mom. Thank you!”

“Was it like this for you? Did I act like this?? Thank you!”

“I remember mom when you would…. Thank you!”

And from outsiders looking in on our family…

“Your kids are great!”

“Dianna is such a great mom. You raised her well!”

That’s where my unexplainable satisfaction comes from!

See in the moment of all those years when they were small, and I was so focused on all the mistakes I was making, while others were only seeing a hard working, great mom!

My advice to you is don’t focus on the mistakes! We all make them! Focus on the fact that you’re a mommy and enjoy it to the fullest because before you know it, you babies won’t be babies anymore!!

Written by Julie Sager

Puzzled

puzzled

A new road to be taken, a new life to figure out,

All the choices fill my head, and I begin to doubt.

Just like a broken puzzle, that’s scattered on the floor,

I plead to God to guide me through the perfect door.

A place they will accept me, Lord please help me see,

A place, like no other, where it’s okay to be me.

Staring at all the pieces, I know I should begin,

And I know each piece will fit, when I reach the very end.

But, right now it’s just chaos, filled with uncertainty,

And tears fall on the pieces, as I sit on bended knees,

Then bravery takes over, and I decide to grab a piece,

And suddenly, I see its match, hiding underneath.

A little streak of luck, I smile, and reach for one more,

Mixing and sorting through all the pieces lying on the floor.

Piece by piece, the puzzle finally starts to take its shape,

And I see that this work of art was only mine to make.

Sometimes there were days, each piece fell into place,

Confidently, I moved the pieces, with a smile upon my face.

But other times, I’d get frustrated, and even want to quit,

But that’s when God would guide me, and I’d find the perfect fit.

So, for all of you faced with an event or circumstance,

And for all of you who aren’t afraid, and willingly take a chance,

And for all the brave ones, who will bravely face their fears,

And for all the dreamers, who have dreamt for years and years,

Please know, I’ve been in your shoes, and walked a thousand miles,

And I’ve seen my share of tears, and seen my share of smiles,

 I’d like to offer you some advice; I know to be completely true,

So consider these last words a gift from me to you,

See a piece might not make sense, when it’s alone in your hand,

                But once you put it in your puzzle, you will know, God always had a plan!

                                                 Written by Hailey Bennett

Hearing God

hearinggodI think one of the most common questions we get in Embrace Grace is, “How do I hear God?” I’ve heard girl’s ask, “You and Salina always talk about how God spoke to you … that’s never happened to me before. How can I have a relationship with God like that?”

God speaks to us all the time through songs, a word from a friend, a whisper in our hearts or the most common way is through His word. Haven’t you ever gotten a scripture that maybe the pastor said that was exactly what you needed to hear. Or maybe someone texted you out of the blue and it was answering what you had just prayed about. That happened last night with one of my sweet friends. I really felt led to send her an encouraging text. It was late around 11:00. I was falling asleep and she was just on my heart and I was praying for her. I sent her a text out of the blue. She responded something like, “That just made me so happy! You have no idea how I needed to hear that tonight.”

Sometimes God gives us a vision or a dream. Sometimes it’s a still small voice that whispers to us and we can grab on to it. There are so many cool stories about how a random stranger approaches someone else with a word from God. And His words will always have confirmation from another source as well.

One of my favorite stories in Embrace Grace is how a girl was working at Whataburger in the drive-thru lane. She was VERY pregnant and so tired. Her lunch break came and she ate her lunch and pulled out her Embrace Grace binder that she had and it had the salvation prayer inside of it. She had been thinking about it for a while but she decided right then and there, that she was ready to surrender her life to God and accept Him into her life as her personal Lord and Savior. She prayed the prayer and released all her fears and worries she had been carrying around throughout the pregnancy. The lunch shift ended and she went back to her “post” at the drive thru window. A few minutes later a car rolled up and the man rolled down his window and said, “I don’t need to order anything. I was just driving down the road and the Lord spoke to me and said to turn around and tell the girl at the drive-thru window that God loves you and He is going to take care of you and to just trust Him.” He rolled up his window and rolled away while the EG girl’s jaw dropped. She just prayed the salvation prayer and just a few minutes later God sent someone with a special message that confirmed her action of releasing all her fears and worries.

Another time me and Salina had been praying about getting our 501c3 non profit status. It is a big expense but we had felt like God was finally saying YES. We just knew it. We were praying about our mission statement and gathering all the info to submit the (feels like thousands) sheets of paper to the IRS. Salina was at a Pink Impact prayer meeting and a random stranger that had never even heard of Embrace Grace and walked up to Salina and said, “Um excuse me, I just needed to ask you a question … are you going on a mission trip?” Salina responded, “No, I’m not going on a mission trip. I feel like my mission is here. I love to help girls here with unplanned pregnancies.”  The lady said, “Is there something you have been saving for or about to do?” Salina said, “Well we actually have been writing our MISSION statement and gathering paperwork for IRS.” The woman said, “How much is that?” Salina told her and this woman sat down and wrote the full amount for EG to become a non profit, right then and there. She said, “God told me I am supposed to pay for your mission.” That was another confirmation! We had already heard him speak to us to GO and then He sent someone to confirm what we already knew … it saves any doubts from coming in.

Sometimes He just sends fun kisses from heaven for us. I love how another Embrace Grace girl had just prayed the salvation prayer and asked Jesus into her heart. Later that day she went to her shift at work at Blockbuster video. She had her Embrace Grace book she was reading when it was quiet. No one was in the store except for her when right then and there, 2 of the 3 Jonas Brothers walked in to rent movies. She FREAKED out. To an 18 year old girl, this is huge (heck I’m thirty-something and I would be freaking out too!) When they came to check out, she nervously fumbled around for any kind of paper to ask them to give her their autograph. She couldn’t find anything so she just opened her Embrace Grace book and they just signed right there on the pages. That was a kiss from heaven.

We can take every thought, dream and words spoken to us captive individually and determine if it’s from God, the Devil or ourselves.

God’s voice:  loves and encourages us, , always speaks positive and truth, gently convicts us of our sin and offers forgiveness, never compares, always extends us to do more than what we think we can, wants us to trust Him, gives clear direction and instruction and wants all the honor and praise.

Satan’s voice: hates and discourages us, , speaks negatively and talks down to us, lies, condemns and shames us for our sins, blames us, rejects us, coerces comparison, tries to convince how we are not capable of something that we ARE capable of with God, makes us feel insignificant, does not want you to trust God, gives confusing instruction wants all the honor and praise.

If it’s our own thoughts, then we will know because it sounds a lot like, “ME, ME, ME and I, I, I.” Everything becomes about ourselves. The root of our thoughts have all the focus on ourselves. Maybe it’s a manipulative thought, possibly controlling or even materialistic. We see everything around us for what it is – instead of seeing things the way God sees us. We limit ourselves because we put all our trust and hope in our physical abilities and the way our world is right now, instead of putting our faith and trust in God and believing He is going to be there to help us. Oh and just like God and Satan, we want the honor and praise too. We have to align our hearts with God’s by spending time in His word and with Him, so that our thoughts become His. 

“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.” {Isaiah 55:8-9}

So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. {James 4:7}

• If you recognize a thought that is from Satan, yell out a loud NO and watch him go.

• If you recognize a thought that is our own and not of God, repent and ask for forgiveness for letting your own selfish thoughts interfere with God’s plans.

• If you recognize a thought that is from God, say a quiet YES and He is there to help you and continue to lead.

My sheep [my people] listen to my voice; I know them and they follow me.  {John 10:27}

The closer we draw near to God, the easier it is to recognize God’s voice when He speaks to our hearts. Let God’s word of truth wash over you and lift you up. God wants us to seek Him daily to guide our paths. When I am searching for truth, I can always turn to THE Truth to get answers. Carve out time to read His word and spend time with Him and watch your life begin to change!

Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path. {Psalm 119:105}

Freedom Pastors at our church dive deeper into this topic and are recorded on podcasts – you should DEFINITELY check it out! http://gatewaypeople.com/sermons/119334

Written by Amy Ford

Valentine’s Day and Waiting on my Prince

flowerheartValentines Day is here and I look around and see so much red and pink candy and cute hearts. All of it starts to make me feel lonely though … especially when everyone is all lovey dovey and I’m sitting over in the corner shoving a chocolate bar in my face.

It’s not just this time of year that makes me feel lonely though. Being a single mom sometimes gets me really lonely. I love my daughter, but my love language is touch and sometimes I just want to cuddle with someone my size. I feel like a pathetic little girl, crying out to God: “I just want a man to love me, Is that too much to ask?”

In relationships, I always love to snuggle and hold hands and just be sweet together. I mean, who doesn’t want a love story like Noah and Ally have in The Notebook. In my relationship with God, I cannot actually reach my arms out and hug Him. So tonight, as I was driving home, rocking out to the radio, the song Let Me Love You by Ne-Yo came on and I caught myself thinking, “Man, I wish a guy would say stuff like that to me…” being the whiney little hopeless romantic that I am. I heard God speak to me: “I am saying it to you right now, can’t you hear me?” and for a moment He just held me in His perfect peace.

Girl let me love you
And I will love you
Until you learn to love yourself
Girl let me love you
And all your trouble
Don’t be afraid, girl let me help
Girl let me love you
And I will love you
Until you learn to love yourself
Girl let me love you
A heart of numbness, gets brought to life
I’ll take you there

So often, I think of God as my father and protector, but I forget that he also wants to be my lover and partner. (Stay with me for a second, I know it kind of sounds creepy at first.) When I talk about being intimate with God it’s obviously not a sexual thing. In the Bible it talks about how we are supposed to be the Bride of Christ. Ladies, He wants to romance us, He wants to love us and He wants us to adore Him just as He adores us.

So this Valentine’s Day, you may have a date night planned or you may be having a night alone. No matter your situation, remember that God loves you and He wants to show you how special you are. We’ll soon have our prince charming and our Valentines Day will forever be different than what it looks like right now. So until then, let’s build a closer, deeper and intimate relationship with our Heavenly Father that can make our hearts feel whole and complete.

Written by Devin Strait, Embrace Grace alumni

A Picture of Love

crossandheartEach of us was raised in a less than perfect environment, and that environment has left its imprint on our lives.  My parents divorced when I was 2 ½ years old.  Let me explain that growing up I grew up Arkansas with my mom during the school year and in Texas with my dad on breaks and holidays.  The homes were extremely different.  I mean extremely different. In Arkansas we only prayed at Thanksgiving and the occasional bedtime prayer, “If I should die before I wake … I pray my soul the Lord to take.”  In Texas, it was a totally different story.  If the doors of the church were open, we were there.  I had to wear skirts and dresses in Texas and was not allowed to wear makeup.  If there was a church camp scheduled while I was in Texas, my dad made sure I was able to attend.  My thoughts of God were either He was far or distance (reachable at Thanksgiving or in the event you thought it was your time) or He was everywhere all the time and had lots of rules (dresses and no makeup).

Even with all of that, I knew my dad loved God with all his heart and wanted everyone to know and enjoy the same love he encountered.  We would go on the weekends and just tell random people about Jesus.  Anyone who would listen, dad was willing to spend as much time as necessary to let them know how much Jesus loved them and the length of His actions that He went to prove it.

I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but through me.  {John 14:6}

What I didn’t understand is why my dad didn’t pursue me and my little brother like he did strangers.  Once we were a little older, sometimes my brother and I would say we didn’t want to go to Texas.  We were never forced to go. If we didn’t want to go, my mother made sure we didn’t have to.  Little did I know how much it hurt my dad that we decided not to come.

I now understand what a reflection of God’s love that was.  You see God is never going to force you to come visit Him.  He (God) is always going to be available and reachable but He will never force you to have a relationship with Him.  My dad was sharing the love for me and my brother the best he knew how.  He didn’t want to force us to come and see him.  He wanted us to want to come see him.  I didn’t get it then, but I get it now.

I recently was spending some time with God and He was just revealing to me the mirror image that my father was from God’s perspective.  I had NEVER seen it in that light before.  It broke my heart yet healed my heart at the same time!  A few of you know that recently my dad passed away.  It was difficult for me because he was so young.  I don’t really understand why it was his time to go, but none the less it was his time.  When he was in ICU, they had him in his bed faced down because he could breathe better that way.  They had a little thing that his face laid in almost like a hole on a massage table and he was on a vent.  It was difficult to see him like that and I had never prayed for my dad the way I prayed over him that week.  So while I was spending my time with God the other day he showed me that picture of my dad lying face down in ICU that day.  What I had not noticed before was the way my dad’s arms were positioned as he lay face down … his arms were spread wide open each arm stretched as Jesus’s was on the cross.  What I realized is how much I loved my dad and how hard it was to watch him pass.  And then it clicked.  Just as Jesus laid down his life me, so did my dad.  He spent his life living out what he believed.  And what he believed in was praying for his family, wanting the very best for his family.  He was not willing to compromise for anything less than the very best he had.  Sure he made tons of mistakes, but ultimately he lived his life so his children and the generations to come would be a step closer to God.  This is the perfect picture of love from a dad.  Although he was only on this earth for a short time, He loved God with all his heart, with all his soul and with all his strength.  Thus, being a picture of love.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. {Mark 12:30}

My thoughts of my dad not pursing me were mistaken for his love of patience and love.  Thankfully, I was able to see this in my late twenties and am grateful for the years we spent together before he passed.

Could you be wrong—wrong about people, about the judgments you’ve made throughout life?  What is the judgment you have made?  To start the healing process, admit the judgment that you have made (truth be told, He already knows any way), then ask Him to show you the truth.  And finally bring it out into the light.  Tell someone else.  Don’t stir up trouble, but do tell a friend or someone of accountability.  Just saying it out loud brings it out of darkness and into the light to start breaking down the strongholds that have been built around this judgment that God wants to bring healing to.

Life is too short to carry around judgments. Start the process of healing and reconciliation!

Written by April Franks

Do Not Despise Small Beginnings …

carI stepped off of the train this evening on to the platform and headed towards my car.  I wore my super high new heels to work today, and my toes were ready to hit the floorboard and find some relief!  In the midst of my woes, I noticed a car not too far from my mine and I almost laughed out loud.  It immediately took me back to my younger days and the first car or two that I had that well, after a while, didn’t really resemble cars as much as they were practically road hazards.

My first car was a Hyundai Scoupe.  You probably don’t remember what they even look like, doubt they make them anymore.  I thought I was hot stuff at the time!  It was standard, so my first car came with some on the job training.  I had to learn how to drive a stick really quick or I was bound to not take myself anywhere.  Needless to say the car did wonders – took me to work, provided enough room in the back for two car seats, and of course, allowed me to hang out with my friends.  Well, the thing is that I wasn’t too careful of a driver.  I got into a few fender benders, as did my boyfriend who I was with at the time.  Back then cars had the kind of seatbelts that connected to the top of the car door, so when you opened the door, the seatbelt pulled with it.  One day I was driving down a residential street that had a sharp left hand turn.  As I turned left, my passenger side door flew open!  While driving I had to grab hold of that seat belt to slam my door back shut!  It was scary at the time, but now every time I think about it, I crack up laughing.  And that wasn’t even the bad car…

The Scoupe eventually bit the dust and I had a few cars in between, but the real kicker was a Ford Ranger that I had.  It was white, single cab.  I managed to take better care of this truck seeing that I was older, but that wasn’t enough to save it from some serious traumatic events.  One day while driving through a business district, I sort of drove the Ranger right into one of those big moving trucks.  Not an 18 wheeler mind you, but the big ones nonetheless.  In my defense I could have sworn he was turning right!  Needless to say, I slid into the bottom of the trailer in the back of the truck, causing my windshield and the frame around the windshield to smash in.  I was not harmed, and my truck was drivable.  So what does a young single Mom do with limited resources?  If you guessed that I drove the truck home, you would be correct!  I guess it was the stubborn streak in me, but I wasn’t the kind of girl that let anything hold her down.  It was my only vehicle, so drive that truck I did!  I had to climb in and out of the passenger side door, which was very unlady like might I add.  I had no driver side window, so you can kiss good hair days goodbye!  Oh, and let’s not even talk about what I had to do when it was raining, it was down right pathetic!

Why am I telling you all of this?  So that you don’t despise small, frustrating, heart wrenching beginnings.  Whether your whole family is living in a one bedroom apartment (mine was) or whether you have to pray every day for your car to make it down the street (like I did)…this will pass.  And one day you will look back from where God has brought you, and you will crack up laughing, sharing your stories with your kids.  We may not have had to walk 10 miles barefoot on a dirt road to get to that schoolhouse every morning, but we have definitely all had our share of small beginnings.

Written by Jamie Stapleton