Darkness to light: a story of redemption and life

dandelionsMy life changed forever at the age of 19, when I had an unplanned pregnancy. Growing up in a pro-life family, I never dreamed my beliefs would be tested. It was much less complicated to think of it as a pregnancy, rather than as a baby.

I knew what I had to do: have an abortion.

Face the consequences of my actions; tell my family what I had done; shame them with an unplanned, teenage pregnancy before marriage; carry and deliver a baby; have shattered plans for my future; or possibly go through the pain that is sure to come with adoption? No, I simply couldn’t. I was weak and vulnerable. I had no other choice, or so I thought. If I had known the depression and guilt that would follow, I would have chosen a different path. I would have given my child a choice. But, in the midst of my heartache and despair, I regret having to say that’s not the choice I made. I convinced myself that ending my pregnancy at only six weeks’ gestation wasn’t really an abortion. I wish I had known that my child’s tiny heart had already begun beating.

Having an abortion had to be okay because it was legal, I thought to myself. The culture I lived in told me it was my choice and that it wasn’t a big deal. How did I start to believe the lies? My spirit was breaking over this decision, this impending loss. The tears were proof of this. The tears were proof that deep inside, my heart knew that I was already a mother who was carrying her first babe.

On February 6, 2009, I took the RU-486 pill, and after a night of darkness, it was over. I was relieved to get back to my normal life. I wanted to move on, as if the nightmare had never happened, and forget the immense pain. I was deceived into thinking that I could forget about it. The counselor at Planned Parenthood had told me that some initial sadness after my abortion would be normal, but after a couple days, if I was still feeling depressed, that wouldn’t be normal, and I should seek help. How wrong she was. Much of those days before and after my abortion are a blur of heartbreak and tears. Sleepless nights were spent, with agony at the depths of my heart and soul, rattling me to the core. There was nothing “wrong” with me for feeling that way.

Trying to forget what I had done, over the next few months, I sought comfort for my wounded, aching heart through partying, drinking, and living promiscuously. I was digging myself deeper and deeper into a pit of destruction and despair. Four months after my abortion, I was pregnant…again. I fooled myself into thinking I would get my life together after what I thought was another necessary abortion. The appointment was set at Planned Parenthood…

However, Jesus was fighting for me and for my unborn baby. God showed me that if I chose to have another abortion, I couldn’t imagine the pain and darkness that would follow. But if I chose life, I couldn’t imagine the beauty that He would bring…

Instead of walking through those clinic doors a second time, I chose to walk into the light towards freedom. It was as if the reasoning for abortion fell away when I knew that God would be with me every step of my difficult journey. I was at peace knowing I was making the right choice – the choice of life

On March 16, 2010, ready to deliver my full-term daughter, I was told the devastating news that her perfect little heart was no longer beating. I had to deliver the body of my precious flower, Lily Katherine, who had already whispered goodbye before I said hello. I had to give her enough hugs and kisses to last a lifetime. I watched as her tiny white casket was lowered into the opened earth and was showered with tears, rose and lily petals, and dirt.

God saved Lily from abortion and used her life to save mine. He used her life to break my chains of sin and rebellion. He used her life to restore family relationships and friendships. He used this sweet unborn baby girl to bring her mommy back to Jesus.

My entire life and future has been changed by two babies who never spoke a word or took a breath. Yet God is speaking through them, saying just how precious and valuable each individual life is. He has a plan and purpose for each beautiful life created in His image. He can take our deepest sorrow and sin and work them together for our good and His glory! Through choosing life for my second child, God brought peace and healing to my heart that was broken from aborting my first. Because of the lives of my two little ones, I now have a passion and a purpose that I wouldn’t have if I hadn’t had these experiences.

When you choose life, no matter the outcome, it is the right choice, a choice I’ve never regretted! However, I will forever regret my abortion and long for the first child of my womb. My precious Luke Shiloh, my son whom I will only ever know in Heaven.

I have realized that all the things that made me choose abortion were temporary problems. Even the things that seem so overwhelming in the moment won’t always feel that way.

Luke Shiloh’s name means “light and peace,” because that is what God has brought in all of this. He has brought light in the midst of the deepest darkness and peace to my wounded, aching heart. I truly believe that the Lord has revealed that my first baby was a boy. Lily Katherine’s name means “pure and innocent,” for she is a symbol of my redemption in Jesus Christ. And she will forever remain pure and innocent. Jesus washes us white as snow.

Though the Lord has healed, redeemed, and restored me in ways I never could have imagined, there will always and forever be a missing piece of my heart, a void that cannot be filled this side of Heaven.

Luke Shiloh and Lily Katherine, I once wanted to be rid of you and hoped nobody would ever find out you even existed. Now, I want the world to know you are my children. I promise to always be your voice and to honor you in whatever way I can for as long as I live.

Sharing my story isn’t easy. Yet it’s because of this promise to my two children of Heaven and my desire to bring glory to Jesus Christ that I do share. I will speak when someone asks me to, and I will write when given the opportunity.

I want all who hear my story to walk away with these truths in their heart: all life is sacred and beautiful and deserves to be protected. Jesus can rescue and redeem us, no matter how far from Him we may feel. Abortion hurts men and women. There is healing to be found; however, you will carry that scar of abortion with you forever. If you choose life, no matter the outcome, you will have no regrets.

“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” {Psalm 147:3}

“There is no pit too deep that God’s love is not deeper still.” -Corrie ten Boom

Written by Hannah Rose Allen

hannahHannah Rose Allen is a Christian young woman passionate about the pro-life message. Through her own experience with unplanned pregnancy, abortion and the loss of a child, Hannah Rose has become a pro-life advocate dedicated to ministering the love of Jesus to others. She tells her unique and compelling story on her website, roseandherlily.com, and at banquets and pro-life events, churches, and college campuses. Hannah Rose resides with her family in Raleigh, North Carolina, where she volunteers at her local Pregnancy Resource Center and works as a nanny.

My LifeLight Experience

concertYou are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. {Matthew 5:14-16}

I had heard of something like this happening in another state a few years ago. When I caught wind of it, oh how my heart wanted to go. It was a 3 day camping adventure in the woods and experiencing God in worship, word, and wonder. Three years my heart was anticipating something like this to take place in our state of Texas. When I heard it would actually be happening Memorial Weekend 2013, I marked my calendar and set the dates and knew that our family would attend. LifeLight was introduced to me and I was anticipating their arrival and the amazing encounters to be experienced.

LifeLight is a nonprofit ministry that is making an impact and reaching out to the ends of the earth. Their mission is “taking the Church outside the walls, bringing Light into the darkness with the life-changing message of the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

They have held music festivals in South Dakota, Missouri, Mexico, Guatemala, Haiti and even Pakistan. This was their very first LifeLight festival in Texas. Countless hours and resources were spent planning, making preparations and setting up before the festival even began and throughout the event. So many prayers for lives to be saved, hearts to be touched, and fires to be ignited in the depths of our souls, and lives to be impacted were raised up to heaven. God was listening!

Four Stages, Big Top Tents and so much more were set up all around as vendors, volunteers, and performers were making preparations for the crowds to arrive. Activities, food, fun times and music was available for all ages. Over 50 artist were scheduled to perform at the 4 different stages that were set up. They had the Main Stage, Souled Out Stage (for the youth), Triple Shot Cafe, and Kaleidoscope Stage for the kids.   An expectation of hungry hearts wanting more of Jesus was felt among us. We were ready for God to pour out His goodness. That is exactly what He did, and so much more!

These are just a few of my favorite highlights from the LifeLight Musical Festival. If I were to recount all of the amazing encounters that God poured out upon us, it would take hours. So I will try my best to shorten so that you can at least get a glimpse at what God graciously gave us to richly enjoy.

We arrived at the beautiful land full of rolling hills and began setting up our tents for our 3 day experience in the woodlands and making preparations for our families to arrive. Our hearts were fully expectant and giddy as we were anticipating the Presence of God that was already rising in the atmosphere. Campers came from all around to experience and encounter God in a mighty way. Fields upon fields were ready and waiting for the people to come and see Jesus.

Wendy, Whitney and I were sitting under the volunteer tent and sharing hearts about what God was stirring inside of us and the scriptures that were rising to the surface to make an impact upon this festival. We each wrote with a black sharpie upon our hands I am the Lords from a scripture found in Isaiah.

For I will pour water upon him who is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground. I will pour out My Spirit upon your offspring, and My blessing upon your descendants. And they will spring up among the grass like willows by the watercourses. One will say I am the Lord’s… and another will write [even brand or tattoo upon his hand, I am the Lord’s. {Isaiah 44:3-6 AMP}

The main stage had a sign above To God be the Glory

Prayer Tents were open and ready for the lives that were ready to receive a touch from God.

A walk by faith adventure set me out on an open road and traveled up and down the hills to set out for the perfect spot to sit and soak up some time with Jesus. I reached the top of the hill, overlooked the beautiful open range before me. I saw two huge trees and thought that must be the place. It looks quiet, cozy and serene. But Jesus had a special spot just for me to sit and reflect, and journal. He said keep walking. So I did. I approached this old wagon that holds a special significance in my heart and I heard a whisper… Your chariot awaits you… I knew this was the perfect spot that Jesus had set up just for me to soak and bask in His Sunlight and rays that were beaming down. I loved every second of my encounter with Him. Pages upon pages are reflected upon my journal from those special moments. I will forever treasure these words that He wrote upon my heart. I AM YOURS!

The headliner on Friday night, Sanctus Real, was on stage singing “Hold on to the promises. Hold on to the promises. Jesus is alive so hold on tight.” Some of my favs were also Run, Run, Run and Lead me. I sang with all my might the words to the songs and was jumping with the others in the crowd. We were declaring God’s promises to be true. The storm clouds were forming in the distance behind us. Some of us volunteers gathered in the prayer tent and prayed that the storm and rains would hold off at least until after the concert so that the crowd could soak up the seeds and all that was planned for the night. We watched with anticipation as Sanctus Real sang, and could see the storm approaching. Just wait a little longer for the rain to fall was our hopes and prayers. But, God had plans of His own. Sanctus Real had to cut their performance a little short due to the lightning, but the words and promises given were sown upon our hearts.

Many, many, many priceless family moments were shared together. I will cherish them forever!

I had a chance to meet Julie Elias and ask her about her new album, A Wild Rose.

God, I need some breathing room… While you lie sleeping alone in the night beneath the wind-driven snow. Hope springs eternal, the birth of new life, the bloom, a wild rose. Season brings changes, the day loses light, and darkness it comes and it goes. Splendid and perfect, eternally bright. God planted each wild rose. I was able to share some of my rose experiences with her too. So sweet! Love her!

We had our campsite set up and shared lots of love and laughter. Roasting s’mores, playing games and spending family time together. At night even though the area around us was so dark, they had this flood light that lit up the entire campground. Our tents were set up close to the light and it shone so brightly in our tents. It was almost blinding when you looked in that direction. We had no need for flashlights or lanterns because this light was so intense. What if we could shine this brightly?

The Afters were performing on Saturday night. The sun was starting to set as we overlooked the hills and panoramic views. It was so gorgeous and breathtaking. The rains had poured down a few hours before as well as bringing some mighty gushing winds. The kids had glow sticks and were ready for the sun to set so that they could glow too. They even spread some of the glow stick liquid on their shirts. They kept saying make us glow, we want to glow more. They were having the time of their lives. Best camping trip ever they kept repeating!

I will put my rainbow in the clouds to be a sign of my promise to the earth. {Genesis 9:13}

I looked over at my hubby and said, oh, I would love to see a rainbow!! He said, well it better come quick, the sun is about to set. I said a prayer under my breath as I was passing out the goldfish crackers to the little ones around me. Families were spread out with chairs, blankets and picnics all soaking up God’s goodness in the field. All of a sudden Skylar looked up with amazement and said, look at the rainbow. We lifted our heads to see the most beautiful rainbow in the sky. The Afters began singing Light up the Sky and my joy was rising rapidly!! I began jumping up and down and kissing my hubby on the cheek! God heard our prayers for the rainbow. Little kisses sent from up above. Everyone was taking pictures of the beautiful and glorious display in the clouds.

Brightness everywhere! The way a rainbow springs out of the sky on a rainy day- that’s what it was like. It turned out to be the Glory of God! {Ezekiel 1:28 MSG}

Their lights are shining brightly for Jesus. All the artist, servant hearts and each and every person that gave of themselves to make this music festival such a remarkable experience. The love and Light of Jesus was spread around and lives were impacted.

Air1 had interviews with the Artist throughout the entire event. I could not wait for Plumb to come out and talk one on one. She said she loves to sing at Festivals! I stood towards the front and listened intently as she shared about the writing of her latest song Need you Now. She said it was written from a time in her teen years when she was so anxious and would cry out to God in her time of need. There have been so many times lately I am sitting in my car and this song comes on and it is exactly what I am feeling. I love when that happens.

They had a time of Q&A at the end of the interview to ask Plumb any questions. One girl raised her hand and asked her what her favorite song to perform was. She responded that she has so many favorites, but her favorite that she would sing tonight was I Don’t Deserve You (love this song!) I quickly raised my hand and asked her what inspired her song In My Arms. It was like we were sitting in a living room and she was talking to me personally. She said when she had her son Solomon she remembered the feeling of having these thoughts “what if he gets hurt? what if this happens?” Knowing that God would keep him safe In His Arms was what she always held on to. Releasing your children into God’s hands knowing that He will always keep them safe is the best remedy.

Side note: this song In My Arms has always been my song to Logan since he was a baby. So getting to hear from Plumb her heart behind the words of her song meant the world to me.

Ironically, Logan had just scraped his leg on a bounce house and was bleeding and in pain with tears running down his cheeks. Landan held him on his shoulders and whispered to me during the interview with Plumb, Mom, Logan got hurt. I gently grabbed him in my arms. I wiped away the blood, applied band-aids and kissed his boo boo’s and was holding him in my arms when I asked Plumb the question. It brought back so many memories of him as a baby and even now that he is six years old. He gets hurt, bumps and bruises and I know as a mom I am not always there to rescue him. I have to release him into God’s hands, knowing that He will keep Him safe, protected, and fully covered.

I was right up front as Plumb sang her favorite songs from her newest album. With each beat of the drum, I could feel it in my chest. I danced and sang along and treasured the moments.

We are Leo played some amazing songs! One of the band members wore a blue tank that said I LOVE BABIES! Made me smile!

Jenny and Tyler were a sweet couple that sang folk-rock, soulgrass style music. My hubby loved them the most! They shared their story of falling in love, writing songs and they have a baby on the way. She looked so precious singing with a baby in her tummy!

Building 429 sang their hearts out and the sound system was even shot at the end of their performance. Even thought the microphones were shot temporarily, and they had to use a megaphone at the end until the sound was back in check. They said some crazy things were happening. God was igniting hearts. Fires were set ablaze in our hearts. Ready to shine. Ready to spread this fire. Just as a tiny spark can start a wildfire, so can we as we set our hearts upon Jesus and spread His good news with the world around us.

I had some pinch me times, like is this for real?? Is this really happening? And yes, it was. Just as my family and so many others were able to encounter this and have the Love, Life and Light spread around us. If we were to take this all in, and not ever spread it around or share it, it would be like the scripture above that talks about hiding under a basket.

We are encouraged to spread this Light around to everyone. To reach out beyond the walls of our church, our communities and our everyday encounters. No matter where you are. You can be a light. You can spread the Light of Jesus to everyone you meet. Your light can shine and penetrate the darkness. You can make a difference. Your one Light can make a spark and ignite the life of others around you. Imagine the fires that will be ignited and spread by one life at a time. As this rapidly grows and spreads, wildfires will be ignited in the spiritual realm and will set the world ablaze!!! Let your light SHINE BRIGHTLY.

God, you did everything you promised, and I’m thanking you with all my heart. You pulled me from the brink of death, my feet from the cliff-edge of doom. Now I stroll at leisure with God in the sunlit fields of life. {Psalm 56:12-13}

Written by Salina Duffy

** Check out LifeLight online!

Delightful Design

Image 1Yesterday I sat admiring my three year old, as she carefully selected outfits for three of her Minnie Mouse figurines. She concentrated deeply on which dress and accessories she wanted to adorn their little bodies. And while I could not see her vision for the little Minnies, I knew she carried weighted intent with getting each one just right. She completed one Minnie at a time, then she would cup the mouse in her hands and speak sweet words to the doll, walking her slowly across the room. She repeated this process with each one and placed the three dolled up Minnies in a row atop her dresser. As she adjusted their line up just so, she stepped back and took a deep breath in, exhaling with a squeal, “Oooh! They’re SO GORGEOUS!”

I giggled to myself at her precious reaction to her own handiwork, and agreed they looked just beautiful. She had done a great job dressing them up. I snapped a picture with my phone hoping to freeze in time a sweet moment of her third year of life: imaginative and expressive. She did not care whether the spotted bow matched the floral dress or if the opaque shoes went with the sparkly wings. She designed their look to fit a grand idea only she could create, and she took sweet time with each of them, to clothe them and carry on an individual conversation with each one on their way to the dresser.

Last night I sat reflecting on my day. I pulled up the picture I had taken of the Minnies that afternoon. I laughed at how fun she was to play with that morning and concentrated on soaking up every colorful pixel of the picture, to store away the memory in my heart. As my eyes scanned the image, I noticed the canvas I have sitting on top of Brinley’s dresser. I have become so use to it sitting there now, I had forgotten what it said.

“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” –Ralph Waldo Emerson

How appropriate a quote behind such uniquely dressed Minnies, clothed by an equally unique little girl. I remembered imagining what Brinley would be like when I was pregnant with her, and I see now how she far outshines and exceeds any idea I could have dreamed. As I watch her develop into who God has created her to be, and pray and try to hone her development however He leads me, I am astounded at this essentially perfect, power packed creation. She is fulfilling a grand idea for a life only He could have created. As the world attempts to sway, change, and influence her, I must take her back to the blueprint of her design, whom no one but her can represent. She is achieving the greatest accomplishment and will continue as He guides her, no matter how wacky or outlandish from others her specific instructions may seem.

At church on Saturday we sang, “How He Loves,” originally written by Jon Mark McMillan (if you have never heard it, listen here). Every time I hear that song I flashback to when Kyle first entered our lives. Whenever he could steal Brinley away from me or others holding her, he would rock her and sing to her this song.

“Oh, how He loves us so
Oh, how He loves us
How He loves us so…”

I am humbled to have experienced the sweetest of moments like this, where the man of my dreams sang of the deepest love over the most precious of babies. So similar to Brinley speaking sweet, individual words over her perfected Minnies, as she carried them across her room to put on display, Kyle sang these precious lyrics over baby Brinley, about a Savior, who loved/loves us so much He died to give us unimaginable moments like those–thoughtful caretakers attending to such specific details of priceless little ones.

Just as Kyle stole Brinley away for those special moments of bonding when she was a baby, and yesterday when Brinley conversed with each Minnie individually on the way to her dresser, God longs to steal us away from anything distracting us from our destiny. He afforded His greatest artistry in creating each of us intentionally to be individuals. He whispers to us of His love and plan for our lives throughout our daily journey with Him. Whether or not we know just what our future career, relationship, or life looks like; our greatest accomplishment is discovering our unique identity found only in Him who created us. And when we have discovered such brilliance included within, we realize the extraordinary potential we possess in the simplest or most complex moments. We are free to be ourselves–worshipping, loving, and living freely, regardless of what everyone around us is doing. For we are the handiwork of the Greatest Artist and the Artist delights in His creation.

by Jacqueline Fox

Living Water

waterfallWater ::  a vital element for all known forms of life.  Whether the fish in the sea that needs it to survive, or the kangaroo rat that can go 3-5 years without taking a sip of water, it’s a necessity. 
The dictionary defines stagnant as follows:
Stag·nant  adj. :: 
1. Not moving or flowing; motionless.
2. Foul or stale from standing: stagnant ponds.
3.  a. Showing little or no sign of activity or advancement; not developing or        progressing; inactive: a stagnant economy.
     b. Lacking vitality or briskness; sluggish or dull
When water has no flow, no cycle, it becomes stagnant.  Water needs an exit point and an entrance point.  A waterfall fills the stream, which pours into the lake, which then through means of rivers and creeks, finds its way to the ocean, where at that point or along the way evaporates into the air only to return to earth again through the rain. If water collects in an area that it can’t get out of, it loses momentum and eventually becomes stagnant.  Stagnant water is useless.  It is hazardous for drinking and can contain disease or harbor an environment for disease-ridden creatures to live. 
In life, we can reach this point of stagnancy.  Our lives get too full of the day-to-day that we are just coasting.  Or we become wrapped up in sin so much that we live in darkness.  Proverbs 25:26 says this, “Good people who don’t stand strong against evil are like springs that have been polluted or pools that have turned dirty and muddy.”  Our stagnancy leads to a standstill in our spiritual growth.  As nature portrays, that creates a hazardous environment.  We then become useless.  We are not helpful to those around us; we merely do more than take up space.  What once had the great life-giving potential now threatens the life around it.  God calls us into seasons of rest to restore us and to refresh us, but there is not a standstill.  We evaporate.  We give all of our substance to Him and, from there He then gives us the ability to again be life giving to those around us…like the rain.
We are called to give life to our environments. We are meant to enrich the places that we dwell and the lives of others that we encounter.
I, for one, have been stagnant for a while, coasting through my day-to-day routine.  My job occupies my day. And even though I am productive, I still do not exude an attitude that my life holds more purpose. My evening is spent with my little boy, Jude and my wife, Alyse. While playing with him and talking with her, I still don’t embody the presence of full life. I really just take up space. That is not what I am called to do. That is not how we are called to exist.  We are not meant to just exist and just “make it through the day.” God willing, there are many more days to be had and they can’t all be as meaningless as the day before. There has to be movement, there has to be flow and growth.  That movement only comes from a willingness to do so and a heart that is listening for God to tell us where to go next.  Jesus said in John 10:10, that He came to “give life – life that is full and good (or abundant.)”  Abundant living does not come from stagnancy. Abundant living comes from embracing what you have each day, praying that there are more days to come, but living as if there weren’t. 
Referring back to the cesspool of stagnant water, there is disease, decay and only potential for anti-life elements. Things can come from stagnant places, bacteria, mosquitoes, viruses, etc.  It’s not to say that stagnant water does not produce, it just doesn’t produce anything good.
My stagnant daily life produced strain, discomfort, laziness, a lack of discipline, rough relationships and sin. No more! I want the Living water to flow through my cesspool and wash out the corruption that began to manifest. Not only will the garbage wash away, but my pool can become full to the point of overflowing, and that is how I can feed into the lives around me.  My wife and my child can’t get anything from me if I’m not getting anything to start with.  If I’m not being filled up, I can’t give.  And what I have to give is not something they want to take.  It wreaks and has a bitter taste.
Again in John, Jesus is speaking to the woman at Jacob’s well.  Tired and thirsty from His travels, He asks the woman for a drink of water. She was taken back by His request, because their two nationalities had nothing to do with one another.  He basically said to her, “You don’t know who it is you are talking to.”  He says that He can offer living water that, whoever drinks it, would never be thirsty again.  “The water I give people will be like a spring flowing inside them. It will bring eternal life.” 
That is the water I want to be receiving in my life.  Jesus living in us is the spring that keeps giving.  It overflows us, if we let it.  If we keep pursuing Him and keep tapping into that spring, there will always be more than enough.  It causes an overflow and that spreads out to those around us.  The only way we can be what our families and friends need is to be full.  The only way to be full is to know Jesus.  The only way to know Him is to believe He is who He says He is and read His Word. 
I pray that when life gets busy and hard and monotonous, that I don’t become complacent, cold and callous. We only have so much time to leave such a little impression.  Is our legacy going to be a motionless pond of decay that no one wants to be around, or is it going to be a majestic waterfall that people travel from all around just to see?  
Written by Jason Krause (Amy’s bff’s hubby)

Love Nuke

lovenukeI posted a blog last September called Love Bomb. Every day, I would prayerfully go through my phone contact list (or facebook friends to message) and I ask God, who needs encouragement and love today? A name (or names) will pop out at me or I’ll picture someone’s face in my mind and I’ll know that’s who God is showing me that needs some love.

Then I Love Bomb them. 

I’ll send them a text message saying that I was just thinking about them and that God brought them to my mind and I just wanted to encourage them and tell them how much I love them and just inspire them wherever they are in their life at that moment. The responses are greatness. It’s SO fun! I’ve been bad about it lately but I’m picking it back up again!

So today, me and my girls got to take it a step further. What’s bigger than a bomb? Well a nuke. A Love Nuke.

We had just run to several different places looking for one of those plug in foot massage things that you put water in it and soak your feet. Mackenzie has been wanting to start charging people money and giving them pedicures. She got all the foot soak salts and lotions and even nail polish art kit.

We then decided to get their favorite, Panda Express. Our plans were to just run through the drive-thru and get home to eat. We had just placed our order and we were waiting for our turn at the window to get the food when Kenzie decides to take the nail polish out and open it. This nail polish wasn’t different than normal. It was like 2 colors, one on each end. So you had to turn one way to get one color open, and then close it and turn it upside down to twist open the opposite color. Sounds easy enough right?

Kenzie opened the nail polish the wrong way and I wasn’t paying attention, until she started screaming as this nail polish is starting to drip and we couldn’t get thing screwed back on. And in that moment, we panicked! We couldn’t figure it out and it was about to drip onto the leather seats in my car so I quickly rolled down the window, as I’m screaming at Kenzie for even opening it in the car, it’s dripping down my hand and I was afraid the BLACK nail polish was going to splatter on our WHITE suburban. We’re still in the drive through line, holding nail polish out the window, screaming at my daughter … yeah, good times.

I couldn’t figure it out, you would think it was rocket science. I just tossed it into the bushes. I had no other choice. I felt bad though. As I’m still screaming at Kenzie asking her, “WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?? DADDY’s GONNA KILL US!!” and we rolled up to window and I looked over at the woman working and she had big giant tears rolling down her face. I stopped yelling at Kenzie and got real quiet. She told me how much I owed and I tried to think of something nice to say to this stranger and I was already so flustered, I came up with nothing. She handed me my food and I said, “I hope your day gets better!” The tears started pouring even harder and she couldn’t say anything, she just nodded her head yes.

I kept thinking, did she get yelled at? Was her boss mean to her? Was it a family issue? But on top of that, I’m still terrified there is nail polish on the door of my car that splattered. Luckily, right next door was a car wash and we pulled up, and got out and we DID see nail polish. We got the baby wipes and got to scrubbing. SO thankful it came off! It took some elbow grease but me and kenzie kept wondering exactly what daddy was going to say to us when we got home if we didn’t get it off!

Once we got it all off, the topic turned back to the lady crying at Panda Express. Our problem didn’t seem so big anymore. We were thankful that God answered our prayer getting the silly paint off our car, so the girls got the great idea to go back to Panda Express and bring that lady some flowers and a card! She was obviously hurting really bad to be crying at work. We wanted to try and cheer her up a little.

We ran to the grocery store and found a cute arrangement with hot pink flowers, and found the perfect “cheer up” card. We put a love bomb inside and then we drove back to Panda Express to love nuke her. When we got there, her coworkers said that she had already left and they LOVED the flowers so they called her cell to tell her to come back. They said she lived really close so we waited and when she got there, we ambushed her. Kenzie was holding the flowers and Landry was holding the card. Tears poured down her cheeks again.

Her name was Maria. She didn’t speak much english but the only words she could get out flowerswas that she had a family emergency, her dad was in bad health and she had to fly to Mexico in the morning. She kept saying thank you but she couldn’t talk much because she was crying so much. We gave her a hug and told her that we would be praying for her and her father.

She walked back outside and I looked over at the girls and they were smiling SO big. They loved it! It was fun! We loved Love Nuking someone! I know a lot of the Embrace Grace girls have been Love Nuked and I’ve gotten to see the other side of the affects of a random act of kindness by a complete stranger – here are a few EG girls that told me about Love Nukes that meant a lot to them:

“Ariel and I were at Brio for dinner when he first got out of boot camp and he was in his Dress Blues. We had one family buy our dinner and thank him for his service & we had another family give us a $100 gift card to Brio all in the same night. It was amazing; I cried my eyes out.” – Rachael D. 

“Being a single momma, living alone was hard with a newborn. I had a little one bedroom apartment in the “hood”and when my trash got full I would put the bag outside my door. (Just carrying trash to the dumpster took work!) Many times I would walk out and it would already b gone and thrown in the dumpster for me! That was 5 years ago, but I will always remember that. How Jesus took that trash out for me.” – Sarah W. 

“At a pink impact conference two years ago at the end of service an older lady came up to me and put money in my hand. She said she felt like I needed it more than she did. I hugged her and thank her but didn’t find out until I really looked that she had given me one hundred dollars. It was perfect timing and a huge blessing.” – Olivia B. 

“The most amazing thing just happened at Target! We were buying stocking stuffers for my baby and were using the last money we had and while we waiting in line, the sweetest lady in front of us whispered something in the clerk’s ear. All of a sudden she scans our stuff! We look at the clerk with confusion and the lady looks back at us, smiles and says, “Merry Christmas!” She bought all of ours toys for us! It brought tears to my eyes … People are so amazing and God is great!” – Kyndall O. 

“On Good Friday this year I was working at a mexican restaurant and i had a table of 3 adults and 2 kids.. they asked if I had kids so told them I had a two year old and a baby on the way. The guy went on to ask if my husband and I were ready for Easter and I told him I was a single mom and continued on with my night. When I got the guys credit card to cashout his ticket he followed me to the cash register to sign the recipt. When he handed it back to me, he said ‘Happy Easter and God bless you and your family.’ I looked down at the receipt to see $100 tip and I instantly started crying and hugged him and thanked him. What he didn’t know was that I was behind on billls and the $100 caught me up completely.” – Amanda W. 

“I was at QT like 3 years ago getting me and Cam muffins for breakfast because I had no money for real food and putting my last $20 in gas to look for a job and a man told the clerk to buy all my stuff and my gas with his card and told me that God wanted him to do it and he was apart of gateway church. And 2 years later, I looked into Gateway and found Embrace Grace and all of you amazing ladies because of him.” – Sabrina D. 

Going a little out of our way, can ultimately change someone’s life. You never know what difference you can make when you Love Nuke someone – most likely it will inspire even more love. Love feeds love!

In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father. {Matthew 5:16}

Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets. {Matthew 7:12}

Pray and ask God to bring you someone you can bless this week! And spread the word! We would love to hear your stories!

Written by Amy Ford

A Beautiful Disaster

grandmaandbabyEvery girl has a story, especially when they have an unplanned pregnancy, this is mine.

My Daughter Sophia Diane was born on November 13 2012; she was the purest form of perfection I had ever laid my eyes upon. Right then and there I swore that I would never be to her, what my mother was to me.

I couldn’t understand in that moment how a mother could just leave her child…even though it was with a family member (my grandmother), I couldn’t understand that. From the moment my daughter was born all I wanted to do was hold onto her and never let her go.

I had held on to a lot of ill feelings toward my mother for a very long time…feelings of betrayal, rejection, guilt, hurt, and for a long time an all-around hatred for the woman who gave birth to me.

I know now that it is not okay to feel that way towards anyone, let alone your mother. God has opened my eyes to an array of things that I would have never known if I hadn’t have had my baby.

Like although my mother was initially physically and emotionally abusive, she was having her own problems as well. Now don’t mistake my understanding for the making of excuses for her wrongful doing. I just now understand that she did not know how to deal with the horrible hand she was given and needed help, but wouldn’t ask for any out of pride.

When my mother left me I was 16 years old and wanted to be “all grown up” like most 16 year olds. I ran with the wrong friends, started smoking marijuana and drinking way too much, way too often. This went on until I got pregnant when I was 17, a month before my 18th birthday. I knew then there was no way that I could physically, mentally, or financially take care of a child. So the father and I made the joint decision to get an abortion. Now had there been a group like Embrace Grace in Florida when this happened, I am positive now that circumstances would have been different. However there was not and I did go through with it. It still hurts to my very soul to this day.

Afterwards the father and I stayed together and stayed together for quite a while. In November of 2010 I became pregnant again and this time we were super excited because we had been together for 2 years, were engaged and planning a wedding…well God had other plans because on January 15th, 2011 I miscarried. I was distraught. I felt like God was punishing me for doing what I did to my first baby.  I was broken. I partied like there was no tomorrow and didn’t care what happened…

He and I started having problems shortly after we got married and I realized that I didn’t want that…it wasn’t right. Something was wrong. I was right there was something wrong. We were like oil and water and our relationship was not going to work. To this day I believe that the loss of our child sealed the deal and that was the beginning of the end of our relationship.

Shortly after I left my now ex-husband, I met a very handsome blue eyed stranger while I was out one night with my best friend. Turned out that he would become the father of my child and my future.

God had a plan for me all along and even though my faith had faulted, God loved me anyway, and knew where I was supposed to be and where I would be in the future.

James and I have been together almost 2 years and although it has not been the smoothest of times, he is the best father and future husband that I could ever even dream up….even when I was doubtful; God had created the perfect man just for me. I just had to find him.

I never thought that it would honestly happen for me; I believed I was destined to have a string of dysfunctional relationships like my mother. Drunks, Druggies, Criminals, Abusers, Cheaters, Thieves…the list could go on and on and on.  But in such a short time, He led me to the perfect man for me…

Right then it made me question… “What am I doing questioning him?”

I started reading my Bible and trying to understand why things happened the way they did…while doing this I found out I was pregnant with my wonderful Sophia.  It was like all curtains were pulled back and all doors opened and I saw the light.

I was then introduced to Amy Ford and started Embrace Grace. It was the most amazing choice I had ever made in my life. Not only because of the wonderful people I met, but the way my faith was restored is indescribable.

I realized that maybe having so much hate built up for my mother was not necessary.

When I came home from the hospital I did the grown up thing and looked up my mother on Facebook and sent her a message that I gave birth to her first granddaughter and sent some pictures. That was it…short and simple but it was a start.

Right then I let go of everything and gave it to God. If I was meant to have a relationship with her then God would lead me to her.

Well about a week ago I received a message from my mother on Facebook.   She told me that she realized that she had a problem and was getting the help and medications she needed. She also told me that she needed open heart surgery and a valve replacement…on top of the very long list of major medical issues that she was suffering through.  In the short version, my mother is basically standing on deaths doormat although I am still believing for a miracle.  I was shocked when I read everything. She told me she is currently taking 22 different medications for all her illnesses.

I am still in shock and have the heaviest heart i can only imagine. It almost breaks my heart to know that the woman i have held so much negativity towards..might die…All i can do though is pray.

She has since asked me if she could move to Texas to spend what time she has left with Sophia and watch her grow, as well as attempt a relationship with me. Now I don’t know how well it is going to go, but because she has made the effort and taken the steps to live a better life, I am willing to give her a chance.

I have, with Gods guidance and love, forgiven her whole heartedly.  I cannot hold all of this negativity inside my heart, when that’s just a big fat sign that invites the devil in to my heart to stay, and I am not going to do that.

I have continued to speak to her daily and am helping her find a place to live that she can get all of the medical and psychological help she needs.

God had shown me that my daughter deserves to know her grandmother in a way that I never got to, and I will follow the path he has laid.

My life may be a disaster, but it’s a beautiful disaster and I wouldn’t trade it for the world, and with God by my side, I can conquer any and all obstacles put before me.

Every time I think about this situation now only one verse keeps repeating in my head…

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as Jesus Christ forgave you. {Ephesians 4:32}

Written by Jessica Richards

Babies Voices – 11:11

babyandclockSpeak up for those who cannot speak for themselves…  {Proverbs 31:8}

They speak without a sound or word. Their voice is never heard. {Psalm 19:3}

On an ordinary day, I was washing dishes and suddenly this flood of emotions came over me. It brought me to my knees. The faucet was still running water from the sink, as my own tears began to fall down my cheeks. I began to weep uncontrollably for the babies in the womb, for the babies that are being aborted, for the babies that are silenced before their life begins.

This was the first time that I had experienced something this intense that arose from somewhere deep inside of me. A sense of urgency was felt. A call to action. A call to prayer. A burden for babies being aborted was implanted in my heart at that moment. At the time, I was unsure of the details and even where to begin. I just knew in my heart to pray for the babies. I was aware that something strong and powerful had just been deposited deep into my heart and spirit.  I trusted Jesus to unwrap the details and reveal His heart and plans that He had just planted inside of me. I returned to my dish-washing with tear stained cheeks and was in awe of what had just transpired.

The very next day, September 11, 2008 to be exact, the details began to unravel and be made known. I was driving down Carrol Blvd on my way to the Post Office at Southlake Town Square. I glanced in my rear view mirror to see a car fast approaching behind me and almost collided with me as I had to slam on my brakes to avoid smashing into the car in front of me. My heart almost dropped to the floor, since both of my children were in the car with me. Logan was a baby and I was concerned for my children’s safety as well as mine. My eyes were automatically drawn to the time on the dash.

It read 11:11. 

Instantly my heart knew that this eleventh hour and eleventh minute had significance.

A mental note was made. Remember this specific time of hour. It is of utmost importance.

We stopped by Piccomolo for a tasty snack and the lady working behind the counter told us all about the parade that was to be held in honor and remembrance of 9/11. Instinctively, my heart knew we should attend. Our family went together and stood in the grass and watched the Firefighters being congratulated and honored for their bravery, and heroic services and protection of our great city. Marines were also were standing in attention and on guard. Many floats and decorated buggies made their appearance at the parade.

One in particular stood out more than all the rest. It was a replica of the Liberty Bell with large monuments of the Ten Commandments on each side. People were encouraged to ring the Liberty Bell and declare Let Freedom Ring. With each ring of the bell, I could sense the demons covering their ears and cringing. Our family waited in line to ring the bell. As our turn approached, we each pulled the cord and heard the reverberating sound echo loudly in our ears. Felt this was a monumental moment, and was not even sure of the full significance at the time.

The timing of the Liberty Bell replica on location at Southlake that day, 9/11, along with the 11:11 time significance and the burden on my heart to pray for the babies to be saved. All of these peculiar pieces began to fit together. I knew the call to action was being laid out. Instructions were given to set my alarm on my phone for 11:11 daily to sound as a reminder to pray for the babies was given from heaven. I knew and felt this call deep down inside.

Pray for the babies in the womb.

Pray for the babies to be saved from abortion.

Pray for the mommies and daddies to choose life and their hearts to be soften.

Pray for life.

I began spreading the word and asking others to join in setting their alarms and praying for the babies too.

Babies Voices. 11:11. A baby movement was birthed. 

We can speak up for the babies in the womb, their voices are silent and can not be heard, but we can speak up and make our voices loud for them. We can declare LIFE, LOVE, and LIBERTY. We can be a voice crying out for them saying save my life. I am a baby. Choose life.

You too can set your alarm as a reminder to pray for the babies voices to be heard. Will you join us in sounding the alarm. The liberty bell will resound… Let Babies Live.

Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, ensure justice for those being crushed. Yes, speak up for the poor and helpless, and see that they get justice. {Proverbs 31:8-9}

Written by Salina Duffy