Stay Afloat

shutterstock_179168111Day in and day out we encounter times when we are left pondering and wondering what is the outcome of this situation we are facing? The good, the bad and the ugly may come our way and in those moments how do we react? We love when the good times roll and things are going our way. Everything around us is butterflies and rainbows. All seems to be so easy and carefree. Smooth sailing. The stress is bare minimal in those particular days. Days like these are fully embraced and so peaceful. We would love for moments like these to repeat over and over.

But what about the other moments? In those times when the bad or the ugly comes; is our first reaction to panic and allow the pressure and tension to rise and engulf us with fear? Or do we counteract with peace, calmness and assuredness? I venture to say that for many of us, myself included at times, the pressure and tension rises when the resistance is the strongest. My hopes and intentions are to stay calm, cool and collected; but unfortunately that isn’t always the case. As much as I may try, my arms seem to be flailing and fighting to stay afloat.

A perfect visual of this instance was brought to the surface the other day as I was talking to a sweet bloom on the phone. I was sharing encouraging words, hope and speaking life into her situation. As we spoke, in my mind I saw her in this body of water as she was trying to float on her back. Amidst all the things she was facing and enduring at the time, try as she may, she was not able to stay afloat. Her arms and legs were kicking and striving, trying to stay above water. She kept sinking and barely able to hold her head up. She was trying with all her might to figure out the outcome and answers to the things that weighed so heavily upon her heart. She was trusting God so much, and then at times it just felt so hard. Almost too hard. Her arms were just moving about trying desperately to be still. But how she thought?

Be still and know that I am God. Psalm 46:10

As we began to talk more and more, I encouraged her to close her eyes and visualize herself in the water. Then shared as a lifeguard is instructing someone how to float and gently holds their back briefly as the child or grown up learns to spread arms and legs out and fully relax. If they begin to panic or strive to stay above water, they will begin to sink. But if they can fully relax and be still, the lifeguard can gently pull his hand away and the person can feel they are floating freely and staying above the water. They have mastered the concept of floating.

Now just imagine Jesus as that lifeguard. He is there alongside of you. Holding you up securely.

I came home and my mind began to race about some things that were weighing heavily upon my heart. I began seeing myself in the water with my arms moving about trying to stay afloat. Then the words I had just shared to help and encourage someone else were coming back to encourage me. I went outside and felt a full immersion in the pool would be so refreshing and relaxing. I literally laid back in the water and practiced the exercise of trying to float while too many things were racing in my mind. Things began to jumble up and my arms began to move about. I began to sink. But then, I inhaled and took a deep breath. As I exhaled and gave everything that concerned me to Jesus, I felt Him so near. He was my lifeguard and was holding my back in the water and instructing me. He said give it all to me. Everything. Hold nothing back. I want it all. The more I felt myself giving it over to Him, the lighter and weightless I became. I was floating so freely in the water and gazing up at the sky above me.

No matter what situation you are facing today. He has His hands gently on your back. He is talking you through step by step instructions. Relax, put your arms out to the side. Breathe. Don’t fight it. Just be still. The more still you can be, the better. He will help you stay afloat.

There seems to be a pattern in the thoughts and minds of girls that are sending me messages lately. They are phrased differently and revolve around their own specific circumstances and situations. The heart of the matter reflects upon how to react and respond when these instances arise. Do we begin to sink or float?

These are just a few of the messages that have been coming in lately. They are true expressions and emotions of what some of our blooms are experiencing:

I feel like my biggest fear is coming true… My faith is definitely being pushed to the limits. I don’t know what to do… I’m crying right now. I’m trying so hard to have faith and trust in God. I’m just so scared. – EG alumni bloom

I’m having a hard time right now. I really need someone… My Mom is wanting to kick me out, I had to quit one of my jobs and they screamed at me the whole time. I feel like I never see my baby and my baby daddy has been trying to get custody. -EG alumni bloom

I feel like everything is falling apart. My car is in the shop and it is too expensive to fix, and I really just get too emotional and need prayers. – EG alumni bloom

I just had another sonogram and it showed an abnormal cyst in my baby’s abdomen. Please pray. -EG alumni bloom {Praise report: the following day she had another sonogram and everything was normal and baby is so healthy and strong and the previous reading was an error. Yay God!}

Seeing that baby girl made me a little nervous! She was soooo precious, but I don’t feel ready for a baby at all… – EG bloom

You may find yourself relating in one way or another to some of these, or you can fill in your own responses of what you are facing at this particular moment. Whether it is the good, the bad or the ugly, know that there is a God out there who hears your every prayer and longing. He knows your fears and sees your tears. He is here for you and will never let you go. No matter what comes your way. He promises to stay right beside you and keep you from sinking.

What are you facing today? Questions, unknowns, and everything in between… No matter what you can stay afloat.

Praying for peace and calmness to come over you and bring you the sweetest rest and assuredness that God has everything safely in His hands for you! Praying for all things close to your heart to be safe and secure. Life situations and God’s plans to be revealed. Health, healing and wholeness in a mighty way. A Jesus touch to be felt. Powerful provision beyond what you can see in the here and now. To fully surrender everything into His loving care. May Jesus cover you with His mighty hands and bring you the sweetest comfort. I love you so much! Rest easy and be at peace. Relax. Breathe. God is in control. You will stay afloat.

Written by Salina Duffy

A Love-Bomb Adventure!

photo2Have you ever had a person that is the cashier at a grocery store, or someone showing you how to hang something at Home Depot, or maybe weighing your packages at the shipping store, or really any random interaction with a stranger, and you felt something tugging at you to know more or just care more about them? Something about the person is drawing you to them … not in a weird, creepy way. In a Jesus way. Like your heart breaks a little for them and you don’t even know why because you know nothing about them?

That’s the Holy Spirit. When we open our eyes to be more Kingdom-minded, God will show us people all the time for us to love on.

That happened to me and my friend Alyse this past Thursday night and our life changed a little. We were at a hotel in a little town called El Dorado, Arkansas and I had just spoke for this awesome pregnancy center called Hannah Pregnancy Center. This may be a little town but they had a BIG family feel to it. They had so many personal touches and had such great relationships with the girls, it was beautiful. And Thursday night, I met someone that knew first-hand how Hannah Centers had impacted her life.

We were coming off the high of a fun adrenaline rush from speaking so after the event we made a late night trip to Wal-mart and then picked up Pizza Hut to eat in our rooms. As we were walking through the lobby doors we greeted the cute girl working behind the counter. We stopped at the desk and felt like asking her just a couple of questions, more than the usual “how are you” –

“Hi! Did you just get here? We didn’t see you earlier.”

“Yeah I have to work the night shift. I get off at 6:30 am.” 

“Oh my goodness that is so hard. How do you stay awake all night?”

“It is hard. I have 3 kids and my youngest is 7 months old and I work while they sleep but when I get home I’m SO tired and try to stay awake for them but it’s hard. Plus I’m taking classes at college and I’m running on fumes but I’m getting by.”

Me and Alyse encouraged her a little and started to walk towards the elevator and we looked at each other and knew what the other was thinking without even saying anything: LET’S LOVE-BOMB HER!! 

We snuck back out to the parking lot and looked at our stash of goodies in the car that weIMG_3038 could give her. We of course had my book, A Bump in Life. We had a Jesus Calling book that was brand new as well as another book that I can’t remember. We had a cute heart/key necklace still in gift box we put in there and then we wrapped it all up with a tulle bow and tied it off with our new “lovebomb” cards that our friends Trevor and Jonathan made for us!

When we went back through the lobby, we noticed that she wasn’t there at the front desk and she had stepped away. We sat it down at her chair and snuck away and went back to our room. Me and Alyse had fun recapping the night and eating our pizza. About an hour later, Alyse needed to run down again and get chips from vending machine (she had a hankerin’ lol). She was gone FOREVER so I went down to check on her and she was talking to our girl we just love-bombed.

Alyse told me she had walked by the front desk and out of all the books we gave her, she was reading A Bump in Life and had noticed she was crying. Alyse asked her if she was a single mom and she said, “yes” and started to tell us a little about her story. With tears pouring down her face she said, “I’m a single mom and feel stuck in this relationship that is abusive. He never harms the children but he gets angry with me and hurts me. A few months ago he got mad at me and punched me in the face and broke my jaw. The hardest thing about that was that my 4-year old daughter was watching and saw the whole thing. It’s been a few months but I keep seeing her re-enact what happened. She acts it out like it’s embedded in her mind. I know she will never forget her father punching her mom in the face and I can’t do anything about it. He watches the kids at night while I work and I don’t have anyone else to and I can’t afford childcare. I’m not even with him yet I can’t get away from him.” 

HEART-BREAKING.

Me and Alyse were BALLING. This perfect and beautiful girl that was smart, going to college, working her tail off for her family, but she felt stuck and overlooked. We talked for a while and talked about some options for her. We all leaned over the lobby desk and held hands and prayed. We begged God for a way out for her. We thanked Him for colliding our lives and speaking to us to lovebomb her. We prayed to erase the memory of what happened with her daughter. We prayed for the father of the babies for his heart to fall in love with Jesus and for him to get the help he needed as well as for this sweet mom to be brave and courageous to take a step to find a way out. I felt like the Lord was saying that He SEES her. He LOVES her. She is HIS and He wants to help her, she just has to take the steps out. I felt like she was going to be a trailblazer and pave the way for even more girls that maybe are abused in silence to find a way out and break the cycle.

She said she had tried church and a lady at church was trying to counsel her but then when she got pregnant the last time, the woman said she couldn’t go to church there anymore and that they couldn’t help her. She was heartbroken. She wanted to find a church and get plugged in. She wanted to grow deeper in her relationship in the Lord and learn to rely on Him more. We told her about a church that was local and that the pastor had just concluded the message at Hannah Pregnancy Center and we really could tell he had a loving church – I just needed to find the name of church and the pastor’s last name. I promised I would get it to her.  She said, “I love Hannah Pregnancy Center. I take classes there every Wednesday night and they have helped me so much. I don’t know where I would be without them and it’s so nice to sometimes just get away and be around people that are positive and uplifting.”

photoWow! How amazing that she loves Hannah too! As we released hands from praying, I realized I had been leaning over a stack of newspapers on the counter and I took a second glance because I saw a picture of me speaking at the event that night! I picked up the paper and they had a story about the benefit and Hannah Pregnancy Center. I loved the headline, “The Pro-life Movement Starts with Love.” It had already printed! (It was about 1:00 am at this point). And in the article it had the pastor’s name and church cited so I could tell her right then!

God just kept winking at the 3 of us and it was so cool!

Will you be praying with us for additional help to come through for this sweet girl in El Dorado, Arkansas? And for her to be so engulfed in God’s love that it becomes all she wants and desires. Please pray she understands how precious, valuable, worthy, amazing and beautiful she is and how much God loves her SO much!

Join me on this love-bomb adventure in making a difference in people’s lives by reaching out and loving people! It’s SO fun!

Written by Amy Ford

 

Ears to Hear

shutterstock_175071470I am a listener. I absolutely love to listen! I was once given wonderful advice that has really stuck with me as I have grown. That istake the time to love and listen to whomever is in front of you at that moment. Really focus in and give them your full attention and allow them time to talk. Communication and connections being made.

Throughout my days it may be my husband, or my 2 sons, Embrace Grace mommies and babies, family, friends, team members and so many others that I come in contact with. I love to listen as they share stories, events about their day, and other fascinating factors that they encounter. The highs and lows of life. Ups and downs and everything in between. I engage and listen intently on what they have to share. One of my most favorite to listen to is God. He always knows exactly what I need to hear at the perfect moment.

A few days ago I was intrigued with this movie I had rented and my little seven year old walks in trying to talk to me. Shhhhh… Mommy is watching a movie. I’m trying to hear what they are saying… please be quiet. I can’t hear when you are talking… A few minutes later he is chatty again. I again ask him to be quiet. A third time he begins to talk and says something that captured my attention and I immediately grabbed the remote and paused the movie and was all ears. Ready to listen.

Mommy, his voice sounds like God’s. I look over at him in total amazement. I ask him to repeat again. His voice sounds like God’s mommy… The characters voice was a really deep voice. This man has been in so many movies. One being Simba’s dad on the Lion King. His voice is very distinctive and captures the audience when he speaks.

My son and I have many talks about him hearing God and how He speaks to him. He will ask God questions and relay the answers. In their sweet innocence and childlike faith it just comes naturally for children to hear God speak.

As we are sitting on the couch I look intently into my son’s eyes and desire to know more about this voice that sounds so familiar to him. I ask him so when you hear this voice, what does He say? He replies. Umm… What’s the word? He thinks for a second. Oh yeah, he cheers me on. He says you know like when I am playing baseball. I will be on first base. He (God) tells me to run to second. Run to second. Then when I am on second He says run to third you can do it, run to third. He encourages me to run. His voice sounds like that man on the movie mommy.

As I am sitting there in total adoration and love of hearing these sweet words from my son, a wave of astonishment and awestruck wonder came over me. It really is that simple. We sometimes think that hearing God is something only some people can do. But He speaks to all of us. All the time. We simply have to tune our ears to hear His voice. To listen intently to the things being spoken all around us. The delivery comes in so many different ways. He speaks through His creation, His Word, gentle whispers, our children and so many remarkable ways. As we begin to listen with our ears and really engage in what He wants to speak into our lives it will leave lasting impressions upon our hearts.

I’m reminded of a story in the bible found in 1 Samuel 3 about a little boy that heard the voice of God. Now the boy Samuel ministered to the Lord before Eli. The word of the Lord was rare and precious in those days; there was no frequent or widely spread vision. At that time Eli, whose eyesight had dimmed so that he could not see, was lying down in his own place. When the Lord called, Samuel! And he answered, Here I am. He ran to Eli and said, Here I am, for you called me. Eli said, I did not call you; lie down again. So he went and lay down.And the Lord called again, Samuel! And Samuel arose and went to Eli and said, Here am I; you did call me. Eli answered, I did not call, my son; lie down again. Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord, and the word of the Lord was not yet revealed to him. And the Lord called Samuel the third time. And he went to Eli and said, Here I am, for you did call me. Then Eli perceived that the Lord was calling the boy. So Eli said to Samuel, Go, lie down. And if He calls you, you shall say, Speak, Lord, for Your servant is listening. So Samuel went and lay down in his place. And the Lord came and stood and called as at other times, Samuel! Samuel! Then Samuel answered, Speak, Lord, for Your servant is listening. 1 Samuel 3:1-10 AMP

May our ears, just as Samuel’s, be listening intently to hear what God is speaking to us. May our ears be in tune to hear His voice. May we have childlike listening skills to hear so clearly what is being revealed and spoken to our hearts. To encourage us. To enlighten us. To engage and entertain us. To fill our days and nights with life giving affirmations and love that will continue to lift us up and help us through whatever we may be going through. May we be able to drown out the noise, distraction and accusations from the wrong voices and be drawn to the heart and voice of God.

look with your eyes and hear with your ears and set your heart and mind on all that I will show you, for you are brought here that I may show them to you. Ezekiel 40:4 AMP

My eyes will be open and my ears attentive to every prayer made in this place. 2 Chronicles 7:15 NLT

Written by Salina Duffy

Hanging Out In Limbo

shutterstock_108821864Limbo= Lim’bo, Lim’bus

1.    A region bordering on hell, or hell itself.
2.    A place of restraint.

Restraint= (Hebrew) ma’tsowr (mah-tsore’)

Objectively, a hindrance.
Atsar (aw-tsar), Hebrew
A primitive root; to inclose; by analogy, to hold back; also to maintain, rule, assemble; be able, close up, detain, fast, keep (self close, still), prevail, recover, refrain, X reign, restrain, retain, shut (up), slack, stay, stop, withhold (self).

Isaiah 54:1 “Sing, barren woman, you who never bore a child; burst into song, shout for joy, you who were never in labor; because more are the children of the desolate woman than of her who has a husband,” says the Lord.

I have found myself on more than one occasion recently saying to myself and others, “I don’t do limbo well!” It seems as though my life and everything about it is in “limbo” at the moment, my place of residence, my passions, my healing and recovery, my job, my relationships, etc., etc., etc. I have continually viewed this as a bad place to be. Looking at the first definition above, that would prove true. BUT GOD!

As I study the second definition I am beginning to realize “limbo” is not always a bad place to be. The verse Isaiah 54:1 seems to start out as a dark place for most women, a barren place. It is a parable of not just a woman who cannot have a child, but all women who have a dream, calling, pull if you will, on their heart. We have so much that “pulls” us into all directions, and usually at the same time! Limbo can be, if we let it, a place of imprisonment, a place of despair and isolation, and really, if we are honest, that region bordering on hell! YUCK! But God wants it to be a place of recovery, refrain from harm, a stillness to stay in His presence. He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” Psalm 46:10 We can prevail in “limbo”! “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” Proverbs 19:21 We can also keep steadfast in “limbo.” “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.” Isaiah 26:3

Now, I am not saying that I didn’t struggle in my recent “limbo.” As a matter of fact and in total transparency, I actually quit for a bit! Those close to me observed this first hand. They have shown me mercy and grace during my recovery and healing. But God got ahold of me, that’s a great thing, and began to show me how to transfer my “limbo” from that region to His presence. In His presence, limbo looks like this:

L Love = “But I am like an olive tree flourishing in the house of God; I trust in God’s unfailing love for ever and ever.” Psalm 52:8

I Imperfect = “He is the Rock, His works are perfect, and all His ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is He.” Deuteronomy 32:4

M Mercy = “His mercy extends to those who fear Him, from generation to generation.” Luke 1:50

B Beautiful = “and provide for those who grieve in Zion – to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor.” Isaiah 61:3

O Open = “My eyes stay open through the watches of the night, that I may meditate on your promises.” Psalm 119:148

So the next time you feel in “limbo”, or maybe you are there right now, call on God, only He can move you from the region bordering hell to His presence.

I love the Lord, for He heard my voice; He heard my cry for mercy.
Because He turned His ear to me, I will call on Him as long as I live.
The cords of death entangled me, the anguish of the grave came over me; I was overcome by distress and sorrow.
THEN I called on the name of the Lord: “Lord, save me!”
The Lord is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion.
The Lord protects the unwary; when I was brought low, He saved me.
Return to your rest, my soul, for the Lord has been good to you.
For you, Lord, have delivered me from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling, that I may walk before the Lord in the land of the living. Psalm 116:1-9

Written by Kathy Easley

Dynamic Duo

shutterstock_153693311A gentle whisper was heard in my heart when I asked for a blog post title. Dynamic Duo. Whoa! That was power packed. Ready to unpackage the meaning of these two words that were joined together for a purpose.

I sat down in my comfy cozy love seat, opened the blinds so the sunshine could kiss my cheeks. I gazed up at the clouds as they were forming into unique shapes and imagined what they could be. Like paint colors upon a canvas I saw hearts of all sizes in the puffy white clouds. I was relaxed. Heart content. Ready to listen. Time to press in. I began with my journal, pen, bible, and phone with dictionary app close at hand. I could sense that this was going to be a beautiful word that was going to be etched upon my heart to be shared with you. I feel God winks coming.

So here goes. Dynamic is referenced as an energy, effective action, vital, energetic, energizing, magnetic, peppy, powerful, vigorous, vitalizing, zippy. Synonyms of dynamic are alive, awake, full of life, cheerful, overflowing, happy, spirited, passionate, bubbly, perky, sparkling, and sweeping.

As I scrolled down to see the abundance of words given to describe dynamics; I saw familiar eyes and the words MAJESTIC. I knew instantly before scrolling down any further that these were the beautiful brown eyes of Kari Jobe. It was an advertisement of her new album on the dictionary.com site. I smiled inside and began singing How Majestic is your name!

Now to the next word search duo: Two persons commonly associated with each other, a couple. Synonyms of duo were pair, team, two of a kind, deuce, troop, organization, partners and more references were given. As I scrolled down my iphone to my amazement the beautiful eyes were there again. It was the same advertisement for Kari’s album. I searched another word for fun and grins just to see, and the ad changed to something totally random. Ok God, you have my attention. So just what would you like to say about the combination of these two words that you have joined together.

There are many facets and factors of ways to describe dynamic duo’s. Friends joined together for a special mission. Relationships of all sorts. Parents and children. Teachers and students. Leaders and blooms. Ministries and missions. Families. Churches. Pregnancy Resource Centers. A joining together in some creative way set apart by God to fulfill His plans and purposes on Earth.

A common thread is usually seen as we embark upon the journey each semester in Embrace Grace. The dynamics of our EG groups typically have a theme as they are so wonderfully chosen and handpicked by God. Each bloom having their own uniqueness and special stories. There is an energetic and magnetic presence in the room. Girls and leaders alike are cheerful, happy, spirited and passionate. They are eager to learn and grow more. This mission spurs us on for an abundance of grace to be poured out and overflowing on everyone connected at the heart of EG.

This sweet duo is being highlighted at the moment in my heart…

The dynamic duo of a mommy and baby is precious and profound. The closeness that the two share together as baby is within being knit, formed and fashioned in the womb. Psalm 139 vividly paints the picture of this creation. Nothing else compares to this closeness. Mommy, You are full of life. Life giving. Beautiful beyond compare. The baby within you is being nurtured with the utmost of tenderness and love. Belly Beautiful is the word that comes to my heart when I see girls in their pregnancy. I share how special and chosen they are to be carrying this precious life inside of them. They smile and seem to grasp the love and tenderness that is expressed. You are radiant and glowing. Others are drawn to you and love to ask when are you due? Do you know if you are having a boy or girl? Their eyes light up with the simplest of questions because someone has taken the time to ask. To encourage and lift you up with happy thoughts.

You may be wondering in this moment how everything is going to play out. You may wish you had a way to see into the months ahead of you. As a sonogram of your baby is given to get a little sneak peek of your expected arrival. You are able to see a pretty clear visual of your baby growing inside of you. You have been given a due date. A time for everything under the sun. See Ecclesiastes 3. In your weeks and months, as each day passes, you are getting closer and closer to the delivery.

You may not be able to see the end from the beginning, but there is someone who can. God knows every moment that you will ever encounter and face. He knows every detail. He will be along beside you cheering you on. When you are nearing the end of your pregnancy and delivery is almost time, just get ready for the sweetest moments. The best is yet to come. You will meet your little one face to face. What has been growing and developing inside of you will be born and you will experience a miracle. Embrace this season that you are in. It will pass by quickly and before you know it that sweet baby will be growing faster than you can blink. You will savor the moments as they swiftly grow with each passing day.

Beautiful One we celebrate You! Remarkable. Chosen. Powerful. Delightful. One of a kind. You have a dynamic that only you can bring to this world. Let it shine. Let it radiate this world. As we are joined together in special and unique ways we create dynamic duo’s all over the world that makes an impact beyond anything imaginable.
God is in the details. Grand and Small. He orchestrates them ALL!

Written by Salina Duffy

A Place Called Home

shutterstock_139797706It hit me like a ton of bricks. The realization that for most of the years I had been a mother I had inwardly longed to be single, to not have the daily responsibilities and duties of motherhood. And now that my children were almost grown, how I longed to be a mother. I do not have time in this brief blog post to count the ways that I came to this realization, but I can tell you that I love my children with all of my heart, and that there are no three people more important to me on the entire earth.

As anyone who knows me will tell you, I have a huge capacity to love. I long to give to people, and I have a desire to make others happy to the best of my ability. Having said that though, because of sin, hurt and pain in my life, there were parts of me deep inside that were severed. Lacking a connection, they lost life. I always struggled with feeling like something just wasn’t connecting, especially when others would say things that would ring true in my head and I would pray with all of my might, but it was as if something stopped it from reaching my heart.

My friends and I have this inside joke about words that drive us crazy. “Dear”, “Pumpkin,” “Honey” are a few that make me cringe. Tonight though, another word made me cringe and I mentally added it to my list. Consequence. Talking about consequences in relationships and consequences with kids and for once I decided (or admitted) that I did not like that word. As the conversation continued, I became very aware of something I had not before. And it was the key to unlock guilt I had carried for years.

I have always been a task oriented person. Things have to be done, the show must go on kind of person. Stuff those feelings and emotions because you just don’t have time to deal with them right now kind of person. Being a young teenage mother, several things inside of me stopped growing so that other areas could grow rapidly in order to position myself for this new found responsibility. With the duties of an adult, I still had the emotions of a child, and those emotions carried over into the decisions I made as an adult. I did what I had to do, in order to keep my family moving, not really considering what the best interest of a family would be. Very independent and just trying to make it, I made decisions the best I could with my limited emotional and mental capabilities.

And tonight it came full force. For the first time, I realized with both my mind and my heart that I grieved not being able to give my children a “normal” home. Mom, Dad, cat, dog, family vacations. Home cooked dinners around the table. Holiday crafts and family traditions. Too busy trying to do it all, I ended up doing none of it well. I couldn’t give them “normal” when they were young and even now – the struggle is real.

Laying on my couch feeling the brokenness, I thought about my parenting skills, everything that I had been through with my children, and I asked the Lord where was the redemption in this part of my story? And the scripture in Ezekiel 37 telling the story of the dry bones came to my mind:

“God grabbed me. God’s Spirit took me up and set me down in the middle of an open plain strewn with bones. He led me around and among them—a lot of bones! There were bones all over the plain—dry bones, bleached by the sun. He said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” I said, “Master God, only you know that.” He said to me, “Prophesy over these bones: ‘Dry bones, listen to the Message of God!’” God, the Master, told the dry bones, “Watch this: I’m bringing the breath of life to you and you’ll come to life. I’ll attach sinews to you, put meat on your bones, cover you with skin, and breathe life into you. You’ll come alive and you’ll realize that I am God!” Ezekiel 37:1-6 (The Message)

I had prayed several times this scripture. For God to breathe life into the dry areas, to bring back to life those things that were dead inside of me. As I laid on the couch, I sensed God telling me that the redemption was that by bringing these deep seated feelings out into the open, He was bringing things back to life. Areas that had been severed were now starting to feel again. This was just the beginning to a healing that needed to happen, but was buried under layers and layers of things that had been piled on top.

There is redemption to be had. No matter what area of life, and no matter how long it has been that you have been carrying the load, Jesus has come so that you may have life again. I have fought hard for a place to call home, a place where life and laughter can thrive. Where the skeletons and regrets of times past can show themselves to the door so that the fresh breath of God’s grace can flow freely. And as I sit here sharing this story with you now, on the same couch that harbored my brokenness just a few hours before, I am filled with a sense of home that comes not from man-made striving. The light on this home is forever shining.

Written by Jamie Stapleton

What Do You Weigh?

shutterstock_60419377I went into the garage tonight to do laundry. As I pushed the button to start the washer something caught my eye.  It was the scale. I walk right by it everyday. Sometimes I don’t even notice it. Sometimes I see it and look the other way and then hurry inside. Other times, I look right at it, curl my lip, and kind of make a low snarling sound. Tonight, I looked at it and it seemed to be taunting me.  I dared myself to get on it.  At first I giggled at the mere thought of putting even one foot on that stupid cube that has determined my emotional well-being for so much of my life. (Stupid box.) 

I closed the washer and took a step toward the door.  But, the closer I got to the scale the more I thought I might actually step on it.  After a couple of more steps, I was standing right next to it. Then, before I could stop myself my right foot was firmly planted on it, then my left foot, then right before my eyes the numbers started rising.  Once it registered my…ahem…weight… I had to squint my eyes to see the number. Surely it was wrong! My heart started beating really fast as I squinted my eyes tighter and tighter to be sure I was reading that middle number correctly.  It was the highest number I’ve ever seen on a scale that held me. (Outside of pregnancy, but even then, I stop looking after a certain point.) “Jesus” I said. “I need you to remind me of who you say I am. Like, right NOW.” 
 
I walked inside and sat down here at my computer to start editing pictures. But, before I started I picked up my phone and opened my Bible app to Romans 8. I’ve been hanging out in Romans 8 for the past few days.  I’ve only been reading a couple of verses at a time so that I can really mull over them and let them sink in. Today was the day to read v. 5.  But, after reading a few key words, (measuring, muscle, exercise) I couldn’t stop there. I had to keep reading.  As I read, I knew God had something to say and it wasn’t a read-between-the-lines situation this time.  Tonight, the words that normally seem like a great message delivered by Paul, became a direct response to my request, “Jesus…. I need you.” 
 
Those who think they can do it on their own end up obsessed with measuring their own moral muscle but never get around to exercising it in real life. Those who trust God’s action in them find that God’s Spirit is in them—living and breathing God! Obsession with self in these matters is a dead end; attention to God leads us out into the open, into a spacious, free life. Focusing on the self is the opposite of focusing on God. Anyone completely absorbed in self ignores God, ends up thinking more about self than God. That person ignores who God is and what he is doing. And God isn’t pleased at being ignored.
But if God himself has taken up residence in your life, you can hardly be thinking more of yourself than of him. Anyone, of course, who has not welcomed this invisible but clearly present God, the Spirit of Christ, won’t know what we’re talking about. But for you who welcome him, in whom he dwells—even though you still experience all the limitations of sin—you yourself experience life on God’s terms. It stands to reason, doesn’t it, that if the alive-and-present God who raised Jesus from the dead moves into your life, he’ll do the same thing in you that he did in Jesus, bringing you alive to himself? When God lives and breathes in you (and he does, as surely as he did in Jesus), you are delivered from that dead life. With his Spirit living in you, your body will be as alive as Christ’s! Romans 8:5-11
 
Ok, so…if you “focus on God” you will eventually know where your identity lies or better, Who you belong to. You experience life on God’s terms. “God’s terms” means healing, power, acceptance, shameless, FREE, authority, revelation. It’s the life Jesus had. God’s terms.
 
I remember when I was healthy.  I remember when being in His presence and gaining a better understanding of communion was more important than eating food that brings death. 
 
I am “delivered from the dead life…” 
 
I “experience life on God’s terms…”
 
I am ALIVE in CHRIST!
Written by Crissy Terrell