A Forever Family

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Written by Amy Ford

In my arms

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can sing this song over them too: 

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

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

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

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

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

 Plumb – In My Arms Lyrics

I love you more

Tree Silhouette Against Starry Night Sky

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

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

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

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

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

-Olivia 

His banner over me is LOVE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No Limits

IMG_8748Embrace Grace is an outreach. 

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

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

We are an outreach. 

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

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

Are there limits to God’s grace? 

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

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

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

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

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

Written by Amy Ford

Bless Your Heart

lovenukeHe launches His promises earthward- how swift and sure they come! Psalm 147:15 MSG

Every heart makes a lasting mark. A pathway that has been destined before the beginning of time. During an anointed worship service at Gateway a song Love Came Down began to play. I had a vision of these tiny pink heart fluttering like butterflies from the highest of heaven down to earth. They represented the hearts of the mommies and babies lives that would be impacted through Embrace Grace.

Those fluttering hearts also represented the Embrace Grace chapters that would be starting across the nation and going global. I knew the importance and significance of these hearts when they appeared before my eyes during worship. I was thankful for the heavenly encounter and knew that I would reflect upon this moment often.

Embrace Grace is saving two hearts at a time… The mommies and babies.

There is not a day that goes by that I am not in awe of the immense honor and thankfulness of this mission. I am brought to my knees time and time again and stirred to tears in love and adoration for the gift of these precious mommies and babies! Their lives leaving a lasting impression upon the hearts of those they meet, touch and interact with. It is only for a season they are with us, but the memories last a lifetime. The look in their eyes, the sweet embraces, the journey they are making into motherhood. They are BRAVE! They are STRONG! They are COURAGEOUS! It is priceless and beyond words. No price tag could ever compare to the gift that these mommies and babies bring to us at Embrace Grace.

Every one unique. One of a kind. Chosen Mom meets chosen child. The beauty that unfolds during the process as they begin to bond and fall in love with the babies in their womb and the Savior that blessed them with this precious miracle gift. Beauty and breath of life becoming one as baby takes their first breath into this world.

The miracle of life will always captivate my heart and leaves me speechless and moved beyond words. Compassion and comfort is always given with an abundance of love and grace. They can feel it. Both mommy and baby alike. Their hearts can feel the love flowing straight from your heart to theirs. Blessing their heart in ways they can not even begin to describe or even comprehend at times. They are enamored with the outpouring of grace that pours out freely upon them. A fountain that never runs dry. A river that never stops flowing. Forever. An endless supply. That is what they feel when they catch wind of Embrace Grace and what we are about. They are eager to know more, hungry for more, thirsty for the Living Water that flows from the Well of Jesus. We graciously pour it out by the vessels of hearts that are serving and ministering along with us. We can’t do this alone. It takes you and me. It takes us partnering together to touch the hearts and lives of those that need love and grace the most.

We have a chalk print map of the USA in our office displayed on our wall. We have been eager to portray the hearts of each and every EG across the nation. Today was the day! With the placement of each heart upon the city and states, prayers were being offered, thanksgiving was been given, expectancy for more hearts to flood the map and embrace these mommies and babies with your love. It’s YOUR LOVE that reaches them. It’s your embrace that draws them near. It’s His GRACE that touches their hearts and they will never be the same. Once they catch a glimpse of WHO HE is and WHAT HE did for them… the rest falls into place beautifully. Flawlessly. Effortlessly. We pray. He does the rest. We are the hands and feet. We reach out to them and point them to the ONE that matters most. He is our EVERYTHING. We will do anything to reach them. Will you join us in prayer? Praying for more EG chapters to begin popping up across the nation. It is all in God’s perfect timing. They have already been destined and divinely appointed. Hearts are being stirred with passion, compassion and the love of Jesus to begin a group in their area. We are believing for more and more hearts to be added to our map. These are the hearts that we added today: Your city, your heart could be next.

TEXAS: Southlake, Mansfield, Aurora, Fort Worth (2), Sherman, Denison, Denton (2), Plano, Waxahachie, Anna, Cisco, Forney, Arlington, Lubbock, Carrollton, Frisco

LOUISIANA: Keithville, Addis

ALABAMA: Birminghamphoto

ARKANSAS: Hardy, Conway

OKLAHOMA: Norman, Oklahoma City

NEW JERSEY: Hawthorne

ILLINOIS: Carbon

MICHIGAN: Saginaw, Plainwell

MINNESOTA: North Mankato

FLORIDA: Sanford, Gainesville

MONTANA: Bozeman

OHIO: Canton

VIRGINIA: Winchester

CANADA: Sarnia, Ontario, Toronto, Ontario

38 city hearts and counting… Our hearts are united. To reach out and embrace the mommies and babies everywhere. To shower with love upon their hearts. It is an honor to join with you in this mission. Saving the hearts of the mommies and babies.

Praying with you and for you. May God Bless Your Heart immensely! Mommy and baby heart that is looking & searching for a group near you… we are praying for you. Church group looking for something new that God is stirring in your heart to embrace and begin… we are praying for you. Pregnancy Center that is looking for a bridge in the gap to connect these precious girls coming to your center and looking for a place to connect them to local churches… we are praying for you. All hearts united as one. This mission is beautiful.

Written by Salina Duffy

Self-Acceptance

shutterstock_205092652I believe that every person at some point in their life will experience rejection in some way, shape, or form. And let’s be honest, rejection sucks. Not only is it hard to go through, but the effect of rejection can oftentimes leave lasting consequences. Oftentimes people who have experienced harsh rejection will also struggle with self-rejection.  I know that isn’t any big bold revelation, but freedom in Christ comes through self-acceptance. In order for someone to reach their full potential, they must accept  themselves fully. That means accepting your own appearance, the abilities you have, your parentage, and being content in your environment, among others. God made each of us unique and special. He has put great potential in each of us. You and I do not always see it right away, but it is there…it always has been. Unfortunately society comes in and makes these impossible standards which people try to live up to. The result is one hiding ones true self and pretending to be something they are not just because they want to be accepted. Again I’ll say that the journey to reaching one’s full potential begins with self-acceptance. Self-acceptance will lead to love.

So what can we do to help with self-rejection? I think that just being aware of it is a step towards healing. Our happiness needs to be dependent on GOD- not on man! What’s important to God is that you are developing Christ-like qualities..not a new way to apply your makeup or a new technique to build muscle. God isn’t interested in your outer appearance. At the end of the day it’s what’s on the inside that truly matters. Nobody will want to marry you for your jewelry and clothes and awesome makeup techniques…it’s that light on the inside they fall for. Be reassured that the mess you think you see in yourself is just another thing that God can turn for your good if you trust Him. He can and will turn your mess into a unique and beautiful message to amplify His testimony through you. Once you surrender that to Him you will be another step closer to reaching your full potential.

If you focus on the “defects” you are going to struggle with self-rejection. But if you focus on God instead of your supposed “defects” the results will change your life! You will walk in real freedom as you become yourself-  the way God created you to be. You will learn to be nothing more and nothing less than who you truly are. You will be a light among the nations. ❤️

1 Samuel 16

Matthew 5:14-16

Whitney Wells