Begin Again

shutterstock_149210354Sometimes you really need a fresh start, a do-over. We humans can bomb this thing called life pretty badly, and then try to cover it up so that no one smells the stink. We smell the stink though, and it causes us to change the way we view ourselves and the way we think our Father views us. And then condemnation creeps in, telling us that we are just too far messed up now and if we are not careful, we will waste precious time wallowing in a place that we were never meant to be.

Romans 8:1 says that “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…” After a particularly bad failure on my part one weekend, I was having a hard time maintaining my composure as the lyrics of worship songs saturated me in the love of my Father. I wanted to condemn myself, I wanted HIM to condemn me. Instead, He loved me. Wholly. Two very distinct things He spoke to me during that time. The first was that nothing would ever separate His love from me, and the second was that even Kings, when they fall, are still Kings.

And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow–not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. Romans 8:38

The last several years have been very trying and I feel like I have messed up six different ways to Sunday, but what I feel resounding in my heart lately is to begin again. Start over, start fresh. For some, that just means waking up with a new outlook, a new perspective. For me it means that and more. It means recreating myself, redirecting myself, and allowing a lot more healing from deep within.

This may sound easy enough – beginning again.  Not so easy once the doors start to open and things start to shift. Beginning again requires courage, hard work and a willingness to go where you have never been before. It requires maybe dealing with some things that you thought you had already, and it will also reveal to you, well, you. My failure revealed to me that I was still dealing with some self-hatred. Even though I had grown and healed in leaps and bounds in my walk and in my relationship with the Lord, I was still struggling with some things that I really would not have been aware of otherwise. A friend said to me that things happen sometimes so that the root can be revealed. I truly believe the statements “there is purpose in the pain” and “God doesn’t waste a tear.” He doesn’t.

See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. Isaiah 43:19

In what way might Father be leading you to begin again today? Is there an area of your life that you feel needs a do-over? Give it all over to the God of restoration and allow Him room to make adjustments as He sees fit. We have the gift of getting to partner with God in all of His work, and you can be assured that what miracles He performs in your life you will be able to share with others. Don’t let the emotions of temporary failure and the condemnation of the enemy steal that away from you.

Jamie Stapleton

 

 

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

Sometimes He Sends a Bubble

shutterstock_104648267Heavy things were happening this week in Embrace Grace.
Things that are too much for one heart to bare.

We came together for prayer this week.  And, because of the heaviness,
we invited all praying people.  We gathered outside of our church
and while we prayed the Holy Spirit spoke and
filled out hearts.  He deposited supernatural courage,
peace, and authority. Then, His words poured out of our mouths.

We listened.
He spoke.
We spoke.
He listened.

During class, a little while later, I sat on the floor.  I was surrounded by Blooms but from where I sat, there was only one face I could see. Salina, spoke to the girls about identity and while she spoke the face I could see was troubled. She is a young, beautiful Bloom.  And though she’s young, because of her tiny frame, she looks even younger than she is. Her hair was pulled back in a “new mom” pony tail.  Her beautiful eyes were red and teary.  He lips were tight as she was trying to keep them from quivering.  She kept her chin down.  Her eyes were pointed at the table but she was looking at something miles, or maybe even years away. Her expression was one of secret torment and I knew in that moment she was hearing whispers from the devil and believing his lies. My friend sitting next to me saw it too. So, we prayed for her silently until the end of the lesson.

Every week, Blooms,{also know as Embrace Grace mommas}, come to church with babies in there bellies and worries on their hearts. Every week, they leave a little more encouraged and a little more hopeful.  By the end of the semester they look, talk, and behave differently.  They’re lighter.

At the end of class, Salina always has a sweet assignment for the girls to do during our small group time. This week’s assignment was filled with chatter and giggling.  I remained sitting on the floor during small group time. I caught view of Salina out of the corner of my eye and in the second before I looked at her, I thought she was blowing bubbles. Bubbles in class would be a little out of the ordinary, but you never know with Salina.  But when I looked at her, I saw that she wasn’t blowing bubbles, she was just talking to someone.

The Lord used that to give me a vision.  Sometimes I take my 2 year old to story time. At the end of story time they take out the bubble machine and spray a cloud of bubbles over the excited toddlers.  The toddlers stand up and giggle and dance and eagerly grab at the bubbles. The Lord said, “Y’all {Yes, the Lord says “y’all” all the time.} pour love, encouragement, and prayers out over these Blooms and they receive them with the same eagerness and excitement as the little ones do the bubbles.”

I thought that was sweet and it gave me the courage I needed to
pull that Bloom with the sad eyes aside and pray with her.
Yesterday was a cold and very windy day.  I was driving down a very busy street.  While I was drinking my coffee and listening to the radio, my mind was going over about 150 different things as usual.  If I would have blinked, I would have missed it….. One single bubble floating over the road!  I looked around to see where it might have come from.  There were not any bubbles anywhere except the one bubble floating passed my car on a four lane street. I became emotional and my heart was racing. “Oh Jesus” is all I could say.

Because of the bubble I felt significant and noticed. But, that bubble wasn’t just for me. It was for me to share.  If you’re going through heart ache, or feeling insignificant, I feel like the Lord is saying, “I see you. I’m here. Reach for me.”

Written by Crissy Terrell

Less of me…

shutterstock_145332532Today in my morning time, I picked up a book called Praying God’s Word by Beth Moore. In the first chapter, Beth Moore states that in her research on the captivity of God’s people there is one main underlying cause: idolatry. She goes on to explain how idolatry can show up in many forms in our lives: we make ourselves idols, another person, work, exercise, food…and so on and so forth. She says that at the root of every stronghold in our life, there is idolatry working there. As I sat back and thought about this, I was struck by how much I idolize SELF. What am I feeling, what do I want, what are MY desires, how can I be comfortable, I..I..I…

The scripture reference is Isaiah 43: 10-12
“You are my witnesses,” declares the Lord, “and my servant whom I have chosen,
so that you may know and believe me and understand that I am He.
Before Me no God was formed, nor will there be one after Me.
I, even I, am the Lord, and apart from Me there is no savior.
I have revealed and saved and proclaimed – I, and not some foreign God among you.
You are My witnesses,” declares the Lord, “that I am God.”

As I read this it awakened in me the truth that I am not my savior. I am the one who manages to get myself into trouble by following my emotions rather than asking myself some important questions: Where will this lead me? Does this line up with God’s will? How will this affect my life in the next year or two or three?

As I go along with my day’s daily duties, I am led to contemplate how much I strangle God’s power in my life every day by relying on mySELF rather than relying on the power of God.

I love the way Beth Moore states it:

“Lightening flashes from His throne. The winds do His bidding. The clouds are His chariot. The earth trembles at the sound of His voice. When He stands to His feet, His enemies are scattered. He is transcendent over all things. Absolute. Uncontested. Omniscient. Omnipresent. The Lord God omnipotent reigneth. He is God and there is no other.”

John 3:30 says “He must become greater; I must become less.”  As you allow God to increase in your life, you will truly see His power on display.  When you give of yourself, you get in return.  When you meet other needs, your needs are met in return.  When you make room in your heart for the one who created it, you are given more than you could ever ask for in return.

Written by Jamie Stapleton

Strength Through Life’s Storms

shutterstock_103184369I am a mother of three children. I am married but my husband is in prison. I got pregnant with my first child when I was 18. I was in love with my son but I was in no position to provide for him. Then I got pregnant with my second – same father although he and I did not see eye to eye and for the first time I considered abortion. I didn’t go through with it and God reminds me why it was the right decision to keep her every day. My daughter is the light of my life.

I was met with some extremely difficult obstacles over the next few years. I became a serious addict. I was born with a spinal disease and had been on opiates from the age of twelve but at twenty-one I became a slave to the pills and began on a road of pain and terror. Thankfully I didn’t lose my kids.  I was definitely in a war against myself because I knew the mom I should be and the mom I was and I hated myself.

My children’s father left us and moved to Texas.  He had nothing to do with us during the hardest part of my life, but I kept on and I met the man who is now my husband.  I got pregnant with my third child and again I didn’t think I could handle it. I thought “three kids I can’t take care of? No way! I’m already fighting an addiction with two and I can’t mentally handle this.” Once again I chose to have my baby and thank God every day because she is so amazing.

My husband was sent to prison when our daughter was eight months old.  I am raising all three on my own with NO help. It is the hardest thing I have ever done ….up until I got clean. I began going to meetings and I gave my life over to God. My husband and I decided our marriage and our family would grow the way we wanted it to if it were more Christ centered. It has turned out to be the best decision we could have made. The point of this story is that through the depths of hell, even though I thought I could never be any kind of mother to these three gorgeous beauties, I was…a great mother! God gives you children for a reason, they may not be clear at first, but someday you will see, they save you when nothing else can. It’s very hard but I raise my babies on my own and I wouldn’t have it any other way. They will always know who their Mama is.

Written by Amanda Hupp

 

Hope in a Fallen World

shutterstock_151668866I practically failed history in high school. I was that kid who had to go for tutoring with the history teacher. He would always say, “History is important! You can learn so much from it and become mentally prepared for many things in life. You just have to dig deep and learn about it!” He was always soooo enthusiastic and I would just shrug. Romans 15:4-6 says, “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope. May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” That impacts me. History is important to God. He wants to give us hope through the most amazing book ever written (that happens to contain A LOT of HIStory), the bible.

This scripture is very interesting in the fact that it basically explains how God wants to give us hope: through endurance and encouragement. I cannot tell you how many times a day I pray for endurance. “Lord help me! Help me walk through this! I can’t do it without you!” But encouragement? Have you ever taken the “love languages” test? I have. And my NUMBER ONE love language was scored as words of encouragement. They impact me in ways I can’t explain. One encouraging word can change my whole day! Sometimes it can change my whole week! The Lord is an encourager. He wants to encourage you and help you to endure.

A lot of terrible things happen in this world on a day to day basis. There’s crime, heartbreak, depression, murder, suicide, natural disasters, and all kinds of struggles everywhere you look. God doesn’t want that for us. He doesn’t want us to feel hope-less. He wants us to be hope-full! But how? Matthew 6:33 says, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” I LOVE this verse. It’s probably my all time favorite. It’s so encouraging and at the same time it gives me direction. It brings me hope. It gets me through. This verse doesn’t say “but seek first to focus on your fear…” It doesn’t say “but seek first to help your financial burdens” and it also doesn’t say “but seek first to somehow make it through another work day.” The verse says to seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness. If we seek first to fix our problems then our problems have just been given authority over our life. They’ve been given the priority. They are the focus. THAT’S NOT THE WAY! God says to seek HIM FIRST and He will take care of the rest. Give Him the control and He’s got your back! If that’s not encouraging and reassuring I am not sure what is.

When you focus on the giants in your life instead of God you are basically giving in. Why not shift your focus? Instead of concentrating on the bad, concentrate on God. It changes everything. When trouble strikes grab your bible! Hit your knees! Gods there. He’s got you! Soon you’ll see that you have a little devil and a BIG GOD. He cares for you. He loves you. He wants to encourage you and motivate you and bring you hope and in history we’ve seen this through Him time and time again.

God- what He has done, is doing, and will do- that is a history lesson worth the read. That’s the kind of history that excites me! It’s a book I can’t put down! I’m full of hope after I read it and I know…I officially love history…because God is where it began. I can’t wait for what is to come!

Make history today, friends! Speak life! Walk in joy and peace! Spread His love and His light! We can change the world…but it all starts with you. It starts with a change of mind. A change of focus! God sent His son to due on the cross so that we don’t have to walk in pain and suffering! Focus on Him! He is good!

Written by Whitney Wells

An Adoption Story

shutterstock_79601152Cuddling during a movie, reading books together, drawing silly pictures for him to color… these are just the few things I love to do with my three-year old son. These are things that I never thought was possible at times and as I reflect to write this I am still amazed that I have the opportunity to do these things with him as his mom.
My husband and I were lucky enough to start our family through open adoption. Adoption is a journey, with many ups and downs. Many times during this road, we thought that maybe we would never be parents until the day that his birth mother called us. She found us through a website that we placed our adoptive parent profile on. We were the only family she called. I knew that it was meant to be once she told me her name, Kylie. From the moment my husband and I started dating we knew that we were to marry and if we had a son, we would name him Kyle. I got chills when she told me her name because of the similarity to the name that we had so loved, Kyle. We knew we had met our miracle. We were fortunate enough to have a wonderful relationship with her and her family throughout the pregnancy and ever since. Our son, even though he is so young knows all about her and we exchange pictures with her and her family. We are hopeful that one day we can meet again in person. We think of her daily and thank her for the opportunity to become parents. If it were not for her, I would not have our cuddles, I would not have our book time, and I would not hear the laughter of my child when I am silly.

We always thought that we would attempt a second adoption and after Kyle was about one and a half years old we started the process again. This time around it has been a very different experience. We don’t have an agency working for us and I spend my evenings after Kyle goes to sleep trying to reach out to spread our profile on the internet. Our hope, well, it is to find another Kylie, although I am not sure if that is what God’s plan for us. We would love to meet someone who is expecting and considering an adoption plan. Sometimes thoughts from our first adoption creep up. The biggest one is ‘why someone would choose us when there are so many beautiful families to choose from.’ But we put aside our thoughts of not having a second child and keep hoping that someday we can become parents again.

106I write this story not only to share how wonderful adoption has been for our family but to also let others know that we would love to adopt again. I spread our story on Facebook, websites, and through blogs but I have also heard word of mouth is very powerful so hoping one day that is the way our son or daughter may find us. To learn more about us or share our ‘hope to adopt’ story please call or visit us at toll-free at 1-888-620-2025, email angandmatt@live.com or our website: https://www.adoptimist.com/angela-matt

Written by Angela Bernier

*Embrace Grace is a 3rd party sharing this story – all background checks and verifications need to be conducted by an attorney or adoption agency.

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