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

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

Cartoons, Laundry, Laughter, Tears. and Lots of Milk

blogger-image--1910186509I complain almost daily about the state of my messy house. I can’t remember the last time, that even a week went by, that I didn’t comment on the size of it. Too many hours have been spent worrying about things that don’t matter, while blonde heads and chubby fingers play and giggle only an arms length away from a hug, cuddle, or a soft caress of the cheek. But, instead of reaching for them, those lost hours all passed without even a wistful gaze in their direction.

How many times have I taken for granted this beautiful family that was almost lost before Jesus intervened and gave two hurt people the deepest desires if their eternal hearts? How many moments have I spent mindlessly scrolling, staring at this lighted screen, feeling like I was missing something more special than what is just on the other side of this phone?

When I stop and breath, even for just a moment, I hear the soft breaths of my baby girl and my husband’s quietly whispered prayers before he kisses our boys good night.  I see toys on the floor that irritated me today but that I know I’ll miss in a few years when they’re gone. One day, I’ll long to feel the stabbing pain that can only be felt when your bare foot meets a lone Lego.

If I stop, even for just a second, I remember how much I loved this little house the day we moved in. I invited a friend over just because I wanted to show her the built in LAUNDRY cabinet and cabinet space above the bath tub (That remains empty to this day). We brought every single one of our babies home to this house. Each of their car seats were set in the exact same spot on the floor as we brought them into our home for the first time.

In these moments when I catch my breath, I remember that our children don’t know any other home. They don’t know that the laundry, at one time, didn’t have it’s own spot on our couch. They don’t know that my two year old’s room was once an office/junk room. They also have no clue that I’m not a perfect mom. They just know how much they love it when I sit on the floor and play trains or tickle them until they get mad at me. They know how sleepy we get when we all pile up in the big chair to watch a movie. They know how to find they’re way to my side of the bed after a bad dream in the middle of the night.

Then, in these quiet moments I look, and I realize, they’re growing. My 2 year old is closer to 3 than he is to two. The signs of him being a baby are almost gone. I cry because my baby boy is growing-out and a big boy is growing-in. My first born, my first true love, reads to me. He has independent thoughts. My baby girl, I never put her down, but that’s not stopping her from growing. She smiles. Today she said, “Ba ba ba…” And she meant it. Soon, they’ll all be a little older. These days will be the old days and they are so good.

So, after I put my phone down tonight, I’m going to forgive myself for not being the mommy I always thought I’d be. I’m going to forgive my kids for not being the kids I always thought I’d have. I’m going to be ready for the moments when they are with-in arms length. After this paragraph, there will be less scrolling, more hugging, more smiles, more love and more forgiveness. At the end of this sentence, is a mom who appreciates and makes time for, this little house, toys on the floor, piles of laundry, and the family and amazing life that God has given me.

Written by Crissy Terrell

I Have Decided

shutterstock_137550632It is hard to believe something that you have not seen for your own eyes, especially if you are like me, a visual person who prefers to know the outcome from the beginning. Being that as it may, life is not set up that way, for there is a small five letter word in the dictionary called faith. Faith is something we step out on when we have not seen for ourselves all of the evidence, we have not done all of the research, but we are willing to step out decidedly and take a leap of faith.

As I was doing a personal bible study, the question surfaced on why was a redemptive plan set in place when sin entered the world? Why was the redemptive plan necessary? As I pondered this question, my visual mind wandered to the slide show in my head of the events of the bible. A mighty God casting down a dragon from heaven, creating man in His image, the serpent conniving the woman, sin entering in, and the plan of redemption set into motion. Sounds like something fitting for a fantasy novel doesn’t it?

Which is what many have a hard time with. They don’t fully understand on an intellectual level why God would do that. Where did He come from anyway? What was there before God? Why would He bring man into the world if He knew they would sin and turn their back on Him?

The thing about deciding to live on faith, is that you decide that you will not have all of the answers. Although, once you start seeking out a relationship with God, searching His scriptures and communing with Him in prayer, you start to understand the nature and character of God, and He in turn gives you insight that you did not have before. But before He can show you His truth, you have to decide to step out in faith and that you will believe what He says.

I read once that man says show me and I will believe – while God says believe, and I will show you.

I made a decision long ago to believe and let God show me. He has not let me down yet.

However, as it is written: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him.”– 1 Corinthians 2:9

Please help us to see with eyes of faith today Lord, not with eyes of our finite minds. For your ways are higher than our ways and Your thoughts higher than our thoughts. You are able to do exceedingly and abundantly more than we could ever think to ask for ourselves. May we see clearer, may we dream bigger, may we leave the boxes of conformity behind and seek You as You are, not as what man has tried to make You to be. In Jesus Name, Amen.

Written by Jamie Stapleton

Misplaced Treasure

shutterstock_189760376I sat back in my reading time with an “Aha!” moment.  One line over a year of pondering and searching, and finally “Aha!!”…it all makes sense.  I had been seeking for an answer as to why I was having a particularly hard time in healing from the end of a relationship.  Being a natural researcher, I had taken time to look up various articles on what I was feeling and I found out that grief does not only come from the loss of a loved one through death, it comes from any kind of loss in your life.  The loss of a relationship, the loss of a job, a house.  I had gone through all of the appropriate levels of grief, and still found myself with rogue feelings that just would not conform, pack up and move out.

So there I was, over a year later, and finally I read something that clicked deep within me. “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:21)

Wow.  So few words and yet so profound.  I was having such a difficult time because I had placed my treasure (my heart and my hope) in something that was just as flawed as I was.  I invested a little (ok, a lot) more of myself than I should have, so the effects of that sudden loss were a bit devastating and hard to understand.  I subconsciously put myself “on hold,” trying to figure out what had happened, and in the meantime secretly hoped that it would all just go back to how it was.  I was living on the outside, but I had put myself on the shelf on the inside.  Finding this one sentence gave me the clarity I needed to see the big picture.

In our day to day lives, we find that those things we have put our sweat, blood and tears in, those things we have worked so hard to obtain, become our “treasures” whether we realize it or not.  We invest so much of ourselves into that “thing” that when it is no longer there, we are left wondering what just happened?

“Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  Armed with this information, I was able to see everything in a whole new light.  Although my heart was genuine, I had just placed it in the wrong hands.

Is your treasure in the right hands?

Written by Jamie Stapleton

Hope When There Was None

shutterstock_115457149A year ago today was the day Ryan and I found out we had a precious blessing on its way! Evelynn has been such a joy in our lives and in the lives of everyone around us. I am one proud mommy of a gorgeous little girl and I would NOT have it any other way. If I was given the choice I’d redo everything over and over again and not change a thing. Evelynn was my angel, she saved my life and not many people know that. Before finding out I was pregnant, I was at the roughest and lowest point in my life. I was depressed and sad basically 24/7, I didn’t know how to deal with what I was going through. I had gotten so bad that I gave up hope on not only on myself but life, I was ready to leave this world. I actually had planned out how, where and when I was going to do it. A Friday night when no one would be home due to plans for the weekend or work, I was going to overdose on pills that would quietly and painlessly make me fall into an eternal sleep. I honestly didn’t care or think about anyone else, I just knew I was done. I was tired and my soul felt heavy. No one knew though, not even my mother or my boyfriend. I was so good at “playing it off” that no one could catch how bad I had fallen into this vast ocean of depression. I didn’t believe very much in God at the time, I didn’t believe he was there for me. Until Thursday April 18, 2013, I was working at AMC theaters with my boyfriend when he had asked me if I had gotten my period that month ( let me just say I never kept track of dates – I absolutely hated periods!). Ironically the last month I had actually put it down on my phone and sure enough I was a week late (which I never had been before). After work that night we went to Wal-Mart to go get a pregnancy test, and as we parted ways to go to our own homes I took a test. At first I didn’t believe I was actually pregnant, I thought the test was defective or something because there was a second line but it was so faint! Until all three tests became the same, I knew at that point I was pregnant. I cried and mourned about how my life was over,etc. but then I realized, why did I even care about that? I was trying to end my life and ironically I find out I’m pregnant the day before? Couldn’t have been a coincidence. At first I was embarrassed of my pregnancy, I was a teen mom and a Mexican teen mom at that so didn’t really help with the statistics and stereotypes out there. Luckily my mom found out about Embrace Grace in our church, Gateway Church. I wasn’t having anything about God at the time and it actually took me a few months to reply to the group email my mom sent Kathleen but I finally did and agreed to attend this group. If only I had known how blessed and majorly changed my life would be!! They helped me follow the path to God, they showed me how to break free of my chains of anger, sorrow, depression and hatred! EG showed me that the little baby inside me was not an abomination or a sin, but a major blessing! I don’t think people realize how much negativity young moms hear daily, EG lifts us up! They are there for us and support us every step of the way while the rest of the world looks down upon us and judges us. EG prepared me for motherhood and help me get started. I was blessed to have met all my leaders and fellow EG sisters! I realized by the end of the semester God saved me, he planted the biggest blessing he could ever give me in my womb.SusyEg

I changed my view on life because of Evelynn, she gave me strength and a reason to keep moving forward! She was and is my angel – because of her I became closer to God, I had rekindled my relationship with God! She changed my life for the better and I can never thank her or God enough. If it wasn’t for either one I would not be here now telling you this. I absolutely adore and love and cherish my little Evelynn! I couldn’t image life without her! So today is a celebration for me, that’s it’s been a year since I found out about my pregnancy.

Written by Susy – EG Alumni 

Ask Jesus

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Driving home one morning after church a handmade sign in red lettering on the roadside caught my attention as a red bird swooped down in front of my car. The sign read: ASK JESUS HE CAN HELP YOU.

In a word/ sign so simple yet so profound it keeps resounding over and over on the inside. Ask Jesus. Ask Me.

So many times in seeking Jesus for an answer; however it may arise. In times of need, unknowns, uncertainties, questions, or just to feel Him near. Ask Jesus. He can and will help you!

In those moments when seeking healing, answers, wisdom, guidance, peace, protection, provision, His Presence, parenting advice, dating advice, revelation, the list is endless. In all of these and so much more. Jesus will answer you if you just ask!

One of our blooms was rushed to the hospital when her water broke and she was concerned and scared since she was going into labor really early. Her due date is July 22nd. The Dr.’s were able to stop the leaking and fluids and in the middle of all of it, the only thing she could do was say Jesus, Jesus! Her Mom recalled the same events and said she just kept saying Jesus, Jesus, Jesus over and over again.

I love the song by 7eventh Time Down- Just say JesusWhen you don’t know what to say…Just say Jesus; there is power in His name! Whisper it now, or shout it out! He hears your cries. Out of nowhere He will come. If the words won’t come cause your too afraid to pray. There is just one name Jesus.

I went to visit this beautiful bloom and her sweet Mom in the hospital. They began to give the full story of what had happened in those moments leading up to her early labor. Also sharing praise reports of how Jesus had heard their prayers and her baby was safe and sound in his mommies womb. They are hoping and praying this little one can stay warm and cozy inside the womb until the right moment of delivery.

His gender reveal party was so special as the pictures showed mommy and daddy opening the oven and a little bun inside. Their hopes are that this little bun in the oven will stay inside as long as he can. Jesus knows the exact moment of his delivery time. Not a moment sooner we pray.

I began to say a little prayer over her and sweet baby. She said he was moving around so much inside during the prayer. His little ears are developing and he can hear the words beings spoken over him. Baby whispers. One moment in the middle of the prayer as I said Jesus can hear you and the moment you need him just ask Him.. the beeping of the monitor began to sound and the nurse rang in the room Can I help you? At that moment I began to laugh during the prayer and said see, just like that…its that easy. So simple. As you speak out and ask Jesus to help you… or the nurse in this instance… He will listen and help you. He will assure you. She began to smile and could sense sweet peace settle in her hospital room. She trusted that everything would be ok.

Bend down, O Lord, and hear my prayer;
answer me, for I need your help.
Protect me, for I am devoted to you.
Save me, for I serve you and trust you.
You are my God. Be merciful to me, O Lord,
for I am calling on you constantly.
Give me happiness, O Lord, for I give myself to you.
O Lord, you are so good…
so full of unfailing love for all who ask for your help.
Listen closely to my prayer, O Lord; hear my urgent cry.
I will call to you whenever I’m in trouble,
and you will answer me. {Psalm 86:1-7}

Whatever you have need of today and always. Remember. Just ask Jesus- He can help you!

No question or concern is too big for Him. In the little details and big. Big decisions and small. Trust Him. He will answer you. He will bring answers and deliverance in His own special way. He is listening. He will hear you. He will always come through. It may look a little different than you expected. He is creative in His ways. Trust Him. He loves you and says JUST ASK ME!

Ask me and I will tell you remarkable secrets you do not know about things to come {Jeremiah 33:3}

Written by Salina Duffy