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

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

Youth Restored

shutterstock_95623018(1)God speaks to us in a myriad of ways – you know…His word, blinding light, a donkey – and most recently in my life a beautiful seventeen year old girl bursting with energy and love.

You see I went on a women’s “retreat” for lack of a better word for 5 ½ days last week and throughout this whole week of undistracted time with the Lord, He really had an opportunity to talk to me about some things. I was obliged to listen.

This particular time with the Lord dealt with many deep seated hurts, longings, issues. In effect – a life changing experience. In an activity that we were asked to do, I used crafts to create something that I had not since I was in elementary school. I truly felt that it was a reminder of youth, fun, spontaneity. I had been accused of being too serious, too “deep” and told to lighten up more times than I care to admit. As a young teenage mother, I learned how to be practical. Now, don’t get me wrong, I knew how to party. There is a truly big difference in someone being light-hearted and fun-spirited and someone who can get drunk and think they are having a good time. Very, very different things. But I digress…

In the midst of my healing during this last week, a day was spent mourning my youth. Granted, I didn’t even know that I needed to mourn my lost youth. I was the kind of girl who just felt like you had to move on, what other choice do you have? God said otherwise. And into my life walked whom I now affectionately call my “little sister in Christ”. Bouncy and bubbly she showed me a reflection of a part of me that had been missing. Spontaneous fun, laughing, joking – no worries, no responsibilities. She showed me what it looked like to love the Lord unabashedly and without restraint. She showed me how exhilarating it could be to sneak out at midnight and scare the pants off of your sisters in the house down the road. (Haha!)

At the same time God did something for me that showed me how much He cares about the desires of my heart. A longing of mine had been to go to university to study – 1) because I love to learn and 2) because I truly longed for the experience to meet people and form relationships with people from other parts of the country. That is one thing I had always envied about people who went away to college, the lifelong relationships they made (and the friends to go visit on vacation!). Needless to say, on this retreat there were 27 women from 10 different states. I told the Lord that this was like college! And I clearly heard Him tell me that that was how much He loved me. I later found out that this was the first time there were that many women from that many different states at this event. Coincidence? I think not.

He forgives your sins—every one.
He heals your diseases—every one.
He redeems you from hell—saves your life!
He crowns you with love and mercy—a paradise crown.
He wraps you in goodness—beauty eternal.
He renews your youth—you’re always young in his presence.
Psalm 103:3-5 (MSG)

God crowned me with love and mercy and He renewed my youth. If you see me singing at the top of my lungs in my car or dancing down the street, you should really come and join in. Life is more fun like this. 😉

Written by Jamie Stapleton

A Little Bit

shutterstock_147381461The leftovers reveal God’s Presence in our lives. The leftovers say because you have given Him something to work with, He can bless and multiply it. You must first give God something. Give Him a little bit of faith, a little bit of hope, a little bit of discipline, a little bit of obedience, a little bit of trust, a little bit of something and watch God bless and increase it. – Bible.com- The lesson of the leftovers

Just a little bit of us (a small piece of anything) ….mixed with A LOT of Jesus (a great big amount) = GREATNESS of anything

Six years ago to the day my hubby called me outside hurriedly. Babe, come here and look! There is a duck egg in the bottom of the pool! I stood there in disbelief and looked at him thinking he was very clever. Good one! I said it’s April 2nd, the day after April Fools and I know that you put a chicken egg in the pool as an April Fool’s joke. He said, no for real, I promise!

Just the week before- early in the morning before my first ever Pink Impact Women’s conference- a pair of ducks chose our backyard as a place of courting and swimming around leisurely in our pool. That very same weekend at Pink Impact 2008 the idea of Embrace Grace was birthed in our hearts.

So now as I look at this mama duck standing helpless by the pool, her little tail feathers are just a shaking. She is scared and shocked and in disbelief. She keeps staring at the egg at the bottom of the pool. Its way too deep for her to rescue the egg. The daddy duck just looked at her helpless as he sat by her side. At that moment I realized my hubby was telling the truth and that egg was indeed a duck egg. We attempted to save the egg from the bottom and placed on a table unsure how long it had been there.

My thoughts began to reflect on this mama duck and how she had just been swimming around and going about her normal duck routine. Not expecting an egg to just plop out during her leisurely swim. She had not been able to prepare or make a nest for this duckling. My heart was sad for her. I watched her as she stared at that tiny egg. Wondering how she could have saved it or made a nest in preparation.

I went upstairs to get my 11 month old’s bath water ready. He absolutely loved his duck ducks and bath times so much! As I placed him in the water he began to splash and squeal in delight. He held his little toy duckling in his hands as tears began to fall down my cheeks. I said, Oh baby, mommy couldn’t save that baby duck egg… but I know that I can help other mommies and babies!! As they find out they are pregnant and may feel unprepared or scared, I can be there and encourage them and most of all LOVE them!

I made a promise in my heart at that moment. God I will do anything to help these mommies and babies!! ANYTHING!

In the beginning we had no idea how Embrace Grace was going to look or unfold. We started with just a little bit. A little bit of hope. A little bit of faith. A little bit of grace. A little bit of love. A little bit of nurture by nature. A little bit of time. A little bit of training. A little bit of schedule. A little bit… Just a little bit…

A little bit of girls- 3 pregnant girls with babies on the way came to our very first Embrace Grace class. It all started with a little bit. Itty bitty. And those little bits began to grow and grow. An abundance. We as leaders became smaller and smaller on the inside as Jesus became larger and larger. A little bit of us and a whole lot of Jesus! Our dreams went from little bitty to lots and lots more!

Six years later, hundreds of mommies and babies have been loved and embraced by grace.

It’s amazing what a little bit will do, mixed with a whole lot of Jesus! He multiplies and takes our leftovers and little bits and makes them lots!

A little bit of something. Some”thing” can relay to anything. When you are able to give just a little bit of your time, your heart, your love, your faith, your grace, your _________… Big things can happen! A good thing turns into a God thing. Just a little bit of you mixed with A LOT of Jesus makes Greatness.

God can take our nothings and make them something. He can take our anything and make it everything.

What is your little bit you are ready to give? Watch as Jesus multiplies it into a whole lot!!

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

Just Keep Swimming

shutterstock_128045531After an amazing vacation for my Wedding Anniversary I sat down and watched The Embrace Grace video. After a long weekend of relaxing I knew that I had to switch gears and that it was necessary to be reminded of why God chose me for this ministry. I have learned through experience after experience that when you seek him with your whole heart he will answer you. In this case remind. He spoke so clearly as I watched the part of the young pregnant mom sinking to the bottom of the pool. That part in particular has always been a tearjerker for me and besides the obvious I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, until tonight. The Lord said “There is NO such thing as I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!” There it was, the revelation that for me put the icing on the cake! This goes further than just what I was meditating on at that moment, the importance of obedience and stepping up to the call that God places in your life and many other things. This is true with any and everything that any person may be experiencing. If you have fallen you can get up because you are not defeated. There is always hope. All you need is one tiny glimmer of that beautiful substance. Hope comes from love. If you can’t love someone then you can’t give them the hope that they need to climb out of the dark hole that they genuinely feel they are in. God places people in our paths to inspire, mentor or even speak a word of encouragement. It doesn’t matter what side of the spectrum you are on don’t give up hope, don’t stop loving and in the words of a famous fish, “Just keep swimming!”

 By: Stephanie Cozzolino