God Made Me Stronger

shutterstock_112693924I never expected to be a  parent at this point in my life. I was career driven with a degree under my belt, and was working my way to the top of whichever path I chose. God, however,  had a different plan.

When I found myself completely alone and pregnant, I didn’t know where to turn. I didn’t know what to do. I had never believed abortion was the “right thing to do,” but I had never been faced with the decision. I had pressure from the biological father to “just get rid of it.” That would make sense, right? Seeing as he had a baby on the way already. Something within me said no. Something inside said to not give in.

I have never, and I mean NEVER prayed so hard in my life.

Everywhere and anyone I turned to, could not or would not help me. I lost close friends, and couldn’t yet tell my family.  I was uninsured, single, hormonal, alone, and very..oh so very..PREGNANT.  It seemed the more I looked, the more abortion became my only option. I prayed, “God I don’t think abortion is right, but what are my options!? I don’t know how to do this!” Screaming on my knees at times, asking, begging for an answer, I was hoping for a sign and a decision I could live with. On the fence with tears streaming down my face I cried for a sign, “God give me something! Tell me what to do!! Give me writing on the wall, anything, please!!” You know what? God gave me a billboard. YEAH, a billboard.

I called Real Choices and was relieved to hear they would see me. I remember crying there too; I cried the entire time, pouring out my heart. I was still considering abortion.

A woman was interning there and it was by divine intervention. With head in my hands she leaned in and with the most sincerity said, “You are so STRONG, and you CAN do this. God has a plan for you, and will help you.” She asked to stay in contact with me, and referred me to a support group “Embrace Grace.” She also prayed for me, again, and to this day those words changed my life.

I went on to get my first ultrasound. I was about six weeks pregnant. The technician asked if I wanted to hear the heart beat. Heart beat? Already?? It has a heart beat? Yes. Yes I do…

I bawled. Love rushed over me and I knew from that moment I would have that child and do my very best. I CAN do this. Her words replayed in my head, and I couldn’t stop crying. This was my answer. This was God speaking to me. This was my writing on the wall.

Even now I find myself asking God, “How am I supposed to do this?!” Being a parent is hard. Being a parent is very hard, alone. Most days I don’t feel like I’ve done a good job and pray I can give more tomorrow. I question why I’m doing this by myself, and wonder if I’m enough. I pray for a husband, and ask God “Why haven’t you sent him yet? Why am I alone?” Because even before I had Grayson, GOD MADE ME STRONGER. God knew the storm I was about to endure. He knew I would face adversities, so HE MADE ME STRONGER. He knew I would have to fall into Him to save myself and my child. He knew I would feel all alone; GOD MADE ME STRONGER.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
Jeremiah 29:11

So I continue on this journey. When I feel abandoned, I know I am never alone; He is with me. He gives me comfort, and has given me great joy.  God has surrounded me with a network of prayer warriors, and has provided every time I fall short. Even in my weakest moments, GOD MADE ME STRONGER.

written by Sarah Young, Embrace Grace Southlake bloom

The First Noel

shutterstock_159507632Talk about an epic “unplanned pregnancy!” It occurred to me that our Savior even understands unplanned pregnancy. He was the original “unplanned pregnancy.”

As I sit here in our cozy lil’ cabin gazing at the glistening snow I have had time to slow down and reflect on this “Christmas” season. The song “The First Noel” playing over and over in my heart. Being the word gal that I am I decided to research the meaning of Noel. It means “Christmas.” OK, simple enough. Then I looked up Christmas, thinking I knew the term well. Christmas means…… Christ Festival. A festival just for our Savior. But wait! A festival for an unplanned pregnancy? That’s right, we celebrate life. A life that matters. A life that came to save the world. A life that came to die for us. Whoa! I’m getting ahead of myself.

Here is how it began. Like most of our stories in Embrace Grace, a 17 year old girl received some shocking news.

Luke 1:26-29

In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man name Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.

Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be.

I don’t know about you, but I’m with Mary. What a greeting! Me? Highly favored? The Lord is with me? You see, far too often we see ourselves through our own eyes, our own faults, and our own skewed choices. How could I possible view myself as favored, especially highly favored? Mind you, Mary was still a virgin, but I’m sure she had some issues she dealt with internally that would lead her to believe otherwise. How could the Lord want to be “with me” after all these harmful decisions I have made? OK, let’s move on.

Luke 1:30-34

But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.”

                “How will this be, Mary asked the angel, “Since I am a virgin?”

WHAT!! I’m pregnant?! There is that shocking news. But wait. Mary was told ahead of time. It was hard enough digesting this news after the fact. But to be told ahead of time that I was going to be pregnant? Now? At 17? Right now, before I’m married? Before I graduate high school? Before my life is ready? Before………. Whatever the scenario or circumstances of your life, this news is slightly disturbing at best. And for Mary, even more puzzling because she was still a virgin.

AND….. This man child was going to save the world? God’s baby boy? A king? Jesus? What kind of a name is that?

Jesus = Yahweh is salvation

Yahweh = to become

Jesus = to become salvation

Personally, I think Mary’s response was pretty calm! Let’s read on.

Luke 1:35-37

The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God.”

“NOTHING” NO-THING, is impossible for God? But God, this seems impossible. A pregnancy. An unplanned pregnancy? Not impossible? This is not what I planned God. This is totally “UNPLANNED!”

Jeremiah 29:10-14

This is what the Lord says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my gracious promise to bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.”

This is our Lords answer to the things that seem unplanned to us. We see our lives and the events of them to be random, surprising, unplanned, shocking, and sometimes downright disturbing. But nothing catches God off guard. He has a plan. An unseen plan, but not “Unplanned.”

Isaiah 55:8-9

  “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

Mary’s response to what she has just been told? It is nothing short of amazing, and we can glean so much wisdom and peace from it.

Luke 1:38

“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said.” Then the angel left her.

Did Mary feel afraid? Probably. That is why the angel told her not to fear. Was this “unplanned” plan confusing? Yes. This is why she responded with “how can this be?” The list of possible thoughts and fears could be numerous! I know I had so many thoughts and fears when receiving the news of my unplanned pregnancy! Did God not understand the timing, the methods, and the mess my life was already in? And now He wants to add a baby to the mix! Needless to say, my response was not near as “grace filled” as Mary’s! “May it be as you have said?!” Really? Oh to have such faith and confidence in what seems an impossible situation!

And then, to top it all off, Mary sings! SINGS!

Luke 1:39-55

At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!”

                And Mary said:

“My soul glorifies the Lord
And my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
For He has been mindful of the humble state of His servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
For the Mighty One has done great things for me—
Holy is His name.
His mercy extends to those who fear Him,
From generation to generation.
He has performed mighty deeds with His arm;
He has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
He has brought down rulers from their thrones
But has lifted up the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things
But has sent the rich away empty.
His has helped his servant Israel,
Remembering to be merciful
To Abraham and his descendants forever,
Even as he said to our father.”

I love that our Lord had Mary go to Elizabeth upon hearing this “unplanned” news! He, our God, knew to surround Mary with someone who would rejoice with her. To encourage and lift her up during this fearful and somewhat confusing time. To point her to praise and worship of the very one who has given us life.

In no way am I comparing myself or any other mommy who has experienced this news with our Lord’s mother. The birth and life of our Savior is incomparable! Or am I intending to diminish the life and death of our King. He took our place. He understands our struggles. And only He could pay the price for our life. But our Lord gives us example after example of how valued and precious life, every life, is. To Him and to this world. His plan. His purpose.

Psalm 139:13-16

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.

I am so humbled and blown away at our example from our Lord how to accept His plan. How we can show love no matter the circumstances or timing. This is how the God of the universe reacts to “unplanned” pregnancy. It didn’t catch Him by surprise!

So remember, upon hearing the news of an “unplanned” pregnancy, whether it be yours or someone else’s…………..

1)      You are highly favored
2)      The Lord is with you
3)      Do not be afraid
4)      God has an amazing plan for you and your baby
5)      Jesus became our salvation
6)      NOTHING is impossible for God
7)      You are the Lord’s
8)      Have faith
9)      Surround yourself with others who are encouraging
10)    PRAISE GOD!

While talking with others who experience an unplanned pregnancy, whether theirs or their mothers, their lives and those of the baby have touched so many other lives. There is only one Savior, but we, who have chosen life, have and continue to reach so many that others may not be able to. My daughter of my unplanned pregnancy is now a pediatric oncology/cardiac/sickle cell nurse saving other babies on a daily basis. And I am speaking out for other mommy’s that are facing unplanned pregnancy and to their families to be healed of the shame and fear almost always associated with “unplanned” pregnancy.

Deuteronomy 30:19

This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before your life and death, blessings and curses. NOW CHOOSE LIFE, so that you and your children may live.

So……….

Happy Noel!

Merry Christmas!

Rejoice! For we celebrate this Christ Festival!

We celebrate life. All life. It all began on “The First Noel.”

Written by Kathy Easley

Silent Night

shutterstock_2187913Dreams have a way of speaking to us in the silence of the night. Speaking from experience, some mornings I wake up and think what on earth? Did that really just happen, oh it was only a dream. So many times we are given a message within a dream. When we allow ourselves to unveil and go beyond to the heart of the matter, there is so much depth and clarity that is to be seen and captured.

Dreams are given all throughout the bible and into our present days. Dreams are unique and part of life. Our spirits are at rest and our bodies are asleep, but there is so much being spoken over us during this time of slumber. Sometimes I wish I could recall all that my spirit encounters during the night as I am sleeping and dreaming. There are some amazing adventures, spectacular scenes, and so much that in the natural I would not ever be able to encounter.

Now please note, there are many dreams that are off the wall, ridiculous, out of the ordinary, crazy and could never ever happen… but there are some that we take to heart and a sense of importance is placed upon that dream. There happened to be such an occurrence in the very beginning of the New Testament in Matthew announcing the birth of Jesus. There were some relevant dreams that were expressed in the first 2 chapters that are worthy of recalling.

Joseph encountered  many dreams that gave him clear direction and how to proceed in the days to come. He received significant dreams before and after a very special arrival. The first dream came while his fiance was pregnant with a baby that was not his own. Once he discovered she was pregnant (by the Holy Spirit, although he did not know the details of this yet) he thought he could just take care of things quietly so Mary would not be disgraced. He was trying to find a way out, an escape, and God gave him a dream to show him the path to take. In his dream the angel spoke to him that he was to marry the mother of this baby and raise this child as his own. Then Joseph woke up. He did exactly what God’s angel commanded in the dream. He married Mary. Matthew 1:24 MSG

A band of scholars (also known as the wise men) were in search of the child that had been signified by the bright star in the eastern sky. The star served as a birth announcement. A star shining with the  brightest light to announce the Light of the World was here. The scholars asked around where they could find this newborn child so that they could worship this King.

King Herod, an evil king, heard of this announcement and had a secret meeting with the scholars hoping to find out the scoop of the whereabouts and details of this baby boy that would save the world. King Herod saw him as a threat and wanted to end the life of this child. He had everyone on the lookout.

The scholars entered the house and saw the child in the arms of Mary, his mother. Overcome, they kneeled and worshipped him. Then they opened their luggage and presented gifts: gold, frankincense, myrrh. In a dream they were warned not to report back to Herod. So they worked out another route, left the territory without being seen, and returned to their own country. {Matthew 2:11-12 MSG}

After the scholars were gone, God’s angel showed up again in Joseph’s dream and commanded, “Get up. Take the child and his mother and flee to Egypt. Stay until further notice. Herod is on the hunt for this child, and wants to kill him.” Joseph obeyed. He got up, took the child and his mother under cover of darkness. They were out of town and well on their way by daylight. {Matthew 2:13-14}

Herod, when he realized that the scholars had tricked him, flew into a rage. He commanded the murder of every little boy two years old and under who lived in Bethlehem and its surrounding hills. {Matthew 2:16}

Later, when Herod died, God’s angel appeared in a dream to Joesph in Egypt: Up, take the child and his mother and return to Israel. All those out to murder the child are dead.” Joseph obeyed. He got up, took the child and his mother, and reentered Israel. He was directed in yet another dream to go to the hills of Galilee and settled in Nazareth. {Matthew 2:19}

Thankfully, Joseph listened intently to the angels as they gave him clear directions in the dreams he was given. He could have chosen to ignore those dreams, and the outcome could have been totally altered. God’s plans and design were at work. The enemy wanted to end his life before it even began. This babies life was saved. The Savior of the world saved as an infant and would later sacrifice His life to save us all. For the sake of the world.

Silent Night, Holy Night, all is calm, all is bright…Mother and child… Holy infant so tender and mild. Sleep in heavenly peace. Son of God love’s pure light. Radiant beams from thy holy face. With the dawn of redeeming grace. Jesus, Lord at thy birth.

Stir up dreams in the silence of the night Jesus. Dreams for the fathers.  May the fathers rise up to be bold and courageous. To choose life. Even though it may not always be easy. Hope and encouragement to be instilled within them. No longer to have the notion to push or demand the life of the innocent child to be put to death. They can be strong and supportive of the mother carrying the baby within her womb. Protection for the mother and baby.

Praying and believing for a shift in the atmosphere. For the fathers and spiritual fathers to rise up as encourager’s for the single mothers. To speak life, love and liberty. Just as the dreams were given to Joseph and the wise men two thousand years ago and they listened and obeyed and babies were saved. God may you give the men dreams of life. Significant dreams. To make wise choices. Speak to their hearts Jesus. Life that is breathed from you, may they guard as sacred and precious. Babies in safe keeping. Declaring Life. Grace covered moments.

I love this quote that a leader from our Embrace Grace Dads group posted:

When he speaks and you listen… God happens. There’s no mistaking the power that flows from Him, through you, to shatter chains, heal and make everything different. Praying for open hearts and open ears today as you walk in His light. We are on a mission, in a battle not of this world. I stand with you all in representing His love. Let’s change the world. In Jesus Name. # Jesus Stuff#Radical Obedience- Jonathan Boles

The Father himself loves you. He loves you because you loved me and believed that I came from God. John 16-27

Written by Salina Duffy

The Gift That I Almost Gave Back

shutterstock_102023407After thinking long and hard and coming up with the best decision that fit me and my lifestyle at the moment, I had to start making preparations for my big day in the morning. I knew I wouldn’t sleep very well since I was holding a secret between me and my then boyfriend. I knew I wouldn’t sleep in peace because of what I had been taught against all of my life, growing up in a Christian home – my plan was to go totally against it. I was the youngest of eight children and spoiled rotten by my parents who thought I should never grow up. I was everybody’s baby. How does the baby girl, who is attending college with a promising future (according to society), eighteen years old, and never got a chance to openly date tell her family that she is pregnant? Sure, my family loved my boyfriend because he was a great young man who came from a good family and never got into any trouble. He was known as a hard worker because that was something that his mother instilled in each of them by taking them to work with her at early ages until they were old enough to get a job on their own. He had just come home from the military and was really nice to me. My dad would always say, “I sure hate that you’re going to graduate high school so young, because life starts earlier for you!” I’m thinking to myself, “Daddy, I’ll be 17 and that’s really not a big difference from graduating at 18.” He liked it when a child graduated at a healthy 18 years of age. If he had it his way he’d prefer a child be turning 18 in the fall of his or her senior year so they’d have a few months to mature even more before hitting the ‘real’ world. My mom loved my boyfriend too but she didn’t like the fact that he was coming home from the military right at the beginning of my first year of college. My family…well, they knew him and liked him too.

Tossing and turning all night long, I finally woke up early the next morning so that I could make it to my appointment. My boyfriend was taking me. I didn’t have a phone at home so I just had to be ready at the time he said he was coming, and I knew he would be there on time – after all, he was a stickler about being on time. He believed that if you arrived on time then you were late. If you arrived early, then you were on time! That morning I woke up to excruciating pain. Pain had taken over my body. I could not walk; my bodily functions were functioning in an unexplainable manner. To put it lightly (in a cleaned up manner), when I went to the bathroom, with the assistance of my loving oldest sister – it felt that fire was being released from body. My legs felt like spaghetti – no stability. I did what we always do when we’re in trouble – I questioned God and said, “What did I do to deserve this?” Instead of going to the clinic to end a pregnancy I was rushed to the local ER. Barely 18 years old and terrified because everyone would know that which I was trying to hide, soon enough.

The pain and suffering went on for weeks that seemed like months and all I could do was lie in the bed until I graduated to the couch and watch T.V., and take frequent trips to the ER. My source of travel from the car each time I went to the hospital was by way of wheelchair. When I sat on the couch I had to sit on newspaper. My life turned upside down in a matter of one night. Here I was, this young girl, who was prepared to keep going with life as usual after that morning awoke to what felt like hell on earth. I knew there would be complications possibly, but I thought it was worth it in my present thinking. As I mentioned before, I didn’t have a telephone at home, so even if I did feel like talking I couldn’t.  Needless to say that my boyfriend was afraid to come around so I didn’t see him until my sisters went around to his house and told him the seriousness of my illness and he needed to come over and it was okay to come.

Running back and forth to the hospital for the next few weeks, being told what I was experiencing wasn’t known or recognized. I underwent so many tests. Finally I think one of my doctors wanted to just give it a name, but the symptoms didn’t match completely. It seems that this pain lasted forever, but when I decided that I would no longer try to wait it out and still terminate – that is when my life started to change.  I became content and happy with the decision to keep my son. My then boyfriend took me to every appointment and took great care of me along with my family. I miraculously got up, started back playing softball (which I loved to do), and played in full uniform until I was 5 ½ months pregnant. No one on the team knew but one best friend that I had shared with and of course my sisters. I delivered my son on September 26, 1989 at 11:35pm, after getting off work at 5:30pm that evening. Yes, I was a trooper and a fighter and I believe that is why I didn’t get better until I had made up in my mind that I would not still try to terminate my pregnancy. On October 27, 1989, my then boyfriend and I got married. We just celebrated our 24th wedding anniversary.

My son is an amazing young man. He excelled throughout school, graduated from high school and went on to college on a full baseball scholarship. He is a Christian man and makes us really proud. He quit baseball his second year of college, but I knew that God had another plan for him. He would call me and talk about what he learned at church on the nights that he would have probably been at practice or a baseball game. He is a true role model to his 16 year-old brother and 13 year-old sister; which both are miracles in their own way. My son Michael Jr. graduated with his Bachelor Degree in Criminal Justice and is currently pursuing his Masters in Sports Administration. I look at him all the time and cannot believe that I almost gave up that wonderful gift that God gave to us. He is a gift from God with a purpose for life that is greater than we have seen.

Written by Angel Tucker-Carr

 

The Heartbeat

shutterstock_129761186Outside the womb it’s called a baby, inside it’s a fetus. Outside we rush them to the hospital for care, inside we inoculate them with sterile surgical equipment in the soft spot. Outside it would be murder, inside it’s called “termination.” Why the change in terms? Let’s call it like it is. If we are for it, we should understand the procedure, the ins and outs, the ups and downs, the good and bad. At just 3 weeks the heart is beating; the DNA is coded in every cell. The brain is developing and yet in most cases not even the mother knows of the miracle growing inside. In Texas alone, in 2009, we ended 77,630 of those miracles. That’s 77,630 heartbeats stopped, 155,260 little feet that will never take a step, 155,260 eyes that will never see the light of day and 776,300 tiny fingers that will never hold their mommy’s hand.

It wasn’t something talked about in my house. The rule was you don’t do this, and “it” will never happen. But the “it” happened to me, that “it” changed my life forever. It was cold that December, my first to be away from home. I was making bad choices and defending them with even worse excuses. I became pregnant. I was scared, alone, and so lost, I didn’t know where or who to turn to. I started looking for help, and immediately found answers through Planned Parenthood. They said “women feel relieved after,” so I made the call and set up the appointment. The women told me “we have donors who will pay for the procedure if you cannot afford it.” Looking back now it sounds silly that someone would donate to a procedure as such. Then, I did something I had no real knowledge about, the one thing I thought I’d never do, I had an abortion.

In 2010, I met a woman named Amy Ford, she led a group called Embrace Grace (EG). Embrace Grace is a nonprofit organization that helps young women who are single and pregnant. She instills strength and perseverance through the tough situations. She lifts spirits and confidence too, all by her own testimony. She gives opportunities and displays compassion to those who are hurting. Leaders raise money to host baby showers to equip mothers with their babies needs, from bottles to cribs to rides to the doctor and emotional support too. I did not meet Amy by chance. I was one of the misdirected girls in her group, I was pregnant again. However, this time was different; I had a support system, not just a person but a whole group of leaders who told me “you can do this!” They displayed love and compassion and told me my baby was a gift, and something that still boldly stands out to me; they said I was a gift too.

While pregnant with my son, I started having flashbacks; the whole procedure would echo in my head, becoming so vivid: the nurse’s cold hands, the loud sound of the vacuum pump, the smell of the clinic, the pain of my child literally being sucked out of me. The depression and pain started setting in. I became paranoid of my sons safety and would often cry in fear of him being taken away. I would beat myself up daily with the “what ifs”, the “could- have-beens”, and literally exhaust myself re-playing my actions. This is the information Planned Parenthood fails to disclose.

Hours after the delivery my son, I remember holding him in that hospital rocking chair and Amy walking in. I became so overwhelmed with emotion; the tears just started rolling down my face on to that of my sons. Had Amy not intervened when I was only 12 weeks along, I may have not been sitting there holding the one thing I love most in this world, the one thing that gives me strength, that loves me no matter what and is always there for me, my son.

In 2009 had I felt the support and love Embrace Grace gives, there would be one more heartbeat beating, two more little feet dancing and one less mother in suffering. It’s beyond essential to love these girls in such hard times and to let them know they are not alone, to be a guide and lead by example, to give them strength in times of weakness and to lift them up when they are down. To forgive them and more importantly help them forgive themselves. The significance of showing young pregnant women alternatives after becoming pregnant is imperative to them, their baby and this world.

Written by an Embrace Grace Alumni for her college paper, anonymous

Throw Out the Bootstraps

shutterstock_2607433I am sure that you have heard the saying “Pull yourself up by your bootstraps.”  As a young single parent, this was pretty much ingrained in my mind from the get-go.  I had an “I can do it all” mentality and I didn’t need anyone’s help.  The only problem being that I did – desperately.  In an effort to show the world how capable I was though and to prove everyone “wrong”, I slapped on the mask that I was strong and had total control.  My bootstraps were pulled so many times over the years that a commercial appearance my hands will not make.  And no one ever tells you how exhausting pulling those bootstraps can make you – just a rant.

Fast forward now to my kids being teenagers and me being a much wiser woman, I have discovered truly how much my decision-making was influenced by my lack of a father in my own life.  I really did not feel that I had someone I could depend on, so all that left was me.  And this in turn severely affected my relationship with my heavenly Father.  I had no problem trusting that God was who He said He was…it was more of not trusting that He was going to do what He said He would.  I wasn’t even sure what that looked like.  I had been let down a lot by men in my life who had said a lot, but showed very little.  The walls were fortified by unmet needs and broken promises.  I desperately wanted help, but I truly did not know how to let the help in.  I was afraid to allow myself to be vulnerable, because that was a sign of weakness.  Or so I believed.  I didn’t realize that true vulnerability makes you strong, if you are vulnerable in a safe place, with someone who truly has a great heart and is full of love.

I have made many decisions in my life that have led to unsavory outcomes and in all honesty, because they were usually things that I knew better than to do, I didn’t feel like I had the right to ask for help or seek compassion.  Shame and guilt clouded my perception and caused me to believe that I would get rejected.  This kept me bound for a long time because I was scared to be rejected and that kept me from seeking the help I truly needed.  In God’s love and amazing wisdom, He brought me to a place where once and for all, I could finally kick that fear to the curb and let those fortified walls come crumbling down.  And he did it gently I might add, giving me strength to take one baby step of faith at a time.

If you have been struggling, but have been afraid to reach out and ask for help, my charge to you, my plea to you, is to throw out those bootstraps and take that first baby step of faith. Life is so much sweeter when done together and you will find that when you take that first step of faith, your trust will grow.  Not only is He who He says He is, but He will do what He says He will do.  He will plant you in a place that you can grow, He will provide the water and the seed, and your only job will be to receive the love, grace and mercy He pours out on you.

“Come to me, I’m all you need, come to me, I’m your everything…” (Bethel Music)

Even if you don’t have a great relationship with your earthly father, your Heavenly Father says to you:  It’s ok my daughter.  I have never left you, nor will I ever leave you.  Your knowledge of me does not negate my foreknowledge of you.  I have planned and prepared you for such a time as this.  What you think is broken is beautiful in my sight.  If you trust Me with your heart, I will make everything right.

– Written by Jamie Stapleton

 

Hard Talk

ImageThere are many times in our lives that we must have tough conversations with other people.  Sometimes having these uncomfortable awkward conversations with the people we love the most, can be the most chilling!  What I mean is, we try our best to avoid these conversations because we cringe at the thought of exposing truth that may hurt others.

In college I wandered away from the Lord.  I was trying to please my flesh, my girlfriend and what culture said I should be doing.  I was living it up!  My dad had put me in a sweet apartment near college, paid all my bills with the exception of spending money (for that I had to have a part time job), and paid for my books and tuition.  I really enjoyed the college life.  My girlfriend and I had been together for 6 years and loved each other very much.  We found out one day she was pregnant.  Amy had all of the symptoms and so we decided to buy a pregnancy test from the grocery store.  We came back to the apartment and it tested positive.  All of a sudden our world, my world, came crashing down around me.  All that I had was over. My dad was going to cut me off.  I would be homeless.  I wasn’t ready.  What in the world was I going to do?  I knew it was wrong. I really did. I told Amy there was a pill that she could take that would make it all go away.  That I would take care of the expenses but that she needed to do this, otherwise…my life was ruined.  On a Saturday morning I took Amy and my money to a facility that performed this procedure, handed them my money, and let them lead Amy back to a room to take care of our situation.  I sat and waited in the waiting room for what seemed like eternity and then she came out and said “we are still pregnant.” (You can discover the rest of the story in Amy’s book.)  What happened next was a whirlwind of emotions, tears, and all kinds of drama.  I was not being a man.  I was being a scared little boy who needed a kick in the ass!  She gave me the kick in the ass I needed.  She came to me one day and said, “Ryan…I love you.  I want to tell you something.  I am going to have this baby with or without you.  Ryan….trust me….someday…you will thank me.”

We got married and had our baby boy and named him Jess.  My dad did not cut me off. He helped me finish college and was very supportive.  I believed a lie and almost lost my beloved treasure – my son, my Jess.  Countless times throughout Jess’s life I have whispered “thank you” into Amy’s ear.

Amy had to have an uncomfortable conversation with me.  She had to abandon her love for me and do what was right – what was just – with or without me.  Thank God she did!  This leads me to what I wrote this about.  With Amy’s recent book release, A Bump In Life – True Stories of Hope and Courage During an Unplanned Pregnancy and her television appearances speaking about the book, I knew we were going to have to speak with our son Jess about our story.  I didn’t want him finding out by reading his mother’s book.  I also didn’t want him hearing about it on television.  We scheduled a visit with Jess without our other 3 children.  Amy, Jess and I went out to eat and we told him what I told you above.  For us…it was a tough conversation.  Thoughts like, “would he think we didn’t want him?” would enter my mind.  I also kept thinking I hope this doesn’t hurt his feelings.  I just wanted him to hear it from his mother and I before he heard it from someone else.  I wanted him to know we were wrong for going to the abortion clinic…that God saved his life and that he was a miracle!  Telling him this was the right thing to do.

After telling him our story and how close he came to not being here…he didn’t have much to say.  He said he knew we had gotten pregnant out of wed lock since he was in 6th grade.  I asked him how he knew this and he said, “I did the math dad…”  I laughed and still wonder why he never brought it up but I guess that would be awkward for him to bring up to us.  He didn’t have many questions and we had hyped ourselves up thinking he would.  He was a typical, quiet 14 year old young man.  Not much to say.  We explained to him that his story has inspired hundreds of people!  He is a miracle!  He said…”cool”.  Okay so I’m sure he really did think it was cool.  He was there, with us, eating cheesecake.  That IS pretty cool!

Let’s not fear uncomfortable conversations anymore.  Let’s be bold!  Let’s also be careful and sensitive to others feelings, but let’s not let the lies of the enemy keep us from doing what is right!  What is just!  Let’s STAND FIRM TODAY!  PS…Amy…THANK YOU!

– Written by Ryan Ford