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

Hanging Out In Limbo

shutterstock_108821864Limbo= Lim’bo, Lim’bus

1.    A region bordering on hell, or hell itself.
2.    A place of restraint.

Restraint= (Hebrew) ma’tsowr (mah-tsore’)

Objectively, a hindrance.
Atsar (aw-tsar), Hebrew
A primitive root; to inclose; by analogy, to hold back; also to maintain, rule, assemble; be able, close up, detain, fast, keep (self close, still), prevail, recover, refrain, X reign, restrain, retain, shut (up), slack, stay, stop, withhold (self).

Isaiah 54:1 “Sing, barren woman, you who never bore a child; burst into song, shout for joy, you who were never in labor; because more are the children of the desolate woman than of her who has a husband,” says the Lord.

I have found myself on more than one occasion recently saying to myself and others, “I don’t do limbo well!” It seems as though my life and everything about it is in “limbo” at the moment, my place of residence, my passions, my healing and recovery, my job, my relationships, etc., etc., etc. I have continually viewed this as a bad place to be. Looking at the first definition above, that would prove true. BUT GOD!

As I study the second definition I am beginning to realize “limbo” is not always a bad place to be. The verse Isaiah 54:1 seems to start out as a dark place for most women, a barren place. It is a parable of not just a woman who cannot have a child, but all women who have a dream, calling, pull if you will, on their heart. We have so much that “pulls” us into all directions, and usually at the same time! Limbo can be, if we let it, a place of imprisonment, a place of despair and isolation, and really, if we are honest, that region bordering on hell! YUCK! But God wants it to be a place of recovery, refrain from harm, a stillness to stay in His presence. He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” Psalm 46:10 We can prevail in “limbo”! “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” Proverbs 19:21 We can also keep steadfast in “limbo.” “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.” Isaiah 26:3

Now, I am not saying that I didn’t struggle in my recent “limbo.” As a matter of fact and in total transparency, I actually quit for a bit! Those close to me observed this first hand. They have shown me mercy and grace during my recovery and healing. But God got ahold of me, that’s a great thing, and began to show me how to transfer my “limbo” from that region to His presence. In His presence, limbo looks like this:

L Love = “But I am like an olive tree flourishing in the house of God; I trust in God’s unfailing love for ever and ever.” Psalm 52:8

I Imperfect = “He is the Rock, His works are perfect, and all His ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is He.” Deuteronomy 32:4

M Mercy = “His mercy extends to those who fear Him, from generation to generation.” Luke 1:50

B Beautiful = “and provide for those who grieve in Zion – to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor.” Isaiah 61:3

O Open = “My eyes stay open through the watches of the night, that I may meditate on your promises.” Psalm 119:148

So the next time you feel in “limbo”, or maybe you are there right now, call on God, only He can move you from the region bordering hell to His presence.

I love the Lord, for He heard my voice; He heard my cry for mercy.
Because He turned His ear to me, I will call on Him as long as I live.
The cords of death entangled me, the anguish of the grave came over me; I was overcome by distress and sorrow.
THEN I called on the name of the Lord: “Lord, save me!”
The Lord is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion.
The Lord protects the unwary; when I was brought low, He saved me.
Return to your rest, my soul, for the Lord has been good to you.
For you, Lord, have delivered me from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling, that I may walk before the Lord in the land of the living. Psalm 116:1-9

Written by Kathy Easley

A Place Called Home

shutterstock_139797706It hit me like a ton of bricks. The realization that for most of the years I had been a mother I had inwardly longed to be single, to not have the daily responsibilities and duties of motherhood. And now that my children were almost grown, how I longed to be a mother. I do not have time in this brief blog post to count the ways that I came to this realization, but I can tell you that I love my children with all of my heart, and that there are no three people more important to me on the entire earth.

As anyone who knows me will tell you, I have a huge capacity to love. I long to give to people, and I have a desire to make others happy to the best of my ability. Having said that though, because of sin, hurt and pain in my life, there were parts of me deep inside that were severed. Lacking a connection, they lost life. I always struggled with feeling like something just wasn’t connecting, especially when others would say things that would ring true in my head and I would pray with all of my might, but it was as if something stopped it from reaching my heart.

My friends and I have this inside joke about words that drive us crazy. “Dear”, “Pumpkin,” “Honey” are a few that make me cringe. Tonight though, another word made me cringe and I mentally added it to my list. Consequence. Talking about consequences in relationships and consequences with kids and for once I decided (or admitted) that I did not like that word. As the conversation continued, I became very aware of something I had not before. And it was the key to unlock guilt I had carried for years.

I have always been a task oriented person. Things have to be done, the show must go on kind of person. Stuff those feelings and emotions because you just don’t have time to deal with them right now kind of person. Being a young teenage mother, several things inside of me stopped growing so that other areas could grow rapidly in order to position myself for this new found responsibility. With the duties of an adult, I still had the emotions of a child, and those emotions carried over into the decisions I made as an adult. I did what I had to do, in order to keep my family moving, not really considering what the best interest of a family would be. Very independent and just trying to make it, I made decisions the best I could with my limited emotional and mental capabilities.

And tonight it came full force. For the first time, I realized with both my mind and my heart that I grieved not being able to give my children a “normal” home. Mom, Dad, cat, dog, family vacations. Home cooked dinners around the table. Holiday crafts and family traditions. Too busy trying to do it all, I ended up doing none of it well. I couldn’t give them “normal” when they were young and even now – the struggle is real.

Laying on my couch feeling the brokenness, I thought about my parenting skills, everything that I had been through with my children, and I asked the Lord where was the redemption in this part of my story? And the scripture in Ezekiel 37 telling the story of the dry bones came to my mind:

“God grabbed me. God’s Spirit took me up and set me down in the middle of an open plain strewn with bones. He led me around and among them—a lot of bones! There were bones all over the plain—dry bones, bleached by the sun. He said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” I said, “Master God, only you know that.” He said to me, “Prophesy over these bones: ‘Dry bones, listen to the Message of God!’” God, the Master, told the dry bones, “Watch this: I’m bringing the breath of life to you and you’ll come to life. I’ll attach sinews to you, put meat on your bones, cover you with skin, and breathe life into you. You’ll come alive and you’ll realize that I am God!” Ezekiel 37:1-6 (The Message)

I had prayed several times this scripture. For God to breathe life into the dry areas, to bring back to life those things that were dead inside of me. As I laid on the couch, I sensed God telling me that the redemption was that by bringing these deep seated feelings out into the open, He was bringing things back to life. Areas that had been severed were now starting to feel again. This was just the beginning to a healing that needed to happen, but was buried under layers and layers of things that had been piled on top.

There is redemption to be had. No matter what area of life, and no matter how long it has been that you have been carrying the load, Jesus has come so that you may have life again. I have fought hard for a place to call home, a place where life and laughter can thrive. Where the skeletons and regrets of times past can show themselves to the door so that the fresh breath of God’s grace can flow freely. And as I sit here sharing this story with you now, on the same couch that harbored my brokenness just a few hours before, I am filled with a sense of home that comes not from man-made striving. The light on this home is forever shining.

Written by Jamie Stapleton

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

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

shutterstock_175797206

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

You lead, I’ll follow

shutterstock_24759604It never ceases to amaze me at how the disciples dropped everything and followed Jesus. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish people.” At once they left their nets and followed him. When he had gone a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat, preparing their nets. Without delay he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and follow him.” (Mark 1: 17-20 NIV) A chance encounter with a man they had never met and they were ready to drop everything they knew in an instant and follow after him.

This inspires me so much because how many times in our daily lives do we barter, kick-back, argue or try to persuade God differently when he tells us to “follow Him.” When we come to Him to believe in Him, when we receive salvation, it seems like we will always have this zeal to follow wherever He leads. And then as time goes on and the honeymoon phase is over and now you are getting down to the nitty-gritty of the relationship with Jesus and He sees your messiness, your selfishness, your insecurities and then you feel He has His standards set really high and you don’t feel like reaching them all of the time. You don’t want to follow all of the time. This is where I am in awe of the disciples and their obedience to Jesus call on their lives.

The battle of the will. Will over emotions. The Word of God over the will. Free will to choose God’s will. The Holy Spirit empowering us to obey. Obeying leading to seeing God. Really seeing God meaning you get to really know God. Had the disciples not stepped out and followed Jesus when they did, they would have missed so many unbelievable miracles. They would have missed out on the opportunity to walk with God in the flesh!!! Oh, to be obedient and follow Jesus, no questions asked like the disciples. To be like Peter when Jesus told him to walk on water! To listen with ears not bent toward a worldly view, but that are set to pick up only the tune of the voice of God.

Today, as you set out to accomplish the things on your to do list, where might the Lord be asking you to follow Him?  What might you need to set down in order that you may go?

Written by Jamie Stapleton