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

Bless Your Heart

lovenukeHe launches His promises earthward- how swift and sure they come! Psalm 147:15 MSG

Every heart makes a lasting mark. A pathway that has been destined before the beginning of time. During an anointed worship service at Gateway a song Love Came Down began to play. I had a vision of these tiny pink heart fluttering like butterflies from the highest of heaven down to earth. They represented the hearts of the mommies and babies lives that would be impacted through Embrace Grace.

Those fluttering hearts also represented the Embrace Grace chapters that would be starting across the nation and going global. I knew the importance and significance of these hearts when they appeared before my eyes during worship. I was thankful for the heavenly encounter and knew that I would reflect upon this moment often.

Embrace Grace is saving two hearts at a time… The mommies and babies.

There is not a day that goes by that I am not in awe of the immense honor and thankfulness of this mission. I am brought to my knees time and time again and stirred to tears in love and adoration for the gift of these precious mommies and babies! Their lives leaving a lasting impression upon the hearts of those they meet, touch and interact with. It is only for a season they are with us, but the memories last a lifetime. The look in their eyes, the sweet embraces, the journey they are making into motherhood. They are BRAVE! They are STRONG! They are COURAGEOUS! It is priceless and beyond words. No price tag could ever compare to the gift that these mommies and babies bring to us at Embrace Grace.

Every one unique. One of a kind. Chosen Mom meets chosen child. The beauty that unfolds during the process as they begin to bond and fall in love with the babies in their womb and the Savior that blessed them with this precious miracle gift. Beauty and breath of life becoming one as baby takes their first breath into this world.

The miracle of life will always captivate my heart and leaves me speechless and moved beyond words. Compassion and comfort is always given with an abundance of love and grace. They can feel it. Both mommy and baby alike. Their hearts can feel the love flowing straight from your heart to theirs. Blessing their heart in ways they can not even begin to describe or even comprehend at times. They are enamored with the outpouring of grace that pours out freely upon them. A fountain that never runs dry. A river that never stops flowing. Forever. An endless supply. That is what they feel when they catch wind of Embrace Grace and what we are about. They are eager to know more, hungry for more, thirsty for the Living Water that flows from the Well of Jesus. We graciously pour it out by the vessels of hearts that are serving and ministering along with us. We can’t do this alone. It takes you and me. It takes us partnering together to touch the hearts and lives of those that need love and grace the most.

We have a chalk print map of the USA in our office displayed on our wall. We have been eager to portray the hearts of each and every EG across the nation. Today was the day! With the placement of each heart upon the city and states, prayers were being offered, thanksgiving was been given, expectancy for more hearts to flood the map and embrace these mommies and babies with your love. It’s YOUR LOVE that reaches them. It’s your embrace that draws them near. It’s His GRACE that touches their hearts and they will never be the same. Once they catch a glimpse of WHO HE is and WHAT HE did for them… the rest falls into place beautifully. Flawlessly. Effortlessly. We pray. He does the rest. We are the hands and feet. We reach out to them and point them to the ONE that matters most. He is our EVERYTHING. We will do anything to reach them. Will you join us in prayer? Praying for more EG chapters to begin popping up across the nation. It is all in God’s perfect timing. They have already been destined and divinely appointed. Hearts are being stirred with passion, compassion and the love of Jesus to begin a group in their area. We are believing for more and more hearts to be added to our map. These are the hearts that we added today: Your city, your heart could be next.

TEXAS: Southlake, Mansfield, Aurora, Fort Worth (2), Sherman, Denison, Denton (2), Plano, Waxahachie, Anna, Cisco, Forney, Arlington, Lubbock, Carrollton, Frisco

LOUISIANA: Keithville, Addis

ALABAMA: Birminghamphoto

ARKANSAS: Hardy, Conway

OKLAHOMA: Norman, Oklahoma City

NEW JERSEY: Hawthorne

ILLINOIS: Carbon

MICHIGAN: Saginaw, Plainwell

MINNESOTA: North Mankato

FLORIDA: Sanford, Gainesville

MONTANA: Bozeman

OHIO: Canton

VIRGINIA: Winchester

CANADA: Sarnia, Ontario, Toronto, Ontario

38 city hearts and counting… Our hearts are united. To reach out and embrace the mommies and babies everywhere. To shower with love upon their hearts. It is an honor to join with you in this mission. Saving the hearts of the mommies and babies.

Praying with you and for you. May God Bless Your Heart immensely! Mommy and baby heart that is looking & searching for a group near you… we are praying for you. Church group looking for something new that God is stirring in your heart to embrace and begin… we are praying for you. Pregnancy Center that is looking for a bridge in the gap to connect these precious girls coming to your center and looking for a place to connect them to local churches… we are praying for you. All hearts united as one. This mission is beautiful.

Written by Salina Duffy

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

Hope in a Fallen World

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

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

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

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

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

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

Written by Whitney Wells

Poetry in Bloom

shutterstock_154734893The look upon their face says it all, even before a single word is spoken. The young girls begin walking through the door wondering which chair to place themselves and the child within their womb or snuggled so softly in their arms.

We celebrated our newest semester last week. Our 12th semester of Embrace Grace at the Southlake location; where this birthing originally took place. We had 12 beautiful single and pregnant girls arrive and each seemed ready to know more about us and what they would experience this semester.

Amy begins to share what the semester will unfold, including the BIG baby shower and special day. She shares her personal Bump in Life story and all eyes are fully engaged and intently listening as she recalls the moments leading up to her brave decision of choosing life. The girls are encouraged as they hear about the life of this child that is now a teenager.  He is a life-giver and will be a speaker for the nations. He has an anointing on his life that will make an impact on generations!

Ashley begins to share her personal story of her pregnancy and how she made the courageous choice to place her baby for adoption. She received confirmation upon confirmation that the plans were for this baby to be placed with the most loving, caring and nurturing parents. The birth mom and adoptive mom even had the same baby name picked out. How precious is that! Ashley had a few tears as she recalled the moments of her pregnancy and the beautiful adoption ceremony as she placed her sweet baby into the arms of another mother to love and care for him. They are able to have an open adoption and she has many precious connections shared with this baby and family. She also recently had another little boy and celebrating his first birthday next month.

Crissy began to share her Embrace Grace story. She shared of her redemption and how God fully redeemed all that was lost. Laughter flowed in the room as she told of her salvation stories and so much more. She has 2 sweet boys and an adorable new baby girl named Ruby Joy.

Each of these stories revealed pieces of the leaders hearts. Tiny glimpses and rays of hope for these new girls to cling to. Words of encouragement. Strength. Bravery.  Their countenance begins to lighten up and you can feel them begin to exhale all their “what if’s &  scenarios” and allow themselves to breathe fully and just relax. With each passing week, they will learn more of God’s grace. His words are like poetry etched upon their hearts.

Words on a page. Words in your heart. Melodies in the nature around us. Expressions of letters written upon the lives of others. Poetry in motion. Poetry is living, breathing, echoing throughout our days.

As a young girl I would frequently rhyme and produce silly sayings with my little sisters. They would laugh in the cutest of ways and say why do you always have to rhyme? It came natural as the words would just flow from my lips. No effort or thought process needed. They may not have always made sense, but they rhymed nonetheless. Silliness in the best of ways. I would casually say, hey, I’m a poet and didn’t know it.

After a while, those rhymes stopped flowing. I began to grow into my teenage years and became too occupied with teen stuff and let those childhood rhymes pass swiftly by me. I didn’t have time to focus on them as much. Maybe I was not intentional enough and did not apply the gift to the best of my ability, so it was placed upon a shelf for another time. A time when I was older maybe.

That gift has been resurfacing the past few days. I visited a few lovely parks and gardens and then browsed through a flower shop. A sign above the vast array of beautiful flowers read ~ Poetry in Bloom. My heart skipped a beat and thought, oh that is a beautiful title for a blog post. Unaware of what was about to unfold and resurface from deep within me. A well of clogged up rhymes, words and poems. Just waiting to come up. They have been held silent for a time, and they say long enough. Let us out. Let us be heard.

Just let it flow. Words upon your heart. Spilling into the hearts of others. No rhyme, no reason, but love. Sweet love. Etching upon their hearts in beautiful ways. Just as flowers. Budding, Blossoming, Blooming. Babies are poetry in bloom. Their lives will speak upon your heart. Listen to their sweet and soft sounds.

Babies~ Poetry in Bloom~
Life within the womb holds treasures and measures of love beyond words.
Melodies sung by the mommies are as sweetly as the birds.
The love of a mommy for her baby begins to grow at conception.
She nurtures, protects and cares with a mother’s intuition.
Knowing that she will need guidance and wisdom
throughout all the days in this kingdom.
She searches for truth to answers unknown.
She finds the answers in a Book very well-known.
The Bible- God’s Word- Her source, Her defense
throughout the pages she can always sense.
His Presence is near and dear to her heart.
She knows without Him she will not part.
He loved her from the beginning of time.
His love everlasting, an unending rhyme.
She learns about hope, love and grace
She then can sweetly embrace
This precious gift given her from above
A baby so fresh from heaven to love.

Beautiful words stir my heart. I will recite a lovely poem…for my tongue is like the pen of a skillful poet….Gracious words stream from your lips. God himself has blessed you forever. {Psalm 45:1-2}

Written by Salina Duffy

God knows…

shutterstock_92746549Growing up a Christian, I tried in my own strength to figure it all out and to live my life in purity, but our own strength is never enough AND we just won’t EVER be able to figure it all out, but God knows!

I was not what you’d call a young single mom.  I was due to have my baby for my 30th birthday.  My son’s father would first suggest I “just have an abortion.”  After all, we barely knew each other.  But this was never an option in my mind.   There was something inside me that had the faith to believe that even though I had been living less than holy, my God would NOT leave me or forsake me.

I knew I couldn’t stay with my baby’s father as his lifestyle was leaning away from Jesus.  From the instant I found out of I was pregnant, I was drawn to lean in to Jesus.  I was scared, but again, that faith rose up in me to step out with God by my side and raise this precious boy on my own.

Our season of being a family of two was so sweet and full of precious memories.  I had finally surrendered my heart and life to Jesus and learned to lean on His word and strength in living a life of purity as I raised this little man God gave me.

For years though, in the back of my mind, I would wrestle with the worry that I might not be enough to raise up my son into a Godly man.  What do I know about man stuff?  But God knows.  He provided in so many ways with family and friends who took us under their wing and helped to blossom my son’s love of all things mechanical and all things dirt!  But I still would long and desire for a man in the flesh who would love us as his own and make our little family of two a fuller number.

I dreamed of having another baby, but as the years would go by and I began to approach 40, my faith began to fizzle.  In my plans, by age 40, I figured I was done.  I was happy God had given me my son.  I knew I was blessed and would continue to worship my God in all He had done in our lives.  There were still times I would try to figure it all out.  Sometimes, I just didn’t understand.  But in looking back, I can see that God knew.  He had a perfect plan all along.  It was NOT what I had planned at all.  I NEVER thought I’d be a single mom.  And I NEVER thought I’d be a single mom for 10 years!

I have learned to lean on God and trust in His timing and His plans.  It’s not always easy and it won’t always make sense, but I am finally learning, it IS always BEST!  As His word says, “For I know the plans I have for you,  declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”  Jeremiah 29:11.  He REALLY does know what you need, what you desire and what is best for you.  And when we release our strength and power to drive our own lives and understand it all and turn it over to him, he can and will provide in blessings and in peace beyond our understanding.

At 40 years old, God would bring me the gift of a man that He had picked out for my son and I.   And like the cherry on top, at almost 42 years old, God would surprise me and I would have another baby, this time a little girl.

God knows.  Trust Him.  He WILL take care of you.  He WILL give you the desires of your heart.  It may not be the way you planned and it may not be in your timing, but He will see you through.  He will NOT leave you or forsake you.  He knows!

Written by Lisa Ort-Terry

My Little Daisy

shutterstock_154346732I am 21 years old and a single mom of a little girl named Daisy. Daisy is one and a half and lives life with a smile on her face and joy in her heart. When I was 19, me and my
boyfriend at the time broke up due to me truly wanting to live life better and not the way we were. Two weeks later I found out I was pregnant and his only response was he wanted me to get rid of it. When I showed him the sonogram of the baby, he laid the money down for an abortion and walked out and never turned back. I spent my whole pregnancy trying to truly figure out “why me, ” etc. My pregnancy became very high risk. I fell down the stairs at 16 weeks, bleeding out a lot. At that point Daisy was ready to come and the doctors had to stop all labor – putting me on bed rest. At 29 weeks I was hospitalized and found out Daisy was very small inside me and 3 pounds under weight than what she should have been. Her heart rate was dropping and I was told the worst and prepared for a stillborn birth. But somehow Daisy pulled thru once again and we were able to go home. At 36 1/2 weeks I was in horrible pain and at a sonogram appointment. The doctors found she was no longer moving inside me, her heart rate dropped once again and my contractions shot up. My doctor admitted me and then began an emergency c-section. Not knowing if my baby girl was coming out alive or not I waited with tears down my face and when I finally heard her soft cry I somehow knew life was going to be just fine. This past year as a single mom has been long and tough at times. I work full-time to provide for all her needs living on our own. We don’t have much support and not much family who cares to care. We attend church on Sundays and Wednesday and have an amazing church family who walk this walk with us. Life can be tough having to be mom and dad and the good and the bad never knowing if what you’re doing is right, but we truly live life trusting fully in God for all our needs and capturing every moment of every breath that we take. I have days where I feel like super mom and days where I just wanna hide and cry but at the end of each day my baby girl’s kisses and hugs make this daily walk that much easier. The minute my daughter was born my life changed completely. The lonely nights grew warmer and all I could do was smile and want to show her to the world. For if all my life I failed I knew she was the one thing I did right. She has changed me so much and made me a better person. She has opened the eyes of my heart and made me a less selfish person. Not a day goes by that I don’t enjoy spending it with my princess for she is the happiness in my world. Life started over with her and I’m so blessed for what I’ve been given.

Written by Desiree Joyner