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

Once Lost, Now Found

1117091655In the beginning there was a girl who ran off impulse and insecurities
Surrounding herself by impurities
Lost, insufficiencies
Not renewing, not pursuing to have Christ in her mind
She didn’t do it at first after righteousness, but only to impress the arms of her flesh
You know the rest
Her spirit was so weak as it could not compete
As she consciously continued to cheat
On Christ with the lying and defying
She did not realize but her spirit was dying
She routinely filled her life with sin
Her body not a temple for Christ
She didn’t praise Him and her heart was cold
No desire for her spiritual growth
And before you know it she was held bound – a stronghold
Who would ever have foretold that time would be wasted completely
Now looking back realizing she was deceived – truly
Enticed by the devil at hand she had no idea about the baby boy in God’s plan
It was then she realized without Christ there’s no rock to stand
From there spiritually she went uphill
Believe me without Christ you’re lost for real
Without Him your soul is destined for hell
But that’s the penalty of sin though it’s not a fairytale
So she now looks to the hills for her help
Because she knows she’ll miss Christ if she looks to self or material wealth
Her spiritual guide, she doesn’t want to backslide1920403_10152075789778409_1922636066_n
Just wants to allow Him to remain inside
Now in His word she abides and hides from all pride
Now she knows the true meaning of eternal life
Bold, courageous, saved by grace, crowned
Was once lost, but now she’s found

Written by EG Bloom Chelsea

Tired of Waiting?

shutterstock_114300748Some things in life don’t come so easy: the right job, the right place to live, children when you are ready, and even the right person to be with.  Waiting is not easy, but it is necessary.  Sometimes we can jump the gun and end up getting ourselves into a world of hurt because we find out later that we made the wrong decision.  In my own personal long waiting period, I have found contentment and I have found angst, I have found hope and faith, and I have dealt with doubt and disbelief.  Isaiah 64:4 says: “Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him.”  I have learned through all of this that I have changed tremendously in the last several years, and that I still have room to grow.  I am learning how to deal with things in my personal luggage that need to be tossed out so that when I move into a new season in my life, I don’t bog down the season with unnecessary weight.

Although waiting is hard, if you can hold on and hold out, it will be so worth it in the end!  God is faithful my friend…and if you just open your eyes wide enough to see what He is doing, your faith can be ignited to hold on just a little bit longer.  It is not the mountain that you need to be looking at, it is the One who moves mountains that you need to keep your eyes on.

Even saying that, I know times can get hard and we have moments where we feel we just cannot go on any longer!  I recently had a moment just like this and I was able to pour my heart out on paper, which I want to share.  Maybe it will encourage you if you are in a long season of waiting too.  And just remember, HAVE FAITH IN THE WAIT!

I know that You are for me
It seems that I am not for myself
The thoughts I fight with negative at best
Destructive at the worst
Trusting in You is not so easy to do
When trusting is not so easy
Gullible and naïve, I believe the best of these
But Your word is hard for me to come by
Settle it deep in my heart
So in these times when believing is hard
I’ll remember that Your plans for me are pure
Your word will accomplish what it says
Your love for me is strong, Your will for me is sure

Capture my heart, Lord,  keep it safe
Let me not give it away until the day You say it is ok
I am weak from waiting, and my heart is weary
Don’t wait too much longer Lord, please come and fulfill me
My spirit is willing but my flesh is weak
Bolster my faith and hold me tight, make me complete…

Written by Jamie Stapleton

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

 

Blessing in Disguise

This was originally posted on May 4, 2012. We would like to share some of your favorite post from the Embrace Grace Blog. Please feel free to email kaleena.barnett@iembracegrace.com with your suggestions.

I am a 22 year old single mother to an amazing and beautiful 14 month old baby boy named Jonathan. I’m doing this mom-thing alone with absolutely no help from the father.

Back before I got pregnant, I could not wait until I was 21, I would finally be able to be a real “grown up.” I would be able to go to bars and clubs and stay out all night long. I imagined myself living on my own, having no rules, and just partying my life away. Sounds like the perfect life right?

That thought was so far from the truth.

I started living my partying dream a little earlier than 21 and moved into a house with 3 other girls when I was 20. We partied every single weekend.

Living that lifestyle only can end in a few different ways, and none of them were ideas that I had in my “dreams” for my future. I figured out I was pregnant.

I was in no position raising a child. I could barely remember I had a puppy on the weekends with my busy life of parties. I had to start making some drastic decisions in my life. I started by moving back in with my mom.

I turn 21 and I’m back at home, living with my mom … and pregnant. This is a completely opposite of what my idea of turning 21 was going to be like. My thoughts were consumed with how I thought my life was completely over.

Little did I know, God was blessing my life more than I could ever imagine.

After attending Embrace Grace, I started seeing a transformation in myself. A  seed was being planted in my soul by these selfless, wonderful, amazing women that I spent time with every week. I started to think differently about my circumstances and I began to see the great joy and miracle my baby was to me.  

My baby saved my life.

My son put my life back on track and into perspective. I had no idea how amazing being a mother was going to be while I was pregnant. I could only imagine but it was even more than I could have dreamed when I finally laid eyes on my blessing on March 7th, 2011. I’m a MOM! The most amazing thing about being a mother is knowing that my child feels most safe, loved, and comforted wrapped up in my arms. Having someone else depend on me to keep him healthy and alive is the most amazing accomplishment I have ever felt. Knowing that after he falls and bumps his head or scrapes his knee, the only thing that makes him feel better are my kisses, makes everything I sacrificed for him, worth it all. Waking up to my sweet baby rubbing my back or hearing his laughter because he sees a bird out the window makes me thank God every morning for waking me up. Hearing him cry in the middle of the night and all I have to do is hold him as tight as I can on my chest so he hears my heart beat, makes it worth having a heart beat and thanking God that I lived all the time I should have died during the partying years.

Jonathans first look at me, his first smile, the first time he rolled over, the first time he crawled, the first time he stood up, his first steps, first words, and all of his other firsts that are yet to come are way better than anything I could have ever imagined. My past life was over when I found out I was pregnant, however, a new beginning, a new life, was just starting, and it is still being written. I wouldn’t change it for anything in the world. 

Written By: Stephanie Salter

Good Stuff in the Hard Stuff

I will never forget that day my life changed forever.

It was May 3rd, 2010. I was a senior in high school and was just a few weeks away from turning 18. I had prom, graduation, and my birthday to look forward to all in the same month … but little did I know my whole world was about to change.

My stomach dropped as I had the realization I was a few days late.

One day after school I went to Tom Thumb and got a pregnancy test … stole it actually. I didn’t have any money. I stuck it in my purse walked out and went home to take it. On the way to the bathroom I couldn’t stop telling myself there was no way I was pregnant, it just couldn’t happen.

I took the pregnancy test and closed my eyes.

When I opened them I had two pink stripes burning into my eyes. You have GOT to be kidding me. My emotions went numb. I felt like I should be crying or something, but I felt nothing. I was in complete shock. I had a baby growing inside of me and I couldn’t really see past my prom, graduation, and my birthday coming up much less 9 months down the road.

I had to tell Brad. Brad and I had been together for 2 1/2 years. He was 3 years older then me and a junior in college and although our relationship was rocky at times, he was my rock and my love. I pulled out my phone and texted him (he was working out so I knew he wouldn’t answer). I just took a pregnancy test and it came back positive The response was not a good one. It was one word and it wasn’t a good one. I called my best friend Krista. I needed someone to tell me everything was going to be ok.  She did exactly that for me but she also encouraged me to be brave and tell my parents.

It was an even more complicated situation because I had hid my relationship with Brad from my dad for 2 years. My dad never approved because of me and Brad’s age difference. My dad had an abusive history so I knew the reaction was not going to be good.

Every thought went through my head about what I could do to get out of this situation I found myself in. Brad just wasn’t wanting a baby. He was still finishing college and had just turned 21. He was partying a lot and this just wasn’t in the plans. He decided to call a few abortion clinics to see if we could get an abortion. Because I was 17 and not 18 yet, I couldn’t get one without a parent’s consent.

We were stuck.

I was extremely close with my mom. She was my best friend. I knew I could be brave enough to tell her and she wouldn’t freak out that bad. The next day, I texted my mom when I got to school and told her that I was late on my period. She texted back and said that it was okay she had been late too and she was sure I would start soon. I told her that I had never missed a period before though and I was nervous, she then sent me the worst text I would’ve ever expected to get from her. For your sake, you better hope you’re not pregnant. My mouth dropped. What was I going to do? How could I tell her now?

My mom was struggling with alcoholism at the time so I knew if she had a few drinks in her, she would be easier to talk to. That night, I took a deep breath and just blurted it out, “Mom, I still haven’t started and I’m getting really scared.” She reassured me again, “You are okay. I have $11 in my wallet. Go get a pregnancy test.” I got in the car and went up to Tom Thumb again and this time I actually bought one. I went straight for the bathroom and my mom followed me in. I took the pregnancy test already knowing what the result would be. My mom immediately took it from me, she stared at it and I was just waiting for her to yell at me. But she just looked at me with teary eyes and said, “Well, you’re pregnant baby cakes.” I will never forget those words.

Finally all of the emotion that I had been holding in ever since I found out, just came rushing out and I couldn’t stop crying. We hugged each other for a long time, and she told me whatever decision I made she would support me no matter what.

My best friend Krista called later that night and she convinced me to keep my baby.

That ended up being the best conversation I could’ve had with someone. I called Brad immediately after and told him I had decided to keep the baby. He was still not happy at all. My heart broke with his reaction. He said something that one day he would regret, “Look, I love you, but I DONT love what’s inside of you.”

I told him that he didn’t have to be apart of our life if he didn’t want to. I wouldn’t make him pay child support, he would never have to see me or the baby ever. All these tough words were flying out of my mouth but deep down my heart was broken. He snapped back and said, ” I WILL be a part of my child’s life.” My heart was still broken because I knew he wasn’t happy at all.

I went over to my mom and whispered in her ear that I was going to keep the baby, as my dad was on the phone across the table from her and I didn’t want him to hear. She said, “Okay but we have to tell your dad.” I said, “Okay but just not tonight.” I went inside and lay on my bed. I was realizing that I was actually feeling HAPPY. Yeah, I never planned for this to happen but once I had made the decision to carry this baby inside of me and be his or her mommy, I actually felt feelings of love and excitement!

I decided to go back outside to hang out with my mom and dad. I sit down and my mom immediately says, ” I told your dad.” I said, ” WHAT??” I immediately start to cry and looked into my dad’s eyes. He was hurt. He wasn’t saying a word. I finally broke the silence, “I’m sorry dad.” He yelled at me, “You lied to me!” and then slammed the door in my face.  He was beyond livid … and I was beyond scared.

After he finally calmed down, he said, “Whatever decision you and Brad make, he would support us but we needed to think about it because it was a life changing decision.”  … But I had already made my decision and I wasn’t going to change my mind.

We then told Brad’s parents and they took it a lot better. I could tell his mom was nervous and scared but she kept reassuring us that we would make it and be ok.

I was living with my parents and Brad had an apartment in Denton (he went to UNT) and his lease was about to be up. My parents decided that Brad could move in with us. My brother’s old room would be the baby’s room. I was so excited.

During the course of the pregnancy, our hearts started changing for the better. We knew we had to grow up fast. Brad started becoming more excited about being a dad and supporting me more. I started going to Embrace Grace and started to work on my relationship with God. I loved being surrounded by the girls that were all going through the same thing as me. The group was so amazing and I felt so lucky to be apart of it.

One night during class, was a night I’ll never forget because of what I learned.  Salina was talking and it was something along the lines of, “Your future spouse should be a Christian as well, so you enter the covenant of marriage as God first and in unity together.” I knew what she said made sense, but Brad was not a Christian. I’d talk about it with Brad from time to time, but I never forced it on him. I just thought that if it was going to happen, it would. Amy suggested I just bring him to church with me on a Sunday and see what happens. It seemed like a good idea but I just kept thinking that Brad would never go for it. I never brought it up even though I was worried about my future of being a Christian family. I loved Brad so much, I just prayed that it would happen.

Before I knew it, it was January 5th and I was on the way to the hospital to meet my beautiful baby girl. Everyone was so excited. I couldn’t wait to hold her! 10 hours went by and they wheeled me back for my c-section. Blakelee Nicole Davidson was born at 6:55 pm weighing 8lbs 10 1/2 oz.  My life was forever changed. So many precious memories of that moment but shortly after, bittersweet reality confronted me right there in the hospital room.

After everyone went home that night it was just me, Brad, and Blakelee. I was so excited to start this new life with my baby and my boyfriend. My dad started calling around 8 and the conversation was off and on until 1 am. He was drunk and NOT happy. He was upset that I had contacted my Grammie through facebook that I was not allowed to talk to due to some family drama. I had reached out to her when I found out I was pregnant because I had not spoken to her in years and wanted to tell her the news. He had gone home and gotten on my Facebook and saw the messages I had been sending to her.

I was confused, and upset. Why was he doing this to me the night I gave birth? I told him not to come to the hospital the next day. Everyone came to visit and I put on my happy face but inside I was hurting that I couldn’t enjoy this moment with my dad. Before we left the hospital, we got a call from my mom saying we should probably go stay with Brad’s parents for a little while because my dad was so furious with me. I didn’t understand why? He told my mom that Brad and I weren’t allowed back under his roof and that I was just an 18 year old girl who wore out her welcome. I was devastated. I was crying so hard I was breaking out into a sweat and could barely hold my baby girl. I didn’t know what I was going to do. I was so emotionally drained. That was the last day I saw my dad for a long time.

My dad finally let us come back home to stay at the house but he was still so angry, he went to stay with his father. It was so hard. On one hand, I was so in love with my beautiful baby but on the other, I didn’t have my family fully to enjoy her with. I struggled with depression and confusion. It was a hard time.

Brad and I grew closer than ever and a few days before Valentine’s Day, he proposed to me. Things were starting to look up. He was my constant and my rock. I loved him so much and I had always loved him. He was there for me through this emotional time. I couldn’t imagine my life without him.

One night, Brad and I were sitting outside talking and enjoying each other’s company. Blakelee was asleep and we were just relaxing and loving the fresh air. In the middle of the conversation, he stopped and said out of nowhere, “Is it weird that I want to go to church?” I was blown away. I needed this and for him to want it completely on his own was amazing. I needed God so much in my life but I also felt like I needed Brad too – so to be able to do this together was a dream come true.

We went that Sunday and Brad fell in love with Pastor Robert at Gateway. His life changed forever that day as he gave his life to Jesus and accepted Him as his Lord and Savior.  Our whole lives changed. Even since then, we have had our ups and downs. With my brother leaving to go into the marines, and having to take my mom to rehab, and still not speaking to my father, life was hard and slowly stopped going to church again. I was struggling with depression and taking it out on people I cared about. But through it all, I knew God loved me and that He would take care of us and our family. I had hope for our future.

This year has had a lot of ups. Blakelee just turned 1! Brad and I got married on March 18th. We have our own home. I saw my dad on my birthday this year after 18 months of not speaking. We can never get back the time we lost but we have started over and fresh. My mom has been sober for almost a year. Brad and I have started going back to church. Everything is finally coming together for us. And the best news of all is that I found out on Fathers Day last month that we are expecting our 2nd child that will arrive in February!

God has great ways of working in your life if you will just let Him. My world was crumbling at my feet, but he picked up all the pieces and is making me a beautiful life. And for that I am forever grateful. He’s really starting to work through me, and it’s amazing. I can see with everything I have been through that I am a better person because of it. I had 2 choices, I could let my past form me into a person with grudges and “baggage” or I could learn from it and help other people in similar situations.

Oh and remember the part about Brad’s reaction about not loving what was inside of me? Well, he quickly realized how completely false that statement was. I have never seen a sweeter daddy/daughter relationship. Blakelee has Brad wrapped around her little finger. The first thing he does when he comes home is run and scoop her up and give her tons of kisses on her squishy cheeks. He is such a good dad. He is even hoping our new baby is a little girl because he wants one just like her. 

Sometimes in the hard stuff, there is good stuff too. You just gotta open your eyes to it. Without the hard stuff, I wouldn’t be me. Without the hard stuff, I wouldn’t have so much. Without the hard stuff, my life wouldn’t be so easy.

My hope in Jesus is bigger than any circumstances.

Written by Brooke Davidson, 20 years old.  

 

 

What’s Your Cardboard Testimony?

We do this cool thing at the end of each Embrace Grace semester that I LOVE.  We have everyone write out their cardboard testimonies (even some of the leaders). If you don’t know what a cardboard testimony is, it is basically condensing what God has done for you in your life or maybe just in a season and putting the before and after on cardboard. There is something about reflecting back on where you came from and where God brought to you, and putting it into just a few words that make it SO powerful and moving.

I was working on the website this weekend and these pics are just awesome.

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And I found one of mine …

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So I have a question, what is your cardboard testimony? It’s something you should think about sometimes – would love hear yours in our comment section!

Written by Amy Ford