Faith for Baby V.

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From Jamie Grace: Occasionally I creep on Youtube to hear covers of my songs 😉 Recently I found a cover of “The Waiting” and once I heard this couple’s story I KNEW I had to share it on I’m A Fighter. This is the week of Moms Who Are Fighters and I pray you’ll all understand why I specifically chose them for this. —

“1000 days ago, my life hit absolute rock bottom. I was using a ton of prescription medication. I was lying [and] stealing to get my hands on any kind of pill that I could and it had been going on for years. I had to go to rehab… I went to jail… and I was totally ashamed [and] didn’t feel like I could ever come back from this. I’m supposed to be the pastor’s daughter a pastor’s wife and honestly, for a few days, all I could think of was killing myself. Our marriage was falling apart, my life was falling apart but through that, something we said was,  I hid in my addiction, I’m not going to hide in my recovery.” ”

Those are the words from Jessica, a youth pastor alongside her husband Louie, from California. I came across their version of my song The Waiting and I guess with my nerdiness (or nosiness? *smile*) ended up clicking around and finding out that they’re in the process of becoming parents. Just last year Jessica had a surgery that successfully removed two tumors. They have also gone through numerous fertility treatments and are currently preparing to cross another bridge in their story.

Knowing that God will always guide them, protect them and provide for them, Louie and Jessica continue to pray and seek God’s plan as they hope for their family to grow someday. I want to ask that you keep them in your hearts, thoughts and prayers as I will. I have been so blessed to know many moms who have given birth to their children and whose children have become a part of their families by way of adoption. It’s a beautiful thing to see moms and dads think less of themselves and give to a child with their whole hearts. Just from watching their youtube videos I know that Jessica and Louie have given so much of who they are to their ministry and a child would be so blessed to be a part of their lives. To stay updated with their story, click here.

“God can use our story to help somebody else…” -Jessica

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The Cheerleader

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From Jamie Grace: I read this story a few weeks ago and cannot really put into words how it moved me. Thank you, The Hodgepodge Darling, for sharing this powerful story. 

I’ve never really been afraid of tornadoes. You see, I’m an Arkansas girl, born and raised. I remember the thrilling nights as a kid when my mother pulled us from our beds and we’d spend what seemed like all night giggling under a mattress in the hall with flashlights and teddy bears. It was fun.
And I’ve seen the aftermath, the piles of rubble, the death counts on the news. But you see, I’m an optimist. And all these things I have seen from an emotional distance. So the prevailing theme to them all is the hope that humans are able to cling to, the stories of survival. So I’ve never really been afraid of tornadoes.

So on Sunday, April 27, when the weather man said the forecast was a mix for disaster, we decided we’d go ahead with our move to Vilonia anyway. We already had the UHaul. The house was in boxes. The helping hands had signed up. Our new house has a concrete basement. We’ll be safe, we thought.

We were.

While 20 people ate hot dogs and potato salad in the basement, the wall cloud blew over our mountain to the valley beyond it. The TV showed the eye of the storm directly over Cody Ln. And I stood on the front porch and saw the sucking black sky twirl in the distance. And for the first time that day, a fear swelled up because I knew that street. Because I’d traveled over the mountain just days before to that street. I’d stood in a house with a red door with my precious friend April, while our sons played in the yard. I’d marveled at her garden patch and seedlings and thought how much I loved her when she’d showed me her Hobby Lobby project, letters that spelled “Smith” above the door jam. “I spaced them out,” she said, “because I didn’t want to copy you.”

I couldn’t reach her. The storm had moved on but she wasn’t answering. We prayed for them as the minutes passed. Five, then ten, then the rain stopped and the sky stilled. But she didn’t answer my calls. “Call Daniel,” I told Miah. But he grabbed the keys instead. He and Jud got in the truck and left. I don’t know….I think he knew somehow. The way he was praying…it was different. He wasn’t asking for safety but for peace and I found it odd. I was afraid.

Time passed. He should have been there but the phone kept reaching voicemail. She wasn’t answering and now he wasn’t either. The group of guys that had been unloading our Uhaul left to go help. My texts to him grew in desperation.

Did it hit them?
Are they ok?
Honey, are they ok?
Please tell me if it hit them.
Please tell me they are ok.
Are they hurt?
Are they alive?
Miah, please tell me they are alive.
And then he responded. “I can’t.”

A blur. Calls to our pastor’s wife. Praying. Crying. And then another message “April and Daniel are alive right now but the boys are gone, honey”.

I don’t know what else happened for a while. My face was on the floor and my sister was there hugging me. Stephanie and I, both mothers, both friends of April, wailed. And only one prayer, a prayer more desperate than any I have ever prayed in my life, left my lips. “God, please, not this for her.”

It’s been a long couple of days. Little sleep. Lots of calls and messages. A group of men from the church went to the site and gathered what they could of the Smiths’ belongings. The house is completely gone.

Back in the fall, April and Daniel were still living in Sherwood. They received a 30 day notice that they needed to move so the owner of their home could sell it. She started to worry but in true April-fashion, she said “I know God will provide”. Just a week or so later she told me about the house they had found in Vilonia, about how perfect it was. The owners wanted to work with them to get them in it. It was just. so. perfect. It even had the red front door she had always wanted.

So, you see, I was angry. Because I knew God put them in that house. And it was no act of violence or human mistake that took their sons’ lives. It was an EF4 tornado, a mile wide, and it sucked everything that seemed so perfect off the foundation that God had given. I was SO angry.

I’ve always called her the cheerleader. Because she was one once, in a pom poms and pyramids sense, but because she still is now, in a bible and faith sense. She is who I call when my faith is stretched. And every time I hang up the phone, I’ve been reminded of how big and how good and how strong my God is.

I spent these angry couple of days questioning why God would take those boys and why he would take the best cheerleader he had. Because who could still cheer for their God after this?

The thing is though, my faith is not April’s faith. It never has been.

Last night, we walked in the hospital room to see her. While Jeremiah and I held her hands and kissed her face, she wept. She had questions about that night. She had heard that Jeremiah found the boys and she told him she was comforted it was him because she knew he would have prayed over them. We all cried. A wise, young friend of ours sent us a message of encouragement yesterday that we were able to share with April.

She shared the following scriptures:

Isaiah 55: 8-11 8 “My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. 9 For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts. 10 “The rain and snow come down from the heavensand stay on the ground to water the earth. They cause the grain to grow, producing seed for the farmer and bread for the hungry. 11 It is the same with my word. I send it out, and it always produces fruit. It will accomplish all I want it to, and it will prosper everywhere I send it.

Jeremiah shared with her what a comfort it was for him to think that everyone is here for a purpose, for God’s purpose not for our own fulfillment. And when their purpose is reached, they GET to go home. He repeated Taylor’s words to her, “How incredible it was that Tyler and Cameron were able to serve their purpose in such a short time, when it takes some people 100 years”. I told her how angry I had been, grappling with the truth that this was allowed, arranged even.

And my beautiful friend, my cheerleader, laid in the hospital bed with her broken legs and battered, beautiful face and held my hands and told me not to be angry because her God is good. She knew that her sons had fulfilled their purpose in life and that they were with the father now. Tyler has always talked about heaven. About how he can’t wait to get there. She said she thought it was because he heard them saying how wonderful it would be…some day. But he looked at her Sunday afternoon, before the storm, and told her he was ready to go to heaven. “Will you miss me?” he asked her. “Well yes,” she said, “but let’s not talk like that now.” “How long will you miss me?” he persisted. And she just smiled and said, “I guess until I see you again.”

“I have peace,” she told me last night through her tears, “I know I have more pain to go through that I probably can understand. But I have supernatural peace. I don’t know what God has for me and my husband that our boys couldn’t be here for, but I do know that He is good. His plan is good.”

I don’t understand this kind of faith. Because I think every parent who has heard this story since Sunday has wondered, “How do you live through that?”

For those of you who have been worried about April and Daniel, worried that they would not be the same, that they could not carry on past this loss, please don’t worry any more. I have seen her hope. It is anchored in eternity. It is the kind of hope that saves people. And that’s not just the optimist in me talking. For those of you wondering how a mother could serve a God that might allow this, understand that Tyler and Cameron knew Jesus. Just a couple of weeks ago, they led a friend to Christ. They aren’t over. Their story hasn’t reached the end. They aren’t even really gone. They’ve just moved for now. And we will miss them. Like April told Tyler on his last day on earth, we will miss them until we see them again, April and Daniel more than any of us.

While none of us understand it, we must take up her lead and know that even still, God is good. And we must understand that while we may love these boys, God loves them infinitely more. He loves them perfectly. And with his knowledge of the lives and futures of the Smiths, God took them home.

But he left their mom and dad. Somehow, though every bit of that house was ripped from the foundation, April and Daniel will live. They will tell this story and honor Tyler and Cameron’s lives. Masses of people will know Jesus because of this story. Because we cannot fathom this strength.

When I left the hospital last night, I just cried and thought “She is so strong. She is so faithful. She is so selfless. She is so beautiful”. And it hit me. April is all of these things because she allows herself, even in the midst of this tragedy, to be a reflection of our strong, faithful, selfless, beautiful Savior.
They are greatly broken. But they will mend. They haven’t fulfilled what God has for them yet. But they will. Because while she could be angry, and she may be at some point, she is holding tight to the only thing she has left:

The truth that GOD IS GOOD. ALL THE TIME.

I asked her if I could take her photo, so she could have it later when she told her story.
She told me to show you all now. And to tell you… her God can overcome even this.

My friend. Who remains the most beautiful woman I know.
April, the cheerleader.

About a year ago, our home church (Thatchurch.com) in Sherwood, AR, told April’s life story. This post has gone absolutely viral. Millions have heard the testimony of April’s faith. She is showing hundred’s of thousands to Christ. Watch the video of her story, and you will understand a little of the plan she is so sure God has.

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My Mom’s Fight by Jamie Grace

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She fights with her hair & make up done, her favorite pumps and dress and with a constant assurance that her Faith is the drive for her fight. You would never know my mom was facing a battle unless you were to ask and the height it all began in January.

Over the last 5 years my mom has faced various health challenges and last year was diagnosed with a rare condition called pudendal neuralgia. As a result of her condition she began struggling with every day tasks some as simple as walking or sitting up. As a manager in the music industry and a pastor alongside my dad she began working primarily from home and making adjustments as to not overwork herself however if you’ve ever met my mom (or me, the jr version) then you know that’s a challenge. Over the years she has been a mom (“mama mona”) to the motherless, a friend to the friendless, a teacher to the teacherless (she started a private school and a homeschool co op when i was in grade school) and just about everything else she could become to serve others. It’s not my mom’s norm to have to fight for her own life. She’s used to fighting for everyone else’s.

As with any medical condition our family, and many of our friends, spent forever on the good ole Google trying to find a cure for mom’s condition. It has many complications and while the risk for her life is not close to being the highest, the quality of life is one of the most common adjustments. Additionally, barely any doctors even know about pudendal neuralgia and all of the ones we could find had waiting lists longer than anything. Eventually we found a doctor in Boston willing to take mom’s case and try an experimental surgery. It took months to get the appointment and in January my dad took off work, my grandma (his mom from Texas who, to my heart’s break, isn’t a Cowboys fan but that’s another post) flew to Boston and the three of them embarked on a journey with mom.

My sister Morgan and I flew in the day after the surgery and flew out that next morning, we (along with my tour manager/brother in law) were on a tour called The Roadshow and could only be we with her for a few hours. However, I could see the hope in her eyes. I could see the peace in my dad’s. I could see the compassion in my grandmother’s. I could see the kindness in the eyes of the nurses and the friends (Duncans, we love you) who had picked us girls up from an airport an hour away to make sure we got to the hospital to see our mom. There were so many positive emotions in that room. It was hard to think she had just been through a 5 hour nerve-related surgery. Or maybe it was the obvious.

Considering mom’s condition, her physical recovery post surgery could be up to 5 years.

Typically when I say that to friends who ask “how’s your mom?” I see them tense up and slowly nod. Acting as though they were completely expecting that answer. They immediately resort to, “but your mom’s a fighter…” or “I’ll be praying for her” which I love, mom loves, and we appreciate more than anything. But the reality is, being a fighter doesn’t always mean that the battle is coming to an end. Sometimes it means you’re halfway through, sometimes it means it’s only begun and in many cases it means that you don’t know where you are but you know it’s still worth the fight.

Over the last few months we have had the most extreme of many situations. I have seen my mom cry more than any daughter should have to. I have seen my dad hold her when many husbands would’ve walked away. I have seen my mom laugh at the smallest moments and learn how to sit at home watching cable television (She literally hates sitting at home and does not like watching TV too much. She’s usually out starting after school programs, visiting and encouraging inmates and decorating houses for low income families – not kidding). I have seen my mom’s management company grow with more staff members and interns who are incredible at working with her to get the job done.

Through the pain, tears, fear, frustration, confusion… I’ve witnessed joy, true love, compassion, peace, loyalty, Faith… seeing my mom go to church for the first time in months. Watching her learn how to walk again, using her walker proudly. Seeing her learn to sit up again. Seeing her realize she has to stand more than sit so watching my dad request bar stool tables at restaurants because he refuses to sit without her. Seeing my brother in law and sister move back home for the last year and a half to be near her. Seeing our church members bring over dinner when they know the kids are out of town. Seeing the NOW guys and my band/crew love my mom when her own kids aren’t home. Just two nights ago, seeing some of her closest friends and family members gather at my house for her birthday party. Not only celebrating her 48th, but celebrating her life as a whole.

Yes, there is pain.

Yes, there will be healing.

Yes, there will be freedom.

But yes… there will be pain.

I don’t know how long this specific journey will last for our family, but I know that we serve a King who will be with us every step of the way. I know that He has put my mom’s coworkers, friends, church family and family in her life for a reason and I’m grateful that they are there to encourage her daily.

Mother’s Day used to mean asking my dad for $10 to buy my mom a card and a gift. Obviously as I’ve gotten older things have changed but even now it’s not a matter of picking out something cute for her to rep next time she goes out (even thought I totally got her new cowboy boots…). I guess it’s partially because I’m an adult, but Mother’s Day now? It’s a completely different story. It’s about sitting there with my mom, through pain or joy, and taking in all of who she is.

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Her wisdom, her humor, her laugh, her joy, her jokes, (if you can’t tell the lady is straight up HILARIOUS) her advice (about guys… let me tell you… it’s on point), her strength, her fight… because at the end of the day women don’t become mothers for themselves. Motherhood – the most selfless and underpaid position ever – is a job centered around molding someone else into who they’re gonna be. I  pray that I’ve taken enough notes and continue to keep my pen ready. She has much more to teach, I have much more to learn, and I couldn’t be more appreciative that my trainer is the most well equipped fighter I know.

She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come. She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue. She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: “Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.” Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Honor her for all that her hands have done, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate. -Proverbs 31:25-31

For the rest of the week I’ve decided to feature the stories of moms who are also fighters. Click here to share your mom’s story.

Mucho amor,
Jamie Grace

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