“I never thought that I would end up homeless, even by myself, but certainly not with my five young children.
I didn’t have a clue how to put the pieces of what appeared to be a shattered life back together or where to even start. I was losing my faith and hope, and was in desperate need of guidance. My family needed restoration after living in survival mode for many years. There were many different issues in my life that I needed to work through, practical things that I had neglected for so long out of impulse and survival, and others just from messed up priorities. The bigger picture though, was that in order to face and embrace my true struggle, I needed what I had been avoiding or running from all along, healing.
To go through life and not ever realize you are barely living is tragic, but it is exactly what I had been doing. I was only surviving, and I had developed a lot of ways of coping with the wounds of my past that were not in the best interest of myself or my children. I wanted to laugh the first time the Director at Grace Place quoted John 10:10, “I’ve come that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” She explained to me that abundant life wasn’t necessarily a change in my circumstances, but instead a change in me internally that made my circumstances appear less overwhelming. An abundance of peace and joy that comes from healing, which is really knowing Jesus and trusting Him. She told me that Jesus Christ would help me see the world differently and that would ultimately change everything.
I grew up too fast. I was raising my own children while still a child myself. At age 16, I had my first child, dropped out of High School so I could work and take care of her, and then I had my second child 2 years later. Several early years of sexual abuse, rape, living with mental illness, and then my own sexual immorality had developed into a lifestyle of drugs, sexual addiction, abusive relationships, and exposed myself and my children to environments that we should never have been in. I had become comfortable in the familiar such as relationships no matter how toxic they were. This became my normal. I never had peace in any situation but I didn’t even know how to allow myself to take time with my children or life in general. I was surviving in misery, only able to afford the things we had by participating in adult entertainment, selling drugs & favors. My children didn’t see me for days at a time because I was either hungover or high. Money that I did have, I would overspend and waste to fill so many voids in my heart and soul thinking things would make everything better. At one point, all of my children were staying with different family members and would only spend time with me for shopping, a way that I constantly compensated for due to my inability to meet their real needs as a mother.
The bottom finally fell completely out when we lost our last place because my youngest daughter’s father was incarcerated for assaulting me. I could no longer afford the rent by myself, and the only choice we had was my car that was falling apart and barely running and that I couldn’t even afford the payments on.
This is when I got on the internet and searched for women and children’s shelters in Sumner County. Grace Place Ministry came up. I looked at the website and saw all of the work they were doing in the program. I was desperate so I applied. They called me the same day, asked me a few questions, and then we set up an in-person interview. They knew my work schedule and were willing to meet me on a Friday night at 7pm for my intake interview, something none of the other programs I called were willing to do. Then, when my car broke down and my phone was shut off on the day of the interview, they waited for me until 8:30 at night because I explained what had happened, that I was borrowing a friend’s vehicle, and how desperately I needed their program. My five kids and I moved into the shelter within 48 hours of the first phone call.
At first, I had felt so lost and alone that I wanted to give my own children up because they felt like a problem to me. I had detached myself emotionally even from them. I couldn’t even tell them I loved them or show them affection. I didn’t believe I could take care of them and I was completely exhausted; I just wanted to give up the fight.
The staff at Grace Place didn’t judge me when I confessed the dark feelings I was experiencing. They listened. They listened for hours, days, months. And they prayed. They prayed for me and my kids constantly. And it didn’t matter how dark or ugly it got while I journeyed through their program, they refused to believe the lies I allowed myself to believe during my weakest moments, and they celebrated my finest moments with my children and I too.
They loved me so completely and so unconditionally, I couldn’t help but start believing that they knew what they were talking about. It wasn’t easy, I had to fight in a way I’ve never had to fight, but they told me they weren’t going to fight harder for my life than I was willing to fight for it.
I had over 10 years of bad habits and addictions to overcome, but I learned so much from Grace Place. I learned self-control and boundaries from the curfew and structure, which I hated… literally hated it, but I understand the significance of it now. I learned money management from the financial classes, respect for myself and others, sticking by my children, developing healthy relationships and setting healthy boundaries in ones I already had, letting go of fears, dealing with buried emotions and the reactions that came from them, being able to tell someone when I need help, saving and budgeting, pacing towards small and big goals, you name it, I learned it.
Grace Place helped change my perspective, slow down and focus on myself and my children. They taught me how to maximize my potential by setting goals, communicating, and becoming a better mother and person overall. My relationship with God was only built on religious, legalistic beliefs I had been taught while growing up. I was lost and confused and had long given up on God. Through constant conversations with staff and attending Bible Study, I have a personal relationship with Jesus that I’d never understood before. Emotionally, I was torn and didn’t know how to channel feelings in a healthy way. Grace Place was a place of peace and understanding, but they didn’t cater to me or enable my bad habits. There were many no non-sense style conversations that were hard to hear. It was kind of crazy how quickly they could switch from all warm and fuzzy to calling you a complete knucklehead, and some how I was able to receive that without feeling threatened. 🙂
My actions and decisions began to change because I was given grace, real grace, the kind of grace that none of us can get enough of… I was also exposed to better relationships and people I could trust. I was pushed to do better each day and I was expected to fight through trials instead of avoiding them or impulsively moving around them.
While at Grace Place, I also faced grief from the loss of an unborn child and the murder of my brother on the same weekend. Again, Grace Place surrounded me with support, understanding, and comfort, helped me take care of things that I needed help with, and they showed up at my brother’s funeral to offer support to my grieving family too.
The lives of my children have been completely transformed as I’m now able to nurture them and love them the way a mother should love and nurture her children. I have learned new ways of approaching parenting. It’s going to be a long road to make sure that my children all have the best opportunity at life they can possibly have, but I no longer fear that road ahead and I can trust that God has a plan for each of their lives. The staff at the school my children attend have poured the most exceptional love and care into my kids, and they’ve learned so much while at Grace Place too.
Grace Place taught me to start accepting responsibility, empowering me to observe past mistakes and make better decisions for my future. The program helped me grow in resilience, maturity, discipline, and faith. They even required that I pay all of my prior driving offenses off and get completely legal with tags and insurance. When I got pulled over a couple weeks ago, I asked the cop if we could take a selfie because I was so excited to be legal! 🙂 I am ready to transition into my apartment now, having completed all of my goals, and I am confident and hopeful about my future. I am even beginning to look into starting college in the fall, a dream I never thought I’d get around to actually fulfilling. Thank you for supporting this ministry. It’s a place that doesn’t give up on families. It’s a place where hope is planted and souls grow. It’s a place where new beginnings are possible and full of opportunity. My journey feels like it is just beginning, and I’ve got a long road of healing that will be ongoing, but I couldn’t be more grateful that I found Grace Place when I was at the bottom of my life and felt hopeless. A lot can change in 9 months.
Thank you for investing in this ministry, and in turn the lives of families like mine. Your generosity has not been wasted on us.”