I have had a few requests lately to talk more about Grace Refuge. I'd like to tell you. Let me first say, I've written a couple of drafts trying to tell this story but somehow I feel I never do it justice. And I can't tell the whole story.. because really this place is a melting pot of ministries made of of so many people and I am just a small part of it... So, to tell you the story of this place... I should tell you what led me here.
I held him... so close I could smell his sweet baby skin and feel his soft breath as he slept... safe in my arms. He was a child of the system, a child who'd been through and seen more than any child should. A child without someone to call mommy. A child who had suffered abuse and neglect at the very hands of those who were supposed to protect him and keep him safe. And as I held this sweet baby boy, praying over him...the tears were too many... the heartbreak too much.... And as I wept and prayed... my heart breaking for every little child like him.. without a mother.. a home.. a place to feel safe... I heard Him speak.
"This, is what I want you to spend the rest of your life doing...
Mother the children who have no mothers. Pray for the kids who have no one praying for them. Love them... unconditionally... without reserve and without fear of having to let go. And show them who I am..."
That sweet baby boy... at the tender age of one... forever changed my life. That night a longing was placed in me deeper than any I have ever known. And I knew that if I didn't pour myself into doing that... I would never know the richness life had for me. And honestly... I thought it would be years before I would see the dream that was birthed in my heart that night... actually come to pass.
Only six months later... (last July) I moved into Grace Refuge... and life hasn't looked the same since. Grace Refuge is a home that after much toil and prayer and believing in what they could not see... finally came to pass. It was built by Ted and Margy Johnson. Lovers of God who both lost their spouces to cancer and then met, fell in love, and began an incredible life together. Between the two of them they have eight children. Each of them have three of their own and together they have two adopted children. But beyond being the parents to their own children... Ted and Margy take in foster kids. Usually pregnant teenagers, sometimes teens who are already mothers.. and they extend their hands, their hearts, and their home to these girls and absolutly pour themselves into loving them. They have been a constant voice for those children who cannot speak for themselves and they have taken on the load of caring for those the system would rather forget. I have seen Margy fight for these girls... and it is amazing. Beyond all of that (as if it isn't enough) Ted and Margy run a college ministry and take in college students and mentor and minister to them by involving them in their family. They lead bible studies, have people over for dinner, take people in who need a place to stay.... They see a need in the body of Christ, or outside of it, and they fill it the best they can. When Margy asked me to move in I was taken right into their family. Which, at that time, was 3 teenage mothers (two of them pregnant), three small children, their adopted daughter, and me. Plus whoever might need a place to stay or a place to eat on that given day. It was chaotic, hard, beautiful and full of life. Margy also took care of her two grandaughers all day simply because she wanted to have an influence in their lives.
I simply cannot do this woman justice with words. Margy is a mighty woman of God with a heart that is so big and real and full of life it makes me stand in awe. She herself was a pregnant teen and has an incredible story of God's redemption in her life and she has truly poured out her story and her life as one of the most beautiful daily acts of worship I have ever seen.
Margy and I quickly found a kindred spirit in each other. Because although we'd known each other for years.... there is something about getting your hands dirty together every day that forms a unique bond between two women called to be mothers of many.
About a month of two after I moved in... the saying "If you build it, they will come." became a reality in our lives. One of Margy's nieces who is a single mom moved in and needed someone to take care of her daugher... so we did. Then another niece who was a single momma with three kids lost her childcare assistance... and needed someone to care for her children... so we did. My sister had a baby... and the daddy decided he wasn't ready to be a father... So we took in my precious niece Madi. And pretty soon we found ourselves surrounded by many small children. And a bond was formed between us that is one of the strongest I have ever known. And I don't even remember how we decided to do this... What I do remember is looking at each other one day and saying. "Maybe we should start a daycare." We laughed hysterically as there were like already eleven children running around us that day. I went to a meeting... and about a hundred batches of paperwork later... They gave us a license to do what we were doing. Which has baffled so many county workers it astounds me...
Apparently people don't usually just take in chidren... they do things like draw up contracts, figure out hourly prices, and such things. Apparently there is a limit to how many of these lovely little fireballs you can care for at once. Apparently, we're completely nuts! At least if I had to gage it by the looks of the people who walks in the front door daily and is assalted by many small children, and whatever else may be going on that given day. Apparently when people build seven bedroom four bathroom homes they don't usually fill all of the rooms to the brim and need to buy a supersize table just to feed the people who dwell there. Go figure.
So, there is no good way to describe this place. It is a melting pot of ministries. For me, it's a friendship with a woman I love dearly... and many children who teach me so much about the love of Jesus it astounds me. For me its community, doing laundry, dishes, praying together, loving together, giving grace to each other, grieving with each other, and walking with each other through all that life throws in our paths. Honestly, Grace Refuge is simply a home filled with very real believers who are imperfect and flawed... but live surrounded by the grace of God and each other.
I think our hope is that the callings we have recieved in our lives will be fulfilled. Our hope is that each person who walks out of this home might know Jesus... or at least have seen a glimpse of Him in this place. Our prayer is that in our imperfections and our humanness... these kids might see Him. I've always wanted a big house filled with people I could pray with, do laundry with, make dinner with, and just live my life with. I love community because I feel like it is where I see life lived the way I believe God intended us to live is... And although there are days when Margy and I look at each other like we're crazy... there is simply no other way we know how to live.
Back to the little boy who changed my life.
The kids I care for daily at Grace Refuge are by no means the end to the story... rather, they are God's sweet beginning into molding me into who I know I need to become.... When Micaiah and I first met, one of the first things he asked me before we began dating was "Are you okay with adopting." A smile creeped across my face... and I replied with "Are you okay with adopting many?" We know that eventually we will do foster care of our own... that we will adopt children of our own... and we are believing for a home very much like Ted and Margy's. This is just the beginning... we are blessed because we are allowed to be part of what they do and who they are. I am so blessed because they open up their home for me to use with these kids. I am so blessed to be able to call them dear friends who have played an irreplaceable role in my life. That little boy began a new season... one I love very much. One that will continue to the rest of my life.
There is so much more to the story... but that, well, thats my small part of all that God does here. That is the song of my life.. sung to the tune of holding babies, play play dough, doing laundry and dishes, and reveling in how good life lived in community can be. For now, this is the part God has called me to play, and I do not take it lightly. In fact, sometimes when I stand back and just watch them grow and learn I am humbled that God would allow me to even be part of this incredible place. We truly stand in His grace here each and every day.
P.S. If you have commented, thank you. It has truly blessed me to know that a sort of community is beginning on this blog...