RESPONSIBLE TO LISTEN

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It's the story we all fear accidentally over-hearing, for when we hear we are responsible to listen. 

It's the story of parental abuse and neglect, of basic lack of care, of simply looking the other way.

It's the story of loss and grief, of primary, secondary and tertiary trauma.

It's the story that could have repeated itself given all the right circumstances and basic review of the facts. 

Teen mom gives birth to daughter and in good time, daughter becomes a teen mom.

It's the story that could have been another case study for cyclical poverty and child protective service involvement.

But she didn't allow that cycle of abandonment and neglect to continue, even in the face of significant barriers and obstacles.

She chose to own her story, to fight for her daughter.

She chose to own her family, to believe that she can and will do better and she chose to stand firm in the belief that it all begins with her.

As you think about where you will invest your time and energy in 2018, we encourage you to consider walking with a teen mom and her little one. 

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FINISHING STRONG

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At times it is hard to believe that just a few short years ago there was one mom and child sitting at our table. 

Because of YOU hundreds of mothers and hundreds of children have been nourished, loved, and walked with over these past few years at Grace's Table.

Girls like Abby. 

Struggling with depression and social anxiety, Abby craved a one to one connection with a mentor.

This year she secretly delivered a child and placed the baby for adoption. She is broken hearted and continues to meet with her mentor for support. She is working up the courage to go to counseling but the grief is too thick right now. 

While we celebrate life with a lot of mamas, we also stand with them and grieve loss. Girls like Abby are adjusting to a rapidly changing world. Some celebrate life, and some heave sobs from the deepest place over inconceivable loss.

Girls like Abby are adjusting to their bodies as they change to carry life. While others try to understand their now empty bodies, their minds run wild trying to adjust to the loss of life once carried deep within.

Girls like Abby shed tears of joy over a tiny hand that touches their face. While others with broken hearts and outstretched arms try to make sense of the child they are placing in another's arms for adoption. And, hearts broken, some girls struggle to say goodbye to their babies delivered a few months too early.

Girls like Abby are in need of belonging. A soft place to land. A steady place to rage. A community to hold the pieces while she frantically tries to gather all the fragments of a shattered heart. She needs friends turned family who will celebrate this unknown journey she embarks upon.

YOU have provided a safe place for Abby at Grace's Table and our hearts are full with gratefulness.

There's still time this year to help girls like Abby. You can help us finish strong, and grow to serve many more girls in the years ahead! We have already done so much together, and we know there is so much more we will do!

Will you help a girl like Abby today? Please click here to make a special year-end donation to continue providing safe space for girls in the years to come.

With Gratitude,
Lisa E. Anderson

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SANCTUARY by Ronne Rock

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The afternoon sun shimmering through vintage windows becomes stained glass beauty on the ceiling above me. It’s spring in Grand Rapids, and the breeze outside still holds a chill. But here, in the quiet hush of a Friday afternoon, there is warmth and there is light.

Here at Grace’s Table, there is sanctuary.

“I’m so glad you get to stay for a bit,” Lisa smiles as she moves toys into place in the sunporch next to the dining table that will soon be filled with young moms and their little ones. Dinner will be followed by good conversations about life and faith and how to balance schoolwork and jobs and relationships and wobbly toddlers. Everywhere, there are reminders that the Lisa and the moms are not alone. Journals are stacked and waiting to be decorated. They were a gift. In a closet, diapers and wipes have been donated by a local church, and in the kitchen, volunteers arrive to prepare the meal. I lean against the wall, the sunlight touching my face, and breathe it all in.

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I remember what it’s being the one with the baby. Only a few years older than the girls of Grace’s Table, I piled clothes and formula into a friend’s car and watched a painful relationship disappear into the rearview mirror. I wasn’t sure how I would provide for the smiling toddler in the backseat, but I felt I could move heaven and earth for him, if that’s what it took to love him well. We were a duo for more than a decade. I was fortunate to have a mom and a cousin who remained steadfast on the journey, and over the years, we gathered a motley crew of kind folks who walked alongside us as we both attended school, learned to be good roommates, failed miserably at becoming vegetarians, adopted creatures large and small, and sang “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” at the top of our lungs every time it came on the radio.

I would have given anything in those days for a place like Grace’s Table, with a friend and mentor like Lisa. I put on my brave face most days, but inside I was so afraid – and I felt so alone.

The first moms walk through the door, backpacks in hand and children hoisted on hips. Lisa beams as she hugs each one and calls them by name. The backyard fills with toddlers who want to play for just a few minutes longer.

“One day, there will be a garden out there,” she shares. “God’s got this – all of it.”

The house continues to fill – in the living room, a mom soothes a colicky baby while two other moms offer advice. At the dining table, it’s college that’s being discussed. Lisa checks in to see how the application process has gone, and then walks into the living room to give the weary mom a reprieve.  She sits on the sofa, cradling the infant, as she looks at the home that only a few hours earlier was silent – the home with the stained glass beauty on the ceiling. Her eyes fill with tears. Grace’s Table isn’t only a sanctuary for the young moms she loves. It is sanctuary for her too.

And there, in the warmth and the light and the love, it has become sanctuary for me too.

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Ronne Rock is an award-winning marketing executive, writer, author, and speaker – sharing battle-tested wisdom about leadership, advocacy, and finding God in the brightest and darkest of circumstances. You’ll often find her with the vulnerable in difficult places around the world, gathering words and images that inspire others to action with Orphan Outreach. Ronne is also a contributor for Orange Leaders, QARA, and other publications. She blogs about grace, love, and a little #kitchentherapy. Her work is featured in Everbloom (Paraclete Press), and her responsive prayer journals, “for you, love,” and “for you, love: the advent collection,” are available at Amazon.com. Ronne lives in the Texas Hill Country, but her home is anywhere her heart finds its beat.

SHOWING UP

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She is a complex woman. 

Awake and aware to the needs of her family, her sons, all three.

She is a complex woman, an underdog, the quiet one you often don't see walking in the front door and yet will sweep you off your feet with truth, life and laughter in conversation.

She has a voice that needs to be heard, a story that needs to be told and a strength that will endure to tell it in the years to come.

She is resilience and truth, vulnerability and stone. She stands on the sidelines with caution but when empowered will speak wisdom.

She is a complex woman, a woman who continues to show up, continues to seek community, guidance and will one day change the world.

SINGLE MOTHERS AREN'T SUPERHEROES by Hilary Barnett

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In the middle of the night several years ago while I was nursing my newborn daughter, I had a thought hit me like a ton of bricks. It happened to be one of those marathon nights when sleep had eluded me, thanks to my growing and very hungry little girl. I had to work the next morning, and the strong pull between my helpless daughter and the need to work felt like it might tear me into two separate pieces.

It felt like a punch in the gut. The question “how do single moms DO this?”.

I had help. I had a husband who could support our family financially and help with the baby, make meals and do household chores when he was home from work. I had my mother, who came over weekly to help with the baby and let me get some rest. I had my mother-in-law who did the same. I had a “village”, and I still felt like I was drowning. So…. just how do they do it? I didn’t know then, and I still don’t know.

I finally came to the conclusion that single mothers are superheroes.

Fast forward several years and another beautiful daughter later, and I embarked on my first ever solo trip as a mom of two little ones. I’d never been to Grand Rapids, Michigan before, but when I heard about the Festival of Faith and Writing at Calvin College, I knew I had to be there. So many of my favorite authors were speaking, and I needed some inspiration. So I emailed my friend Lisa Anderson, Founder of Grace’s Table, to ask if she might know of a place to stay in town. And of course, because she is an amazing human, she offered for me to stay in her home. I was so excited to get to spend time with my friend and see the work she was doing firsthand.

When I pulled up late at night from a day-long road trip, I was greeted by a beautiful brick home and the best of Lisa’s hospitality. The conference was an unforgettable experience, but my time with the community at Grace’s Table is what has stuck with me. Over the next few days I would find out how meaningful this home is to so many women in the Grand Rapids area.

Lisa invited me to dinner on Friday evening after the conference, and I gladly accepted.

I knew this was no ordinary dinner, but I wasn’t prepared for how much it would change me. Lisa opens her home weekly to at-risk teen mothers and their children for a meal, support, encouragement, and community activities. In Lisa’s home the mothers and children are offered hospitality, respect, and dignity. They are given a safe space to share their struggles, and the children are offered a warm environment to play and be together.

I helped set up the table for the meal, served food, and spent most of the evening playing with the kids in the yard and snuggling a precious little baby who fell asleep in my arms (swoon).

As we were gathered around the table, another thought hit me like a ton of bricks.

I was wrong. Single mothers aren’t superheroes.

They are regular women and girls. They are vulnerable, they are hurting, and they need our support. The “superhero” narrative doesn’t serve them, and it only keeps them isolated. They are doing everything they can to navigate difficult circumstances and love their children well. And while mothering is a universal experience, the situations in which mothers find themselves and the resources each of us have when we enter motherhood are vastly different.

Grace’s Table is a lifeline for so many of the mothers who find themselves parenting alone while trying to finish high school or college, navigating complex situations, and creating a promising future for themselves and their precious babies. They are truly “finding hope together” around that table every week, and the support and love that is shared cannot be matched.

This is what the village looks like.

Mothers from all backgrounds, coming together with their own specific gifts and needs to support each other. So much is received just when you think you are giving, and I received something very special that evening. I wish everyone could spend a Friday evening around Grace’s Table.

So how do we, as mothers, begin to help change the narrative for these beautiful women and their children? Grace’s Table is always welcoming new volunteers, advocates, and financial supporters. I know that any support they receive from our community would go such a long way.  This could be the beginning of something beautiful. 

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Hilary Barnett is a mother of two daughters and founder of The New Mystique, a community devoted to exploring the intersection of motherhood and work with honesty and grace. Follow her @hilarybarnett.