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.