Moving Forward with Gratitude


In a moment of panic, with her boyfriend’s hands wrapped around her throat, Benjamina knew she had to get herself and her boys out of there.

It was a decision she had debated for a long time even though she desperately wanted to make things work. “It’s not easy to leave when you’ve been with someone for so long, bought a house together, had children together, and worked so hard to build a life together,” she says.

Even her mom encouraged her to stick it out, believing that a family should stay together … no matter the cost.

But as evidence of drug use became apparent and the emotional and physical abuse began to increase, Benjamina realized she could no longer make excuses for him. She knew that the situation was no longer safe for her or her sons.

“The thing that really pushed me over the edge was when I began to see Jesus (5) and Nico (3) modeling their father’s behavior in the way they treated me,” Benjamina recalls. “It was then that I could no longer rationalize why it was better for us to stay together. I just did not want to raise my boys to be like that.” But even with the resolve to leave, Benjamina was unsure of where she would go.

Thankfully, a family friend referred her to Gracewood. After going through the interview process and spending a brief time on the waiting list, Benjamina and her boys moved into Gracewood to escape the danger at home.

“I don’t think I realized how stressed I actually was until I came to Gracewood and had the opportunity to breathe,” she says. “I was finally able to relax and sleep through the night, something that had not happened in months.”

“Benjamina immediately came in with an attitude of gratitude, ready to move forward,” says Jenny Rice, Gracewood’s Executive Director.

Prior to coming to Gracewood, Benjamina had already received her associate degree and was working on her bachelor’s degree in Healthcare Administration from Sam Houston State University.

Being part of the residential program at Gracewood has given Benjamina the opportunity to continue focusing on school and accomplishing her goals without worrying about the safety of her family or how she will provide for her boys. In addition to her studies, she works at a local Mexican restaurant in order to put money in a savings account for the future.

“Gracewood is just such a great, supportive place where they help you accomplish your goals, whatever those might be,” she says. “Their counseling program is also such a blessing in learning to cope and get back into a new rhythm of life.”

“All of the moms just love Benjamina and her boys,” says Jenny Rice. “Because the women at Gracewood have walked a similar path, they are very empathetic towards each other. They really do an outstanding job to create a culture of love here.”

Benjamina has regular sessions with her counselor at Gracewood and she’s been able to include her boys in family counseling sessions as well. This has been a huge blessing to their family in helping them learn how to set boundaries that keep her boys safe, but still allow Jesus and Nico to still have a relationship with their father.

Living at Gracewood has also given Benjamina the opportunity to restore her relationship with her mom, inviting her to the warm and welcoming campus to see that her daughter and grandsons are being well cared for.

“Family reconciliation is another unique ministry of Gracewood,” shares Jenny Rice. “It’s not just about giving these women a safe place to stay, but also about healing broken hearts and broken relationships.”

Benjamina is on track to graduate with her bachelor’s degree later this year and looks forward to starting her career in the medical field. She dreams about one day working for Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston and she’s hoping to do her internship there as well! “I’m so thankful for the resources Gracewood provides when it comes time to look for jobs when I leave,” she says.

Her time at Gracewood has allowed Benjamina the chance to get her feet back on solid ground in order to move toward a promising, hopeful future. “The staff and the other moms are so helpful to talk to,” says Benjamina. “I always know their encouragement comes from a place of experience and wisdom, which inspires me to keep moving forward and never give up on my goals. I am so grateful for the healing I’ve experienced at Gracewood and my family will be forever grateful for the kindness that’s been shown to us.”