So Much More Than a Home


My name is Milinda and I would like to share my story about how Gracewood has changed my life. Although I am no longer living at Gracewood, I still consider myself a Gracewood mom. I will be forever grateful for all that Gracewood has restored in my life.

Gracewood rescued me and my daughter from a life of hopelessness, depression, and a life without faith.

In my senior year of nursing school, I received a call from my older sister telling me that her children were being taken away by Child Protective Services and I was asked if I could take on the responsibility of caring for them. I did not second guess my instinct and immediately said, “Yes.” On Thanksgiving Day in 2009, my younger sister and I became instant mothers of five young children. Three years later, after the children had been returned to their mother, I was without a degree and working a dead-end job, now with a child of my own.

Before applying to Gracewood’s residential program, I attended weekly counseling sessions with a Gracewood counselor for six months. This was instrumental in organizing my life and regaining the hope I once had. I had experienced trauma from a bad relationship and failed out of nursing school while trying to take care of the five young children.

Through weekly counseling at Gracewood, I received continued encouragement to return to nursing school – and to reapply in order to have all of my nursing credit hours awarded to me. The Gracewood counselor held my hand through the entire appeal process. This was a very emotional time for me because I thought it would never be possible.

In July 2012, Gracewood welcomed me and my daughter, Elena, into its residential program for single mothers. Making the decision to leave the life I knew for a better a one was harder than it sounds; I wasn’t sure if Gracewood was the right choice for us. The day I arrived, my Family Life Coordinator welcomed us with open arms and made us feel at home. There were a lot of tears, hugs, and reassurances. That first night, I cried myself to sleep – but woke up the next morning filled with hope.

Our first week at Gracewood, I received an acceptance letter from the School of Nursing and Allied Health at Houston Baptist University inviting me to return to school and complete my nursing degree. I was awarded all of the credit hours I’d previously taken and was given to the option to start immediately. While at Gracewood, I worked very hard to complete nursing school, become a better mother for my daughter, and learn from Gracewood’s weekly cottage meetings. In these meetings, I was able to learn more about budgeting, insurance, and planning for life after Gracewood.

In the summer of 2014, I applied to the VALOR student nurse program with the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center to gain experience before graduating. The application process was very detailed and lengthy; I did not feel very confident, but prayed for the best. I received a call from the medical center stating that I was one of the 10 nursing students out of 400 applicants chosen to work at the medical center for the summer.

In December 2014, I graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing at Houston Baptist University. May of this year marks two years that I have been employed with the VA as a Registered Nurse.

I have so much hope and joy for the future. I believe I was drawn to the medical center and chosen to work at the VA for a reason. I believe I have a mission, to serve those who are without hope – without faith – and to help restore that as a nurse just as Gracewood has restored it in my life.

Gracewood was so much more than a home, but became my family and friends. My daughter Elena and I both look back at our time at Gracewood with joy and happiness in our hearts; a joy and happiness that can never be taken away.

Gracewood provided a nurturing environment for me to focus on my goals, a safe and beautiful place for my daughter to run and play, and just genuine, unconditional love. Going forward, Elena and I dream of a home of our own where she will continue in her Christian education and become the powerful woman I know she will be. For me, I will continue to grow in my faith and my career.

I entered Gracewood broken, hurt, and without faith. Gracewood has restored so much in both me and my daughter; we can continue to grow every day in faith and love and remember Gracewood and all that has been given to us.