Embrace strength

Embrace Strength

As I celebrate Mother’s Day this year I’m grateful for the privilege of being a mom to my three unique and wonderfully created children. I’m additionally blessed to celebrate my remarkable mom. I realize Mother’s Day isn’t easy for everyone. I know it can be a challenging day where celebrating is the last thing you want to do. Do you have a difficult Mother’s Day memory?

My most difficult Mother’s Day was in 2004. We spent the morning at my sister in-laws with my parents and my husband’s parents. My sister-in-law was pregnant with her second child, my beautiful niece. My wonderful nephew was 9-months-old at the time. I remember offering to cook breakfast, I think I took over her kitchen. After all I was the only one who wasn’t a mom, I might as well serve those that were, right? Can you hear the tension in that statement? I wasn’t serving out of a place of love to bless my family. I was serving to keep busy because I might break down at any minute! I had been seeing an infertility doctor for over a year and had finally gotten pregnant in the summer of 2003. Then we went through a miscarriage. I thought God had finally answered my prayers and when we lost the baby I was angry, sad, broken, and close to despair. This was one of my first experiences being entrenched by grief.

To say this Mother’s Day was tough would be an understatement, it felt gut-wrenching. I made it through breakfast, although those around me probably were walking on egg shells and definitely feeling the tension. I’m a wear your heart on your sleeve kinda gal and don’t do well at hiding my emotions.

beautiful-bloom-blooming-1042578“….You have collected all my tears in your bottle.” Psalm 56:8 
It was at church where I FINALLY broke, something the pastor said gripped me. I can’t remember the words, but I remember the unstoppable ugly crying that took place. And the crushing feeling of loneliness that engulfed me that day. I want to pause here and say; “I’m sorry if this Mother’s Day is a difficult one for you.” Please know, you aren’t alone and God sees every tear you cry.
On the next Mother’s Day, I was celebrating with my one-month-old baby boy. God had a plan, a miraculous and mind-blowing plan! I had been taking hormone shots daily the year before that made me super over-emotional. (My poor husband!) During that time God was planting the seeds of adoption in my husband and me. We were blessed with our second son in 2009, both born without the help of infertility doctors or medicine, truly answered prayers. I know this isn’t the answer everyone receives. I have a beautiful friend who isn’t able to have children. God called her and her husband to adopt; later in life then they would’ve planned. But His plans are good and their life is forever changed for the better. They love their princess and are amazing parents. If you’re in a place of embracing God’s plan for you and your family hang in there. Even if it’s different than you hoped your beautiful unique story is being written moment by moment.
img_6751Fast forward to Mother’s Day 2013, I was celebrating with both my boys and our foster baby girl. She became officially ours through adoption in 2015. It’s a story only God can write and I’m blessed to continue embracing His plans on this journey, the good, the bad and the ugly. The ugly comes mostly when I am struggling to embrace the challenging things and even sometimes embracing the good moments. God has been faithfully refining me, especially through being a mom. I’m growing in managing my emotions and am still a work in progress, but gradually improving, step by step.
I’ve not only watched God work and move in my life, but also in my mom’s. My brother went home to be with the Lord in 2010. My mom’s world stopped, our family’s world stopped. Grief entered like a hurricane through shock and loss. My mom wasn’t a stranger to grief at this point; she’s suffered a lot of difficult losses. After her best friend passed away from cancer I saw her embrace strength. She spoke beautifully at her memorial about the wonderful memories they’d shared. I often wondered how she was able to get up and speak that day, until I had to do the same at my brother’s memorial. It’s what you do when you love someone, you embrace strength that is far beyond your own. It’s what we do as women every day in the difficult moments we face. My mom has also been lovingly looking after her friends two grown daughters ever since. Both of whom are wonderful mothers to their boys, they exude strength as they love and care for their families while terribly missing their mom. We are certainly family by choice.

img_0060 My princess, mom-in-love, me and my mom.

My mom is an incredible mother to me and my husband and an even more remarkable Grammy! My mom has started sharing her story and it’s been a blessing for me to have a front row seat. I was privileged to interview her recently at our church’s Women’s Ministry spring picnic where she shared how God challenges her to trust in Him, even when she doesn’t understand His plans. She’s been meditating on this verse and I’ve seen her walking it out in her own life – “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.” Proverbs 3:5-6

Thanks mom! 

img_6825I am grateful for the many strong women in my life. My resilient mother in law has fought for her boys on her knees through prayer. She is a prayer warrior for her family and grandkids today. I have friends who are moms that have battled cancer themselves, who home school, work full-time, serve at church, encourage their husbands in their jobs, and raise respectful teenagers in this day and age. I have friends who desire restored relationships with their mom or children and still keep fighting and trusting in the Lord.  I have friends in parenting seasons ahead of me that I learn from. The list could go on and on of women in my life and their uniquely glorious stories of strength. Don’t forget you have your own unique story God is writing as you embrace more and more of the plans He has for your life.

One of my closest friends and fellow pastor’s wife is a wonderful mama to her three wonderful kids. We met each other when she was pregnant with her third child and I had just given birth to my second baby boy. We became fast friends and although we are wired differently we “get” each other most of the time. One of our first adventures was driving over an hour to a pumpkin patch with my 5-year-old, her 3-year-old, my 11-month-old, and her 3-month-old. It seemed like the busiest day ever just to visit a pumpkin patch. Yeah, we can be crazy like that and our friendship has been an adventure ever since. We’ve walked each other through some extremely difficult times. I met her about 6 months after my brother passed away and she has been there for me ever since. Little did we know about a year later she’d be walking her own grief journey. She found out her youngest son has cerebral palsy. Her and her family have been embracing strength and navigating God’s plan and for them ever since. She has recently joined the blogging community and you can check out her blog by clicking the link at the bottom.

img_4628I’d describe her as my breezy Bahamian friend. Sometimes I wish I could be more lighthearted and cheerful like her. I’m still embracing the way God made me and accepting how I’m wired, even in my 40’s! I often feel like the serious one of the group, sometimes even the Debbie Downer, but she loves me anyway. One of the things we have in common is we don’t get to enjoy a quiet morning on Mother’s Day.  We usually lightheartedly and sarcastically remind each other that some moms are enjoying breakfast in bed and being pampered on Mother’s Day. Not us!!!

This relaxing morning we dream about is not for us in this season.

Instead we are fulfilling our normal Sunday routine – juggling to get the kids out the door and make it to church with everyone dressed and fed! All the while knowing our husbands, who left much earlier, will come home completely exhausted like most Sundays. But we have each other; we laugh and we cry and will do it all again next Sunday. Shout out to the ministry wives who make it to church on Sundays, especially on Mother’s Day! And shout out to all the mamas, sisters, aunts, grandmas, mentors, friends and women who are inspiring those around them!

Embrace your season, your weaknesses, and your insecurities.

Embrace the days when you feel like you’re not enough and the ones you feel like you’re too much!

The secret ingredient we all have to being strong women is – drumroll please – it’s NOT our strength!
imagesI couldn’t make it through my days if it weren’t for Jesus. I’m embracing His strength as a I continue to navigate working full-time, parenting our three children in their
unique seasons, and serving with my husband whenever I can.
My oldest son’s favorite verse, Philippians 4:13, rings true in my life every day. And I’m forever grateful for it!

Happy Mother’s Day.– Gretchen

Meet my friend Shona here: https://www.weare17.com/blog/we-are-seventeen

Embrace 2018

My word for 2018 is Embrace. God has placed a sense of wonder and excitement as He encourages me to courageously press on out of my comfort zone and embrace all He has this year. I’m steadily trying to embrace the challenges and joy this season brings.

IMG_5784Hello 2018! What a year it’s been so far. A year filled with fun, adventure, reminders, great memories, illness, and difficulties. Isn’t that real life – the good, bad, ugly, and amazing all wrapped into our day-to-day living. My word for 2018 is Embrace. God has placed a sense of wonder and excitement as He encourages me to courageously press on out of my comfort zone and embrace all He has this year. I’m steadily trying to embrace the challenges and joy this season brings.

At the end of 2014 my good friend challenged me to pray about a word for the new year. A word to be somewhat of a focus, challenge, and way to grow in the Lord.   This year is my fourth year with a word of the year. But this year it’s been different; the Lord is calling me in a new and bolder direction. This word can best be described as a compilation of the words I’ve had over past 3 years. I’m amazed at the things God has done in my life in these couple of decades. I’m also blessed to see what God does in those I have the privilege to do life with. This excitement dwindled a little when I got my verse for 2018. And I wasn’t sure if I was more comforted or convicted. It’s found in Jeremiah 31:22. I like the Message version: “….How long will you flit here and there, indecisive?
How long before you make up your fickle mind?
God will create a new thing in this land:
A transformed woman will embrace the transforming God!”

I’m convicted because I trust in the Lord and believe God’s Word to be true, living, and active but I don’t always embrace it for my life as I should. I am convicted not condemned, convicted to seek God and how I can truly embrace His plans for my life this year. I’ve learned I can still be guarded in this whole embracing thing. Grief has a way of doing that to a person.  Unknown

 My dad went home to be with the Lord in January 2014 after fighting a difficult battle with cancer. In 2015, that first year with “my word” it was somewhat of a new beginning. A beginning I didn’t ask for, plan for or necessarily want. It was grief piled upon grief. January 15, 2015, it had been one year without my dad and January 16, 2015 was five years since my younger brother was killed by a drunk driver. How do you process that; grief upon grief? As an over-emotional almost forty-year-old wife and mom of three children; 10, 5, 2 at the time, not well! I cried more than I’d like to admit and coasted through many days on auto pilot. Our family dynamic additionally changed in the summer of 2014. We moved into a new house with my mom. Taking care of our parents is something my husband and I thought might happen later in life. Perhaps when our kids were older, but not smack dab in the middle of discovering how to do life with three children.

But God knew what we needed and what my mom needed. She helps take care of us and our kids which allows us to serve at church and in ministry together. It’s still a challenge navigating these new roads life brings, the hills and the valleys, but God is with us through them all.

We also were foster parents at this time, we didn’t adopt our daughter officially until March of 2015. One of the most beautiful blessings that has come out of our grief journey is our amazing daughter. God does that if we pay attention. He graces us with beautiful moments of answered prayers, blessings, adventures, and glimpses of heaven right in the middle of our trials. But we have to recognize it and embrace it!

This stirring, conviction, excitement, and nervousness for something new in 2018 challenges me to embrace this life again. Our life has been filled with many incredible moments in the past eight years and I have so much to be grateful for! But, I believe there are parts of me that I’ve closed off not wanting to be hurt again.  Likewise, I’ve grown and experienced God in countless ways in the past eight years; ways that I couldn’t have without the deep reliance upon Jesus to walk me on this sorrowful road. But I still need to embrace more of God. Don’t we all? It’ll take a new surrender, funny that’s my husband’s word for this year. God has a unique way of weaving things together. Already this year I’ve watched seasons begin and seasons end. Many I welcome and some I don’t want to let go of. There’s that reminder – I’m not in control and that’s ok; Embrace the unknown!

 As I sit behind my computer after work in the quiet library, waiting for my oldest to finish basketball practice, I’m reminded to embrace the still moments, albeit few and far between during this season. Embrace the time with my kids, it might be less now with my now full-time job and their increasing activities, but it can be sweet and celebrated when it happens. Embrace the times with my husband when we get a moment to just be. Embrace the gift of life God gives us out of His loving kindness.

EPSON MFP image
#purejoycreative

I don’t know what your 2018 has been thus far, but I do know God has good plans for you. He wants you to embrace all He has for you this year. Jesus desires you to let go and lean on Him. Bring Him those areas you might’ve closed off after a difficult time in your life. Maybe it’s a dream you gave up on that He wants to reawaken. Whatever “it” is bring it to the Lord and let’s embrace all He has for us in 2018.