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

Stay Still….

To my mom – this one’s for you!

Two Sunday’s ago I was stuck sitting on a bench, waiting, with my keys locked in my car. There as I sat I realized quite a bit. (See previous post). Fast-forward a couple of weeks. On this Sunday I sat a lot less rested, but also realizing quite a bit. These past two weeks were completely opposite from that week when I sat on that bench. Finding a moment to breathe has been extremely difficult. These few weeks have been filled with heaps of joy and also a great deal of trials. I’ve been reminded during this time to trust – trust that God’s working even when I can’t see it. image

There were really awesome moments during those past couple of weeks. One highlight was that our oldest son turned 11! We had fun surprising him and celebrating with family and friends. There have been really difficult moments too. I had a rough time at work and our daughter had a very difficult week at home. I also had a misunderstanding with someone close to me and an unintentional mistake became a bigger issue. I was left feeling hurt and misunderstood. I also was enduring the sting of intentional hurt, which is never fun! Far tougher than dealing with my wounds, was wiping the tears of my oldest son as he faced the feelings of being excluded and unwelcome. I felt much more worn out and dragged down by the “stuff” life often throws than I wanted to be. I love the account in the Bible where Jesus heals the woman who had been suffering through twelve years of continuous bleeding, and she knew that all she needed to do was just touch the hem of Jesus’ garment – “For she thought to herself, “If I can just touch his robe, I will be healed.” Immediately the bleeding stopped, and she could feel in her body that she had been healed of her terrible condition.” Mark 5:28-29.

These past few weeks I knew I was barely hanging on by a thread. But I also knew my Jesus was right there with me. I just had to reach out to Him! During these few weeks I cried more then I would’ve liked and felt misjudged. But how much more was my Savior hurt and misjudged as He walked on this earth. Sometimes it takes difficult moments to remember we live in a fallen world – and we are all made of flesh and bones.
Unfortunately, I will hurt people sometimes and people also will hurt me sometimes. And so will you! I don’t know what bumps and bruises you’ve suffered these past few weeks, yet I know you aren’t alone. I also learned that sometimes it’s not our job to defend ourselves. I heard the Lord telling me to say nothing. This can be the hardest thing to do when we want to explain, correct, or voice our hurts and/or opinions. But I knew through my quiet times with the Lord that I was to continue being still in Him.

Honestly, I’m not sure if these trying moments are happening more often or if they bother me more when I’m worn out and emotional. I believe it’s a little of both! I don’t like pain so I don’t have any tattoos (my husband has enough for us both). But if I did get a tattoo, I’d want a tattoo of the words – “Pasa Chara.” I was introduced to this phrase during a small group study I was in the year following my brother’s passing. It was entitled – “Reflecting God” by Kay Smith. I learned a valuable lesson during that study that has remained with me through the years. The hard, unbearable, miserable, stressful, and difficult moments allow me to workout my faith. They are necessary and purposeful. Trials aren’t easy, and my natural reaction will not be true joy. But I know I’ll get through whatever “it” is at the moment and it’s accomplishing more than I have any idea about.
The words are defined below from the Strong’s Concordance.
pás – each, every; each “part(s) of a totality”
khä-rä’ – joy, gladness, joyful, joyous, joyfulness, joyfully, greatlyimage

The highlight of these past couple of weeks came at the end of those trying weeks. My family, friends, supporters and I walked in the MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Drivers) 5K. What a beautiful bittersweet day. I’ve walked in this fund raising and awareness walk four of the past five years. I thought it’d be easier this year, but it wasn’t. As I set all of our stuff out for our early morning adventure, the heaviness of grief hit me. I couldn’t stop thinking about getting up and putting “that” shirt on. Another year…. another event…..another moment my brother isn’t here. I couldn’t sleep. I knew the alarm was going to sound soon, but my mind refused to rest. I finally got up, read, prayed & wrote. Also had a good cry! Finally – I slept.

IMG_5449We all made it out for the 5k event. There were tears shared, hugs given, smiles exchanged and I can truly say that I counted it all true joy!!! One of the most beautiful things about this picture of everyone who showed up that day to walk/run in memory of my brother while supporting me and my mom, is that not one person (besides my mom and children), were “family” by definition. But they are “family” in my eyes and even more importantly, in God’s eyes. This is truly a picture of God’s love, grace, provision and mercy! And as much as I would’ve loved to be enjoying Sunday morning not walking in the MADD walk because my brother’s life was taken by a drunk driver, I can’t say this group of people would have been brought together if that tragedy had not occurred. I look at this picture and was brought to tears – happy tears – because I see God’s love and kindness in action.

I am also reminded I am not the only person facing grief, trials, and pain.IMG_5414

My brother’s two best friends and their familes who have supported our family through this loss while grieving the loss of their best friend much too young. They welcome me and my mom into their family’s lives and have grown into amazing men.

imageMy oldest friend, “cousin,” who has been there for me through thick and thin! She lives each day without her parents due to cancer. She is an outstanding wife, mother, and friend. She keeps me going and is certainly family!

My best friend who sees the good, the bad, and the ugly in me but still loves me. I met her the year after my brother passed away. Little did she know that the following year she would find out her son has cerebral palsy, and that neither his nor her family’s life would be the same or go on as they’d originally hoped and planned. We’ve been walking each other through numerous trials, grief moments, and hardships ever since. But with LOTS of laughter!

My passionate friend who runs with the pain of family rejection and faces life’s unplanned and uncontrollable moments on her knees. She challenges me, encourages me, and cheers me on.

My strong (inside and out) friend and mom of two amazing adult children, who helped organize this team – inspires me, makes me brave, and is breaking generational curses in her own family.

And these kids that come out and not only walk/run but understand the best they can why we are walking. They recognize it’s a sad day, but also a happy day. They get to not only witness God’s forgiveness, love, and mercy in action, but also be a part of it.

imageMy mom’s friend who was much more like an aunt to me growing up. She lives with the loss of her parents and her brother. She is an amazing wife, mom, and friend.

And to all others pictured walking with your own sorrows…keep moving forward. There’s a plan and purpose in your pain. Thank you to everyone who supported our team through donations, walking, and prayer! We couldn’t make it without you. Thank you!

One thing all of the amazing women mentioned above have in common (besides their inspiring impact in my life), is they are all moms. They’re facing life’s struggles with little, and some not so little eyes watching them and ears listening to them. Although as moms know, the things we’d like our children to listen to they often don’t. And the things we’d rather them not hear, they don’t miss. One of the many things that make these women great moms is that they’re real. They aren’t afraid to admit a mistake or to recognize neither they nor their kids are perfect. Most importantly, they don’t take the unbearable things life has thrown at them and allow them to define their lives or debilitate them.

One of the most amazing examples I’ve witnessed of not allowing life to keep you disheartened is my mom. My mom will face another Mother’s Day without her son, and the next day she’ll face another birthday without her husband too. As I write today, the day before Mother’s Day, my mom isn’t sitting somewhere moping. No – she’s at a nursing home with women from her bible study group. They’re having a tea to bless the elderly ladies there. My mom explained after loosing my dad that “losing David left a huge hole in my heart and losing dad is like trying to function without my arm.” I’ve seen my mom grow through unbearable pain and circumstances. I’m so thankful for the amazing mom I’m blessed to have grown up with. imageBut even more, I’m thankful for the woman she’s becoming out of the ashes of life. “To all who mourn in Israel, He will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the Lord has planted for His own glory” Isaiah 61:3.

I don’t know what you’re facing this Mother’s Day, but God does! He knows what pain you’re carrying, what trial you aren’t sure you’ll make it out of, what relationship seems unbearable right now, and every little hurt, insecurity, and difficulty you bear everyday. He knows when you should say something and when you don’t need to. He knows where you’ll be sitting next Mother’s Day and what ashes He wants to bring beauty out of in your life!

Lord I pray for each woman reading this and everything she needs to leave at Your feet, Jesus! I pray for all the daughters missing their moms, for all the daughters desiring a better relationship with their moms, and any scars they’re carrying. I pray for every woman struggling with infertility, miscarriage, and the questions left unanswered. I pray for every single mom reading this who You’ll comfort and refresh like only You can. I pray for foster moms caring for children like they are their own. I pray for all adoptive moms and the struggles they face. I pray peace for the pregnant women reading this and the new lives they’re carrying. I pray for challenging mother-in-law and daughter-in-law relationships, knowing You can bring a breakthrough. I pray for every worn out and exhausted mom who is barely hanging on – encourage and remind them Lord You love them and their children! imageHeavenly Father, I pray for any difficult situation any lady reading this is facing. I pray above all, that we’ll be transparent, forgiving, strong, and loving women in this day and time. I pray that we’ll fight for Your truth to stand, especially with this next generation. I pray that we’ll experience Your FREEDOM to continue on with bandaged hearts and shattered limbs, all for Your glory! Never missing the beauty Your revealing in the midst!