Grit and Grace
Q: How did the two of you team up to write Grit & Grace?
Suzanne Hadley Gosselin (SHG): I was in the throes of raising three young children who were 5, 3 and 18-months old, and it occurred to me one day that I was depleted in every way, but especially spiritually. I found that ironic, since my husband is a pastor and I’m a Christian writer. I had many spiritual resources easily accessible to me, and yet I was still struggling. I also realized that it wasn’t good because in this season of raising young children I really needed Jesus, arguably more than ever. Around that same time, I had a conversation with my 3-year-old daughter about how I could no longer fit into my “fanciest dress” (my wedding dress) because I had gotten bigger when I had babies. Her reaction floored me. Her eyes sparkled and she said, “Was I one of the babies in your tummy that made you get bigger?” My daughter could see the beauty in something that I had allowed to make me feel like a failure. I realized, then, that God uses these years to teach mamas so many wonderful truths through their children. Meanwhile, God was laying it on Gretta’s heart to encourage moms of young children. Gretta studied women’s ministry at Multnomah where we met and were college roommates and had a knack for connecting with women and meeting them where they’re at. We were talking on the phone one day and realized that God had given us the exact same vision to provide digestible devotions for moms of young children to encourage and strengthen them in their role as mothers. That’s when the idea of Grit &Grace was born.
Q: Who did you write Grit & Grace for? What stage of motherhood will get the most encouragement from reading your book?
SHG: We wrote Grit &Grace for moms of young children. We’re looking at the season that encompasses babies, toddlers and early elementary school. Many times, if they have multiple children, mamas are navigating all of these stages at once. While the stories focus on the young children years, the truths from God’s Word apply to mamas (and even grandmas) at all stages. We have had Grandmas comment that they feel encouraged to show greater intentionality toward their grandchildren.
Q: What does it mean to you to have grit and grace?
Gretta Kennedy (GK): Having grit is pushing through the hard stuff of motherhood with determination and laser-focus on the end goal of raising children who love and serve Jesus. Having grace means realizing that God offers you peace, rest and help in this season and as well as being kind to your children and especially yourself!
Q: Can you describe the format of the book? How much time does each devotional take to read?
SHG: Grit & Grace is a 90-Day devotional, and our concept was to provide quick-read nuggets of truth for busy mamas. These devos should take no longer than five minutes to get through, and the Scripture passage is included so you don’t even have to go find your Bible. The idea is that these can be read in the tiny spaces in a mama’s day—while the kids are napping or she’s nursing the baby. Each daily devotion includes a true story of motherhood and delves into a spiritual truth that was learned through the experience. Each devotion also includes a prayer to allow busy moms to respond the devotion in the moment.
Q: When is the best time for you to do your own devotions? Early in the morning, during nap time or after the kids are in bed?
GK: The few times I was able to sit down and actually read my Bible when the kids were little, I found that naptime worked best for me. I was never awake enough in the morning, then I’d be completely exhausted at night. During the time my kids were tiny, I often felt like a failure in this department. That’s when I learned my devotional time needed to be throughout the day. I wrote verses on notecards and put them up in the kitchen cupboards. I played worship music all day long. I wrote messages on my bathroom mirror. Those were the ways I found I could consistently have my quiet time. Mommy brain is pretty mushy, so I took it in little spurts. I recited the same verse over and over and eventually, those were the sweetest messages I got from God.
SHG: I do best when I have devotional time interspersed throughout the day. I like to pray and listen to worship music while I’m loading the dishwasher. When I want to go a little deeper, I usually dig in after the kids have gone to bed. Like Gretta, I have often felt like a failure in this area. I want to be an amazing mommy, but I neglect the One who can help me. One of the reasons I wanted to write a devotional like this was to help exhausted moms like me, who couldn’t seem to find the time and space for daily devotional time.
Q: Before you had children, what did you expect motherhood to be like? What surprised you most when you became a mother?
GK: I did a lot of babysitting as a kid and young adult, so I at least knew that kids aren’t perfect, and taking care of them can be pretty tiring. But the thing that surprised me the most was the huge responsibility of motherhood. I was the one who needed to be the expert on my child. No one else would know her like I did. Also, being a mother is totally different from being the babysitter! I was responsible for everything...not just this little person. The house, the food, the everything...oh yeah, and the children.
SHG: I have worked with kids since I was a teen. In fact, I met my husband when he struck up a conversation with me about children’s ministry. I always assumed I’d take to motherhood like a fish to water. I was wrong. The stress of being a mom revealed many of my weaknesses, such as being unskilled at managing our home and all the little demands of motherhood. It also revealed my selfishness as I was pushed to put others before myself again and again.
Q: What was one of the biggest pressures you felt as a new mom? In what ways did you feel insecure?
GK: I wanted to do everything right and have the perfect child. I wanted to be super mom. I wanted to be super wife. And I think that pressure came from within me, not so much from outside influences. I quickly learned that I was human and couldn’t do it all...especially maintain a clean home, serve a healthy dinner on time, and be everything my husband needed as well. It was impossible. I had to find a different and new rhythm and realistic expectations.
SHG: I struggled with not feeling cut out for motherhood. I was awkward interacting in mom circles, and I didn’t feel as knowledgeable as other moms. I kind of bumbled through the daily mechanics of caring for children. In my 10-year career as an editor at a major Christian organization, I had felt competent every day and received steady praise for my contributions. For the first time in my life, I felt like I wasn’t “good” at my job and though my babies were adorable, they didn’t offer me the kudos for my work I’d received in the workplace. I compared myself to the super-moms around me and saw myself coming up so short. As a perfectionist, it was an adjustment to find that, in some ways, I wasn’t a natural at being a mom. God had to take me on a very specific journey of accepting who He made me to be and realizing that He had teamed me up with my kids, with both my strengths and weaknesses in mind. That was powerful.
Q: Suzanne, you write that your spiritual life took a hit after you became a mom. In what ways?
SHG: Spiritual disciplines have always been an area of weakness for me. Even before kids, I struggled to meet with the Lord at a consistent time each day. However, I did find time to get in the Word daily and received consistent spiritual input through working at a Christian organization, being plugged in at church and attending multiple Bible studies during my single years. I had my first child a year and a half after I got married and decided to stay home. I quickly became isolated and overwhelmed and struggled to find time to even crack open the Bible. I felt too tired to pray. I realized many of the struggles I was experiencing, such as a negative view on life, conflicts with my husband and anger toward my children were the bad fruit of a life that wasn’t connected to the True Vine. But it was more difficult than it ever had been to sit at Jesus’ feet and be refreshed by Him.
Q: Gretta, you write about losing your identity when you became a mom. Was it something you realized all at once or was it gradual? What would you like readers to realize about their true identity?
GK: I had quite the cool job before I became a mom, and I loved what I did. A young newlywed and capable and trusted in an outdoor adventure-based ministry, I found great fulfillment in my marriage and career. When our daughter was born, my life was consumed with her. Being a good mom and knowing my daughter’s every need became my top priority, and I genuinely loved it. But around the 6-month mark, it dawned on me that every conversation I had with others always revolved around mom life. It no longer mattered what I did prior to becoming a mother, and no one really cared anymore about my relationship with my husband. It was all about my daughter. I had become just a mom. I really struggled with that because I felt there was so much more to me, but none of that mattered anymore. “Mom” was it for me from here on out. Then God reminded me very clearly that titles are not my true identity. My identity needs to be found in him alone because that will never change. So truths like “daughter of the King” and “chosen” and “forgiven” became the identities I tried to focus on. This is so important for moms to remember. The little children years are so demanding that we can forget how God sees us. We are so much more than moms. We are redeemed! We are gifted! We are loved! If we can keep our identity centered as God sees us, then as we go through changes in life, our foundation won’t be shaken and we will be more free to live as God truly intended.
Q: What are some of the topics you cover in the devotionals?
SHG: We talk about perfectionism, comparison, joy, gratefulness, fear, rejection, weariness, calling, tenacity (grit) and hope (grace). Our subtitle is Devotions for Warrior Moms, and that is how we view mamas. They are on the front lines guiding their children to God’s truth and aiming them at the target—Jesus. Grit & Grace talks about the gamut of emotions mothers of young children face, both good and bad.
Q: Do either of you have a favorite devotional in the book?
SHG: My favorite devotional is titled “(Gingerbread) Man Down.” I talk about how my daughter accidently broke two gingerbread men ornaments that had been a gift from a coworker. They had sentimental value, and I yelled at her when she broke them. A few weeks later, she presented me with a new gingerbread man ornament. It was gaudy and glittery and painted with bold colors. She told me, “Mommy, this gingerbread man is even more beautiful than the ones I broke.” In the devotion, I talk about how that is what God does for us. He fixes our broken places and gives us something more beautiful than what we started with.
Q: As your kids have started to grow up, what are some of the things you miss about having kids at the youngest stages?
GK: I miss the simplicity of sitting on the couch and reading stories, the chair in the kitchen while they help mix ingredients, and the funny ways the kids pronounced words and phrases!
SHG: Mine are still pretty young, but with the older ones, I miss their absolute need and dependence on me...just wanting to be with me every second for no apparent reason. Isn’t that a picture of my Heavenly Father and me? I am absolutely dependent on Him and should crave to be with Him every day. And I miss all the kisses and hugs. My 2-year-old is still the best at those!
Q: If moms only take away one thing from reading Grit & Grace, what do you hope they learn?
SHG: We hope they will feel encouraged and empowered that God has chosen them for their specific children. They are called to this. There are so many sweet moments that come along with the difficult ones. As one pre-reader said, “Grit & Grace is helping me treasure hunt for grace in the challenging moments of motherhood and remember to savor the sweet moments I want to be etched deep into my heart forever.” Yes. That.
Fellow Grit & Grace Warrior Moms can connect on Facebook (gritandgracemoms), Twitter (Gritandgracemom) and Instagram (@gritandgracemoms).
While 2/3 of my children are out of elementary school and into middle school (I know, I know--deep breaths and lots of prayers), I do still have one in elementary school. I believe this devotional is great for new moms, but has nuggets of wisdom for moms in all stages of motherhood. Grit & Grace is filled with real mommying moments. Each story translated to a similar event that I have experienced (like sitting by my toddler's hospital bed with no control over the outcome, and being totally dependent on the Lord to heal him and give me strength) or can totally imagine experiencing, and I treasured that each lesson was also tied to a Bible story or scripture. In the Bible and in life, God uses everyday events to teach us, sanctify us, show us his love and cultivate a heart after him. Sometimes I take my life lessons or my Bible lessons individually but don't think about combining them. In the coming weeks, I am going to work harder to tie the lesson that I feel God teaching me through my circumstances to His Word!
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