“The Value of Growing Pains”

First day at SPU!

There is nothing that makes a 40 year old woman (not mentioning any names) feel more ancient than when she is sitting in a classroom of college freshman.  They are eager; eager to move around, full of life and full of hormones.  

Some of us, on the other hand, are full of grocery lists.  Our minds are spinning with car-pool details, school science projects, and soccer tournament dates.  As much as I would LOVE the 20-year old body back, I will take a “Rain Check” on the 20-year old mind.  That’s a fact.  


Driving up to Seattle Pacific University on Monday… for Jacoby’s first day of college brought back a flood of memories.  Had it really been 22 years since I walked on SPU campus for the first time?  A cheerleader from Idaho that found great importance in the height of her hair. (80’s ROCKED) 

I wish I could honestly say my first concern was grades, but what’s the point in lying.  I was concerned about where all the cute boys were residing. Exactly WHICH dorms would they be living in?

Jacoby, on the other hand, was worried about parking. Yes, that’s what I said… parking.  Would there be enough parking located near her first class of the day? (I know… it’s wrong and really sad.) 

We DID find a spot and we were off.  Here we were… walking to “Intro to Biblical Studies” together, Jacoby and her 40 year old mother.  Once again, I was reminded of the “oddness” of our situation.  What collage freshman do you know that wants to spend every minute on campus with their mom? 


On a more serious note, my prayers changed from,

“Lord, promise me you will bless her for this”… to “Lord, please let some of these kids reach out and introduce themselves.”  

Some of the students were intimidated by the wheelchair (understandably so) and some weren’t.  There is no condemnation here.  Hands down, I would have been one of the students who would have been afraid to reach out to anyone in a wheelchair.  Not because I didn’t care, but just because it’s different and you don’t know WHAT to say.  (FYI…A smile and “hello” works great!) 

Words cannot even begin to express how thankful I was to the kids who smiled and made an effort to at least acknowledge her existence. 

We made a great team that day, Jacoby and I.  We were all about where the good snack machines were located and which handicap features on campus were ingenious inventions.  (The new handicap bathroom stalls are STELLAR at SPU, might I add.) 

In all honesty, there are two intersecting thoughts to that day.  One side reflects the harsh reality that a 19 year old child should not have handicap parking as their top concern the first day of school.  Or, that their disability will prevent them from making friends simply because they are different. 

However, there is another side of “hope” to this situation. (Thank God!)

Our hearts and our minds are aware and open now.  My precious fiends, there is so much value in this ability. The ability to empathize.  Since Jacoby’s accident that cold, fall evening, I notice people my ignorance would never have allowed me to notice before.  Any disability, medical disease, or injury BREAKS my heart, yet enlarges my heart at the same time.  How I esteem all of you who face these challenges! 


Somehow, even though she faces an uphill climb, I already know Jacoby will thrive at Seattle Pacific University.  How do I know this? Because like so many other strong individuals I have been privileged to know, they use pain to push themselves…  The uncomfortable, the unknown and the lonely are expected and strangely welcomed.  She’ll push through until there is breakthrough; this I know for sure.  It’s not going to be easy OR easy to watch, but I know I have to step back and let her make it her own.  For it’s in the struggle that we grow strong. 

Here’s where I need your help.  I don’t know about you, but when I read or watch something encouraging, it inspires me to do the same.  Would you be willing to comment and share a “strength builder” you are walking through right now, or have walked through? Even a favorite quote or verse that encourages or encouraged you. 

Who knows how many of us are “hanging on for dear life” and could gain hope and strength from your struggle… your story.  

Can’t wait to hear from you…


  • Becky
    October 3, 2016 6:27 am

    My prayer is that God will give me the strength to simply lift my foot For that next step. “You’re going to have to plant it going in the right direction, God! Because I don’t even have the strength for that!” And little by little, I begin to see how God does just that…..and keeps me going towards the redemption of the story!

    Thank you!

    • Gretchen
      October 9, 2016 2:29 pm

      “Keeps me going toward the redemption of the story…” Love that.❤️

  • Jennifer Walters
    October 3, 2016 6:36 am

    Your posts always encourage me. As I sit at my desk this morning wondering how my students are going to react to the news of their classmate taking his own life over the weekend, your encouragement for empathy is exactly what I needed. Encouragement to know that empathy (and of course ceaseless prayer) will allow me to be their strength in this difficult time. Thank you for showing the true strength and grace of the Mighty God we serve! Prayers for your family, always.

    • Gretchen
      October 9, 2016 2:46 pm

      Jennifer! Thank you for sharing about the heartbreaking situation in your classroom. Praying for the family, the class and you!

  • Kim Schlomer
    October 3, 2016 7:10 am

    Reading this morning, “And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we do not know what God wants us to pray for, but the Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words,”. What a comfort knowing the Creator God intercedes for me in my weakness.

    • Gretchen
      October 9, 2016 2:47 pm

      Thank you, Jesus…for being our forever advocate!

  • Morgann
    October 3, 2016 7:44 am

    I’m joining in this fight with you – “hanging on for dear life” is a great way to put it. This postpartum period is just about crushing me at my very core. The Lord is near, and I’m so thankful because He knows there is no way I could do this alone. I’m praying for rest and peace, and for this ugly darkness to lift. I am comforted by this sweet verse in Isaiah “He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.” May he lead you too, Mama.

    • Gretchen
      October 9, 2016 2:35 pm

      Morgann, Jacoby has been struggling with a terrible chest cold this week. She does not have the stomach muscles to cough on her own anymore, so we have to do this. You can imagine the anxiousness this can create. Praying for you, and thank you for the beautiful reminder that our shepherd has His little girls in the palm of his hands.

  • Janice Karp
    October 3, 2016 7:52 am

    Jacoby, Suzanne, the timing of your excerpt is perfect. For 3 weeks + I have been struggling with extreme worry and anxiety for an upcoming surgery I need. I’m beyond scared because I have never had anesthesia or surgery and terrified of hospitals. I literally woke up shaking knowing my surgery date will be set tomorrow when I see my doctor. Jacoby taking on her new college experience facing her fears & battling obstacles will be my reminder everything will be ok and we will be stronger for it. Your story is my strength and for this I am thankful❣

    • Gretchen
      October 9, 2016 2:51 pm

      Janice! Praise God! So incredibly thankful you were able to gain strength and encouragement from Jacobys story! Two sisters in the faith…lifting and leading each other on..

  • Brea Saine
    October 3, 2016 8:06 am

    I can only say Your family is a true testimony of God. Gretchen I read your posts and look at your pictures in awe. As a weary mom if only two little ones I some days feel like how do I face tomorrow and I only have the common struggles in life at this time. You and Jacoby let me see true strength and my hope and courage are restored in your pictures and words. Keep sharing your story! My mom recently gave me a quote: You have been assigned this mountain to show others it can be moved.

  • Tami Stoneback
    October 3, 2016 9:00 am

    Jacoby you are so inspiring to me! As I’m doing my bible study on 2 Timothy , and am reading Phil. 3:12-14, I can’t help but think of what a perfect example you are of living this! You are amazing!

    October 3, 2016 11:14 am

    I’m sorry but I had laugh at the parking. ONLY because that morning as you were driving up there for the first day I wondered how the accessible parking was going to be! Sad but true that becomes a high priority when you have the reality of a wheelchair to deal with! And OH SO UNDERSTAND the wanting your child to be seen! NOT as the person in the wheelchair but for who they are on the inside! My heart grieves for you from one mom to another. I have watched for years as my son has been over looked. I do understand those feelings. I Praying God will bring unique opportunities for Jacoby to find true friendship at SPU!

    October 3, 2016 11:14 am

    I guess my verse I would share was sent to me from my mom when Ryan was first diagnosed at the age of 5. It has been 14 years but I am still holding onto the promises of it. Psalms 27:13-14; “I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart; wait, I say, on the LORD”. WAIT-HOPE-WAIT-EXPECT!

    • Gretchen
      October 5, 2016 2:35 pm

      This verse has become more precious to me in the past four years, Donna. I desperately NEED these promises…I CLING to them now..verses just thinking it is a “nice” verse. Lol

  • Cyndy Jacobsen
    October 3, 2016 12:59 pm

    Gretchen, as always, thank you for your writing. When I am “hanging on for dear life” or by a thread as I like to say, I have been greatly helped by thinking of and praying for Jacoby. We don’t know what God has for us tomorrow and you guys surely could not have predicted this situation. But, watching you, Jacoby and the rest of your family triumph in this trial, by God’s grace, makes me think maybe I can handle what is in front of me. You are encouraging many. Gretchen – I, too, have an increased empathy and awareness of the challenges that the disabled face daily. I know I don’t know the half of it, but my sensibilities have changed. To Jacoby, sweet girl, – I am among your fans! I can’t wait to see where the college journey takes you and your mama.

    • Gretchen
      October 5, 2016 1:47 pm

      Thank you, Cyndy!❤️

  • Amber
    October 3, 2016 1:17 pm

    Having been on crutches as an SPU student, I know how hilly the campus is and how far flung classrooms can be. So I sympathize, and cheer Jacoby on! So happy to know she is going to SPU.
    Ps. I remember you bringing me meals from Gwinn so I wouldn’t have to climb all those stairs. You weren’t completely all about the cute boys 🙂

    • Gretchen
      October 5, 2016 1:05 pm

      Ambergaysa! Lol..ok, you’re right, I TRUELY treasures my friends, too!

  • Alissa Hamilton
    October 4, 2016 8:35 pm

    My favorite verse.
    Psalm 62::1-2
    My soul finds rest in God alone. My salvation comes from Him. He aloe is my rock and my salvation; He is my fortress; I will never be shaken.

    • Gretchen
      October 5, 2016 1:07 pm

      Alissa…one of my “all-time” favorites as well…

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