Tuesday, September 9, 2014


I sort of feel like I've just had an ultrasound and can announce to the world, "It's a girl!"

"It's a daughter-in-law-to-be!!"

Her name is Gretchen Stolhammer. And now I can write all about her because the ring is on her finger!

Yes, Sam is newly engaged to his girlfriend of 3 years!! Richie and I are so happy for them both.

Like many parents, we encouraged Sam to guard his heart in the whole matter of dating. Well, I think I chose to do the same thing. I knew enough family and friends who had become so close to their child’s boyfriend/girlfriend that a subsequent unexpected break-up caused my friends to feel almost as if they had lost a child, and then had a harder time accepting new relationships that their children formed. I did not want to be that close to an “ex" of Sam's, just in case their relationship fell apart. 

While I have certainly mentioned Gretch and have posted a few pictures, I sort of guarded my heart and did not write much about their relationship or her.

Today, the guards have fallen down. And I can talk!!

There is not a parent who has not had the thought, will there ever be any man/woman good enough for my daughter/son?….well, Sam found one!!

I remember thinking, as we raised Sam, that I wanted him to become a young man that any woman would be lucky to snag. I am highly biased, Lord knows, but I think he is a catch. The cool thing is.....Gretchen is a catch too. He is just as blessed as she is that they have chosen the other to meander through life with.
We had some tenuous feelings about him being in this new relationship 3 years ago. Sam asked her to become his girlfriend before we ever knew her. (Sam would like a re-do on that account, but it is water under the bridge now). They had met through mutual friends the prior year, but they re-met and got to know each other while cleaning up vomit of a camper at Miracle Bible Camp when she was the head counselor and he was a last-minute substitute counselor for one week…...a very unglamorous connection, but there must have been something in that unpleasant task or the conversation they must have attempted while holding their breath that led them to want to continue seeing each other...

But, I digress.

So here was this girl, now girlfriend, who was nearly 2 years older than Sam and would be finished with college in 4 months. He had just finished his freshman year. Since we did not know her, we were concerned that she could pressure him into marriage before he was ready, or to leave the college and friends he loved at Dordt to transfer to a Minneapolis college where she was working, or that his grades would suffer by him traveling to the Cities too often on weekends.

But over the course of 3 years, as we got to know and care about Gretchen, we realized that our concerns were for naught, and Gretchen did nothing but support Sam through those years of college with encouragement and space. He was able to keep their long distance relationship working 2 jobs and graduating with a near 4.0 GPA.
So, yes, okay, you want to know about Gretchen. She is cream of the crop. She is down-to-earth, sweet, practical (loves thrift stores and clearance racks like I do), generous and very bright. Did I mention thoughtful? Last year she burned me a CD of praise and worship songs and not only hand-wrote all of the lyrics of each song, but with each, included illustrations, graphics, and words expressing why she loved each song. It was such a great glimpse into her spiritual heart, and such a labor of love.

Infinitely more weighty to me than any of those above qualities, Gretchen loves the Lord more than she loves my son. This was one thing I had always hoped for. Jesus will always be her first love, as He is Sam's, and their faith will always be the anchor and cornerstone of their marriage.
This also means I have a new sister-in-Christ right in my immediate family. How I love this!

My hope is that Gretch will be as comfortable in our small tight-knit family as she is in her large family. We have been “the three musketeers” for 22 years. Over the years Sam has also coined “the fearsome threesome” and “the tight trio.” We have an extraordinarily tight bond between the three of us, a braid of deep love, affection, fun, traditions, and openness.

I would not blink if Gretchen felt some apprehension about joining our trio. But this sweet girl has no resentment of what our past has been. She has never been a mother, but she has an innate understanding of mother-love. She sent me a precious text one night when we were both listening to Sam on a talk-radio program: “Your son is so stinkin’ impressive, and he’s been on-air so much! I’m proud, so that must mean that you are absolutely beaming.”
As the Grinch felt when he witnessed the singing of the Whos down in Whoville, my heart for Gretchen "grew three sizes" that day; she just simply “got it.” It was so sensitive.  I will always honor and respect the fact that she is going to become Sam’s first priority in his life, and I will always champion her first place in their lives together, but I know that she honors the deep love I share with my only child. When I am an old, frail lady in a nursing home, it will probably be Gretchen who will say, “Sam, remember to go have a lunch date with your mom this week.” 

And someday, if God wills it, Gretchen and Sam may have a little boy who hits a home run in a little league game or comforts a crying friend during a play date, or wins the 2nd grade spelling bee, and she will know deep in her soul that nobody could ever be as proud of him as she is, no matter what he does, no matter how old he is.

Now Gretch WILL have to put up with some of these musketeerian traditions: watching I LOVE LUCY marathons, hollering through the Vikes games, learning to play a hot hand of Oh Hell, and eating far too much french silk pie. During our Florida vacations she will need to not only endure cheesy mini-golf at Smuggler's Cove, but eat until she can barely walk out of our favorite Dutch smorgasbord. (The one place in the world where gluttony is considered a temporary blessing)

Lord, I have had a hundred reasons already why I need you to heal me of this cancer. Now I have a hundred and one. This is one role, Lord, that I have always hoped to have and now it can be mine. I am so excited to embrace it.  I have never been a mother-in-law, Lord.  I need you to teach me to be a good one. No, a really really good one. A mother-in-law who supports and loves and encourages. A mother-in-law who Gretchen feels free to share her fears and joys and struggles with. Lord, when her friends ask her about Sam's mom, I want her to be able to smile and not grimace. Lord, you need to mold me into a mother-in-law that reflects Your character. Father, I ask you for all this in the name of Jesus.
Sam's Gretchen is a peach. A dear and Godly girl with a servant heart, a moral backbone, a ream of moxie and mettle, and a winning smile. And she deeply loves my son. There is nothing more a mother could ask for in a wife for her son.

I can’t wait to see how the Lord will use Gretch to bless my life and challenge me as a woman and a Christian. And even more importantly, I can’t wait to see how the Lord will use me to bless and speak into her life in ways that would mean a lot to her.

We have a whole year to think up some new monikers for our new family, but I don’t think that “fearsome foursome” sounds so bad….


Cole said...

CONGRATULATIONS!!! This is so exciting! Please pass on my congrats to Sam and let them know I'll be praying for God to prepare both of their hearts for this marriage, and you to be the amazing Mother-in-law I already know you will be.

Oh Lord Jesus, thank you for such exciting news! We trust You are holding this fantastic foursome in Your loving embrace and already see the glory that will overflow on Sam and Gretchen's wedding day. We stand on The Solid Rock in faith Mary will be healed from head to toe and trust in Your timing, whether or not we understand it.

We love You and praise You for the blessings You pour out into our lives, total healing and the blessing of marriage being the two that come to mind at such a time as this. In Jesus precious name I pray. Amen.

Anonymous said...

Congrats Mary and Richie and of course to Sam and Gretchen ! What happy news yipppee