My guest today is Stephanie Holden, a mama and grandma who is leaving a legacy of grace. She's been married to her high school sweetheart, Nick, for 28 years and have together served in ministry for 18 years. She is a mom to three married daughters and "Honey" to four grandchildren. She blogs at The Honey Pot and blesses thousands on Instagram daily.
"But you, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head. I cried out to the Lord and He answered me from His holy hill. Selah." Psalm 3:3-4
Stephanie says, "I learned many times that He was indeed the Lifter of my Head on those days when I felt like I had totally blew it as a mom. I love this imagery. SO tender and merciful. When I didn't have the strength to put my eyes on Him, He'd lift my head for me so that I could put my eyes back on Him."
I'm so excited to have you on the blog, Stephanie! Those who follow you may know your testimony, but for those who don't, can you share a bit of your story and tell us about your family?
Our story is one that is saturated with God’s grace. Nick and I were high school sweethearts. We’ve been together since we were 15 years old. He was being heavily recruited by colleges to play ball, and I was engaged in all sorts of things in school. We both had “bright” futures ahead of us. When we were 16 years old, we discovered I was pregnant. We got married that summer and two weeks after school started, our daughter Elizabeth was born. I finished my education at home and Nick was a husband and a daddy his senior year.
As most stories go, ours was not the one we would have written for ourselves. Nick didn’t go off to college to play ball anywhere and we found ourselves as teenage parents trying to make ends meet. But our “happily ever after” is better than anything we could have dreamt up for ourselves. We are full of flaws and far from perfect but our love story is one for the books.
He joined the Navy where he served for almost ten years. It was around that time, that we both came to know Jesus and He rocked our world in the best kind of way. He interrupted our lives and changed everything about who we were and what we were about. He called Nick into ministry 18 years ago and we’ve been serving Him side by side ever since.
We have 3 incredible daughters, Elizabeth, Lydia and Lauren. They are all grown and married and are scattered from here to North Carolina. We couldn’t have handpicked our sons-in-law any better if we had searched the world over. We have four precious grandkids who call me Honey and two grand-dogs. This August we will celebrate 29 years of marriage and I honestly can say it just keeps getting sweeter and sweeter. Or as I like to call it….grace upon grace.
I never tire of hearing your beautiful testimony, friend. Such wise encouragement! You and Nick have such a sweet marriage. How do you and Nick keep tenderness and romance alive?
We give God all the glory…we tell everyone we’ve done a million things to mess it all up, yet He continues to pour out His grace in our lives. But we have made some choices through the years that we feel has made the difference in our sweet romance.
We were intentional. A good marriage doesn’t just happen.
First is how we speak to one another and about one another. We are intentional about being edifying. We don’t dwell on each other’s faults but choose to focus on each other’s strengths. I have so much I could say about this topic but for times sake, I’ll just leave it at that.
Secondly, we were intentional about our TIME. This is so crucial. We all know how short we are for time when we have kids. We can literally meet ourselves coming and going if we are not careful. Nick and I guarded our time like it was GOLD. We had a weekly date day that went on the calendar just like all of the other activities and events. Nothing got scheduled on this day because it was valuable to us. We turned down invitations that fell on date days, we scheduled ministry things around it…we did everything in our power to protect it and to make them happen week after week. We were watering our garden preparing for the season of harvest. We didn’t let our girls be involved in a ton of extracurricular activities. They each could choose one and it kept our schedule at a healthy and reasonable pace. This also helped them to choose wisely.
But if I can get real honest here about what keeps the tenderness and romance alive, I can’t talk about this subject without including the importance of intimacy. Of sex. It is SO vital and rarely discussed. The world portrays that it is perfectly normal for wives and moms to be worn out women who are uninterested in sex and that it’s more of a duty rather than something to be desired and enjoyed. That is a lie straight from the enemy. God created sex for us to enjoy and is a gift to us as wives. I also know that we often bring baggage into our bedrooms that affect this area too. Whether it’s past relationships or deep pain from sexual abuse in our past, the enemy wants us to stay bound as victims. But there is healing and freedom to be found. It’s worth fighting for to experience this part of marriage that God designed for a husband and wife.
Whatever may be hindering this area of your marriage, I encourage you take the steps to make a change. Simplify the calendar. Slow down so you’re not stressed out. Say no to others so you can say yes to your man. Pray daily and ask God to help you “feel like it” and get you in the mood. Seek counseling if you need to. Just don’t settle for what the world says about this subject and the lies the enemy whispers. Sex the way God intended it to be is good. It is beautiful. And it is vital to a healthy marriage.
Girl. Thanks for going there, and speaking the truth and encouraging us sister in the area of intimacy.
You no longer have children in your home! What advice would you give to us who still do, in preparation for the empty nest years ahead?
There is an old puritan quote I read once “For the unlearned, aged is winter. But for the learned, it is the season of harvest.” That resonated with me so much. Mommas often look to the empty nest as something lonely and sad…a winter season. But it doesn’t have to be! I see it, and am experiencing it, as the season of harvest! All of the labor and work we poured into our marriage when our girls were still in our home is manifesting in our relationship now. I always made time for Nick. We made time for each other. I never allowed myself to get so engrossed in my kids that I forgot I was his wife…that I was his lover. And when the dust settled after the wild busy ride of teenagers and dating and courtship and weddings, I not only loved the man that was left standing next to me.. but I was IN love with this man standing next to me. The empty nest is not something to dread. It is something to look forward to.
And on another note, as a momma preparing for the empty nest…Don’t waste right now. We can often miss the blessings right in front of us while we are praying for a challenging season to end, thinking the next one will be easier. I’ve come to know that every season of motherhood ushers in it’s own kind of hard. When the Lord taught me to quit merely enduring the season until it changed or until He “fixed” it, and instead, to start embracing each season for all it has for me…it was then that I began to walk in victory and live in contentment. Talk about freedom.
Because basically, you never retire from being a mom. The empty nest doesn’t mean you’re done with worrying about your kids and wanting the best for them. There will always be something hard in every season so I encourage you to stop striving and start savoring. Now is now and it’s good. But also know….the best is yet to come. Do the labor now, pull the weeds, water the garden, make the time and you will one day enjoy a beautiful season of harvest.
What attribute of God comforts you the most as a mom?
Oh gosh. This one is so hard. How can you choose just one? I would have to say in this season of motherhood I’m in, what comforts me most about God is His steadfastness. Our family has experienced so much change in the past 10 years. When each of my girls left the nest, our family changed. Our lives and the way we did things as a family changed. Holidays changed. I had to let certain traditions fall to the wayside as we adjusted to having a whole other family that we shared our girls with.
Our relationships with our girls changed as they became adults and wives. So many new emotions and learning to embrace a new normal over and over again. God’s steadfastness has been a huge comfort through it all. He never changes. His love for me never changes. He was and is the Rock I could stand on and my Refuge to hide when the change was overwhelming. He’s the same yesterday, today and forever and I just breathe that truth in and let it settle my heart.
Amen! You have a close relationship with your mom, as well as each of your daughters. What's your secret to mother-daughter friendship?
I get asked this often. I don’t really have much of a secret. My dad passed away when I was 13. He was the love of my mom’s life. She was only 39. It made me value her even more…to treasure her. I think that tragedy shaped my whole outlook on life to savor time together with those we love. I tried to create an environment with my girls that taught them to celebrate life and the people in it. Don’t wait for an occasion to celebrate...create one. Our relationships are FAR from perfect. We have struggles and things we have to work on daily. We drive each other crazy at times and misunderstand one another often, but at the end of the day, they are the ones I want to be with. When something funny happens, or when I receive bad news, or when I want to celebrate, they are the ones I want to experience it with.
Even though we are scattered miles and miles apart in North Carolina, Georgia, Mississippi and Louisiana, we don’t let the distance be a hindrance. We group text throughout the day and we are intentional with staying close to one another. As a mom to grown daughters, I think one of the things that keeps our girls “coming back” is because we give them their space. We don’t butt in and offer our unsolicited advice. But they know they can come to us for anything, at any time. And they often do. We don’t pressure them about being with us for every event and holiday. The Lord set me free from that a couple of years after our first daughter got married and it has made all the difference in all of our lives. I love nothing more than when I have all my kids together under one roof for holidays but I’ve learned to be content with it just being me and Nick too. That freedom feels good.
You're also a grandma (!) What has surprised you most about this new role in your life?
Oh my goodness. All I can say is that all of the hype about grandkids is LEGIT. Having grandchildren is amazing and being a grandma is the most fun! You get to experience life all over again through their fresh and honest eyes yet this time you also have a little experience and (hopefully) wisdom under your belt, so it changes your perspective of life and things in such a good way. I think the biggest surprise for me has been how my grandkids have shifted my priorities. I define success so differently these days because of my grandkids. It’s not about achieving or obtaining as much as it is about being significant….about slowing down and savoring life. I want to leave an impression on their little hearts that always points them to Jesus. That when I’m long gone and they think about their Honey they will have a funny memory that will make them giggle. Because Jesus and laughter can carry you through anything life throws your way.
Thanks for giving me such a big vision for what is to come. Thanks, friend. Okay, so...what would you go back and tell your 16 year old self if you could?
Well 16 was a major milestone in my life. And not because it was my Sweet 16 but because it’s when I became a mom. I would tell myself to hold on, to buckle up, squirt some extra Aqua Net on that permed hair of mine, roll down the windows and enjoy the ride. That it doesn’t matter how I started. What matters is how I finish. And the in-between is better than any “happily ever after” I ever imagined. It’s gonna be ok.
Actually, about five years ago, I wrote a letter to my 16 year old self that I posted on my blog. The Lord has used that letter over and over again for His glory. I’d love for you to read it….just click here.
(I love that letter. Thanks for sharing it!) Now...care to share an embarrassing mom moment?
Well I have many to choose from but the one my crew likes to remind me of often is when our whole entire family was together for the first time in forever a few years ago. It was Thanksgiving Day and we decided to take a walk that night in my daughter’s neighborhood to look at Christmas lights all together. I got tickled over something and wet my pants. Like not just a little bit, but like standing in a full on puddle of pee in the middle of the street as my grandkids and all three of my sons-in-law watched. One son, who will remain nameless, stepped up a little closer to take a picture with his phone to remember the moment forever and ever.
Another family favorite is the time I let my girls take the rap for something I broke at my mom’s house when they were little while we were visiting one summer. She was so upset about it and just assumed the girls did it and I just went with it. I know…worst mom of the year award. I still get embarrassed when I think of it. I wish I had something redeeming about that story but I don’t. Except to say that sometimes we screw up. And when we do, it’s gonna be ok. Our kids survive our stupid mistakes. God’s grace is truly amazing and love does cover a multitude of sins. And they will love to tease you about it every time they get the chance.
You just made my life with these stories! Now, in all seriousness, when you feel weak as a mom, what passage of scripture do you turn to the most?
There are so many I turn to. I love Romans 15:13 “I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in Him. Then you will overflow with confident hope, through the power of the Holy Spirit.” So much of motherhood has to come down to just trusting Him. My girls belong to Him anyway and He loves them more than I do. He’s not only the source of my hope but I can abound with CONFIDENT hope. That truth always blessed me and helped me to stand up, throw my shoulders back and walk in confidence even when He hadn’t shed light on the circumstance. I could trust Him. I could trust my girls to Him.
But the one I found popping up in my mind over and over again during the hardest seasons of motherhood was, and still is, Psalm 3:3-4 “But You, O Lord, are a shield for me, My glory and the One who lifts up my head. I cried to the Lord with my voice, and He heard me from His holy hill.” I learned many times that He was indeed the Lifter of my Head on those days when I felt like I had totally blew it as a mom. I love this imagery. SO tender and merciful. When I didn’t have the strength to put my eyes on Him, He’d lift my head for me so that I could put my eyes back on Him. Gosh, I love that.
Any projects, goals, or aspirations you'd like to share with us?
We’re just keeping ourselves open to be used as He leads. I just came out of an extremely busy season of traveling with speaking engagements and women’s retreats so I’m looking forward to a few months of rest. It still amazes me that He chooses to use me in that capacity. I’m not polished. I’m not educated. It scares me to death every time I stand before a group of ladies and spill my guts about what He has done in my life. But I do have a story that I love to share. One about redemption and hope and how His grace can change everything. I’m so thankful for this life I get to live. I don’t want to waste one drop of it.
Stephanie, THANK YOU for blessing us and building up the body of Christ through your testimony of God's grace.
Because of grace,