After a long and winding path of patience, trust and faith, sisters Wendy Strong Lupas and Mary Strong Blackburn are thrilled to share with you their personal journey that lead to the development of The Gracewear Collection. This jewelry is truly as beautiful as the story of grace that inspired the Collection.
After the birth of her third child, appropriately named Grace, Wendy's husband was diagnosed with a rare lung disease. The treatment for this condition was a maximum dose of steroid therapy that lasted almost two years. Through this very trying season that Wendy describes as “the dark years,” she found her usual joyful and positive spirit start to fade. She described how anger and bitterness slowly crept into what some would describe as an ideal life. After the treatment Wendy’s husband began to regain his health. They decided to take a long overdue vacation. During a sunset cruise, Wendy experienced what she describes as a 'spirit filled moment' when she felt God speak to her: "You must let go of the past, and forgive. With this forgiveness, you will find freedom and peace" (Matthew 16:10).
Wendy fell to her knees and gave God ALL the glory for giving her a wonderful husband and life that she felt she was not embracing. She asked God for forgiveness; forgiveness for so much. Forgiveness for all the anger and bitterness that had crept into her life, forgiveness for not being the wife and mother that God had designed and forgiveness for blaming her husband for so much that she needed to take responsibility for. She experienced GRACE: an absolutely FREE gift from God of unconditional love and true forgiveness with no strings attached; a clean slate to start over.
After an amazing second honeymoon of rest and restoration, Wendy felt an incredible calling to share this message that God sent her with others. She first shared with her sister Mary, and together through what they described as many ups, downs, twists and turns, they created this unique business with ministry purpose called Gracewear Collection. God blessed Mary and Wendy with the beautiful “Shield of Faith” design which has become the signature brand for their vision.
The Shield of Faith jewelry design is based on the scripture Ephesians 6: 10-18 about how we can spiritually dress ourselves for the battles that we face every day. The Shield represents the protection of God from the flaming arrows that are thrown at us daily. God wants to protect everything in our lives: ourselves, families, marriages, homes, businesses, churches, communities...everything! The Shield of Faith jewelry is designed to remind us of this constant protection.
Wendy and Mary feel that every woman has their own 'Gracewear story'. They pray that through their collection, women can find freedom and comfort in their journey for daily grace. "God calls us to be ambassadors for Christ and to let His love and light shine through us," said Wendy. "We must be spiritually dressed for the battles that we face everyday. Hopefully our Collection can help women to have a little more peace, joy, and balance in their hectic lives. Now, I don't know a woman on earth that wouldn't want that!"
Gracewear is currently featured in over 400 retail shops in the U.S. In May 2011, they opened a boutique location in their hometown of Cashiers, N.C. God is good ALL the time, and both Wendy and Mary can not wait to see what HE has planned for the future.
Wendy and her family recently moved to Chattanooga, Tenn. Her husband Sam is a partner with Landmark Realty Group. They have three children; Sammy and Molly who attend The Baylor School and Gracie who attends Normal Park.
Mary, her husband Jerry and their three children moved to Cashiers from Savannah, GA. She also has three children: Sarah Dancy, who attends Rabun Gap School and Wade and Morgan, who attend Nacochee School.