Some Big News: We're Moving Back to Ohio!

Prepare yourself. There are lots of changes coming, and I don't have much time to spare as they are coming at warp speed, so let me give you the narrative nitty-gritty:

We are moving to Ohio.

It's the state I was born and raised in and where almost all of my family resides. It's the state I ran to when things got hard with Claire. My husband and I had always talked about moving there "someday," but didn't expect that to come to fruition anytime soon. 

Then, a couple of months ago, my husband got an email about an open position in Ohio. It was when Claire was just weeks old, but even then I'd already realized how hard motherhood is. Too hard for me to do it on my own. So when he told me about the opening, I did something I've never done: I practically demanded that he apply. I told him he didn't have to accept it but he had to apply—for my sake.

So, the loving husband that he is, he did apply, as did 230 other people. For one single opening. We knew it was a long shot, but decided to follow it through anyway and see what would happen.

From the very beginning, though, I prayed that if he wasn't going to get the job, I wanted him to get cut early on. And yet, he kept advancing.

He'd made it to the second or third round of interviews (which meant two or three more 8-hour trips back and forth to Ohio, with Claire in tow) when I submitted that same prayer to God again: That if he wasn't going to get the job, that he would not advance. It was the middle of the night when I lay awake praying that. Then it dawned on me: I must believe that God actually was answering my prayers. Because he continued to get advanced, I had to believe he's going to get the job!

Getting the job would mean we'd have to move, which would mean we'd have to sell our house. So the next morning I began doing a bunch of projects around the house that I'd always wanted to do (and that would really help our house sell) but had never gotten around to.

When my husband asked where my newfound motivation came from, I told him my epiphany: "I have to trust that God is going to give you the job."

Later, my husband told me that it was a bold statement, but I honestly believed it with all my heart. Working on those projects was a reflection of deciding to put my trust in God's faithfulness to me. Because God has proved he is faithful to me, time and time again. And, I told myself, even if my husband didn't get the job, all the work I was doing was for things I would have wanted to do anyway, so no effort would go to waste.

Meanwhile, at the end of June, after they had whittled the candidates down through round after round, my husband got the call that he was their number one pick—confirming that belief God had planted in my heart that late night weeks earlier.

The next step of the process came with having to sell our house. We were quite nervous about this, because we've only lived here for a year and a half and have put quite a bit of work into it and we weren't sure we'd be able to recoup it.

Again, though, I turned to the Lord, trusting him to finish what he had started.

Wouldn't you know it, but we hired a realtor who put a sign in our yard as he was leaving the driveway, and within three days (before the house even was officially on the market), we had an offer for $100 above our asking price.

And then, last week, my husband got the official offer of employment.

Oh, Lord, you are too good to me. You do take care of your children.

So, we are in the midst of boxing up our belongings again, making arrangements for our cross-country move. Which means things might be a little quiet around here while I throw myself into all this (and finding the time to entertain Claire in the middle of it all!). But I will be back, to share more of what God is doing in all this. May he be praised.

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For Now, My Nightstand Sits Empty...

I have had this problem as of late. I start a book, read it for a few chapters and then grow bored of it. The epiphany of the title or the punch of the opening paragraphs wears off and it no longer holds my interest. It sits at my nightstand, the bookmark holding my place and it stays there, silent and untouched, for a few days, a week, even months. I used to find the idea of starting a book and not finishing it to be something akin to a failure.

I have had this problem as of late. I start a book, read it for a few chapters and then grow bored of it. The epiphany of the title or the punch of the opening paragraphs wears off and it no longer holds my interest. It sits at my nightstand, the bookmark holding my place and it stays there, silent and untouched, for a few days, a week, even months.

I used to find the idea of starting a book and not finishing it to be something akin to a failure. Maybe “failure” is too strong a word. But if you start something, oughtn’t you finish it?

It took me a long, long time to give myself permission to not finish a book. Well into my mid-twenties, to be honest.

Even now, there’s a bit of a twinge of guilt—I suppose that’s the word to describe it—that comes when I shut a book and acknowledge that I won’t be opening it up again anytime soon. But—just in case—I leave the bookmark in my spot, so that if I do come back to it again, I can pick up where I left off.

Today, while I was picking up, I took two books that had been lingering on my nightstand and re-shelved them, perhaps the final admission of something I had known for weeks now but hadn’t really wanted to admit.

I’ve always had a thing for memoirs; the year that I fell in love with both Girl Meets God and Here’s to Hindsight (among a handful of other memoirs, too, including one of a Catholic nun) was the clincher for this favorite-genre-of-mine.

There’s always a common thread that runs through the titles I love best: Christian girl talks about finding her way along the journey, growing closer to God in the ups and downs of it all. Other memoirs that fall into that category include One Thousand Gifts (which I’ve written about here) and Cold Tangerines and Grumble Hallelujah (which I reviewed here).

The books that show you what a faith-lived-out kind of life looks like, rather than just preaching at you about how to do it. There’s a humility I so appreciate in these tomes as they peel back the façade and reveal the real-life aspects of this faith-walk of ours, the glories and grit and gruntwork that comes along with it.

But there’s something lately that has fallen flat for me in this pursuit of learning from other women’s journeys. I’m not quite sure how to put words to it, but I’ve noticed that it hasn’t quite gripped me as much as it has in the past. I even picked up Here’s to Hindsight to read again, to whet my appetite, and even it did nothing to reignite the flame. I closed it up—bookmark in place—and nestled it back on my bookshelf again.

And for the moment, my nightstand is empty.

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What it Means to Be Our Husband's Crown, Whether You're Married or Not

When my husband and I were first married, I spent the first few weeks of my time as a new wife searching the Bible for instruction and examples about how to fulfill this new role of mine. How did God envision it? What was expected of me? How did other godly women live this calling out?

At one point, I remember coming across the verse, Proverbs 12:4 “A wife of noble character is her husband's crown, but a disgraceful wife is like decay in his bones.”

I started thinking about this image, of a wife as a crown for her husband.

Who wears a crown? Someone of royalty or great stature—likely a prince or a king. Yet, how do you know that he has that high position? By the crown he wears on his head. Without the shiny, gem-studded crown, he would just be seen as an ordinary man. But it is the crown that shows off his true position, the truth about who he is.

I saw in that simple picture how a wife has the opportunity to show the world the truth about who her husband is. By her behavior, she can showcase whether he is just an ordinary man or whether he is one who stands above the rest and is worthy of respect. In this way, our actions as wives affect more than just ourselves; they directly reflect our husbands, as well, even if they had nothing to do with the action in question.

And when we choose to wield it wisely—conducting ourselves with “noble character”—a wife becomes a crown that her husband can wear proudly. It is not a plastic toy that a child would wear, but a real treasure that makes him walk taller.

It’s a truth that is really quite powerful. It can be something of great opportunity—to shine for the sake of our spouse, or it can be one that begets misery, bestowing instead disgrace. The difference depends completely on how we treasure this truth.

Recently, I was recalling this mental image and I realized that it doesn’t just end there, between a wife and her husband. The Bible is rich with the allusion that an earthly marriage is merely a reflection or a preparation for the eternal union that will bring us together with Jesus. He constantly touts himself as bridegroom and us as his bride.

So just as we can be a crown for our earthly husbands through our actions, so can we be a crown for our eternal husband, too, in the way we act. Our behaviors—especially that of serving—should showcase the greatness of the husbands we so dearly love, both the one we share a name with now but also the One who awaits us in the life to come.

This article first appeared on iBelieve, on December 26, 2012.

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P.S. While You're Shopping At Publix... (Sponsored Post)

I recently posted about the latest sale going on at Publix.

One more thing to add:

While you’re shopping the sale, check out the latest products from Yoplait®. My favorite line is their Core Cups, which are made without any high-fructose corn syrup and have both calcium and vitamin D in every single-serving cup. Tasty and good for you!

The information and a gift card to sample the sale were provided by General Mills and Publix® through MyBlogSpark.

The Latest Grocery Sale Going on at Publix (Sponsored Post)

It’s that time again—another big sale going on at Publix!

Now through July 24th, they’re running their “Running Out? Run In!,” which is spotlighting those everyday essentials that you easily run out of in the middle of the week. That’s why you’ll find everything from Charmin toilet paper to Dawn dish soap to Cheerios marked down during this sale. I made it a point to take advantage of the low prices and pick up some extra toilet paper when I popped in. (That's one thing you don't want to run out of!!)

Plus, if you buy $30 of participating items from through August 2, you can mail in to receive a $10 Publix® gift card to use on your next shopping trip! For more details on this rebate (and to get more information about the “Running Out? Run In!” sale that’s going on now), please visit

The information and a gift card to sample the sales were provided by General Mills and Publix® through MyBlogSpark.

Dear Claire: 3-Month Update

Dear Claire,

Oh, three months. This was a good month for us. Lots of people told me, “It gets better at three months.” I am so, so pleased to say that they were right. This was the month you started being able to put yourself to sleep (with the help of your paci) and taking naps in your crib (not being held). I think we were both much happier with this arrangement, as you got much better sleep and I was able to spend your naps getting things done (rather than watch marathons of Gilmore Girls, as I had been doing).

You also learned to roll over both ways, this month. You still much prefer to go from your back to your stomach (and usually turning to your left), which means that sometimes you forget that you do actually know how to flip back if you like. Then, you usually get frustrated and sometimes are able to squirm forward a few inches, by pushing your feet against the floor and moving. It’s not crawling yet, but I imagine it isn’t far away. Although your leg strength far surpasses your arm strength, so I wouldn’t be surprised if you skipped the whole crawling thing and went straight to walking!

You also have become a drool factory. You love to put things in your mouth, if only to cover them with saliva. You especially love covering folks’ shoulders in your drool. Your absolute favorite shoulder is your GP’s (my dad). Something about the shoulder turns the drool faucets on full-force!

You also are talking and grunting up a storm. You talk when you’re happy, you grunt when you’re frustrated. And you love when people talk to you—which is probably why you’re so into talking, yourself! You’re free and easy with your smiles, which has helped me and your dad make so many friends out and about. We’ve met more of our neighbors in your four months of life than we did the whole year before you were born. I really think you’re a people-person, which I love because I can see how a simple smile from you can light up someone’s day. You don’t realize it, but you’re already impacting people and leaving the world a better place than you found it. Not many people can say that, Claire!

This month also marked the first time you laughed, although you’re still stingy with them. It came when you were watching me brush my teeth one evening and I spit into the sink. You thought it was the goofiest thing in the world. So of course I did it over and over again to hear that silly, hearty laugh of yours. Even thinking about it makes me smile!

We’re also getting the hang of taking you out and about more often, and I think you’re becoming more flexible in your routine to allow for that. Last week, we took you out to get pizza and you sat happily in your carseat the whole time, just looking around at the sights. Today, we took you to get Mexican and you did great, as well. Sometimes I wonder if some of your fussiness is simply because you’d rather be out and about than cooped up at home with us. (The only drawback to your desire to get outside? We’ve discovered the mosquitoes adore you. Seriously, you have so many big red dots up and down your legs that it makes me feel like a bad parent.)

So things are feeling good. We’re finally to the point where I feel like we have many more good times than bad, although those still do rear up every couple of days or so. (Yesterday was one of those kinds of days.) I really think that once you’re able to move around on your own and get up close and personal with life, you’ll really fall in love with it. Everyone tells me that it gets so much harder because you’ll start getting into everything, but if you’re happy? Well, that makes me happy, too. And as your father would say, “That’s why we don’t have nice things.”

Three months was the best yet. Here’s to more to come!


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A Season of Struggles and a Prayer for Reprieve

I feel so much like the past twelve months have had a common refrain run through them: "Please, Lord, give me a reprieve." I first found myself uttering those words when I was having my kidney pains that would not cease. I begged God to take them away and just give me peace. "Please, Lord, give me a reprieve."

I just needed a break from the pain, the hardship that seemed to never relent. I felt I was bearing more than I could bear and I was near the breaking point, I needed a break before I broke.

Then I plead those words again when I was in childbirth and the baby would not come, hours and hours after labor had begun. "Please, Lord, give me a reprieve."

And those very same words fell from my lips again and again in my first months with Claire when I begged God to help me parent her, to help her sleep, to help her stop crying so much. "Please, Lord, give me a reprieve."

By the third time I repeated those words, I realized the pattern. I realized that I'd never prayed those words before last October, and here I am praying them over and over again only months, weeks later. I realized that perhaps this was a season in my life, a season of trials that God was walking me through, letting me feel the pain, letting me cry out to him over and over again and wait on him to bring relief.

Each time I've been faced with those struggles, they've brought me to my knees in prayer and brought me to reach out to others, pleading them to join me in my prayer for reprieve. Those prolonged struggles have forced me to admit my weaknesses to those around me, to be vulnerable in admitting my pain, my hardship, and the fact that only God can make it all better. I have been forced to draw others into my circumstances, whether I wanted to or not. The struggle was so great I really had no choice.

When I first went into the hospital for my kidney pains, I noted how I'd never really known what it was like to struggle before. I'd had hard times, sure, and been lonely and made difficult decisions and brave choices. But I hadn't ever really felt like I was at a breaking point, a new low.

And these past few months, the Lord has been opening my eyes to those circumstances and shown me a new kind of bravery, one where I look to him for the relief, that I can wait on him, that the reprieve will come and I can depend on him for strength in the meantime. That's not a pretty thought—that "in the meantime" business—but I know that in making me wait and cry out, he is stretching me, showing me that he is my strength, that I am stronger than I realize, that together we can make it through.

It's that reality—that despite my struggles, God will persevere and rescue and redeem—that is the sunbeam that wraps itself around these struggles, that weaves itself throughout each of them. It's the theme that I feel God is wanting not just to write upon my heart, but to etch deep down into its veins and to pulse through its arteries. It's the theme I think God wants us all not to just know in our heads, but to experience in our lives.

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For The Times When You're Sick of Serving

For most of us, church isn’t just a place we go on Sundays and sit in the pews. It’s a place where we get involved and take up that task of following in Jesus’ footsteps, who used some of his last moments on earth to impress upon his disciples the importance of serving one another, which he exemplified by stooping to wash their feet and then dying the death of the suffering servant.

So the fact that we’re called to serve one isn’t some foreign concept. It’s pretty integral to this faith we follow. But, frankly? Sometimes it’s hard. Sometimes it’s frustrating. Sometimes it’s simply not fun. And yet? We’re still called to serve.

That has been something I recently found myself struggling with, as I looked around and found myself eying people who come to church and yet are only there during service times, not involved in a single ministry or even showing up at any of the fun fellowship events, while I was responsible for a variety of tasks, not all of which I actually enjoyed.

To be sure, that’s called “judging” and it’s not something I’m proud of. But it’s the truth and it riled up in me something I needed to wrestle with. It actually made me angry that they weren’t serving, but it wasn’t a righteous kind of anger. At some point I realized, much of that anger was due to the fact that I was jealous of them. I was jealous that they didn’t have to “do anything.” All they had to do was show up for an hour and then go home and no one seemed to mind.

I realize that, honestly, a part of me wanted that too, wanted to not have the responsibility or the duty of serving.

There’s a parable that Jesus taught during his ministry that isn’t exactly one of the oft-quoted or used-in-sermon-examples ones. But it’s one that has captivated my heart because of the grace and mercy of it.

In this parable, Jesus is talking about the Kingdom of Heaven. In it, he tells about how a father asked his two sons to go work in the family’s vineyard. The first son refuses, but later changes his mind and does the work anyway. The second son agrees to the work, but never ends up doing it.

“Which of the two obeyed his father?” Jesus asked. The first, everyone agreed (Matthew 21:28-32).

Specifically, Jesus is talking about how sinners reject God’s commands at first but then turn back to him while the religious leaders say they follow him but don’t. But I think there’s also another layer to the story. While good intentions matter, sometimes what matters the most is what you actually end up doing.

In this parable, it’s pretty obvious that the first son doesn’t want to do the work. Yet, he does it anyway. And that—his action, not his natural desire—is deemed as obedience. And obedience is a big deal to Jesus: “If you love me, obey my commandments,” he says in John 14:15.

So, sometimes? We have to do the things we don’t want to do, simply because it’s obeying God.

All this wrestling came to a head when I clicked on the verse-of-the-day feature in the Bible app I use as part of my Bible study arsenal (you can read more about those recommended resources here). It could not have been timelier, as it spoke clearly to the situation at hand:

“So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone—especially to those in the family of faith” (Galatians 6:9-10).

“Let’s not get tired.” Ah. God knows that sometimes obeying him and serving others can become difficult. Yet, he speaks to us lovingly, with an encouraging pep talk rather than disapproval: Keep pressing on. Keep obeying. Keep serving. Whether it’s easy or not. Because if we do? There’s a “harvest of blessing” that awaits us.

That was the encouragement I needed to stop looking at what everyone else was or wasn’t doing and focus back on what truly matters: following in the footsteps of the ultimate servant.

This article first appeared on iBelieve, on December 3, 2012.

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Spirit-Led Parenting: A Giveaway!

This week, I've been highlighting a book I read when things were crazy for me with Claire. It was a much-needed balm to my soul during those days, that I wanted to make sure that you all were aware of it, too. You can read my full review of the book here. And you can also read some more back-story to the book in a guest post that one of the book's authors, Laura Oyer, wrote here.

But finally, you can have the chance to win a copy of your own! Laura is graciously providing three books for Life Blessons readers to win, so take a moment now to comment on this post and let me know why you want to win a copy of this book. Then, on Friday, July 12th, I'll select three winners to get a copy of Spirit-Led Parenting by Megan Tietz and Laura Oyer.

(If you're reading this in your email or in an RSS reader, make sure to click over to the comments and leave your comment about why you want to win this book. Also, make sure I have a way to contact you if you're one of the three winners!)


Spirit-Led Parenting: Learning to Lean Not On Our Own Understanding (A Guest Post)

Yesterday, I shared a review of the book Spirit-Led Parenting by Laura Oyer and Megan Tietz. Today, I'm thrilled to share a special guest post with you by one of the book's authors, Laura. Then, check back on Friday for a chance to win your own copy of Spirit-Led Parenting!

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. Proverbs 3:5

Confession time: I am a person who greatly prefers to lean on my own understanding.
I seek out foolproof plans and clear-cut solutions, and find great comfort in control. During my first pregnancy, I practically memorized the popular baby-care books given to me, convinced by the success of friends and confident methods I studied page-by-page that this was the way to ensure myself an infant who slept well, ate well, and fell into an obedient, predictable schedule.

You can imagine, then, how life-shaking it was when my first child did nothing according to my expectations. We began with intense breastfeeding struggles that threw my sense of control into complete disarray. Maya’s eating frequency and sleeping habits did not look at all familiar compared with the neatly laid-out charts I’d studied. My baby needed to eat a lot. She woke up frequently. She preferred to be held all the time. And although she was happy and thriving, I could not allow myself to be the same, because not only was my daughter unable to do what the books and my well-meaning friends insisted she should do, I couldn’t either.

Nothing made sense. I tried to lean back onto my own wisdom and found confusion instead. If the books said, “Your baby will” and my baby didn’t, what was wrong with her? If they said, “You have to” and I couldn’t, what was wrong with me? Through desperate prayers, I’d asked God to just make it work, and He didn’t seem to be answering. What was happening?

My own understanding convinced me that I was failing.
If we let Him, God can use that first intense year of baby’s life to train us how to live a life that is fully surrendered to Him. To cultivate in us a trust that follows His lead, seeks Him first, and understands His grace. Spirit-Led Parenting, page 41
In our book, my friend Megan and I share the tumultuous stories of how God led each of us through blinding fears to previously-unknown freedom during the first year of motherhood, and how this often-messy journey impacted our homes, marriages, and spiritual lives. Our tear-drenched days and nights spent obsessing over how the “right way” wasn’t working, gave way to the beautiful discovery that there just isn’t a God-given command regarding a one-size-fits-all approach to infant sleep and feeding and other baby-care specifics. What works beautifully with some babies and in some homes is not going to be the answer for others, and what we all have in common is that we are simply asked to follow after the God who calls each of us – and our little ones – His children.

One thing that I see now more than ever before is that God knows me.
He loves me enough to look at my tightly-gripped control and attachment to steady plans and firm answers, and ask me to lay them down.

He was not absent in my early days of motherhood, He was leading. And where He beckoned would mean trusting in Him with my whole heart, not just a portion. Rather than lean back into the perceived safety of my own understanding, He asked me to change my posture altogether.

Lean forward, He said.

Lean forward to fall in love with my baby as a unique creation. To let go of the expectation that she would conform to a cookie-cutter set of behaviors and responses.

Lean forward to hear God’s life-giving whisper through the choking cloud of “you must” and “every baby needs to” and “never do this”. To trust that Maya and I were both intimately known by Him, and both of our needs were covered.

Lean forward into the not knowing. To the discomfort of jumping without a safety net of prescribed answers.

Lean forward toward a mindset that no longer views parenting as something to manage or conquer, but as a journey of faith and trust.

Lean forward and experience motherhood as a vividly hands-on way to know what it truly means to follow Christ’s example as a servant leader.

I know now that drawing back into my own wisdom and expectations brings only heartache. Patience, humility, joy in each circumstance, peace amidst laundry piles and hope throughout weary 3:00 AM feedings? These things are not possible when I’m sitting back and operating out of self, but only through God’s Spirit in me if I will seek Him out and yield to trust. This shift in posture and perspective not only transformed the way I parented my babies, it carried into every area of my life, decimating some ugly habits and revealing the wild and wonderful path into surrendered living.
By giving me the gift of a child who needed me to care for her differently than I had planned, God saved me from myself. In teaching me to release control, He brought freedom to my life. Spirit-Led Parenting, page 203
The freedom was there all along. It just meant learning to lean a new direction.

Laura Oyer is co-author of Spirit-Led Parenting: From Fear to Freedom in Baby’s First Year. She blogs her reflections on the real and ridiculous at In the Backyard, and is a regular contributor at Grace for Moms. Laura and her husband make their home in Indiana with their 8-year-old daughter and 5-year-old son.

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The Grace in "Spirit-Led Parenting"

Before I had my daughter, I did a lot of reading in preparation, since as a first-time mom, I was a legitimate rookie. I’d only changed half a dozen diapers before then and still felt awkward holding any baby who couldn’t hold their own head up.

So, I turned to books. I learned a lot, particularly all the things you shouldn’t do. I took notes, marked pages, and felt ready to take on this motherhood thing.

Then, my baby arrived. And with it, all my good intentions. I was in survival mode and would do whatever it took to stop crying, to settle down for sleep. Which is how I found myself doing all those things I’d vowed never to do because they were the only things that worked.

I felt like what I was doing was right for us, but the problem was that having read all those books, I carried guilt around about how “wrong” I was doing things. I worried about how I was going to right those wrongs later down the road, how my daughter would recover from those mistakes, how messed up I was making her in the process.

Fortunately, it was recommended that I check out another book, but this one was almost the opposite of all the others I’d read. It talked about freedom in parenting, about looking to God (rather than man) for your parenting decisions, and, most comforting to me, about how the authors had done many of the same “wrong” things I had—and everything turned out all right.

The book is Spirit-Led Parenting by Megan Tietz and Laura Oyer. The authors found themselves in the same position I did—torn between following the parenting books and advice and having children who weren’t thriving under those rules or situations that didn’t work out like the books all said they should. Whether it was breastfeeding issues or getting their babes to sleep, their early days as mothers were not easy and ended some days in tears—just like mine.

And yet, they found peace in leaning on God and letting go of all the “shoulds” and “musts” from parenting gurus to trust Him instead. Their book is an encouragement to other mothers who find themselves in similar spots, whose foray into motherhood has been harder than they’d expected and who need more than ordinary books provide.

I read this book while I was in Ohio with Claire, when life had gotten so hard (and she was crying so much) that I needed more help than my husband (who still had to work his full-time job) could provide. What a salve to my soul these women’s words were during that time. It was such a relief to read them and to hear their stories and how hard motherhood had been for them, how they’d cried tears, too. To hear that I was not alone in struggling with this transition of mine.

Even moreso, I found such encouragement as they talked, now a few years into motherhood, about how their children had turned out completely fine and healthy and independent in spite of the “mistakes” they’d made in those early days. That grace truly does extend into every aspect of life, even (especially?) in parenting.

This week, I’m excited to share a guest post by the authors as well as round out the week with a giveaway for some copies of the book. Because Spirit-Led Parenting actually is one of the books I think new moms or moms-to-be ought to read!

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