Fathers and Grace

earlymorningmama:

I wrote this post last year in the days leading up to Father’s Day. As I reflect on the very great gift my dad is to me this Father’s Day, I wanted to share it again.

Originally posted on earlymorningmama:

I remember the day my father apologized to me. It was probably about ten years ago now. He and I had both been working hard at our relationship that was hard to work. It had been that way for a long, long time. Through the years, we kept on keeping on with the gritty task of restoring a relationship that had been broken. Lots of dinners and lunches out with slow conversations as we struggled to acquaint ourselves with each other. I say acquaint because although there had been no real lapse in our relationship time-wise, we had ceased knowing each other in the way you cease knowing someone when you hold on too long to an idea of who that person is that doesn’t fit them anymore. So to say that Dad and I were getting reacquainted doesn’t quite fit because neither of us were at all who we…

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Mind vs. Heart

The sky opens wide and finally it rains.  The kind of rain so heavy that you can’t see to drive.  The thunder is constant, low and rumbling in the background.  It’s been threatening all week – this storm – the air so heavy and full of moisture that it has slowed just about everything down to a crawl.  I’ve had the feeling all week that I’m slowly walking straight into an impending storm.  So when the sky opened up about an hour ago, I thought, “Finally.  Come on then!  If you’re going to rain, then rain already.”

There’s a pile of laundry on the den floor, impending weekend visitors to prepare for, and a pre-school graduation ceremony looming in the very near future.  There’s so much that I need to be doing.  But instead, I sit here at my computer for the first time all week in a desperate attempt to put words to thought.  What you’re reading is my last-ditch attempt to make sense of all the partially formed ideas, thoughts and notions that I’ve been wrestling with all week.  I’ve been wrestling all week and as the end approaches, I just want to be done.  I want to shake this tough week off and salve my injuries without doing the hard work of making sense of the battle.  But I sit down to write out these jumbled thoughts because I need to push through the fog and seek Him for clarity.  He must have something to say through this mess of a week.

This week my beliefs collided with reality.  And things got messy.

An opportunity for a free mammogram through my husband’s work two weeks ago turned into two additional mammograms early this week.  Although the first radiologist “wasn’t concerned,” I guess he was at least a little concerned, because he advised additional imaging…and then still more imaging after that.  Still too young to even “need” a mammogram, I thought my going in for the opportunity of a free one was nothing more than due diligence, so I was taken aback by the report that I was going to need additional imaging.  I thought, “Wait.  I wasn’t even supposed to need this imaging.  This is just my due diligence, people!”

“I don’t think there’s any reason for concern, Mrs. Lacy, but I’d feel better if we has some additional imaging.”

I plastered on a smile that showed no teeth and nodded, “Of course.  Whatever we need to do.”

And that’s exactly what we did – whatever we needed to do.  By 10am on Tuesday morning, after 2 rounds of additional imaging, the radiologist’s initial assertion that there was “no need for concern” came to full fruition and I walked away from Texas Women’s Hospital with “no need for concern” (but really, this time).  Apparently, that’s just how my boobs were built.  I was fine.

Except I wasn’t.  I was shaken.  I walked out of that hospital feeling feeble, weak and exhausted and I couldn’t figure out why.  Wasn’t I supposed to be “more than a conqueror?”  So where was that strength of mind and peace of soul that I had expected?  It had never shown up.  I had prayed for the Lord’s presence, assurance and comfort, yet came out on the other side unable to point to God’s involvement in any of it.  I was stumped.  Had I done something wrong? Had I auto-piloted right through that situation and missed God in the midst of it?  Or had God just stood me up?  Had He just not shown up when I needed Him?

(Thus, the ensuing wrestling that I alluded to earlier.)

Cue the internal dialoguing:  “What was that, Lord?  Where on earth did that even come from? And where were you during all that?”

When what I believed about God collided hard with the hard reality of my life, for a moment my reality became greater than Him. And as I’ve wrestled this week, working hard to distinguish my emotions from the real state of affairs, He has been faithful to pave the very road I’ve been walking with some truths I can stand on…

Your unawareness of my control doesn’t take me out of control. 

Your inability to “feel” my love, my concern, my compassion for you, doesn’t negate it’s existence.

Your unawareness of my presence doesn’t make me any less present.  

Now there’s the truth that trumps all my realities.  No, God had not been absent in any of this.  But my expectations regarding what He would do for me this past week were way off. I was expecting that His presence in the situation would make me feel strong, capable and able to deal with whatever the “additional imaging” might throw my way, but what God’s presence in the situation really did was allow me to be weak.  My weakness, my feebleness, my exhaustion this week were His gifts to me. They reminded me once again I’m not the strong one here, God is.  I don’t have to be “alright”, “ok”, or “fine” all of the time.  As much as I may believe to the contrary, I’m not the one who is actually holding everything together.  I can crumble and the whole thing still stand.  When that little truth finally settles down deep in my soul, it’s going to be a game-changer, I’m sure.  He’s working to take me there.

I was also reminded of the battle that God warned us we were going to have to constantly fight.  A battle of the Heart vs. the Mind.  When what I know to be true about God misaligned with what I was feeling this week, those fickle feelings of mine tried to convince me that God had bailed on me.  Thank God, I know better.  But for a split second as I wallowed in the emotion of how I was feeling, I gave my mind the opportunity to follow my heart.  My deceitful heart.  I allowed my emotions to dictate my reality, and failed to realize that instead, they were leading me away from it.  My emotions do not have the reputation of speaking truth, so I needn’t give them a microphone.  Ladies, our feelings and emotions don’t get to dictate who God is, or who we are to Him.  He does not change, regardless of how we feel.  

It’s time for our minds to step up and take the reigns from our hearts.  It’s time for what we know to be true about God to carry more weight than what we feel about Him or of Him or from Him at any given moment.  The heart contradicts itself constantly, so we must guard it vigilantly with what we know to be true about God.  The heart lies, so the mind must know.  And thanks to this mess of a week, my mind knows just a little bit better than it did before.

Mind vs. Heart

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? I, the Lord, probe into people’s minds. I examine people’s hearts. Jeremiah 17:9-10

By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him; for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything.  1 John 3:19-20

Linked up today at #TellHisStory

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Listening for Common Ground

Last Saturday night I stood on a stage in front of more than 100 people with nothing but a podium, a microphone, and some words I had written separating me from a room full of strangers. Blinded and a bit disoriented by the harsh stage lights, my words came slow at first. Hands ice-cold and clammy, voice caught in the back of my throat, I silently repeated the mantra taught by my college public-speaking professor: It doesn’t matter that you’re nervous. Just pretend that you’re not. Three or four sentences in, I found my pace, hit my stride, got lost in the telling of my very own story. The more I talked, the more it became clear that I was actually being heard. A room full of people listening to my telling: A story of my fears and inadequacies, culminating in a loss of control and ending with a hard fought resignation. Heads nodding, breath bated, sighs of relief and tears of understanding. I guess in my story some of them recognized their own.  Common ground was discovered lying right there beneath that story.

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In seven years, 1 month and 23 days of motherhood I have already gained a lifetime of stories. Yes, these three boys of mine have armed me with an arsenal of tales. Tales of hilarious predicaments – bedtime, bathtime and dinnertime shenanigans galore. Stories of those near-perfect moments of pure love and joy; the newborn asleep on my chest, breath heavy and even; the chubby toddler hand curled up inside my own; the gaping, toothless smile of my six year old climbing into the backseat of our car. Everyday is a story of it’s own. Some beautiful. Some heartbreaking. In some, I shine – the mother every child wants – loving, gentle and self-assured. In others I stumble, falter, and fail – too frail in my own abilities to help grow them in theirs. Story upon story, each one builds upon the next until you get a whole life out of the beautiful mess of those jumbled stories.

These stories make us who we are. It’s a part of the human experience to share these stories with one another. This is how we make sense of the world. This is how we find our place in the world. We tell our stories. Truth be told, though, my preference is to tell my stories over a cup of coffee. With a close friend. Or a like-minded sister. It’s safer this way. I risk much less. Little stands to be lost in the type of environment where you are known and loved and people assume the best of you and your motives. But last Saturday, I stood beside ten other story-tellers and together we threw caution to the wind. One by one we took our place behind a microphone that amplified our stories and risked a little bit of ourselves in the hopes that something might be gained. And we had every reason to believe that it would.

In the months prior to last Saturday night, the eleven of us had dared to do exactly what we were asking of the audience that night – we had dared to listen for common ground.

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The thing about common ground is that it almost always exists, but it can be oh so difficult to spot. We’re prone to pile our differences up over and on top of it. When I walked into the first rehearsal for Listen To Your Mother at the end of March, there was not too much common ground in sight – and believe me, I was looking. A room full of strangers, each one of us varied. Accents and personalities galore. From reticent to unruly, our motley crew ran the gamut of dispositions. Yet despite our differences, we sat in a tight circle and one by one made our way to the front of a much smaller audience to read the words that revealed a portion of each of our lives. And somewhere in that process of telling and listening we unearthed an entire mountain of common ground.

And I, the type-A, perfectionist, control freak mama of 3 boys found common ground

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with a woman who had been a mother since she was 12 years of age.

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with a man who shares his mother’s temper.

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with a mama who raised a criminal.

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with a daughter of a fruitcake.

Lauren LTYM

I could go on, but I guess you get the picture.

We shared and we listened, we laughed and we cried, we formed a bond that we extended with open hands to a much larger audience just last Saturday night. Perhaps most importantly, we learned that when you take the time to really listen to someone’s story you judge less and love more. And that, my friends, is no small thing.

Tell your story.  Someone is listening.

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Find out more about Listen To Your Mother show here.  And be sure to check out the South East Texas show’s page here to hear from some of the the other speakers and directors from this year’s show.

Today is not about you, Mom.

earlymorningmama:

I wrote this post last Mother’s Day. A whole year later and I’m still reminding myself that it’s not about me (no, not ever) – not even on Mother’s Day.

Originally posted on earlymorningmama:

One year ago today my husband and I got into one of the biggest fights of our marriage (top 10, at least).  The fact that it just so happened to be Mother’s Day only added insult to injury.  Although the fight had nothing at all to do with Mother’s Day, it being Mother’s Day didn’t help his case any, in my opinion at least.  After all, it was mother’s day.  I, his wife, was also the mother to his three small children.  What possible beef could he have with me on the day designed specifically to celebrate me, a mother?!

A full 365 days later, we can laugh about that day, but at the time, I assure you I was not laughing.  It was a lousy day.  We couldn’t even pull it together enough to get to church, where I most likely would have been publicly applauded for my…

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On Being a Mother (to the women who aren’t)

The villagers ceased in Israel; they ceased to be until I arose; I, Deborah, arose as a mother in Israel.  Judges 5:7

Almost immediately upon becoming a mother, a part of my heart turned to those women who weren’t.  As surely as my heart grew soft and tender toward the child in my arms, so it has grown toward the women who would never be described by that word – mother.

The women whose bodies cannot conceive or bear children.

The women who have lost children.

The women whose life calling does not include having children.

There are so many different names and faces that come to mind as I write this.  It would be impossible to detail each of their nuanced situations here, but I pray that their stories echo through these words nonetheless.  These past years, my life has been inextricably bound to the lives of these women.  I have hugged their necks, they have held my children.  They have worried over my babies’ bumps, bruises and runny noses, I have prayed over their early pregnancies, miscarriages and stillborn children.  They have championed my causes, dreams and callings, I have applauded them in theirs.  In and through all this, these women have imparted life into the life of my family. And although the world may not grace them with the title of mother, they have taught me so much about what God purposed in motherhood.

My thoughts turn to these women often, but never more so than on Mother’s Day.  On Mother’s Day, more than any other day of the year, we separate women from one another.  On this day we divide mothers from all other women – as if that’s even possible.  The fact is, it’s not.

The first time a woman is given the title of mother is in Genesis 3:20  The man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living. Eve was the first mother.  We know this.  She was the first woman to give birth to a child.  She was also the first woman to experience the searing pain of losing a child.  (Genesis 4:8)  But take note that God counted her as a mother before she had a child.  Eve is given the title of mother in Genesis chapter 3, but it’s not until chapter 4 that Eve conceives and bears a son called Cain.

Eve was a mother before she had a child. 

Think for a moment about the implications that carries.  Eve’s maternal designation came primarily from the fact that she was created a woman, not from her ability to birth children.  Women beautifully reflect a part of God’s nature and character when we take on the maternal role designated for us whether we have physical children or not.  In Genesis, we learn that in order for God to more fully reflect His image, He created man and woman.

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness…So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”  Genesis 2:26

A part of who we are and what we do as women uniquely reflects aspects of our Creator.  Women, like Eve, we were all created mothers.

The Hebrew word for “mother” carries with it the meaning “point of departure or division”.  The word represents a nurturing source from whence those of similar character disseminate.  This goes to the heart of what it means to be a mother.  It goes to the heart of what God purposed in us and for us as women.  In Genesis chapter 17, we see this meaning of mother imputed to Sarah when God says “I will bless her and indeed I will give you a son by her. Then I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her.”  (v.16) While Sarah did go on to give birth to Abraham’s son, Isaac, the meaning of mother in this verse is referring to her as a point of departure.  She shall be a mother of nations.  God began something in and through Sarah that continued well after her death.

Mothers give life – they nurture, they raise-up, they guide, they equip, they encourage, they confront, they protect, they restrain,  they love and then they send out.  These roles are not only fulfilled by the women who have physical children.  The Lord’s mandate for us to be fruitful and multiply extends well beyond the realm of the physical and into the realm of the spiritual.  I can think of no greater example than Deborah, a woman who lived during a day in time when a women’s ability to bear children was paramount.  Although Scripture makes no mention of Deborah having biological children, we know she seized hold of her role as mother by leading the nation of Israel towards God’s protection and provision.  She was a prophet, a judge and a warrior, yet over all these noble titles she places the banner of “Mother”.  She wrote of herself,

The villagers ceased in Israel; they ceased to be until I arose; I, Deborah, arose as a mother in Israel.  Judges 5:7

Under Deborah’s leadership, the people of Israel flourished.  With care and pain, she led Israel back to their God and King.  Under her example, others rose up.  She was a mother.

My point in all this is not to give Mother’s Day the stink eye.  I am a mother – to three amazing boys.  I love being a mother.  I love my mother.  She is beautiful and hilarious and just a little bit mean. (She can’t be blamed for this trait; it was passed down from her own mother).  I love other mothers.  Their very existence encourages me.  It reminds me that I’m not alone in this daunting task I’ve been given.  But we must not push these women who do not have children aside – not even for one single day of the year. Indeed, these women do give life.  We need these women:  They mother too.  Don’t reserve your gratitude on Mother’s Day for only those women with children, but go out of your way to thank the ones who don’t.  Let’s rightly celebrate them on Mother’s Day as well.

On being a mother image

My friend, if your heart is so broken over a lack of physical children that you have opted out of mothering, I beg you to reconsider.  There are so many who need what you do.  God made us mothers before He gave us children.  It is part of who we are.  Do what you do, sweet friend.  The world will experience more of God’s glorious grace because of it.  His very word promises it.

Sing, O barren one, who did not bear;

    break forth into singing and cry aloud,

    you who have not been in labor!

For the children of the desolate one will be more

    than the children of her who is married,” says the Lord.

“Enlarge the place of your tent,

    and let the curtains of your habitations be stretched out;

do not hold back; lengthen your cords

    and strengthen your stakes.

For you will spread abroad to the right and to the left,

    and your offspring will possess the nations

    and will people the desolate cities.

Isaiah 54:1-3

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730 Days

I sat in the grand ballroom of a fancy Houston hotel wearing the nicest clothes in my closet.   Black lace A-line skirt.  Pale pink chiffon blouse.  Patent leather heels.   Chris and I ate dinner and caught up with old friends while images of the barren East African landscape flashed on screens around us.  Mud hut homes with thatched roofs.  Hand dug water wells.  Women balancing bright yellow jerry cans on their heads.

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Every year about this time, Chris and I gather with many of these same people to lend support to Every Village, an organization which spreads the gospel and assists in community development in South Sudan.  We spent 10 days in South Sudan with Every Village in 2011 and the Lord has turned our hearts toward that nation and the organization that took us there ever since. One of the main focuses of this year’s gala was the need for missionaries on the ground in South Sudan.  As I sat in that ballroom and listened to the organization ask for people willing to commit to two years as long-term missionaries, I decided to take the invitation personally and posed myself a question that every Christ-follower needs to ask:

“Am I willing to go?”

If God asked me to pack up life here in the States and move my family 8000 miles away to be a missionary in one of the least developed nations in the world, would I be willing to go?  I honestly didn’t even have to think about it too hard; the answer was yes.  Deciding I needed to make the announcement formal, I told God as much right then and there.  I resolutely said (out loud in my head), “God, If you call us to South Sudan, I’ll go.”

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Maybe I was fooling myself, sitting in that nicely air-conditioned ballroom with a plate of unfinished dessert in front of me.  Maybe I’m still fooling myself, sitting in my suburban home typing away on my Mac, but I don’t think that I am.  Here’s why…I’ve experienced the peace that comes from obeying the Lord in the difficult places.  I’ve seen His faithfulness in my life.  I understand the reality of a heart and life transformed by His love.  Perhaps I’m being naive, but if He called me to go, I believe I would go.

As I sat there contemplating the notion of even the possibility of such a call, I began considering the implications that such a shift would carry.  Two years of my life.  730 days.  What on earth might the Lord be able to do in me if I could say yes to those 730 days?

If I could leave my comforts behind?

If I could train my eyes steadfastly on my King and His kingdom?

If I could love His people more than I love myself?

What might He accomplish if I would do those things for 730 days?  By the time we left the gala that night I had settled the issue in my heart.  I was ready to pack up our boys and whatever pieces of our lives that would fit into a few plastic crates and make haste.  As we climbed into the car to head home, I turned to my husband, “So what do you think?  Should we go?”  He looked confused for a second as if he wasn’t quite sure what I was referencing.  When the realization of what I was saying dawned on him, he shook his head without skipping a beat.  Smiling at me he said, “Nope.  That’s not our place.”

He was sure of it.  Confident of his answer.  And he was right.

God’s call on our lives is not long-term missions in South Sudan (at least not at the moment).  God was not asking us to sell our home, store our things, quit our jobs and leave our extended family.  I know this.  However, I was somewhat disillusioned nonetheless.  All that mental brouhaha, the emphatic, “Yes, God, I will go for you!”, (whilst scenes of Isaiah 6 played themselves out in my head, starring me as the heroine, of course) and God hadn’t even made the call.  It was a spiritual false start.  All the possibilities those 730 days held dropped with a thud and kicked up a cloud of disappointment that lingered in the air.  I breathed it in and exhaled it out.  I wanted those 730 days.  I was positive that those 730 days could change me, maybe even the whole world.

It’s now days later and that number is still rattling around in my head (730 days, 730 days, 730 days), but the disillusionment has cleared and here’s what I know. The fact is that God has called me to those 730 days.

He has called me to leave my comforts behind.

He has called me to train my eyes steadfastly on my King and His kingdom.

He has called me to love His people more than I love myself.

But He has called me to do all those things right here.  Right now.  Right where I am – amidst 3 young children running amok, as a stay-at-home mom, wife, would-be writer and hopeful Bible-study teacher.  He is asking me to live those 730 days in the exact place He has already called me to be.

Which leads me to the next question that every Christ-follower needs to ask, “Am I willing to stay?”

Although going is huge, there’s no winning if you don’t stay.  Life is lived in the staying.

Maybe you can relate…some part of me wishes for the clarity of a call that I couldn’t deny, such as…I don’t know…missionary work in South Sudan, or whatever.  Because maybe then, if I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt what God’s one, big, grand calling upon my life was, then somehow all the other pieces would fall into place.  Maybe once I was comfortably positioned in the pocket where He wanted me, I would struggle less and be content more.

The problem with that theory is that God doesn’t exactly have the reputation of one who positions those He calls comfortably.  (Think Daniel in the den, Isaiah naked in the streets of Jerusalem, Paul in chains, John in exile.)  The truth is, comfort doesn’t breed contentment, it breeds boredom.  So I’ll choose to sit uncomfortably in the calling to which I’ve already been called (stay-at-home mom to 3 young boys, wife, would-be writer and hopeful Bible-study teacher), and I’m hoping you will, too. Listen, friends, the most challenging call for you to live out is always the one to which you’ve already been called. I’m sitting dead-smack in the middle of where God has called me to be and although it isn’t South Sudan, it gets uncomfortable here.  I doubt, I second guess, I question, “Really, God?  Am I doing this right?  Is this where you want me to be?  Are you sure you want me here?

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And with His yes, I’ll give these next 730 days to Him from right here where I already am. Since He’s called me to stay, I’ll stay…for at least another 730 days.  And who knows?  Maybe in that time He could change me.  Maybe He could change the whole world.

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Linked up today at #TellHisStory

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The Gospel-Centered Mom: Book Review

Let’s get the first and most obvious reason I adore this book out of the way right now: It comes with it’s own pen.

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I repeat…This book comes with it’s very own pen.  Come on, people!  Those who know me well know that I am a sucker for well placed organizational tools.  When I first laid eyes on this pen, I may have squealed with excitement.  Obviously, this Gospel-Centered Mom lady knows her audience well enough to understand that finding a pen at the exact moment we need it is one of the constant struggles of our lives.  I was only a few pages into the book when I read something I wanted to underline – “There is only one response to the gospel: gratitude…Obedience is an act of thankfulness, not a payment on a debt.”(p.13) Yes!  Certainly a sentence worthy of underlining, but practically speaking, I needed a pen first.  I felt a familiar panic rising within me as my eyes darted around our office, where pens should live in abundance, but come to disappear instead.  Seeing as I read in two-minute increments in between trouble-shooting my children’s problems, I did not presently have time to spare for a pen-hunt. But wait. What’s this?! Lo and behold, I had a pen right there!  Attached to the very book I was reading – just waiting to be of service.  I may have squealed again.  I mean, a book that comes with it’s very own office supplies?  Perfection.

Now that the ingenious idea of the attached pen has been sufficiently applauded, let’s dive into some of the more substantive areas of the book.

The first thing I appreciate about Sara Wallace is quite simply this; she gets it. (As evidence by the inclusion of the pen, which I have already discussed ad nauseam.) This is a women who had four babies in four years.  All boys.  Hats off to you, Mrs. Wallace. I had three boys in four years and there were days when I was sure I was going to die.  I assure you, this is not an exaggeration.  Had a brand new baby infant been thrown into that crazy mix at any point along the way, I’m fairly certain the children would have overtaken me.  As far as credibility goes, our girl Sara’s got it.  This is a lady who understands what it is to live in the trenches of motherhood.

When you add Sara’s experiential credibility to her adept understanding of the simplicity and intricacy of the gospel message, you get a book that meets Christ-following mamas right where they are and gently points them to the sufficiency of a Savior who is right there, too. In The Gospel-Centered Mom, Sara Wallace explores motherhood with heartfelt realism – not from a place of Pinterest perfection, but from a place of gospel accessibility. She explains the simple beauty of the gospel and seamlessly applies the truths of that message to motherhood and parenting in a way that will change the way you think about and do motherhood on a daily basis. There was not a sentence in this book that I did not need to hear, or a long-known truth that I did not need reiterated.

One of the things that struck me most deeply about this book was that Sara’s concern seems not only to be for the hearts of our children (although that is such a worthy cause in and of itself), but for the hearts of their mamas as well. As Sara says, “When the grace of the gospel is at the forefront of our minds it will be at the forefront of our parenting.” (p. 49)

Mamas of littles, this book definitely deserves a place on your bedside table. My suggestion? Grab a gaggle of mommy-friends and pick one day a week to meet in someone’s living room for a Gospel-Centered Mom bible-study play-date. That’s right, don’t even worry with childcare.  Bring your little mess-makers along and you mamas dive into this book over the noise. As Sara so beautifully points out, “The Bible isn’t just for times of stillness. It’s for real life.” (p. 50) And who knows? Perhaps the chaos of life with young children will put you in the perfect position to understand the beauty of the gospel even better.

So what are you waiting for?! Buy Sara’s book here.  This would be such a sweet gift for mother’s day or a baby shower.  But before you do, I have a copy she sent me to give away to one of you! (Another squeal!)  Comment below for a chance to win.

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