I’m 35 today. (Cue birthday song and some not-so-paleo birthday cake!)

To celebrate, I wanted to share with you one of my favorite things. (Cue the Sound of Music soundtrack!)

Stitch Fix

Stitch-wha, you ask?

Stitch Fix is an online service which is like your own personal stylist. When you sign up you fill out a detailed style profile to let them know your sizes, preferences, colors or patterns you want to avoid, and styles you might like to branch out into.

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Your stylists chooses 5 items for you and ships them in your “fix”.

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Once you receive your fix you have 3 business days to decide what you want to keep. (I’ve received 3 fixes over the past 5 months and have only returned 2 items which I didn’t like!) If you keep all 5 items, you get 25% off of your order.

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10 Reasons why I love Stitch Fix.

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  • It’s easy. The older I get the less I like to shop for clothes. Going to the mall is a hassle, ESPECIALLY with the kids. (And if I have an afternoon alone without the kids, the mall is not my first choice of places I’d like to be!)
  • It’s convenient. The “fix” comes to me. I keep what I want, and anything that didn’t work out (which hasn’t been much for me!) I put in a pre-paid mailer and stick it in my mailbox. Easy-peasy.
  • I can dress with confidence. I’ve attempted to “branch out” through purchasing a few trendy items on my own, but I just don’t feel as if I can really pull them off. There is great confidence in know that someone thinks this 35 year old can pull off whatever they send my way.

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  • Great way to infuse color and patterns. I have a tendency to purchase plain, solid color items, under the notion that “this will go with anything!” From my fun kelly green bird dress, to my comfy coral-colored blazer, on over to my cerulean blue button down, Stitch Fix has gotten me out of my black and white-rut.

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  • It’s simple. I love that I don’t have to try to figure out what’s in style. My stylist (her name is Alexandra, by the way!) does that for me, keeping in mind the preferences I gave in my style profile. And I must say she has done a fabulous job.
  • It is a HUGE timesaver. I can schedule a fix in a matter of moments. If I have a special event coming up, I can just schedule a fix the week before, instead of trekking to the mall (which for me is 45 minutes away) to scour the clearance racks for hours.

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  • They carry quality items. Again, maybe I’m just getting old, but I’m over the majority of my wardrobe being from Target and Old Navy. I’ve found that the clothes just don’t last — sometimes not even through one season. Boo! And I often find that the items I get from Marshals, Ross, etc. that the seams are not quite straight, or there are other small “variations” that I don’t notice at first, but over time become an issue.
  • I can try on the items with my own clothes. This is one of my favorite things about Stitch Fix. I have the five items in my room, to try on with all of my own clothes. I can see how many outfits I can get out of them … and no standing in the return line!

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  • They send cards with each item to give you ideas on how to wear and accessorize each item. Another helpful tool to get me out of my style-box.

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  • Don’t have to worry about kids looking under the stalls at other women or announcing to the world what color underwear I’m wearing. Enough said.

So, in case you were scouring the internet for the perfect birthday present for me (just kidding … kinda) now you know!

If you want to try Stitch Fix out for yourself, you can sign up here. And if you find that you too love Stitch Fix, you can tell your friends about it and get a referral credit when they receive their first fix! (Yes, that means that if YOU sign up then I get a referral credit to fund my love for Stitch Fix!)

Happy birthday to me!

It’s always here,

It’s always deep.

It never ends.

God’s love is special.

-Max Lucado, The Boy and the Ocean

The Boy and the Ocean, by Max Lucado is beautiful. From the same Illustrator as The Barber Who Wanted to Pray, the pictures are vivid, life-like, with attention-grabbing detail. From the eyes of a little boy, Lucado paints a picture of God’s awe-inspiring love through the imagery of the ocean, the mountains, and the night sky.

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I love books that keep my kids interest with pictures. (Especially my boys!) It is a feat to get them all to sit still together for a book reading; The Boy and the Ocean grabs their attention and allows them to take in the truths about the vastness of God love.

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The Boy and the Ocean is a sweet read, and great introduction for children to learn the truths about God’s great love for them.

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I was given a copy of The Boy and the Ocean by Crossway, in exchange for my review. Opinions stated are all mine. Affiliate links are present.

I recently finished The Explicit Gospel by Matt Chandler. Matt is one of my favorite preachers to listen to because I appreciate his commitment to the Word of God, and his tenacity in preaching it.

It is staggering to me the amount of people who claim the name of Christ don’t truly understand the Gospel. It is often seen as the good news of our conversion—which it is—but many do not understand the fullness of that good news, and how the same gospel carries us through every day of our Christian life.

Chandler hits on so many points on which I wanted to stand up and shout in agreement. I loved this book for more reasons than I have time for in this post, but I especially enjoyed reading this book because my heart resonates with the truths explained within it.

The Explicit Gospel {Book Review}

Here are a few reminders I enjoyed from The Explicit Gospel. (Please note, that this is not an outline of the book, but me summarizing a few of my highlights through the book.)

The gospel is not all about me!

The context of the gospel message is not our benefit or our salvation; the context of the gospel is the supremacy of Christ and the glory of God.  —Matt Chandler, The Explicit Gospel

God was not lonely when He created mankind. He didn’t need us to be complete or to have purpose. Yes, God loves us. Yes, He has purpose in our existence. But it is not all about you and me. The gospel is all about God.

What He has done. What He is doing. What He is going to do.

When God looks at me, He is well pleased because of the gospel.

The marker of those who understand the gospel of Jesus Christ is that, when they stumble and fall, when they screw up, they run to God and not from him, because they clearly understand that their acceptance before God is not predicated upon their behavior but on the righteous life of Jesus Christ and his sacrificial death.  —Matt Chandler, The Explicit Gospel

I don’t have to play the game of the Christian do’s and don’ts. I don’t have to go on mission trips and serve in the nursery. I don’t have to be the perfect mom.

I don’t have to hide when I screw up.

This is HUGE, friends. Christ has already done everything that needs to be done. I have been given the righteousness of Christ! My relationship with God has already been made right.

There is no work I can do to make Him love me more.

There is no sin I can commit that will make Him love me less.

The gospel leads to grace-driven effort, not behavior modification.

Grace-driven effort wants to get to the bottom of behavior, not just manage behavior. If you’re simply managing behavior but not removing the roots of that behavior, then the weeds simply sprout up in another place.  —Matt Chandler, The Explicit Gospel

What ends up happening to so many of us is that we spend so much time trying to put sin to death that we don’t spend enough time striving to know God deeply, trying to gaze upon the wonder of Jesus Christ and have that transform our affections to the point where our love and hope are steadfastly on Christ. The goal is this: that Christ would become more beautiful and desirable than the allure of sin.  —Matt Chandler, The Explicit Gospel

Yes. Just yes.

Grace-driven effort is violent. It is aggressive. The person who understands the gospel understands that, as a new creation, his spiritual nature is in opposition to sin now, and he seeks not just to weaken sin in his life but to outright destroy it. Out of love for Jesus, he wants sin starved to death, and he will hunt and pursue the death of every sin in his heart until he has achieved success. This is a very different pursuit than simply wanting to be good. It is the result of having transferred one’s affections to Jesus. When God’s love takes hold of us, it powerfully pushes out our own love for other gods and frees our love to flow back to him in true worship. And when we love God, we obey him.  —Matt Chandler, The Explicit Gospel

Many of these quotes come from the last chapter of The Explicit Gospel. It is a chapter I wish all Christians would read. I want to photo copy it and have it handy in my purse to hand out to people.

Seriously.

I HIGHLY recommend this book. Regardless of where you are in your faith. Get it. Read it. Highlight it. Then pass it along for someone else to read.

I received a free copy of The Explicit Gospel from Crossway in exchange for a review. All opinions are my own. I loved the book so much that I bought it for my Kindle app…the next-best thing to making copies for my purse.

You can check out more of my book reviews here.

affiliate links present

Embrace.

Hold close, with affection.

Eager acceptance.

There are many things I can embrace, easily. But, to embrace who God has made me—the strengths and the weaknesses—is no small feat.

It seems innate to dislike so many things about who I am.

The bulldozer personality.

That loud voice.

A tendency to be all or nothing and thus give up if surroundings cannot be controlled.

Why is it so hard to believe I am amazing?

I can look at other women and see much greatness about each of them.

She has a gentle, content spirit—one that calms others by just being around her. (Why can’t I just settle down?) When I am around her I feel like I am the only one in the room. (I wish I could be less distracted.)  I love her witty and endearing personality. (I’ve always wanted to be the one who lights up the room.) She has a way with words that is incredible. (I stumble so slowly through this writing thing.)

But, to see me? My strengths? My amazing-ness? (My ability to make up new words.)

That is a struggle.

I’ve never met a woman who found it easy to believe she’s amazing. I’m not talking about the puffed-up pride…I mean “I truly know who I am in Christ, embrace that fully, and live in it completely all the time.” I used to think I had to find a silver bullet that would kill my insecurity and replace it with confidence. I now believe that because we’re all Eve’s daughters, this insecurity is something we’ll face throughout our lives. – Holley Gerth, You’re Already Amazing

From her experience as a licensed counselor, life coach, and a fellow struggling daughter of Eve, Holley Gerth has poured her heart out for us in her book You’re Already Amazing. Holley has a way with words that made me feel as if she was right there with me as I read; she cheered me along and whispered truth to my uncertainty.

Here are a few things I came away with from my time with Holley:

  • Know the Truth. You’re Already Amazing points to Biblical truth about who we are in Christ and, more specifically, how He has also made each of us unique and integral to God’s plan—just the way we are.
  • Live in your strengths. Holley has filled this book with tools to help each of us figure out how God has built us.  From looking at the way we handle our emotions and how we connect with others, to developing a plan for our life that keeps our personality, strengths, and giftedness in mind; Holley encourages us to find and remain in a place that is using our strengths—and also to find a way to recharge for when we cannot.
  • Have a plan for where I want to go, in light of who God has made me.
  • Walk forward in confidence. Quit hoping and striving to be someone I was never intended to be. Pay attention to who I am, right now, and focus on being my best, not someone else’s best.
So if you’ve felt afraid to put yourself out there because you feel less than perfect, because you’re afraid what others might say, then reach out your hands and open your heart, sweet sister. You are already perfectly loved, and you only have to please the One who has already declared you are a delight to his heart. – Holley Gerth, You’re Already Amazing

You know, this bulldozer of a woman can plow through a challenge with energy, determination, and courage.

When in check, the “all in” mentality is a great strength of dedication and loyalty.

And that loud voice? My husband’s first memory of meeting me involves me standing on a chair and shouting. (I promise, there is a story behind that one!)

No one can take your place. God doesn’t have a “plan B” for you. You have gifts to offer the world, ways of connecting that only you can fulfill. – Holley Gerth, You’re Already Amazing
This isn’t about self-improvement. It’s about aligning our lives with love in the way God created us to do. To do that, we need a lot of grace and an approach that makes sense based on who God made us. Every runner has a rhythm that works best for her. You’re the same way. When we set out to make changes, we need to be sure we’re moving to be more of who God made us—not more life someone else. – Holley Gerth, You’re Already Amazing
I hope you’ll check out Holley’s book. It is encouraging, equipping, and enabling for your own journey toward embracing who God has made you to be.
Do you struggle with seeing the truth that you are amazing?

Essentially a commentary on 1 Corinthians 13, Loving the Way Jesus Loves by Phil Ryken is a wonderful portrayal of what it means to love with the love of Christ.

Each chapter in Loving the Way Jesus Loves takes a focused look at the different characteristics of love taught in 1 Corinthians 13. It also views 1 Corinthians 13 through the lens of Christ’s love, and how He exemplified each characteristic of love described in 1 Corinthians.

Love is Not Irritable

I found chapter 3, Love Is Not Irritable, particularly helpful (and convicting!)

When we are irritable, we want to get away from other people—our family members, our neighbors, our classmates, our co-workers—even if it means keeping other people away from Jesus, too. (page 52)

This is how irritability treats other people: by putting what we want ahead of what they need and, if possible, by trying to avoid their needs altogether. The real problem is us, not them. We need to be honest about this, because often we blame the people around us for the way we respond.”He really makes me mad!” we say, as if someone outside of us were directly and totally responsible for our sinful attitude. This is not to say that other people are never annoying. Sometimes they are. But the spiritual issue for me is not how irritating other people are; it is how irritable I am. (page 52-53)

Oh, how I need the love of Jesus to love others more than I do myself!

Christ-Centric Study

Ryken does a wonderful job of pointing us to Jesus with every chapter. I cannot be less irritable, self-seeking, or impatient without the love of Christ. It is His love that is the example I look to, and it is only His love that enables me to love like Jesus.

Jesus never does anything without love. Indeed, his love is everything the Love Chapter says that love should be. It is patient with sinners and kind to strangers. It does not envy or boast but offers itself in humble service. It does not envy or boast but offers itself in humble service. It does not insist on its own way but submits to the Father. It is able to forgive, trust, hope, and persevere…In other words, the love of Jesus is everything that we are not…Jesus is the living perfection of love. (page 178)

I found chapter 10, Love Trusts,very interesting and helpful in understanding how love trusts and how that trust can affect my prayer life. Jesus loved God so much, that He believed all things, even when He hung on the cross, beaten and forsaken.

This is the way that God makes us believers out of us: he gives us his love. The more we experience the Father’s love, the more we will learn to trust him, even in times of extreme need and desperate helplessness. We will learn to pray in faith the way that Jesus did: “Father, into your hands I commit…”

…We pray the same way in our struggle with sin. We may feel defeated by some particular transgression—a repeated sin that the Devil tempts us to think we can never conquer. But the love of God persuades us to say, “Father, into your hands I commit my sanctification. By your love, deliver me from the Evil One and give me your power over this sin!”

…We can pray this way about everything in life:” Father, into your hands I commit my marriage [or my singleness].” “Into your hands I commit my ministry—whatever way you want me to serve you.” “Into your hands I commit the community you have called me to love, with all its problems.” “Father, into your hands I commit my future, with all its hopes and fears.”

There is also a great study guide in the back, making this a great book for a small group discussion.

I really enjoyed this book! Grab your own copy today, you’ll love it!

I received this book in exchange for my review. All opinions are my own.

We have been on a great groove with reading together lately. Everyone is finally old enough to sit still and listen! At bedtime the older two and I are enjoying Farmer Boy. We read a chapter most nights and then briefly discuss what stood out to us about the chapter. 

We read Little House in the Big Woods last summer and we are looking forward to completing the entire Little House series…one day!

Six-Year-Old Book Picks

Great Books for First GradersBooks for First GradeI took Kenneth to the Book Fair at school a few weeks ago, and we picked up the book Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes.

The entire family has loved it so much, we went ahead and ordered Pete the Cat: Rocking in My School Shoes last week, and it is just as cute!

(By the way, we LOVE our Amazon Prime account. Items ordered are shipped for FREE, and very quickly! We live a good 25 minutes away from a mall, Target, bookstores, Best Buy, etc., and many items are actually cheaper on Amazon anyway. We use our account almost weekly to purchase items we cannot get in town—and that is one less errand we have to run!)

Great Toddler Board Books

These are my almost-two-year-old’s favorite books lately:

Great Toddler Board BooksGreat Toddler Board BooksI Love You Through and Through is fun to read, snuggle, and tickle through.

I adore Big Red Barn. There are so many details in the illustrations to pay attention to. We like to follow the butterfly through the first part of the story. We also like to add barnyard noises for each animal.

I think I found Go to Bed, Fred when we lived in Atlanta. Pretty sure I got it in a thrift shop, in new condition! Michael loves this book. It is a fun, quick read with cute rhymes and fun pictures. Looks like it is out of print, but there are used copies for about $4 on Amazon.

Favorite Post From Last Week

Loved this post from Sarah Mae:

“Everyone’s children yell. Everyone’s children have conflict. Everyone’s children spill milk, pee in their bed, and ask a million questions when your head is about to explode. And sometimes, you do explode.

Cut yourself some slack, mama.

You are normal. You are kind of a mess (but not all mess). You are not alone.”

via Stretching into Blue.

What books or blogs have you been enjoying lately? 

Looking for a way to tell your children about the reason behind why we celebrate St. Patrick’s Day?

real reason for St. Patrick's Day
real reason for St. Patrick's Day

 

The Real Reason for St. Patrick’s Day

Besides being a fun reason to wear green and pinch those who don’t, it is a celebration of a man of God who sacrificed all for the sake of the gospel. Hands down, the best book for telling the true story of St. Patrick’s Day is The Story of St. Patrick: More Than Shamrocks and Leprechauns.

This is a great book to read for family worship time together, as it will certainly bring up some good conversations about a heart for the lost, and sacrifice for the sake of others and their salvation.

Highly recommend this book! You can read more about The Story of St. Patrick book in last year’s post.

Fun Ideas for St. Patrick’s Day

We had all sorts of fun with the color GREEN last year! A quick trip to The Dollar Store and we were set with fun accessories! We ate pistachio pudding (yummie!) and green macaroni and cheese (just add green dye to the water when you boil the noodles.)

Green food, St. Patrick's, fun with kids

real reason for St. Patrick's Day

real reason for St. Patrick's Day

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

How do you celebrate St. Patrick’s Day? 

Any books to share?

“…when his love is all that surrounds you and all that contains you and all that you contain, then life is a whole new ball game. What was down is now up, what was death is not life, what was less is now more, and what was weakness is now strength; there is no more death for you. It is all nothing but life. No one can kill you when you are already dead.” —Die Young: Burying Your Self in Christ, Micheal and Hayley DiMarco

Wow. I’m not sure about you, but when I read this, I am intrigued. What do Michael and Hayley DiMarco mean by this?

Hayley and Michael make some strong claims in this book. That if we die to self, we actually obtain real life. If we become weak, we become strong. Really, they are not the ones making these claims—these truths are all over scripture.

There is so much about the Christian life that is up-side-down. In Die Young: Burying Your Self in Christ, the DiMarco’s have done a fabulous job helping us understand the up-side-downness of the gospel—and how it give us joy and hope for growth in our day-to-day walk with God.

Die Young, DiMarco, Book Review, crossway

One of my favorite things about this book are the “Here Lies” sections. Peppered throughout the book are stories—confessions, really—of Micheal and Hayley’s journey of dying to self. They share some deep, honest past and current struggles. I appreciate that. Their stories give me courage to live out my own sin-stained story, and to strive for more of this dying-life.

In Die Young, you will receive practical, applicable truths for our journey of sanctification and the fight against our flesh—the left-over old self in us that craves to do what is against God.

Here is a peek at all this book holds:

Death is the new life.
“There is a death that comes that isn’t meant to destroy you but to destroy that in you which was never meant to replace the hand of God in your life.”

Down is the new up.
“…it takes a strong redirecting of our minds to put us back on thinking more like sinners saved by grace than royalty destined for only the best of things.”

Less is the new more.
“…the less we treasure, cherish, and worship here in earth, the more our hearts yearn for the things of heaven, that is, God and his will.”

Weak is the new strong.
“As you come to accept the things you can’t do, you learn to rely on the One who can.”

Slavery is the new freedom.
“The self that we all have can either be an empty vessel ready to accept the life of Christ into it, a temple to his holy Spirit, or it can be occupied with more human things—self-will, self-effort, self-dependance, self-esteem, self-importance. All of these focus on the little god inside of us rather than the true God above us.”

Confession is the new innocence.
“When you die young you are honest about sin because you care less about your own life and standing than you do about God and his standing.”

Red is the new white.
“To belabor your sinfulness is to ignore the blood that cleanses you from all unrighteousness. When we die young we die to our right to hold onto the memory of our sins…”

Dying Young is available for purchase now, and will be released on January 31.

I was given a pre-released copy of Die Young in exchange for my review. All opinions stated are my own.

Read more of my Crossway book reviews.

I have grown to truly enjoy reading with my kids. I used to dread it, when they asked me to read a book. I think it was because THEY NEVER SAT THROUGH THE WHOLE BOOK. Anna typically would kick the book out of my hand, thinking it was hilarious. Kenneth would sit for—I don’t know—like 2.3 seconds, and there I was, left holding a torn up book, red-faced and yelling at my kids for not sitting still.

We’ve had a few years to get used to this whole sitting down and reading a book thing, and I dare say we are all getting pretty good at it.

A recent favorite of our has become The Barber Who Wanted to Pray.

The Barber Who Wanted to Pray is a delight to read and it is beautifully illustrated. As a family, we have enjoyed reading it over and over.

This children’s book, written by R.C. Sproul hits on an area that both children and adults need development in—prayer. The Barber Who Wanted to Pray tells an engaging tale of Martin Luther and how he came to write the classic little booklet A Simple Way to Pray; leaving children and adults with a practical guide to prayer.

I love the discussion this book has provided about prayer, church history, and family devotion time. Our oldest, Kenneth, used to be pretty eager to pray with us, but now that he is getting older he has become more inhibited. I think it is because he is a perfectionistic rule-follower like his mama, and he feels he is not good at praying—so he doesn’t want to do it aloud. (I think more than a few adults feel this intimidation as well.) As we continue to read this book, my prayer is that he can grasp the simple model for praying shared.

The Barber Who Wanted to Pray is a beautiful read and a great family resource.

I was given a copy of The Barber Who Wanted to Pray by Crossway, in exchange for my review. Opinions stated are all mine.

PhotobucketAs a college minister I saw them; the kids who grew up in church. Some of them where found running as far away as possible from organized religion. Exhausted and disillusioned, they had stepped down from the hamster wheel. They had realized all their efforts to keep up with becoming a good person were futile, so why not just have fun? Others had kept up with the pace on the wheel, yet I found many of these students to be arrogant, unteachable, and saw no need for discipleship.

Every once in a while there was a gem among the students. A young adult that got it. Grace. Jesus. Discipleship. They had a love for God that was evident in their life. They had a heart for the lost souls in their dorm room. They hungered for the word of God and longed to know how to study it better. Were they perfect? No. But they clung to Christ when they failed.

I long for my children to avoid the hamster wheel. I want them to get that Christ has been perfectly obedient for them and they can rest in what He has done for them. I want to discipline them in love, and guide them towards Jesus. However, when my toddler is screaming and flailing uncontrollably, or I’ve caught my child in a lie, my main thought is “how?”

Give Them Grace, by Elyse M. Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson, offers words of practical help to bridge this gap. How to show the Gospel in the everyday. Giving them boundaries for living; all the while giving them grace.

Here are ten reasons to love Give Them Grace.

  1. This is not another book full of parenting rules to follow. Instead, it focuses on grace-filled interactions with our children and a greater dependance on the Holy Spirit to guide our parenting.
  2. It is full of grace-filled truths for the weary parent. God is in control; through our best (yet still insufficient) efforts, as well as through our failures. Only God can bring heart change.
  3. It brings biblical clarity to our ultimate purpose as parents.
  4. There are practical sample conversations peppered throughout the book, which help put feet to what this might look like with my own children.
  5. There is an emphasis on the role of prayer in our parenting, including a look at some biblical models for shaping our prayers.
  6. It addresses gray areas such as how our kids dress, who we allow them to be friends with, and what movies to let them watch. It provides us with biblical principles to help guide our decisions.
  7. Give them Grace offers continual reminders that our own walk with the Lord matters.  How we relate to Jesus will affect our parenting and ability to give our children grace.
  8. It tackles the balance of God’s sovereignty and our own role as parents.
  9. Chapter 4: Jesus Loves All His Little Prodigal and Pharisees. This chapter is amazingly good. It looks at the hearts of both the “good little girl” and the little rebel, and well as the role our own confession of sin has to play in how we parent both types of child.
  10. There are great application questions at the end of each chapter, which have an emphasis on listening for what the Holy Spirit might be trying to do in our lives.

Give Them Grace helps us look at how to parent, if all we had was the Bible. Only God’s grace can change the hearts of our children. Only through Jesus’ righteousness can our children be right in God’s eyes. When they disobey, point them to Jesus. When they obey, celebrate with them that they were able to obey, because of Jesus.

“Parenting with grace isn’t another set of rules for you to follow. It’s a story that you’re to rejoice in. Share the story with your children. Show them the Savior. Show them Jesus. Dazzle them with his love.”

Disclosure: I am a reviewer for Crossway books. I was given a copy of Give Them Grace in exchange for my review of the book. All opinions here are my own.