Never Alone

JESUS IS THE ONLY ONE

 

Alone again. That’s what she must have thought as she walked to the well all by herself that day.

But she wasn’t alone for long. Jesus was there. Yet, she didn’t know who He was and she couldn’t help but wonder why He was talking to her, a Samaritan woman.

When He spoke, she heard gentleness in His voice. 

Kindness and humility in His simple request for a drink.

In His eyes she saw acceptance, not judgment. Love, not hate.

Many of us know her as the Samaritan woman, but I like to call her Sam to make her feel more like the real woman she was. A woman who struggled with hurt, rejection, and loneliness.

Jesus was on His way to Galilee that day, but Scripture tells us “He had to go through Samaria” {John 4:4}. Yet theologians would tell us Jews considered Samaritans to be the scum of the earth and would do everything to avoid them by traveling around Samaria — but not Jesus.

He had to go through Samaria. Perhaps it be because He knew Sam would be there.

Women normally traveled together to the well, in the cool of the day, to avoid the heat of the sun since they carried heavy jars filled with water back to their homes. But Sam went by herself.

Many believe that instead of avoiding the scorching heat of the sun, she went to the well at noon to avoid the scorching pain of others’ rejection and judgment. Sam had been married five times, and was living with a man who wasn’t her husband.

When Jesus met her, Sam was running an errand, and running from those who knew of her failures, shame, and imperfections. Pursuing her with His perfect love, Jesus timed it so she would run into Him.

He initiated conversation and asked her for the one thing she had to offer, water. It wasn’t much, but it was a start.

Sam stopped and listened. She let Him speak words of assurance and acceptance into the broken, insecure, empty places of her heart.

Jesus intentionally pursued Sam in one of the loneliest parts of her day and in the same way, He is there in the midst of our sometimes lonely, imperfect lives. He is there when our disappointments and failures leave us empty and make us doubt our worth and purpose. (keep reading here)

I don’t know about you, but this summer I have had many days when I felt alone and just need to know someone sees me. Knows me. Pursues me. Jesus is showing me, He does. Let’s keep talking about this over on the inCourage blog, where I’m hosting today’s conversation and praying for friends like you in our online community. Join me there. 

When You Feel Like You Can’t Measure Up

Welcome friends! I have some awesome giveaways for you, and a beautiful FREE printable bookmark packed with God’s truths about you! Keep reading to find out more…

Do you ever compare yourself to other women and feel like you don’t measure up?
Maybe you feel think you’re not as smart, pretty, fun, organized or as good at _______ as they are.

I’m sharing my heart over at P31 today about how easy it is to think that if we had more or knew more, we’d be secure. But the truth is, even people who have it all still struggle with feelings of insecurity. The Bible opens with teh story of a woman who had everything but it still wasn’t enough (Genesis 2).

Even though God established Eve’s worth as His child; the crown of His creation and lavished her with gifts of intimacy, beauty, security, significance, and purpose – it wasn’t enough. Satan convinced Eve to take her eyes off what she did have and focus on what she didn’t have.

Have you also heard Satan’s whispers, saying  you’re not all you could be — or should be?

Just like Eve, you and I have an enemy. The Bible calls him the father of lies, and tell us there is no truth in him (John 8:44). Interestingly, the meaning of the word lie  is “a falsehood with the intent to deceive.”

Satan doesn’t just lie. He has intends to deceive us by getting us to take our eyes off of who we are and what we have in Christ. It’s exactly what he did with Eve:

“Then the eyes of both [Adam and Eve] were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.

Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, ‘Where are you?’

He answered, ‘I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.’” (Gen. 3:7–11)

In response, God asks who told them they were naked. In other words, “Who told you that something is wrong with you? By asking this, God made sure they knew someone was casting shame on them—and it wasn’t Him. 

The enemy whispered lies into their hearts, causing them to move away from Him and from each other.

Satan’s intent for us is exactly the same as it was for Eve. He wants us to believe his deceptions and fall into the distraction of feeling inadequate, insecure and like we’ll never measure up. But we don’t have to go along with him. Instead we can pray, “Lord, help me recognize Satan’s lies, refuse his temptations and rely on Your truth about me instead.”

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If we have put our trust in Jesus as our Savior, we can stand on the promises of who we are in Him. And when we are tempted to measure up, we can choose to focus “up” instead as we rely on these truths to remind our hearts of who you are in Christ.

I am accepted . . .

  • I am God’s child. John 1:12
  • I have been bought with a price and I belong to God. 1 Corinthians 6:19–20
  • I have been chosen by God and adopted as His child. Ephesians 1:3–8
  • I have direct access to the throne of grace through Jesus Christ. Hebrews 4:14–16

I am secure . . .

  • I am assured that God works for my good in all circumstances. Romans 8:28
  • I am free from condemnation. I cannot be separated from God’s love. Romans 8:31–39
  • I have been established, anointed, and sealed by God. 2 Corinthians 1:21–22
  • I am hidden with Christ in God. Colossians 3:1–4
  • I am confident God will complete the good work He started in me. Philippians 1:6
  • I have been given a spirit of power, love, and a sound mind. 2 Timothy 1:7

I am significant . . .

  • I have been chosen and appointed to bear fruit. John 15:16
  • I am a minister of reconciliation for God. 2 Corinthians 5:17–21
  • I am seated with Jesus Christ in the heavenly realm. Ephesians 2:6
  • I am God’s workmanship. Ephesians 2:10
  • I may approach God with freedom and confidence. Ephesians 3:12
  • I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13

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For MORE ENCOURAGEMENT

    • Want to receive a weekly gift of powerful prayers and God’s promises from my inbox to yours? Enter your email in this box below and you’ll be added to my “Promise & A Prayer” list. {PS. I promise not to share your information with anyone else.}

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ENTER TO WIN the “Contagious Confidence” Give-Away!

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One winner will receive a copy of  my book A Confident Heart  and a beautiful 8×10 “All Things Through Christ” canvas!

 

 

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Plus 3 more winners will be chosen to receive either a set of Confident Heart postcards, a set of 32 Confident Heart scripture cards OR my new 100-day Confident Heart HeartLifter, created by my friends at DaySpring and inCourage!

 

 

ENTER TO WIN by clicking “share your thoughts” below this post and simply share the truth from today’s post/devotion that spoke to your heart most OR which “Who I am in Christ…” promise you’re holding onto today! Your comment will place your name into the drawing to win!

PS. Wanna help make today’s encouragement contagious?
Just click the share buttons below. It’s super easy!

3 Truths To Hold Onto When Our Plans Don’t Go As Planned

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I had it all planned:
when they would all arrive
what I needed to do beforehand
how I wanted my heart to feel when they got here

Not wanting to turn into “the frazzled friend” I can become when planning a get-together, I banned myself from Pinterest and my own desire for “perfect.”

I planned ahead and recruited help from a friend. Together we would be prepared. Simple appetizers and decorations. A few pretty touches. My biggest desire? I just wanted to be ready early, with time to spare and room to breathe.

I wanted to enjoy this night. I wanted to feel calm and happy when guest arrived. I wanted to greet each friend face to face and let her know she was not only welcomed, she was wanted.

But even the simplest of plans don’t always go as planned.
A crisis at work kept my husband from being able to help me get the house clean. Traffic was horrible and my friend/co-host got stuck on the other side of town, unable to come early to help with setup. I was on my own, with three hungry kids piling into the kitchen asking when dad would be home to take them out for pizza.

I was not calm. I was not happy. Things weren’t getting done and I was coming undone.
My kitchen was a mess. Food wasn’t ready. And just as women started arriving, my tech-savvy-son told me our computer wasn’t compatible with our television, which meant streaming the inRL sessions (a highly anticipated part of our evening) was looking like another fail.

Deep disappointment and a slight sense of panic came crashing in.

Why do I even try??  I so desperately wanted to enjoy this night. These friends. And then I remembered…

CLICK HERE to join me on the (in)Courage blog today, where I’m sharing three powerful truths I learned that helped me 1)reset my perspective 2) see my imperfections as a gift 3)enjoy the party!

Your Life Still Counts {guest post & giveaway}

God has a plan for your life and a purpose for your future.

No matter what you’ve been through or what’s been done to you, if you’re still breathing God isn’t finished with you yet!  Sometimes we just need to be reminded. Other times we need to be persuaded to believe it’s true.

In her new book, Your Life Still Counts, my friend and author, Tracie Miles shares how she convinced herself that God couldn’t use her. There were too many things she had done wrong. But over time as Tracie came to know Christ she realized she was the perfect candidate for His transforming power. Through her brokenness Jesus could show off His grace and goodness. The very things Tracie believed  “disqualified” her from ministry are now some of the most impactful parts of her life’s mission and message. Today, I invited Tracie to share some encouragement I think all of our hearts need to hear:

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“Have you ever felt like you had nothing special to offer God? Like maybe He doled out the spiritual gifts to everyone else and forgot to give any to you? If so, I want to challenge you to think again.

God has divinely designed a unique purpose for your life. And, you are the only one gifted to fulfill it! 

But, before we can discover and embrace what God has gifted us to do, we need to do a little looking back instead of just looking forward. The reality is that God has equipped us to minister to others through the experiences of our past.

But most of us don’t want to look back. We want the past to be the past, and keep trudging ahead. We don’t think about mistakes or hurts. We’d rather bury them in our hearts than talk about them with God, much less anyone else.

But when we do that we prevent our faith from fully blossoming, and we get caught up in trying to figure out how our skills and talents might serve God. What if instead, we look back and discover how our life can serve as a shining testament of His power?

We need is more than gift-assessment; we need a life-assessment to help us discover how our journey has equipped us for God’s divine purposes.

With each situation you have experienced or endured, you have been equipped to serve God.

Your experiences have been used by Christ to strengthen you and your faith. And now He is calling you to be an example of what He is capable of doing. Not just a witness for Christ, but a witness of His power in your life. Because your life matters to God, you do have something of great significance to offer Him – and it’s you.

No one can tell your story of healing, redemption, and purpose like you can.

Even if your experience is similar to someone else’s story, your perspective of what happened and your witness to the power of God’s intervention will be different and unique.

Second Corinthians 1:4 says, “He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.” Your experiences do not nullify your purpose in life; they prepare you for the purpose God destined you for. They do not void you from being able to participate in ministry, but instead they equip you for it.

Your life-change, healing, faith walk, and journey of transformation could be the story that reaches the broken heart of someone who has lost hope; someone who feels like their life doesn’t matter; someone who has never believed there is a God.

No one is equipped, trained, or qualified to share your story and your faith journey except you.

You are unique. Your experiences are unique. Your story is unlike any other.

Only you can glorify God through your one-of-a-kind design by bringing comfort to others as you allow your past to become the foundation of your personal ministry. When surrendered to Christ, your past experiences will become your most profound equipping and training.

As we gather with people this Thanksgiving and Christmas, let’s look for opportunities to love on them, share our hearts and our stories, and be open to how God wants to us for His divine purpose to bring hope, comfort and love to those around us. And let’s make our lives count for Christ!

YOUR LIFE STILL COUNTS 

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Enter to Win

We are giving away 4 copies of  Your Life Still Counts! Two of you will win two copies (one to keep and one to give away)! To enter to win, simply share your thoughts about today’s post and let us know who you would give the second copy to! [If you’re reading this via email, please click here to enter to win! All entries must be on my blog under this post.]

 

Messy Beautiful Love

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A guest post from my friend, ~Darlene Schacht, The Time-Warp Wife

Darkness enveloped the sky drawing its curtain around us, while the rumble of thunder composed a symphony of sound that was carried by on the wings of the wind.

It was only 8 pm, but Michael was fast asleep. Stretched out on his recliner by the window, he dozed off while two little puppies wrestled under his chair.

The steady tip-tapping of rain made me want to curl up beside him and fall asleep too, but I had some dishes that needed to be cleared away and some laundry to do for the morning.

I wasn’t surprised to see him sleeping like that. I knew he’d be exhausted after the crazy week he just had. Working overtime every night, he was struggling to catch up at work.

And the weekend? It wasn’t much better. Since he’s been at the shop so much lately, the honey-do list was long and he was determined to get it all done.

He’s a hard worker, there’s no doubt about that. And weeks like this remind me of just how hard he pushes himself when the going gets tough.

There’s a lot of weight on that man’s shoulders. In fact, I can say that about most husbands I know. Even when they aren’t facing deadlines at work, they are dealing with the spiritual and financial responsibilities that come with leading a family.

While many of them appear to have everything under control, most of our husbands would not only appreciate encouragement from us, they would benefit from it.

Any mom who cares for a growing child knows the importance of praise in their children’s life. Not only does it help to build a healthy sense of self-esteem, it also reminds a child that he or she is loved.

In the same way, any wife who cares for her husband will also know the importance of praise in a marriage. It’s vital to a growing relationship.

Matthew L. Jacobson once wrote, “We need your affirmation – we have to have it and, oh, how we thrive with it. Typically, men are quiet about these things but that doesn’t mean we need and enjoy our wife’s affirmation any less. And every man feels it: When his woman is behind him, he can slay dragons.”

Do you realize that there are four verses in Proverbs alone that talk about nagging wives? They are referred to as quarrelsome, fretful, and a continual dripping. If you have ever experienced a leaky roof, you’ll know how annoying that is. We experienced one about 20 years ago in our back porch, and regardless of how many times I emptied the pail it would only fill up again.

That’s the danger with nagging. It becomes a never-ending habit if left unchecked, and unfortunately it festers resentment. Praise on the other hand has the reverse affect. It builds the bond of marriage and draws a couple closer together.

That’s only two of the benefits, but there are so many more. Let’s look at five of them:

  1. When you affirm him, you are affirming your love for him. Knowing that someone loves you deeply strengthens the bond of marriage. Think of it this way: we form the strongest friendships with those that we deeply trust.
  2. When you praise him for the little things he does, it’s more likely that he’ll be encouraged to repeat them in the future.
  3. When I praise my husband, whether it be in his presence or in his absence, we bear witness of our marriage covenant. Keeping in mind that marriage reflects the covenant between Jesus Christ and the church it’s important to honor our vows in the best way we know how.
  4. Kindness is an attractive quality. There’s no possible way a wife can be attractive when she’s constantly nagging her husband. Sure, you can put the pretty on, but unless you’re also attractive it wears thin. There’s nothing appealing about a critical spirit.
  5. He’ll be glad to come home. Let’s face it, the world is tough place. Many of our husbands are dealing with difficult situations at work and need a sense of relief when they walk through the door. Unfortunately, some other husbands are working with women who are building them up outside of the home. If we want a husband who is glad to come home to his wife, we can make him feel welcome by letting him know that we appreciate him, that we respect him, and that we’re glad he is with us.

You are loved by an almighty God,

~Darlene Schacht
The Time-Warp Wife

Check out Darlene Schacht’s newest book, Messy Beautiful Love: Hope and Redemption for Real-Life Marriages

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Messy Beautiful Love delivers an incredible testimony of grace that offers hope for today’s marriages and a spark for rekindling love.

Love gets messy.

Financial problems, sickness, aging parents, a chronically unhappy spouse . . . trials will inevitably come that threaten your marriage. No matter how long you’ve been married or how strong your relationship is, sooner or later you are going to have a mess to clean up.

Messy Beautiful Love is about cleaning up messes God’s way, exchanging your ideas for His, and being prepared for both the best and the worst that marriage has to offer.

When you surrender your relationship to God, then and only then will you experience the blessing of marriage as He intended. This is the blessing of obedience.

Messy Beautiful Love is an invitation to that obedience. The cynical world says marriages don’t last, but God knows better. Tune out the world and tune in to Him. When you do that, a beautiful marriage is not only possible, it’s inevitable.

Want to win a copy?

We’re giving away two copies of Darlene’s book, Messy Beautiful Love. Enter to WIN a copy by clicking “Share Your Thoughts” below this post, and leave us a comment telling us something you love about your husband. We’ll randomly choose two winners. {If you’re reading this via email, click here to ENTER TO WIN by leaving a comment on my blog}

When Self-Doubt Weighs Us Down {a FREE 7-Day Doubt Diet}

7DayDoubtDietDoes doubt or discouragement every weight you down? Are you tired of carrying the heavy load of uncertainty and insecurity?

If so, I hope you’ll sign up for my FREE 7-day Doubt Diet. Created with some of the most impactful parts of my book, A Confident Heart, I’ve written a short devotional for friends like you. My FREE 7-day Doubt Diet is something you can do separate from my book or go through to see if overcoming self-doubt is a topic you want to dig into through my book.

Join me and over 80,000 women from around the world who’ve lost the weight of self-doubt and gained a confident heart! To get started, enter your name & email in my sidebar form--> and you’ll start receiving my 7-day Doubt Diet Devotions today!

 

[If you’re reading this via email, click here to sign up for the FREE 7-day Doubt Diet on my blog.]

What is in The 7-day Doubt Diet?
Filled with daily insights, powerful promises, and daily scripture-based prayers, I’ve written a week’s worth of FREE Confident Heart devotions from my book! It’s perfect to do with a few friends, co-workers, neighbors or family and to make it easy for you to invite them to join you, here’s an easy invite to share on Facebook, Pinterest, Google+ or via email:

Invite a Friend
Do you want to join me in losing the weight of discouragement and self-doubt? Renee Swope, from Proverbs 31 Ministries is offering a FREE “7-day Doubt Diet.” Just click here to enter your information in her sidebar, and you’ll receive a week’s worth of devotions from her upcoming book, A Confident Heart. Let me know so we encourage one another along the way.

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What Women are Saying about The 7-day Doubt Diet

Wow what a wake up call..I have sat for months maybe years filled with doubt. I realize now it had consumed me and was contemplating taking my own life..that is until I heard you on the radio then looked you up and now on day 2 of the 7 day challenge..You have made a difference and changed a life. Thank you! 

“Renee, it’s as if you are speaking straight to my own life! Thank you for sharing your story and offering encouragement for others, like me!”

“As I was reading day 1, I felt like you were writing about me. I, too, have found myself many times not doing things that would have brought me joy because of feelings of not being good enough. I am so looking forward to these 7 days!”

Did you write these devotions especially for me?! Again, today’s was perfect for my life and thoughts. You are either a mind reader or His messenger of words on a topic no one else has dared to speak on before. (I know it’s the second). I love the details with the topic/Bible verses. I’m going to print that out as a reminder until it is etched in my brain. Also, I love how you incorporated the story of Eve! I had never thought of it like that — Eve was tricked into thinking she wasn’t enough… She needed to be more and have more — great point!!! Thank you!

How Are You, Really?

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{Photo source}

Should I be honest? I wondered.

What if I start crying? What if she doesn’t really have time to listen? What if she’s just asking to be nice? 

I could keep it simple and say, “I’m fine.”

There I was, standing in the lobby at church waiting for my husband, when a friend I hadn’t seen in a long time walked up and asked how I was doing. Our 3-year-old had recently been diagnosed with Apraxia, a severe speech disorder, and I was not “fine.”

I was exhausted. I was overwhelmed. I was afraid.

Sometimes it’s hard to let people know how we’re really doing because we don’t want to be high maintenance, right? And it’s easy to believe people don’t really want to know when they ask. Sometimes they don’t.

But what about those times when others sincerely want to know and I still don’t want to tell them? Especially when I don’t have good excuse for not being “fine.”

There are times when I tell people I’m fine even when I’m not, because I want to be.  Or, I hope by saying “I’m fine” that somehow eventually I will be.

Other times I act like I’m fine because I think others expect me to be.

Then there are days when hormones trump all good manners and, if my people are within ten feet, they know I am NOT fine. And if I say I am,  what I really mean is that I’m  Frazzled, Irritated, Neurotic, and Exhausted!

But not in public. Not where others can see the real me.

And that is where I stood that day in the lobby at church. In public, at a pivotal point of decision, wondering… Should I let her know how I’m really doing?

Everything in me wanted to keep my guard up, keep my heart sealed off and my lips sealed tight…

You can keep reading today’s post at the (in)Courage community blog by CLICKING HERE where I’m guest-posting and hanging out today. I’d love to see you there and chat about about being real about how we’re “really” doing. Come on over and share your thoughts!

 

Living #FREE

Freedom. We long for it. We fight for it. We will do anything to get it.

Yet sometimes we forget to live in it!

This weekend while our family celebrated the freedom and independence of our country, I was reminded what freedom means and how easily I take it for granted, especially as a Christ-follower. Yet Jesus said, “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.“John 8:36

In Christ we are free!

  • Free from guilt that weighs us down and sin that holds us back.
  • Free from labels that define us and doubts that limit us.
  • Free from grace-less expectations and obligations.

It was for freedom that Christ set us free. (Galatians 5:1). Let’s take hold of this truth, and LIVE #FREE in the power of HIS promises and the purpose of His plans for our lives!

FREE Books & Conference Calls GIVEAWAY
I’ve been given FREE books and conference calls to give to you!
Just leave a comment under this post and share which one you’d want to win. And if you’d like to enter to win either giveaway, just say “EITHER” and let us know what area of your life you feel like you need to grow the most in {living} free.

 

FREE to Live a Limitless Life in Christ

LL.ConferenceCallGraphicReady to live in the freedom of knowing God isn’t limited by your limitations? If so, ENTER TO WIN {one of two sets we’re giving away} of our new extremely powerful  and fun “Limitless Life” conference-call series, hosted by Proverbs 31 Ministries Online Bible Studies team.

In this 5-part series we learn how to get rid of labels and limits that hold us back so we can live fully in God’s purpose for our lives!

This series’ topics include:

Part 1: “You’re More Than Your Past When God Holds Your Future”
Part 2: “From Mess to Masterpiece”
Part 3: “Losing My Religion, Gaining My Relationship”
Part 4: “Crafting a Life Vision Plan”
Part 5:“Living a Life Without Limits

SPECIAL GUESTS include:
*Derwin Gray, Author of “Limitless Life” and Paster of Transformation Church
*Renee Swope, Author of “A Confident Heart” & P31 Radio Co-Host
*Leslie Nease, Christian Speaker, Author & Season 15 SURVIVOR China Contestant
*Lisa Allen, Proverbs 31 Executive Director of Ministry Training and Christian Life CoacENTER to win one of two sets of CALLs or you can find out more and sign up for the calls here.

 

FREEDOM from Mommy-Guilt

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Do you look at other families who seem so “put together” and wonder why your’s doesn’t isn’t? Does mommy-guilt over your child’s “issues” ever keep you from enjoying motherhood and where your kids are in their journey of growing up?

There have been times when I could answer “yes” to both questions. And during those days or weeks, or months, I miss out on what God has for me as a mom.

One of the best gifts we can give ourselves is GRACE to have an imperfect family and be an imperfect mom. And one of the best gifts we can give our children is to set them FREE to be all that God has created them to be—not forcing them to live out our dreams or comparing them to our friend’s kid.

Jill Savage and Kathy Koch have written a 
guide to help parents truly appreciate their kids. One thing I love about this book is their goal to teach us how to study and 
become an expert on our children, knowing that we cannot fully embrace them until you 
truly know them.

In No More Perfect Kids, Jill Savage and Kathy Koch equip parents with the tools and perspective to:
  • Identify and remove the Perfection Infection from our parenting.
  • Really know each child so we can fully embrace their unique design.
  • Release our children from unrealistic expectations.
  • Answer the questions our kids are silently asking in a way that gives them the courage and freedom to be themselves.

Written in a passionate, candid, and personal way, the authors 
will instill within you hope and contentment. You’ll be inspired to apply the practical, 
realistic, and relevant ideas and tactics Jill and Kathy share. (Leaders Guide included in back of book.) And thanks to Jill and Kathy’s generous publisher, I’ve got 5 copies to give away!! 

ENTER TO WIN
Just leave a comment under this post and share which giveaway you’d want to win and why. If you want to enter to win either, just say “EITHER” and let us know!