If you had walked into a band party at Auburn University and interrupted a bunch of dancing girls during the mid 90s… and said, “Hey you two. You with the weird bangs – Courtney McClure. And you – with awesome big curly hair – Jeannie Callahan. One day, you are going to both write books for parents based on God’s enormous love for them.” We might have fallen over on that dirty dance floor.
Jeannie and I were in the same sorority. A year apart. It has been one of the many thrills of my journey and the wonder of Facebook – that we were able to reconnect many years later. To see God had us on a very similar path. To learn we were both feeling called to write. We both had the same agent. We both would have books coming out the same year. She played a major role in my ABC Scripture Cards being on The View.
So, I’m SO DELIGHTED and honored to share with you my dear friend – Jeannie Cunnion. And her new book, Parenting the Wholehearted Child. Coming out in April, but you can order now! Here is my official quote/endorsement on it.
Parenting the Wholehearted Child offers freedom to burdened moms. I am often heavy with the responsibility of teaching God’s grace, love, and law to my little ones. Jeannie has beautifully explored profound principles and broken them into doable pieces. I feel capable and empowered.
I’m a peon on this list – check out what Elisabeth Hasselbeck, Kathie Lee Gifford, Lysa TerKeurst and many more said right here.
When did you know you were supposed to write this book? / When did you start the book?/ Have you always known you were going to write a book?
Life is funny. Of all the things I dreamed I’d do, writing a book was not of them. I dreamed of being an adoption social worker and I loved everything about the work I felt God called me to do. I thought that’s what I’d do forever – witness God bring beauty from ashes through the gift of adoption. So when I began to sense God nudging me, in the spring of 2011, to start writing about the way His grace was changing my heart, and my parenting, and our family, my first response was, “Um, Lord, You of all people should know…. I’m not worthy of writing a book about parenting, and I don’t have the time, and one other minor detail, I have no idea how to write a book.”
I’ve always loved journaling. I’ve been writing in a journal since I was about eight years old. I keep a journal for each one of our boys. But those words were just for our family. To reflect and to remember. I love words, I love writing, I love the power of story. But writing my story and writing the words God was pouring into me about parenting with grace was not part of the plan. I had a plan, friend, and this was not it.
But God had a different plan. One that would change my life, and our family, forever.
After several months of wrestling with God and losing, I began to let the words pour out. Words of grace that were revealing the condition of my perfectionist heart. I began to let all of those words pour out and I couldn’t stop. I was addicted. I’d never felt God’s presence more intimately then when I got raw with Him in my writing. And I wanted more of Him. So much more.
What I came to realize pretty quickly in all of the writing was that this book – well, it was for me. God had some serious work to do in my own heart and in my own parenting. I wasn’t writing this book because I had a lot to teach anyone else about parenting. I was writing this book because God had a lot to teach me about His grace. And He was using the writing of this book to accomplish His purpose.
Through the writing of this book, I was able to see how much joy I was stealing from our family in my quest to be a perfect mom raising perfect kids. I was able to see how I was focused on teaching my kids what they had to do for Jesus rather than teaching them what Jesus has already done for them through his death and resurrection on the cross. I wasn’t giving my kids the grace that God so lavishly gives us in Jesus Christ.
And it was only through the writing of this book that I heard, I finally heard, “Jeannie, my beloved child, I am your perfection. You can stop performing, and you can stop pretending; that is what my grace is for.”
And once I was finally able to surrender, which didn’t happen easily and didn’t happen overnight, my heart found the rest it craved in the glorious truth of 2 Corinthians 12:9: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” His grace, his saving grace, is sufficient, and his divine power is displayed and even made perfect in my weaknesses as a mom.
The burden, the angst, and the striving was exchanged for joy, for hope, and for peace. All extraordinary gifts given when my heart surrendered to his grace for my rebellious heart.
How many times did you think it was a flop? How many times did God show up? When did you get the contract?
I can’t count the number of times I thought it was a flop but what those times of doubt taught me is that God is so much more patient with me than I am with myself. He is so patient with our doubts and fears and worries. The book had been done for over a year when my amazing agent, Andrew Wolgemuth, agreed to represent me. It was a year of stepping out in faith and doing things I was terrified to do, like starting a blog and writing about all of my parenting struggles and how much I need Jesus. It was also a year of waiting. Over and over again I heard the Lord telling me to wait patiently. To be still. To trust that He had a plan that was greater than mine, and He would reveal it in His perfect timing. But waiting isn’t my forte. My forte is doing. And I didn’t always wait gracefully, unless you count setting pages of your book on fire waiting patiently. But in that year of waiting God showed up over and over again. In that year, our family lost our house in Hurricane Sandy and God’s provision and protection in those 5 months reminded me that He is good, really good, and all of His promises are true. In that year of waiting I did a lot of editing and re-writing and it was all for the betterment of the book. God had so much more to teach me and so much more to show me about His grace. And God wanted to bring some really beautiful people into my life to help me know more of the extravagance of His love and to help launch this book into the world.
In looking back I can see how it has been one little miracle after the next. God knew the plan He had for me and for this book, and it was all accomplished in His strength and power alone.
Where and when did you write with 3 boys?
It’s so funny that you ask that question because that was one of the fifteen reasons I gave God for not being able to write this book when I felt Him nudging me to start writing.
One quiet afternoon I sat down on the couch to work on my Bible study but instead I ended up mentally wrestling with God. I was telling Him how writing felt big and time consuming, and ultimately I felt unworthy, very unworthy. I asked God tough questions like, “Lord, how do I do this and do everything else? How do I continue to parent my children (the very thing that makes me feel the most alive), remain present in their lives AND write a book? Where do I begin Lord?” And while I was pouring my heart out, these gentle words pierced the chaos swirling around in my head – “You say yes, you just say yes.” He was simply asking me to say yes, and trust Him with the rest. But I still wasn’t convinced. Thankfully He never gives up on us.
I pulled out my Bible to get back to reading the verses that I was reviewing in Ephesians that day for my Bible Study, and I turned the page to a highlighted verse in Ephesians 3 that caught my eye, and this is what I read….
Although I am less than the least of all God’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles, the unsearchable riches of Christ and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery. Ephesians 3:8
The commentary below Ephesians 3:8 read “Paul never ceased to be amazed that one so unworthy as he should have been chosen for so high a task”. I just love it when Jesus is that loud. He led me right to a verse about a follower of Christ who was less than perfect, and felt totally unworthy, but was nonetheless everything God needed Him to be for the task to which he was being called. I sat in that chair with tears steaming down my cheeks and I said “yes.”
During the writing of this book, God made minutes feels like hours. The words were pouring out faster than I could type. Never before had I been so reliant on the Holy Spirit to guide me because the only words I wanted on the pages of this book were words inspired by the Holy Spirit.
What was it like to see them hold the book?
It was so surreal. I can’t even explain what I felt when I came home on Christmas Eve afternoon to find a box on my front porch from Zondervan. I couldn’t open it. I wanted to savor the moment with my hubby and kids. So I sat the box on the counter and waited for Mike to come home. That night we gathered together, opened the box and celebrated what God, and God alone, had accomplished in the publishing of the book. It was a moment I’ll never forget. And seeing my boys holding it- just wow. Because the truth is, the book is for them. The book was God’s gift to our family. The writing of the book is what set me free to see myself as a beloved and accepted child of God, and it set me free to be a vessel of that love to my kids. They will know more of God’s bottomeless well of forgiveness and God’s unconditional love as a result of my writing this book. My heart could burst when I think about how good and kind God was to rescue me from myself and my perfectionist ways so that those amazing boys, who I love with every piece of me, could experience more of God’s unconditional love for them. So amazing.
Encourage the weary mom- what do you hope she feels at the end of your book?
Hope! I want her to feel completely set free in God’s grace for her. I want her to feel set free from having to achieve unachievable perfection.
I want her to hear God whispering to her through the pages of the book, “There is nothing you can do to make me love you less and there is nothing you can do make me love you more. Let go of perfect and see yourself as I see you – covered in the perfect righteousness of my son, Jesus.”
I want her to be set free to be honest with her kids about her brokenness and find real rest in the inexhaustible forgiveness of Christ.
And I want her to feel empowered to weave the unconditional love of Jesus into every aspect of her parenting.
Thank you Jeannie! I am so incredibly proud of you and cannot wait for so many moms to be empowered by your obedience and hard work. It’s truly a work of love.