#SheSharesTruth: The End of Nehemiah

I just finished reading the book of Nehemiah. Scratch that. I’ve read the book of Nehemiah before. It wasn’t very memorable. This time I studied it. 17 days of in-depth slow reading, study note devouring, journaling, praying. It won’t be a book I soon forget now.

The Nehemiah study was from She Reads Truth and the lessons I learned from it were numerous. Lessons on prayer and faith and leadership and boldness. But I’m going to start at the end today.

shesharestruth

A little back story of Nehemiah before I get to the end in case you’re unfamiliar {spoiler alert!}:

Nehemiah was working as the king’s cup bearer in Babylon when he heard the wall protecting Jerusalem had been destroyed and his people were unprotected. After much prayer, Nehemiah asks the king’s permission to go rebuild the wall. The king grants his request and Nehemiah heads back to Jerusalem for 12 years to head up the wall rebuilding project. He is a wise, God-fearing leader and, with his direction, the people of Jerusalem are once again protected. They rededicate themselves and their holy city to God.

But then…

Nehemiah leaves to go back to his duties with the king and the people backslide. They start intermarrying with pagans, breaking the commandments laid out by God, living in disobedience. The book of Nehemiah ends with him rebuking many in Jerusalem for breaking the covenant they JUST renewed.

Not the happy ending I was expecting and not the results Nehemiah had prayed for either.

So here is today’s question: Why does the book of Nehemiah end the way it does? What does God want us to see here about Himself and the Church?

During my reading of Nehemiah, God was speaking to me about my “building project” – my family. Day after day, the words in Nehemiah were convicting, inspiring, encouraging to me as a wife and mother. So in this ending, I saw another lesson for me as a mother.

Nehemiah did everything God asked him to do. He was in constant prayer. He was one of the wisest leaders in all of the Bible. And still the people fell away from their renewed commitment of faith.

I am not a perfect mother or wife or homemaker, but even if I follow everything God asks me to do, pray all day long and wisely steward the time and resources of our family, I can’t control the outcome. My children have free will. They are sinners just like me. My faithfulness and wise leadership don’t guarantee their obedience.

This might be a discouraging lesson, but I think it is also meant to take some of the pressure off for me as a mom. Nehemiah has taught me to pray, trust, and act on God’s will and leave the rest in His hands. Just like Nehemiah, I can only do what I can do. The bad choices of those under my leadership, including my kiddos, does not make me a failure.

Breathe that in, ladies. We are not failures because of our children’s choices.

Nehemiah went through a similar process to mothering: years of caring for the people, building up the wall to protect them, praying fervently, and then the big letdown of their disobedience. But in his wisdom, Nehemiah continued to stand for what is right and pray to his Heavenly Father.

Why does Nehemiah end with this big bummer? To remind me to keep on seeking His will, doing the next right thing, and praying hard for those in my care, no matter what those around me choose. And I will never give up on that. I am doing a great work and I cannot come down.

Nehemiah 63

 

I’m linking up with the #shesharestruth community today – read the thoughts of other women on this ending of Nehemiah over at the She Reads Truth site!

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out with the old, in with the new

I’ve struggled with exercise-induced asthma since I was a teenager. Well, I didn’t struggle with it a whole lot unless I was doing something really active, and up until a few years ago that wasn’t much! Seasonal allergies seemed to make it worse as well. This was a major hurdle I needed to face as I took up running and I did so armed with inhalers and determination.

It wasn’t until last year, when meeting with a new doctor, that I learned something about the way my breathing works that could help me avoid these asthmatic symptoms while running. She told me when I was feeling like I couldn’t take a full, deep breath, I needed to try to blow out as much air as possible. I won’t say anything technically or medically right here, but basically the “old” air in my lungs was leaving no room for “new” air. I needed to focus more on the exhale before I tried to get a good inhale.

I was skeptical at first, but, for me, it really does work. I still don’t feel like my breathing is normal, especially while running, but I am much more able to control it when I concentrate on “out with the old, in with the new.”

This is the rhythm I find in life and faith as well. I like to start new things. These new things are usually good things, meant to help me with time management or my prayer life or loving my family better. But in the process, I often hold on to the old, even if just by a thread, because it feels comfortable, familiar, non-threatening.

Out with the Old

Trying to add new to my life while holding on to the old leaves me gasping for air, desperate for a full, refreshing breath. Getting up early to spend more time with the Lord before everyone wakes up doesn’t work so well when I hold on to the comfort of late nights reading or watching TV. Frustration sets in quickly when I make up a new schedule but let the old time-wasting habits hang around.

Our pastor spoke this weekend on the ways the enemy seduces us, gradually drawing us away from God with things we don’t consider sins. We rationalize these things as not harmful even though they distract us from relationship with God. We need to recognize the seduction and repent of our part in it, but the last step was the key and the one that really got me. Replacement. Get the old, self-centered, time-wasting, worldly ways out and fill in that space with the true, real, satisfying pleasures of God.

Walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. ~Galatians 5:16

It really is not enough for us to just take on the new. Colossians 3 is often quoted for its verses about putting on the virtues of love, compassion, kindness, and so on, but do you know what comes before that? Paul FIRST asks the people of Colossae to put to death the old – all manner of evil, impure things. It is only after the old is gone that the new can be put on.

So put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you. Have nothing to do with sexual immorality, impurity, lust, and evil desires. Don’t be greedy, for a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world. Because of these sins, the anger of God is coming. You used to do these things when your life was still part of this world. But now is the time to get rid of anger, rage, malicious behavior, slander, and dirty language. Don’t lie to each other, for you have stripped off your old sinful nature and all its wicked deeds. Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him.

Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful. ~Colossians 3:5-10 12-15

When it feels heavy to put on the virtues of Christ, it is usually because we haven’t let go of the things of old yet. Layering kindness on top of bitterness or envy just feels fake and stifling. Stuffing down anger with pretend patience won’t feel refreshing in any way.

This week, as we draw closer to the time set aside to remember our Savior’s death for my sins, I’m reexamining my repentance of old and choosing to clean house in my soul. I need to make room for more of Him and that means getting rid of the sins, the time-wasters, the unnecessary. And in it’s place will be the best kind of new – the new things of Him refreshing, restoring, and continuing the good works He has planned for me.

Acts 3 19 20

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Surprised by Motherhood

My dear Lisa-Jo wrote a book. Surprised by Motherhood. It is her journey of never wanting to be a mom.  Of losing her own mom. Of South Africa and the Ukraine and the United States. Of becoming a mom. And of being surprised by all things motherhood, especially the wonder of it all.

I was surprised by motherhood, as well, but in a very different way.

I always wanted to be a mother. As a child, I enjoyed holding babies and taking care of the younger kids. My sister and I even fought over who got to hold the newest baby cousin and for how long. I started babysitting at an early age, partially because of the money, but also because it was fun for me. Even in high school, I was voted “would make the best mom” in my senior class. And I loved that.

I worked at a daycare. I taught elementary school for five years. I really thought I had motherhood all figured out and was ready to tackle it head on. When Big J was born, motherhood felt exhausting, but still pretty natural. He got older, we added siblings for him, and then I got my surprise.

“It was like discovering a superpower – becoming a mom for the first time. It has led me to believe that motherhood should come with a superhero cape along with the free diaper bag and samples you get when the hospital sends you, otherwise defenseless, home.”

Motherhood is hard. Way harder than I ever imagined. And I don’t think it is all the kids’ fault. I know it’s not. I think I was surprised so much by motherhood because it made me confront just how selfish I am and how much I’ve always wanted to be in control. Yep, motherhood will mess with all those things in a big way.

“I didn’t know I was selfish until I had kids. I didn’t know I was angry and quick to keep a list of wrongs done to me, of slight slights, of everything I felt entitled to and was happy to demand.”

But motherhood is also hard because I love these sons of mine more than I knew was possible. I want so much for them. I feel like I should never stop praying for them. All the emotions I feel towards my children and magnified because of the great love I feel for them. My boys can be the cause for great joy, great sorrow, great frustration…all in the same day. Lisa-Jo says, “Sometimes you don’t realize you have a temper until you have kids.” And, “Nothing can hurt as much as the fears we carry for our children.” This could not be more true.

Boys Looking Up Blog

If I’m being real honest here, I have always been terrible at follow-through, especially with long-term tasks. Motherhood is definitely long-term and NOT following through is not an option for me, so I am being stretched and grown in unimaginable ways. Some days the stretching hurts, but when I pause long enough to see God at work, I feel and see so much more clearly…

“With this boy wrapped in my arms, this flesh and blood and bone that I had grown in my womb, clinging to me, I understood what the God parent feels for me. To die for this love – yes, it made sense.”

These days I’m being surprised by finding new ways to enjoy motherhood. Much of this comes from knowing that no mom thinks her job is easy. There is great relief in that knowledge.

It also comes from learning more about the amazing boys God has given us and the ways He in which He has connected us. I feel like a student all over again. And I’m making my strengths work for me – being silly and dancing more, communicating more effectively with the boys, finding ways to be positive during the rough days.

Surprised by Motherhood

If you were sitting near me when I started reading this beautiful, transparent memoir of motherhood, you would have been passing me Kleenex after Kleenex as I related so closely with Lisa-Jo’s words, despite our very different stories.

And I’m needing a Kleenex now as I write this and realize just how I needed to hear her real, nitty-gritty, wonder-filled motherhood story. How every mom needs to read the ups and downs of someone else’s motherhood story to realize just how brave and not alone they are. Lisa-Jo gets it. She gets me. She gets us, moms.

Congrats, Lisa-Jo. Your newest baby is just gorgeous.

Surprised by Motherhood is available TODAY! Yes, TODAY! Order now!

 

*I received a copy of this book to review. I was not compensated in any way for this post, and all opinions are 100% my own!

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Having An Internal Focus This Lent

I have included affiliate links below. When you purchase through these links, I may receive a small commission. Thank you for supporting this site and our sponsorship of our Compassion child, Samson!

Throughout my whole life, Lent has been a very special, reflective time of year, but it has also been generally focused on external things. Some of these external things have produced great internal change and closeness with Jesus, such as the Daniel Fast I did two different years and my commitment to yell less and pray more last year.

I attended an online class by my friend Jessi last week about walking with Jesus this Lent in a more intentional and meaningful way. That class had me asking God during a run this weekend, “What do you want Lent to be about for me this year? What do you want me to be about for YOU this Lent, God?”

Internal Focus for Lent

The immediate promptings in my soul were twofold:

  1. It needs to be about ALL of me. Me as a whole.
  2. I need to be reminding just how very much He is FOR me.

That is some heavy stuff for me, but Lent is a somber, reflective time. And it culminates in so much joy and hope. I imagine this is just what He wants for me this year, too.

So I haven’t decided to fast in any way yet, but two books just happened to come into my view this past week and they will be helping me keep this internal God-focus for the 40 days of Lent.

Holey_Wholly_Holy full cover

Holey, Wholly, Holy: A Lenten Journey of Refinement, written by the lovely Kris Camealy, is book #1. I’ve had this book sitting on my Kindle shelf just waiting for Lent to roll around and I can’t wait to dive in. I love the imagery of journeying through these 40 days, moving from broken to surrendered to claiming the grace He has for us. Kris has a beautiful heart for Jesus and encouraging others as they walk with Him.

Just today, a companion workbook for Holey, Wholly, Holy was released AND there is an online community of women going through the book this Lent as well!

Book #2 showed up in Kris’ Instagram feed this weekend just hours after God and I had our conversation about my Lent focus. It’s called God for Us: Rediscovering the Meaning of Lent and EasterDuring Advent and Christmas, we celebrate that He came to be WITH us, but this FOR us part is really grabbing a hold of me right now.  I’m anxious to read more and embrace this truth with all that I am. If anything proves how much He is FOR me, it is what He endured for me leading up to and on the cross.

Lent begins with Ash Wednesday on March 5th this year and that is when I will start reading through Holey, Wholly, Holy with the online study group. I would love to have you join us!

And to celebrate the release of the companion workbook, Kris is graciously given me one PDF set of the book AND workbook to giveaway here today! Just enter below!

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When Visiting a Bookstore Feels Like Visiting Your Friends

I have included affiliate links below. When you purchase through these links, I may receive a small commission. Thank you for supporting this site and our sponsorship of our Compassion child, Samson!

I don’t make it to bookstores very often as Amazon and my Kindle fill my need for books quite well, but this weekend I took the boys to Barnes and Noble to kill some time in their children’s section.

The boys devour books just like their mama, so when I mentioned a bookstore trip, they were giddy. And I was giddy as well because when I perused the shelves of the Christian living section, I felt like I was visiting my dear friends…

Now, it may only be their books, but these books are the babies of wonderful friends, gracious women, and lovely Jesus-followers. And I did a little happy dance in the aisle as I found these gems tucked away on the shelf.

And yes, I did rearrange a few of them – not out of their alphabetical area – just to showcase books people NEED to be reading. It was very fun to have the boys excited to see my friends’ books there as well! They were pointing out many of the names they’ve heard me mention and books they’ve seen on my nightstand. {I’m reading You’re Going to Be Okay right now and it is SO good} I loved every minute of it!

With more friends releasing books recently and in the future, we might have to visit them at the bookstore more often!

And speaking of books by dear friends, the ebook version of Praying for Boys is just $1.99 TODAY ONLY! If you haven’t bought your copy yet or want to buy some to gift to boy mom friends, DO IT TODAY!

What great books are you reading right now?

 

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I See You

It was a full weekend.

I was a wife, a mother, a writer, a reader…

Weekend Reader

a baker, a chef, a snow-shoveler, a stuffed animal surgeon…

Stuffed Animal Surgeon

a babysitter, a basketball mom…

Babysitter

a runner, a {disappointed} football fan, a worshipper and child of the Great I Am.

And right in the middle of it all, as I was enjoying myself but also looking around for some sort of approval or pat on the back for all those little and not-so-little things we moms and dads do in the course two, too-short weekend days, God gently whispered to me…

I see you.

I was shoveling at the moment and that little whisper took my breath away.

Analog weekends have been a struggle for me to follow strictly, not because I want an escape from being present with my family, but because I like the approval and recognition that social media brings. Yep, I like to be validated. Having another mom “like” my picture or comment on my status is like a big high five in the middle of my day. And that’s not always bad, but when they become more important than being present, well, then we have a problem…

Those three words were what I needed right when I needed them. From my audience of One.

His whisper this weekend brought me to a new place – a place where I WANT to be free of the need for recognition. A new place where He alone can fill my need for validation, for approval, for love.

Sweet mama, as you start this week where you may not hear one single thank you for all the diapers changed and clothes washed and countless other deeds done, He sees you. He delights in you. He loves you.

And He’s the only high five you need.

O Lord, you have examined my heart
    and know everything about me.
You know when I sit down or stand up.
    You know my thoughts even when I’m far away.
You see me when I travel
    and when I rest at home.
    You know everything I do.
You know what I am going to say
    even before I say it, Lord.
You go before me and follow me.
    You place your hand of blessing on my head.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
    too great for me to understand!

I can never escape from your Spirit!
    I can never get away from your presence!
If I go up to heaven, you are there;
    if I go down to the grave, you are there.
If I ride the wings of the morning,
    if I dwell by the farthest oceans,
even there your hand will guide me,
    and your strength will support me.

Psalm 139:1-10 {NLT}

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DaySpring January Specials + #inRL!

I have included affiliate links below. When you purchase through these links, I may receive a small commission. Thank you for supporting this site and our sponsorship of our Compassion child, Samson!

Can I take a minute to tell you WHY I share about DaySpring every month?

Not only does DaySpring offer beautiful products, card, home decor, and so on, but everything they do points to Jesus. I’ve spent time with several people on their staff and they are just the most loving, delightful human beings you will ever have the fortune to meet or work with.

And their customer service is incredible. I’ve almost never had a problem with my orders, but the very few times I did, DaySpring took care of the problem swiftly and with no hassle.

I love supporting a company that actually lives out what their products represent – Jesus.

With that said, here are the awesome Dayspring January specials…


All remaining Christmas items are 50-70% off for the annual After Christmas Sale!

This is the perfect time to stock up and save on meaningful cards, ornaments, decor and many more items! These prices will be good through the end of January!

Thank You Cards on Sale

This month only, all thank you cards are 30% off!

The sale includes boxed cards, thank you notes, premium cards, and more. All DaySpring cards feature beautiful designs and inspiring words of encouragement. These will be the only cards you want to buy from now on!

Journals + Notebooks are 30% off!

Through January, all inspirational journals & notebooks are marked 30% off. I’ve told you before, but I’ll say it again: DaySpring journals are my favorite. I would buy a new one for every month of the year if I had need for them. And right now I’m trying to think of reasons I might need more than the two lovely ones I have now! Buy these for  yourself, for friends, for gifts – they are such a blessing!

Calendars on Sale

All calendars are at least 50% off! You can save now on the whole selection of christian wall calendars, inspirational pocket organizers, and weekly appointment planners in a variety of designs, themes & prices.

January Specials

For a Special Couple - 365 Day Perpetual Calendar
Special Couple 365 Perpetual Calendar -  Sale Price $4.99 {Reg $10.99}

38716GIFTSET-JanSpecial

Mr. and Mrs. Gift Set - Sale Price $19.99 {Reg $37.95}

I Love You Head to Toe - Recordable Storybook

I Love You Head to Toe Recordable Storybook - Sale Price $9.99 {Reg $29.95}

And that’s not all the goodness coming from DaySpring right now…

Their beautiful site for women, {in}courage, has opened up registration for inRL – their FREE {in} real life conference that comes to you!

inRL

inRL is an amazing time of community right in your own area – no airfare or hotel needed. There’s not even a registration fee! And you will connect with women you could actually see again the next week! I was blessed to participate in 2012 and found such beautiful connections with women in my own city!

inRL takes place April 25-26 this year, with a powerful webcast you can watch from home Friday and inRL meetups all over the world Saturday! I can’t encourage you enough to sign up and find an event in your community. And if there isn’t one, why don’t YOU host?! Register here and you will also get free access to the all of the videos from 2012 and 2013 up through April 24th!

Have you ever been a part of inRL? What was your favorite thing about it?

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Fashion Friday: 50% Off All Winter Hats!

It snowed here yesterday. It appears our heat is not working quite right. It’s cold.

I’m pulling out our winter hats and Cents of Style has a perfectly timed deal on cute winter hats right now!

Fashion Friday- 11/22/13- Winter Hats- 50% off & FREE SHIPPING with Code 50HATS

There are 50 styles and colors to choose from and they are all 50% off today when you use the code 50HATS at checkout! Shipping is free, which means all of the hats will be under $10 shipped!

Fashion Friday- 11/22/13- Winter Hats- 50% off & FREE SHIPPING with Code 50HATS

These Fashion Friday deals sell out fast, so get that extra warmth for your head now!

What kind of winter hat do you love?

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The Very Patient Mom

I noticed this older lady as we crossed paths throughout the grocery store. The boys were behaving…well, not great, but better than they have on previous grocery store trips.

After we checked out, I saw her making a purchase at the floral counter. She opened her mouth to say something to me, and I automatically thought she would say:

“You have your hands full there!” or “I bet they keep you on your toes!”

Or something along those lines. Being the mom of three boys, I hear this a lot. I really don’t think a mom of three girls or two girls and one boy or two boys and one girl has their hands any less full than mine, but that’s just what I get from bystanders.

But she didn’t say that. What she said left me surprised, and also a little confused.

“You are a very patient mama. There aren’t too many of you around.”

Believe me, that is the LAST observation I expected, probably because I often feel like the farthest thing from a very patient mama, especially when I have all three children at the grocery store. I know you’re with me on this one, mamas of littles.

The first part was a compliment, but it totally made my head spin. I mean, within a half hour of her saying those words, I was at home, completely losing my patience when a child wouldn’t put away his Legos after two or five or ten reminders. My patience slips away more days than it doesn’t, but apparently she caught me in a few moments when I actually held on to it.

The second part of her comment made me pause and think.

“There aren’t too many of you around.”

Patient Mom

And I’m still thinking about it. What would cause her to say this? Her observations of other mothers at the grocery store? Her interactions with mothers in her family, church, neighborhood? What is it that makes her feel like patient mamas are few and far between? And what exactly does a very patient mom look like?

I don’t have a profound conclusion to share with you today. Just some questions. Some ponderings for my own heart on what patience looks like and how it points back to Jesus. Some prayers for the mamas who are worn paper-thin in the patience department, including me more than one day a week.

I can tell you this. Nothing in the world will try a person’s patience as much as parenthood. And nothing in the world will grow our patience as much as parenthood. As Kelly Minter says in her book The Fitting Room {affiliate link}:

The very essence of biblical virtues is that they’re only virtues when they’re being tested.

My patience may be tested daily, but it also grows daily, only when I turn to the One who provides me the strength and Holy Spirit power to produce any good fruit. None of that patience or kindness or goodness comes from me.

And one last thing. To that woman who took the time to encourage me by complimenting my patience, you and you kind words were just what I needed that day. And there aren’t many strangers around anymore who would say something nice and encouraging to a young mom in the grocery store. Thank you.

 

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Day 9: I Don’t HAVE to…Have a Full Closet

31 Days of NOT Having It All Banner

I have included affiliate links below. When you purchase through these links, I may receive a small commission. Thank you for supporting this site and our sponsorship of our Compassion child, Samson!

Honestly, this might be the most hypocritical title of a post in the whole series because I actually have a very full closet. I love clothes and fashion and finding great deals and I don’t purge my closet as often as I should.

But sometimes my full closet is more of a burden than a blessing. I struggle to keep my closet clean and sometimes it takes me forever to find what I want to wear.

Have a Full Closet

The time and money spent trying to pack our closet full in the name of being fashionable is not necessarily time well spent. Like I mentioned with cooking yesterday, this is another way I misused Pinterest for so long. I was constantly pinning outfits that I had NONE of the pieces to put together, which only made me want to go shopping more when I had plenty of clothes to put together nice outfits already in my closet!

My first step toward realizing less is more in my closet came from reading The No Brainer Wardrobe by Hayley Morgan {aka The Tiny Twig}. Hayley is just the cutest mama out there and her philosophy on style and wardrobe helped me see the power in a well thought out closet with fewer items. Being able to mix-and-match with classic pieces will give you more outfits than you could imagine AND it won’t take as much brain power in those early morning hours as you rush to get yourself together before the kids wake up!

Hayley is running a No Brainer Wardrobe series again on her blog right now and I can’t recommend it highly enough. This post outlines the essentials for a smaller wardrobe and I agree with everyone of them. She’ll be adding to these basics with some “additions” and “finishers” in the coming weeks, but the essentials is the best place to start!

So tip #1 is read Hayley’s book and follow her series. Tip #2 is…

Start your “In My Closet” Pinterest board!

Most of us don’t have a lot of money to spend on clothes. And we probably have some great, usable pieces already in our closets that we’re not letting live up to their full potential. Instead of browsing through Pinterest fashion aimlessly and making a long list of all the things you DON’T have and need to buy, identify some pieces that fit you well and search for outfits that feature those pieces!

I have some red skinnies that I bought on clearance from Target last year, so I did a search of “red pants” and “red pants outfit” and found lots of new ideas of how to wear them like this and this! I did the same with the olive military jacket I picked up for 99 cents at Goodwill this summer and there were SO many outfits like this and this I could put together with the basics already in my closet!

A full closet does not make you fashionable and it does NOT lead to having it all. Instead, make sure you have some well-fitting basics and have fun mixing and matching with what is already in your wardrobe!

If you’re on Pinterest and have a board like my “In My Closet” board or decide to start one, I would love to follow it and see how you take on this challenge! Leave a link to your board in the comments for me!

How do you feel about clothing and fashion? Fun or frustrating?

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