Jeannie Cunnion: Mom Set Free
Moms can feel so overwhelmed by all the stress and pressure of life and the over-riding desire to get it all right and not mess up their kids in the process of it all. Jeannie Cunnion, a mom to four boys who is both a writer and speaker, knows that pressure all too well. She struggled with it until God opened her heart and her eyes a few years ago to the freedom she has through His grace. Her book, Mom Set Free, was released on Aug. 29 and explores her journey and what all moms need to know to be free.
Hope for Women: What led you to write Mom Set Free?
Jeannie Cunnion: Well, the truth is, God wrote this book on my heart first. He knew how much the truths held within the pages of Mom Set Free needed to be embedded in my own heart.
Mom Set Free was written for me and for every mom who feels overwhelmed and under pressure in her parenting. Because we moms are told that we have to get it all right so our kids turn out right. We’re told that their entire futures are riding on our ability to perfectly orchestrate their lives. And we’re told that the strength of their faith hinges on ours. So, we begin to believe that if we just try hard enough, we can actually be enough.
These impossible standards make us fear we are not only letting down our kids but also disappointing God, and they leave us stuck in worry, anger, guilt, comparison and shame. We are desperate for relief! Mom Set Free is an invitation to discover how the good news of the Gospel empowers us to live – and parent – in the freedom for which Christ has set us free.
HFW: What makes you so passionate to inspire other mom’s and women in your writings?
JC: And the reason I am so excited to share it with other moms is because I’ve discovered this: I wasn’t the only mom who’d been trying to parent with grace without living in grace—without first accepting the grace of God for me, in all of my weakness, sin and shortcomings. And I discovered I wasn’t the only one who struggled to believe God wasn’t disappointed in me (and even mad at me!) when I failed to reflect His heart to my children.
It was that discovery, along with the clear nudging from God, that inspired me to write Mom Set Free. Because if we want to give our kids grace we have to believe and accept God’s grace for us! We can’t give what we haven’t received.
HFW: What is the main inspiration you hope people take from this book?
JC: My hope and prayer is that this book will empower mothers to believe – and live out of the truth – that absolutely nothing can separate them from the love of God that is given to them in Jesus Christ (Romans 8:39). And because of that extraordinary love, they really can walk in the freedom for which Christ has set us free.
In spite of what God’s Word tells us, I have spent the majority of my life trying to make it easier for God to love me and keep His grace going for me. It is ironic, really, because I was a preacher’s kid, raised in a very grace-filled home. So, when God saved me when I was 8-years-old, I understood, as much as an 8-year-old can, that “it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8–9 NIV).
What I struggled to accept is that God’s grace was not only for my salvation but also for my ongoing sin and weakness. Yes, I knew that God’s grace was for my salvation. But, what I struggled to accept, as I got older and my sinful nature was more exposed, is that God’s grace is also for my ongoing sin and weakness. Said differently, the more aware I became of just how short I fall of the glory of God (Romans 3:23), the more pressure I felt to attain unachievable perfection—to both keep God happy and to be a good witness.
I lived as though there were a follow-up verse to Ephesians 2:8–9 that reads: “However, it is by your hard work and ceaseless striving that you will remain loved and accepted. You can’t save yourself. That is My doing. But you can try really hard to keep Me happy and not lose My affection. It’s the least you can do, really, for all that I’ve done for you.”
But, of course, that verse is nowhere to be found in Scripture. There is no such follow-up verse in Ephesians that says, “Jesus’ job was to save you. Your job is to keep God happy.” I just lived like there was. I thought God’s love was something we work hard to keep and work hard to earn back when it’s lost.
What Scripture does say, however, is that “God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21 NIV). Meaning, when we are in Christ, we are declared righteous. We are head-to-toe, inside-and-out, covered in the perfection of Jesus Christ. Made right with God, even while we are yet sinners. We can stop striving for a seal of approval that has already been given to us by God in Jesus Christ. This means that the perfection I’d been ceaselessly striving for my whole life, in order to feel worthy of God’s love and grace, was already all mine, all because Jesus says, “I have her covered!” I was free to stop pursuing perfection and to start pursuing the person of Christ.
Freedom is for each and every one of us. God’s grace – His unwavering love, unrestrained affection, unconditional acceptance and unending forgiveness – is given freely and generously in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ (Romans 3:23–24).
And Jesus longs, yes longs, to see us live – and parent – in freedom.
HFW: In what ways have you pursued your passions?
JC: When I was in my teens, my older sister had an unplanned pregnancy and ultimately chose adoption for her child. Watching my sister make such a brave, selfless and painful choice ignited a passion in me for other women like my sister who need someone to come alongside them in their confusion and heartbreak and help them make decisions they can live with and be proud of. My sister’s story also opened my eyes to the beauty and sacredness of unborn life. Therefore, I knew at a very young age that I wanted to work in the counseling and adoption field. I pursued that passion by volunteering at pregnancy centers in college and by completing a master’s degree in social work, so I could become a counselor and educator.
I had absolutely no plans or dreams of becoming a writer. But about seven years ago, I felt God nudging me in countless ways to start writing about the ways He was teaching me about His love for me through my parenting. I was a mom to three boys under 5 when I started writing. I had no idea what I was doing, and I had no idea what was involved in becoming a published author. But in my prayer time and in reading my Bible, I felt God saying, “Just trust Me. I’ll lead. You follow.”
HFW: What challenges have you faced in chasing those dreams?
JC: Many! Like I said, I had no idea what I was doing when I first started writing. Learning to write was a challenge. Navigating the complex world of publishing was a challenge. Finding an agent was a challenge. Securing a publishing contract was a challenge.
HFW: How have you overcome these obstacles?
JC: Honestly, I don't know that I would say I have overcome them as much as I have made it my mission to follow what I believe is God’s calling on my life (in this season of life) and to trust that He will be faithful to fulfill His purpose for me. I believe that HE has overcome those obstacles for me. He brought people into my life who taught me how to write and navigate the publishing world. He opened doors to agents. He connected my path with people who helped me share my message and secure a publishing contract. Yes, I worked my tail off. Hard work, a commitment to excellence and serious sacrifice were involved. But, at the end of the day, God gets every last bit of the glory for this story. All of this is grace.
HFW: What is your favorite thing about inspiring others?
JC: My favorite thing about inspiring others is that it hopefully points them to Jesus. I love Jesus. And my heart resonates with what the psalmist wrote in Psalm 66:16, “Come and listen, all you who fear God, and I will tell you what he did for me.” He has set my heart so free, and it brings me so much joy to share my story for His glory.
HFW:What advice would you offer women chasing their dream careers?
JC: Trust God has a plan for your life – a plan just for you. And His plans are good. They are far better than ours. He can do immeasurably more than you could ask for or imagine. Start and end your dream-chasing with prayer. God knows your dreams, even when it feels like He doesn’t. You are not forgotten. Show up, but show up open-handed to what He has for you. And be careful not to make that dream career an idol in your life. Nothing and nobody can bring you TRUE happiness, peace, joy or satisfaction. Only Jesus can do that. Keep your eyes on Him, do the hard work and have hope that He will not let you down, because He won’t! It just doesn’t always look like what we think it will.
HFW: What’s next for Jeannie Cunnion?
JC: Focusing on getting my new book, Mom Set Free, into as many moms’ hands as possible!
Photo credit: https://www.jeanniecunnion.com/