Friendships and Books and New Things!

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Wow. That was a LONG blogging hiatus! I’ve missed this space!

If you follow me on any social media (@homewiththeboys everywhere), you know that we were in the process of building a house this fall. We just moved into the new house on December 30th, so life is starting to finally settle back into a normal rhythm. It feels SO good. I’ll be doing a couple house tours once all of our furniture is here, but for now, I have other fun news!

I am in a book! Yes, a real book! A book that will be on bookstore shelves and on Amazon has my words in it!

I was incredibly honored to be asked to write a chapter in the very first book published by (in)courage, which is all about one of my favorite topics – friendship.

Craving Connection: 30 Challenges for Real-Life Engagement features the writing of 29 of my favorite internet (and real life) friends. Reading their stories of community has given me so much inspiration and encouragement – I can’t wait for you to read it!

This feels like a different take on women and friendship for me because it features many voices – introverts, extroverts, mothers, wives, single women, women in ministry, working women, women who have been hurt by other women, and women who find their true purpose in friendships with other women. And every single one of them loves the Lord, our true foundation for all meaningful relationships. I sincerely believe every woman can connect with at least one of the heartfelt chapters in this book and benefit from the accompanying challenges.


My chapter is based around the story of Ruth and Naomi and my own long-term friendship with my friend, Janna. When you’ve been friends since second grade and made it through all the ups and downs of middle school, girl drama, going off to college, and living in different places for the past 18 years, you know you have something special. Our friendship did not always involve our faith, but it has grown richer and more meaningful than I could have ever imagined because we now share a love for Jesus. It was pure joy to share our story of loyalty and growth. I pray that this chapter encourages you to be the loyal friend you’ve always wanted.

I’m writing about this lovely book because Craving Connection releases today! Yes, you can buy it today! I have the actual physical book in my hands and it’s just wonderful. I know you and your friends will be blessed by it, so grab your copy today! Make sure you’re also following along with (in)courage because they have SO many fun things planned to go along with this book birthday!

Here’s a challenge for today: think of a friend who has truly blessed you. What about her has been the biggest blessing to you – their humor, honesty, loyalty, something else? Leave a comment here with your answer and then tell that friend what you appreciate about her! YOU will be a big blessing to HER with your gratitutde!

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A Silly String + S’mores Party!

This post was sponsored by WaterWipes as part of an Ambassador Program for Influence Central and all opinions expressed in my post are my own. I received complimentary products to facilitate my review.

I’ve been wanting to host this party for weeks, but sickness, travel, and busy schedules have prevented it from happening…until now! I’m so excited to finally share!

Believe it or not, when my oldest kids were younger, they did NOT like to get messy. Finger painting was not fun to them and any messy food made them uneasy. They outgrew this disdain for messes, then little brother came along who doesn’t mind messes at all, so I can either resist or embrace this new kind of fun. I’m choosing the latter!

I can’t say that I’m going to miss summer, but I do want to take advantage of these nice days as we transition into fall. A silly string + s’mores party is the perfect way to have some messy fun with those elementary age kids on a late summer/early fall day!


You don’t need much to pull off this super fun playdate – just silly string and s’mores supplies!


There is one other key to success when hosting a silly, sticky, chocolatey, marshmallowy party. You MUST have WaterWipes on hand! We even had some travel packs to send home with our guests! More about the wipes in a bit, but first back to the fun!

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We went with the silly string fight first so the kids could burn off some energy and work up an appetite.

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One great tip for clean-up – tell the kids to make the biggest silly string ball possible! It can be a competition or they can make one huge ball together. This was fun for them AND helpful for me!


The kids (and adults) were definitely ready to chow down on some s’mores by the time all the silly string was gone! First, we had to get rid of the silly string from everyone’s hands – WaterWipes to the rescue! Having older kids is awesome because they can use the wipes to clean up after themselves!

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Now to the yummy stuff – I always thought s’mores had to be an evening activity, but why put limits on devouring this delicious gooey treat? With school nights and busy schedules, we opted for afternoon s’mores and enjoyed every single bite!

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We had an awesome mess with the warm temps, gooey marshmallows, and melted chocolate everywhere! FYI: peanut butter cup s’mores are where it’s at.

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I choose WaterWipes even though I don’t have babies anymore because chemical-free wipes are ALWAYS a good idea, no matter what the age of your children! WaterWipes are made with 99.9% pure Irish water and 0.1% grapefruit seed extract. I wasn’t sure how much I would like them after using traditional baby wipes for so many years, but they are the best, most durable wipes I’ve ever used.


WaterWipes can even stand up to the mess of silly string and s’mores on a bunch of elementary kids! They had so much fun with this party and clean-up was a breeze thanks to WaterWipes! As I’ve said many times before, I may never stop using wipes in our house because they are so handy for messes of all kinds!

Would your kids enjoy a silly string and s’mores party?

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Vino Van Gogh: Paint + Sip Fun with Friends (Giveaway!)

I received tickets to this even from Vino Van Gogh in exchange for a review. I was not compensated in any other way for this post and all opinions are 100% my own!

I’ve seen people I know doing these canvas painting parties all over the place and coming home with the most beautiful creations to hang in their homes. It looked like fun, but I had never tried it myself, so I jumped at the chance to attend a Vino Van Gogh event here in Omaha with one of my best friends!

Vino Van Gogh is different than most canvas painting classes because places because they hold their events at popular restaurants, so when you order food and drink you’re getting it from a place like J.Coco or Nosh or, in our case, Nebraska Brewing Company! When you look at the Vino Van Gogh event calendar, you can see the location of the event as well as what the painting will be for that night. I chose our event based on both the location and the painting – we were thrilled with both!

I knew this would be the perfect thing to do with my dear friend, Val – a relaxing night for two busy mamas who don’t get to see each other often enough! We chose the Vino Van Gogh event at Nebraska Brewing Company and the painting “Cherry Blossoms.” It was fun and relaxing and we enjoyed it so much! Here are a few highlights from the evening:

Vino Van Gogh Collage 1

Vino Van Gogh Collage 2

Your registration for the event includes the cost of the class and all supplies. Drinks and food are not included, but each location offers their own specials for Vino Van Gogh participants! I’m not a wine drinker, but I did enjoy some yummy food after we were done painting!

Vino Van Gogh Group

One of the most fun parts of this evening was seeing all the different interpretations of the same original painting! Carl was a great teacher who both taught us and encouraged us to make the paintings our own. I love watching people be creative, whether it comes naturally or not!


Our finished masterpieces! Mine is now hanging in the hallway as both beautiful art and a great memory with a wonderful friend!

Vino Van Gogh Giveaway

If you’re in the Omaha area and have been wanting to try a Vino Van Gogh event, you’re in luck because I’m giving away two tickets to the event of your choice!

To enter, just tell me in the comments the last time you did any kind of art! For extra entries, you can like Vino Van Gogh-Omaha on Facebook and tweet this message:

Tweet: Win 2 tickets to the #vinovangogh event of your choice in #omaha from @homewiththeboys! #giveaway

Leave a separate comment for each entry! This giveaway will close Friday, May 22nd at 9PM CST! One random winner will be notified by email!

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Nashville Girls’ Weekend with Tommy Nelson!

It’s been a little quiet around here for two reasons. The first is the fundraiser we launched over at the MOB Society last week as we make the move to becoming a nonprofit ministry! We’ve only just begun and it’s already very exciting, overwhelming, scary, and wonderful at the same time! If you’d like to read more, head over to the blog to hear our hearts!

The other reason has been travel, both with family and for blogging purposes! If you follow me on social media, you probably know I just got back from a girls’ weekend in Nashville!

I have been a part of the Tommy Nelson Mommies writing team for four years and they’ve been wanting to bring us all together for a while. It worked out for all of us except for two women to meet in Nashville this weekend and it was AMAZING.

Our weekend was jam-packed with goodness. We stayed at the beautiful Gaylord Opryland hotel…

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had a wonderful day of meetings at the Thomas Nelson headquarters {SO cool to be where all the book magic happens!}…

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ate the most wonderful food at places like Puckett’s Grocery and the Loveless Cafe…

and topped the whole weekend off with a night at the Grand Ole Opry AND a surprise backstage tour during the concert! Oh my word. This was incredible, especially since Vince Gill was playing and he did a song that is very near and dear to my heart {more on the Opry experience at a  later date}. A night I will not soon forget.

TN Vince Gill

But the weekend was really all about these beautiful women…

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Each of them beautiful in every way, I had the best time getting to know these ladies, laughing and crying and sharing and learning. Some were new friends, some I was so glad to reconnect with in person!

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I just could not think of a better group with whom to talk faith, writing, and motherhood {and also jump and eat my way through Nashville}! I’m thankful we had the chance to hear each other’s hearts in person as well as hearing directly from the team we work with at Tommy Nelson. These people really love Jesus AND children’s books! They are so committed to bringing more resources to parents to help their children learn about God and His Word – and they are a TON of fun!

I loved being a part of the Tommy Nelson team before, but this weekend gave me an even greater appreciation for their dedication to strengthening the faith of our children through books. It’s an honor to have a small place amongst this wonderful group!

If you’re a blogger and want to sign up to get Tommy Nelson children’s books to review, just head over here to apply! LOTS of great books coming out for kids in the next few months!

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Be Generous With Your Words

I have to pinch myself sometimes when I think about how incredibly blessed I am by the amazing women God has put in my life. It really is like a dream. Women far and near who love and encourage and pray for me, each put there for a reason.

Being a “gifts” love language person, I want to buy them all beautiful, thoughtful gifts in appreciation for the ways they’ve spoke life and love into my world. Well, really, I’d like to fly us all to a private island for a week where we could laugh and cry and be refreshed. And eat anything we want. And not change any diapers. And get a tan. But those things kind of cost money…a lot of it…and that’s just not possible.

What I do have is words. Words are free, but they carry so much value. When we want to bless others in big ways on a small budget, words are the way to go.

God laid it on my heart as I approached my 33rd birthday to be generous with my words. I started a list of the women who have blessed my life over the years and pretty soon I was at 33. Family, friends, mentors, colleagues. The list kept growing. And I started writing.

A few cards a day, with carefully chosen words, filling ME up with joy and gratitude and being sent on their way. Friends, I thought I was doing this because God wanted me to bless the women in my life, and I’m sure that was part of it, but He just heaped more blessings on me in the process. And I’m still going. This cheering on of others is addictive.


The value of a cute notecard and stamp, when paired with a little time and an open, encouraging heart, multiplies infinitely in the hands of God. And when we are generous with our words and obedient to His calling to share, His timing is always perfect. I can’t even tell you the number of times a handwritten card has shown up in my mailbox with just the words I needed to hear on that very day. He is so good like that.

When you feel like you have much to be thankful for, but don’t have much to give, can I encourage you to be generous in the giving of encouraging words to those you love? Don’t hold back in speaking words of life to others. Tell them they matter to you and to God and you are giving them something worth more than anything money could buy.

Be Generous With Your Words

How do you give your words generously? Are an email or snail mail encourager? Which do you prefer to receive?

I love to use little blank notecards like the ones above, but my favorite cards in the WORLD to send are always from DaySpring. They are unique and sweet and faith-filled and I can always find one with just the right words. Now through June 30, 2014, all DaySpring boxed card sets {affiliate link} are buy two get one free with the code B2G1Cards at checkout! I especially love the Holley Gerth Heart to Heart boxed set!

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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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Market to Market: 78.7 Miles with My Girls!

It might not sound like your ideal girls’ weekend, but running 78.7 miles as a group with some of my best girlfriends last weekend was all kinds of awesome.


Market to Market is a relay from {somewhere near} Omaha’s Old Market to Lincoln’s Haymarket. 500 teams of 6, 7, or 8 people run 78.7 miles total throughout the day, running the last .3 miles as a team to cross the finish line!

My friend Julie entered the lottery to get a team and asked me to join her and six other dear friends on this crazy running adventure and of course, I said YES!

We spent the night at Julie’s parents’ house in Omaha so we could be closer to the beginning of the race since we had to leave that house at 5:30 a.m. to start the race at 6:20 IN THE MORNING {It’s really dark at that time, in case you didn’t know.}

Despite our need to rise early, we spent the night before like we were having a sleepover – trying on our outfits, painting our nails all sparkly, staying up way too late.

M2M Sleepover

Oh, and grocery shopping. When you’re running ALL DAY LONG, you need to eat and drink, obviously. There was also van decorating because we wanted everyone to know that we were Team Sparkle!

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Teams were actually beginning their waves of the race as early as 5:00 a.m., but as I mentioned, our start time was 6:20. With eight members on our team, each member had two or three legs during the day. Each leg was between 2.7 and 5.5 miles. Each runner would run somewhere between 6 and 13.1 miles by the end of the day.

I was Runner #2, running three legs total – 3.4 miles, 5.5 miles, and 2.9 miles, plus the .3 team finish. You would think those shorter distances spread out would make the day not too difficult. You would think wrong.

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First handoff!

My first run was glorious. It was still dark and chilly when I started. I love running in the cold. Night gear I could do without, but it was still fun! That leg was all in Omaha on a paved trail and a great way to start the day!

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We weaved our way out of Omaha, dropping off and picking up runners, checking out the fun costumes and decorated vans of other teams. We even stopped to tailgate a little with these guys who were handing out warm hot dogs!

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My second leg was not what I expected at all. I knew it would be long, but the hills were quite a surprise, as was running on a highway with no shoulder! Thankfully, cars were very aware of us and moved over with no problems. The hills on the other hand, were not so fun. Nice, gradual, LONG hill after hill. But all of that was rewarded with the loveliest rural scenery and fall foliage, as well as running across the Platte River. I felt like that river crossing was a huge blessing from God – flat and gorgeous – so I had to stop and take a few pics!



Oh, and I had to stop for a train. I thought that was funny.



After my second leg, the hip flexors really started to ache. Turns out running and then sitting in a van for hours is not so good for those muscles! We did get out at very exchange point to cheer on runners, which was also a great chance to stretch and do some stick rolling on those sore muscles. On a side note, I don’t think I’ve used a port-a-potty so many times in one day in my entire life. Staying well hydrated + lots of running = lots of potty breaks for all.

M2M in the van

M2M Renee + Me Last Leg

I saw parts of Nebraska I had never seen before as we made our way from point to point in our 15 passenger van. We stopped in lots of fun little towns and in the middle of cornfields and on gravel roads. What would a race through Nebraska be without cornfields?!

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Leg #3 looked pretty easy in the race packet, but my legs disagreed! But again, the scenery was so beautiful and everyone I passed and that passed me {more of the latter} was so encouraging and happy to be out there.

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A girl has to stash her running fuel and inhaler somewhere, right?!

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THAT is why I love races – the community is just awesome and Market to Market did not disappoint in this area! Fast or slow didn’t matter {at least to us!} – we were all running the same distance and having a great time with our teams!

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And speaking of teams, Team Sparkle was just THE. BEST. Conquering a race like that is made even more awesome when it’s done with wonderful friends. These girls made the day amazing and I definitely teared up as we ran the last o.3 miles together.

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Wind block for the next runner!

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Sparkle skirts made by our very own team member, owner of The Berry Patch

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Finish a leg of the race, check your box!


A proper reward for finishing my miles!



My awesome guys surprised me at the end!

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Team Sparkle – Market to Market 2013!

Love those girls. Loved the whole day. I can’t wait to do all it again next year!

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The Definition of a Friend {Five Minute Friday}

Five Minute FridayIt’s Five-Minute Friday with lovely Lisa-Jo!

Set a timer and just write. Don’t worry about making it just right or not.

For me? An exercise in letting go and letting words flow. Five minutes only. {yes, I did set a timer and it quacked like a duck at 5 minutes, which totally made me smile}

Today’s prompt: Friend.

And go…

I used to hold on to a pretty small definition of the word “friend.”

Requirements included years of knowing one another and living life together in the same space and agreeing on most things was always a good thing.

Friend no longer means the person next door. Some of my dearest friends are miles and miles and miles away. We are not living life together on the same block or even in the same town, but “life together” can mean so many different things these days.

Moving and this internet world have broadened my friend definition. Women I haven’t seen in years or haven’t even met in person know my heart as well as those I’ve known for years.

We may not agree on politics or movies or a whole host of other things, but my friends are knit together with me through Jesus and that’s where real friendship has its roots.

I cherish deeply the friends I’ve had for years – since second grade, since our first children were born a week a part.


But I am also quick to call someone a friend, even when we met 24 hours prior. Because God just knows those friends you need. And when He shows them to you, you do not hesitate.


I call them friend and mean it.



And now I’m off to link up this post with the fabulous Five Minute Friday community and then spend time with my beautiful friends at Bible study!

A blessed weekend to YOU my FRIENDS!

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God-Sized Dream Stories: Those Who Inspire Me

God-Sized Dreams TeamAs I’m pursuing the dreams God has placed on my heart, I have many days where I think…

“What am I doing? I’m not qualified to do this? I just need to stop and let someone else pursue this dream…”

Most of the time I am able to stop myself mid-thought and realize these are not words my loving, wonderful God would put in my head. They are lies.

Other days, I need some extra inspiration to help me press on, and the stories of other God-sized dreamers are just what I need. The most inspiration has come from moms like me, living mom lives, putting God and family first, and saying yes to the gifts and dreams He has given them.

Dreamers like these…

Heather – Fellow boy mama, although she’s one up on me. Going about her life being an encouragement to many in real life and through her blog and BOOM! She gets an email from an agent asking if she’s ever thought of publishing a book! That is a WOW GOD type of thing to me. And Heather has stayed humble, seeking God and taking the process slow. I. Love. This. Story.

Brooke – She wrote Warrior Prayers because she just knew it needed to be written. Not for fame, not for money – just to pass on her heart for praying for her boys. God has done so much more than she ever dreamed with her obedience in writing that book, in her own life and the lives of thousands of boy mamas. And there’s more to come… 🙂

Jen – She has FOUR boys who are all SIX, so that automatically makes her a hero to me. The way Jen and her family honestly share their lives, from stories of pregnancy with multiples to unemployment to taking on adventures with their boys, is so real and so God-honoring. I’m not sure Brad and Jen would have ever said this is where they dreamed they would be one day, but they let God write their story and move forward with joy and faith.

Amanda -As a former teacher, I love that Amanda’s previous career in children’s ministry has become a part of how she parents and how she encourages other parents in her writing. And the stuff she writes about she actually DOES with her kids, impressing God’s Word upon their hearts in creative, meaningful ways. Motherhood is not mundane for her – it is fun and God-inspired and full of life. I love when my music teacher training and motherhood collide, and Amanda inspires me to use what I’ve been given, even though I’m not a music teacher at a school anymore! I don’t believe that teaching and being a parent and becoming a writer are all separate dreams – God is weaving one big dream through all of them!

I don’t know that my words can do justice to the God-sized dreams of these women, but I know their dreaming keeps me going on days I’m not sure I have what it takes to follow the path He has shown me to take.

And we all need those stories, don’t we?

Tell me a God-sized dream story that inspires YOU!

Read more inspiring God-sized dream stories over at Holley’s place today!


If God-sized dreaming is your thing or you think God is gently nudging you to step out in faith on something new, you MUST read Holley’s newest book, You’re Made for a God-Sized Dream: Opening the Door to All God Has for You, launching THIS FRIDAY! Pre-order your copy now and come back later this week to read all that I have to say about it!

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The Power of Having a “Dream Team”: How Community Helps Your Dreams Succeed

Yesterday we talked about the importance of community for moms. Let me sum it up for you:

Alone = bad. Together = good.

This same formula works well for me in other areas as well. Dreaming is one such area.

It’s actually quite easy for me to dream. I am a big-picture thinker, an ENFP {see my note at the end of this post to find out more}. ENFPs are excited by new ideas, but get bored easily with details. In other words, I get distracted by the next “shiny thing” to come along quite often.

I have dreams coming out of my ears, but on my own, most of them will never happen.

That’s where my own personal “dream team” comes to the rescue!

The Power of a Dream Team

These are the people who inspire me, bounce around ideas with me, and ground me in reality when needed! The power of having a “dream team” comes when they fill in your gaps, spur you onward, and help your dreams succeed.

My gaps include procrastination, lack of attention to details, and struggling to finish projects before starting new ones. This “dream team” is helping me overcome these deficits to pursue all that God has planned for me – those wonderful, amazing God-sized dreams!

Who makes up my “dream team?”

20130128-232259.jpgThe Hubby is my ultimate “dream team” member because he loves to plan and look ahead at where we’re going, but he also thinks about how every decision will affect our family. And he knows me better than I know myself, so he always has what’s best for me in mind!

My best friends take on two significant team roles – one as a cheerleader and one as a prayer warrior. Dreams can really take flight when supported by encouragement and prayer! These gorgeous girls are always there holding me up.


Brooke and I are united in our vision to reach out to moms and dads of boys, so dreaming together is a joy. And, like my husband, she’s a details-thinker, so she fills in those gaps for me. Hallelujah for puzzle pieces that fit together just right!


Amanda is that person in my life whose creativity and enthusiasm inspire me to dream bigger and keep moving forward {Meet the Robinsons for the win there}, particularly in the areas of blogging and all things kid-related! She just oozes big, wonderful, God-centered ideas!

Dream Team Gals

And to round out the team are two ladies who are so willing to listen, pray, and sweetly speak truth into my life. Stacey and Teri Lynne are women I greatly respect for their faithfulness to God and their families above all else. They are already modeling my God-sized dream, and doing so with grace and wisdom.

Notice how I need lots of realistic-minded people around me to keep me from floating off in a million different directions, chasing dreams that just aren’t right for the here and now?! Maybe you’re a detail person and the big-picture dreams don’t come as easily – surround yourself with those who dream big and catch some of their spirit of adventure!

Find your team. Share your dreams. Watch God move. There is power in community!

What kind of people do you need on your team to help your dreams succeed?

I mentioned above that I am an ENFP. That’s not a misspelled word, but rather a personality type based on this test. I would love for you to go take the test {it’s free!} and come back to share your results!


*Linking up over at Holley’s as part of the God-Sized Dream Team today!

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