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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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

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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!

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A proper reward for finishing my miles!

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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.

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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.

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I call them friend and mean it.

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Stop.

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!

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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.

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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!

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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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Dear Friend…

Dear Friend,

Did you know I’ve been praying for you?

I have. I’ve been praying for you a lot lately. Even if this is your first time reading this blog, I’ve been praying for you.

My heart is heavy with all of the judgement and dissension and comparison being flung around groups of women. On the web, in our communities, even in our churches. In a quest to be “right” and look good and convert others to our own way of thinking, women’s hearts are being trampled on.

Chances are you are or have been that trampled heart at some point or many points in your lifetime.

Is this really what we want to use our words for, ladies? To make others feel wrong or less than or judged in some way?

Words are so painful, especially when written down in black and white, aren’t they? When did we forget the command given to us in Ephesians 4:29?

Watch the way you talk. Let nothing foul or dirty come out of your mouth. Say only what helps, each word a gift. ~Ephesians 4:29 {The Message}

Each word is a gift. I want to use my black-and-white words today to tell you this:

You are loved just the way you are.

You are dearly loved by our Heavenly Father and He wants to speak words of love into your life. That other stuff is NOT from Him.

That Facebook post that made you feel like a terrible mother? Not from Him. Let it go…

The blog post that had you feeling like a failure as a wife? Not from Him. Let it go…

The woman at church that gossips about clothes and shoes and makes you feel self-conscious? Her words are NOT from Him. Let them go…

Let all of it go and run to His Word – the only words that matter. The only love and approval that matters. And He has already offered them both to you.

God so loved YOU that He gave His one and only Son. {John 3:16}

While you were still a sinner, He demonstrated His great love for YOU by dying on the cross. {Romans 5:8}

He loves YOU so much He calls you His child. {1 John 3:1}

And nothing can separate YOU from His love. {Romans 8:37-39)

You are loved with the greatest love there ever has been and ever will be.

And as for those we make you feel inferior and unloved? Don’t allow any of that to take up residence in your heart and mind. Fill them with these thoughts instead…

I am doing the best I can.

I already am beautiful inside and out.

My worth is not determined by anyone else’s actions or non-actions.

And know that I am here to give you a pep talk whenever you need one.

With love and prayers,

Erin

*****

Today is the National Day of Encouragement – would you pass on some kind words to the people who matter in your life? Your words will go a long way! Each one is a gift!

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They Get Me

It’s Friday morning. I’m headed to a new Bible study I just started last week. Childcare is provided at the same location. {Hallelujah!} And the Bible study is with several other wives of residents.

We’re actually doing a Bible study about being a doctor’s wife. I could not have thought of a better way to start off our three years of residency than studying the Word of God and discussing our unique situations together.

Although I don’t know them well yet, this group of women is an answer to prayer.

I’ve never been one that has a hard time connecting with other women, but moving away from our home and church family of 12+ years, my prayer was to meet other women who really GET me.

God has always provided this in the past, so I shouldn’t be surprised that He is doing so again…

I have a best friend who knows my dislike of small talk and feels the exact same way. Let’s not waste time with any of that – life is too short to talk about “nothing.” With us, there is no fluff. There is no beating-around-the-bush. Real is all you get when we are together.

She totally gets me.

As a mama of two boys who grew up with no brothers, I found myself wondering what in the world I was doing raising these crazy, wonderful little men. Enter The MOB Society. Boom – 8,000+ boy moms sharing in the chaos and joy of bringing up boys. Boy moms wanting to raise strong, godly men who will take a stand for Jesus. I feel surrounded by wisdom and camraderie there.

Those boy mamas really get me, even if they have no idea who I am.

Then there was the time we decided to start homeschooling. God put just the right women in my life who would be starting the same journey. We get the fact that the life of a homeschool mom is hard and awesome and tiring and blessed and very hard to describe.

We get each other.

Now, I have these doctors’ wives. From just one Bible study meeting, the consensus was clear. We need this time together because we GET what each other is going through. There were lots of heads nodding in understanding as life stories were told – the journeys that led us to all be in a common place.

Nothing sounded unfamiliar as we discussed our current lives and schedules. And on top of it all, we all love Jesus and want to walk more fully in His calling for us as medical spouses.

One meeting and I can tell we GET one another.

Near or far, in person or online, new or old, each one of these is a blessing straight from heaven because we are on a similar path. I feel community and normalcy when I interact with these beautiful women.

It’s a good thing to be “got” and get through this life together.

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Which connections are you most thankful for in your life? Is there an area in which you really need someone to “get” you? I would love to pray for you today!



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Women of Faith: Blessings and Truth

{I realize it is not Tuesday, but due to the blog crisis earlier in the week, I missed Top Ten Tuesday and will now post a Top Ten Thursday post. I’m not confused. I promise.}

I knew Women of Faith would be a great experience.

Two days with super fun, beautiful girlfriends…

an overnight stay at an awesome hotel, yummy dinner in the Old Market…

and loads of wonderful Christian speakers and musicians…

{Oh yes, that IS Mandisa doing “Shackles” with the worship team. And yes, I WAS a dancing fool during this.}

All of that added together has to equal a great experience.

But, when you walk away from that experience with loads of quotes and notes and truth that needed to be spoken into your life, THAT is when a great experience becomes AMAZING.

I’m not sure I can sum up the experience very well. I have heard other people talk about going to Women of Faith before, and I still didn’t get it until I was there.

So instead of attempting to sum it up, I want to share some of the quotes that touched my heart and brought God’s Word front and center for where I am right and now…

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Top Ten Truth-Packed Quotes from Women of Fatih

10. “It is tough for the seeds of depression to take root in a grateful heart.” ~Andy Andrews

{This was heaven for me. I could listen to Amy Grant sing all day long.}

9. “To be lead by the One who made us – that’s the ride I want to be on.” ~Amy Grant

8. “In friendships, be grateful for what the other person has to give without expecting them to give you exactly what you need.” ~Lisa Whelchel

7. “Our restlessness will be satisfied by no one but God.” ~Marilyn Meberg

6. “Our lives are filled with many storms, but God uses them to wash and clean us.” ~Andy Andrews

{First time EVER duet between Sandi Patty and Amy Grant! Totally impromptu!}

5. “If I believe God’s Word is true, I must believe God’s Word is true for me.” ~Sandi Patty

4. “Emotions don’t have brains. God has given us a will that is stronger than our emotions.” ~Patsy Clairmont

3. “Smile while you talk. Nothing is more illuminating and attractive than a smile.” ~Andy Andrews

{Patsy – the cutest and funniest lady ever. And she speaks TRUTH.}

2. “The greatest need we all have is for connection.” ~Patsy Clairmont

1. “All the good things that happen in your life will happen because of how you act, but all the great things that happen in your life will happen because of how you act when life isn’t fair.” ~Andy Andrews

How is that for a little something to think about? Almost a week later and I still haven’t fully digested it all…

If I had to pick one highlight from the weekend, however, it would have been the final drama of the weekend, “The Invisible Woman.” Oh man, the comparison between cathedral builders and our work as mothers was EXACTLY what I needed to hear. To the tee.

I wish I could describe it to you better, but just know that even though your daily work as a mother may seem tedious and insignificant, GOD sees everything you do to “build” your children into godly men and women, even though YOU may never fully see the finished product. THAT is motivation to keep pressing on!

And an added bonus of the weekend?

Meeting the other bloggers who were sent by BookSneeze! Such a lovely group of women!

Thank you SO much to BookSneeze and Women of Faith for making this weekend possible for my friends and I – we were SO blessed!

And THIS is the perfect way to end a fabulous weekend…

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Fun at the Zoo Times Two

We love zoos and have had lots of fun at two local zoos so far this summer!

First, the “big zoo” with family…

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And our local zoo with friends…

And my most favorite pic in a long, long time…

Great idea for a photo opp, Donna! Love these kiddos!

{I’ll be posting in the future about learning at the zoo – lots of fun to be had!}

Have you had fun at your local zoo lately?

 

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