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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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…

TN Opryland

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

TN Thomas Nelson

TN Group at TN

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…

TN Johnny Rockets

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!


TN Party Car TN Group Jump

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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It’s Freeing to Know Who You Are

This weekend I discovered the freedom of interacting with others when you know who you are.

Taking the StrengthsFinder test back in February opened my eyes to giftings I “kind of” knew were there from the Lord already, but I didn’t know how to name them. It was as if God called them out of me in a new way through that test and the study I did of my strengths in the time that followed.

This past weekend I attended the Declare Conference in Dallas, Texas. The Lord revealed an even greater blessing while there of walking in my strengths in community with other women, women who also know or are learning how God has made them and how He wants to use them for His kingdom.

God has built within me a strong desire and gift to connect with new people, to learn new things, and to communicate them with others. This is who I am.

At Declare, I had a chance to do ALL of these things and my heart leapt at each new opportunity to meet someone new, learn something new, or share what I know. I can see now how this has played out in previous experiences of mine, but this year felt different.  I felt more free, more bold, more connected with what He was bringing my way and why.

There are hundreds of personality tests and assessments out there to discover “who you are,” and it might be so overwhelming that you’re never touched one. But I’m asking you to reconsider.

In conversation after conversation with old friends and new friends this weekend, I heard women celebrating their God-given strengths and walking in wild obedience to do what He has asked them with those strengths.

Declare Heather Crystal

It looked like Crystal wildly obeying God’s call to share her love and gift for cultivating authentic community online to a room full of women.

It looked like Heather embracing her extroverted-awesome to emcee the conference with such humor, such life, such Jesus-love.

Declare Brooke Kate

It looked like Brooke + Stacey each sharing their own gracious, loving words about how to keep going and keep writing when the world seems to crumble around you complete with their own hard stories.Declare Stacey

It looked like Jessi holding on our hands and telling us she’s in the thick of it, too, and that’s ok because Jesus is enough to pull us through.

It looked like Lisa-Jo bravely telling her motherhood stories that made us all feel a little less alone and a lot more ready to fight for the things that matter to us, including our children.

Declare Sally

It looked like Sally and a lot of tears, understanding, prayer, healing between the two of us because she was willing to open her heart.

Declare Workout

It looked like Alisa leading us in a God-centered workout that brought us to throne of Jesus AND made me the good kind of sore for days following 🙂

It looked like the listening ears and wise words of Denise and Alia into the wee hours of the night, two women with very different strengths than me, but exactly what I needed to connect with at that moment.

It looked like so many other beautiful women saying, “Yes. THIS is who I am. THIS is what God wants me to do.” And every single woman’s wild obedience looked different and beautiful and free.

The first blogging conference I went to, I walked away wanting to be more like this woman or that blog. I hadn’t spent enough time asking God, “Who am I? What are the strengths you want me to use for You?” I spent years online trying to figure out how I “fit in.”

This year, I was so comfortable with me. And I felt so free. I led a session on affiliate marketing and I joked that it was the least “Jesus-y” session of the whole weekend. My session wasn’t about Jesus, but it was about using our strengths for Him. He gifted me in the area of connecting with people + businesses and sharing them with others, so I stepped out into this calling and LOVED it.

Instead of walking away from Declare wanting my blog to look more like this woman’s or my Instagram pictures to look more like that woman’s, I walked away ready to be me to the fullest, to fulfill MY place in His Kingdom.

Do you know how good that feels? I want you to know how good that feels. We all have different gifts but they are ALL important. The woman who listens well is just as gifted as the woman who speaks in front of thousands. But you have to know where your strengths lie if you’re going to embrace them and use them for His glory.

I don’t want to add another thing to anyone’s to-do list, but at least consider taking a personality or strengths-finding test today if you’re wrestling with your place in this world, in His Kingdom. And if you’ve taken these tests, find a way to use what what He has built inside you. Revisit those strengths often.

Because it’s freeing to know who you are and DO something for Him with it.

*****

My favorites for discovering more about your personality and strengths:

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Five Minute Friday: Write

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 do set a timer and it quacks like a duck at 5 minutes, which totally makes me smile}

Today’s prompt: Write.

*****

And go…

I was just pondering this recently: what am I doing here, at this point in my life, calling myself a writer?

Writing was never a part of the original plan, but as I look back, God was laying the foundation in fifth grade writing chapter books with girlfriends and sleepovers and during my senior year of high school as I wrote for the school newspaper.

But a writer? Really, God?

This is my year to embrace it and I asked God just WHY He wanted ME to WRITE. This is what resonated in my heart and soul…

Write

What good are the things God teaches us, brings us through, redeems in us if we keep them to ourselves?

This is why I write. I am a teller. The things I love and learn, the things that excite and challenge me – He uses them all when I share for His glory. He has asked me to do this in the form of writing.

Knowing the WHY behind why I write changes everything. I’m telling His stories, bringing Him glory, in ways only I can because this is how He has spoke to me, changed me, grown me, SAVED me.

I have to tell the world. Boldly, I will write.

Stop.

*****

Don’t forget to read lots of lovely thoughts from the Five Minute Friday gang over at Lisa-Jo’s today!

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VITALITY in Ministry

I’m using the word “ministry” very loosely here, but it was the only word I could think to describe my writing/speaking/online world!

This is not a life I ever envisioned for myself, but slowly, surely, I’m embracing the small voice that says, “This is what I made you to do. Right here. Right now.”

My education and experience are as an elementary music teacher, a job I adored completely. But when one little boy, then another joined our family, the call on my life was to come home. And I started a little old blog to keep our family and friends up-to-date.

I had no clue I would fall in love with writing, and very reluctantly, today call myself a writer. Sure, I wrote “chapter books” with my girlfriends all night at sleepovers in fifth grade. And yes, I wrote for my high school newspaper. But still… I was unaware I would enjoy so much encouraging women through writing and speaking. I didn’t know God would use writing as a processing and learning and growing tool for MYSELF.

This is the first full year I’m really embracing these roles of writer and speaker He has placed in my life. And to be a good steward of these roles, I’ve set a few goals for this year step out of timidity and into vitality…

Vitality in Ministry

write unashamed

There are so many posts I haven’t published – or never even wrote – because I wasn’t sure they would be “good enough.” That ends this year. The words God speaks are always good enough and even if they are just for me, they need to be written.

spread joy and encouragement

I was never an actual cheerleader, but I was always one of the most enthusiastic fans in the stands. Yes, I was even awarded “Fan of the Game” once, complete with a crown, sash, and a couch to sit on during the game. I want to be that person again for you. I want to be your biggest fan and encourager. I want this rediscovered joy and vitality to be evident in every word I write and speak, even when sharing about the tough stuff. That picture above? That’s what I’m talking about 🙂

serve + love others well

I have been so inspired by the women at {in}courage and The Influence Network to use my words and this blog and the social media world to love others well. You don’t have to live next door to someone to serve them or love them. Words have a lot of power and I’ll be asking a lot more this year how I can bless you and others through this space. And you can always email me at homewiththeboys at gmail dot com if you have questions or prayer requests – I won’t always respond right away because three children and homeschool and ALL THE THINGS, but I will always read your words and pray for you!

glorify Him

Not everything I write is about God, but I want every part of me to glorify Him, including writing and speaking. I’m letting go of the burden that comes with keeping track of pageviews and retweets and asking God that with each post or speaking engagement, His name is glorified. My prayer is that those who need to hear that message or read that post are the ones reached, whether it is one person or one thousand. All for Him. Not for me. There is so much life to be found in doing all things through Him and for Him!

Wow. It felt really good to write all of that out. And in this first month of 2014, it’s felt really good to writing with these things in mind. I look forward to a year full of rich, joyful experiences on this unexpected path from God!

What unexpected places has God taken you in ministry? What does vitality look like for you there?

 

Read more about my goals for vitality…

The VITALITY Series

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