Summer Book Club for Moms Check-In #2: The Promise Box

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Well, this should have been posted at the end of July, but I was lost in conference session planning and magazine article writing and…forgive me?!

Summer Book Club for Moms

We’re continuing on with our Summer Book Club for Moms featuring a great series by my friend Tricia Goyer! All of the details are right here and you can still join in! Just check-in on the appropriate post for each book and we’ll wrap it all up at the beginning of September with a giveaway for one person who has read and checked in for all three books!

Promise Box

Whenever you are done reading The Promise Box {before August 31st}, just leave a comment below with your thoughts on the book and answer one or both of these discussion questions if you’d like! I love honest discussion, but let’s remember to keep it positive and encouraging to one another!

Here are the questions you can consider when leaving your comment…

1. The Promise Box is set in a small Amish community in Northwestern Montana. What do you like best about the setting?

2. How are Lydia’s eyes opened once she starts reading notes and Scripture verses from Mem’s Promise Box?

Happy discussing and happy reading! See you back here for check-in #3 on or soon after August 31st!

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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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First Day of School at Elm Tree Academy! {2014-15}

Today was the first day of school for the new year with these handsome boys! It is our fourth year of homeschool, with Big J starting third grade, Little J in first grade, and Double J wanting to learn colors, shapes, and letters, which the boys names “preschool!”

Our official first day of school pictures…

Jeremiah 3rd Grade 1st Day Joshua 1st Grade 1st DayJacob 2yo Preschool 1st Day Teacher 1st Day Three Boys 1st Day

When do your kids start school? Are they ready? Are YOU ready?!

 

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4 x 4: Get to Know Me Before Declare!

Next week is the Declare Conference in Dallas and I am over-the-moon excited to be attending and speaking this year! Some of my very favorite writer friends will be there and it has been WAY too long since we’ve seen each other. And since I know no strangers, only friends I haven’t met yet, I’m looking forward to seeing lots of new friends while in Texas as well!

And to make us a little less like strangers and more like friends when we finally do meet in person, I’m linking up with the Declare 4×4 posts to share more about myself! Enjoy!

Family Standing 2014 blog

4 things about me

I’ve been married to The Hubby for 11 wild and crazy years which have led to us being in his last year of residency right now. LAST YEAR, PEOPLE. {cue angels singing} He is my best friend and such a hottie.

I’m a boy mom, through and through. Big J is 8, Little J is 6, and Double J is 2. Our house is loud and chaotic and full of Legos and just as it should be. I don’t really “get” this boy thing all the time, but I sure do love them!

In my “former” life, I was an elementary music teacher and loved every minute of it. I worked in the best small community and also coached junior high volleyball and helped direct the high school musical. It was my dream job and I am so thankful for the time I had there.

After years of HATING running, I gave it a real shot in April of 2012 and have loved it ever since. In just over two years, I have ran four half marathons with the last two being under two hours! I never in a million years would have thought I would be a runner, but here I am! And I love encouraging other women in their running journeys! {Anybody want to run with me on Friday or Sunday morning?}

Fargo010

4 endearing quirks

I am LOUD, especially my laugh. You’ve been warned.

I don’t eat cheese, but I’m a huge Cheesehead {Packers fan}.

I’m a little obsessed with personality and strengths tests and exercises. I love finding out more about myself and the people I work with so we can work better together. StrengthsFinder is my favorite so far!

I can’t wait to wear these cowboy boots in Texas.

dotMOM Photo Booth Crop

The last time I saw Brooke in person – Double J was 6 months old! Excited to be reunited at Declare, but sad Amanda won’t be joining us!

4 things about my writing/blogging

I started blogging in 2008 when I was becoming a stay-at-home mom for the first time. The blog was supposed to be a way to share our family life with friends and family far away, but it has definitely morphed over the years!

Writing was never something I had on my list of dream jobs, but as I look back, I used to write stories with my friends starting in elementary school and I wrote for our high school newspaper. God knew how to lay a framework for writing without me even realizing it. Now I can’t imagine going even a few days without writing something!

I have a few magazine articles coming out in late 2014 and early 2015! I love the topics and the magazine I’ve been writing for and can’t wait to tell you more when they come out!

I co-founded The MOB Society for mothers of boys with Brooke in 2010 without ever having met each other in person! We’ll both be speaking at Declare this year AND we get to room together!!!

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4 of my favorite things

Football. It’s so close I can taste it… Go Huskers! Go Packers!

Popcorn. Air-popped with real butter or popped on the stove with coconut oil are the best.

Tennis dates with The Hubby. Yes, he usually beats me, but we’re pretty evenly matched, so we have fun and get a great workout…and then go eat yummy food in our sweaty tennis clothes!

Fair trade/ethical fashion. I love knowing my purchases are making a difference.

*****

Well, that was fun! I cannot wait to get to Dallas and share the weekend with a whole lot of Jesus-loving women who want to follow Him with wild obedience and declare His Name to the world! If you’re coming, make sure you let me know and say hi if you see me!

I will be speaking on Friday about affiliate marketing and how to handle it ethically and still make money! I would love to have you join me if you’re interested!

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fashionABLE Flash Scarf Sale!

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!

Mark your calendars! Set an alarm! Some of my favorite fashionABLE scarves will be 40% off today from 2:00 to 6:00 p.m. only!

 

 

This flash scarf sale will include the FrehiwotEtanesh StripesAlem, & Anchinalu scarves, each at 40% off while supplies last! Just use the code SEEYASUMMER2014 in your shopping bag to get this amazing deal!

 

I own all four of these scarf styles and they are each amazing! Here is the Anchinalu in action:

erin-2

Each scarf is skillfully and lovingly made by a woman in Africa who has sustainable employment through fashionABLE. With your scarf, you will receive a tag telling how your purchase has helped one woman change her life. You will treasure each note and every piece – they are amazing works of art.

Remember, the sale is for FOUR HOURS only TODAY – 2-6 p.m. CST – and you need the code SEEYASUMMER2014 at checkout to get the 40% off! Grab a few of these beauties before they sell out!

Come back and tell me which scarves you bought during the sale!

 

 

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Better Life Bags + What I Wore

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 took a little break from What I Wore posts but I’m thinking about bringing them back starting in August because I’m rethinking wardrobe and buying practices and I’d love to share more of that journey with you on a regular basis. I’m easing back in today with a business I’ve been giddy to share with you…

When the words ethical fashion and fair trade are mentioned, most people think of employment for men + women who wouldn’t regularly have jobs in OTHER countries. Rebecca Smith and her family saw a need for this kind of employment right here in the United States. Rebecca and her family live in a low-income area of Detroit. The unemployment rate is 20%. Jobs are scarce and many people in the community are first-generation immigrants with few connections to finding these jobs.

Better Life Bags logo

Rebecca and her company, Better Life Bags, are changing the outlook for many women in the Detroit area by renting out sewing machines, teaching sewing skills, and providing an income for these women to support their families. What Rebecca and her family are doing in Detroit is an amazing example of seeing and meeting a need right in her own community. We don’t have to travel far to make a big difference.

I adore Rebecca’s heart {and her cute family} and her mission…and then I saw the selection of bags made by the women of Better Life Bags and I just fell in love. While there are ready-to-ship bags in the Better Life store, the real fun and beauty is in the custom bags, where you pick the colors, fabric, and finishes!

I was looking for a bag to travel with – not too big, but able to hold my laptop, Day Designer, and a few other travel essentials. Rebecca pointed me towards the Brynnda and it is JUST PERFECT.

Meet my Brynnda…

Better Life Bags Brynnda

I knew two things when I was picking out the custom features of my bag:

  1. It had to include green somewhere.
  2. I wanted fabric that wouldn’t show dirt easily.

At first, I thought the pattern I chose was in black, but Rebecca clarified it was actually navy and I didn’t know if I would love it…but I do. I love it. It is like no other bag I have ever owned. The size is just what I wanted – big enough to travel with, but small enough to use every day.

Better Life Bags Brynnda Inside

The interior is a heavy-duty navy canvas which will hold up to my abuse very well and I’m SO glad there is a zippered interior pocket! The clasp on the outside is super strong, so I’m not worried about my bag accidentally falling open on an airplane! There is also a shallow pocket on the front {the green fabric is the top of that pocket} and a deep pocket on the back exterior of the bag – places for everything!

Better Life Bags All

Because I switch bags a lot during a week – gym bag, diaper bag, purse – I decided to get some matching nesting pouches as well! Aren’t they adorable?!

Better Life Bags Nesting Pouches

I’m currently using the small one for lip gloss and the medium one for the ridiculous array of pens I like to carry everywhere for my planner + Bible study. The reinforced leather bottom is so gorgeous and each pouch also has the same heavy-duty canvas as the interior of my bag.

Better Life Bags Styled

This gives you a better idea of how big the Brynnda is – such a great size! I’m wearing it here with my She Does Justice “Speak Life” shirt {designed with Jessi from Naptime Diaries}, Levi’s skinny jeans, The Root Collective pink striped peep toe flats, fashionABLE Teshome bracelets {and my Fitbit!}, and Johari Creations earrings!

I’m obviously head-over-heels about my new bags, but the best part of the whole package was this…

Better Life Bags Nadia

I know this post is about beautiful bags, but it is also about beautiful life change that happens when the bags are purchased. Nadia is just one of the women who are employed because of Better Life Bags, but hers is the tag and story I will carry with me.

Which bag and story will you carry? Find the Better Life Bag that fits your lifestyle and needs on their site! There are literally bags for everyone – diaper bags, camera bags, pouches, purses, phone cases, laptop sleeves, and more! Make your way over to Better Life Bags and create your own masterpiece to support the women of Detroit today!

UPDATE: Through the end of July, use the code ENJOYJULY to get 15% off your order! Expires at midnight, July 31, 2014!

Which Better Life Bag would you love to carry?

 

I received the Brynnda bag to review from Better Life Bags. I was not compensated in any way for this review and all opinions are 100% my own!

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The Leather Tote That Changes Lives

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A leather tote that changes lives?!

Mamuye Tote 2

I promise you I’m not being overdramatic and I’m not just talking about how much you’ll love this bag for yourself. The Mamuye leather tote from fashionABLE is not just any bag to add to your collection and empty your wallet. This piece literally changes the lives of the women who make it. And your purchase makes that change happen.

Mamuye Tote 3

the wind would just not cooperate, so I didn’t fight it :)

The Mamuye leather tote is made of 100% Ethiopian leather and handcrafted by women who wouldn’t have jobs without fashionABLE. Every fashionABLE item comes with a tag that tells how you have changed one woman’s life with your purchase. I can’t help but support an amazing organization that employs women and moms just like me in a different part of the world. The tag for this tote said, “Because of you, I am able to work hard and get promoted, too!” Love. that. You can read more of Mamuye’s story here.

Mamuye Tote River 1

I have the cognac tote and I think it goes with just about everything, which is great because I carry it everywhere. It works as a purse but can also carry much more if needed. And leather is always in style. fashionABLE is now offering the tote in black and chocolate brown as well! Cognac is on backorder {not for long} because it sold out super fast, but black and chocolate brown are available now!

Oh, I almost forgot! This tote also comes with a detachable leather pouch with a snap closure! This is where I keep my lip gloss or change or other small things that I don’t want rolling around the bottom of the bag.

I know this bag is an investment, but it is also an investment in the lives of hard-working women in Africa. It provides financial stability, freedom, and purpose for these women. I see lots of leather totes all over Pinterest, but with the Mayume tote, I know it was made ethically and is changing a woman’s life.

If the leather tote isn’t your thing, make sure you check out the fabulous line of scarves and bracelets being handmade and sold through fashionABLE with the same purpose! I love EVERYTHING I have from them!

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Fashion Friday for Kids: 60% Off!

Our kids should have a little fun on Fashion Fridays as well, right?!

Cents of Style hasn’t forgotten about your little ones and today’s Fashion Friday is all about them! The whole kids’ collection is 60% off + free shipping with the code RADKIDS at checkout!

IMAGE: Fashion Friday- 7/18/14- Kid's Collection 60% off & FREE SHIPPING with Code RADKIDS

All custom kids’ t-shirts, available in sizes 6 months to 5T, are under $10 shipped! I’m in love with the “Stop Collaborate Listen” shirt and I think the “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic” shirt is so adorable for little girls!

IMAGE: Fashion Friday- 7/18/14- Kid's Collection 60% off & FREE SHIPPING with Code RADKIDS

The little girl and little boy shoes are darling and just $8.00 shipped! You can also find sweet sunglasses for boys and girls at just $6 shipped, as well as jewelry for your little princess for just $5 shipped!

IMAGE: Fashion Friday- 7/18/14- Kid's Collection 60% off & FREE SHIPPING with Code RADKIDS

Now is a great time to stock on some hip back-to-school gear for the little ones! Remember, use the code RADKIDS today only to get 60% off and free shipping!

I have to know: which kids’ tee is your favorite?

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Join Me for the Miracle Marathon!

Before you run away because I mentioned the word “marathon,” take a minute to read about this unique and MUCH easier marathon that everyone can do!

I’m thrilled to share that I’m serving as a lead blogger for this fall’s Miracle Marathon, specifically in support of Children’s Hospital & Medical Center in Omaha, Nebraska! Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals raise funds for 170 children’s hospitals across North America. When a donation is given it stays in the community, helping local kids. Awesome, right?!

Miracle Marathon

This shouldn’t come as a big surprise that I would be excited about an event that involves running and helping children! I started running just over two years ago and it is a major part of who I am now. I love that the Miracle Marathon gives me a chance to use my love for running to benefit others! And I want you to come along with me, whether you’re a runner or not!

The Miracle Marathon is a 27-day virtual fundraising campaign in which participants run/walk (or achieve forward motion of any kind!) one mile per day at their leisure. The first 26 days are completed at your own pace—wherever and whenever you want. On Day 27, the final 1.2 miles will be started as a group at 2:27 pm EST. Get it? It’s a marathon, plus a mile, for the kids! And it’s perfect for those of us who like the idea of completing a marathon but would rather not complete all the miles at once!

Please join me and register to support Children’s Hospital & Medical Center or another Children’s Miracle Network Hospital, and tell your friends, too! And if you register as a Miracle Maker (you’ll receive fun swag!), you can use my special code MiracleErin to get a 10% discount off registration!

Did I mention we have a team?! I would love to have you join Team Home with the Boys, either as a Miracle Maker or as a donor, and help us raise $5,000 together! Just sign up here to join the team in one way or another and we’ll help kids together!

I’ll be sharing lots more about this as September 16th approaches, but let’s get the ball rolling with some donations and registrations for the kids this week!

This post is part of a sponsored campaign with Miracle Marathon.

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Hashtags + Community

It’s no secret that I enjoy social media and Twitter was one of the first to get me hooked. And that’s where hashtags have their origins. But even if you don’t do Twitter, hashtags have creeped into other social media platforms and even into everyday speech {ugh}.

Mandi Ehman wrote on her blog this week about the #boymom hashtag and how it is encouraging gender stereotypes. At first I was offended because I use that hashtag often, but after reading through her post, I realized it’s the not the hashtag she has a problem with, but rather how people are using it. I get that.

Here’s my take on hashtags:

Hashtags

I use hashtags to find and join a community of similar people. I know when I search through the #boymom hashtag, I’m going to find other boy moms! If I want to connect with other moms who run, I know #motherrunner will get me there. I know I can search the #packers hashtag during a game and find people commiserating about the last touchdown or missed field goal.

Some hashtags are funny, some are for contests, some are for events, but I believe in the power of hashtags to develop community if we use them well. But just like any other form of social media, we need to use these hashtags honestly to reflect the community as a whole.

Mandi makes the point in her post that most pictures and posts in the #boymom hashtag streams include dirt and cars and bugs, but that is not what EVERY boy mom experiences. My boys hate bugs. They enjoy baking with me. If we only use the #boymom hashtag on stereotypical “boy” things, we’re not really inviting a REAL, full community of all boy moms.

Does every homeschool situation look the same? No, but lots of people use the #homeschool hashtag and find a diverse community of homeschoolers there. The #motherrunner hashtag has brand new runners and experienced marathoners, but there is community found in the common ground of being mothers who run.

My MOB Society co-founder, Brooke, shared a great perspective on hashtags in the comments of Mandi’s post:

For me, using that hashtag, and creating an entire community just for #boymoms is about just that…community. When I use that hashtag it’s because I’m reaching out to the very population God has called me to stand in the gap for. It’s about bringing people in to a group of like-minded people.

I am social. I love community. I over-hashtag a lot, but I know it will bring me to more like-minded people and connecting with those new people is energizing to me. I will keep using the #boymom hashtag, but not just for “boy” things. Baking or crafting with my boys is no less of a #boymom experience that catching frogs or going fishing.

Let’s be wise and honest in our use of hashtags, but let’s also have fun with the community they bring – that was the point of hashtags in the first place, right?!

Some of my favorite hashtag communities:

  • #fridayintroductions {Instagram}
  • #Huskers {duh}
  • #mobsociety
  • #surprisedbymotherhood
  • #motherrunner
  • #amwriting
  • #fmfparty {Twitter}

What are your favorite hashtags to follow? Which hashtags have formed great community for you?

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