In Her Words: Brooke DeBoer

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Hi! I’m Brooke; wife of Ryan, mama of two adorable boys, and founder of Shining Light Marketing. I’m a designer and an innovator with a passion for helping entrepreneurs make their dreams come true. I work almost full-time doing web design, visual identity, and branded environment design. When I’m home, I’m busily cuddling my boys, cooking fun and healthy meals, and reading inspiring books.

For me, Living the Good Life involves a fine balance of work and family.

I love being able be involved in a field I’m passionate about, and constantly learn and grow in that area. I love networking with other local leaders, and drawing inspiration from their experience. In my business, I’m able to come alongside other entrepreneurs and give them an incredible brand experience. I love working with unique and passionate individuals!

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That being said, I wouldn’t be complete without my wonderful family. I try to be intentional and present with my husband and my boys, and to make every moment I spend with them count. The opportunity Ryan and I have to invest in these two little lives is incredible. The laughter we share and lessons we learn along the way are priceless. Being a wife and a mother has completely changed my perspective on life in the best way possible.

I am passionate about working with both emerging and established entrepreneurs, and helping them work to innovate their web presence and overall brand experience. I focus on listening to my clients and working to blow away their expectations with something fresh and original!

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I thrive on inspiration from entrepreneurs and individuals I admire, and I’d love to be an inspiration as well. As I am growing my business and gaining a broader audience, I would really like to become someone who people look to. Not only for design and branding expertise, but also for a consistently positive and joyful perspective! I want to challenge people to live intentionally and holistically.

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This post appears as part of the In Her Words series. To learn more about In Her Words, click here.

In Her Words: Amy Hine

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Hi, my name is Amy, and an introduction to my life could appear very monotonous and repetitive to all the other 30-year-old women out there who get classified into three categories: single, married, married with kids. Well, I’m married with a little girl and another one the way, working full-time and trying to balance all that life throws at us. That’s typically why introductions don’t work when your true goal is to reach someone beyond the surface. With as busy and crazy as everyone’s life is, it’s really hard to dive in and see the full picture behind the flurry of faces that pass by every day. But either way, here you go:

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My husband, Brian and I, started on an adventure together about 8 years ago when we both decided to leave everything (and everyone) we knew in Michigan to test out some Southern weather – Atlanta, GA. We both quickly found jobs and settled into the “adult life” for the first time. Life never really settled down for us, since over the next year and a half we were planning our wedding, buying a house and debating Grad School. Shortly after we were married, I found out I was accepted in to an MBA program that would allow me to work during the day and go to school at night…about a month after I found out I was pregnant with our first child…unexpectedly. Walking into my orientation meeting and first week of classes 8 ½ months pregnant had to be one of the most terrifying reductions in self-conscience I’ve ever had for fear of judgment that I was not serious about my career or graduating. I quickly realized that with all of the encouragement I was receiving from classmates, co-workers, family and mostly my husband, I could accomplish anything (even on the bad days). Those three years seemed to pass quickly and slowly at the same time as our careers continued to grow and change and we learned the life of being parents. Some days it felt as if all I could do is hold my sleeping child and tear up as I spent my day working from 8am to 5pm and class from 6:30pm to 10pm while running all over the city and still finding time to do homework and maintain my relationships with friends and family. Maintaining any sense of sanity was key to surviving and since we were so busy it was small things that kept us all going. I would continue to train for half marathons, Brian and I would take cooking lessons at restaurants for date nights, we indulged in several local hiking and camping trips with our little girl, and welcomed in countless family and friends to visit on a regular schedule.

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As graduation came, we found our weekends and breaks were going to soon open up and we decided to finally plan our honeymoon…four years late. Traveling had always been a true passion of mine that I wanted to share with my best friend and husband. Relinquishing what you thought you knew to fully absorb yourself in another culture was the most liberating experience I’ve ever had. My goal in life has always been to see as much of the diverse life as possible on this earth. I want to not only be appreciative of the gifts I’ve received where I live, but surpass any naïve opinions and thoughts I may have solely based upon my limited experience in cultural diversity. I had limited travel to South America and Europe so our first trip was to indulge in food and wine (two very serious obsessions in the Hine household) of Italy. Our life in cooking and drinking wine along with art, culture and even cars (we had to visit the Ferrari Museum) was forever changed. For our next adventure, we decided we needed to break away from civilization and turned towards another desire of ours – hiking and nature. We, along with some friends, decided to let go our first-world conveniences (and problems), take only what fit in our backpacks and hike five days through the Andes to Machu Picchu.

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Throughout these adventures, whether it be through travel, hiking/running, cooking, fun activities as home with family and friends or careers, we’ve found that, as a family, as long as we keep each other as the focus and the overall goal, anything could be accomplished and we actually have fun doing it. We have learned over the years that even though we love to live some days in the fast lane (traveling internationally, going out to nice dinners with friends and pushing forward in our careers), some of our favorite memories have been a bottle of wine at home with a cooked meal by the fire playing board games. We know that no matter where you go, what you run through or what life demands from you, as long as you are with, truly with, the ones you love, every day is a blessing and an adventure in The Good Life.

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In the future I hope to continue to travel with my husband, take on other personal goals like running another marathon, continue expanding my mind in culture and food, and be the best mom, wife, friend, sister, daughter and person I can be to everyone that I meet. Deep down I’ve always had an issue with living in mediocrity; not because I want the most expensive house or car or a fancy title at work. But mostly because I wanted to make sure I was living life the way I wanted to and to the fullest, not just because that’s how I was told to live by the “cool” people, a magazine or Oprah. Instead of working to earn a paycheck, I want to find a job where I actually enjoy the people I work with and the work I do. Instead of having a house full of expensive items, I want it full of memories and little touches that would showcase what really matters to our family, like the hand-made bed frame my husband custom-built for me. Instead of going through life not considering anyone else’s point of view, I want to make sure my mind was always open to a new experience and perspective, whether I end up agreeing with it or not. Part of removing myself from “living in mediocrity” is setting goals and obtaining them through hard work and patience, but the other is all attitude. I am grateful for the life I’m living, partly for the blessings I’ve received and partly for the diligence and dedication that my husband and I have put in to make our life not only work, but thrive.

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This post appears as part of the In Her Words series. To learn more about In Her Words, click here.

Influence Conference 2014

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For those who have been following along with me here, you’ve heard me mention how excited I am to be attending The Influence Conference for the very first time. Well, following a week of work and appointments, I’ll be on my way next weekend to the big event and I couldn’t be more stoked as the final countdown to it begins!

Over the past few weeks, I have been preparing my heart, mind, and soul for what I believe is going to be a most amazing and refreshing opportunity to connect, grow, learn, and worship. I have heard from others via social media that this conference is a life-changing experience as it brings together women from all over the country whose desire is to honor and glorify God through their unique gifts, talents, and abilities. Friendships have been made, hearts have been transformed, dreams have been fulfilled, and blessings have overflowed from this weekend of drawing close to the heart of God and being in the midst of incredible people from all different walks of life. And I could not be more thrilled to be a part of it this year.

I joined The Influence Network at the beginning of this year after two years of regular blogging and working on what would become my first published eBook. I was aware of the network for a little over a year, as I learned about it through the #SheReadsTruth community as well as from other authors and bloggers I follow; but I finally committed to becoming a member as I felt God calling me to put more time, thought, and energy into this space and the creative gifts He’s given to me over the year to come. And I am so very glad I made this decision. As a member, I have access to monthly classes and forums that encourage my efforts and help me further develop in this arena, as well as opportunities to publicize my blog and my eBook, all of which have fostered bravery and confidence for me as I put myself out there as a fellow creative and writer. I appreciate that this is yet another community I am free to be a part of, a community where I am accepted for who I am and what God is calling me to do with my life. I am grateful for the network newsletters, magazine, and frequent updates on the blog, Facebook, and Instagram that remind me to “keep running the race” that God has called me to run (Hebrews 12:1).

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With all of that said, The Influence Network is not just about what we do on the Internet; it’s purpose is not about ego and self-promotion of what we’re all doing in our corners of the world. The purpose is much bigger than that. It’s about God and The Gospel and how as a body of believers, we are each doing our part to build up the body of Christ as we press into the passions He has placed in our heart, and point others to Him, and Him alone.  And that’s why I love being a part of this. My faith is a huge part of my life and I want the things I do and say and write to reflect how great the God I serve is and what He is capable of doing in the life of a person who places his/her faith in Him. I am so far from perfect – none of us within this community are – and so much of what I hear and read from those in this community is about the imperfect lives all of us live and how by God’s grace, He is transforming our lives into something beautiful, day-by-day. And rarely does it ever look like we envisioned. We are women who face real challenges, difficult decisions, and even complete and utter failure at times. Yet, we fix our eyes on Him and press on toward the goal and dream He has for us (Philippians 3:14), because we believe that even at and in our worst of circumstances, He will do things beyond our wildest dreams (Ephesians 3:20).

If you would have told me a few years ago that I would be blogging every week, or that I would have published a book before the age of 30, or that I would be an active part of an online community of creative women, I would have said, “Yeah, right.” No, seriously. I was the girl who was so focused on striving in school and then in my career as a social worker, and making sure everything in my marriage was ‘just so’ that I didn’t have, or rather, make time for things like this. I remember not wanting to have a Facebook account initially because it would be ‘one more thing to do and keep up on’ and I already had enough on my plate. I smile thinking about it now. I’ve changed so much in the past few years and my ideas of what I want for my future personally and professionally have transformed as well.

God has been showing me a different way of connecting and ministering through this medium of social media, still using my education and professional skills, as well as the special talents and gifts He’s given to me, to help others. I was so scared to publish my first blog post after the idea had been nagging at me for months, and even just recently, I felt anxiety as I shared my eBook with all of you. This process is one of vulnerability and intention and keeping myself in check, so to speak; making sure that I’m not glorifying myself, but the One who is making all things new and working all things out for the good of those who love Him. It can be scary, but it has also been incredibly rewarding and something that I look forward to doing on a regular basis. It’s a part of who I am, just like running and travel and family and friends, are a part of my life. I’m thankful for this opportunity and am so honored to attend the Influence Conference in just a few days to learn how I can develop even further in this area and deploy myself into positive change for our generation and the world altogether. It’s going to be AWESOME!

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I’ll be back on here in October, friends! Have a great end to the month!

In Her Words: Anna Hickner

Hello! *Sparkle* here – or otherwise know as Anna Hickner – but my nephews prefer the former. I write from a fifth floor walk up in Harlem, New York where I’ve spent the last year living as a post doctoral psychology resident and, most recently, a newly hired clinical psychologist at a community health center. Growing up in Michigan, it was a distant dream to live in The Big Apple – one that I never thought would actually be possible for me until more recently. And then this happened:

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Actually, before NYC my life’s journey took me to Indiana and Spain for college, Costa Rica for a volunteer year, Chicago to recover from volunteering and apply to graduate school, and Washington DC to earn my doctorate. One might think after all that I would be prepared to make the jump to the city that never sleeps, right?! Wrong – after graduate school I was burnt out, bummed out, and was the brink of emotional collapse. So what did I do, you ask? Did I pull myself up by my bootstraps and saddle up for the fight? Simply stated, no, I didn’t. Instead, I left the country to backpack along around Southeast Asia for 10 weeks, which you can read about here, an impulsive yet somehow intuitive decision I will never, ever regret. In graduate school I encountered many challenging, soul-searching opportunities that many times I wanted to run from, or just forget. Doing neither (aside from leaving the country at the end of 2012), I’m infinitely grateful that in graduate school I also encountered yoga and an amazingly supportive community and practice to steer me back on the right path. (My own therapist also helped, too.) It was a path that helped me to finally make it to my dream city. This isn’t to say my life in NYC is all that glamorous. It’s not. I commute 1.5 hours each way to work, and if you didn’t catch it before, I walk up and down five flights of stairs every time I leave my apartment. With heavy bags of groceries. With two loads laundry. And I’m probably still recovering from moving in. That said, there are days I run in Central Park or walk around downtown feeling like the luckiest girl in the world because I’m here. (There are also days where nothing seems to go right, but at least things are not going right in NYC.) In the end, whether it is a good day or a bad one, I know that made it to a place that’s legendary for anything being possible, and I’m one step closer to making other dreams come true.

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This brings me to the big question of “What is it to be Living the Good Life?” Sometimes I find it hard to not get caught up in the fantasy of rom-coms or social media where living a good life is about finding true love, having it all, or taking a lot of trips/having crazy jealousy-inducing meals/posting-everything-about-your-life-as-if-it-were-amazing-and-the-best-ever. It’s not. At least not for me. For me, living a good life means experiencing it all – the full spectrum that the universe has to offer, and then being able to share the highs, the lows, the points of pure desperation/elation/tribulation/infatuation with others. This is what makes life real, and something I experience regularly with my patients and loved ones (or, on occasion, with strangers). Sure we can usually find a silver lining in plans gone awry, and that’s important, but sometimes it’s okay to just feel the rage or hurt or confusion inside, and just BE there. Hopefully someone can be there with you, because if we all experience these emotions, and accept that they are part of life, then we never really are alone. And that might be one of the most important parts of truly living a good life – companionship. In short, the authentic moments in life, and the ability to intimately share them, is what I determine life is all about.

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As you may have gleaned already, I love psychology. I love how it not only allows me to impact others’ lives in a meaningful way, but also helps me learn from my patients, my friends, my family, even people with whom I struggle. Still, being a therapist means giving of yourself. A lot. Because of this I’ve had to develop ways to nourish and replenish myself so that I can keep on doing my job. My passions also include singing/playing piano/composing music, and, of course, yoga or some sort of physical exercise. I guess this really can be simplified by stating that my passions revolve around expressing myself creatively – whether through word, song, or bodily movement. Because we never are really just one thing, right? So why limit ourselves in that way?

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Aside from great music to accompany a solid workout or a fun night out with friends, I’m also inspired when I see others achieving their dreams – to see what makes them *sparkle*. I love to witness others investing in life’s genuine gifts, whether this means getting out of bed and making it through one more day without falling back into a severe depression, or crossing the marathon finish line. After all, life is a series of marathons, is it not? Even if some days/months/years feels like a sprint…

Speaking of, moving to the ‘concrete jungle where dreams are made of’ was one of my marathons, and started to help me believe that with patience, practice, perseverance, and a good support network (ie, peers?) anything is possible. I hope moving to NYC is just the beginning of many other marathons. Two of my ultimate dreams are to have one of my songs on the radio or in a movie some day (such as this Bluesy ballad: Murder or this Disney-esque piece: Fall In Love Again), and to eventually be student-debt free. (Actually, if I could sprint through anything in life, being debt-free would top the list!) Alas, as I have learned this is not likely any time soon, I put on my yoga pants and tie my shoelaces once again, preparing for another five flights of stairs.

Taking life one authentic step at a time. :-)

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Thank you to Hannah for including me in this! I feel honored, and I look forward to reading about and being inspired by you and others who are Living the Good Life. *Sparkle on, friends*

xoxox

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This post appears as part of the In Her Words series. To learn more about In Her Words, click here.

Influence Conference Link-Up

Happy Monday, friends! I’m headed to the Influence Conference late next week and am excited to join with other attendees in a little ‘meet and greet’ link-up today!

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Hi, my name is Hannah and I am just an ordinary girl loved by an extraordinary God who has a passion for Jesus and people. I’m an author, blogger, traveler, social worker and wife who believes in ‘living the good life’ Jesus calls me to live, to the fullest extent possible, inspiring others to do the same in their own unique way! I reside in Pure Michigan and love books, bright colors, coffee, country sunrises, early morning workouts, journaling, and autumn (my absolute FAVORITE season), to name a few things.

What I’m Looking Forward To: So. Much. But for the purpose of this, I’ll mention only three things: 1) Connecting with other women from all over the country who share my passion of blogging, photography, and creativity, 2) Following the Strategy Track where I hope to learn how to turn this beloved blog space of mine into a full-time business and career, and 3) Being renewed and revived in the Gospel. I cannot wait to hear from God and worship Him alongside other God-inspired women.

What I Won’t Leave Home Without: My Bible (God), laptop (for when inspiration strikes), journal (to record thoughts/notes/prayers), and iPhone (to capture memories and moments).

I absolutely cannot wait for this experience. I am thrilled to be attending this event for the first time and will be sharing more of my heart on this over the weekend, so tune back in here on Saturday morning!

Until then, have a great week!

As Autumn Approaches

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In just over a week, my absolute favorite season will officially be here. Autumn. Fall. Harvest-time.

I have always loved autumn, and for a variety of reasons. For starters, school begins right before autumn, so I’ve always associated the season with fresh starts, new beginnings, and possibilities. Secondly, autumn is a season where we actually see  and experience change, as the colors in nature transition from green to gold to red to brown, and the leaves make their way to the ground, leaving the trees barren by the end of November. The sight of change reminds me that nothing stays the same forever and to make the most of every moment I’ve been granted. Thirdly, autumn is when I celebrate my birthday, another ‘fresh start’ I’ve been blessed to get every year for almost 30 years. And lastly, autumn ushers in a time of comfort and coziness as we end our time at the lake and nestle back into full-time life at the ranch. This means catching up with family and friends we missed during the summer season, physically going back to church and settling into community, as well as busting out the slow cooker and making the very best of comfort foods that leave the house smelling divine. So. good.

As autumn approaches this year, I’m looking forward to backyard bonfires; pumpkin-everything (you name it, I love it); cornstalks outlining our entryway; spicy-scented candles; warm blankets and books to get lost in on Sunday afternoons; a glass of red wine sipped in the cool, crisp air; football and movies in the home theater; the return of Downton Abbey; and the blank pages of a new journal to record my hopes, dreams, prayers and praises for the things God is working out in this season. I’m excited for celebrations, including friends’ birthdays, my birthday, our annual Fall Ball, and of course, the holidays. Both Halloween and Thanksgiving are both fun days in this household! And I absolutely cannot wait to experience the Influence Conference for the very first time. I am thrilled to be attending and am anticipating a wonderful opportunity to connect, grow, learn, and worship with other women. It will be a great way to begin my 30th year here on earth, a new chapter that I hope will be filled with God’s goodness, favor, and wonders.

I feel this autumn season will be unlike any other. I sense good things are in store and that there is much to be excited about and enjoy to the fullest extent possible. I hope to make the most of these days to come and that you will too. May we all reap a harvest of blessing in this season!

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In Her Words: Stephanie Allen

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Hello, my name is Stephanie, and to summarize my life I would say it is ‘complete and lovely chaos.’ My husband and I have been married for 4 ½ years and are parents to 2 little girls with number 3 due to arrive in November. We met while deployed in Afghanistan, the last place I ever expected to meet the love of my life and future father of my children. Shortly after I returned home we married and 9 months later our first little bundle of joy arrived with the second following less than 17 months later. Not to mention my husband separated from the military, we moved across the country, he completed an accelerated nursing program and now baby girl number 3 is on the way, I am nearing the end of my Air Force career to be a stay at home mom and we are planning to move to Minnesota and live in our RV for a few months while looking for a new place to call home. Needless to say…we are busy and just a little crazy!

On ‘living the good life’ … “Mommy… Mommy… Mommy…. MOM”. While I’ve been a mother for almost four years now this is somewhat of a new sound for me to hear. Three weeks ago I went from being a military officer in the greatest Air Force in the world to a stay-at-home-mom of two little girls with number three on the way in a few short months. I can honestly say my responsibilities and duties in the military were far less demanding than the needs of my girls. While my husband and I have always been responsible for them there was a time not too long ago when I felt like my daily influence was minimal compared to their caretakers. Something I have been less than satisfied with for some time. The amount of time we were spending as a family included rushed dinners with a quick bath, a few books and straight to bed. Weekends were busy trying to get ready for the next coming week and chores around the house. Looking back I feel like everything was a blur and I wasn’t truly enjoying time with my family. It was about a year ago my husband and I decided the constant looming idea of deployments and Air Force trips away from home were not for us anymore. This was not easy for either one of us since it has been our lives up until the last couple years. It’s an amazing career and you meet some of the finest people in the world, but being able to raise our children together is much more important. I know and completely agree it takes a village to raise a child, but being with them all the time and having more time as a family is what I call…. The good life.

I would say my passions have also evolved in the last couple years. I currently work with two organizations at our church. The first group is called MUMS (Moms Understanding Moms). A group of mothers that get together a couple of times a month to network and develop relationships through fellowship, learning, outreach and spiritual growth. After moving to Nebraska and leaving behind an amazing support network of friends in Arizona I was searching for something similar here in Nebraska. And thankfully, I found this amazing group of women. I am definitely passionate about helping other moms and also growing from their experiences and becoming a better person inside and out. Another group I thoroughly enjoy working with at church is called JUMP (Jesus Use Me Please). This program teaches children that God has called each of us to serve and love others and using their talents to do good deeds and serve around the community. The past two years I have worked with the Lil’ Jumpers (ages 4 – Kindergarten) and loved watching these little people learn about the Word and see how God is working in their lives. I have always loved volunteering, but this puts a whole new perspective and I’ve learned much more than I think I’ve taught the kids.

My inspirations continue to be my family, friends and those I serve(d) within the military and at church. I wish I could list everyone by name, but I would take up all of Hannah’s blog (she is a huge inspiration to me by the way and I admire her positivity and outlook on life). In recent years, I have tried to surround myself with positive people that aren’t negative which isn’t always easy.

Regarding what fires me up?!?! Yikes! It takes a lot to get me really fired up, but I cannot stand seeing others being taken advantage of, especially children and the elderly.

My dreams and goals for the future continue to change as life continues to sway as well. As I mentioned previously, we are looking to move to Minnesota to be closer to family, which has been a dream for a long time. We haven’t had the luxury of ever having family close and I look forward to our children having those influences and future memories of time with their extended family. Eventually I would like to go back to school, but I’m not exactly sure for what or when I will. Right now I’m going to just enjoy the days with the kiddos. I do really enjoy Public Health and the healthcare career field so I’m sure I’ll be called to do that in some way.

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This post appears as part of the In Her Words series. To learn more about In Her Words, click here.