Let’s All Be Brave

Gift Giving with Let’s All Be Brave!

on April 21, 2015 in Glory Haus, Let's All Be Brave with 1 comment by

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…. when people graduate!

(That’s a sentence I would have said any other year except this year WHEN MY SMALL GROUP GALS ARE GRADUATING AND I DO NOT KNOW HOW TO FEEL EXCEPT SAAAAAAAD. We have to move on quickly…)

I wrote Let’s All Be Brave for you- my friends, but when I was writing, I was picturing my girls. I was thinking about my small group and what I wanted to make sure they knew about courage. I think there is honestly no better season for a book about courage than when graduating from high school or college.

So I partnered with Glory Haus to create a handful of products that I think would look cute gifted with the book.

And. GET THIS. If you order THIS WEEK, you can get 20% off your order AND free shipping using the code BRAVEFRIENDS20!! 

Because you are my friend (the code is for friends only… that means you), I’m going to help you figure out who needs what gift, okay? I’m just here to make your life easier. 🙂

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For the gal moving into her first dorm room….

Let’s All Be Brave and the Braver Than You Know Canvas

Let's All Be Brave canvas

I wrote these words and my friend Laura made them GORGEOUS.

Hanging this big 12×16 canvas in a dorm room will be such a sweet reminder to your freshman gal of who she wants to be… and maybe help her built a color scheme for the room because that is a HUGE DECISION that she doesn’t even realize is coming down the pipe.

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For the gal finishing college and moving to the big city for her first job…

Let’s All Be Brave and Braver By Your Side Frame

Let's All Be Brave frame

I absolutely love the grown up look of this frame. I can imagine any college graduate putting a picture of her family or college roommates or sorority pledge class in here.

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For your graduating small group or senior class or multiple gifts…

Let’s All Be Brave and Braver Than You Know Ribbon Canvas

GHribbon

When I graduated high school, my mom had to give about 15 graduation gifts. This 5×7 ribbon canvas is a great size to toss in a gift bag with the book and you’ll spend less than $20 on this graduation gift!

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For anyone and please hurry before they sell out…

Let’s All Be Brave and the Brave Jumbo Mug

Let's All Be Brave Mug

We literally cannot keep the mugs in stock- at the warehouse or on my merch table or anywhere. They are gorgeous and huge and perfect and everyone wants them. I get it. I want one too. SERIOUSLY I DO NOT EVEN HAVE ONE. I’m buying one today as well.

Also. If you are a crazy person who can’t resist a deal (I respect you), the Christmas ornament is also on the 20% off deal, so you could stock up? Your life. Your call.

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Here are the details again:

– you get 20% off the Annie F. Downs collection when you spend $25 or more (except the book)

– FREE SHIPPING! FREE SHIPPING! FREE SHIPPING!

– Use the code BRAVEFRIENDS20

– the code will last until the end of Sunday, April 26th!

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Holler if you have any issues! And remember this code only lasts through the weekend, so think birthdays, Hanukkah, MOTHER’S DAY, and please get what you need while they are cheaper!! Happy shopping!

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A Brave Story : Pritika

on March 4, 2015 in #thatisbrave with 3 comments by

thatisbravesquared[Once a week, I am going to be sharing with you a brave story sent in from a reader. You can comment, respond, encourage. Want to submit your own story or a story of a brave friend of yours? Head to thatisbrave.com!]

This week’s #thatisbrave story comes from Pritika. I like this gal and her courageous story. Her words and name are used with her permission.

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I traveled all the way from India to England with a heart full of dreams and almost-empty pockets. I was happy and eager to learn, to grow, to earn my masters in Economics. The first few months were great with all the friend-making, restaurant-hopping, picture-clicking, story-telling. It was a dream and I loved every minute. Until things got diffifult, course work got overwhelming and I failed.

I was a good student , at the top of my class in my undergraduate degree and for the first time, I had done badly. I did not take it well, I was afraid that I couldn’t cope, I suddenly felt very alone and ill-equipped to complete what I had begun and the guilt of it all weighed me down heavily. I spent days crying, wishing I could return home to a safe and comfortable space.

But God met me here. And I will never forget it. When I was all alone, he held my hand, strengthened me and uplifted my spirit. Armed with prayers from home and God’s daily assurance that he would see me through, I kept at it. I had occassional panic attacks and moments of weakness, but in the midst of it all, he sent me amazing friends and family to lean on-who would guide me and encourage me. The grace of God carried me through. No matter what happens, I can be brave because He is strong when I am weak.

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If you have any encouragement for Pritika and her brave story, leave it below in the comments.

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A Brave Story : Erin

on February 25, 2015 in #thatisbrave with 4 comments by

thatisbravesquared[Once a week, I am going to be sharing with you a brave story sent in from a reader. You can comment, respond, encourage. Want to submit your own story or a story of a brave friend of yours? Head to thatisbrave.com!]

This week’s #thatisbrave story comes from Erin. Heartbreaking, to be sure. But her courage inspires me. Her words and name are used with her permission.

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I don’t think anyone expects to be attending the funeral of a parent. I certainly didn’t! But cancer doesn’t discriminate! When I was fifteen, my dad passed away after being diagnosed with cancer. It was such a difficult time. I was studying for exams, as was my brother, and my sister was so young that it felt almost impossible for us to be going through such a situation. And it felt like we were going through it alone. The support of family and friends soon petered out, leaving only a select few who stayed. This hurt! For me, a young fifteen year old girl, not having my friends around when I needed them most was probably one of the worst feelings I have ever experienced, second to losing my dad.

Throughout the time that my dad was sick, my mum often reminded me that God doesn’t give us more than we can handle. But as time went on, I began to feel like I was suffocating. That the whole experience was just consuming me. I grew angry at those who seemed to have forgotten, or just lost interest in what my family had gone through. I became bitter. I struggled immensely. But it wasn’t until my mum pointed out to me that I needed to speak to someone about the whole situation that I actually realised how much I was struggling.

I would bottle-up all my feelings and thoughts because I was so used to dealing with it all on my own anyway. But looking back now, I would have benefitted from talking about my story and hearing the stories of others. Those who did offer support didn’t and couldn’t understand what my family and I were going through because they hadn’t gone through it personally.

Five years on and I feel I have grown so much. I have dealt with a lot of feelings and issues that have been haunting me. I also know there will be more (they seem to pop up when least expected, in dribs and drabs). The memories I have of my dad, and the circumstances surrounding his death are ones that I will have to deal with constantly. I miss him! I wish he could see where life has taken my family and I. But I am finally at a place where I feel I can share my story. It may be painful and raw still, but for a while I have felt God telling me to share it. So I have.

I recently started a blog (thereislifeoutthere.blogspot.co.uk) in the hopes that other people going through similar situations would find encouragement, to see that life goes on and it can be wonderful and beautiful, just as God intended it to be! I want to inspire others to be brave with their stories by me being brave with my own!

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If you have any encouragement for Erin and her brave story, leave it below in the comments.

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A Brave Story : Diana + Talia

on February 18, 2015 in #thatisbrave with 1 comment by

thatisbravesquared[Once a week, I am going to be sharing with you a brave story sent in from a reader. You can comment, respond, encourage. Want to submit your own story or a story of a brave friend of yours? Head to thatisbrave.com!]

This week’s #thatisbrave story comes from Diana. Her sister Talia’s story is amazing and such a hard choice to make. My heart hurts for her, but I also know how God uses the brave moments like this in our lives to change everything, doesn’t He? Her words and name are used with her permission.

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A month ago, I picked up the phone and heard my baby sister, Talia, burst into tears. She’d been away from home and off to freshman year of college for just two weeks, and something was already way wrong. (Cue older sister freaking out inside.)

“I’m just so frustrated,” she said between sobs. She began explaining the gut-wrenching decision she faced as to whether or not to quit the track team. Quit? I was shocked. My heart broke as she explained the situation.

During summer, the university had fired the track coach and hired a new coach to ramp up the intensity. Unfortunately, the intensity was extreme.

Talia had signed on only for the track season, but the coach demanded she attend mandatory practice six days per week for the entire school year. Two of those practices fell on Saturday and Sunday mornings each week.

Tals was literally faced with a choice between staying on the team–never being able to go home for the weekend and never once being able to attend the campus church–or giving up a huge opportunity.

To understand the magnitude of her pain, it helps to know what a huge role running plays in our family’s life. My entire family runs and all have had amazing successes. During her high school years, Talia was one of the top distance runners in the state. She couldn’t wait to become a Wisconsin Badger and take her running success to the collegiate level.

Yet here she was, questioning it all. I got teary-eyed as my 18 year-old sister maturely and passionately described how she couldn’t allow running to take over her life and take precedence over her faith and family. She had been so excited to be part of the team, but she couldn’t justify sacrificing the things she knew were true and long-lasting priorities. (Did I mention she’s only 18?) I was blown away by her conviction.

The choice Talia faced will be the first of many like that throughout her life. (She did decide to walk away from the team). Her decision probably seems crazy to some, but I admire my baby sister for her bravery. How often do I give lip service to things like faith, family, and my marriage, saying they’re the center of my life, but failing to live each day in a manner that reflects that? I know that choice she made will make a difference. Out of an entire team, she was the only one who spoke up that she wasn’t okay with missing church. I told Talia I have a feeling her decision will cause at least a couple people to stop and think. I wrote a post about it on my blog, and it had thousands of views within no time. Our family even heard that a pastor shared her story with his church on Sunday morning. I’m so proud of my sister and so amazed at how God has used her for his purpose!

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If you have any encouragement for Diana’s sister and her brave story, leave it below in the comments.

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A Brave Story : Natalie

on February 11, 2015 in #thatisbrave with 5 comments by

thatisbravesquared[Once a week, I am going to be sharing with you a brave story sent in from a reader. You can comment, respond, encourage. Want to submit your own story or a story of a brave friend of yours? Head to thatisbrave.com!]

This week’s #thatisbrave story comes from Natalie. Alright, single gals. This is such a sweet story that I’m sure you’re going to relate to- and dudes, check out the inner bravery that many of us ladies feel pretty frequently. Her words and name are used with her permission.

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Let me just start out by saying that I am a complete pansy when it comes to talking to guys I like.

For some reason, I’ve always been afraid of the guys I’ve had crushes on. It’s funny, because most of my closest friends in life are actually guys. But, if I realize I have feelings for one, I’m doomed. It’s like I freeze and don’t know how to function properly. I once dodged into the nearest classroom in high school to avoid having to say hi to the guy I had a crush on when the halls were empty, and it was just the two of us walking toward one another.

Fail.

But I have been trying to live by the life motto “Be BOLD” for the past couple of years, and I’m forcing myself to include the way I approach the men who catch my eye. I’ve never even been on a date, so maybe my fear used to be because of some slight insecurity I had that led me to believe no guy would ever be interested in me.

But now I just don’t care.

I know my sufficiency is found in Christ, and whether or not a man returns my interest isn’t going to determine my overall happiness. God will provide love for me at the right time, but I’m also content with the idea that I may be single for the rest of my life.

That being said, I did something really brave. Well, it was really brave for me. Many other people might hear this and think it’s slightly ridiculous, and perhaps it is. But it was a huge step for me and something I would not have expected from myself years ago.

I’ve had a crush on this one guy for years, but I really only see him about once a year, so I refer to it as an “annual crush.” We were both at a surprise birthday brunch for a mutual friend, but there were a lot more people there than anticipated, and we ended up at different tables. However, I spotted a seat next to him that was still open, and I did something without giving it a second thought: I picked up my plate of food (that I had already started eating), grabbed my purse, and went and sat down right next to him.

And then I even talked to him. A lot.

I’m not saying he will fall in love with me now—though that would be pretty awesome—but I’m still pretty proud of myself for doing what I did. Sure, it’s something small. But it’s really something big. It shows how far I’ve come in this journey to being confident around guys I like, and I know I’ve reached a point where I know I can be me without any hesitations or hiding in classrooms.

I’m just going to pick up my food, sit down, and start talking. And, to me, that is brave.

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If you have any encouragement for Natalie and her brave story, leave it below in the comments.

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A Brave Story : Jenni + Cooper

on February 4, 2015 in #thatisbrave with 3 comments by

thatisbravesquared[Once a week, I am going to be sharing with you a brave story sent in from a reader. You can comment, respond, encourage. Want to submit your own story or a story of a brave friend of yours? Head to thatisbrave.com!]

This week’s #thatisbrave story comes from Jenni about her sweet son, Cooper. Oh, mamas. Get ready. Her words and name are used with her permission.

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When he was two years old, my son was diagnosed with leukemia. The first nine months of treatment were miserable, but our saying was, “If Cooper isn’t puking, he is smiling.” He had an inner joy that radiated. It reminded us and everyone around him to be grateful for the gifts God puts in our lives- to hold on to the good and let go of the bad.

Through that time in our life, God worked a great conversion in my heart. Cooper was one of the instruments God used – one of the ways God taught me to trust. Cooper is 4 years old now. He continues to fight. The battle against leukemia is more like a war. His hair has grown back. He still takes all kinds of chemotherapy, but if you met him on the street you’d never know. Strangers give him a second look. They comment on the joy he radiates. Cooper is brave. Brave comes from God, when we finally learn to trust Him.

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If you have any encouragement for Jenni or Cooper and their brave story, leave it below in the comments. We’re cheering (and praying) for you, buddy.

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A Brave Story : Lori + Whitney

on January 28, 2015 in #thatisbrave with 2 comments by

thatisbravesquared[Once a week, I am going to be sharing with you a brave story sent in from a reader. You can comment, respond, encourage. Want to submit your own story or a story of a brave friend of yours? Head to thatisbrave.com!]

This week’s #thatisbrave story comes from Lori. I absolutely love how she sees so much brave in Whitney and wanted to tell us about her. Her words and name are used with her permission.

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I am honored to tell you about my friend, Whitney. There are way too many stories, so hopefully this will capture all that I would want to say. Thanks for a great challenge. Thanks for being brave. 🙂

She stands on the sidelines and watches as the trainer and coach surround her son after a tackle. She bites her lip as he struggles off the field, his right arm hanging at his side.

She sits quietly beside him hours later as the doctor shows them the x-ray and explains that his season is over.

She is brave.

She listens gently and loves patiently as her son processes his anger and pain and disappointment, sometimes at her expense.

And she hugs him tight when he finally lets her back in.

She is brave.

Sometimes the bravest people are the ones who come along side the wounded and weary. They aren’t afraid of the mess or the process or the vulnerability. They stay.

My friend Whitney is one of the bravest people I know.

In the book, How to Catch a Frog, Heather Ross shares a lovely story about her sweet Aunt Jane, who was a significant presence in Heather’s young life. Her trademark was singing and optimism, but rarely would she acknowledge the depth of dysfunction in Heather’s family. At one point, Ross writes, “Jane was able to love my mother for the same reasons that she was able to love all of us, and the house, because she refused to acknowledge the things about us that were broken or unsafe or beyond fixing.” (p.49)

I smiled as I read about Aunt Jane, but then smiled more as I thought about my dear friend.

Whitney never refuses to acknowledge the things about people that are broken, but walks right up to the mess, grabs your hand, smiles that kind smile, and says, “I love you anyway.”

I have watched her love impact her family, her friends, and most importantly, I have benefited from the beauty of being loved by a friend who is never afraid of the process or the pain, but quietly trusts that God is never overwhelmed by brokenness.

This grace is slowly transforming me and makes me want to be brave too.

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RIGHT? LOVE THIS. If you have any encouragement for Lori’s friend Whitney and her brave story, leave it below in the comments.

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A Brave Story : Kourtni

on January 21, 2015 in #thatisbrave with 1 comment by

thatisbravesquared[Once a week, I am going to be sharing with you a brave story sent in from a reader. You can comment, respond, encourage. Want to submit your own story or a story of a brave friend of yours? Head to thatisbrave.com!]

This week’s #thatisbrave story comes from Kourtni. Cute name, huh? This story is so important, especially during the holiday season when “family” is such a thing. Her words and name are used with her permission.

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Since I was in high school, I’ve struggled with feeling beautiful and loved. My mother was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia when I was young, so I had to grow up fast and basically play the adult role at a young age. When a girl needs her mom most, during adolescence and such, I wasn’t able to experience that comfort or encouragement. Over the years I’ve learned (still learning to this day), that the Lord loves me more than anyone and pursues my heart daily. He calls me beautiful, even when my heart doubts. I am HIS and loved so much, I’m thankful for this struggle, because the struggle is a beautiful process in learning to love and trust in the god who made me.

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If you have any encouragement for Kourtni and her brave story, leave it below in the comments.

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A Brave Story : Lydia

on January 14, 2015 in #thatisbrave with 1 comment by

thatisbravesquared[Once a week, I am going to be sharing with you a brave story sent in from a reader. You can comment, respond, encourage. Want to submit your own story or a story of a brave friend of yours? Head to thatisbrave.com!]

This week’s #thatisbrave story comes from Lydia. If you need a reminder of the courage that sits right in the heart of the next generation, here it is. Her words and name are used with her permission.

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I am a teen. We got a new girl at school. The details of her home situation aren’t mine to tell, but it isn’t easy. But she is brave every day. She shows up, and she tries and she is present. The school community isn’t reliable, but they’ve come to the scene here. They have bravely made room for her, regardless of what’s “cool.” She is plunged into a broken world with the rest of us, bit she is bravely making the most of it. God is good.

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If you have any encouragement for Lydia or her new classmate, leave it below in the comments.

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Why IF:Local Matters

on January 12, 2015 in #thatisbrave, AnnieSpeaks with 5 comments by

In just a few weeks, I’ll be in Austin, Texas for IF:Gathering. Lucky for me, just like last year, I get to be part of the hosting team along with my great pal Joy Eggerichs, particularly hosting the IF:Local livestream.

Ever since last February, it has been hilarious how many people at churches or events will walk up to me, all squinty-eyed-like, trying to figure out why I look familiar, and they say, “uhh… why do I know you? WWAAAAAIIITTT! You hosted IF:Local!” and then they will proceed to tell me the sweetest story of what their experience was like watching the event from their own town, many in their own churches or homes.

I know IF:Local matters because it gives thousands and thousands of women who can’t make it to Austin the chance to experience the same content with their hometown girls.

But IF:Local matters even more for women like my friend Lindsey. I asked if she would tell you her story of how attending IF:Local in 2014 while bedridden has completely changed her life.

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bottleoftears

My bed is cozy. When I say cozy I mean that I quite literally have the softest sheets on the planet. There are no less than seven unique and perfectly weighted pillows piled up against a rustic headboard. I have a mattress that only dreams are made of. Sounds good, right? The truth is right after finishing this cozy bed, my world unraveled.

Five years ago I was diagnosed with an invisible enemy called Chronic Lyme Disease. My health eroded and everything changed. About the same time my hubby and I brought home our precious girl from Guatemala. Our daughter suffers from complex developmental trauma and lives in a near constant state of anxiety. Our lives became centred around two hard realities, Lyme Disease and Trauma Parenting. I began to feel like a prisoner in my home. My cozy bed became my pit of despair.

Now fast forward with me to the day that I decided to get out of bed. The weekend of IF:Gathering 2014. Since I couldn’t leave my house because of my illness, I didn’t fit into either defined category- being in Austin for IF:Gathering or going to a meet-up for IF:Local. I laughed and declared that I was having IF: My Bed (in pajamas, without make-up).

God met me that day. I had no idea how much the isolation of battling a chronic disease had been crippling me. I needed to hear that God was not through with me. While watching IF: Gathering online I chose to live again. I chose to get out of bed (despite the immense pain and fatigue of Lyme Disease). I chose to be present in my story and not wish it away even if I never felt better.

Though I was confined to my home I asked God how I could comfort others. God’s response was like a bolt of lightning – start a ministry and call it Bottle of Tears.

Today Bottle of Tears is about mailing hope in vintage bottles to those who need it most as a reminder that they are deeply loved and not forgotten. I get to pray for people who are hurting as each bottle leaves my house. I get to watch hundreds of people comfort one another. I want to spend the rest of my time on earth loving others right where they are. 

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I don’t know your plans for February 6-7, 2015.

Maybe you’ll be with us in Austin for IF:Gathering.

Maybe you’re going to gather up with other women in your area and watching the IF:Local livestream. (Don’t know if there is an IF:Local planned around you? Search here! If you can’t find one, but want to host an event where women can gather? Plan that here!)

But maybe you have to work on Friday. Or you can’t travel to where a meet-up is happening. Or you, like Lindsey, are homebound, bedridden, or for any reason unable to leave your house or room.

Hey. I’m Annie. I’m your friend. And I’m inviting you to hang with ME at IF:Local.

God will meet you there, just like He’ll meet us in Austin. And it’ll be ME, your local yahoo, just on the other side of the screen!

Hope to see you there.

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You in? What’s your plan for this year’s IF:Gathering?

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