I heard a statement once, “The same sun that melts the butter, hardens the clay.”

When you’re faced with painful circumstances, does it harden you in anger and cause you to run away from the shelter of your Heavenly Father, or do you become more pliable and tend to run toward your Heavenly Father?

Not long ago, I sat in tears as I listened to a dear lady tell me the she and God had their “last chat.” She was tired and weary and chose to throw in her spiritual towel. She gave up because God didn’t come through for her when she felt He needed to. 

I tried my best to encourage her. To share truth with her. To try to expose the lies that she was believing. But, she was hardened by her circumstances. 

Over the last few years, I found myself in the throws of some excruciating circumstances. I’ll never forget in the day when I spent 6 non-stop hours sitting at my dining room table searching God’s Word for answers. I was hurting, and desperate. It was six hours of crying, lamenting, reading His Word, and journaling what He revealed to me. 

My big question that day was “WHY?”  But, it wasn’t a “Why me?” question.

It was, “Why are you allowing this? Please show me your purpose.”

And He did …

As I scoured through Scripture, I landed on Hebrews 12: 3-11, and I found the answers I was looking for!

The chapter is probably familiar to many, as it talks about the chastening of God. “Whom the Lord loves He chastens …” At first I felt slightly offended by the notion that perhaps God was disciplining me, as though I had been living deep in sin. But, part of understanding this Scripture begins with trusting God’s heart and love for us. He would never send us into a trial, or allow hardships to come on us just for the mere purpose of inflicting pain on us. 

So why does God allow His sons and daughters to endure such difficult circumstances? You can take it the bank that His purpose is to bring about the deepest and most lasting change in our lives. 

In verses 10-11 the Apostle Paul says, “chastening is for our profit that we may be partakers of His holiness, none of the chastening seems to be joyful right now, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness.

Every moment of pain we endure, is not without purpose. And His purpose always begins with refining, purifying, and growing us in deeper knowledge of Him and His heart for us.

Truth is, it’s our choice.

We can resist His refining, by throwing in the Spiritual towel, and walk away feeling let down by God, and become hardened by our circumstances.  Or, we can run to Him and rest in Him. Take Him at His word, that He is working everything together for our good, and that He is our refuge and strength and He will never leave or forsake us, we will be forever changed through our circumstances.  

Never forget … Jesus is acquainted with your sorrows. He understands your grief. He knows the pain of rejection and betrayal.

So …  are you allowing your circumstances to harden you? Or are you allowing them to cause you to seek Him with all your heart and mind, melting into His arms and trusting Him through your circumstances?

Dig deeper: Isaiah 53; Isaiah 61:1-3; Luke 4:18-21



2014 M.O.M. Conference ~ BETTER TOGETHER

July 31st – August 2nd

Jacksonville, Florida at Trinity Baptist Church

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Who Else Wants Clear Direction?



I blew it. 

Days of swimming through murky teenage “stuff” paired with this new stage of parenting resulted in my not-so-pretty meltdown.

Late the same evening I found myself on the edge of my teen’s bed.   His now huge 6 foot, 15 year-old frame had his back turned towards me as my quivering words spilled out, “I’m so sorry. I blew it. My words were awful. Will you forgive me?”

Parenting is hard.  We stumble through one developmental stage, look back on that point in time with confidence as we emerge, then find ourselves knee-deep in doubt in our child’s next challenging phase.

 And to make life really entertaining, we find parenting each child is completely different. The parenting tactics which worked with our firstborn’s unique personality may not work with our other kids.

In times like these…I. Just. Need. Clear. Direction.  

As I sank down through troubled emotions, God’s word spoke to me.  God reminded me of an amazing Psalm  which gives us a compass through the never-ending fog of parenting.  This first Psalm, along with the rest of the Bible, gives us an aerial view of our parenting journey and points a scared stiff mom back to the solid ground of basic truth.  

Psalm 1

How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, 
Nor stand in the path of sinners, 
Nor sit in the seat of scoffers.

 Blessed means, “blissfully happy or contented.”  Lord,  I ask for Your blessing for my child! Help him to find true happiness found only in You.  

But his delight is in the law of the Lord, 
And in His law he meditates day and night.

Lord, thanks for showing me my first priority as a parent is to teach my children God’s word in a way they will enjoy and understand. Please help me soak in Your word day and night for my own peace and direction to parent the children You gave me.

 He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, 
Which yields its fruit in its season
, And its leaf does not wither; 
And in whatever he does, he prospers.

Lord, I  long for and pray my children will stand firm in You as children and adults. Help them bear Godly fruit for generations to come to prosper Your kingdom.  Remind me to “plant” my children in God’s word.  Lord, help me to relax knowing only You can produce the fruit in their lives. Help me let go of my control and trust You.

 The wicked are not so, 
But they are like chaff, which the wind drives away.

Lord, allow my children to have lives full of meaning in this life and eternity, and not to be reduced to windblown nothingness. Please ensure my days of parenting will count for Your glory.

Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, 
Nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.  For the Lord knows the way of the righteous, 
But the way of the wicked will perish.

 Lord, help me to teach my children how serious sin is. I pray for their wisdom to come directly from you.

Thank you Lord for this bird’s eye view of parenting.  Thank you for making the road straight when we find ourselves knee-deep in parenting doubt and anxiety. Thank you for making the impossible path possible. 


Are you lost in the anxiety of parenting? What verses do you cling in faith to when parenting gets hard?


Praising God through my pen,

Tara Dovenbarger



2014 M.O.M. Conference ~ BETTER TOGETHER

July 31st – August 2nd

Jacksonville, Florida at Trinity Baptist Church

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3 Key Questions to Ask Before Adopting a New Pet – Part 1

3 Key Questions to ask before adopting a new pet Part 1 Image

Today, I’m starting a 3-part video series on making proactive choices regarding family pets.

In today’s video, I look at two pet-related goals I wish I’d been more intentional about when our children were younger. And I focus on the first “Key Question” to ask before adopting a new pet. 

Of course, if you’ve already brought home a furry family member, you can still discuss this question with your family now!

(Can’t see video? Click here to watch it directly on YouTube!)

by default 2014-04-17 at 5.12.04 PMDownload our free Pet Care Contract:

Join me – and Rafik!i – next month when we’ll look at Key Question #2.


Share Your Perspective!

  • What intentional choices have you made in bringing new pets into your family?
  • What do you wish you’d been more intentional about?
  • What’s been your most successful pet adoption and why?
  • How have you seen pet ownership help your child mature?





2014 M.O.M. Conference ~ BETTER TOGETHER

July 31st – August 2nd

Jacksonville, Florida at Trinity Baptist Church

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Happy Resurrection Day!

He is Risen as He said

Before I became a Christian, I spent my Easters at the beach. Not for a sunrise service, but just hanging out with friends, catching a few rays and enjoying the sand between our toes.

But I remember my first Easter. It was the first time I really got it. I mean, I really got it.

I was saved in October and during the 6 months between the time I became a Christian and the first time I celebrated Easter as a Christian, I had immersed myself in the Word of God. There was so much I didn’t know, but I knew a lot more than I did six months prior.

I remember discovering the power of Jesus’ final words…

“Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they’re doing.” ~ Luke 23:34

“I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise.” ~ Luke 23:43

“Dear woman, here is your son.” ~ John 19:26

“My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” ~ Mark 15:34

“I am thirsty.” ~ John 19:28

“It is finished!” ~ John 19:30

“Father, I entrust my spirit into your hands!” ~ Luke 23:46

It is finished. Everything needed to secure your salvation and mine…and the salvation of everyone on the planet…everything necessary to save the souls of every person who has and will ever be born, was accomplished on the cross.

Because of His great love for us. Such great love!

Incomprehensible love. Relentless love. Love beyond anything we deserve or can explain.

He didn’t have to come to this planet. He didn’t have to die. But before the foundation of the world it was His plan. To pay a debt we couldn’t pay so that we could be forgiven and given eternal life. To be forsaken so you and I would never have to be.

The tomb is empty and Jesus lives. He is risen as He said and death has forever been defeated and eternal life is available to everyone who will receive Him as Savior and Lord.

But being a Christian doesn’t happen just because we believe. The Bible says in the book of James that the devils believe in tremble.

There is faith that includes surrender. The kind of believing that is to the saving of our souls (Hebrews 10:39). The kind of faith that invites the Holy Spirit to take up residence in our hearts and to seal us unto the day of redemption. The kind of faith that makes us a new creation and that changes our hearts, our lives, and our eternal destinies.

The kind of faith that looks reads Jesus’ final words on the cross and sees the empty tomb and says, “I get it!”

Today, sweet friend…do you get it? I mean do you really get it?

If you’re not sure that you really do, would you surrender your life to Christ today? Resurrection Sunday…What a great day to really get it! (If you want more information about what the Bible says about how to become a Christian, please email me. I’d love to send you more information to help you begin your new life with Christ!)


Hope for the Hopeless

They looked for Him in a place like this…


A place for the dead, the forgotten…Where names etched were worn away…

A hopeless place.

A place where hopes and dreams end…

But that day was different.

The ground shook, a veil — the one that separated people from God’s throne room — tore in two, and an angel spoke to women who came to pay respects to a dead man.

“He is not here. He has risen.” The words of the angel reverberate throughout all of history.

He is not here…

He has beaten death.

He has paid our way, we need only to believe.

And the hopeless places of life suddenly ring in victory for He has done it. He has paid the price for our sins. He still bears those scars, but they are not signs of defeat, instead they are reminders the greatness of His love.

He is risen…He is risen indeed.


The Scent of the Wood

Jesus and cross for MOM

Learning a trade from a father was essential. A tradition of following in a father’s footsteps. And so this young man obeys by mimicking the work of his father’s hands.

In the humble beginning of his apprenticeship, he is learning from his father to carve out the design of the wood, to slide his hands across the wood and feel the grain, and to carry stacks of wood.

Still a young lad and learning his trade, he needs the direction of his father’s callused hands to guide his unskilled hands, which now need a little rest.

Stepping away from the carpenter’s bench, he walks outside the shop to take a break from his work and stretch his back.

Standing in the warm, noon sun, he picks at another of the daily splinters in his hands, as the rhythm of the hammer pounds in the background. Extending his arms toward the sky, he says a prayer of thanksgiving to God the Father.

He breathes in fresh air to rid his nostrils of sawdust. First shaking his head to dislodge more sawdust tangled in his hair, he then removes his sandals and shakes out the wood shavings.

As the sun’s warmth soothes his aching muscles, he wonders when he first loved the savory aroma of wood. From the stories his father has told him, he decides the first whiffs seeped into his memory from the wooden trough at his birth.

When would Jesus realize all these things were harbingers of agony upon a wooden cross?

Did that dreadful day of agony revive all those fragrant memories of His childhood? What did those harbingers herald?

* Stepping aside from His carpenter’s life meant stepping into His glorified life.
* The sawdust that clung to His hair now exchanged for a crown of thorns encircling His head.
* Stretching His sore back could never compare to the excruciating pain from the flesh-revealing stripes received from a scourging.
* The removing of His sandals to rid them of sawdust; now removing them reveals His feet for torture.
* The wood He once carried on His shoulders strengthened Him to carry a cross-beam along the Via Dolorosa.
* His hands, once suffering splinters from sliding them across the grain of the wood, now feeling the pain of puncture from the shards of the wooden cross-beam.
* The hammer that pounded in the background now pounds in rhythmic timbre upon the nail heads, piercing His hands.
* The memory-scent of the wood, embedded in His nostrils, infuses His soul as the punctured wood releases that familiar fragrance.
* The fresh air He so easily breathed in now barely makes it into His nostrils as He struggles to breathe.
* His muscles that ached from work now throb from the pain of crucifixion, which no soothing sun can ever relieve.
* His arms extended once again…in prayer to His Father.

Following His heavenly Father’s guidance, this young Man obeyed…unto death.

The scent of the wood released from obedience. A sweet aroma to the Father.



In Defense of Gwyneth…the Mommy Wars (cont’d.)


You know what, fellow mamas? We’re doing it again. 

Whether we’ve realized it or not, we’ve drug another mama through the mud. Whether we’ve realized it or not, we’ve initiated yet another round of The Mommy Wars. 

The opponent? This time it’s Gwyneth Paltrow. 

If you have yet to hear, actress Gwyneth Paltrow made unpopular statements (this past month) regarding the difficulties experienced as a mother on set (in the movies–on screen if you will). In an interview with E!News, Paltrow stated the following:

“I think it’s different when you have an office job, because it’s routine and you can do all the stuff in the morning and then you come home in the evening. When you’re shooting a movie, they’re like, ‘We need you to go to Wisconsin for two weeks,’ and then you work 14 hours a day and that part of it is very difficult. I think to have a regular job and be a mom is not as, of course there are challenges, but it’s not like being on set.”  

Her words, opinion, and self-admitted struggles managed to set off a storm of controversy. Moms took to social media, sounded off on their blogs, and blasted her in the media.

But why?

Because in all honesty, I can’t begin to fathom the life of a celebrity mom, nor am I aware of the long nights (and early mornings) spent on location–away from my family. And even though assistance is plentiful, and Gwyneth has everything at her disposal, I won’t pretend to know what it’s like to keep up with her schedule. Just as I’m unaware of how it feels to shield my children from the media, paparazzi, and other issues associated with fame either. 

I don’t “get” any of that…but maybe you and I? Maybe we should try. Maybe we should attempt to relate to Paltrow’s plight by realizing that the struggles of motherhood? They’re universal–no matter who we are, or what we do.  

Maybe we should give her some grace. 

Besides, Gwyneth wasn’t stating that her life as a mom was harder than ours. Rather, she relayed the challenges her career presented were different. And they are. 

I’ve often dreamt of a lifestyle that would afford me an endless supply of help—a life like that of a celebrity. Personal chefs, housekeepers, and assistants would indeed be sublime, but I don’t think that’s the point here.

In fact, I don’t think we have the right to be angered by Paltrow’s comments when we possess luxuries most mamas around the world don’t. When others can view us in the same light. We can’t necessarily complain about the laundry when so many live without clean, running water. We shouldn’t grumble over the state of our homes when much of the world’s population still dwells in poverty. 

Think about it, friends.  

Like us, Gwyneth is a mom. She trudges through the same trenches, and she struggles like we do. True, she may enjoy many of the comforts we don’t, but no matter how much money one has, how big of a house one lives in, or how glamorous one’s profession might appear to be, motherhood is still hard…period. 

So, let’s support each other. Let’s employ empathy. Let’s stop the Mommy Wars…for good.  

What do you think? Were Gwyneth’s comments totally out of line? Or were they misunderstood? 



2014 M.O.M. Conference ~ BETTER TOGETHER

July 31st – August 2nd

Jacksonville, Florida at Trinity Baptist Church

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15 Risky Games Kids Play l Lori Wildenberg

Games. Most of us love it when our kids play games or make up games. We love to see them using their time doing something other than screen-time. But there are some games that are harmful and others flat-out terrifying. 

Don’t these games sound innocuous?dice1

The ABC game, Skittling, Hide and Seek, Trunking, Surfing, Chubby Bunny? 


European Vacation, Robotripping, Ghosting, The Eraser game,and Neknominate? 

These are all names of games tween to young adults are playing. Each one risky. Some even result in death.

  • The Eraser Game or The Eraser Challenge: This game has received some media attention lately. It isn’t deadly but it is dumb. Typically eleven to thirteen year-olds play. They rub an eraser over their forearm while repeating the alphabet, coming up a word for each letter. 
  • Mumblety Peg: A player spreads his fingers on a table then stabs the spaces between them as quickly as possible with a pocket knife.
  • Chubby Bunny: A person puts as many full sized marshmallows into his mouth while saying the words “Chubby Bunny”.
  • The ABC Game: One person  names words that begin with each letter of the alphabet in a particular category while another player scratches the back of the first players hand in order to distract him.The “scratcher” keeps scratching until the one doing the naming has gone all the way through the alphabet. Each cut goes deeper and increases the odds of infection.
  • 30 Seconds Game:  Two ” players” beat on each other for  a half-a-minute and the spectators choose a winner. 

Deadly Games that Originate in your Kitchen or Medicine Cabinet: 

  • Robotripping: This game is named after the cough suppressant Robitussin. Large quantities are consumed in order to get high or even hallucinate.
  • Skittling or Triple C: Over the counter or even prescription drugs are all tossed int o a bowl and the participants grab random handfuls of the colorful capsules, washing them all down, at one time, with a glass of water.
  • The Cinnamon Challenge: This game can cause choking or breathing problems. Attempting to take  a tablespoon of cinnamon all at one time is nearly impossible.
  • Huffing or Dusting: Intentionally inhaling household products (like glue or compressed air) in order to get high.   

Car Games:

  • Trunking: This is played in the car. Kids who have just received their licenses and are not allowed to drive those who are not family members may use the “trunk” option. The non-legal rider is put  into the trunk of the car. 
  • Surfing: The rider in this case is on top of the car, attempting to “surf” while the car is in motion. 
  • Ghosting: This  is played with other vehicles. Each driver turns off the car’s headlights and drives as fast as he can.
  • Hide and Seek: A form of ghosting except that the cars go looking for each other on a dark road without lights. 
  • European Vacation: One driver stays in the right lane, while another drives alongside in the left lane.

Last but not least two final, and possibly ultimately final games:

  • Neknominate: This game is a social media drinking game. The player is “tagged” or nominated to play on facebook or twitter. The challenge is to drink as much alcohol  as fast as you can …and do it in some creative  way. 
  • The Choking Game: In order to get “high” oxygen is cut off. (Click on the link to read my post on this dangerous and addictive game. You will also see 11 warning signs if this game being played. )

Many of the games listed have big consequences. My hope is you are more informed after reading this blog. If you discover your child or his friends are involved in any of these activities be sure to inform the other parents and school personnel. Sadly these games spread like wild fire due to peer pressure and the desire to fit in. Social media has played a role in increasing the odds your child will participate. Talk with your tween, teen, and young person about the dangers. Give them a strategy to opt out of the games. Be mindful. Pay attention. Keep listening. 

And the peace of God which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:7 



Where the bliss hides (and a giveaway that will help you find it)

MommyBliss_FlatforeBooksIt’s in the feel of your baby’s sleepy head on your shoulder as you carry her through the grocery store pushing the cart with one hand.

It’s in the quiet singing of your preschooler as he sits in the corner during his timeout.

And it’s the smile of your eighteen-year old as he walks across the stage to get his high school diploma that–after all the challenges he had in school– you weren’t sure he was going to get.


It’s there.  

Sometimes we just need a little help finding it.

Being a mom can be hard and the joy that comes with the journey is sometimes sandwiched in between a whole lot of stress. We rush around from soccer to swim team, from the grocery store to the doctor’s office, from one load of laundry or dishes to the next, and sometimes we don’t have time to think about what’s so magical about motherhood, right?

We’re just trying to get everyone fed, everyone to sleep, or everyone to clean their rooms—for once in their lives. There are babies crying and toddlers screaming and teenagers arguing and a messy house and dinner to cook… and sometimes we’re just counting the minutes until everyone goes to bed so we can get one second of peace and quiet. 

If that’s you, don’t be hard on yourself. I’ve been there. (Plenty of times.) The schedule never seems to slow down and the to-do list never seems to get done. And any sort of bliss might seem totally out of reach. 

But it’s there, mom.

And today, I want to encourage you to raise your eyes for a minute and discover that unexpected joy in your everyday moments.

This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. – Psalm 118:24

Even though it might not always feel like it, you are shaping souls and building character, mom. You are raising leaders, teachers, influencers, artists, writers, managers, moms, dads—whatever your kids grow up to be—to go out and make a difference in the world.

Motherhood can be hard, but if you’re able to keep your eyes focused on the big picture and the goal ahead—I promise you—bliss will sneak up on you in the most amazing ways. Being a mom is a blessed calling and God has amazing joy for us in the journey, even in the middle of the messy and mundane.

And finding the bliss that comes with the journey is often about perspective and choices.

Which is why I’m excited about my book giveaway–to offer you a practical tool to help you keep the stresses and worries of motherhood from swallowing your joy and banishing your bliss. 

Here’s a little blurb about the book:

Finding Mommy BlissDiscovering Unexpected Joy in Everyday Moments helps moms take steps toward the parental happiness that can sometimes be hiding at the bottom of the laundry pile. Author Genny Heikka includes stories from her own experiences as a parent, along with practical advice, tips, and questions that moms can explore on their own or in a group setting. Filled with the humor, heartache, and humbling realizations that only parenting can bring, Finding Mommy Bliss makes for an encouraging, easy read for the busy mom who needs a few minutes of inspiration.


Simply enter the Rafflecopter giveaway below for your chance to win a free, signed copy of Finding Mommy Bliss, just in time for Mother’s Day. A winner will be drawn and notified before Mother’s Day. 

*Finding Mommy Bliss, COPYRIGHT © 2014 by Genny Heikka. Excerpts in this post appear courtesy of Hallway Publishing. Finding Mommy Bliss is available at B&N and wherever books are sold.  



2014 M.O.M. Conference ~ BETTER TOGETHER

July 31st – August 2nd

Jacksonville, Florida at Trinity Baptist Church

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Is There Really “The One?” ~ by Lynn Cowell

Wedding couple

“On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, ‘Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.’” John 7:37-38 (NIV)

As soon as we were old enough to understand fairy tales, we’re told to start looking for the one.

Someday my prince will come.
Someday I’ll find my love.

As we got older, Prince Charming looked a bit different. Our teenage hearts thrilled when the latest vocal sensation sang about finding us and how our love would last forever.

Wherever we turned, we were told our soul mate was waiting. And we were led to believe we were “less than” if we didn’t find the one who would complete us!

Even now, whether we’re 15, 45 or 75, the equation hasn’t changed: “Guy + Me = Valuable.”

So, if the movies, books and songs are so right, how come when we find the one, we can still feel like we’re missing something? Why are there married people who are lonely with an emptiness that marriage can’t fill? Our hearts can get confused if our reality doesn’t match fantasy and we wonder:

Maybe my one isn’t really the one? Or, whether we’re married or single, we might wonder, is the one for me still out there?

In this place of uncertainty our hearts can grow perplexed. If we find ourselves in this vulnerable place of questioning, and all of a sudden a guy who seems to be the one enters the picture, it can stir up confusion.

If we are married, we might wonder if we should walk away from a husband, who we thought was perfect for us, in order to have a new one, who seems more perfect. Singles might wonder if this guy is really a gift from God … the one we’ve waited for?

In my personal search to have my love gap filled, I have discovered there is The One for each and every one of us.

It is Jesus Himself! He’s The One our hearts are looking for. He’s The One who is the filler of my lonely places and misunderstood parts.

No matter what is going on in my roller coaster heart, Jesus’ love for me is secure and stable. On the days when the relationship with my husband is everything I’m looking for, Jesus is The One. On the days when the cart of marriage is wobbly and off-kilter, He’s still The One.

Oh the relief Jesus brings to the rest of my relationships! When I turn to Him to fill the love gap in my heart, it takes the pressure off others! While my needy heart could wear my family out, Jesus is a continual source of unconditional love pouring into me. Not the type of filling that is once and done, but an endless supply … each and every day.

Listen to His promise in John 7:37-38, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.”

Ahhh … the refreshing that comes when we discover He is The One we are looking for.

What a relief my heart experiences as I stop looking to others to fill me and find Jesus as my constant, day after day, contentment. Take time today to go to Him and ask Him to fill up the empty places and refresh the areas of your heart that are dry. Jesus is The One and only who can fill and complete us.




2014 M.O.M. Conference ~ BETTER TOGETHER

July 31st – August 2nd

Jacksonville, Florida at Trinity Baptist Church

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Registration InformationLocation, List of Breakout Sessions, Descriptions of WorkshopsConference Speaking TeamBetter Together Conference FlyerBetter Together Bulletin Insert (Full Color)Better Together Bulletin Insert (Black & White)Better Together Conference Cards (Postcard Size)