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Hello, friends! Happy Thanksgiving!

It’s hard to believe, but only one more day and we’ll be on our way to Kenya, Africa, for our mission trip.

Our team consists of 10. Randy. Another Randy. Nate. Anna. Matt. Maggie. Paul. Jamie. Lacey. And me, Amy.

It’s fascinating, really. God called each one of us, uniquely, to go on this trip to Kenya. He brought us together – at this exact point in history, His Story – to form a team.

Our mission? To share the love of our Heavenly Father. To share the love and sweet promises of Jesus. To LOVE Kenyans.

Friday morning, we’ll meet at the airport and make our way to Kenya, Africa, on a series of flights. We’d appreciate prayers for smooth and safe flights, for quick clearance through customs, and for ALL 10 of us and our 20, 50-pound duffle bags to arrive safely in Nairobi, Kenya.

Kenya is NINE hours AHEAD of our home state of Minnesota, so by the time we arrive at our final destination, it’ll be early Sunday morning in Kenya!

Our trip is 10 days long.

While we’re in Africa, we’ll be partnering with a nonprofit organization called Love For Kenya. Our team will be engaging extensively with orphans, widows, staff and local villagers. We’ll spend a lot of time at the orphanage with the children, but will also be spending a fair amount of time in the community building relationships, meeting peoples’ needs, sharing our faith, praying for people, and doing work projects and large-scale outreach projects as we feel led. Personally, I’m really looking forward to a whole day we’ll spend with a group of widows who are considered outcasts, scums of the earth, in Africa. Before we leave, our team will be taking a safari and will also be spending a short time at the Kibera Slums in Nairobi, the largest urban slum in Africa.

Our team leader, Randy, told us that this mission trip will be incredibly RELATIONAL.

We’re as prepared as we can be, friends.

We’re fully funded. (Thank you, thank you, kind and generous supporters!)

We’ve met several times for training and preparations.

We’ve gotten all the recommended vaccinations.

We’ve gathered supplies.

We’ve packed our bags.

We’ve prayed.

And we’ve prepared our hearts.

We’re nearly on our way. One more day.

Kenya here we come.

May God bless us and go before us.

Thank you, friends, for joining our journey. It’s an honor to have you follow along. Thank you in advance for your prayers and support from a distance.

Amy & Team

Kenya_smallbuttonThis blog post is part of a series I’m writing about my journey to Kenya, Africa, with the nonprofit organization, Love for Kenya, in the fall of 2015. Click here and you’ll be directed to the landing page where you can read ALL the posts from the series. If you haven’t already, read the post I wrote when I announced the trip. Otherwise, scroll to the bottom and you’ll find ALL the Kenya posts listed and linked for your reading enjoyment. Thanks for joining the journey, friends.

Kenya mission trip

I never, ever planned to go to Africa in the fall of 2015.

In 2023 for our 25th wedding anniversary? Yes.

In 2041 for an awesome opportunity to write and photograph on behalf of a nonprofit doing outstanding work with the least of these? Yes. Awesome. I’ll be more than ready for that.

But 2015?

Never. Ever.

Not yet.

Give me at least a couple years, okay God? Umm…I didn’t plan on this now. At all. Can I just have some time to save? Can I just have some time to plan? Can I just have some time to let my kids get older and my husband get used to the idea of me flying off to Africa? Can I just have some time to get ready for whatever it is I think I need to be “prepared” for a trip to Africa?

I was invited to travel to Africa on June 1st.

I gave a firm NO to the trip on July 7th.

Then I gave a firm YES on August 29th.

One week from today, I’ll be on the plane to Africa.


This mission trip to Africa was a weird mix of God’s call vs. the enemy’s attack from day one. I spent most of the summer of 2015 feeling God’s strong and unexpected call to GO to Africa. But I also spent much of the summer of 2015 feeling the enemy’s attack, the enemy’s every scheme and plan to make this thing fail.

It was brutal at times.

Spirit crushing.


Life changing.

Inspiring and heartwarming, too.

As I stated in my intro post two months ago, I fully intend to guard and keep those three months close to my heart.

Sure, I didn’t plan to go to Africa this fall. Not at all.

But this trip is no mistake.

My saying NO, then YES is no mistake.

Make no mistake, I’ve been on the battlegrounds, the battlegrounds of good vs. evil, of God’s calling vs. the enemy’s plans to kill and destroy.

After I said YES to the Africa mission trip on August 29th and then made the news public on my blog a few weeks later, the attack subsided. Notably. The response from family, friends, blog readers and fellow writers was amazing. My in-laws agreed to help with child care. The remaining balance of my Africa trip was miraculously paid in full by generous and kind friends, family, blog readers, and two photography clients who gave me “extra” to go towards my Africa trip. I put out a call for supply donations on Facebook, and special friends responded with crazy generous and abundant donations of socks, underwear, clothing, shoes and kid movies. Last Sunday, our team gathered and had more than enough supplies to fill 10, 50-pound duffle bags for Africa. And yes, there will be 10 MORE 50-pound duffle bags filled by the time we leave next week.

God has provided.

God has flung open doors.

God has confirmed – abundantly, excessively, faithfully, clearly – that He wants me to go on this mission trip to Africa.

I thought the attacks were done.

Everything was going smoothly.

All the doors were wide open.

God’s provision for this trip has been ridiculously good. Up until today, the title of this post was going to be simply that – Ridiculous Provision.

But today, one week from our team’s departure for Africa, I’m feeling attacks come on again. The enemy of my soul would rather I quit, drop out, say “sorry, I’m not going anymore, this isn’t going to work.”

Last night, I had a dream (or should I say, nightmare) that five armed gunmen entered our home and were going to kill us. In the end, all I could do was beg them to spare our lives with “Please don’t kill me, I’m a mom.” And “Please don’t kill her, she’s my little girl.” I cowered and begged these things while guns were pointing at me. Then I woke up and let a few silent tears fall before moving on with the rest of my day as usual.

Two hours later, I found myself at Kohl’s department store after my morning workout. I wanted to look through final clearance racks to see if I could find ONE MORE long skirt or long dress, and ONE MORE lightweight wrap or short-sleeve cardigan for Africa. I’ve known I’ve needed at least ONE MORE outfit to bring, and the items had been on my to-do list for more than a month. So I got my three-year-old daughter a cart, and headed straight for the junior 80% clearance racks in search of $5-$10 bargains on Africa wear.

I found a white wrap with orange details on super clearance. Seriously perfect and lightweight for wearing over any dress or long skirt. Hung it over our cart. Found another loose 3/4 length shirt also perfect for wearing over any dress or long skirt. Was just beginning to look through the racks for a long skirt or long dress.

My daughter was behaving incredibly well, but wanted to get out of the cart. That was fine, but I knew she needed to stay close. I was talking to her often, and monitoring where she was and what she was doing. She was looking at some flannel shirts to one side of me, and I was looking at the clearance rack on the other side. I’d JUST seen her. She was JUST touching that flannel shirt. I JUST told her to “Stay right by me, okay?” And she even responded, “Okay.”

As I lifted a long black and white dress off the rack, something told me I needed to look back at my daughter again, even though she had LITERALLY just said “okay” to my direction to “stay right by me.”

My intuition was right. She was GONE. GONE!

I couldn’t find her!

My instinct told me to get down on the floor and search for her feet, for her little pink crocs, as I know she has historically attempted to hide in department store racks and thinks it’s so funny.

I expected to see her crocs in the clearance rack I’d been searching.

But I didn’t see her crocs anywhere. I stayed down on the floor and crawled, searching everywhere in the immediate area for her crocs, for my Maisie. I started calling her name, “Maisie.” “Maisie. “Maisie.” “Maisie.”

No answer.

No crocs.

No sign of little feet anywhere.

No response to her name. At all.

No Maisie anywhere!

I ran over to the cashier. Thankfully, I was close. I told the first cashier I found…”My daughter is missing. I can’t find her anywhere. Please put a code up for a lost child immediately.”

The elderly woman in line heard me. In my peripheral vision, I saw her panic and stare as I ran back to where Maisie was supposed to be.

I returned and resumed calling and searching, louder and louder.






I heard “Code Adam” called on Kohl’s intercom. More than once. Everybody was staring my way. I was frantic, running around, calling her name louder and louder “Maisie, Maisie, Maisie!” I was ducking up and down, looking for those crocs, looking for her puffy little leopard coat. I didn’t care what anyone thought. I didn’t care AT ALL. My baby was missing and nobody had found her. I was crying. I had lost it and I was out of control. An employee asked me what she was wearing, how old she was. I could barely find the words, I could barely utter the words. I answered as quick as I could and kept searching. “Maisie!” “Maisie!” “Maisie!”

I was crazy loud. Loud. Louder. Even louder.

All worries about anyone else or what they thought or how crazy I was were GONE. Out the door. I needed to find my baby. And all I could think of were those evil gunmen I’d dreamed of last night, those evil gunmen ready to come and snag my baby from me in the ONE SECOND I wasn’t looking, the ONE SECOND I wasn’t fully on guard.

I was freaking out.






Going in circles. Up and down. All around. Everywhere. Everyone was staring. Employees were running all around. Cautiously panicked on my behalf.

Then I heard her in the flurry and scurry, the woman who said “Wait, I think we found her! What kind of coat does she have? What color hair?”

The woman who alerted me was around the corner, so I left my panicked post. Another woman was tending my baby, walking her towards me, down Kohl’s way. There she was. My Maisie in her leopard coat.

I ran. I picked her up. I hugged her. I cried hard. Uncontrollably. Unabashedly.

And we left the store immediately. Without any clearance clothes for Africa.

I was shaking. Crying.

I asked my baby where she went, why she left.

“I wanted to see other people, I wanted to say hi.”

All of this because she wanted to say “hi?” And I’d JUST seen her and JUST told her to stay really close to me. And she’d JUST said “okay.”

I headed straight to the car. Opened the door. And put my baby in her carseat. I was still crying notably and an African American woman wearing a pure white winter coat happened to be getting out of her car next to us. She asked if I was okay. “Actually, I just lost her in Kohl’s. They had to call Code Adam, so I’m still recovering,” I said.

She gave me a hug.

“I’m glad she’s safe, sweetheart. Jesus is good. Jesus is good.”

I felt attacked. Big time. Twice in one day.

Yet, oddly enough, I also felt incredibly protected.

Through the crazy and ridiculously scary momentary loss of my daughter in Kohl’s, I learned what it REALLY means to be CALLED.

God’s call is NOT something to be ignored.

He will go out of His way.

He will yell and search and gently “scream” until we listen, until we hear, until we FIND Him, land safely in His arms and follow His way, His plan for our lives.

This is not a joke.

This is not mystical.

This is not crazy talk.

It’s real.

God’s call is real and live and active.

He is CALLING each one of us. Now. Today. Somewhere. Somehow. Uniquely.

I’m telling you, friends. Today, I learned – in the most horrible of circumstances – that God is serious about His call. He is serious about His children STAYING with Him, FOLLOWING Him, and LISTENING to Him. That includes you and me, friends. We’re children of God. Don’t stray. Don’t go your own way. Don’t look left and right, worrying about “saying hi” to this person and that, doing this thing and that thing. Stick with your father, your Heavenly Father. He knows best. He IS the Way.

All of this to say, I’m going to Africa.

I’ve been called.

There’s been a battle. Oh, most definitely.

But I’m not about to turn left or right or divert any which way.

This is a matter of obedience.

Pure obedience.

I don’t know what God’s got up His sleeve for me and Africa, but I’m going to trust. I’m going to follow. I’m going to believe. I’m just going. Because He says GO. NOW. “Stay right by me.”





Kenya_smallbuttonThis blog post is part of a series I’m writing about my journey to Kenya, Africa, with the nonprofit organization, Love for Kenya, in the fall of 2015. Click here and you’ll be directed to the landing page where you can read ALL the posts from the series. If you haven’t already, read the post I wrote when I announced the trip. Otherwise, scroll to the bottom and you’ll find ALL the Kenya posts listed and linked for your reading enjoyment. Thanks for joining the journey, friends.

This is a guest post written by my younger sister, Tiffany, who has a diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder, bipolar type. Once a month, Tiffany documents a single day in her life. The purpose of these posts is to raise awareness of what it’s like to live with mental illness. I’m also hoping the posts will help readers recognize that we all have hopes, dreams, challenges and mountains to climb regardless of our mental health status. If you’d like to read the posts I’ve written about Tiffany’s journey and all the guest posts she’s shared on this blog, check out the mental health page. Without further ado, here’s Tiffany.


I woke up feeling like I didn’t want to get out of bed. My five-year-old daughter, Raegan, asked me why we cry sometimes, but tears don’t come out. I told her those were silent tears. I was feeling the silent tears that day.

I told myself, happiness is your choice. Just choose to be happy.

My kids were still sleeping. My mom stopped over with my ADHD medication; she is in charge of giving me my ADHD medication at this time because I had issues taking that medication in the past. That morning, I didn’t feel very beautiful, inside or out. She told me that I certainly was beautiful, and I began to feel a bit better. I felt sad because I don’t get to see my mom very much when she substitute teaches, which she is doing now. We said I love you a few times before my mom left for school. I always tell her to have safe travels.

I continued to tell myself to make a choice to be happy!

My kids woke up a few minutes after my mom left. Raegan had unity day at school. She was supposed to wear orange, but I didn’t look through her backpack the night before to know that. I happened to throw on an orange and blue flannel. Raegan and I argued about what she was going to wear for a while. Nothing I selected for her was what she wanted to wear. Finally, she told me she needed to wear orange for unity day. We found an outfit that had orange in it. The day was definitely getting better.

Off to school we went. We took a picture for unity day in our orange outfits before Raegan went into school.

I kept telling myself, I am happy! The kids are happy, I hope?!


Next, I stopped over at a friend’s place and life started to feel a bit more unified. My friend had just gotten engaged and she asked me to be a bridesmaid in her wedding. I am honored and excited. More happiness to add to the wonderful day!

I can’t remember much about the rest of that day except the lesson I learned:

I must keep telling myself to be happy when I’m feeling not-so happy. Telling myself to be happy every day has helped me ever since.

I remember being happy as a child, but at some point, mental illness attacked my mind. I am living and loving as much as I can, even with my mental illness. My support system is amazing and needed for the mental health issues I deal with on a daily basis.

My psychologist always asks me how life is going on a scale from 1-10. I used to say a consistent 7, sometimes 8. That’s pretty good, right? Along with making the decision to be happy, I also made the decision to reach some kind of 10 each day. That is pure happiness in life. I try to live one day at a time, and realize that positive self-talk is essential for living life to the fullest.

So is the glass half full or half empty? My psychologist and I talk about that sometimes. I told him last time that I already know the answer, so I don’t want to answer. If the glass is half full, then I’m an optimist. If the glass is half empty, then I’m a pessimist. I don’t really know what I am. I just try to turn those pessimistic moments into optimistic ones.

Happiness is your choice. Just choose to be happy.

Thanks for reading, everyone!




The journey became official on July 4, 1988. I was 12 years old, going into 7th grade. I cracked open my hot pink diary with an ice cream cone on top and began writing. It was an innocent act, for sure. But to me, it’s proof of my purpose.

I’m convinced. Or perhaps God’s convinced me quietly, time and time again.

Writing isn’t my hobby. It’s my calling.

I just haven’t gotten paid for it yet.

One diary turned into two, then three. Diaries turned into notebook journals. Notebook journals turned into store-bought journals. Teenage-angst journals turned into gratitude journals, love journals and pregnancy journals. Store-bought journals sufficed, yet again, post baby one and two. Then there was the seven-year computerized, therapeutic journal you’ve heard about if you’ve lingered long in this space from the beginning. Yes, all of this led to baby three and my blog launch in July 2012.

July is clearly my month of birth.


The past 3 1/2 years have been marked with tremendous personal and spiritual growth. My inner life is deep and incredibly rich. To know me well is to know that I’m much quieter on the outside than I am on the inside. 368 blog posts have been published and made public. 65 posts sit unpublished in my blog’s draft box. A leather, store-bought journal stamped with “A Penny For Your Thoughts” is nearly filled with notes and dreams of great big things, thoughts and truths I needed to speak out loud.

Some of you have listened.

Some of you have heard.

Some of you have loved my dreams.

Some of you have held them close.

Some of you have quietly affirmed.

Some of you have stood by me.

Some of you have pressed, asked and challenged.

Some of you simply don’t know.

Some of you I’ve been too afraid to tell.

Two of you called me an author last week – even though I didn’t believe it, even though I don’t believe it. “I’m not an author until I’m published.”

I’m a writer.

I own that.


But here’s the thing, friends.

I didn’t set out to become a professional blogger.

I wanted to become a writer.

I dreamed of becoming an author.

All those diaries and journals dating back to 1988? They’re proof that God was working something in me from the beginning, that He had a plan greater than my own, a plan to draw me and others closer to Him through words, through the Spirit moving in and through the everyday fabric of our lives.

The birth of my first baby marked the birth of the dream. In 2003, the dream began taking shape.

I wanted to write books.

I wanted to become an author.

I wanted to move people, to relate to people, to connect with people, to change people, to draw people closer to God and the purpose He has for their lives….in quiet and personal ways, through the written word.

I wanted to write words that make a difference, a lasting difference.

After my baby was born, I was shocked. Motherhood wasn’t anything like I expected. Heck, it still isn’t today. Motherhood is the hardest thing I’ve ever done, the hardest thing I’ll ever do. I needed to know I wasn’t alone in this mothering gig. I found solace and solidarity in the pages of real-life books on motherhood. Those books were unlike anything I’d ever read before. They opened my eyes. They helped me feel understood. They helped me realize I wasn’t alone. They changed me from the inside out.

Those books inspired me.

I wanted to move people like that. I wanted people to know they weren’t alone. I wanted to use my life exactly like that…to inspire and change people through the written, printed word.

So I began dreaming. I wrote the dreams out loud.

First dreams of authoring books appeared in my journals in 2003.

In November of 2006, I spoke my dream out loud to an established author and speaker who’s still alive and kicking today.

In March of 2007, I wrote a simple goal – to author one book on mothering. I defined the long-term vision. (It’s still the same vision I have today, only today’s vision is broader.) I brainstormed 19 book titles. No kidding. I even met with a local author for tips and researched domain names. (See, I was supposed to start blogging way back in 2007 when it was hip and new and the up-and-coming thing to do.)

The dream never went away. It just shifted.

In January of 2010, I started a blog, but never wrote a post.

In July of 2012, after being so exasperated with all the dreaming and writing in my head, I launched this blog. At that point, I’d been called to write publicly for nine years and hadn’t taken a LICK of real action. God is SO patient with us, friends, SO grace-filled. But he will gently remind you of His plan a million times if you don’t listen. After all, He’s a relentlessly loving God, too.

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In October of 2014, I was presented with the opportunity to spend 20 minutes with a highly published and highly regarded author at a writing conference. From here on out, let’s refer to her as “Mama Bear.” When I approached Mama Bear, all I intended to do was thank her for her incredible leadership of our generation. All I wanted to do was tell her that I greatly respect and admire her, that when I “grow up,” I’d love to lead, love and write like she does. I told her all of those things. But she invited me in for more. I had no idea what was about to unfold. Add another dear writer friend and 20 minutes of conversation later, we found ourselves revealing our greatest writing dreams to Mama Bear. I told her about the book I wanted to write. I told her about the other book I wanted to write. She told me which book to write first and left me with “You’re more ready for this than you know.”

I met with a literary agent that afternoon. She told me she wanted to see my book proposal. She told me “go do it.” She gave me her business card and even hand-wrote a note on it, telling me what to write in the subject line when I sent in the book proposal.

Those words have echoed in my mind for 13 months now…

“You’re more ready for this than you know.”

“Go do it.”

But I haven’t written a book proposal yet.

I haven’t believed I’m ready for this. I haven’t believed I’m ready for this at all. I haven’t believed I’m good enough. I haven’t believed I have a big-enough platform or a loud-enough voice or beautiful-enough words. I haven’t believed I’m connected enough, that I’m Christian enough or secular enough, that I’m courageous enough to write any book proposal. I haven’t believed I’m strong enough to withstand rejections and criticisms that are part and parcel of any published author’s real life.

I haven’t believed in God’s dreams for me.

I haven’t believed in the plans He began setting out so clearly in 1988 with that hot pink ice cream cone diary.

I’ve started doubting my words.

I’ve started doubting my purpose.

I’ve let the enemy creep in and try to kill, steal and destroy all the plans God ever laid out for my life.

I can’t do it anymore, friends.

It’s coming to a stop today, whether I like it or not.

I’m not playing this game of tug of war anymore.

A plan and a purpose has been playing out in my life since 1988. In case you didn’t realize, it’s the end of 2015, friends. I’m almost 40 years old. God’s been calling me to this since I was 12 years old.

Will I listen?

Or will I not listen?

Will I deny the story He’s written, the story He’s writing today?

I never set out to become a professional blogger.

I dreamed of becoming a published author of books.


When I left my 14 1/2 year career as a speech-language pathologist in December 2014 to pursue writing and photography, one of my writing goals was to publish a blog post 2-3 times per week. I’ve met and kept that goal all year.

Today, I’m making a new goal and I’m making it public to keep myself accountable. Effective immediately and until further notice, I will be publishing blog posts at a frequency of 1-2 times per week maximum. With the exception of my upcoming Africa series (which I’ll write as much as I feel called to write), you can expect me to be writing on the blog with LESS frequency.

Why all the detail, you ask?

Why make this public?

Because I’m tired of the fight. I’m tired of the internal battle. I’m tired of keeping this all inside.

I started writing in diaries and journals when I was 12.

I began dreaming of writing books when I was 26.

I began blogging when I was 36.

I’m still dreaming of writing books and 2016 will mark my 40th birthday.

I’m not getting any younger, friends.

I believe God’s still calling me, still purposed me to author books. If I don’t write those books, nobody will. With that in mind, I am forcing myself, behaving myself out of this place of disbelief and inaction. I am taking the next leap of faith and I’m making it public for the purpose of internal and external accountability.

I have one, great-big book I feel I need to write.

And who knew, I have a children’s book series dreamed up as well. One’s drafted. The second is drafted in my mind. I need to sit down and write it all out ASAP – before it escapes me. As in, it needs to get on the screen within the next week or two or the heart of it will disappear into writer’s oblivion. I’m convinced the children’s series is more than two books. I just don’t have inspiration for books three plus, yet.

There are books beyond that…on calling, friendship, marriage, mission and maybe even motherhood (the original dream). All potential. All possibility. All completely unknown at this point.

I didn’t set out to become a professional blogger. This blog is not the end all be all.

I set out to become a published author of books.

God’s been calling. It’s been persistent. I can’t work my way out of the feeling that I’m supposed to do this. Maybe I’m crazy. Maybe I’m delusional. Maybe I’m a dreamer. Maybe.

Worst case? Call me crazy, delusional, a dreamer. At least I tried.

If my daughter wanted to become a doctor, I’d tell her to try, I’d tell her to go for it, I’d tell her to do what she feels called to do. Why is it so different for writers? Why do we continue to dream in the quiet? Why do we say we’re working on “projects” when in reality we’re writing books? Why does it have to be so mysterious? If my daughter wanted to become a doctor, I can guarantee she’d have no problem publicly proclaiming she was applying to med school.

So there you go. I’m reducing my blogging time with hopes of freeing up time to work on my first book proposal. At this moment in time, I don’t know which book is first. And yes, you might call me crazy. My intention is to pursue traditional publication. (Sigh. Deep breath. We’ll work through this whichever way it goes.)

I’ll be honest. This may be slow. This may be a no go. I know this is NOT an easy road. But I have to try. There’s no more denying it. This is the next right thing to do. This is the next thing God’s calling me to do.

So if you ask me what I’m doing now, how I’m spending my time, what it’s like to be a stay-at-home mom who blogs? Yeah. Stay-at-home moms don’t sit around eating bon bons all day, that’s for sure. (Random ode and props to the bravest of the brave.) I’m not really identifying as a SAHM, anyway. I’m identifying as wife, mom, daughter, daughter-in-law, sister, sister-in-law, niece, cousin, aunt, friend, work-at-home photographer and writer who dreams of becoming an author.



Look at any photograph of our family from our past four Disney vacations, and you’ll notice some or all of us wearing lanyards of Disney Trading Pins around our necks. The proof’s in the picture. In the photograph above, three out of five of us are wearing lanyards!

At this point, you might be asking “Why should I care?” “What are those pins all about?” And “Why in the world are you so obsessed that you’d all wear lanyards of pins around your neck for an entire Disney vacation?”

Well, friends. Let me explain.

You see, this was another one of those things my husband made me do. Collecting Disney Trading Pins was HIS idea. I’m just following his lead, y’all.

But seriously. I’ve learned more than I ever wanted to know about Disney Pin Trading since we began collecting pins 5 1/2 years ago. Honestly? Because of my husband and children’s love for Disney Pin Trading, I have more knowledge than the average bear when it comes to this subject. So I might as well share the love, right? I might as well share all the tips I have for Disney Pin Trading, so if your family’s ever interested in starting a collection, you know where to begin.


(PLEASE NOTE: This post is NOT for Disney insiders. This post is NOT for the world’s most avid Disney pin collectors looking to up their game. This post is NOT for pin traders who have 100, 200, 300, 500 or 1,000 pins in their collections and want to fill in some gaps. This post IS for families who are interested in Disney Pin Trading. This post IS for families who perhaps have a very small collection started and want to keep it going. This post IS for families who have maybe even collected pins on a couple Disney vacations, but want to up their game and bring their Disney Pin Trading to the next level. This post IS for people who are simply curious about these Disney pins, people who have no clue what they’re all about and want to know more.)

So let’s get at this. Today, I’m sharing Disney Pin Trading Secrets for Families!


Secret #1: Know WHERE to buy Disney Trading Pins, HOW to display them, and HOW MUCH they cost.

WHERE? You can purchase Disney Trading Pins at ALL Disney Parks and Resorts. Typically, you’ll find them in gift stores in the Parks and Resorts, but you can also find them at special pin kiosks around the Parks. HOW? There are several ways to display Disney Trading Pins. You can wear them around your neck on lanyards you purchase at Disney Parks. (This is our family’s preferred method of display. Each one of us has a lanyard; some of us have more than one lanyard.) You can purchase Disney Pin binders, which are kind of like Trapper Keepers only made specially for pins. This method of display allows you to keep MORE pins in one place, but they’re not as readily accessible as they are on lanyards around your neck. People who are really into Disney Pin Trading come up with other clever ways of displaying pins. I’ll show you a couple examples later in the post. HOW MUCH? Pins are color coded for price, and run anywhere from $7.95 a pin all the way up to $15.95 a pin for limited edition. Simpler and smaller pins are cheaper. Elaborate pins with layers and special features are more expensive, which includes special edition and limited release pins.


SECRET #2: When you’re at Disney World, make sure to visit stores that specialize in Disney Pin Trading.

There are a few stores around Disney World that are excellent and prime destinations for true blue Disney Pin Traders. If you’re interested in or getting serious about pin trading and want to see the biggest variety of Disney Pins, you’ll definitely want to stop at these stores. Disney’s Pin Traders at Disney Springs (Downtown Disney). Frontier Trading Post in Frontierland at Magic Kingdom. Pin Station Epcot in Epcot. Sunset Ranch Pins and Souvenirs at Hollywood Studios. These four locations are hot spot destinations for pin traders. All four are worth the stop. Because all four of these locations are Disney pin-centric, they’re all a little “geeked out,” which is pretty cool if you’re into pins (see secret #10 below).

SECRET #3: Trade pins with Disney cast members.

As you walk around any Disney Park, you’ll notice that MANY Disney cast members wear lanyards, around-the-shoulder pin sashes, or have small boards of pins. This is a BIG and BASIC pin trading secret for families. If you’re getting into Disney pin trading, make sure to look at Disney cast member’s lanyards, sashes and boards. As a guest, you have permission to TRADE one of your Disney Pins for one of their Disney Pins. They can’t say no! They have to agree to the trade. So if you have a little pin you don’t love so much and a Disney cast member has an awesome big one you’ve been looking for for a long time, trade it! This makes pin trading a fun adventure while you’re walking around Disney Parks. Kids especially love the trading (so does my husband); it’s a treasure hunt that never ends!


SECRET #4: Look for large-scale pin boards around Disney Parks and Resorts. This is another opportunity to trade pins with cast members!

So I just told you about opportunities to trade pins with ANY Disney cast member, right? Well, there’s another similar opportunity for Disney Pin Traders, but on a much bigger scale! On our last Disney World vacation, we noticed that a few locations had LARGE quantities of trading pins supervised by Disney cast members. We found a large board of pins available for trading with Disney cast members at our resort, Disney’s The Art of Animation. We also found a LARGE garbage can FILLED with Disney Trading Pins at Animal Kingdom. (This one was monitored by 2-3 Disney cast members. They said the garbage can of pins rotates throughout the park every hour.) We also found a few LARGE boards of pins ready for trading in gift stores at Magic Kingdom. You have to be on the lookout for these large-scale pin trading opportunities, but when you find them, it’s pretty cool! You have an opportunity to scan a LOT of pins, and potentially trade several all at once. My husband and kids LOVED the large-scale pin trading locations. A reminder that these boards are set up by Disney, so cast members have to say yes to your trade offer as long as it’s reasonable…one pin for one pin! Occasionally, you’ll find a big or rare pin on these boards. On our recent trip, one of my kids found a limited edition submarine pin on the green garbage can in Animal Kingdom! They were, of course, incredibly excited!


SECRET #5: Look for Limited Edition and Limited Release Disney Trading Pins.

Some Disney Trading Pins are extra special. For one reason or another, Disney has decided to release a limited number of that particular pin. Those pins are labeled as “Limited Edition” and “Limited Release.” Pins come on tiny, rectangular pieces of glossy cardboard. When a pin is “Limited Edition” or “Limited Release,” that label will be printed on the bottom of the cardboard piece, so you know its categorization. Typically, “Limited Edition” and “Limited Release” pins are held behind the counter and cost more so you have to ask a Disney cast member for help. Sometimes, they’re mixed in with all the other pins. It just depends. Holiday pins are often Limited Edition or Limited Release, as are special event pins, such as those released for Epcot’s annual Food & Wine Festival or Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party.


SECRET #6: Buy locks for heavy and expensive pins.

We learned the hard way our first year collecting Disney Trading Pins back in 2010. Buy locks for heavy and expensive pins. All Disney Trading Pins come with plastic, black, Mickey Ear backs. They work well in most cases. But if you have a large pin, a pin with several layers, an extra long pin, or heavy pin, you might want to seriously consider purchasing a pack of the gold locking backs so you don’t LOSE the pin! There’s absolutely NO need to LOCK every pin. It’s just the occasional ones, here and there, that are simply too heavy or too big, or the one that keeps falling off the lanyard for some reason. In those cases, definitely buy the locking back and get it secure. That way, you don’t have to worry about it falling off and losing it anymore!


SECRET #7: Before you go on a Disney vacation, purchase a bundle of Disney Trading Pins on eBay.

Here’s a little secret for families who have begun Disney Pin Trading, but want to take it to the next level. (Let me remind you once again, this is my husband’s discovery, not mine. He’s the big pin trading fan!) During an eBay search a few years back, he found lots of Disney Trading Pins for sale for a really GREAT price. So before we left on our Disney vacation, he bought one lot of 25-40 Disney Trading Pins off eBay, brought them with us on vacation, and used THOSE pins to trade with Disney cast members at the Parks. When you use this method, you MUST make sure you’re buying REAL, AUTHENTIC Disney Trading Pins off eBay. Take note when you make the eBay purchase. Know what you’re buying. Typically, when you purchase lots of Disney Trading Pins from someone on eBay, they’re selling SMALL pins that high-end traders might not care much about because of their size or style. But remember…these are the kind of pins that make pin trading super fun with little financial commitment! You can come to vacation with 25-40 pins you bought from eBay, and have a week’s worth of pins to trade with Disney cast members for a small total investment of $25-$40. Or you can do a mix, which is what we do. Buy a limited number of special Disney Trading Pins at the Parks, but ALSO buy some off eBay to trade while you’re on your Disney vacation.


SECRET #8: Collect sets.

Sometimes, Disney Trading Pins are created as collections. For example, there’s a collection of Disney Princess Babies. There’s a collection of bowling pins with characters on them. There’s a collection of flags. The collections of pins are endless. The more my husband and children get into Disney Pin Trading, the more I’m promoting collection of SETS. Collecting sets of pins requires a finer eye for pin trading. Collecting sets of pins makes it more of an adventure. Collecting sets of pins brings it to the next level as far as I’m concerned. Through an eBay purchase, my husband landed a few of these orange birds that were part of a collection. So he did a Google search to see HOW MANY birds were in the collection, and on our most recent vacation to Disney World, he spent good effort looking for the rest of those little orange birds on Disney cast members lanyards, sashes and boards! Guess what? He found them, traded for them, and was able to complete his collection of orange bird pins! Collect complete sets. Why not? It’s a fun adventure, especially for kids (and husbands).


SECRET #9: Mystery pin boxes are a good option for kids.

In the bigger Disney Pin Trading stores, you’ll see little boxes with “Mystery Pins.” Sometimes, there’s just one pin in the box. Sometimes, there’s more. The point of Mystery Boxes is that you DON’T know which pins are in the box. On the front of the box, you see the category of pins that are in the box. On the back of the box, you see tiny pictures of ALL of the pins that are in that collection and COULD BE in the box. You know that you’re buying 2015 pins. You know you’re buying Star Wars pins. You know you’re buying princess pins. But you don’t know WHICH ONES you’ll get until you buy the box and open the dark, sealed, plastic bag inside. You take a chance when you buy Mystery Pins. I’m not big into Mystery Pins myself, nor is my family, but I have purchased them very occasionally. Kids are intrigued by the mystery pins. They’d be good for starting a collection and great for beginning pin collectors!



SECRET #10: Get a little geeky about Disney Pin Trading.

If you’re going to collect Disney Trading Pins, you might as well get a little geeky. The best place to get geeky about Disney Trading Pins is Pin Station Epcot. At this location, they have a few shaded tables set up outside the pin store where avid Disney Trading Pin collectors hang out all day, show off their pins, talk about pins and trade pins. Oh yes. It gets a little geeky here. Pin traders sit and talk about pins all day long. They trade pins. They have people look through their huge boards of Disney pins, and their pages upon pages of Disney pins. They get strategic with serious collectors. On our most recent Disney World vacation, I had one collector offer to give me a WHOLE LANYARD of pins for my ONE Limited Edition Cinderella pin I bought several years ago. Sorry, sir! No trade, here! I love my Cinderella pin and don’t plan on ever trading it! But it was certainly eye opening and fun to hear that my one pin was worth a whole lanyard of pins! So why not? If you’re gonna collect Disney Trading Pins, get a little geeky about it.

That’s it, friends. That’s a wrap. This post marks the end of my 31 Days of Disney series! Thanks for reading, and I’m signing off until our next Disney vacation.





31DaysofDisney_medium2This post is part of a month-long series titled 31 Days of Disney! If you’d like to read more posts from the series, click here and you’ll be directed back to the 31 Days of Disney landing page. ALL posts from the series are linked within the body of that post. Find a title or topic that intrigues you, click on it, and the post will pop up for your Disney reading adventure!

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