I want to be a family that “lives healthy.” I want us to eat well, exercise, and be thoughtful about what we put on our skin and hair. But I often feel like we are missing the mark, especially with our children.

We have teenagers who spend more time away from home than here, which means I have significantly less input about what they are eating or how much exercise they are getting.  Just this morning the thought crossed my mind that I’m not sure if my son has eaten a vegetable in the last two weeks.   It’s pretty sad that I breath a sigh of relief when he grabs a Vitamin Water out of the fridge.

Healthy living happens when you have a clear vision of who you want to be and how you want to feel in a week, in a month, in 5 years and in 30 years.  And it’s hard for adults to make changes with a “future mindset” let alone a 16 year-old.

But if my husband and I can model for our children what healthy living looks like than not only will we be taking care of our future, but we will be setting a great example for our kids.

That is why I am excited for a great bundle of healthy living e-books, podcasts, courses, DIY tutorials and much more that came out today!!!

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They are designed to cut through the clutter of information out there and provide people like you and me a library of extremely helpful resources that we can customize for our own family’s goals.

Because when you have the right info and tools at our fingertips, it all comes together so much more easily.

We know what to cook for our family. We’re more confident in choosing natural alternatives. We find ways to save money without comprising on what’s important to us.

We learn to replace store-bought products with DIY options that actually work and are easy to make. We feel better (and even look better, too). Healthy living becomes less stressful and more enjoyable.

We become educated and motivated–from exercise to gardening to essential oils.

You sort of need to see it to believe it, but the package includes 83 digital products and it’s worth over $2,400!

  • For the cost of a small bag of groceries, you’ll get a complete healthy living library to help you:
  • prepare whole & delicious real food
  • get the toxins out of your house for good
  • understand and use natural remedies
  • breathe new life into your exercise habits
  • learn about important women’s health issues
  • raise exceptionally healthy kids in an unhealthy world
  • plus learn about gardening & homesteading, meal planning, weight loss and so much more!

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…and this is only a sampling!

Plus, it comes with over $250 worth of bonus offers including:

1. Bloom Naturals – $15 gift certificate toward any product ($15 value)
2. Perfect Supplements – $15 gift certificate toward any Perfect Brand product ($15 value)
3. TriLight Health – $15 off select TriLight products ($15 value)
4. MadeOn Skin Care – FREE BeeCool Muscle Balm Stick and Natural Lip Balm Combo (value $15.25)
5. The Maca Team – FREE Organic Gelatinized Yellow Maca Powder, 8 oz. ($15.44 value)
6. Primal Life Organics – FREE 1-ounce jar of Dirty Mouth Toothpowder ($15.97 value)
7. Get Kombucha – FREE 2-week supply (15 ml) of Kombucha Pro: Liquid Probiotics (value $29.99) AND/OR a FREE 1-ounce bag of 8. Get Kombucha’s Custom Organic Kombucha Tea Blend (value $15.99)
9. Orglamix – FREE Mineral Eye Shadow Trio ($18 value)
10. Experience Life – 4 FREE digital guides (value $29.99)
11. Grove Co. – FREE Mrs. Meyer’s 64 Load Laundry Detergent, Mrs. Meyer’s Fabric Softener, 60 Day VIP Trial, and FREE shipping with a $20 minimum purchase for new customers ($32.66 value); FREE 1-year VIP Membership ($39.95 value) for existing customers
12. Meal Garden – 6 months of Meal Garden FREE (value $35.70)

Besides being so incredibly helpful and inspiring, one of the things I like best about the bundle is the price. By offering the bundle for a short time only, they’re able to give you access to over $2,400 worth of high-quality eBooks, eCourses and printables for a whopping 98% off!

That’s just $29.97 my friend.

Here’s how it works:
Visit their website, take a quick look at all the goodness that comes in this package, then click the green “Buy now!” button to go through their simple and secure 3-step checkout process.

 

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You’ll receive an email with a login to their online access portal, where you’ll begin downloading your eBooks, signing up for your eCourses, and redeeming your free bonus offers.

Use their Getting Started Guide to pick the topic you want to tackle first and start making healthy changes!

The most important detail, though, is that this bundle is available for just six days! After Monday night, September 26th, the sale ends and you’d have to buy all of these products individually.

It’s even backed by a full money-back happiness guarantee, so you can make sure it’s right for you.

I don’t know about you, but this is something I am excited about for our family.  I may not be able to control what my kids eat outside the home, but I can be creating an atmosphere of health inside our home.

Get your bundle HERE.

Yay! (I’m kind of excited about this…)

~Amy

(Psst… the bundle goes away at 11:59pm Eastern on Monday, September 26th, so don’t wait!)

(This post contains affiliate links.)

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The last couple of weeks have been rich in connection for me.

Last weekend I attended a retreat at an adorable Bed and Breakfast for a leadership class.  In the evening, after class had finished, we all sat in an ornately decorated dining room around a large dark wood table and played Apples to Apples and Four Corners and teased and joked as thirteen women at 11:00 pm will do.  When we all headed to bed, I said good night to my roomie that I didn’t know very well.   We turned out the lights, and then something sparked a conversation about our past teaching days. For a half an hour we laughed until our sides hurt telling really funny stories…it was priceless.

The next morning my college girlfriends were in town for a visit and picked me up from the retreat.

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We spent the day in Estes Park paddleboarding (more laughing) and then heading to Boulder for dinner.  Before dinner we drove by the house “on the Hill” where we all lived together in college, and saw there was a party going on.  Only one of the girls in our group was sane and suggested we don’t go in, but the rest of us out-voted her and when a young man outside invited us in we just couldn’t resist the chance to see the inside of the house we lived in 25 years ago.

It was so interesting how the entire house cleared out when five forty-something moms walked in…Here we are being troublemakers…the house is behind us.

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We giggled about that whole scene on the rooftop of a Mexican restaurant that evening. Along with sharing so much more about our kids and jobs and homes and lives.

 

img_0414The week before I met two friends for lunch–we gather three times a year to celebrate each of our birthdays.  We have been doing this for years and have walked through so much together.  We spent this whole lunch wrestling through some hard topics around faith and our lives…our time connecting was as rich and satisfying as the food we ate.

Then this past weekend, Jon and I invited our whole street (our new house sits in the middle of two culdesacs) over for a Fall Chili Dinner.  We don’t know all of our new neighbors and wanted to connect.  Over thirty adults and kids came and we stood and sat out back by the fire in the crisp evening air and just got to know each other.

All of this fills me up overflowing.

My guess is your life is full of dear people who you long to connect with, over coffee or a warm meal, in your home or theirs.  Couples, friends, family, neighbors.  To share your life and to know what is going on in theirs, so you can support and encourage and love each other.

We have a gravitational-like pull to be known, to connect.

I think it’s important to remember that all of these times, these connecting moments together, are an expression of God here on earth.  

He created us to know and be known.

Adam was not at his best alone, so God created Eve.  So they could be in each other’s lives and know each other.

Elizabeth and Mary, relatives and friends that helped and encouraged each other, as did Ruth and Naomi. Jesus and his disciples. They showed up in each other’s lives.  They knew each other.

And at an even deeper, richer, more intimate level, God wants this know/known relationship with us.

He knows us.  You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. ~Psalm 139:13

He wants to be known.  Be still and know I am God. ~Psalm 46:10

But Why?  Because in the same way as I feel so loved and connected with my husband or children or friends when we have spent time sharing words and thoughts and feelings, God also provides us with love and connection when we know him.

He fills us up, satisfies our soul, causes all the shiny attractions of the world to fade away because we are completely, wholly, deeply known and understood by our Creator.

So the next time you are sipping Starbucks with a girlfriend, or sharing your day with your spouse, or just hugging your little one without saying any words at all, remember that this is a reflection of a God who has created us for relationship with each other and Him.

Questions to Consider:

  1. What is it that you love most about connecting with others?
  2. Do you have any hesitation to being known by others?  Why do you think that may be?
  3.  What do you think about being fully known by God?
  4.  Who do you want to connect with this week?  How can you make that happen?

Today, find time to connect, to know and be known.

Blessings,

~Amy

COMING UP:  This Wednesday I will be sharing the Ultimate Healthy Bundle on my site--this is AMAZING! You won’t believe all the products, courses, printables, etc. that you can get at a super-low price that will help you and your family live the most healthy life possible.  Stay tuned…

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These were originally posted by my amazing friend Jen  (visit her at http://www.lifeinalargerstory.blogspot.com )

So these are sooo yummy–not only are they incredibly easy but a crowd pleaser too.  I share them on my blog every fall.  They have become a seasonal tradition for our family!

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1 30-oz can pumpkin  

1 12-oz bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips

Pre-Heat your oven to 350 degrees.

Add all 3 ingredients to a bowl and mix (that’s it, you don’t need to add anything else)!

If you really like chocolate chips, toss in a bag and a half. Scoop mixture into lined muffin tins. They don’t rise, so I tend to overfill the muffin cups.

Yields 36.

Get ready–they don’t stick around long!

Enjoy!!!

~Amy

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My sister posted this quote on Facebook today and I just loved it.  Not because I practice this in my life but because I usually don’t.  But I want to.

Having children makes me “change focused” already (always wanting to make them better little people), and then you add my natural bent towards attempting to control people and things around me and this quote feels both incredibly challenging and incredibly freeing.

What if I could really detach and stop worrying about the people around me?

That would feel, well, amazing.

An important question to ask those of us who graduated from The School Of Changing Others is why do we feel the need to fix people?

It possibly boils down to two main reasons:

  1. FEAR of someone making us unhappy by their actions or behaviors
  2.  EXPECTATIONS of who someone should be based on my terms (I originally wrote “unrealistic” expectations, but I think its expectations.  Period.)

Fears and expectations cause such unnecessary burdens on our hearts and minds.

So how do we let go?  How do we stop worrying and fretting and playing scenarios in our head of how things would be different if that person in our life could just evolve into the person we expect and want them to be?

For me, it requires something extremely difficult and extremely easy all at the same time:

Trusting God.

Trusting God with the people I love, their life, their journey, His timing.

I find when I bring my concerns to Him, the Wise Counselor, He calms my spirit, helps me to open my gripping fingers around the issue.  He often shuts my mouth when I am about to barrel ahead with words that just seem so important to say.

But those who trust in idols, who say to images, ‘You are our gods,’ will be turned back in utter shame.  Isaiah 42:7

I am convinced that I am my own idol sometimes.  I trust in myself, in my feelings and my prideful and self-righteous convictions.  I can see it so clearly in others, when they judge while clearly having their own “stuff” to work on, but the ability to see it in myself is like a shadow that shifts and ducks.

If I can set aside myself enough to make room for God, well, that is the magic–to truly believe that He is in control so I don’t have to be.  It is the place where I stop worrying and start respecting those I love by letting them journey and learn and grow on their own terms.

Prayer for Letting Go:

God, I pray that you will help me trust you more, especially with my children as they grow up and become the people with the story you have planned for them.  Help me to trust you with my marriage and my friendships and those I work with. I pray that I can live out this scripture well:

Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.   Psalm 62:8

Blessings to you today!

xoxo,

~Amy

P.S. Would you consider sharing this post?  Thank you!

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A photo by Crew. unsplash.com/photos/rCOWMC8qf8A

Have you been through a season where you just can’t get a handle on “normal” tasks and commitments in your life?  When you just can’t get it all done? I just experienced one of those times.

Our family is just emerging from a season of change and transition with two house moves, a mission trip to Haiti, wedding in Yosemite, a home remodel and getting our oldest ready to head to college in Nashville (two trips out there) all in the past two and a half months.  All of this squeezed every last bit of margin out of my normal schedule, and I found myself doing things that I try hard never to do.

Like backing out of commitments (big ones).  Or saying no to invitations that came my way.  Or putting off meeting with good friends for weeks because I couldn’t find the time, and telling clients that I had to postpone or cancel their design projects for now.

I am a recovering people-pleaser and don’t ever want to appear flaky, so realizing I couldn’t show up or be reliable or even be present if I was there rubbed everything the wrong way for me.  But life just got too full.

The act of backing myself out of events or relationships or work obligations didn’t happen right away. Even when I knew this abnormal season was approaching I had difficulty switching gears.   The “I can do it!” attitude initially prevailed.  This revealed itself in my conversations with clients; “Sure, I can squeeze your painting project in (between an unpacking boxes and an international trip),” or with friends; “Yes!  We definitely should plan that camping weekend (even though I had no idea where any of our camping gear was buried in our post-move basement of boxes).”

The rational voices in my head went on red alert, “Don’t commit to that!! Don’t say yes to that!!”

Fortunately, I started listening to those voices this summer when the stress and un-manageability of my schedule knocked me upside the head.

I had to change my responses to invitations from “Yes!” to “No, I’m just too busy.” Or had to say no right off the bat (which is not easy for me to do).  I had to be honest with clients about my overbooked schedule.  And I had to tell good friends I just didn’t  have time to get together with them right now.  I said sorry a lot.

I even have struggled with this blog because I would say that I was going to post on a certain topic next and then I didn’t because weeks would go by with no time to write or focus.

All of this has meant possibly disappointing people or losing clients.  It has meant potentially hurting friend’s feelings.  It possibly affected the way others viewed my reliability or engagement with them.  And I may have lost readers on my blog because “zero posting does not make a blog reader well”.

But I have had to wrap my brain around the fact that all of this is sometimes necessary and actually okay.  Sometimes we go through seasons of change that derail our normal.  It could be an emotional struggle or starting a new job or taking care of a loved one or becoming a new parent.  It could be any number of things.  These seasons remove any margin we previously had to engage or commit or show up for people or things.

And we need to give our people-pleasing-highly-responsible selves a break.

 We need to accept that for a time (and we usually don’t know how long) we are shifting our focus to other, more important things.

I have learned this summer that people are incredibly understanding. My clients actually responded with huge amounts of grace and said it actually worked for them to do the projects a little later. My friends are my friends because they love me and know I love them, even when I can’t be present with them.

And the invitations I declined…well there will be more.

God knows there are seasons in our life for all different things (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8). We can ask Him for courage to say no, wisdom to know what is important (and what is not) and for grace for ourselves when we feel like we are letting others down.

 

~Amy

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Cite Soleil

The Tap Tap jostled over the uneven road causing me to reach for the red rubber hand-hold dangling above my head. I peered through the enclosed metal grates that kept our group safe in the back of the truck as we traveled around Haiti.

We were headed today to Cite Soliel, where we would deliver water to the residents of this three square mile slum village built upon a garbage dump. Our family had arrived in Haiti two nights before, a culmination of years of praying and months of planning for a mission trip the five of us could take together. Now we were here, our eyes wide, absorbing what felt like another world.

I had been told Cite Soleil was the poorest place in the Western Hemisphere, yet I couldn’t imagine any standard of living any lower than what I had already observed in the short 36 hours since we landed in Port-Au-Prince.

The initial shock of the last day had not yet worn off. There was trash everywhere, in piles, strewn along gutters, and burning on the side of the road. The smell would wind its way through our open-aired vehicle and then disappear as quickly as it had arrived. There were people everywhere also, sitting in groups in the blazing sun, walking endlessly, selling their wares and stacked four deep atop motorcycles that swerved between traffic. Car horns honked endlessly, the Haiti version of turn signals, and dogs and people and goats wandered through busy streets without hesitation. The city hummed with activity and sound.

And the concrete. It formed endless walls throughout the city and I found myself straining to see behind openings to peek at scenes within. The buildings were cement, the roads another version of hot, solid material, and the homes built from cinder-block. This was the cinder-block and cement that fell on and crushed over 300,000 Haitians in the 2010 earthquake.

Half finished structures created a sense of permanent rubble. The scene formed a dusty, light tan contrast to the yellow bananas and green mangoes splayed out on sidewalk blankets in hopes of catching the eyes of hungry shoppers.

I kept waiting to see the “nicer” area of the city, which never revealed itself.  It was like the city had been forgotten by those who might renew some part, any part.  The paved roads would suddenly turn into deeply pocketed dirt roads, the writing on buildings long faded from years of heat and sun, the only investment being bars and heavy metal doors to protect what little everyone had.

There was nothing familiar, nothing my American eyes were used to seeing.

Our vehicle bumped down a different road now, following a large truck filled with free clean water for the people of Cite Soleil. This truck was owned by Healing Haiti, the organization leading our trip for the week. Six days a week they deliver free water to the residents of Cite Soleil, where there are no wells or running water. They serve the people of this country with Christ-filled love day in and day out.

The scene now changed slightly. Walls turned into small rusted tin structures that all attached to each other, as if they were locking arms for support. The cars were few, the children barely clothed if at all, and heat and desperation hung thick in the air. We turned down a smaller road, almost as narrow as an alley, lined with more shacks.

Three long blasts burst from the water truck’s horn. I thought it was warning people out of the way, but then realized it was a joyful announcement to the Haitians deep within the village that their water was here. Out of nowhere women and children poured onto the street as our vehicles slowed to a stop. They carried plastic five- gallon buckets, thirsty to be filled.

We had been told to prepare for the swarming. The children instantly surrounded the tap tap, yelling and smiling and reaching out arms. They didn’t want water, they wanted us. We exited the vehicle literally sweeping up children in the process. Most of us had two or three in our arms, which wasn’t difficult since they were so slight of frame. Many were naked or barely clothed.  None had shoes.

Some just wanted to be held, and stayed expressionless but content on our arms. Others clamored for our camera, wanting to have their picture taken and then asking in Creole to see themselves in the frame. Huge smiles and squeals of glee at the sight of themselves smiling back at the camera. I wondered when was the last time they had looked in a mirror, if ever.

All around us there was organized chaos. Young women formed a line behind the water truck as the hose poured gallons into the buckets at record speed. When the buckets reached capacity they would deftly lift them onto their heads and turn to walk home. Children crowded around those of us with strange white skin, wanting to touch our hair and not letting go of our hands. We all worked fast, our time needing to be quick to not only make our other stops but for safety.

Cite Soliel is run predominately by gangs. It is how there is any order at all. Guns are prevalent, and tensions between gang members can run high. Violence is a common resident here.

Our four Haitian translators (who reminded me more of body guards) kept watch on the scene. They had insider knowledge of where the gang activity existed and would usher our group into the Tap Tap and out of the area at a moment’s notice if needed. Yet our team of thirteen did not feel nervous. On the contrary, we were overflowing with joy of helping (for this one day) to give love and water to people who desperately needed it.

Sweat trickled down my neck, and the dust stuck to my teeth. The men were noticeably absent–a few hanging out on the fringes. This was women’s work, gathering water. It was the women who carried out household duties, while the men struggled to find any work in general. Haiti has an 80% unemployment rate, and my estimation is the numbers are even higher in Cite Soleil.

Out of nowhere a small girl appeared, possibly ten years old although she looked much younger than her age as all the children did here. She tugged on my shirt and on my Aunt’s shirt, pointing to her bucket sloshing with water and then to the street and somewhere beyond. “Do you want us to carry you water to your home?” We asked pointing also. She nodded and smiled.

We had been told that this might be asked of us, and that we needed to check with the Haitian translators before we left the water truck area to carry water. I asked Brenee, our driver, who stood surveying the scene along a wall with arms crossed.

“Can we walk back into the alleys here?”

“Yes” he responded in a thick Creole accent.

My Aunt Marj and I picked up the handle to the bucket, its weight pressing the metal wire into our palms. All around kids were dragging water, mothers carrying containers with grace and skill, children asking to have buckets lifted on their heads. How could they carry this much weight?

We followed our new little friend, down a main dirt street lined with shacks and people sitting and cooking on the sidewalk. She suddenly turned left between two homes, glancing back to make sure we followed. We wound back between narrow tin walls, water splashing between us. As we went deeper into the slum I looked at Marj, “How far do we go?” She glanced around, “A little farther.”

We had been told to be careful–that it was easy to get lost. I did my best to observe the turns, and just when I felt nervous enough to call it quits, the young girl disappeared into a doorway–her home. She pointed to the exact spot she wanted the bucket–tucked under a thin wire shelf.

I paused to look around. A bed. The wire shelf. Dirt floor. Rusted metal walls.

That was it.

Where were clothes, dishes, food? A place to sit?

What about the stifling heat, holes in the roof, endless dust and dirt?

What happens when the rain comes?

There was so very very little.  Not even the bare minimum. But this was her LIFE.

For a moment, time stood still.  There was such intimacy being in this family’s one room house, just my Aunt, myself and this young girl. It was a gift I will forever open, being allowed to see how she lived. Her home.

A piece of my heart broke.

Thin arms reaching for my neck snapped me out of my daze. I bent down and this dark skinned, bright smiling little human gave me the biggest, tightest bear hug. We didn’t speak each other’s language, but I have never heard the words “Thank You” so clearly in my heart. She was grateful that we had brought her family water for that day.

She turned to Marj, and with a huge smile gave her a thank you hug also. And then she turned and waved us to follow her out.

I couldn’t speak as I fought back emotion the whole journey back out to the busy street and as I write tears come again to my eyes. This sweet girl, whose life I cannot fathom, was so very thankful for our journey to deliver water to her home. Water! Yet the experience of having my eyes opened to a life so unlike mine brought me waves of gratitude just as deep.

In that instant I understood how poverty and extreme lack can live in beautiful companionship with gratefulness and deep joy.

The water truck and our team appeared as we rounded the last corner. Something inside me had changed in those few minutes, and while I couldn’t explain just what, I knew it was so very good.

The hose eventually ran dry and we were told to return to the Tap Tap. I said goodbyes, gave last hugs and then felt a tug again on my sleeve. It was the girl. I reached out my hand to hold hers and she placed her second hand on top of mine–such a mature gesture for such a young life.

I looked into her eyes and she nodded her head– I think saying thank you one more time.

As we drove away, bouncing along the trash filled road, my heart was so very full, and so very empty at the same time. I didn’t know poverty like this existed. But I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to step into the lives of these strong and surviving people for one day.

And this, combined with several other experiences we shared on this trip has convinced my husband and me that our connection to Haiti will not end when we return home.

There is hope in Haiti and we want to be a part of that.

The next post will be all pictures of Haiti and what we experienced there!  I can’t wait to show you.

Blessings,

Amy

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This is pretty normal for us! Our son being goofy while we try to take a family picture.

 

Hello Friends!

It has been far too long since I’ve posted, a result of our life “derailing” from normal after selling our house two months ago.  Since then our family of five has moved three times, lived in a friend’s basement and then a home we rented, and finally in to our new home three weeks ago.

All this was planned, thought out, and expected (although much of the process had unexpected twists), so it surprised me how challenging it was for me personally to “get through” these past few months with a positive attitude.

During this interim time our family of five lived out of seven blue tubs we had packed with clothes and personal items. We existed on dinners of Chipotle and Kraft Mac and Cheese because of limited kitchen space and and stretched thin mom who wouldn’t love cooking even in ideal conditions.  Our family felt disjointed not having our “normal” routines and space, and the rainy cold spring added to the unrest.  Our dogs found their own form of crazy (one of them peeing indoors and barking neurotically, challenging at one’s own house but really fun when it’s at your best friend’s house).

For a while I thought I was struggling to stay positive because there was no end in sight–we were having an extremely difficult time finding a new house after we sold ours. But then, we found a great house, and had a closing date and everything, but my restlessness grew as our familiar “more comfortable” life seemed just a reach away.

Why was it so important for me to find normal again?

I asked myself many times, “Why is this so difficult? God has blessed us with wonderful friends to house us temporarily, we know we will find a home eventually, our kids are healthy and handling this transition better that expected.  So why the discomfort?

The answer came to me once again, as it has over and over in all the unknowns over the last year with our moving story.

Our strengthening comes in the discomfort.

This time has felt like “how to keep a positive attitude boot camp,”  and I know that like the true military boot camp, with the purpose of strengthening physical muscles and endurance, this time for me has been an emotional and spiritual strengthening.

I have been forced to release my grip on managing everything the way I want it to go.  I have had to let go of normal, which involves me having a lot of control over my life.

 And that is good.

God is stretching and teaching me to let go, to again, trust him.  To again, remember that the little daily comforts and order I am used to need not to be taken for granted.  To believe that he has a purpose for every difficult time we go through–to decrease our self-sufficiency and increase our God-sufficiency.

One of the largest parts of “me” that I have had to release in the past couple of months is writing this blog.  I think about it every day, but feel like I have been in survival mode for so long that it takes sitting in a hotel room with my family sleeping to find head and heart space to finally write.

We did move into our new house three weeks ago and it is so very good.  I am so grateful for the little things like a desk to work at and some of the homey decorations we had packed away.  And the big things, like our family re-connecting and bonding over settling into our new space.

But normal is still to come.  In a few hours our family is about to get on a plane to Haiti to serve with a Healing Haiti team in the poorest part of the world.  Here is an excerpt from a woman who returned a few months ago from this trip as she relays vignettes of people she met:

Hello. My name is Mardy. I am 23 years old. I’ve been living in front of the hospital for a while. A few months ago I got raped and now I am pregnant. I’ve had a stroke and I am in the hospital now. I can’t move my left arm but that’s not the worse part. I am all alone; with no one to help me. I don’t know how I will take care of my baby once it’s born and where I’ll go and how we will survive.

This experience we are about to have, the conditions and desperation we are about to encounter will feel as far from normal as we have probably ever known.

But we can’t wait.  If there is anything I have learned recently is that God shows up when I feel helpless and out of control.  It is during these times I have eyes that more clearly see Him at work.  I have a heart open to what he needs to speak into it.

So I ask you, where is your normal being challenged?

Where can you find God’s hand in your story right now?

What is he teaching you?

Whether your lack of “normal” was a choice (like ours) or unexpectedly happened to you, I hope that you can find some peace as you wrestle through this time. Whether it is temporary or permanent, I pray that you will see God’s handiwork in the plan of changing your heart to rely more on Him and less on you.  These are certainly the lessons He has taught me.

God bless you,

~Amy

 

 

 

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Summer Mom

As school ends and summer gently drops its bags inside our front door for a good long stay, I picture myself sitting on our back patio sipping a cool drink, writing in my planner, reading a great book or paging through the my most recent Good Housekeeping magazine.  This relaxing would happen while my children are happily entertaining themselves with something educational or productive after making their beds and cleaning up after breakfast.  We would rest, play, and I would still accomplish the daily list that I had when they were in school all day.

Why do I picture that which never occurs?

In reality, the transition from school to summer feels more like being dunked into a basin of shockingly cold water. One week our three teen-aged children are gone for 8 eight hours a day, busy with tests and school and end of year activities, and the next week they are sleeping until ten…ish, and then needing forty-two rides around town, and eating all the food in the house.  It’s normal, and I am happy to stock up on extra food and increase my gas budget, it just happens so suddenly and every year it throws me for a loop.

Now that I have walked through 13 summer transitions (starting when our oldest was in Kindergarten), I have learned some things.  Things that I would like to share for those of you who are starting to feel a little panicky right about this time.  These “things” are not magic, you will still feel like you are dunked, but the water won’t be so shockingly cold:

RELAX for the first two weeks.  On everything. On schedules, on eating, on how everyone should be getting along, on expectations. Throw them all out the window.   I used to, in my panicky state, structure much of our kids’ lives from the first day of break–bible studies, chore charts, even asking them to set their alarm so they didn’t sleep the day away (I know, not fun mom). I was just terrified of NO STRUCTURE.  If I kept my kids busy, they wouldn’t be bored or argue or completely shrink their brains with screens–all things I feared. But I noticed after a couple years of this that it made everything worse.  They fought more, they were stressed with my expectations and I was just plain frustrated.
So one year I decided to not to have any structure for the first two weeks.  Let them sleep, be totally unproductive, and watch TV longer than I preferred.  And they were okay! In fact, they worked out their sibling issues with in a week or so, they got bored watching TV and started getting outside and being creative, and they slept–and that is so good for their growth and development. So give it two weeks and see what happens.
LIFE GIVING ACTIVITIES  I listened to an audio recently of Gary Smalley and his wife being interviewed about how they managed their family summer.  They shared how each family member should find both REST and LIFE GIVING ACTIVITIES in their summer structure. Sometime in those first two weeks, sit down as a family and ask each person what their ideal summer would entail. What would make each person excited? More sleeping?  A great vacation?  Time with friends? Reading a novel or two? Try to honor everyone’s wishes within reason, and then remember when your teenage son is still sleeping at 11:00AM, that this is life giving to him.
BE INTENTIONAL Now be intentional about making your family’s hopes happen. Put them on the calendar.  Make them a priority.  If your husband really wants to take the family camping, honor that and find the time.  If your daughter would like to learn how to do pottery, sign her up for a class.  And figure out what YOU would like, and honor yourself enough to make it a reality.  If in the family meeting you and your spouse valued doing something together as a family each week, then you will need to say no to certain things, and move others around to make that a priority.
SET ASIDE YOUR AGENDA–or slow it down.  For me, this is the hardest part of summer.  I have a design business, love to write for my blog, errands, housekeeping and exercise when I can.  I am full steam ahead with these activities while the kids are in school and I find that when I forget to make the shift to kids being home I just feel frustrated that I am not getting things done.
MOMS, WE NEED TO CHANGE HOW WE DO LIFE IN THE SUMMER.  If we want to be engaged and present with our kids, we need to rework what our days normally look like the rest of the year.  For me it’s rising early to get a couple of hours of work in before the kids wake up.  Then I try to be available to them and enjoy the chauffeuring and sitting at activities.  I slow my workload WAY down, and if you are not able to do that, consider hiring someone to take care of your kids while you work so you can be present with them the rest of the time.  I also shift my expectations of how clean my house will be–I will be vacuuming and picking up more, and that’s okay because it means there are lots of little people around enjoying their summer.
ALLOW YOUR KIDS TO BE BORED.  For some reason as a mom of young children, boredom scared me to death. It meant whining and fussing and I was often tempted to never allow boredom to happen by over-scheduling our days. Yet boredom forces our kids to be creative.  It causes them to engage a part of their brains that is not used when we are constantly entertaining them.  Put up with the whining for however long it takes–an hour, a day?  And then watch what your children begin come up with to creatively fill their time.

As a mom of a child heading off to college this fall, I know the blessing and gift of summer for our family.  It is where we treasure some of our best memories, and it is also a time that has caused me stress over the years. I was truly that mom that had bible studies ordered and chore charts made and alarm clocks set.  And our sweet kids tried to accomplish all the “goals” I asked of them.  While some structure and contribution is so good for our kids, my hindsight perspective is that I wish I would have relaxed more, let there be more unstructured time, and investigated each family member’s desires for their summer and made sure they happened–including mine which would land me back on the patio with a Diet Pepsi and a magazine!

Summer MOM Challenge:  Spend some time thinking and praying about what your summer stressors are.  What is frustrating to you?  What are your fears?  Ask God to give you clarity and then come up with some ideas about how to change things up this summer to relieve those issues.

xoxo,

Amy

 

 

 

 

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(This post contains affiliate links)

Hello!  I dare say it’s finally spring here in Colorado.  After weeks of below average temps and way above average precipitation (i.e. seat heaters in car and socks in bed required), the sun is warming the air and everyone’s spirits around here.

Something else is warming my spirits and I wanted to share it with you.  I found out about a magazine that is chocked full of resources for those of us who strive to make our home organized, our children connected to God, and our marriages thriving.

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Molly Green is for HOMEMAKERS, HOMESCHOOLERS, and if you are so cool to be this: HOMESTEADERS.  You can imagine all the topics covered and resources provided on this site.

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But, my favorite part and the reason to subscribe is just one thing.  With a yearly subscription, you also get FREE access to an online video library of hundreds of videos on topics such as PARENTING, MARRIAGE, FINANCES, LEADERSHIP, CONFERENCE SESSIONS (like “IF’), MEN’S ISSUES, WOMEN’S ISSUES, BIBLE STUDIES,  and more!

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Through Right Now Media, you have access to all of these videos for a yearly price, but if you subscribe to MollyGreen.com, you get the magazine PLUS all the videos included!

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It’s really quite amazing.  So, if you would like to check it out CLICK HERE.

To me, spring is about starting fresh, renewal, new growth.  I love seeing it bloom outside the kitchen window, and in our home.

I hope this provides some resources you can use for your own renewal.

xoxo,

Amy

PS: Please enter your email to subscribe!  I am going to be sending some special newsletters throughout the year that will only go to those on the email list.

 

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Decorating with Style

I think we innately all love the peaceful feeling of a home that is tastefully decorated–just the right amount of wall hangings, little to nothing on the counters except a few decorative items, perfectly coordinated pillows set in just the right spots on the couch, and bedrooms that show no trace of actual living except a well made bed and a matching dresser.

I’ve just described every new builder model home in America.

The fact of the matter is that most homes have too many wall hangings because we just love our darn family so much we want to display as many pictures as possible, the kitchen counters have practical items like used coffee mugs from the earlier in the day that just didn’t make it to the sink along with the recipe book you will use tonight and the stack of mail that practically needed the most convenient place to be dropped.  Oh and the couch pillows? Look behind the couch or on the floor–that’s where ours live 50% of the time.

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That is the reality of living (well, hopefully this picture is a slight exaggeration!).  So how do we make our homes feel peaceful AND practical?

Both life mess and decorating “overdoo” can cause our home to look cluttered.  When we are raising a family, socks, wrappers, homework, laundry, etc. are just going to exist.  But we can help reduce the overwhelm feeling by having our homes decorated with classy simplicity.

So how do you know if your home is overdecorated?  Take this little quiz (Y/N):

  1. My home seems mis-matched.  I have purchased things over the years like furniture and wall hangings that just don’t go together.
  2. I have a lot of furniture in most rooms. I don’t know what to get rid of.
  3. I have something hanging on almost every wall.
  4. I have several different patterns going on throughout my home.
  5. I don’t feel peaceful in my home.  It seems like my decor is just “off.”

If you answered 3 or more “yes” then this post series is for you!

For most of us, the answer is LESS is MORE.  More peace, more style, more happy.  But we tend to fill our homes with too much which works against that.

People who have a knack for design are able to put a lot of things on a wall or in a room, but that is because they know how to coordinate scale, color, size and patterns very well, like this picture to the rightdesign styleIf you are feeling unsettled in your home, it feels a little chaotic or busy, or just “not right” it may be because those elements aren’t flowing for you.  My word of advice is to pare down.  Take things away, at least for now, until you start to feel calm and peaceful in your home.

This post is one of three on a series of de-cluttering your home.  In this series I will share tips on how to create that peaceful, welcome feeling in your home by discussing three areas:  WALLS, FURNITURE,  and COLOR.

Today’s post will be all about our walls!

Re Working Our Walls

Cluttered, busy walls can easily create a feeling of chaos in a home.  

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I was a home stager for several years and walls tended to be one area where homeowners needed the most help.  Here are 5 common mistakes with wall decorations:

2.  Hanging pictures/items on too many walls:

There are only  few areas in your house where you NEED to have hanging/decorative items on walls: fireplace mantles, above beds, above dressers and over couches.

All of these areas have large visual impact on the bottom half of the wall and if we leave the top half blank it just looks unfinished.

The rest of the walls–well they are negotiable.

In rooms that have 3 or 4 walls, aim to have pictures or hangings on one wall only.  Yep.  Now, you can have items on more than one wall, but the truth is most people are not sure how to coordinate the items, or size them correctly, so the room looks mis-matched.   So, if you think you might struggle with this, just decorate ONE wall.   Pick the largest one, and hang away.

3.  Too many goupings of pictures throughout house: Replace small groupings of items with a large item–like a mirror, or a large framed print.  One large item often feels more simple and eye pleasing.

4.  Groupings with incorrect spacing: Hang pictures in a group with about 1.5 inches between the frames.  One mistake people commonly make is to hang pictures in a group too far apart from each other.

5. Hang pictures or wall decor at eye level.  When pictures are too high they throw off the balance of the room.

My challenge to you would be to go around your house and start taking things down off the walls or adjusting what you currently have based on those tips.  Put the extra items on the floor in a back room for now.  Live in your house that has less and see how you feel.

If you find yourself feeling lighter when you are in your home, maybe it’s time to give those items away or sell them.  Organize photos in an album or in some frames on a table.

Here are some pictures of peaceful, calm rooms:

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Just one larger picture above the bed creates a sense of calm.

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No picture on dining room wall–allows focus to be on chandelier and front entry table and mirror.

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Only decorative items on the counter and some empty wall space in the background.

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Picture over fireplace but not on stairwell wall.

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One large picture by dining room table.  Two coordinating pictures/frames over couch.

No matter what your decorating style, you can always declutter, coordinate and simplify your walls.

Hopefully you are able to give some of these ideas a try!  I would love to hear your comments or questions if you do!

 

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