Author Archives: Amy

(Thank you, sweet Maddie, for saying, “This is good!” after reading and allowing me to share a bit of your story)

We are getting ready to send our third and last child to college in a week.  She is struggling with a mixture of excitement and anxiety about what is to come.

A year ago this independent, feisty, challenge-accepting child of ours would have sent my husband and me packing as soon as we set the last box in her dorm room.  But sometimes life brings unexpected changes that alter how we show up, and for Maddie, this last year has been a tough one.  She persevered through two intense hip surgeries and a recovery that lasted months longer than anticipated.  In pain and unable to walk the halls of her large high school, she finished her classes online instead of in the classroom with her friends.   She struggled with feelings of loneliness, isolation, and fear of not getting better. The ability for her body’s health to so radically alter her world caused persistent feelings of anxiety to surface, along with questions of her capacity to succeed at a large University after the trials of this last year.

Last night she crawled in bed with me, just wanting to spend a few more hours close to familiar security.  The anxiety is knocking harder as move-in-day approaches.

And also, she is bravely pushing through her fears and packing, doing virtual sorority meetings, and snapchatting her new roommate.

I am so proud of her because I know how hard she’s fighting for peace.

If you have a child with anxiety you know that peace is a precious and rare commodity, but we can help and support them in finding it.

Here are some of the questions that cause anxiety for most college-bound kids:

  • Will I get along with my roommate?
  • Will I find my way around this large campus?
  • Will I belong?
  • What if I didn’t choose the right school?
  • What if I am lonely?
  • What if my classes are too hard?
  • How will I deal with homesickness?
  • What if I don’t make any new friends?
  • What if I’m unhappy?
  • What if….

These are all very real, very valid fears that most kids heading to college have to work through.  Freshman year in college is daunting for almost EVERY eighteen year-old whether or not they struggle with anxiety.  And if they do, their inner coping mechanisms may not be enough to calm the anxious noise.

The truth is, parents, it is not easy when we have an anxious child.  There is no magic formula to “fix” it for them, and no perfectly worded answer for their valid questions.  Anxiety does not turn on and off with a switch.  It is often a long and winding journey to learn how to live with it.  But, it is absolutely possible for our child to thrive in this new journey if we can learn how to show up for them and support them in the healthiest way.

Having launched a couple offspring  (and one more here in a week),  my husband and I have learned some things on the parenting end that has helped us and our children make this transition.


Anxiety is contagious.  Did you know that?  If an anxious person walks into a room full of non-anxious people, like a virus, it spreads around the room.  Our children can do this to us (and vice versa).  We may already have our own anxiety swirling around that we are trying to manage and then when our child begins to express their stress to us it can cause us to react in dysfunctional, non-helpful ways.

This can look like oversharing about our worries to our kids (more like a friend role than a parent), helicopter parenting (being overprotective), controlling (not letting them make their own decisions), or “fixing” them (trying to solve every problem instead of letting them figure it out).   We may even find ourselves encouraging them to stay in state so we can “manage” their anxiety for them (yep, considered that).

On the opposite end, we can minimize their feelings and tell them they shouldn’t worry because that is what we are telling ourselves forty-two times a day.

Why do all these non-helpful behaviors all come so darn naturally!?  Because it is really really hard to watch our children struggle.  I sometimes feel a physical pain in my chest with worry.  I want to make it all go away for them.

The reality is that you and I can’t make it all go away.  But we can help our child learn to manage their anxiety with some tools.


Parents (mainly mamas), we need to “stay off the rollercoaster” with our kids.  When we find ourselves getting emotionally wrapped up in our child’s situation we need to pause and take a step back.  That is not helpful to them.  Instead, we can be a strong, calm presence, assuring them they can do this, even if we are a mess inside.   They don’t need to feel our stress…they need to know we are stable and can come to us for sound advice and comfort.

I was feeling fairly anxious the other day about Maddie leaving and then we had a video call with her doctor who manages her ADHD and anxiety medication.  This blessing of a woman sat on the other side of the screen and cheer-led my daughter right back into a place of confidence and hope.  Here are some of the phrases she used (take note):

“You’ve GOT THIS!”

“You are smart, beautiful, funny, and have so much to offer to this world.”

“I am so excited for you! You are going to love college, it is so much fun!”

“You have a whole team of us who will support you, we are only a Facetime away.”

“I can’t wait to talk with you in a couple of weeks so I can say, “I told you so!” 🙂

“You are going to be just fine. I have no doubt.”

I literally teared up and wanted to jump through the phone and hug this woman.  I think her words spoke to me more than Maddie!  I took serious note of the deliberate language this knowledgeable and experienced doctor of mental health was using with my daughter.

We need to speak confidence and hope into our children.

And also, it is just as important to validate our child’s feelings by saying, “I totally get how this is making you anxious.  What support do you need from us?


If we can’t ride the rollercoaster with our kids, then what do we do with our very real feelings?  We need to take them to our friends, our support groups in our lives, our spouse, and most importantly to God.

For me, God is the only person in my life that can truly calm my parenting worries.

You may already have a relationship with God, and if not, now is a great time to start if you are fighting this worry battle on your own.  God is real, and he has an amazing unexplainable ability to calm our fears when we invite him into our lives and our circumstances.

“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7

Let’s first lean on God ourselves, and then help our kids do the same.  They need His strength and comfort.  They need to know they are not alone and they don’t have to carry the weight of worry all by themselves far away in a dorm room in a new city.  God is with them wherever they go.

One thing that continues to ground me is going to God’s word, and our anxious child can find so much grace and hope around anxiety in the pages of the bible.   I created a PRINTABLE to send with Maddie to school, reminding her of God’s constant love over her (she’s thinking about cutting them apart and hanging with clothespins on a piece of twine, or for bookmarks)

I have also found that taking my mom-worries to God in prayer brings peace that is hard to find in my own hand wringing.   God is good and he sees our child.  He will not let them fall.

For children with anxiety, prayer can be an important tool that is always with them at school. I created these PRAYER JOURNALS that might be a great gift to send with your child.


Did you know that many times we have a choice about our circumstances in life?  We get stuck, however, because it feels scary to make a change or choose something unknown just to move forward from a situation that is not the best for us.  Often we are stuck because we just don’t realize there are other options.

Jon and I are all about teaching our kids to stick it out–whether it is with a teacher they don’t like or a difficult boss at work, quitting is not a quick answer.

However, when your child suffers from anxiety, sticking it out indefinitely and feeling trapped in a bad situation only  ramps up anxious feelings.  In those cases, we can empower our kids by asking them questions.

“What choices do you have in this situation?”

“How could you problem-solve?”

“What is the worst case scenario and can you handle that?”

The feeling of being out of control or stuck is something that triggers anxiety, and asking these questions helps our children realize they are more in control than they thought.

I have always been fond of worst-case scenario thinking (yep, sounds quite dark).  I have found that if I can play out the worst case scenario in a situation, ALMOST every time I realize it’s not as bad as I thought, or I realize I can handle it, even if it is not ideal.  Anxiety causes us to “steal from the future” worrying about things that probably will never happen.  When we shine some light on those fears we often realize they are not as daunting as we thought.  This may be a tool that helps your child work through anxiety associated with the questions I listed earlier in this post.

Sometimes just knowing they have choices is all our kids need to push through difficult circumstances.  They often choose to persevere through the harder situation because they don’t feel trapped there.


There is a lot more to unpack around our kids heading to college, but for now I hope these three pieces of advice will make the transition smoother.

  1.  Stay strong and be a calm presence for your kids.
  2. Go to God with your anxiety and help your kids do the same
  3. Teach our kids they are able to process choices when they feel anxious or stuck

Remember, we are sending our capable, smart, adaptable kids off with support and tools for managing their anxiety–they can do this!  And so can we.

P.S We can rest in the fact that God knows our child’s path and walks it with them.  He loves them even more than we do, and he has a purpose and plan for their lives.  If we can remember that, and remind our children of that it can help relieve anxiety all around.

I will be writing more about anxiety and our children in future posts with additional tools and resources.

SUBSCRIBE HERE to my monthly newsletter with all sorts of other reality-infused honesty and encouragement.




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My daughter Maddie and I made these sweet fragrant candles to pass the time during our COVID stay at home month, and then we gave them to friends and neighbors. It was an easy and fun project for all ages!

Here is what you will need to make the candles–we ordered everything off of Amazon and I have included links here (affiliate) to make it easy to pull this project together:

Mason Jars

All Natural Candle Wax

Dried Lavender

Lavender/Vanilla Essential Oil

Double Boiler

Square Tags


1. Lay all your items out on the counter

2. Take the lavender sprigs and trim the bottoms off.

3. Using a true double boiler, or the adapted version shown below since we didn’t own one, begin to melt the candle wax.

4. While wax is melting, stir occasionally. Take lavender and lay a few springs on the side of a mason jar.

5. Take a spoon and pour the melted wax in small amounts over the lavender to “glue” it to the side of the jar. Continue this until springs line the inside of the jar.

6. Fill the rest of the jar with melted wax (continuing to melt more as you go for the other candles).

7. Put several drops (8 or so) of essential oil into the wax, and sprinkle loose lavender flowers on the top of the wax.

8. Place the wick in the wax and wrap the wick around a twig to hold in place while wax melts.

9. Set aside and begin to work on the rest of the candles.

10. When candles are ready, tie twine and lavender spring around the top of the jar, attaching a gift tag with writing of your choice!

Take care, stay healthy and sane 🙂

P.S. You can sign up for my monthly newsletter HERE for all sorts of other good stuff (decorating tips, recipes, faith teaching and more).

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A few months ago I literally had a day where I re-applied my makeup four times. I am a mascara girl so you get the picture of the multiple messes I needed to clean up.

Grief was the instigator.

My mom passed away earlier this year after a brave battle with cancer. I shed tears then, of course, but life continued. I got busy and distracted with work and travel and kids and laundry.

And then in totally surprising moments, grief would overcome me and the tears would burst forth uncontrollably. This was a new experience. I tend to be the odd emotionless person at appropriate tearful events (like funerals or a sad movie or when my child tells me they want a tattoo).

One of these unexpected moments occurred this summer while I was pumping gas. I had just checked Facebook (I guess I do this when I am filling the tank?) and saw that it was one of my mom’s best friend’s birthdays. This caused me pause since just a couple of weeks earlier I found myself overcome with grief on my birthday when I realized I wasn’t going to get a call from my mom singing “Happy Birthday” in her gravely but on pitch voice as she had for the last thirty years.

I thought Tammy might experience the same wave of loss on her birthday so I started to type a message saying that I was thinking of her and that I know my mom was singing to her anyway….but I couldn’t get past “Hi Tammy…” before I fell apart in sobs. As the numbers ticked up on the pump I leaned in the passenger side of the car and just shook with grief. It was such a strange place to be crying uncontrollably, but yet, here were those tears–they did not vet location or convenience or whether I had touch-up mascara in my purse.

I was sharing about this wave of grief with one of my closest friends over Voxer (when you are really busy and your friends are really busy, Voxer is the best. It’s a walkie talkie on your phone. Try it). Anyway, a few days later she showed up to my house for an event and handed me a blue tube of waterproof mascara. It was the best gift I received this year….it said to me, “I’ve got you. I know you. This might help.”

A smart person would have plopped that in her purse for future gas station melt-downs, but I didn’t. Because that season passed and the tears waned.

Until yesterday. I was sitting in church with my husband and the worship band started their second song…it was a Christmas song and out of nowhere the emotion welled. Grief. Christmas. My mom. Memories. And my self- conscious self lowered my head because now I had the sniffles and couldn’t stop wiping my eyes with my sweater.. and darn! Why didn’t I pack mascara and even better Kleenex in my purse? I kicked myself for being so unprepared. When the tears kept coming my husband put his arm around me and asked what was wrong. I whispered, “My mom.” Ahhh. He got it. “Could you please go get me some tissue?” He came back a few minutes later with toilet paper.

I have been learning more about Advent this Christmas than other years. Advent is a season of preparation. We anticipate the event of the birth of our savior…we daydream about the heavenly host of angels announcing to the shepherds’ the birth of Jesus…that starry dark night, the manger, the cries of Mary and then Jesus, the wonder, the hope.

We prepare our hearts once again to celebrate, to welcome, to embrace and renew our faith.

Preparation. I have not prepared for the tears with tissue and waterproof mascara with me at all times. I have been caught off guard, self-conscious, and embarrassed because inevitably the black smudges, watery eyes and half applied makeup look reveal to everyone that I have been crying. I avoided talking to my friends in the lobby after church that day because of the tears, or felt embarrassed to go to a client’s house after the stop at the gas station with clearly something “off” with my face. My lack of preparation made me want to not engage with people in my day…which is not like me.

With God, we can also be caught off guard. He enters into our lives and hearts unexpectedly at times. With an answer that we desperately needed, a gentle conviction, or guidance in the midst of confusion. We can be wholly awed by a sunset, or a snowflake or a baby’s tiny fingers.

And if we are not prepared, we can miss it….Him. We brush the holy presence of God as a “gut feeling” or “coincidence” or most often and most detrimental, we proudly think we came up with the answer or the solution all on our own, or the moment in nature as just…nature. It is like just reading the back cover of the book and saying, “I don’t need any more that that.” When the treasure is inside, in the words of the author, in the story that he or she brings alive. There is a depth and richness and power to understanding that there is more than ourselves in this world.

Lack of preparation distracts us from what we could really experience, in the small moments, and the miraculous.

So how do we prepare?


We try as best as possible to recognize the handiwork of God in every situation. When we are in a long line at Starbucks…he is teaching us patience, when we hang an ornament on the tree, we recognize this is a symbol of what we are celebrating. When we suddenly have an answer after praying, we connect the two. We recognize God because we have prepared our hearts to do so.


We are thankful… in everything, because we remember the child, the wonderful counselor, the mighty savior in soft newborn flesh, who through him we connect to the God of the universe, and the God of our hearts. We remember in the stress of the season what is most important. We remember that he is in all things good, and is beside us in all things bad.


We respond to God’s voice, His nudging, His creation, His forgiveness. We bend an ear to listen to the gentle whisper that comes. We change where he is asking us to become more loving. We give to those who have so much less, taming our ravenous desire for gifts and material wants and sharing some of that overflow with others who we don’t know. We respond with simple prayers that invite God into our beautiful messy lives, with showing up to church with an undistracted, open hearts to learn.

I didn’t prepare my “crying clean up kit” in my purse because I didn’t expect the tears..even though if I was honest with myself I knew that they would come at some point. Like this, we often don’t prepare for God’s presence in our lives because we just don’t expect it…even though we know he is there and we will experience Him at some point. And we miss it.

A small pack of tissue now resides in my purse, next to a make-up remover packet, a small tube of concealer and of course the blue tube of mascara.

Are you prepared for the arrival of the birth of the Savior of the world that we will celebrate next week? It has profound implications on our lives.

I wish you a very Merry Christmas, and hope you can find a couple moments in the next few days to feel the joy of the season.




Also…I created these prayer journals for the Fall.  I will be creating a new version for each season of the year.   If you are like me and need some structure during your prayer time to keep you focused, you might love one of these.  They are a perfect size, to sit on your nightstand, on the table by your favorite chair in the morning, or to drop in your purse.  $15, including shipping.  Just click here to purchase now!

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Somehow along the way, I decided (subconsciously of course) that boundaries were for other people. That for me, I would adventure through life with a sign that announced, “I’m nice! “I’m flexible!” “I will say “yes” because it makes things easier for both of us!”.

I would see other people saying “No.” Without much explanation. Or, “I can’t.” These people were fascinating creatures to me…how did they do that… and be OKAY? Somehow another’s disappointment didn’t bother them enough to sugar coat.

And then, over time, I began to learn about myself, through a series of events and a women’s leadership class (that was mostly like therapy), and my own creating of chaos in my life and family because of my inability to say no….to anything….because I couldn’t handle the look in someone’s eyes when I disappointed them.

I was convicted at a deep level that my motivation for being nice was coming from an unhealthy place. I wanted to be liked, all the time, by everyone. I thought that being flexible and a team player was the highest good. Because Jesus was nice and liked by everyone, right?

Not even close.

But we will get to Jesus in a minute. I realized being nice wasn’t the highest good, being honest was. If I showed up my authentic self, I built trust with those around me, even if they didn’t love my truthfulness. For the first many times, I would cringe and tip-toe around what I wanted to say. It was SO uncomfortable. But I began to realize that the world wasn’t falling apart. People could actually handle my no or my boundary or my honesty. Most of the time.


Jesus had a mission in life. It was to please his Father in heaven through fulfilling his purpose:

For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost. Luke 19:10

All actions and words and thoughts flowed from that motivation. He didn’t compromise or water things down to keep the peace. He was honest. Even if it meant rocking the boat, causing division among the Jews and Gentiles, inciting angry mobs, and being persecuted unto death.

Jesus walked each day grounded in his Father’s love and acceptance of him. Did he feel emotional pain of rejection and conflict? Of course! But it didn’t deter him from living authentically in his purpose. Jesus was laser focused, but also fully human. I believe that is why he took time away to be by himself and pray. He took his pain to God and he found renewal and re-centering on his knees.


Jesus was unflappable in his purpose. But he was kind.

Kindness is different than niceness. Kindness is a deep love for others that flows from the heart. It reveals itself in our tone, our correctly motivated actions, our compassion and mercy. Kindness often can mean saying “no” because it means being kind to ourselves, kind to our loved ones, and kind to the person asking because we are being honest with them. It is also being kind in how we say our no–with gentleness and respect.

One of my hardest “no’s” was to a pastor/friend of our church who asked me to join his staff. I knew in my gut it wasn’t right. I wrestled, struggled, but I had just come from a time of learning to set healthy boundaries with my life and I knew what I needed to do. My no was hard for him, but it opened the door for someone else to step in that needed a job and was much better suited for the position than me! How “unkind” it would have been for me to take that position out of wrong “pleasing” motivation, both to my friend and the person he eventually hired.


One of my biggest “ah ha” moments in this journey was realizing that I was being manipulative in my people-pleasing efforts. Being flexible and compatible and a “yes” person in order to prevent someone’s disappointment or even anger is the opposite of freedom–freedom for the other person to respond and feel however they need by our “no” and trusting they can handle it.

In attempt to avoid the pain of another’s disappointment in me, I would “preemptively” manipulate or control their feelings by not rocking the boat.


It is so much stronger and kinder to just speak truth:

“I am sorry, I would love to help you out, but I just don’t have the time right now.”

“Thank you for thinking of me but I have already committed to other things at this time.”

To our children:

“I am sticking to my “no” because I know what is best for you in this situation.” OR,

“I understand you are angry, and I will be happy to discuss this with you when you aren’t yelling.” (This could be for another adult too).

Ahhhhh……doesn’t that feel good?

“But”, you say, “Their anger or disappointment towards me doesn’t feel good.” Then, we take that pain to God. We pray for peace. We trust in our right motivation to be true and authentic which is pleasing to Him.


We know that having boundaries are good. Your emotional boundaries are the property lines that separate your thoughts and feelings from those of other people.

People pleasing makes that line fuzzy and confused . Our feelings and thoughts get completely jumbled up with the thoughts and feelings of other people.

I often struggle at night when my work “needs” my help. I own a business and with that comes odd hours of responsibility. But I need to be clear in my boundaries. My responsibility is to my husband, my children, and my self (I need to rest after a long busy day). This may mean setting physical boundaries like turning off my phone (which is REALLY hard for me). It may mean a client or employee has to wait until the morning for a response (also REALLY hard for me). But if I don’t set boundaries to separate my personal and work life, it creates discord at home and burnout emotionally-which is not my mission and purpose in life!

Boundaries say, “I am trying to live authentically to my thoughts and feelings. So I will stay true to those, even if your thoughts and feelings want to influence my thoughts and feelings.”

Jesus did this. He authentically lived out his mission regardless of what others thought. Because he knew he was living kindly, truthfully, and purposefully.

Jesus is our example of how to live with boundaries and kindness.

His motivation always came from a place of love for others and for his Father. As Christians, and especially women, we get confused–isn’t it loving to say yes?

The next time you are tempted to say yes to something, pause and examine your motivation. If you have the margin, if it is coming from a place of a servant heart, or it is a timely opportunity, by all means say “Yes!”

But if it is to avoid pain, gain acceptance from another, or prevent disappointment, let that begin to be a red flag. That is not the example Jesus gave us.

This is a lifelong journey. Daily, I give up my desire to be accepted and liked at all times. But it good and God-honoring journey to walk.

And by the way….I now admire and respect those who have learned to say a healthy “No.”



PS: I have started a once a month newsletter with practical “best life” practices (like this blog today on boundaries), design inspiration, faith and more! Subscribe here:

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Our kids have worked since they were fifteen.  Probably because they wanted to eat off-campus at lunch and our scanty meal allowance didn’t give them much hope of more than dollar tacos at Taco Bell.  We have always had the intention of our teenagers getting a job as soon as they were old enough.  Jon and I both worked in high school, and benefited from the experience.

On the flip side, I know and greatly respect families who have decided that their teens will not be working because they need to be focused solely on academics and extra-curricular activities in high school, or their sports don’t allow them to have time to have a job.  Or, it just is not something they would consider for their child.

But, like SO many things in life, this topic is not a black and white decision.  As our children are in college and entering the last couple of years of high school, we have learned a lot along the way, and the biggest lesson—there are both pros and cons to our children working.


1. TEENS WITH JOBS LEARN THE VALUE OF MONEY before they leave the home.  Each of our three children, who all have very different personalities, have made mistakes at some point with saving and budgeting the money they’ve earned in their jobs.  And that is really good.  They have had to experience the “poof” phenomenon that all adults with jobs clearly understand—where did it all go SO FAST?

 They are learning priceless financial (no pun intended) lessons right now.

2.  TEENS WITH JOBS LEARN THE VALUE OF THEIR TIME.   Working naturally causes our teens to be more efficient with the time they have each day.  If your teenager is prone to couch potatoing in front of a video game or Netflix, working may be the best thing for them.  Having a job significantly reduces the down time available, so what is left is studying, eating, school activities and a little friend time–a good recipe for a balanced week.

3. TEENS WITH JOBS LEARN TO WORK UNDER AUTHORITY.  They will experience managers who are difficult, unfair, or just a new personality type.  They will also see good management examples.  Teens will learn to respect the natural hierarchy of the workplace.

4.  TEENS WITH JOBS CAN HELP CONTRIBUTE TO THE FAMILY.  We require our kids to pay us $100/ month when they are old enough to drive.  This money goes toward gas and insurance for the month for their cars, and although it doesn’t cover all of the expense, the fact that they don’t get to keep ALL of the money they earned for fun money is definitely a sacrifice when they get that paycheck.  Welcome to adulting.  And, it helps them appreciate the transportation they are being provided with all the more.

6.  TEENS WITH JOBS LEARN THE TYPE OF WORK THEY ENJOY (OR NOT).  Our children have been in the food service industry (Starbucks, Chick-Fil A, serving at restaurants),  retail industry (Tillys) , and general service industry (Discount Tire).   They are clearly learning what type of work they enjoy– and what they don’t.  They have a greater sense of empathy for those who work in these industries, as they know how hard, or boring or exhausting these jobs can be.  It is one step in helping them refine their work journey for the future.

5. TEENS WITH JOBS LEARN TO SAVE MONEY for the things that are important for them.  Our son, his Junior year, spent a vast majority of his money on fast food.  And he had nothing left to show for it at the end of the year.  This was really disappointing to him, and he has decided that the money he earns his senior year is going to be used for a better purpose.

6.  TEENS LEARN INTERVIEW SKILLS. Our teens learn to advocate for themselves, identify their skills and assets, and communicate those clearly to a person in authority.

7.  TEENS WITH JOBS LEARN THAT DOING THINGS THEY DON’T LIKE WON’T KILL THEM.  Often times our adult jobs include tasks that we don’t enjoy.  That is reality, and we want to prepare our kids to have that expectation when they are working as adults.  Just because part of a job isn’t fun or enjoyable, doesn’t mean we quit.  We remind our kids “Work is called work for a reason.”

Back to things not being black and white, we have also let our teens quit jobs they really don’t care for.  But they have to give it three months before they make that decision.  Our son really wanted to quit his job at Discount Tire his junior year (for reasons we found out later were quite valid), but he stuck it out and ended up liking it there.  Great life lesson on perseverance.

8.  TEENS WITH JOBS DEVELOP EXCELLENT CHARACTER TRAITS.  They learn to be prompt, to follow directions, to work with co-workers they don’t particularly care for, to plan their time, responsibility on the job, multi-tasking, learning new skills, and appeasing difficult customers (just to name a few!). 

Working in high school prepares our teenagers for launching into the real world.  There are incredibly valuable life lessons that working in high school prepares them for.   A high parenting value for my husband and I is preparing our children for the real world…which jobs do in significant ways.


There are cons.  Cons that sometimes have made us let our kids take a few months off of work.  Again, this is not black and white.  We need to stay flexible with our kids lives, keeping academics and emotional health as a priority. 

There are less cons listed below than the pros above…but they are still significant and worth considering when making this decision with your teen.

1.YOU LOSE YOUR DRIVERS  This was a big one that caught me by surprise.  As a mom of three with a husband who travels every week, I couldn’t wait until our oldest daughter received her license—yay drive help!  But since we also asked her to get a job, she was often scheduled to work when I needed that extra driver to pick up another child from soccer practice or after school activities..  This struggle has not gone away over the years, but we have decided the value of work is higher than the value of an extra driver.

2. YOU HAVE LESS TIME WITH YOUR TEENS.  They are busy.  And then the job makes them more busy.   This is an important con to consider.  Often our teen is scheduled to work during the dinner hours, so if having dinner together as a family is a high value, this might get in the way.  Teens will often be working on the weekends, after school, or in the evening, and when they are home they are studying or resting or hanging out with friends.

3. THEY MAY MISS OUT ON FAMILY EVENTS.  This is the reality of working.  Sometimes our teens have not been given days off that they requested for special occasions or family outings.  This is always difficult at the time, for all of us.  But it is another life lesson—being a reliable and loyal worker speaks volumes in your work life.  And sometimes that comes at a cost.

4.  ACADEMICS.  For some children, having less down time during the week actually helps them condense their studying to be more on task and efficient.  However, there have been many Thursday nights our kids have been scheduled to work while having two or three tests the following Friday.  This teaches them to plan ahead for these tests, but it also means late nights after they get home from work.  

And sometimes, if our teens have not been able to keep up their academic workload because of a job, we have given them time off from work because school is always a priority.

5.  SPORTS.  It is very hard for teens to hold a job during their high school sports seasons.  Our son is a golfer, so from spring to fall every year we learned that he needed to put his job on hold because practiced after school every day with tournaments on the weekends.  Most employers aren’t flexible enough to work with that schedule.  So, he works from October to March every year, and that works for us.

So there it is!  Our lessons from the past several years. My husband and I have had many late night discussions about each child and their work life–making sure they are finding a healthy balance with all that they are involved in.  We have had to make some difficult decisions along the way, but in the end we are glad for our own stories around work and are seeing our children develop many character traits that we want them to take into college and adulthood.


PS: Keep an eye out for a blog about TIPS NOW THAT YOUR TEEN DOES HAVE A JOB!

Also…I created these prayer journals for the Fall.  I will be creating a new version for each season of the year.   If you are like me and need some structure during your prayer time to keep you focused, you might love one of these.  They are a perfect size, to sit on your nightstand, on the table by your favorite chair in the morning, or to drop in your purse.  $15, including shipping.  Just click here to purchase now!

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Hi Friends,

If you are like every parent out there that I know, you worry about how technology is possibly (ok definitely) going to affect your child negatively–if not now, someday.

Besides moving to a remote valley where there is no access to wifi, no phones or computers in your house (oh and no friends who have access to technology), this is something we as parents have to face.  And honestly, it is really scary.

When our kids were younger, I came up with a Power Point to share with our children talking/teaching about technology –its benefits, its dangers, the good, bad and the ugly.   It is simple and very general so we could tailor the discussion to our family’s needs at the time.  It is something I could share with them even now as older teens, but the format is geared for elementary-middle school children (however if you are a little Power Point savvy, you can “adult” it up a bit for your older ones!).

I want to share it with you in hopes that it may provide a jumping off point for you to have this discussion (most likely one you’ve had a few times before–it is not a one and done), with some structure and open ended points to allow some good family processing.  Just click on the link below and you will be able to open it up, customize it to your family, add, subtract, whatever you want. 


With all my camaraderie in this journey of parenting!


Also…I created these prayer journals for the Fall.  I will be creating a new version for each season of the year.   If you are like me and need some structure during your prayer time to keep you focused, you might love one of these.  They are a perfect size, to sit on your nightstand, on the table by your favorite chair in the morning, or to drop in your purse.  $15, including shipping.  Just click here to purchase now!

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Do you love a good BEFORE and AFTER?  I do.  And it’s one of my most favorite parts of my job, because I get to watch the process unfold step by step and often see the look of joy on the homeowners face when we reveal their new space!

Here are a few good ones from 2018:



Happy Couple!


So there it is…just a few of our kitchen makeovers from 2018.  

Thanks for following this blog!  If you are not already a subscriber, consider entering your email below and get the free E BOOK on design!  Also, we post our projects and other tips and designs (almost daily) on Instagram  @simplyusdesign–we’d love to have you join us there!


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My life is bigger than it has ever been.  It feels as if all the small paths I have walked are conjoining into a large open road that is full and busy and bustling with dreams realized.  My life feels overflowing with relationships and new roles and exciting opportunities.

But most of the time I feel quite small. 

Let me explain.

Our kids are big.  They are in college and final years of high school.  In many ways I feel like my husband and I have “accomplished” raising children…they are healthy, smart, kind and pretty amazing people.


I feel small in my parenting…teenagers come with all sorts of challenges.  They are becoming real life people with real life minds and thoughts.  Their problems are bigger, their feelings are bigger, and their needs are bigger.  Most of the time my husband and I hope and pray every day we are making the right parenting decisions with each new turn in the road.


In the last couple of years I have been invited into some significant leadership and speaking roles in our church that are amazing–and scary big.  I am incredibly grateful and excited about the opportunities.  It is a exponential time of learning and growth for me, and the opportunity for influence and responsibility fits right in with what I feel called to do in this season.


I often feel unequipped and unqualified…the bigger the role, the more I sit in this place.  This past year I have dealt with more insecurity and self-doubt and kicking myself after meetings for saying too much, or not saying enough, or saying the wrong thing…I think?  I have questioned my wisdom, my intelligence, my ability to express coherent ideas.  I have wrestled to find my voice–only to find it and then spend the next week analyzing what I said and how I could have said it differently or better.


Our marriage is big.  We are just a few months shy of twenty-five years, and I can’t believe how much life Jon and I have shared together.   I am so proud of the intentionality and work we have invested over the years, resulting in a strong and loving marriage at this significant milestone.


I often feel small in my marriage that I cherish so dearly.  I worry that I am not showing up well, that I am not present like I want to be, that my dear husband and I are not spending as much quality time together that we could be.  Marriage is a consistent practice in selflessness, service, and grace.  


My opportunities for community are big.  Not just in the church, but in our home.  Starting in a couple of weeks our weekly neighborhood bible study resumes in our basement for its ninth year.  It is a small group of women who carry in big suitcases of life’s challenges…and we unpack them together each Monday night in the light of God’s goodness and grace.   And then on Wednesday morning, another group of women shed shoes at the front door and grab a steaming mug of coffee and sit through a class that is scary big for all of us, because we are looking deeply at our flaws and working hard at evolving into our better selves to carry into our spheres of influence.


I sometimes struggle in living up to these roles.   Because leading assumes one knows how to guide others in whatever endeavor is present.  It assumes the leader has figured “it” out, has perfected whatever they are leading in.  But mostly I feel like I am trying to figure out my own messy life along with everyone else.  And that doesn’t always make me feel confident or skilled at bringing others along the path we are on.


And my work life is big.  This summer my design and painting company has grown to six employees not counting myself, full time work and referrals that book us out months at a time.  I have never experienced this kind of role that is really about fourteen roles in one-accountant, customer service, marketing, CEO, fellow paint pusher, boss, scheduler, payroll manager, H.R., trainer and quality control.  (I’m making the oval teeth emoji face right now.)

BUT I do not feel CEO big…

Just the opposite… because I know the responsibility I carry for my business name and reputation is one bad review away.  I feel small under the weight of needing to train the amazing women that work for me well enough so that I don’t need to always be present–because my sanity lies in finding margin.  I feel small knowing that we are being paid thousands of dollars to produce a near perfect product, and all the cogs in the wheel need to turn just right to make that happen.

So…my life feels pretty big at the moment.  And REALLY small.

For me, this season is a juxtaposition of calling and fear and one more thing…PEACE.

In the midst of all the insecurity, I hold strongly and confidently to the fact that I am where I am supposed to be, at this perfect time, in this right season.  I know this because I have spent too many years of my life pushing my own agenda, striving after dreams with self-propelled will.  

This season is different.  Each part of my life is present because a few years ago I surrendered my agenda to God.  I decided that I was going nowhere without his plan being first, and that he couldn’t fulfill his plan for my life unless I got out of the way.   And the opportunities began to literally fall in my lap, one after another. 

So the peace I feel comes from this bigger plan out there.  If I stumble or trip along the way, it’s okay.  God is walking beside me in all of it, and heck, if he wants all this to be in my life than he can certainly manage my weaknesses.

God’s way is not our own.  In our weakness, He is strong.  In our insecurity, he is secure.  IN OUR SMALLNESS, HE IS BIG.

And I can take a deep exhaling breath and rest in all of that.

How about you?  What is BIG in your life?  What makes you question your abilities, your strength, your wisdom?  It may not be something good…it may be something very, very difficult.  Health, marriage, parenting, work. 

From my story, I would encourage you to turn it all over to God.  Lay it in his large, capable hands.  There you and I can stop striving.  

What is God calling you to give to him today?  Do you trust he has a better plan for your hours and days (even better than your own?), for your pain (he can bring great peace in the midst of it), and for your relationship with Him (he is ALL about relationship)?

I am the Lord, and there is no other, besides me there is no God; 
I equip you, though you do not know me, that people may know,
from the rising of the sun and from the west, that there is none
besides me; I am the Lord, and there is no other. I form light and
create darkness; I make well-being and create calamity; I am the
Lord, who does all these things. Isaiah 45:5-7

Friends, rest with me in the smallness.  It means God is doing big thing around us…and more importantly…IN us.  And he will equip us with all that we need for this season, right now.



Also…I created these prayer journals for the Fall.  I will be creating a new version for each season of the year.   If you are like me and need some structure during your prayer time to keep you focused, you might love one of these.  They are a perfect size, to sit on your nightstand, on the table by your favorite chair in the morning, or to drop in your purse.  $15, including shipping.  Just click here to purchase now!

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Well hello everyone!  We have been very busy over at The Designed Home, painting, accessorizing, decorating, staging, and refinishing cabinets!  So busy that I barely have time to share the pictures.  But today I am excited to show you an incredible before and after.

This client is a friend of mine and we started her redesign project in January.  She had not updated her furniture and decor for about ten years and was ready for a change.  After meeting a couple of times, we set these design goals in search of a whole new look:

  • a fresh new color of paint
  • new furniture for family room and kitchen nook
  • new lighting
  • new curtains
  • accessories

But what about the style?  Becky loved elements of the farmhouse style, but her current home was very traditional.  So we ended up with a mix of farmhouse with some contemporary elements like metallics (notice the gold lamps).   The end result:  Casual and Classic.

The eating nook:

Becky wanted a new table that could sit six comfortably.  I found these Moroccan style curtains that are a bold pattern, but this room could handle it.  We added a circular light which looks great over a circular table.  Add in faux leather chairs that weather spills and a cute tray with succulents and there you have it!

So lets dive in a bit…

We started with painting the walls one of my favorite grey colors:  Scroll Beige (trust me, it looks grey).  After discussing room layout, we decided to go with a design that accommodated the most seating possible for when Becky and her husband host groups in their home.  Also, Becky wanted to be able to see the TV from the kitchen while she was cooking.  Function always comes first in design!

Then we picked the general color scheme for furniture and accessories…we would have a neutral palate of furniture, rug and walls, but then bring in blue and a pop of golden yellow with a few pillows and accessories and pattern in the curtains.


Becky’s husband had one request– swivel rocker chairs.  We found these dark grey, light grey and cream chairs at a store in Denver called “The Showroom.”  It’s also where we found her couches and end tables.

Notice the striped curtains behind the chairs?  We found them at Pier One.  They are a subtle pattern which works well with the bolder pattern in the chairs.

Design tip:  Mix subtle stripes with bolder florals or larger prints. 

These curtains also balance the strong Moroccan print on the kitchen nook curtains. As long as you carry the same colors through, you can pull off different patterns in elements of a room (well you can sometimes mix colors too, but that’s for a different post!)

The mantle design in is a mix of classic and contemporary (we called this picture the blue jellybean print).  Mixing these two styles adds interest and surprisingly a sense of peace and calm.


Below: This mirror above the couch was originally above Becky’s fireplace mantle.  She asked for it to stay in the room if possible.  This wall could hold more, but since we had more going on with the mantle and other areas, we kept it simple.

We opted for a square coffee table which would allow some resting of feet and plenty of surface area for drinks.

One more….


This before and after gives a good view of what “lightening and brightening” can do for a room.  If you are wondering how to do that in your home, start with lighter walls and lighter furniture.  Then add in color with accessories, curtains and pillows.

I found this navy blue lantern –love!  And the yellow flowers from Home Goods….

One final pic!

THERE’S MORE!  But for another blog …(we also worked on updating Becky’s bedroom, dining room and bathroom).

Hopefully this post gave you a new idea or two for your house.  Almost all of the items you see in these rooms besides the main furniture came from Hobby Lobby, Home Goods, Pier One, or Target.

If you want to see our progress on projects on a week to week basis, follow us on Instagram @amyandval.  We have a lot of fun over there and I post design tips too.

Have a great rest of your week!



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All through February we worked on a new cabinet refinishing project for a wonderful lady named Jackie.  This was one of our larger projects–a kitchen, butler’s pantry and large laundry room, all in different colors!  The end result has been great.  Somehow I forgot to take “before” pictures, but picture medium stained wood cabinets, and no backsplash.

This project had a new element of design fun for us– Jackie wanted a color other than white on her cabinets.  We picked this light blue/green color (Woodland Blue by Benjamin Moore) and kept the island white  (Jackie is considering changing her island counter to a white marble in the future).

This makeover added lightness, whimsy and a fresh look!

We picked this backsplash in the neutral family with just a touch of gray.  Jackie’s walls are going to be painted a color called “Owl Grey” and the backsplash will pull that color through the kitchen nicely.

As I usually recommend in all the kitchens we makeover, we put beadboard around the island and on the ends of the cabinets.  This serves two purposes–one, to add a more sturdy surface to accept the paint and not chip in the future (compared to the laminate wood on most island ends), and two, it upgrades the custom quality of the kitchen.

The lighting isn’t great in this picture below, but you can see the who area.  

Here is our team and Jackie is in the middle with the great smile.  It has been wonderful working with her!

We are working on two more kitchen cabinet projects right now so I will of course add these to the blog!



P.S. We have a new Instagram site @amyandval where we are posting pictures of our projects as we go!

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