Fun Event with Whole Foods Market!

If you are local to Arizona, I have a fun event that is going on with Whole Foods Market that you should attend!

Whole Foods Market Tempe event

Whole Foods Market’s Tempe store partnered with an independent record label River Jones Music and now carries vinyl records and CD’s from over twenty local and regional bands!! To kick off the partnership and celebrate local music, the Tempe store is hosting local Phoenix band Ruca. Proceeds benefit the Whole Planet Foundation. How fun! The event will be this Saturday, March 8th from 4-7pm. Click here for a map to the Whole Foods Market Tempe location.

I don’t know about you, but I am always looking to find local events. There will be live music, sales, and fun all around. If you go listen to a preview of Ruca’s music, its pretty awesome!

Here are some featured deals for the day:Whole Foods Market Tempe event

  • All Arizona Cheese Company Cheese Curds will be 20% off
  • Local Arizona beer growler refills – $4 off of large growlers
  • Local Arizona Mariya Salsa on sale – by one get one free $3.99 each *sampling taking place at event
  • CD’s from local Arizona bands (13 bands)  – 20% off
  • Select local suppliers will be doing demos throughout the store:
  • —–Empanadas and tamales in prepared foods
  • —–Create your own custom guacamole
  • —–Whoopie pies decorated like vinyl records
  • —–And more!

Now, I LOVE me some tamales and guacamole!! But whoopie pies that look like vinyl records? That is just plain awesome. I hope if you are a Phoenix local that you will be able to make it! Its going to be fun stuff :)

You can visit Whole Foods Market’s Facebook and Twitter pages to keep up to date on the event and other awesome stuff! This post was sponsored for Whole Foods Market Tempe.

#simplify // where have I been?

#simplify

You may have wondered why I post in fits and starts. I get inspired. I write. I get busy. I don’t write.

Its the natural ebb and flow of life, really. We have busy times and slow times. And right now for me, its a busy one. As you know, I am in seminary and this term has been a doosy. It has been the heaviest load of schoolwork thus far: 15 papers in 12 weeks, hundreds of pages of reading, a presentation, and more intense subjects. I have two weeks left of this term.

But to #simplify sometimes means giving yourself breathing room. So I am still here. Promise. Hope to create more of an editorial calendar soon so that I don’t have to come up with interesting topics to write about on the fly. I really want to share more of life with you!

Here is a little list of things that have happened recently or is happening soon:

  • Jael turned FOUR in early February. Gosh, time sure flies!
  • Speaking of which, Elijah turns TWO in about 6 weeks. Pinch me.
  • Like I said before, I am two weeks away from finishing my second term of grad school. Thuper ek-thited.
  • The Lord has surely blessed me this term with endurance. I have managed to stay up-to-date with all my assignments and reading. Which is nothing short of a miracle with the amount we’re working with.
  • We’re moving in a little less than four weeks. Still searching for that perfect-for-us house that will further allow us to #simplify our lives by: starting a raised-bed vegetable garden and bringing community into our home.
  • We also hope to adopt a dog. Maybe that isn’t simplifying…I’m not sure yet. ;)

Here is to a happy and healthy and LOVELY March! xo

The Good Enough Mom

Early on in my studies in graduate school, I learned about a concept that hit home for me. Without over-intellectualizing the concept, were simply learning about the “true self” and “false self” in the research of Donald Winnicott. Basically the true self is the “un-forced” part of you — the creative, alive, and true. The false self is the part of you that conforms to the desires of others — sort of a defense mechanism in times of self-consciousness or insecurity.

The Good Enough Mom

The concept of the good enough mother came from Winnicott and his research in the true and false selves. [Are you still following? I hope so.] The true self is developed during infancy and childhood. The way that a child develops a healthy true self that is not dominated by a false self is based on the relationship with their caregiver [in this sense, the mother].

What he found was that all a child needed to develop this true self is a welcoming and assuring mother. If mom provides this warm and safe environment, the child develops confidence and a sense that her feelings are safe — that she is a real and valuable human being.

This hit home for me because his research didn’t say a child who never watches tv, a child who always has a balanced meal served at precise times every day, a child whose mother never raises her voice, etc. He simply said a warm and reassuring environment is what helped a child to thrive. And that the mother who is “ordinarily devoted” or “good enough” is all a child needs to develop and feel secure. Not the mom who is crazy overwhelmed with providing envy-worthy crafts, a Pinterest-pinnable home, GQ fashionable clothing for her kids, etc. Its the mom who is good-enough.

I feel like as a society we have created this motherhood monster where we are striving for this Pinterest super-mom status. Where we are feeding our kids all organic, play on the floor with them every free second, never yelling, always kind, perfect from scratch dinner…yada-yada. And then on the other hand, we are feeling insecure because we don’t do all the things, all the time, and we are feeling like we need to justify our level of parenting.

At least I do this. Or at least I don’t do that. And in our minds and hearts, we justify where we are because we don’t feel like we’ve reached that super-mom par. We feel like our “mom-ness” isn’t good enough, so we have to give reason why we missed the mark.

Can I just be honest for a sec? Mama, you’re good. This concept of good enough?? That’s us. The glorious mundane. The divine “I did my best.” When I read about this concept of the good enough mom and realistically what my children need from me to be secure, emotionally healthy individuals, I wanted to cry in class. My daughter doesn’t need me to sacrifice my sanity to be on point every second of every day. My son doesn’t need organic everything if that isn’t what I can afford. I am doing my best. We all are. And that is simply all our kids need.

They need our love, support, and assurance that they are valued individuals. They need a mom who knows she is loved, supported, and valued. They don’t need to see a harried mom in pursuit of the best impression. Don’t teach them that the bar is set by others. Teach them the bar the Lord sets for us…which our sweet Jesus hung on so that we didn’t have to strive so hard anymore. Teach your babies to be confident in themselves…even if their singing voices are way off-key and their fashion sense is non-existent. Let them sing loud and wear their plastic princess heels and jewelry to the store. Teach them to love well — themselves and others.

That, my dear friend, is good enough.

say #YESTOGREATLOVE

 Thanks to YES TO for sponsoring today’s post about skin care!

When I was a teenager, I never had any issues with my skin. I had an occasional breakout here and there, but no acne issues. Fast forward to my post-baby skin. Two babies have made my face composition change so much. I now break out very easily and my chin is a problem area.

I’ve tried all the teen-focused products, adult acne products, and none seem to work. Recently, YES TO sent me their YES TO Carrots Fragrance Free Bundle. I’ll admit, I was skeptical. But not because of the brand…because my face never has seemed to respond to anything! I would describe my skin as oily, so I was confused and unsure what to do. And y’all, I didn’t love my skin. Which made me sad because I felt less confident during breakouts and jealous of the lucky gals with dewy clear skin.

YES TO Fragrance Free Skin Care

When I got the bundle, I had a planet growing on my forehead and breakouts along my nose and all over my chin. I was a mess. So I committed a week to this line and made sure to stick to a skin care routine daily and drink more water. Here is my routine (that you should totally get on doing):

YES TO Fragrance Free Skin Care

MORNING: When I have a day that I get a shower [ha!], I use the YES TO Carrots Nourishing Exfoliating Cleanser. I used this every other day because I didn’t want to scrub ten layers of skin off. Then, when I got out of the shower, regardless of whether it was an exfoliating day or not, I would follow up with the Daily Facial Moisturizer. It has SPF 15 and does NOT dry oily! Which was a major plus for me.

YES TO Fragrance Free Skin Care YES TO Fragrance Free Skin Care

NIGHT: Right before bed, I used the Gentle Cleansing Wipes. If I wore makeup, the wipes were great at taking it off. If I didn’t, the wipes made my face feel fresh and the day wiped away. I then would wash my face with the Daily Cream Facial Cleanser. After washing, I would slather on the Intense Hydration Night Cream.

 After doing this for a week, the planet on my forehead went away, and to my great surprise, I realized that oily skin often needs help in the moisture area because it is working so hard to produce oils that your skin over compensates. This week, my skin has felt fresh, not oily, and hydrated. I am excited that I could say #YESTOGREATLOVE and finally found my skin care solution!

So join YES TO, and say #YESTOGREATLOVE — to naturally good products…unnaturally good results! Also, they are GIVING AWAY 500 of the YES TO Carrots Fragrance Free Wipes!! You have got to try these. Go enter NOW!! Also, if you’re interested in the line, the Yes To Carrots line is 35% off right now! :)

Founded in 2006, YES TO, Inc. is a global leader in natural skin and hair care, with awesome and affordable products made with fruits, veggies, and a smile! YES TO’s award-winning formulations are over 95% natural, have proven results, and are free of parabens, petroleum, and SLS. They offer six unique collections including products for face, body, hair, lips, and even babies…to allow people to create their own natural ‘recipe’ that works for them. YES TO is made up of fun-loving, wine-drinking, yoga-doing, active-life-living bunch of folks in San Francisco who a) create affordable natural products that really work b) give back by planting school gardens for kids to help teach them about healthy living and nutrition, and c) have a pretty awesome time doing it.

A big thank you to YES TO for sponsoring this post and allowing me to discover the best skin care line I’ve ever used!

Feeling Alone in a Crowd

One of the places I feel most extroverted is on this blog. I’m able to write all about everything, put deep and tough experiences out there, and express scary and embarrassing emotions and not feel afraid of condemnation. I feel community, love, grace, and so much more. I long to be in community here. My heart craves it.

One little fact you can probably guess about me is that I am extremely introverted. Like 99% of this article was absolutely can-I-get-an-amen true for me. But one thing stood out that made me think [doesn't that happen to me so much in my posts? heehee].

Giving a talk in front of 500 people is less stressful than having to mingle with those people afterwards.

Ohmygoodnessgracious yes. It isn’t even about not liking those people, or wanting to be friends with those people. I have no problem being up in front of crowds. Before I had my daughter, I was on the worship team for our church for ten years! I’ve sung many-a-solo and have loved it all. But having to talk afterwards…oi. Its not my favorite thing.

Which makes sense for this translates to my blog and my life. I LOVE writing to the few readers I have and being active on social media. Its like the online stage. But when I get in a situation where I am in a crowd of bloggers, people I respect, I shrivel up. Example…

I went to the Influence Conference this past year. It was really one of the most amazing experiences. But I found myself feeling so incredibly shy and nervous around all these women that I had known and loved from afar. I shrank into the carpet. I didn’t say hi to some of the women I had desperately wanted to meet. I even found myself retreating to my room a couple times to choke back tears. I was overwhelmed.

My sweeeeeet friend Carrie helped me to discover something about myself. She may not even know she did it, but she helped me to see that my “social awkwardness” was simply that I am an introvert. Another sweet woman that helped me is Ellen — she may not know either how immensely she impacted me. I was holding back tears and trying to swallow the large knot in my throat as she lovingly talked to me about being an introvert and introduced me to the book Quiet. She was so encouraging as she nodded and mmm-hmm-ed while I spoke of the fear of being in the crowd and impulsive instinct to retreat to my room. She smiled with my confession that being around people often drains me. That I love people immensely but that recharging my spirit requires quiet and solitude. After hugs and tears, these women helped me to discover the gift of introversion. Even Jesus had to retreat from the crowds. And often I hear the Lord the loudest when I am in silence.

One thing that stands out a bit from that trip was the very end. I was sitting on a couch waiting a few hours before I was to take a shuttle to the airport when two gals that I now love [Annie and Amy] came up and started chatting with me. They invited me up to their room because they had some time to kill as well and wanted to know if I wanted to hang out. My introversion kicked in and I declined, saying I wanted to decompress [which was true].

But looking back, even though it was so small, I realize I regret that decision. I wish I would have stepped out of my introverted self and into community. These women were loving me and reaching out, and I denied it. Often, introversion can lead you down a tunnel into dark isolation. Where introversion is a gift, it can also feel like a curse. I have to fight my tendency to withdraw and consciously make the effort to reach out, to love, to connect.

This is so hard for me because right now, being in school keeps me insanely busy and being a mom adds a heap of crazy busy on top of that. That makes it way too easy to isolate and make excuses.

This weekend, my husband and I visited a church here in Phoenix as we are exploring which community God wants us to plant ourselves. And I felt it. The desire to withdraw, to smile and shake hands but not chat. To find the familiar faces and retreat from the unfamiliar ones. But I didn’t. I smiled and chatted. And it felt like home. It drew me in. I wanted to grow roots and do life there. Plant my family in the neighborhood and invite community in. A breath of freshness came into me when I let go and dug in even when I didn’t want to. When I felt scared to.

Friends, introverts just need a little hug and to be included in the conversation. We don’t hate you. ;) We’re not snobs. We like you. Lots! And desperately want to be included but are hesitant to step in. We love deeply but need to love ourselves and respect our own boundaries by giving ourselves space. I hope this encouraged you. And if you are an extreme extrovert, I hope that it gave you a peek into the gentle quietness of the introvert. Now, I’m off for an evening with a cup of tea, a book, and silence. xo

LOVEly Desktop Backgrounds

Love is in the air! I really love Valentine’s Day for so many reasons. Not just the typical romantic love [although, I am one lucky lady to have my stud-muffin hubby :) ], but the love I have for my children, family, friends, and the Lord. So many reasons to celebrate those relationships!

Since I have been talking about self-hatred, I think it is also important to remember to love yourself. So I made these desktop wallpapers so you have a daily reminder that you are valuable, loved, and important. Enjoy!

TalkToSelfLove-Mock Love&Belonging-Mock

Click here to download the sparkly hearts wallpaper. Click here to download the red hearts wallpaper. Once you do this, right click on your image to save it to your computer. :) BIG thanks to Shay Cochrane for the LOVELY images. :)

self-hatred // why?

I confessed on Instagram a while back that I struggle with self-hatred. Not the physically damaging sort, although I mourn for those precious souls that harm themselves; but the sort of thing that I think many many women struggle with and are afraid to admit. The self-hatred that makes us feel not enough, the kind that leaves you disappointed in yourself. If that is you, grab a cup of coffee and let’s chat.

selfhatred

I struggle with not liking myself. Whether it is a superficial jab at my body or a much deeper jab at my own character, I often find myself being disappointed. Disappointed in myself. Disappointed with life. With adulthood. With parenthood. There came a point a couple weeks ago where I tearfully admitted this to my husband. And once the words were out of my mouth, I honestly had no idea what to do with them. How does one journey to loving themselves?

I knew that I had a couple of books by Holley Gerth — a licensed counselor, life coach, and author known for her encouraging and uplifting books. But one particular book stood out as one that might help in this area. Its called God’s Heart For You. Its a little book that has devotions with thought-provoking questions about what God thinks of you. So I decided I would start the book. The odd thing was that I didn’t want to. Why I would rather feel self-hatred than know my worth and value in the Lord and how he wants me to see myself? I don’t know.

So I have been very sloooowly working through this book. Hesitation and fear is what has mostly kept me from pursuing what these pages have to speak to my heart.

One morning last week I sat reading one of the devotions, and one of the questions stuck out in my mind. Holley shared that one time the Lord asked her to keep a journal where she was not allowed to write a single negative thing about herself. She was only to share the good and leave out the mistakes. One day, she felt compelled to write out a negative entry. And the Lord told her to tear it out and spoke to her heart:

Daughter, do you know why I wanted you to keep a “good things” journal? It’s because that’s what My journal about you is like. If you were to read the story of your life, that’s what you would read. Not mistakes or failures, but the times you were a blessing, the ways you please Me, the love you show others. The good things I think about you.

So one of her questions, one that challenged me, was what would God’s journal say about you? And the sad thing was, I was unsure what to write. And then I wondered why. As I began to think about self-hatred and what God thinks about me, I began to feel confused. I didn’t know where my journey to self-hatred began. And in the next instant, I realized something painful that could be part of the growth of this ugly self-hatred plant that is sprouting everywhere in our society.

Have you ever said, “I look terrible in that picture!” or “I hate all my clothes right now because I feel so fat!” If you haven’t said those two things, which I have said many times, I’m sure you’ve said something self-degrading at some point in your life. Now, let me ask you, have you ever said that in the presence of someone younger than you? A child? Your child? A friend? Have you ever heard another woman say something like that?

Our society is teaching us, we are teaching each other, to hate ourselves. Friend, what message do you think you’re sending the women, or someday-women, around you when you pick at yourself? I teach my daughter every day by my actions. Whether I like it or not, she sees how I respond to things and that is teaching her about the world, life, and herself. And if I am constantly saying negative things about myself, I am teaching her to have a distorted view of herself and her body. I am not modeling to her the value that every single one of us has in the Lord.

One thing I have felt both irritated and passionate about lately is how much the Christian culture supports this negative view of self. We aren’t allowed to be proud of our accomplishments, think we are pretty, value characteristics in ourselves or anything that gives us an elevated view of self. We are taught to be humble and self-sacrificing and giving and not-taking. And while I believe wholeheartedly that these things are all very good, they all have a time and place and they are not meant to steal our value. Friend, I am looking you in the eye and touching your hand right now so hear what I am about to say, you are the crown of God Almighty’s creation. His heart hurts when you degrade what he has declared as good. God’s very image is in you. He sent His only Son to die for you. Jesus left heaven and took on the devil, hell, death, and sin for you. His GLORY is IN YOU. And he doesn’t look at us as conceited or haughty when we acknowledge that glory.

When I read Psalm 30 as part of the devotional, verses 11 and 12 spoke to my heart about the glory that is within us that the Lord wants to see shine! Let these words wash over you this morning, dear sweet valued and loved friend:

You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever! -Ps. 30:11-12

Breathe: 31 Moments With God

As a mom, your time is not your own. You are at the constant mercy of your precious babes. Diapers, snacks, lunch, fights, questions, help…it is relentless some days just how many decisions and thoughts a mom might have. I find that many days, I set my alarm to get up at 6am to get a couple hours in before the kids are up. Often, my intention is Jesus first then the to-do list. But many days, my list gets the best of me and overwhelm convinces me that I need to tackle the tasks first.

Breathe - 31 Moments with God

This devotional is for the mom who is too busy but needs Jesus. The way Jaimie lovingly encourages through the messages in her devotional are the words moms need to hear. In short devotionals intended to only take a few minutes, she is able to articulate the Word of God in a way that is refreshing to the weary mom’s spirit. I highly recommend this wonderful book! You can find it on Kindle (only $3.99 tomorrow!!) or in print (only $8.99).

I received a copy of this book on Kindle in exchange for my honest review.

Dream a Dream With Me

I don’t know that I have ever specifically told you all that my sister is a photographer. But not just a photographer….an amazing and talented photographer. She’s been featured in a magazine, shot countless weddings, and has an amazing announcement today. She is launching her new branding and site!! Plus, an AMAZING giveaway you don’t want to miss. I wanted her to do a guest post today because she has a lot of encouraging words for those of you who just are on the edge about taking the leap into doing what you love. So without further adieu….

_____________________________________________

Have you ever had a dream that you thought was too big? What was it?

Finish this sentence: “Well Amy, my lovely new friend, I have always wanted to….!”

First of all, I am happy we are new friends! Secondly, I wonder…do you complete that sentence with your dream but sadly end with, “but I never got the courage to take the leap”? My sentence did…except I wouldn’t have admitted that 8 months ago. And don’t be mistaken, it was not because I was living my dream, but because I believed I was trying but everything else was in my way. To protect my wallowing heart I would have told you my dream was really a hobby and used words like “one day I will” or “who knows if I ever will.”  It reminds me of one of my favorite movies The Devil Wears Prada. There is one part in the movie where Nigel (Stanley Tucci) is approached by Andy (played by the lovely Anne Hathaway) and in a desperate cry and reach for pity where she explains that no matter how hard she tries she is failing. She is spent; after much effort trying to please her boss she is ready to give up. But, heres the best part, instead of brushing her hair and telling her it will be alright, Nigel puts her in her place:

Andy, be serious, you are not trying…you are whining.”

Here is the reality of it — I, like Andy, was not trying, I was whining.

I exhausted every excuse in the book not to follow my dream. All the excuses not to finish that sentence with “and I finally took the leap and totally rocked it!”  Instead, I shrunk down and hid behind my excuses and whined about my short-comings. I was not trying. I may have thought I was, but it was going to take something special to help me realize why I was so stuck.

After sharing, or whining, my story to a friend who is wise beyond her years, she recommended that I pick up Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg. The book is fabulous and dives into our fears, holding ourselves back and sometimes being our own biggest enemy (its good for a read if you are interested!)! In the very first chapter Sheryl challenges with one simple question: “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?”

UGGHH.

It hit me. There was my moment of clarity, but instead of beautiful bright light and choirs singing, it hit me like a ton of bricks. Was I really that afraid??? Was I using my excuses like a place of safety to hide away from the realities of pursuing my dream? It was in that moment that I realized I was! Instead of truly trying, I was crippled by my own fear and whining about it to pass the responsibility of my success or my failure to every obstacle that might get in my way. If I was going to fail, it would be because everything else got in my way, not my short comings. And to top it off, I was allowing my fear to feed me lies about what I was capable of — who I could really be! What would I do if I wasn’t afraid? became a haunting question in my head as I worked at my corporate job. There were so many answers to that question that I couldn’t help but commit to solving it…to answering it with finality and completion.

David and Dana-18

I began a journey of answering that question over the last 8 months. I poured into my fears about the world, my insecurity about my abilities, and the stage fright of putting myself out there. Its crippling to present yourself before something you dreamed about. And I discovered my biggest fear was failing before the people that believed in me. But then I realized, I can’t fail if I didn’t try. I was allowing fear to rule my choices and it was then that I made a promise to myself to go full time with pursuing my dreams by the new year — sink or swim, the big adventure, my leap.

My dreams are a mish-mash of many things that I would like to happen over the next year — like any young bride looking to start life and a legacy — in order to do so, I was going to need some major changes in my life. So in October I walked into my boss’ office and through tears I gave him my notice. I set out in November, ready to conquer the world. And here I am. Its the beginning of 2014 and though there has been a few bumps in the road, I am here, pursuing my dream full time and working to build my legacy. The truth is, this place of clarity is a mixture of vulnerability and the unknown, but I have learned more about my craft, my heart and my desires for my future more these last couples months than I ever have in my previous years behind my lens…all because I decided to face my fears to go after my dream.

AUG2011Whittemore-31

And now, another amazing loooong time goal of mine is being fulfilled today!!

Today is the day I launch my website AmyLeah.com.

I officially have my own corner of the web to showcase my work and allow you to join me in kicking fear in the face and capturing life’s greatest moments. All of my hopes, my fears and endless nights planning have lead me to this day and I am completely grateful. Grateful for the opportunity and grateful for the guts to step out and be brave.

So I leave you with this, “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?”

Its heavy but it deserves an answer.

Take a moment to hop over to my new website and see what all the excitement is about!! I’m hosting a FABULOUS giveaway full of things you MUST have. Its going to be amazing!!

Here’s to a dreamy 2014,

Amy Leah

You can also find Amy on her active and inspiring Facebook page and Twitter.

 

#simplify // food

One of the ways I am excited to #simplify my life [and the lives of my people :) ] is to put healthier and good for you foods on the table. I’m not simply talking clean gluten free eating, but I am also talking about whats in those foods and how they are grown. For example, the other night, I surfed the web for two hours researching locally pastured beef. Its important to me to start eating free-range and grass-fed meat because they are SO much better for you than the packaged stuff at the grocer.

simplify-food

In researching, I began a fall down the rabbit hole, so to speak, because I got pumped about building a raised vegetable garden, maybe having a couple dairy goats, raising chickens for their eggs and maybe someday their meat [although, I don't know if I could kill a chicken] and more “urban homesteading” things.

I realize this doesn’t embrace simplify if I am adding livestock to my yard, heehee, but it does simplify my diet. It brings our family back to eating real food with good fats and vitamins and minerals. I want that for my family. So I want to know, do you do any sort of homesteading, wherever you are? DO you garden? Raise chickens or goats? Purchase locally pastured meat every year?

I want to chat about this, so please comment below. What do you do and how do you do it? :)