Downtown Raleigh wedding.

Friday, March 29, 2019

I had the sweet privilege of photographing a friend's wedding last week, and I wanted to share a few pics. Faith was the most relaxed, radiant bride and the day went seamlessly. Both the wedding and reception were held in a local cafe (Caffé Luna) in downtown Raleigh, which couldn't have been more quaint or romantic. It was such a joy to capture these!
 

Flexible.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

If there was one word that my sister Kelsey and I were encouraged to embrace as little girls, it was "flexible." As daughters of full-time Christian musicians, we traveled as a family nearly every weekend to churches around the country. We slept in countless hotel rooms, were expert flyers, and navigated late nights and early mornings like pros. We became the embodiment of "flexible."

Kels and I, outside Alcatraz
It felt like a true privilege, this adventurous life we’d been given. After an evening spent at a church concert - selling product, unpacking and repacking sound equipment, greeting church members - we’d get to stop at a gas station on our way back to the hotel and choose anything we wanted for dinner. I’d pick a cherry Icee and a bag of sour cream and onion potato chips and revel in the fact that I knew none of my friends’ Sunday night dinners looked like this.

This was my early childhood.

It was in middle school and high school when our teenage commitments became less flexible. Cross country meets and Homecoming dances couldn't be rescheduled, and Mom and Dad began praying for work that didn’t take them away every weekend. They were eventually able to be at home more, which was a gift.

Fast forward ten years.

When it felt time for Shawn and I to start a family of our own, the only word that came to mind when I thought of our future children was "flexible." It was all I had known, and it had worked seamlessly for my family of origin. Shawn had a strikingly similar upbringing: parents in full-time music ministry, one brother, near-constant travel, staying in unfamiliar places. We were on the same page.

"I just don't want kids to get in the way of my goals," I heard myself say when talking about our future family. The words spilled out of my mouth and sounded sensible in my head, but didn't feel completely realistic. Because wait, wouldn't everything change when kids arrived? And what, really, were my goals?

We found out our first baby was on his way near the end of nursing school. I was thrilled beyond belief, but also uncompromising that I would be a full-time working mother. It felt like the most empowering option for a 21st century woman, this promise that I could have it all and do it all. I reasoned that it was "only" three 12-hour shifts a week, so I'd be home for the other 4 days.

But then Liam Worth was born: our downy-headed boy with blue eyes and deep dimples, and it wrecked me every time I had to leave home with my stethoscope and breast pump and not him.

My first job as a nurse is a blur in my memory. I remember feeling overwhelmed by my large and diverse patient load. I recall pumping in a less-than-sanitary empty hospital room. But mostly, I remember staring at pictures of baby Liam on my locker every chance I got. My heart was torn in pieces and more every day, I only wanted to be home with him.

Within a few months, it became clear that we would be moving out of state in the imminent future. I promptly gave my two-weeks' notice to the hospital without looking back. Our new business Brighter Day provided adequate income for the time being, so I got to be home with Liam 100% of the time. 

Six years have passed since that time. Six years of reevaluating work-life balance. Isn't that what has to happen with kids in the mix? We recognize that our babies won't always be babies. They won't always need their bottoms wiped, their nap schedules protected, or even their mama with them 100% of the time. But right now, that's exactly what they need. And while I still have to work weekends at the hospital to balance our monthly budget, my dreams have shifted. These four beautiful children are my dreams. Though we never set out to have a large family, it's what God has blessed us with and I don't want to miss out while chasing after something else. As we enter a season with these four children ages 6 and under (!), I'm choosing to release them from the weight of being "flexible" on my account.

I'm left without a defining "word." If it isn't "flexible," perhaps faithful? Available? I still haven't landed, and that's ok. At the beginning of our marriage, I never pictured myself as a mostly stay-at-home mom who drives a minivan, just bought a set of chip-resistant Corelle dishwater, and adores homeschooling. I never thought I could love this life that includes so little travel in comparison to my childhood. Nevertheless, our life is full of adventure. It's full of complexity and wonder and challenges that could only be wrought and redeemed by the hand of God. 

Dear New Mom,

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

I wrote this when baby Brooks was 10 weeks old, but never hit “publish.” I’m rediscovering it now as though someone had written it to me as we prepare for baby #4 in a few short weeks. If you’re in the throes of newborn life like we’re about to be, I hope it’s an encouragement. 

Dear New Mom,

Congratulations! You’re in for a wild ride, in case one thousand strangers haven’t already told you. Even though I’m a mother to three now, it feels in some ways like being a brand new mom all over again. Nothing can prepare you for the sleepless nights and constant demands of a newborn. Even if you have an “easy” child, he’s still a newborn with newborn needs. If he’s awake, he wants to be held. If he’s asleep, you have to keep the volume of the house to a manageable decibel (if other kiddos are around), which is also stressful. And you might try to frantically fit in a few to-do list items while he does sleep.

Ten weeks out from birth, I’ve been trying to find bits of myself again. There’s a swallowing up of womanhood that naturally happens in these early days of baby mothering. But I find that just a little time to make me feel human again goes a long way. When I first wrote this letter, I’d begun listing things to cope with this unbelievably full season of your life: wake up before they do, play worship music, get outside, wear the baby, nix the sugar, treat yourself. I wrote this list after a night I'd gotten a decent amount of sleep. When I reread it this morning (after piecing together about 4 hours with a baby on a growth spurt), I had to laugh. Because these things I was coaching you (and myself) to do hold no weight when you're depleted, exhausted, and discouraged.

Instead, there are two words that keep coming to the forefront of my mind these days. Simplify and savor.

Simplify. Make the big things the big things, and let the rest go. Did you get out of bed this morning? Did you feed yourself and your kids? Did you end the day with living, breathing souls? I call that success. Everything else, seriously, can go. For us, that means really limiting what we do outside the house these days. Brooks is the most peaceful baby I've ever met, but he starts screaming the moment you put him in his carseat until you take him out. So spending 20+ minutes in the car to go to preschool, to Bible study, or even to the grocery store is a harrowing, stress-inducing experience. So we limit our trips out for this fleeting season.

Savor. Have you hugged your babies today? Looked them in the eye? Read to them, prayed with them, held them without also holding your phone?

Finally, and most importantly, open your Bible. I know that sounds like a classic Sunday school answer, but I mean it because I've personally seen the benefits of it and the pitfalls when I don't. Don't think too hard about it... if you're like me, you want to set the stage for a picture-perfect quiet time with your hot tea, calming music in the background, your cozy blanket. Let's be honest: there's just not time for that most days. In the 5 minutes that you know you have that all the kids are sleeping before they magically wake up all at once with various needs, spend it in the Word. The God of the universe is your very life, and you can't afford to miss time with Him. He will imbibe you with strength, with courage, with purpose to not just barrel through the day but to bring meaning and glory back to Him though your mothering.

Whether you eat or drink... do it all for the glory of God.
Whether you scrub the pans in the sink or read another story or rock a colicky baby or nurse a cluster feeder for the 10th time today... do it all for the glory of God.

I'm preaching to myself, sister. But maybe you've heard something helpful, too.

All the love and mom hugs coming your way. You've got this.

Whitney

Classical music resources for kids.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

For the past six months, Liam has developed an increasing love for classical music and composers. It seemed to come out of nowhere and has grown with very little prompting from Shawn or me. It's truly one of my favorite parts of homeschooling him this year. While he can't name one Star Wars character or even professional athlete, he knows dozens of composers and even writes about them in his secret diary. We listen to classical radio in the car, per his request, and he can often identify the composer and period by the instrumentation, tempo, and themes. I know I'm biased, but it's truly an amazing thing to witness - especially from a 6-year-old. Just the other day, he said, "Mommy, I'm kind of confused why every time I hear 'The Well Tempered Clavier' by Bach it's played on the piano, when harpsichord was way more popular during the Baroque period." And the other day, I was proud of myself for being able to hum a short excerpt from Dvorak's New World Symphony, and Liam commented, "That was so good, Mommy! Except it wasn't in E minor." His aptitude for this has consistently blown me away.

While I do think Liam's interest in classical music goes beyond what most children's (or adults') ever may, I thought I'd share a few great resources we've found in case others are interested (click on the pictures to take you to the Amazon links).


The Story of the Orchestra is my very favorite resource we've found. It goes through many of the major classical composers and comes with a CD that they can hear excerpts of their most famous pieces. In a homeschool setting, it's perfect. But we've also just enjoyed looking through it and listening to the CD in a less formal way. I highly recommend this as a first look at classical music for elementary-age kids.

This one is a great resource for older kids as the writing is a bit more detailed, and it has some fun activities, like making a model eardrum. Beethoven is the composer who first captured Liam's attention. His music is intense and ground-breaking, and his story is fascinating. We've loved this book about his life. 

This is our most recent find and it's a great one. It also has multiple volumes available. This first volume features 17 composers and includes a detailed summary of their life and greatest works, some fun facts, and a crossword or word search or game at the end. It also includes a CD so you can hear their most famous pieces. I read that this was written for upper elementary or middle school ages, but with a good reader and adequate interest, it can be used by younger children, too. Liam and I have been going through one composer a week and really studying his work. I was definitely ready to move on from hearing Scarlatti's harpsichord music after an entire week of it. ;) 

HoffmanAcademy.com
For piano lessons, we are currently using Hoffman Academy and can't sing its praises enough. It's a go-at-your-own-pace online curriculum that costs $18/month and is very comprehensive. The students learn ear training, sight reading, music theory, correct posture and fingering. We use it for both Liam and Lanie (at their respective levels) and they do a lesson or two a week, then practice what they've learned with printable worksheets and some guidance from Mom and Dad. Eventually, I want all of our kids to have formal, in-person piano lessons. But for right now, this has been a wonderful (and doable) resource for our family.



And finally, a little interview with the future composer himself, Liam Worth Newby:

What first made you interested in classical music?
When I first made a "Liam's classical music" playlist (on Spotify). I love to listen to different pieces every day.

Who is your favorite composer?
Edvard Grieg. Some of my other favorites are Ludwig Van Beethoven, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Franz Liszt, and Pyotr Tchaikovsky.

What is your favorite classical piece?
Probably Eine Kleine Nachtmusik by Mozart.

What is your favorite instrument in the orchestra?
The violin

What did you spend your Amazon gift card on and why?
A conductor's baton because I wanted to practice conducting so that I can take my Poppy's job someday.

Who is your favorite conductor?
Sir Simon Rattle. I love how he conducts.

How do you think other children can get started learning about classical music?
By getting a classical music educational book and making a Spotify playlist of their favorite classical music pieces.

But God.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Parenting three (almost 4) little ones is hard work. There are endless spills and tantrums, sheer exhaustion, and your time and energy are pulled and stretched and twisted in every direction.

But that's not exactly what I'm talking about.

Parenting their hearts is what I find so challenging. Between making hundreds of chicken nuggets and reading thousands of stories and wiping bottoms, there is the need to gently guide their souls. To teach and train and discipline with patience, kindness, and consistency.

In this season with kids ages 1, 3, and 6, I've said it before that I feel the stirring to do less, and do it better. Instead of schlepping the kids all over town for soccer practice and play groups and even school, we've chosen less: to be home, together, for the majority of our time. Even though it's exhausting in its own way with so few mommy breaks, I doubt I'll ever regret this ongoing decision toward simplicity.

I'm learning that daily choices form habits, and habits form legacies. Fifty years from now, when Liam and Lanie and Brooks think of their mom, will they see me in their memories hunched over my phone? Will they see the back of my head in our minivan as I cart them to one more activity? Or will they see my eyes, engaged with them and eager to hear what they have to say? Will they remember seeing me read my Bible? Will they see me reaching out to others in need, consistently opening our home because we've made the space in our schedules?

A few months ago, the kids and I zipped into the church parking lot after a hairy morning (as most Sunday mornings as a pastor's wife are) and Liam tried to get my attention.

"Mommy," he said. "I think Jesus is kind of like a vent. If God is on the outside of the vent, we are inside and we are trapped and we are so cold in there because of our sin. But on the cross, Jesus breaks through the vent and helps us to get to God!"

"Buddy, did you hear that somewhere?" I asked, knowing I'd never thought of a Gospel metaphor involving a car vent.

"No. I was just looking at the vent and thinking of Jesus."

Right there in the car, it hit me once again that Shawn and I have planted tiny seeds of faith. Others have watered them. But God (my favorite two words in the Bible!) has made them grow. It is He who is growing our children's hearts with deep roots in Him. It isn't even the habits or rhythms or atmosphere I try to create in my home that will grow them in godliness. And you know what that means for me as a mom? The pressure is off! The very best thing I can do as I walk this journey of motherhood is also the best thing I can do as I walk this journey as a human: to be firmly rooted in God's Word, faithful in prayer, abiding in Him, and listening to His voice. The rest? That's up to Him. It is He who prepares the way and the good works before the world began. It is He who promises to complete the good work He began in each of us. Because of this, I can truly rest. I can experience true freedom. I can take a deep sigh of relief that it's just not possible to screw up this mommy gig too badly with Him as our safety net, our guiding light, the very hope for our souls.
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