Tuesday, February 28, 2012

If you and I were chatting over coffee today, I'd look you straight in the eye and say, "You must read this book." 

I finished it today and I'm ready to re-read it already, it was that good.

The basic premise is that the author, Jen Hatmaker, endeavors to simplify and to strip her life of excess in one area for seven months. For example, one month she addresses clothing and only wears seven items of clothing for the entire month. During one month, she streamlines her spending to seven different locations. 

She doesn't do this for the express purpose of de-cluttering her life, though that's one advantage - but she does it to allow God to speak, to work; for Him to teach her (and her readers) a little more about the poor, about His Kingdom, about priorities.

Throughout each month, she journals through her experience. I was convicted, but didn't feel like I was dragged through a 200-page guilt trip at all. I learned that financially, I am within the top 1% of the world... so you won't hear me say "I feel so poor" ever again. Because I'm not. I'm filthy rich, and to whom much is given much is required. I was inspired to be more conscientious about stewarding the extravagant blessings God has given me. 

Oh, and I laughed. I laughed a lot.

Did I sell you? 
Trust me. 
You won't regret this read.

I have one proud daddy.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

My mom told me about this video today and I'm not sure I'd ever seen it.
My favorite part? That proud daddy of mine.

To be honest, not much has changed. Except now, I'm pretty proud of him too. :)

DIY: Bow clutch sewing tutorial.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

YES! You can sell this if you make it! Thanks for asking. Please give credit to Whitney Newby (www.elmstreetlife.com) for the pattern and design.

**Also, please note except where I say, "Sew close to the edge," I am using a 1/2" seam allowance throughout. I have my machine set to this, so I am using the presser foot as my guide to sew 1/2" from the edge of the fabric.

Ok, let's get started!

Supplies you'll need:
1/2 yard exterior fabric*
1/4 yard interior fabric (I recommend a quilting cotton)
9" zipper that matches your exterior fabric
1/4 yard #808 Pellon Craft Fuse interfacing
Sewing thread that matches your exterior fabric
Sewing machine
Iron & ironing board
*I recommend a medium to heavier weight cotton for this. Linen is what I'm using, and it works perfectly.  You don't want to use a quilting weight cotton or something really light - it will make the final product too flimsy.

1. Start by cutting your exterior pieces. I use a quilting cutting mat which makes things as accurate as possible.
2. Now cut interior fabric pieces.
3. Cut interfacing.
4. Bring your strap piece to the ironing board.
Sometimes, at the end of this step, if my strap doesn't feel sturdy enough, I'll cut a thin strip of interfacing and tuck it inside the crease before sewing. This is an optional step.

5. Now it's time to sew your strap.
6. Set the strap aside and let's work on the "knot" of your bow.
7. Once you've gotten the "knot," let's work on the other part of your bow.
8. Set your bow aside for now, and grab your interior and exterior fabric pieces and your pieces of interfacing.
9. Now it's time to attach your bow.
10. Set those pieces aside and let's work on installing your zipper.
11. Attach the exterior fabrics to the other side of your zipper.
12. You're on the home stretch! Let's add the strap and finish the bag!
WHEW! I hope you enjoyed that - please let me know if you try it at home... I'd love to see the results (it might make all of this sewing tutorial work worth it!). :)

Also, if you like the bag but aren't a seamstress, I sell these bags in my Etsy shop: Brighter Day, and I'm happy to make them in just about any color!

*The only difference in the one I just made and the photo at the very top of this post is that I rounded the corners a bit and added a darker zipper - both of which are options you could try!

Unsolicited Etsy advice.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Last May, I was feeling inspired. I owned a thrifted sewing machine and decided I wanted to make my first bag, zipper and all. I found a couple tutorials online, and used parts of both to create the bag I wanted. I like the end result so much that I took photos of it and put it on Etsy. I already had a shop that sold jewelry, but it hadn't been active in a while. So I listed this purse and it sold in less than 5 minutes. I was shocked. So I made another bag and put it on Etsy a couple days later. And it sold the same day. So maybe I was on to something? Since that time, Brighter Day has exploded in the best way. I was able to stop teaching painting classes because sewing was keeping me busy and helping put me through nursing school. I never expected it.

So in thinking about the last 8 months, I thought of some advice (and some pros and cons of running a handmade business)... take it or leave it, of course, but I thought it might be helpful to those who are thinking of opening up a handmade shop.

The advice:
Take good pictures. This is obvious, but good pictures sell. They really do.

Make what you love, and keep making what sells. Keep track of the items, colors, styles that are selling the most and make more of them. And make something you're really proud of. It makes a big difference. For example, I used to make jewelry for my shop and made a few hundred sales with it - but when I started making purses... for bridesmaids... the shop went crazy. So I still make jewelry, but I focus on what sells - the bags.

DON'T GIVE UP! I see this all the time... people complaining that nothing's selling, it's too hard, etc. Running a homemade business is not for pansies. (Haha did I just say that?!). It takes so much hard work, so much that you probably didn't realize all that goes into it (registering for a business license in your state? budgeting? staying up til 2am to finish an order?). Yeah. It's hard. But it can be worth it.

The cons:
It's a 24 hour business. Unless you've clearly stated in a very obvious spot in your shop that you won't be responding to messages within 24 hours, you have to respond to messages within 24 hours (at the very most). There are some laid back customers, but I've found they are few and far between (maybe that's because I work with brides?!). 

People can be suuuuper picky. I guess I've let this happen, though, because I offer custom bags. I'm happy to accommodate requests, but when people need me to match a color exactly that's called "fern oasis," that can be a problem. (What do you think fern oasis looks like? Beats me.) I've spent lots of my life driving all over town hunting for colors that don't exist. 

The pros: 
You get to work from home! For me, I couldn't be happier about this aspect. I get plenty of social interaction and outside world experience from going to nursing school, so coming home and drinking tea, listening to a sermon, and holing up in my sewing room is amazing. I can picture that for stay-at-home moms, this would also be a pretty ideal setup. Get work done during naps!

You get to be creative. And be paid for it. Always a plus in my book.

Repeat customers are fun. It's neat getting to know people somewhat through all the convos and orders. I have a few amazing customers who are so sweet and encouraging.

Any other Etsy sellers have input? I'd love to hear!

Worth the wait.

Friday, February 17, 2012

The more I delve into the adoption process, the more I realize I don't know.

Did you know that you have to be 30 years old to adopt from China?
Did you know that you have to be married for 10 years to adopt from Haiti?
Did you know that not all adoption agencies work with all countries... you have to base your choice of an agency on your choice of country?
Did you know there are an estimated 160 million orphans in the world?

I vaguely knew these things, but the more I read the more I realize... I have so much to learn.

Through research and prayer over the last couple weeks, we've decided to pursue an adoption from Vietnam. The only problem is... adoptions are currently closed in Vietnam. However, we feel so strongly about it (for several reasons that I'll share another time) that we are willing to wait. We've been encouraged by several sources that believe it will open back up for adoption this summer (it's been closed for about 3 years). Then we'd be able to at least begin the process over the summer.

Until then, we wait. I try to wait patiently, though I'd love to go ahead and at least begin the paperwork. But because it's still a closed country, agencies are not ethically able to accept even a formal application.

So if you think to pray, please pray that Vietnam gets all its ducks in a row legally speaking and is able to be approved once again for intercountry adoptions. Pray for patience for us and the many, many other families who are waiting. And pray for the thousands of baby boys and girls who wait even more patiently for their forever families.

Sewing night recap.

Sewing night #3 was our smoothest sewing night yet... practice makes perfect, I guess? It was probably our simplest project, which definitely helped - and we had so much fun! I love getting to open my home, pull out the fabric, and spend time with all these pretty ladies. This time, we had the privilege of being sponsored by Stephanie of Infinite Life Fitness. Thank you, Stephanie!
The guest of honor? My sister! She flew in all the way from Ohio to come!! :)

PS - Just for Kels, I had to include a photo of the "special" cookies she and Mom made to look like spools. Do you see it? :)

DIY: State Onesies

Thursday, February 16, 2012

This is the easiest project for an upcoming baby shower... and if you're like me, you have so many friends who have babies on the way. I love how this turned out and it couldn't be easier!
Fabric scrap
Printout of your favorite state
Baby onesie
Fusible interfacing (I used this)

1. Make a fabric sandwich: Put your favorite state paper printout on top, your fabric in the middle, and the fusible interfacing on the bottom. 
2. Cut through all 3 layers, and before you let the bottom two layers separate, iron the interfacing onto the fabric using the instructions on the bag.
3. Place your fabric state on the onesie and iron on.
4. Stitch around the edges. That's it! 

Charis girl.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

I have a new favorite picture of my niece.
Ok, maybe I have a few new favorite pictures of her.
Because when she's around, I just can't help it. 
I'm sure she is growing up thinking I have a camera attached to my head. Oh well.
I could stare at her all day long.
She is delicious.
Today she brought the phone to her mama and pointed to my picture and said "Whiiih" as if to ask, "Call Whit?" We chatted I asked her to make lots of animal sounds and I heard her point to Shawn in a picture and call him "Yawn." Melt me.
Having a niece makes my world a better place.


Monday, February 13, 2012

I love Whitney Houston.
I love The Preacher's Wife.
I love that it was Whitney's voice singing "I Believe in You and Me" at Rockefeller Center when we got engaged. (Shawn had chosen the song because it's one of my all-time favorites and as soon as I heard the intro, I cried.)
I'm so sad that she wasted away in front of a watching world.
I'm so sad that she's gone.

Whenever people ask, "Are you named after Whitney Houston?" (which is somewhat often... you other Whitney's probably know what I mean...) I say, "No. But my mom got to meet her!"

It was 1988, and my mom and her group were opening for Bebe and Cece Winans. Whitney was good friends with the Winans and loved their music, and would show up to concerts and sing backup for them. Can you even imagine?! Whitney Houston singing backup?? Often, until a few songs into the concert until she was introduced, no one even noticed her. Amazing.

So at this concert in LA, Mom was backstage with a big group of people and a little boy came up to her and started playing. A woman nearby approached her and asked, "Is he bothering you?" And they struck up a 5-minute conversation about kids. My mom was thinking, "She looks so much like Whitney Houston," but had no idea that Whitney would sometimes show up for concerts. Little did she know it WAS Whitney Houston. Pretty cool. :)

I really think Whitney is with the Lord. I think she really, really struggled (obviously). But I think her upbringing and affinity for the church, her love for Gospel music, the Christians in her life... I really believe she knows Jesus.

If you have 5 minutes, you have to watch this video. Whitney at her best... and the song. Oh, the song!

The best birthday gift. Ever.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

This year for my birthday, I asked Shawn for one thing: to begin the process of adopting a child.

A big part of my heart is - and always has been - for adoption. Since I was a little girl, I knew that God had clearly called me to two things: to adopt, and to be a missionary. I also knew that because those were the two callings on my life, if I was to have a husband, he would be committed to those things too. (God has quite the sense of humor, knowing all along that I would marry a man who'd already spent his entire life on the mission field.)

So I know a really common question may be: "Can you not have kids?"
And our answer is: We don't know. We haven't tried.

We do want biological kids, if that's what God has for us. But to be honest, I've never been one who has dreamed of being pregnant or can't wait to have a newborn. I wasn't even set on having my own biological kids until Shawn entered the picture. But I've definitely dreamed of bringing babies home from other countries (literally... I've had dreams about it). And I've dreamed of having a colorful family that looks a little like the United Nations. And even now, I can't talk about adoption without getting teary. It's just so precious to me, and there's no clearer picture of God's grace: He adopted us as part of His family and gave us every right and privilege that comes with being His child and heir. How incredible! If nothing else, I know that Shawn will sense a deeper love that the Father has for us through this adoption process. I know it can be a painful, trying journey, but I also know it will be so worth it.

While we had always thought of having biological kids first, God has really put on my heart recently that if adoption is Plan A for us (just as having biological kids is also Plan A, if that's possible), then why not trust Him with the timing? I think it speaks loudly to our adopted child that we chose him/her as a first choice, and not as an afterthought.

So on the evening of my birthday, I filled out a preliminary application to an international adoption agency that we are looking into working with. We know so few details right now, but I wanted to let you know this little bit of news because I am just too excited not to! This blog may look a little different in the coming months as we share bits and piece of adoption news, but knowing you like I do, I don't think you'll mind too much.

We know this is such a giant step of faith. But we also trust that it's so close to God's heart that He will surely guide us along.

Sweet girls.

Friday, February 10, 2012

During our first year of marriage while we lived in Chicago, I got to be this little cutie's full-time nanny.

When we moved, my dear friend Kirra took over the job and has been with her - and now her little sister - for the last two and a half years. This little girl has grown into a big girl and I can hardly believe it.
It had been such a long time since I'd seen her, and I loved seeing her as a little person with so much personality! Interestingly enough, instead of being shy around me, she climbed into my lap and just started hugging me and saying, "I love you so much!" with a huuuuge smile on her face. Kirra said she never really acts like that, and it made us wonder, does she remember me? Is it my voice? My smell? I really think she must have... and it melted my heart. Kirra has done such an amazing job as their nanny, and it's obvious how they adore her. It's obvious, too, in how they're learning so much from her... and I know she's probably learned quite a bit from juggling two. Wow. What a sweet time!

But God.

Thursday, February 9, 2012


Over the last three years, I've struggled with the fear of flying. Really struggled. But before I get to that, I thought I'd recount a little of my flying history... the major events, at least:

The 1986 version of Whitney flew to Germany as a 6-month-old baby. She felt no fear. (Ok, ok... that doesn't count.)

2002 Whitney flew in a 5-seater Cessna through a thunderstorm from southern Texas into rural Mexico. This flight was epic. We thought it would last an hour or so, but it was double that time because of the horrible weather. I sat in the co-pilot seat, and my mom, sister, and a friend were crammed with our luggage in the back. It was a total relief once we landed, but more because we were nauseous from being thrown about in the skies than anything else.

2007 Whitney flew non-stop from Chicago to Tokyo, a very long 13 hours where we even passed over the Bering Strait. No problems on this flight at all, and it felt like quite the adventure.

2009 Whitney flew a very routine flight from Nashville to Chicago - one she had flown many times - that was very turbulent and brought about her first full-blown panic attack. You can read about that here. The pilot said we were experiencing "challenging skies," which did me in. From then on, my eyes were opened to the fear of flying. I'd never fear it before, even a little bit. I didn't even fear flying when I probably should've been afraid, like the Cessna trip into Mexico.

From April 2009 on, every flight was dreaded. Every flight was an event. On every flight, you could find me in a window seat near the front of the plane, wide eyes glued to the window at every tiny bump, tightening my seatbelt and gripping my armrests with clammy palms. It sounds pathetic, but it was reality. I usually kept my Bible open on my lap and prayed through a psalm when my heart began to race. And by the time we landed and I could finally breathe, I felt utterly drained.

I tried so many things to get over this fear.
I tried researching what turbulence really is.
I tried envisioning God carrying the plane along with his own strong hands.
I tried praying.
I still felt like a mess.

Until this week.

On Tuesday evening, I flew by myself to Chicago - and just flew back this morning. On our way to the airport, my Mom asked me to pray aloud about the flight. I prayed, just like I had for the past 3 years. But for whatever reason, God chose to make this time different. This time, I calmly boarded the plane, opened a book, and only glanced out the window a couple times.

On today's flight, the last 30 minutes were very bumpy, and you would have normally found me in a cold sweat as all I could see was the pure white cloud cover as we traversed through it. But today, those same bumps lulled me to sleep. TO SLEEP! I can't emphasize the contrast enough. To those of you who have never feared flying, this all may seem a little dramatic. But to those who have feared flying or have feared anything so deeply, you understand this experience for what it really is: a miracle.

Have you ever noticed how often in Scripture the phrase, "but God" exists? It's all over the place.

"The wicked go down to the realm of the dead... but God will never forget the needy." (Psalm 9:17-18)
"Day after day Saul searched for him, but God did not give David into his hands." (1 Samuel 23:14)
"My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever." (Psalm 73:26)
"But, because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions." (Ephesians 2:4-5)

This God of mine is a God of contrast, of redemption. He is so "other," characterized by these verses that tell us that the situation was going poorly - Saul searching to kill David, our failing flesh, being dead in our own sin - and he comes along and radically changes the whole story.

But God.

How thankful I am to have entered a new season of travel, one that I'm not sure I ever believed would come. But God surely did. Oh, how He did.

DIY kitchen towels.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Last week, my friend Kate came over and we sewed and talked. And sewed and talked. Doing anything creative is our favorite thing to do together, but it's rare that we have the time cut out for it.

Kate brought bags of kitchen towels that she had found for $1.49 per pack, unopened from Goodwill and Ross. We both agreed that while the flour sack dish towels are prettier, they're definitely not as practical (I can't figure out how they dry anything). So barmop towels it was.

While this isn't much of a DIY how-to post, what we did was cut out long strips of 3" wide fabric, hem the bottom, fold over the top, pin it to the towel in a gathered ruffle, and sew. It was a little time consuming, but not hard at all. And the results are so whimsical and fun.

Kate cut out enough strips of fabric for about 10 more different towels, but we'll get to those next visit. For now, I'm excited to use my new (and really cheap) kitchen towels!
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