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Thursday, March 29, 2012

Strawberry Patch Barn Sale


I wanted to let you all know that I am going to be participating in my first ever real live barn sale at the end of April! My dear friend Whitney Winkler and I are sharing a booth, her with her shop Beatrice in Blue and me with Brighter Day. You can expect some amazing vintage finds (furniture, dishes, wire baskets and old crates that I can never get enough of) from her shop and lots of clutches, tote bags, and jewelry from mine.

It's an hour or so outside of Nashville, and from the looks of the photos last year, it looks like one you don't want to miss. It's happening just a week before my nursing school graduation, but I couldn't pass it up, if not just for the opportunity to browse other shops!

And there's going to be a cupcake truck.
Aaaaand Shawn and Whit are playing live music on Friday.

So come! Please?
And if you do, come say hi. Pretty, pretty please.





Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Operation Smile. And books.

Operation Smile. You've heard of it, right? They are an international children's charity that provides reconstructive surgery for children born with facial deformities, especially cleft lip and palate. With the help of medical volunteers, they are able to perform thousands of surgeries that will help those kiddos have a much brighter future.

I can't really imagine the feeling of having a child with a facial deformity, and living in the United States, I would have the luxury of so many options at my fingertips. Children in other countries don't always have that option. So for these surgeons and nurses who volunteer their time and talents to help them, I am so thankful. This kind of thing is right up my alley. 

So when CampusBookRentals.com approached me about doing a giveaway that would also help promote Operation Smile, I was all in.

Here's the deal... some of you readers are college students, right? So some of you could use some help with textbooks for an upcoming semester? (Had this been a few months ago, I'd be raising my hand high!) CampusBookRentals.com has offered to giveaway a $50 off coupon that doesn't have an expiration date that you'll be able to use toward renting textbooks! A portion of each one of their book rentals goes toward Operation Smile, which makes me feel even more excited about their company.

I'll announce the winner this coming Monday, April 2 - and all you need to do to enter is to leave a comment with your first name, your email address, and what your major is if you have one (because I'm curious). :)

If you win, I'll send you the coupon code!

Good luck!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Baby's first clothes.

Baby received his/her first present ever... and what a gift.
My sweet Grandma made these, with obvious confidence that Baby is a boy. (I'm right there with her... and probably provoked her to think such thoughts.) :) Could they be sweeter? Such heirlooms.

Baby,


You don't even know it yet, but you have one very talented great-grandma who is already smothering you with love. You're one lucky kiddo. And if you're a girl... well... I'm sure you'll look beautiful in blue. Don't sweat it.


Love,
Mom

Monday, March 26, 2012

Our vision.

I've talked a lot about my shop, Brighter Day, here and there... but not specifically about where we see it going in the future. 

Last May when I made my first wristlet purse and reopened my Etsy shop (which had formerly been a jewelry shop), I never imagined how it would change our lives over this past year. Business picked up much quicker than I expected, and the demand has only grown. By late summer and fall, I found myself sewing for hours nearly every day. I had just learned to sew a bag and put in a zipper, so I learned a lot through trial and error, developing new designs and techniques as I went.

Since then, the shop has stayed just as busy. It hasn't been uncommon for me to sew 50 to 100 bags in a month. And I'll be honest... there are days that I'd rather not open my craft room door, turn the iron on, or cut one more piece of fabric. :) It's a full-time job, on top of an already full-time school and clinical schedule.

But to say we are thankful is an understatement. God has blessed us tremendously - much more than we ever imagined - through this business. To be able to create things that people love is an honor, and the fact that we are able to donate to an awesome cause is so motivating. Financially, it has helped put me through school with as little debt as possible. I wouldn't have believed it if someone had told me last year that we'd be paying school bills by sewing purses!

Currently, we are giving 10% of all sales to International Justice Mission, a cause we really, really believe in. But ultimately, our vision is even bigger. Our vision is to not just send money, but to go.

Shawn and I have always had a heart for international missions, and we know that that's where God has called us in some capacity in the future. Our vision is to partner with an organization - possibly IJM, we're not sure - that frees women from sexual slavery/human trafficking, which is an all too common reality in many countries. Once these women are freed, they have to make a living somehow to survive. They need a skill. And that's where we come in. We would be able to offer them a skill... to teach them to sew, and hire them to work for Brighter Day for a fair wage, and we would sell the bags here in the U.S. in a similar way that we are selling them now. Currently, custom bridesmaids' orders makes up 95% of my business, so we would stick with this market.

I know there are similar business models, with women from other countries sewing or making jewelry and selling their products in the U.S. I think the one main difference here is that these bags are already selling and appeal to American brides and bridesmaids. Hear me out... I say this with all respect... but many of the products I see look very indigenous to that country (i.e. fabrics are very African or Latin American looking with their bright colors and patterns, etc.). While this may appeal to buy one or two purses for a good cause, it may not appeal to American brides. But if we kept the style being something that is already selling like crazy, I think it could go really far.

It's a big step to put this dream on paper - where thousands of you will read it - but we're dreaming big because we serve an even bigger God. We are filled with passion and fervor when we talk about this plan, and we feel it's a God-sized idea that He has given us and only He can fulfill. He is in the business of rescuing and redeeming, and what a privilege it would be to be a small part of that work! We feel He has already been preparing us for this in unique ways... Shawn with his business knowledge, creativity, and passion for God's Word and discipleship; me with my love for all things handmade and my passion for women's health (where I picture practicing nursing).

There are many steps to go. We've already created an LLC and we have a couple people who are helping us part-time in sewing bags (and Shawn recently learned to sew!). But past that, we are praying for the right people to intersect our path, to breathe life and pour expertise into this vision to make it a reality. We would so appreciate your prayers in the process!

And the winner is...

Julianna, who is getting married in June and has 5 bridesmaids. Pretty perfect as she will be receiving 5 bags of her choice! :) Thanks, everyone, for entering. This was my first big giveaway and I had fun hearing from all of you!

Also, a little announcement: I'll be closing the shop for the month of April. Finishing nursing school and getting through the last few weeks of my first trimester, I just need a little room to breathe. I'll still be answering convos and finishing up the orders I currently have, but otherwise, you'll see Brighter Day again in early May!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Choosing faith.

Mom knew just what I needed last week... an apple mint herb plant to help my nausea, and the perfect verse to help my soul. Thanks, Mom. 
"And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and he rewards those who earnestly seek him." - Hebrews 11:6

When I first found out I was pregnant last month, fear crept in.
I wasn't afraid of becoming a mom, but I feared the remaining weeks and months of nursing school. What had I already been exposed to, not knowing I was pregnant? How was I supposed to safely finish school?

The risks are real. In the past few weeks, I've been asked to empty urine of a patient undergoing radiation (a pregnancy no-no), bathe a woman with suspected tuberculosis (uhh no), and care for a preterm baby with cytomegalovirus in the NICU (can't do that either). I've had to say "no" to all of these things and more, and it's made me feel like I'm working in a minefield, a risk at every turn. The fear has just kept building up, and then it turned to anger... "Why does my baby have to be exposed to all of this? Why right now when I have so little control over what I'm being exposed to?"

I frantically set up a meeting with a trusted professor, and when I listed all of these things that felt like such huge risks to the baby, she calmly said, "I hear your concerns. I understand. But I think this is all coming from a place of fear." She said she was more concerned about the stress and exhaustion I was going through, and less about the environmental risks.

She was totally right. There are certain things I can control... I wash my hands religiously, and walk out of the room when radiology shows up to do an x-ray. But the bottom line is that I wasn't trusting God that He was going to protect me and my baby. I didn't get it that He is big enough, good enough, strong enough to conquer all of these risks.

You know, the same God who began to weave together this baby's tiny body without any of my help or knowledge.
The same God who called me to the nursing profession and has provided every step of the way.
The same God who has allowed me to not get sick one single time from hospital exposure.
The same God who heals the sick, raises the dead, and holds every human life in the palm of His hand.
Yeah... Him.

It is so easy to look at the circumstances and want to run and hide. I even (briefly) considered stretching out the rest of my clinical assignments so I wouldn't graduate in May. And I did this because I was afraid. I did it because I didn't trust God, that he loves me passionately. That He cares for the littlest fears I face. That He adores this baby.

I can't say I'm totally there yet, having perfect faith that it's all going to work out and be fine. I still feel anxious knowing that I have almost 100 more clinical hours before graduation, and uneasy when I think about 12-hour shifts away from the baby once the Fall rolls around. But then I have to remember, God's not going anywhere. He's staying right here with me and Shawn and this baby every step of the way. I find so much peace knowing that.

"But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved." - Hebrews 10:39

Friday, March 23, 2012

First letter to baby.

Source
Written March 10, 2012
Dear baby of mine,

Hi!

From the moment you announced your presence with a vivid, cobalt blue + sign, I was in shock. I had hoped for you in my heart someday, but wasn't exactly expecting you right now. But you're here, just beneath my skin. They say you'll double in size this week, and I think that's pretty impressive. You're real, you're growing like a weed, and the reality of you and excitement for you is settling in a little more every day.

Often Every night, I wake up around 2am to go to the bathroom, and as soon as I crawl back into bed, my heart begins to race with thoughts of you. Big thoughts.

Are you a boy or a girl? I have a strong hunch that you're a boy, but no real reason to think either way. I just can't picture you as a girl. I promise I'll be so excited either way!


Will you look like your daddy? I sure hope so. A little Shawn look-alike running around would be just about the best thing ever. I definitely picture you with lots of blond hair as a little person, just like both your mommy and your daddy.


Will I be enough for you? This is definitely the scariest thought of them all. I've always wanted to be a mom at some point, but I've never felt called to be a stay-at-home-all-the-time mom. I honestly think I will be a better mom to you if I'm also working and doing things that make me feel alive. The balancing act that we will inevitably juggle scares me, but I'm thankful for your Dad, your Mimi and Poppy, and the many friends you already have that will be glad to pinch your cheeks and stare at you for a couple of hours while Mommy gets work done. I hope this doesn't disappoint you, but inspires you. And I hope that it, indeed, makes me a better mom for you.


When these thoughts become overwhelming, I ask Jesus to take the weight of them from me, and I pray. I lay my hands on my belly and pray that you are safe and healthy, that you will know the incredible love Jesus has for you even now, and that you will be a godly man or woman who lives with passion and intention. I know it's a lot to ask, but God is big enough. And those are all the things I hope for you.


Considering you're the size of a blueberry, it looks like we've got a long way to go, you and me. But here's the thing... I really love you. I didn't know I'd have the capacity to love a person the size of a blueberry the way I do, but it's true... you've already stolen a big piece of me, and I don't want it back.

Love,
Your adoring, still very surprised Mom

Post edit: Thank you all so, so much for being excited with us! It definitely makes it all the more real and the anticipation for our little one even stronger. I so appreciate your encouragement, your prayers, and your joy!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Surprised by joy.

"How great is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you, which you bestow in the sight of men on those who take refuge in you." Psalm 31:19
On a chilly night in February, Shawn and I had a pivotal conversation during a dinner date about our adoption. He was gut-level honest and said it would be easier for him to picture continuing to pursue our adoption but also being more open to having biological kids sooner rather than later. It felt a little overwhelming, he said, to have our very first child plopped into our laps as a one-year-old whom we had never met, instead of a baby we knew from the start... especially as neither of us have been parents before. I get that. I really do. The 9-month period that you can really prepare for a baby is so beneficial for a mom and a dad.

I told him I completely see where he's coming from and even though it didn't matter to me what the birth order of our kids is, I'd be open to just allow the Lord help us with the timing of it all. We wouldn't be stressed about having a baby, recording temperatures and timing everything. We didn't have a time window. We would just see what happens.

We both felt a lot lighter after that conversation. Giving things up to the Lord does that.

Little did we know that as we discussed this "possibility," I was already pregnant.

I love that the month we began our adoption process is the same month we found out we were pregnant. And I love that God very clearly assured us, in case we ever doubted, that He's in complete control. (Isn't it kind of funny how we thought we were making this major decision about our lives and He had already decided?! He had to be listening to our conversation that night and smiling really big.)


So I always pictured telling Shawn that we were pregnant in some spectacularly creative way. But after a 12-hour shift in the Trauma unit where the smells did unusually terrible things to my stomach, and the fact that I was 6 days late (I blamed it on stress), I took a pregnancy test. Still, I was thinking, "I can't be pregnant. I can't be," just honestly thinking there's no way since we'd just decided to be open to it. Well, as soon as that thought entered my mind, it left. Because within about 5 seconds was a very clear plus sign. (And then I took another test... and another, just to make sure.)
I couldn't help but grab my cell phone - in the bathroom, mind you - and call Shawn on his drive home. I knew he'd be home in 30 minutes, but I couldn't wait. I couldn't stay in that scary, overwhelming, crazy, crazy moment alone.

I said, "Do you know who I just found out is pregnant?" (I pretty much ask that every day since so many friends are pregnant right now. So he just expected to hear the name of one of my girlfriends.)

"Who?" he said.

"We are," I said.

Silence.

"Excuse me, what?! That's so crazy... Wait, really? Why did you tell me on the phone?!"  :)

He came home to lots of hugs and smiles, and later he went out and brought back 3 bouquets of celebratory roses. It was sweet, and I loved sharing it with just him.

Now to answer all the potential questions I can think of...
... I'm due in the Fall.
... Yes, I'll still graduate (obviously) and yes, I'll still work as a nurse up to and after the birth (maybe less obviously).
... I feel great! Tired, some food aversions, but not much to complain about at all. The women in my family have historically had easy, uneventful pregnancies, and I'm feeling very thankful for genetics right about now. I will say that I am soooo ready to graduate. May 5 can't come soon enough.
... Yes, we're still pursuing adoption.
... Yes, I'm probably the most surprised person out of anyone. God's working on my control issues, that's for sure.

We still can't believe it. The timing of it all was so... God. I'm overwhelmed with gratitude for the Lord who has created life inside of me. What a stunningly beautiful gift.

A fun little video.

Shawn and I went over to my parents' house for dinner a couple weeks ago, and soon after we arrived, Shawn said, "Hey, I have this new app on my phone that I want to show you. Can we go outside where the lighting is better and I'll take a picture?" 

And it went like this...
Are my parents' faces not priceless?! I think I've watched this video at least 30 times. It was quite an overwhelming moment for all of us (hence my constant nervous laughter). I'm so glad we captured this moment for all time. 

(Many more details to come... don't you worry.) :)

Monday, March 19, 2012

Posana Café.

A couple weeks ago on our way back from Durham, North Carolina, we stopped in Asheville, North Carolina to have lunch. Have any of you been to Asheville before? It's a cute, quirky, very mountainous town and it holds one very special restaurant... Posana Café.

We found out about it while looking for gluten free options in Asheville (something I always have to do before going just about anywhere to make sure I'll be able to eat), and found out that Posana Café is 100% gluten free! Sandwiches, salads, pastries... everything is completely gluten-free.

I felt like I was walking into a dream. Since being diagnosed with Celiac a few years ago, I've never once been able to just order anything I'd like off a menu. If I'm lucky, I get a special gluten-free menu with limited options... but most often, I just have to play it really safe with a simple salad. But here, I could choose anything!

The interesting thing is that on their menu, they don't advertise that they're gluten free. Maybe they fear it would turn away people who don't know what gluten is. Whatever the reason, we had such an awesome experience there and are looking for reasons to go back. :) Just thought my gluten-free friends should know!


Friday, March 16, 2012

All I need.

Today is one for the books.
And if it's been quiet around here... well, here's why.
By the time I lay my head on my pillow tonight, I will have worked a total of 14 hours in two different hospitals.

It started with a clinical that I co-led (I know, what?!) for 8 hours, which began at 6:30am. I'm now in my 4-hour break, and I'll go back for what was supposed to be a 12 hour night shift in the NICU. But I asked for grace. Grace for it to only be 6 hours. And they were kind.

My Etsy shop has been so, so busy with new convos coming in at least 10 times a day. So busy that I've contemplated closing it down for the next month just to catch up (i.e. I have at least 80 purses to sew that have already been paid for... and that doesn't mix well with 14-hour days). I know it's stressful being a bride. I've been there. But to get several messages every day saying, "Just checking in to see how the bags are going!" stresses me out beyond belief. I'm a people pleaser through and through, and though I'm not even late delivering the bags, the fact that they could be disappointed in me makes me lose sleep.

I had a professor who once said, "Sometimes you just need to ask for a little grace." It stuck with me. So I guess what I'm saying is that I'm in need of a whole lot of grace. Grace from God, first of all, because I am so not perfect. I get frustrated and overwhelmed and impatient and discontent at this over-the-top busy time in my life where people are pulling at me from every single direction. I need grace from you, too. "You" being everyone around me who is in my life. Maybe that comes in the form of a little less pulling, and accepting when I have to say "no" one more time. Maybe it comes in the form of praying for me... I would appreciate that more than you know.

Here's the thing, too. Sometimes "grace" comes with perspective. I need the perspective that wow, I am healthy and able enough to work 14 hours in one day. I feel gifted as a future nurse and am able to minister to people in their deepest times of need. What a privilege. And on top of it, I have been given a gift to design and sew purses that people enjoy, so much that they are in high demand. And not to even mention that I have a husband and family whom "supportive" does not even begin to describe. They are amazing.

I think these things as I remember one of my classmates who was in a near-fatal accident yesterday, who was supposed to graduate in May right alongside me and the 97 others, and may never wake up. I think of his sweet wife. I think of the patients I spent the last 8 hours with whose bodies are riddled with cancer and disease. And I must think, "Thank you, God." In these overwhelming-beyond-what-I-can-take moments, gratitude is really all I need.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

GIVEAWAY!

In May, it will be one whole year since I sewed my first bag ever. And because Brighter Day has been life changing-ly good this year, I think it calls for a celebration.

You think so too?

Here's the deal.
I am giving away 5 bridesmaid clutches of your choice with personalizations as a "thank you" for an awesome year.

If you or a friend or your roommate or someone you met on the street is getting married in June or after, you're welcome to enter! (Or if you'd just like 5 clutches and are not getting married... that's ok too!)

Here's what you'll receive:
5 of any bag in my shop - you can customize the colors and add the personalizations. This is more than a $200 value!

Here's how to enter:
Go to the shop: Brighter Day, and find which style of bag you might choose if you win, and leave a comment saying which style is your favorite.

For extra chances to win, leave a comment for each of the following:
- Make Brighter Day one of your favorites on Etsy and leave a comment letting me know.
- Become a follower of this blog and leave a comment. (If you're already a follower, just let me know.)
- Pin something from the shop on Pinterest and leave a comment.
- If you buy something from Brighter Day (anything!), you get 5 extra entries (just comment for each one).

Sound good?
I'll choose a number using the random number generator and will let you know the winner on Monday, March 26.


Ready...
Set...
GO! :)

Good luck!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Inspired.

We're home now.
And it feels so, so good.
Traveling is, by far, one of our sweetest joys in life - but to be home after a long trip might just top the feeling. The comfort here just doesn't compare.

It's rainy and warm and muggy today, and it's nice to get back into the swing of things - especially considering that the "swing of things" only includes nursing school for 7 more weeks. 7 more weeks! I could not be more relieved about that. (Anyone can get through 7 weeks, right?!)

On the tail end of our trip last week, we swung through Durham, North Carolina to visit Shawn's brother and sister-in-law, Erik & Shannon. Our visit with them was too short (as it always is), but the morning we left we had a chance to stop by Shannon's art studio.

Let me just say... Shawn and I both come from amazingly talented, artistic, creative families.
Shawn's parents are musicians. My parents are musicians. Shawn's brother is a graphic designer and web developer. My sister plays piano, writes songs, and sings. And Shannon - our sister-in-law - is an artist. A real artist. An artist with her own studio.

We left inspired. Her space is so uniquely her, and I can only imagine it sparks a million ideas as she walks through the door. 

To learn more about Shannon's art, visit her website here: Shannon Newby
And to purchase, visit her Etsy shop here: Newby Art

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Charleston.


"Charming" doesn't even do it justice. Charleston has captivated us. From the pastel-colored houses, to the rich history, to the hospitable people, to the waterfront that's nearly always within walking distance... we adore this city.

In many ways, Charleston feels much more European than it feels American. There are no 5-lane interstates in sight, no skyscrapers, no cookie-cutter homes or massive apartment complexes that you'd find in many American cities and outlying areas. Instead, there is cobblestone. There are gas lamps lining the streets. There are skinny roads. And there is walking. That might just be our favorite part: the walking.


"Vacation" for Shawn and Whitney means as much exploring as possible, and that always involves coffee shops and restaurants. We're not much for laying by a pool reading a book. (I wish we were, sometimes.) Charleston has been the perfect mix of relaxing and invigorating.

And if we weren't enough in love with it, the restaurants have been incredibly accommodating to my gluten-free diet (gluten-free menus abound!) and when we stood in Battery Park overlooking the water as the sun set, a group of dolphins rose to the water's surface just feet from us. Incredible.

I will say, I expected it to be warmer - and it's entirely my fault. I should've looked at the weather. It's been chilly and windy, and while I love being outside, freezing wind is not my favorite (to say the least). It's still been sunny, though, and just as beautiful as can be.
We have eaten two super fancy dinners so far, the first at Slightly North of Broad and the second at Magnolia's. Both had extensive gluten-free menus and we ate like kings. So delicious.

We've also discovered two perfect coffee shops... Hope and Union and Black Tap. Highly recommend both (though I think Black Tap was our favorite).

Oh, and did I mention we're only a couple hours from our dear friend Ilene? We got to see her on our way up from Hilton Head for the first time in two and a half years. Such a sweet time. We love her.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Hilton Head.

We're here less than 24 hours, but it's already been the picture-perfect commencement to our week of rest.
A near-empty beach,
A 50 degree wind,
My husband's jacket (since I was silly and thought beach = warm and didn't bring one),
A friendly dog,
A husband-photographer who won't put down the camera, even when I'm done posing,
Sand in our shoes, 
Lots of deep breaths.

We heart vacation.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Vacation time!

Spring Break officially started today and I could not be happier about it.
Shawn's taking the week (the entire week!) off of work and we're stopping here...

On our way to here...

And finally here...

Anyone recognize these places?
We're soooo excited!