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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Five.

 
Five years ago on the morning of December 27th, I was taking a long, sudsy bath and lots of deep breaths as I prepared to walk down the aisle toward my new life as Shawn's wife that evening. 

Five years later, I sat at our breakfast table across from him, next to our dearly loved son, in a home we own in Raleigh, North Carolina. I never could've seen it coming, but I'm so thankful for the journey the Lord has us on. We've lived in three states together, traveled to more than 10 (and a couple countries), gotten a degree, landed a dream job, had a baby and lost another. It's been a full 5 years. 

Life across the breakfast table from Shawn, 
in the trenches of late nights and screaming babies with Shawn, 
in the pews of our new church next to Shawn...
I couldn't ask for anything better.

Happy 5th anniversary, my love! 

A few of our wedding photos here

Monday, December 30, 2013

Christmas morning.


Christmas jammies, handmade teepees, hot cinnamon rolls, new books for all. It gets more magical every year.
Last year's Christmas here.

What was your favorite moment on Christmas this year? 

PS - The tent I made for Liam came from this tutorial, which I highly recommend. Her instructions are detailed and accessible. I messed up the measurements on tying the poles, so that part is still unfinished. The only addition I made was the velcro tabs instead of the ties (it looked a little more masculine for our little man). :)

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas from us!


"The Son of God became a man to enable men to become the sons of God." - C. S. Lewis

For this reason, above all others, we rejoice.
Merry Christmas.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Immanuel.

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A couple weeks ago, I experienced an early miscarriage. I say early, because as far as miscarriages go, that does seem to make a difference. But it was still an unexpected, unwelcome loss, and it came during the busiest week of the year.

As soon as Shawn and I saw two pink lines on a pregnancy test, we were elated. Any hesitation or fear we might have felt about having another child was gone the moment we met Liam, whom we love with such unanticipated depth. We were thrilled to be adding to our family.

Less than two weeks later, I went to that same bathroom and saw blood. As a nurse, I tried to weigh both sides. I knew some women have bleeding and give birth to healthy babies. But I just had a gut feeling that something wasn't right. That there would be no baby.

An OB appointment the following day confirmed what I had already come to grips with, and as we looked at the ultrasound screen, we saw no more evidence of pregnancy. The doctor surmised it could have been a "chemical pregnancy," which is the earliest, least vicious breed of miscarriage. He told us there may not have even been an embryo, and perhaps just an empty sac. But when you've seen those two pink lines and felt the nausea and have become a mom in your heart to a tiny child, a loss is a loss no matter which way you look at it. 

Shawn and I drove home from the appointment in silence, relieved to have an answer and weary from what the week had brought. That night would be the first performance of our church's Christmas musical, of which we were both a part. It had already been an incredibly long week for all of us - including my mom, who was in town - and so to muster up the strength to sing even one song with a smile felt like moving a mountain.

But as I sat there in the car, gripping Shawn's hand in silence, the thought occurred to me... I had just endured the loss of a tiny baby. And tonight, we'd be celebrating the world changing birth of another tiny baby. A baby King. Had He not been my Savior, the One I center my life around, the whole thing would've felt like a sick joke the universe was playing on me. Or bad karma. Or punishment.

Instead, I knew it was far from a punishment, but was straight from the hand of a loving God. This God had become Immanuel, God with us, on the first Christmas so many years ago so that we wouldn't have to endure the hard things alone.

God with us on the exam table as we looked upon an empty ultrasound picture.
God with us as we passed glowing pregnant women on our way out of the office.
God with us as He brought my mom into town at just the right time, to care for us and for Liam.
God with us when we feel depleted, run down, weary.
God with us as He scrapes away the idols in our hearts and reveals our humble need for Him alone.
God with us as we trust Him with our family's future. 

God behind us, 
before us,
for us.

God choosing to come down to us, to experience our pain, to share our grief, to bring hope and light in the darkest of places. 

Monday, December 23, 2013

Today, at our house.

Liam's Christmas present, in progress

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Christmas favorites.

Dickens of a Christmas Festival, Franklin, TN 

Smell: Fresh pine in my living room. Bavarian roasted nuts at the mall. Crisp December air. I still haven't smelled a Christmas scent I didn't like.

Tradition: Growing up, my mom would make a Christmas cinnamon roll wreath and, after opening presents, we'd feast on bacon and fruit and sparkling cider in champagne flutes. I plan to continue the tradition with my own little family this year with gluten free cinnamon rolls and a sausage hash brown casserole. If there's one way to Shawn's heart, it's a good, big meal on Christmas. It might be his favorite gift.

Movie: Elf! I know, I know. I don't like Santa. But I can't help but laugh hysterically at this movie every single time. What's your favorite line? 

Hymn: God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
Now to the Lord sing praises,
All you within this place,
And with true love and brotherhood
Each other now embrace; 
This holy tide of Christmas 
All other doth deface.
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy

Memory: 5 years ago at Christmas, Shawn and I were two days from getting married. Not surprisingly, I don't remember one thing about Christmas day of 2008 - not one present, not anything. But two days later was the best Christmas gift I could've received: my husband.

Sight: The Dickens of a Christmas festival in downtown Franklin, Tennessee. I'm missing it this year.

Dislikes: The commercialization of Christmas. And this line from a familiar Christmas song: "Let's give thanks to the Lord above 'cause Santa Clause comes tonight." :)

Ok, your turn. Some of your Christmas favorites? 


Christmas favorites from 2011.
Christmas favorites from 2012.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Simplifying.

When I look up the word Advent, I find two definitions:
1. The liturgical period preceding Christmas, observed by many Christians as a season of prayer, fasting, and penitence.
2. The coming of Jesus at the Incarnation.

When I look at our lives during the period of Advent, it's barely recognizable. Prayer? Fasting? Penitence?

Instead, we've been living in a Christmas-related tornado of stress: a rehearsal or event nearly every night, an 80-hour work week for Shawn (leading up to our church's Christmas musical), hours of shopping, wrapping, shipping, sewing, stamping, budgeting, fretting. My intentions are always the same: to simplify Christmas. And somehow, it never happens. It's ironic that the month we celebrate God's coming is the least peaceful of the entire year.

I'm trying to give us some grace this year because it's our first year with Shawn on the music staff at a large church. That changes things, and how we spend our time isn't always ours to decide. But as a whole, I am desperate to simplify. I want Liam to grow up loving the Advent season because it's distinctly different at our house, and not because it's stuffed full of sugar and added stress. I pray that it's full of Jesus, the great news that He came for us, and His peace. Because the reality that He is Immanuel, God with us? It changes everything.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

"Jesus pushed the elf off the shelf."

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I have to come clean about something: I am not a fan of Santa. I know so many of you have childhood memories filled with visions of Santa bringing you gifts, thinking you might hear reindeer on your roof, or hoping you wouldn't find coals in your stocking. It sounds sweet and magical, and probably felt that way. Why wouldn't we want that experience for our kids?

Behind it all, though, I really believe it takes glory away from the true meaning of Christmas: the coming of our Savior. You definitely don't have to agree with me about any of this, of course. :)

When I read this article by Kimm Crandall the other day, it pinpointed precisely why Santa bothers me so much. Why the "Elf on the Shelf" and "naughty and nice" lists go completely against the truth of the gospel, which Shawn and I want to impart to our kids every chance we get. And at Christmas, what better chance to teach your kids about the God who loved them so much He became man in the form of a helpless baby. That He died for them to reconcile them to Himself because they can't possibly be good enough. Ever. There's no better news to celebrate than that! Not Santa, not reindeer, not an elf on a shelf.

"It is finished" declared Jesus' annihilation of the naughty and nice list. It was with that cry that He pushed that elf off the shelf so that we could be free. My friends, rest in Him this season. Rest in His goodness and not your own. And please, give your children the greatest gift that they will ever receive: the grace that tells them that they have a Savior who loves them and has come to rescue them from the crushing news that they will never be good enough." 

Monday, December 9, 2013

Sponsorship.

Over the past couple years, I've gotten a few inquiries for blog sponsorship. From nutritional drinks to clothing stores to Etsy shops, when people asked if they could sponsor my blog, my answer has always been a resounding, "Thanks so much for asking, but no."

That's been for two reasons:
1. I've seen so many blogs who take sponsorships lose their authenticity. 
2. I've also seen blogs lose their content, when posts are cluttered with promotions for sponsors. You have to weed through lots of sponsored posts before finding something that resembles the blog you used to love.

For obvious reasons, I've never wanted either of those things. This space has been so sacred for me and my family as we've told our story and lived our lives as authentically as possible on these pages.

At the same time, the community that has grown through this blog over the past nearly five years (can you believe it's been that long?!) has been such an encouragement and such a surprise. You guys have supported me and my family through so many different seasons, and most recently as I've become a work-at-home mom with a busy boy and a busy shop.

So I feel like it's time to give back, and also to take the next step with this blog. Many of you have blogs and shops that align with what this space stands for, and I'd love for you to have the opportunity to advertise here among readers who may not have heard of your corner of the internet. Brighter Day has been helped quite a bit by advertising with a few select blogs in the past, and readers who never would've heard of it have come and shopped and spread the word.

So starting January 1, I'll be offering a limited number of ad spots on the sidebar. At least for now, sponsorships will not include separate feature posts, but will include a once-a-month sponsor feature and group giveaway (if you're interested). I'll keep spots limited and prices reasonable to just try it out, and I've committed to trying it for 3 months, then reassessing.

If that sounds interesting to you, feel free to send me an email (whitney {at} elmstreetlife.com) and we can chat. I'd be happy to send you information on my blog statistics and pricing and see if it might be a fit.

And to my wonderfully supportive readers... let me promise you that very little is about to change. You'll have some pretty ads on the sidebar of shops and blogs that I think you should visit - and you'll have the opportunity to enter a once-a-month giveaway. And that's it. If it doesn't feel right after 3 months, things will go back to the way they've always been: ad free.

Thanks, friends!

Friday, December 6, 2013

Happy 27th!

Today we're celebrating 27 years of Shawn, the sweetest husband to me and most amazing dad to Liam. It's a privilege this year to see him in his element - leading worship every week with passion and truth. We love you, Shawn William!!!


Thursday, December 5, 2013

Dream in color.

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Growing up in the Tunney household, we had a family motto:

Dream in color.

Aside from my faith in Jesus, it's my biggest takeaway from childhood. As a little girl, when asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I'd answer without pause: "A missionary pediatrician to a Spanish-speaking country." It was true. And no one in my family rolled their eyes when I said it. I wanted to be a white version of Mother Teresa with a stethoscope around my neck.

Over the years, the dreams evolved just as I did. Don't they always?

I dreamed of being a nurse. I dreamed of living life in a big city. I dreamed a lot of dreams.

Throughout my time at home, my parents really fostered those dreams and didn't shy away from the extravagance of them. When I saw a boy learning to play drums on Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood as a seven-year-old, my dad willingly took me to the music store that very same day to buy a practice drum kit so I could get started learning drums, too. When I felt called to spend a summer in the Amazon jungle - despite the fact that I'd never camped or slept outside - they sent their hearts and their prayers with me on an airplane to Peru.

I've been thinking a lot about dreams lately. And if I was really honest and dreamed in color, what would that big dream be? The one that's almost too sacred to utter aloud for fear it might lose its power?

It would be this: I want to be a writer. 
In some ways, I know that I already am. I write here; I write often. But I don't want to only write blog posts. I want to be a published author. I want to wrestle for days with words that turn into sentences that turn into paragraphs that end up printed on real paper.  I want my publisher to skim a few pages and shove them back across the table and tell me to keep working because I can do so much better (do they really do that?). I want my great-grandchildren to read my words on printed pages with yellowed edges and see a glimpse of the heart of Jesus.

It's a lofty goal. I don't even have a topic or a genre for this someday book. But I'm announcing it here, shoving it into the light, because I have to start somewhere. A girl can dream.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Liam's baby book.

Before Liam turned one, my big goal was to finish (and start!) his baby book. I knew if his first birthday passed me by, I'd be a lot less motivated to get it done. I hadn't kept a traditional book of when he sat up for the first time or the date of his first giggle or even his monthly weight/height stats. I had, however, written him lots of letters here on the blog and taken thousands of pictures. So the task of making a book that wasn't 200 pages long was a challenge. But I did it! And it arrived just in time for his birthday. 
 It's the largest hardcover size you can make through Apple (13" x 10") and, though it was the most expensive book I've probably ever purchased, it was worth every penny for the keepsake that it is.
I know there are a myriad of options of where you can make books like these. I basically just found a few blog posts I wanted to include, letters for every month, and my very favorite pictures of Liam (I narrowed it down to about 200) and got started in iPhoto. It's super user friendly, comes installed on any Mac computer, and only took me 3-4 hours in all.

Maybe seeing this will motivate some of you to do the same. :)

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Confessions.

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Shawn and I love to talk long walks through our neighborhood. It's when we go deepest, our hearts become softest, and we really communicate for sometimes the first time that week. It's where our conversations are sharp, sanctifying, making us more and more like Jesus by tearing away the ugliest parts. It isn't like we set out with the stroller in tow and ask, "What's the darkest thing happening in your heart?" But many times, it just comes out. We need each other to sort through the messy stuff, to confess to one another and bring things into the light. I hope you have someone in your life who can dig through the muck alongside you and come out cleaner on the other side.

So what I'm about to say wasn't really part of our conversation, but there are two phrases in my current vocabulary that I feel convicted about getting rid of. Immediately. Here we go.

1. "Let me know if you need anything." 
It sounds caring, right? Someone just had a baby or had surgery. They might have lost a loved one or gone through a messy breakup. "Let me know if there's anything you need!" I've used this phrase more times than I'd like to confess and, while I've probably meant well, it's so non-committal and just plain unhelpful. Has anyone ever actually let me know they've needed something when I've tossed out this comment? Of course not. Several people told me this when Liam was born. I know they meant well. But the thought of picking up the phone and asking a random person a random favor when I really needed something? "Umm hi... I haven't seen you since my baby shower, but we're running low on diapers. And we have nothing in the fridge. Could you help?" Didn't happen.

So I'm cutting it out of my vocabulary. Instead, I'll say, "I'm going to bring dinner. Let me know if Tuesday night works for you" or "I'd love to take your son to the park so you can get some rest. What time would be best?" Way more helpful, right?

2. This one is worse. Way worse.
"Must be nice."
I see a post on Facebook about a friend's day away from the kids, an elaborate vacation, or someone complaining about being bored. "Must be nice," I say. Maybe coming from your mouth it's a harmless thing to say. But behind it is so much bitterness and jealousy and discontentment with my own life at that moment, it isn't even funny. It exudes ingratitude for what the Lord has given me... "must be nice" to not be me is basically what I'm saying. So that phrase is going away, too. The opposite of this kind of heart has to be one that praises the Lord for what He has done and what He has given. Because He's given everything.

Ok. Confessions over. That feels better.

Monday, December 2, 2013

#cybermonday and other links...

First of all, it's Cyber Monday! Having an online business, I had to join in the fun... so here it is:
Sale starts now and goes until Monday at midnight EST (patterns and DIY kits included)!

Also, some fun things from around the web:
These gluten free cinnamon rolls are going to be our Christmas breakfast. They look incredible!
Have you thought about using the Jesus Storybook Bible for Advent reading? I love this idea.
Summer Harms' simple American goulash is tested and approved at the Newby house. Makes the best leftovers, too.
Where Children Sleep is a fascinating slideshow (and, I'm sure, an equally fascinating book).

Happy Monday! Hope you had a rich and meaningful Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 25, 2013

The sewing pattern is HERE!


I'd planned on having an incredibly productive weekend. Shawn was home and available to watch Liam, so I made tea and turned on Pandora and was all set up to tackle several Brighter Day orders and finish up the clutch tutorial. And then, all of a sudden, I accidentally grabbed my rotary cutter by its blade and sliced my thumb all the way down to the muscle. Ouch. The doctor at the urgent care center took one look and said, "Yeah... that's gonna need stitches." So he stitched me up and it's feeling terrible but looking really good. And I realized quickly that your thumb is one of those things you need to get any sewing done... or cooking, cleaning, packing for Thanksgiving trips, or tending to a one year old. The Lord knows exactly what we need. I thought I needed productivity. He knew I needed rest. He won.

All that to say, I am very thankful I was still able to wrap up the pattern and tutorial for the Sydney clutch and it's available HERE! I'm so excited! I also have some DIY clutch kits available in the shop, both for the hardware and for the hardware + fabric. I've been as thorough as possible with pictures of each step, and I even included a page of fabric resources to let you in on my secrets of where I purchase all my supplies. Even the beginner beginner can do this and come out with a classy purse to give as a gift or keep for yourself. 

While the digital pattern is available as an immediate download as soon as you purchase it, the kits will be sent out Monday, Dec. 2 as soon as I get back in town from Thanksgiving.

It feels like the most wonderful time of the year to be making hot chocolate, dusting off your sewing machine, and creating handmade gifts for those you love. So happy shopping and happy sewing!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

A boy and his books.

The day we brought Liam home from the hospital, I felt what most brand new moms undoubtedly feel: a little lost. He was just 24 hours old, I was as hormonal and sleep-deprived as I'd ever been, and I wished he'd come with a manual of what to do next. Though I had plenty of experience babysitting, being a mom was a completely new experience. 

But the moment I cozied up in his big brown rocker, held his warm body on my chest and read to him, I felt a little less lost. I read the The Jesus Storybook Bible out loud, and even though I couldn't get through more than a sentence without tearing up, reading to my one-day-old son calmed him. It calmed both of us. Reading to him became one of the few times I felt natural as a mother. So we read. Every day.

If we're home for lunch these days, we have a few minutes after we've eaten before he takes his afternoon nap. So I strip him down to his diaper and as I clean the kitchen, he heads to his favorite spot: his box of books. He pulls them out one by one, flips the pages quietly, and makes my heart sing. There may be very little evidence right now that I'm doing something right as his mother. But this? This feels right. I might even go so far as to say it feels like a legacy. If in a small way I'm passing down a love for reading and learning to him, I'll consider it a big accomplishment as his mom. 
Maybe you're looking for good books to give as Christmas gifts for a niece, a nephew, or your little one? The Jesus Storybook Bible and Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing are by far our favorites. We read them every day. But we also love these:




Do you have book recommendations for Liam? I'm sure he'd love to hear...