February Sponsor Giveaway!

Friday, February 28, 2014

It's that time again... Giveaway time! Man, I love having Sponsors so I can do this for you guys.

Here's what's up for grabs this month:
1 Lane Messenger Bag in Green (perfect for Spring!) from Brighter Day

1 Art Print from Brighter Day

(1) 8"x10" print + (2) 5"x7" prints from Iekel Road Design:

(8) Glitter Thank You Notes and (8) Kid Thank You Notes in their choice of Pink OR Blue from Tiny Acorns

That's it, friends. Over $100 value and the winner takes all! I'll be announcing the winner next Wednesday, March 5.

Good luck!
a Rafflecopter giveaway
If you're interested in sponsoring Elm Street Life in the month of March, please visit my Sponsor page or send me an email at whitney @ elmstreetlife.com. Thank you to my sponsors for making the time I spend investing in Elm Street Life possible!

February 2014 Sponsors.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Say hello to the prettiest shops that I get to call my February sponsors! You'll recognize a few of them from last month, and a new face in here as well. I'm honored to showcase them today, and I hope you'll take a look at each of their shops and take advantage of those wonderful coupon codes. Also, we'll be having a giveaway this coming Friday, February 28, so stay tuned for that. 

Joe is a photographer who also dabbles in filmmaking and oversees the Communications department at our church. I (Amanda) am a nurse practitioner specializing in psychiatry and spend my spare time writing (currently working on a children's book!). We both adore anything handmade and unique so we decided to stock our Etsy shop with tidy, cozy Polaroid-size photo prints from our travels near and far. 

COUPON CODE: This month we are excited to offer 15% off any purchase with the coupon code WORTHY15

Welcome to Tiny Acorns! Our shop is a place to find lovely, preppy stationery and gifts. From Mommy Cards to personalized note cards, we offer a delightful range of products to gift to to others or brighten your own day. Our fill-in-the-blank thank you notes for kids are practical and adorable. Brides-to-be love our "Future Mrs." cards. The highest quality handmade products and even better customer service are our priority. Every order ships with a sweet "freebie," too! Visit our Etsy shop today and use this coupon code for 20% off your purchase with our compliments. 


The Ruffled Stitch offers handmade unique wallets designed to help you stay organized. There are many different patterns to meet many different styles! Each wallet is handcrafted with care one piece at a time. So feel free to stop by and look around! 

COUPON CODE: During the month of March, enjoy 10% off any purchase with promo code ELMSTREETLIFE10

Website // Etsy shop // Facebook // Blog

Iekel Road Design is how I worship my Lord Jesus Christ. I was brought to this earth to spread the good news, that Jesus died on the cross for every single one of us, and that he loves all of you, no matter what! My business helps me spread this good news! I sell bible verse prints for you to display in your home, office, or to keep in your bible or give away to a friend. 

COUPON CODE: Please enjoy 15% off with the code ELM15

If you're interested in sponsoring Elm Street Life in the month of March, please visit my Sponsor page or send me an email at whitney @ elmstreetlife.com. Thank you to my sponsors for making the time I spend investing in Elm Street Life possible!

Everything to me.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

I scrolled through my weekend photos last night and couldn't help but pause and soak this one in for a while. It may not seem like much, but it's everything to me. They are everything to me.

Liam has finally chosen walking over crawling and is his happiest self outdoors. He'll hold his shoe in one hand and claw at the door with the other, whining, "'side? 'side?" until I can throw my hair up and look halfway presentable to the neighborhood and head outdoors. He knows all the hangout spots of his favorite neighborhood dogs, and drags us along until we stop by the fence and talk and pet. His face just glows. I adore being his mom.

Shawn has been working an incredible number of hours for our church's missions conference over the weekend, but even when he had only an hour off, he'd speed home to spend it with us. When he's home, he's fully engaged. I know that's not the easiest choice to make - and it's one I struggle with as I crave alone time - but it's a choice I appreciate more every day. Watching him gracefully navigate these new toddler days with Liam (where those delightful tantrums have just begun) is sometimes funny and mostly inspiring. I hope his patience wears off on me someday.

Our neighborhood is wooing me like never before, especially as the warm wind blows Spring into the air. This photo reveals one of our neighborhood's best qualities: its lack of garages. It means we get to see our neighbors every single day. Our neighborhood is just what we hoped it would be: racially and economically diverse, walkable, and just a stone's throw from the nearest park. We also landed the best neighbors around: they now fit the category of friends. Good friends. The house across the street just sold to a couple who will move in soon, and I'm afraid they don't know what they're in for... in the best possible way.

When church hurts.

Monday, February 24, 2014

When Liam was six weeks old, we nervously returned to church for the first time since his birth. Along with an overpacked diaper bag, we carried high hopes that flu season had passed and his newborn immune system could handle the crowds. We sat up in the balcony - alongside other new parents trying not to disrupt - but he started to fuss about halfway through the service and I could tell it was his hungry cry. So I carried him to the designated "nursing mothers' room" behind the sanctuary. When I walked in, I saw 3 or 4 ladies already there. Some were nursing, others were just rocking their babies or letting them play on the floor. They were already in mid conversation, so I entered quietly and found an empty rocking chair.

As I nursed my son and listened to them, it didn't take me long to notice that one woman was leading the conversation with a few others nodding and "hmmm"-ing in agreement. And by "leading" I mean "dominating."

"I would never do anything but cloth diaper my babies. What a waste. And it's just so terrible for their skin to be up against all those toxins."

She then went on to discuss her plans to nurse her children until age 2, to opt out of all ultrasounds, to delay vaccinations, and to have a home birth for her next child with only a doula. No one was asking for her opinions on this wide variety of controversial parenting decisions, but she doled them out like candy. Bitter candy. Her tone was not kind.

I felt completely self-conscious as I ducked into the corner of the room to change Liam's synthetic, toxic diaper, hoping her eyes wouldn't wander over to me. And as I came back to join the rocking chair circle, I grabbed another wet wipe from my bag to wipe Liam's drippy nose.

"Oh! I wouldn't touch his face with that," she said sharply.

I looked up, stunned that she was talking to me. I had felt invisible up to this point, with hardly a glance in my direction from anyone since I walked in.

"Here... let me grab you a boogie wipe. It's all natural -- so much better for his newborn skin."

I felt her judgment burning holes in my skin, and my face heated up in shame as I held my hand out to accept the "all natural boogie wipe" from her. (Did I really just write "all natural boogie wipe" for all the internet to read?)

I felt like crawling behind my rocking chair with my baby and shielding both of us from this intensely uncomfortable moment as the other women looked on and said nothing. I at least felt like crying. I never wanted to be around this woman - or even this church that tolerated her kind - again. Looking back, of course, it was an overreaction. And it was a gross generalization to lump all women at our church into the same category as this one very passionate and obviously very insecure woman. But it was really the perfect storm as I endured the wild ride of postpartum hormones and I was just. So. Tired. A woman with a six week old baby needs much more grace than was given.

On our car ride home, I sunk into my seat and stared quietly out the window until Shawn asked me what was the matter. I spewed. I told him I never wanted to go back. That if I hadn't been a Christian, I probably would've never set foot in a church again. I was resolute. I knew not-ever-going-back-to-our-church was not a viable option (or a healthy way to deal with my embarrassed anger), so I did something else. Something equally detrimental. I let a shell grow cold and hard around my heart and decided that I wouldn't let anyone from this church get too close.

And you know what happened?

I missed out on so much. I let one experience with one woman characterize an entire group of people, and I missed out on knowing them. On letting them know me. I missed out on the beautiful opportunity to forgive and move on. I missed out on experiencing what a church really is - a group of very imperfect, sinful, hurtful people who are striving to love Jesus and each other but don't always do it well.

Unfortunately, I think my experience is all too common. For those who have spent any length of time growing roots in a church family, I am sure you could dig up pockets full of hurt that happened inside its walls. In our minds, we've conjured up a perfect church that is safe, holy, and comforting at all times. But the sin of imperfect people slices through that image and cuts shards in our hearts.

But whether or not the other person is in the wrong, we are held responsible when we refuse to forgive... to heal... to seek reconciliation and show mercy. We miss out on so much of how Jesus taught us to live together and love one another, as ugly and judgmental and hateful as we all can be.

When we moved to Raleigh in August, we joined a new church community. Because this church was the sole reason we moved (and Shawn's full-time employment), we were thrust into the community headlong. We arrived in Raleigh with two big suitcases, two friends (Shawn's brother and sister-in-law), and a church member's basement apartment to stay in until we bought a house.

I knew from the start that this church experience needed to be different. That I had to dive into the community here with nothing held back. So almost immediately, I joined a weekly Bible study to get to know a few of the women in my church (and it's been amazing). We joined a Sunday school class very early on (and it's been equally wonderful). We accepted many invitations to dinner and extended them ourselves, even with boxes still unpacked in our new home.

We've felt comfortable and open enough to let people know of our needs, and every single one has been met. A sweet lady in our Life Class has been watching Liam two mornings a week so I can continue to work from home. It has been absolutely life changing, allowing me to feel no guilt when I play with Liam and no guilt when I work. It has separated my time appropriately and built some boundaries that were desperately needed. We've had many people volunteer to babysit Liam for an occasional evening to allow Shawn and I to have some time together. We were given a car. I repeat. Given a car. And while these things have felt so undeserved and so humbling to accept, they are how the body of Christ is supposed to work.

At the same time, there's already been hurt. There's been miscommunication and confusion. There have been imperfect, sinful people who don't fulfill Jesus' commands to love each other perfectly, or on some days, even to love them at all. And we've been chief among them.

The two churches - our former church in Nashville and our current church in Raleigh - are just not all that different. But the way I've responded has been completely different. The change had to start with me, and had to start with my own understanding of the good news of Jesus Christ. The fact that even when I was His enemy, He loved me enough to die for me, just astounds me. And it's the only reason I can have any love for the person who hurts me. The only reason I can show any grace to the woman who snaps at me when I do something as petty as using the wrong baby wipe. But when I don't understand the love and grace that I've been shown by Jesus' sacrifice on my behalf, I don't give out love and grace to the people in my life. I simply can't.

So maybe there's someone reading this who needs to give their church another shot. To take a hammer to the hard shell that's calloused your heart to the people you see every week. Let me encourage you with this: it begins by understanding grace. And the only way to understand grace is to look long and hard at the grace that has been shown to you in Jesus. He lived the perfect life you couldn't live and died the gruesome death you should have died to buy your freedom. That, my friends, is such good news.

One Message.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

I have a talented family. I'm sure I've mentioned it here more than a few times. I'm proud of their gifts, but prouder that they use those gifts to bless the church and serve the Lord.

Shawn was recently asked to write a song for our church's upcoming missions festival, and this is the song he wrote. Shawn and my dad recorded the song in my parents' studio when we were in Nashville a couple weeks ago, so what you hear is all them. (Oh, and me... in the background singing.)

On Friday night, Shawn will share this song at our church - with our choir and orchestra! - with dozens of missionaries who have flown in to join us, or are joining us via Skype. It feels very full circle as Shawn is a missionary kid and is now encouraging other missionaries. We pray it touches many hearts, and I'm excited to share it with you, too.

For some reason, it's not playing in all browsers when you click the PLAY button. If you'll click on the song title, "One Message" it will take you to the SoundCloud website and you can hear it there. 

Let It Go.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

I haven't even seen Frozen yet (shame!) BUT I've loved listening to the music on repeat and I just couldn't help share this cover of "Let It Go." I couldn't love this any more. The African feel, the incredibly talented kids choir, the costuming, and Lexi Walker. Who is she? She's unbelievable.

Anyway, happy Tuesday! Enjoy.

DIY: Watercolor State Maps.

Monday, February 17, 2014

I've been seeing this idea around for a while, and I love it! I figured out how to make one myself, and wanted to share the instructions. These would make such simple, sweet moving gifts, don't you think? Or even a little framed print in a baby's room for the city where they were born? I'm using Photoshop for this tutorial, and while I'm sure there are other ways to make these, I'm not quite tech-y enough to know how. Maybe someday. I'll be making a state map of North Carolina, just to show you the ropes. 

1. Start out by opening a new document in Photoshop that measures 11" wide x 8.5" high (or if you're making a more vertical state like California, you'll want to make it 8.5" wide by 11" high).

2. Using the paint can tool, paint the background white.

3. For the watercolor background, I purchased this Photoshop brush set from CreativeMarket.com. It's $5 and includes 130 shapes. There are so many great things you can do with this! Download and install this brush set or another like it.

4. Create a new layer, then select a color you'd like for your background. Choose one of the rectangle brushes and enlarge it so it covers the entire white space. Then go ahead and click the white space to use your brush. You should have a watercolor background at this point.

5. Now, using Google, find a silhouette of your state (or country). I just typed in "North Carolina silhouette" and found a bunch of options. You'll want something that's large enough of an image that it won't be blurry by the time you enlarge it on your page.

6. Drag the silhouette image into your Photoshop document and enlarge so it fills most of the document.

7. With the state layer selected, go to "select -- color range" and click on the white part near the state. Click "ok" and the white part will be selected. Hit "delete." This will delete the border color so you're left only with your state on the watercolor background.

8. Now, still with the state layer selected, go down to "fx" and click "color overlay." It will naturally give you a red color, but you can click on the color and choose whatever color you'd like. I love white for this.

9. Finally, Google a heart silhouette and drag it over to your document. Drag it into the whatever part of your state you'd like and, like you did with your state, you'll want to delete the background. Select the heart layer, and go to "Select -- color range" and click on the outside of the heart (the white part). Click "ok" and then you can delete the selected area to reveal the heart.

10. Now, if you'll zoom into the heart so you can get a really clear look at it, then go to the "lasso" tool and select "magnetic lasso." This is important... before lassoing, make sure you've highlighted the state layer and not the heart layer. Then, use the magnetic lasso and click all the way around the edges of the heart. Then press "enter" and you should have the heart shape selected. Now "delete." You won't be able to tell anything has happened at first, but then click the heart layer and pull it down to the trash (or just delete it). What you'll find is that you've cut through the shape in the shape of a heart and you can see through to the background. Yay! You've finished!

My first calligraphy print.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

I'm feeling brave myself today, creating and posting my first calligraphy print for sale in the shop. It's an instant digital download, so once you purchase the file, you can print it from home. All you do is add the print to your cart, pay, then download and print on 8.5" x 11" matte photo paper and trim to fit an 8" x 10" frame. 

I already have mine framed in our house, in the hallway just before you get to Liam's room. It's a sentiment I hope he takes to heart because the Lord is on his side.

Calligraphy 101.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

via Instagram @whitneynewby
As soon as I wrote that title - Calligraphy 101 - I had to laugh out loud. Because this is actually the second day I've ever tried modern calligraphy, so I really have no business writing this post.

Calligraphy practice, day 1
Calligraphy practice, day 1

Calligraphy practice, day 2
Calligraphy practice, day 2
But considering I've been posting up a storm on Instagram about it, I thought I'd update the blog to let you know how I've gotten started. I asked for calligraphy supplies for my birthday, and as soon as we got home from our trip to Nashville, they were wrapped up and waiting for me on our kitchen table. So happy. 

Shawn bought me this modern calligraphy book, this Speedball nib set, this black ink, and this calligraphy paper. It's all I've needed to get started, though I know I haven't even scratched the surface of possibilities. I know there are different colored inks and papers and blogs and classes and tutors and YouTube videos, but for the time being, that all overwhelms me. Maybe I'll get there at some point. 

Molly Suber Thorpe writes in her book that calligraphy is more like painting than writing. I couldn't agree more, and I think the fact that I paint nearly every day has really helped. The way I hold a calligraphy pen is the same way I hold a small paint brush, and the need for adjusting pressure is familiar to me. 

As the book recommended, I started out practicing strokes and lines and letters and not words. However, I moved on pretty quickly to words because it was just too tempting not to. Thankfully, the book features several different styles of lettering to practice, and I won't run out quickly. 

I'm so excited about this new little hobby! Hopefully someday I'll be able to offer prints in the shop, if I'm feeling confident enough at some point. And, if you're interested, I'll keep updating through this learning process. It's actually a very relaxing art for me. Though it feels a little tedious at first - and I'm definitely still figuring out how to keep the pen from splattering ink all over the page - it's completely therapeutic.

Engaged: Emily & Josh.

Monday, February 10, 2014

We spent a long weekend in Nashville, and on Sunday afternoon, I had the privilege of photographing this sweet engaged couple. Engagement photos are my favorite to take. It's an honor to witness the excitement of fresh new love and a future ahead. Thank you, Josh & Emily! You two braved the cold so beautifully and I hope you love the photos. Can't wait for the wedding!

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