Drawing the line.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

"You will never have this day with your children again. Tomorrow they will be a little older than they were today. This day is a gift. Just breathe, notice and study their little faces and little feet. Pay attention. Relish the charms of the present. Enjoy today, it will be over before you know it." 
It was this quote, alongside conviction from the Holy Spirit, that whispered to my heart that it was time: time to make a major step back from technology with Liam. 

From the beginning of his life, I've had such mixed feelings about the technology issue. How can you not? If you ever scroll through Facebook or read blogs, you'll be bombarded with advice on the topic. It's usually an extreme, "all or nothing" (or rather, just "nothing") kind of approach. "Don't let your kids near a screen; don't even let them see you pulling out your phone." Not very realistic in 2014, if you ask me.

But apart from FaceTime with grandparents and friends, Liam never really did interact with a screen for the majority of his first year. After that, we slowly introduced him to educational toddler games on the iPhone and iPad and a few shows (Curious George and Daniel Tiger are favorites). Sometimes, it's been for sanity alone. While I was sick in early pregnancy and Shawn was at work, I had few options other than a) have him destroy the house and possibly get hurt or b) watch a show while I waited for Zofran to kick in and make me a functional human being again. The choice was easy. Certainly for our trip to Germany over the summer, Liam had nearly unlimited access to in-flight movies and games just to make it through the flights. We're careful about what he has access to, limit his time, and he's actually learned quite a bit. He's not even two and knows all of his letters and is beginning to read short words. I know that, in part, it's because of some of the educational apps he has access to.
But despite all that, at some point in the last couple weeks, it started to feel consuming. It felt like his desire for a screen was swallowing his desire for other activities more often than not. As soon as I'd strap him into his car seat, he'd ask, "Game?" and be frantic if I didn't hand him my phone.

So yesterday, I decided it was time to go cold turkey for a while. No TV, no iPhone or iPad access, no computer. I had a feeling he'd go through withdrawal and would ask every few hours if he could watch a show or play a game. 

But to my surprise, he didn't. At all. He grabbed the remote off the table once, asked for a show, and as soon as I offered him another option he put the remote down and moved on. 

Tonight, I spilled some pizza on the oven door and the smoke alarm started to go off. He spotted my phone and asked, "Game?" and I said, "Yes!" out of sheer desperation in that moment. But as soon as he held the phone, he looked at it for a second, put it back down on the counter, and went downstairs to play with his toys. My heart did flips. 

I don't know what it'll look like from here on out (or if every day will be so seamless), but I guess I just want to encourage other mamas who may be trying to decide where to draw the line... just draw the line. Make the decision you feel in your gut is what your family needs. Your kids will go with it - they may even surprise you. They're much more resilient than we ever give them credit.

Her name, His name.

Monday, September 29, 2014

On Saturday afternoon, just a few hours after we took these pictures, I got a preview of the Labor & Delivery ward. And not for good reasons.

I had just gotten Liam up from his nap and carried him, perched on my belly, down a flight of five hardwood steps to the main level of our house. I was a) wearing socks, b) wearing a long skirt, c) had no arms free, and I'm sure you can imagine how things went from there. I slipped, unable to catch myself on the railing, and landed on my tailbone on one step with another step jutting into my rib cage and another hitting the back of my head. I hit my head so hard that doctors think I blacked out for a few seconds. When I came to, Liam was on the floor crying and I was sprawled on the stairs, stunned and in pain. "Am I paralyzed?" was my first fleeting thought, and then, "The baby!" I didn't feel her moving in that moment and panic set in.

I made a frantic phone call to Shawn - the kind of call no one wants to receive - and he raced over from a coffee shop where he'd been studying and drove us to the ER.

I'll spare the medical details for everyone's sake, but I ended up with a 5-hour hospital admission to monitor the baby and some strong contractions that were probably a result of the trauma of the fall. Thankfully, everything was still intact and the baby's heart and movements were strong. Thank you, Jesus. I can deal with the repercussions - some bruising on my back and a chipped tailbone. (Have you ever chipped your tailbone? Don't try it. Might be one of the most excruciating ailments I've ever experienced.) Liam is absolutely fine, which I knew almost instantly when he saw me crawling to my phone and asked, "Game?"

I contemplated even sharing this experience because all of us are ok, but I remembered it's part of her story, too. She's been through a lot this pregnancy, this tiny baby girl of mine. A minor car accident early on, some early contractions that were too strong (another story for another day), and now this. Things that couldn't be prevented or foreseen or stopped. Events that have brought me to my knees, pleading for her protection. And every time, I've gotten to hear that beautiful, steady rhythm of her heart. I've gotten to feel her squirms. I know that God has been abundantly good to her and to us, even amidst quite a bit of scariness. I know that He would still be good, even if things hadn't turned out so benign.

I've thought so much about her name (or lack of name, currently), it's starting to feel silly. But today, I thought about His name.

In Exodus 3, Moses asks God what his name is.

He responds, "I AM WHO I AM."

To me, that doesn't make a whole lot of sense at first glance. But, gathering more context, it's clear from how God responds that Moses isn't merely asking, "What should I call you?" He's asking, "Who are you and what are you like? What have you done?"

God replies (in summary) that He is eternal, and therefore has no beginning or end. He is the God of their ancestors, and He has seen their affliction and will redeem.

To this brave baby girl I'm carrying, Psalm 9:10 has become my prayer for her:
"Those who know your name trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you." I pray the truth about Him becomes the cornerstone of her life: that He is eternal. That He is the faithful God of her ancestors. And that He sees affliction, even of the tiniest of creatures, and He redeems. Only He redeems.

24 weeks with her.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Sweet second child,
You've already been growing for 24 weeks and you're just now getting your first pregnancy blog post. It doesn't mean we love you any less. Promise.

Craving: Almond milk. Hummus. Sushi. Sour patch kids. Coconut milk ice cream.

Amazed by: Her incredible amount of movement: it's like she never sleeps. It's so reassuring to feel her constantly squirming around. Even Liam has gotten to feel her!
- The fact that I passed my first glucose test (by the skin of my teeth - but a pass, nonetheless).

Feeling: Indigestion and achy hips by 8pm. 14 extra pounds will do that, I guess.
- Thankful that I'm still able to lift Liam and he can sit pretty comfortably on top of my belly.

Anxious: To not yet know her name. I think I've visited Nameberry.com over a hundred times and we still haven't landed on one. Sometimes I stare at her ultrasound photo and hope her name just jumps out at me. Some current favorites of mine that we probably won't use, but I still love: Anniston, Harbor, Hadley, Daisy, Beatrix.

Loving: Being pregnant. Maybe I'm in the minority of women who just love being pregnant, but I do. Aches and pains and everything. It's a humbling privilege and a joy to carry this life, and I know I'll miss the feelings of her kicks as soon as she breathes her first breath.

Knowing: That the moment we first lay eyes on her will take our breath away.

24 weeks with Liam here.

PS - Maternity dress from my favorite online shopping spot, ThredUp.

DIY Scallop bunting + New products in the shop

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

When I woke up this morning, I saw "16 weeks of pregnancy to go!" blinking on my phone and it hit me. This baby is coming fast. When I picked up Liam out of his crib a few minutes later, I teared up, because 16 weeks left with just him doesn't feel like enough. (Hello, hormones.) And then I got to work making Baby Girl something sweet for her room, because I've done nothing of the sort and because it makes me feel a little more prepared for her. More connected.

My first mini-project for her is this easy, double-sided scallop bunting. I've always loved the semi-vintage look of these, but have been intimidated by how much precise circle-cutting is involved, which would seem to take lots of time. With the right tools, though, you can easily make this in under an hour.

Scrap quilting fabric
1 package extra-wide (1/2") bias tape

Sewing machine
Sewing pins
Iron and ironing board
Quilting circle cutter*
Rotary cutter, ruler, and self-healing mat*

*These are optional tools, but make the process much quicker.
1. If you're looking to purchase a rotary circle cutter, I use and recommend this one: OLFA Rotary Circle Cutter.
2. Use the circle cutter to cut 5" circles. I cut 3 circles out of 4 different fabrics for a total of 12 circles. If you don't have access to a circle cutter, you can easily trace the bottom of a can or jar and cut along your traced lines.
3. Cut each circle in half, using a rotary cutter, mat, and ruler.
4. Placing right sides together, sew around the curved edges of each half-circle using a 1/4" seam allowance, leaving the top open.
5. Turn pennants right side out, pressing well with a hot iron. Also, use iron to press the bias tape so there are no creases where it's been folded in the package. (Leave the bias tape fold creased... do not press open.)
6. Open the bias tape and place the straight edge of each of the pennants inside the fold, then close and pin. I chose to leave a finger-space between each pennant. Also, make sure you leave a small tail (8" to 12") on either side so that you have some extra bias tape to use for hanging. Begin sewing at the beginning of the bias tape, sewing close to the open edge, sew for 8" to 12", then sew each pennant inside the folds. After you're finished sewing, trim the excess bias tape and you're done! My final bunting measures approximately 7 feet, which includes 10" of bias tape on each end for hanging.

Last but not least, some new products in the Brighter Day shop! I had a few of my favorite calligraphy prints turned into canvases so they're ready to hang right on the wall. I love how they turned out. They're excellent quality and come with hanging hardware already attached. Only a few are available, so visit the shop to see them all. They're all ready to ship and would make the sweetest gifts!

2014 reading (so far).

Monday, September 22, 2014

At the start of 2014, I had a lofty reading goal in mind: 24 books. I haven't reached it and probably won't because life happens. But I wanted to chronicle and celebrate the books I have been able to read so far this year, because each one has somehow offered something valuable to my mind and my heart. I've written about some of these at other times on the blog, but have shared a snippet of those reviews here to keep them all in one place. I've also given each one a starred review to keep track of my favorites. Maybe it's a good list to save for Christmas this year? Click on the book titles to take you to Amazon where you can purchase them, if you're interested.

1. Chasing God by Angie Smith 
If you're looking for casual, sit-over-a-latte-and-chat style writing that deals with theological topics, you may really love this. There were moments I laughed out loud and others that caused deep conviction. However, the abundance of jokes peppered throughout and blog-style writing wasn't really my cup of tea.
2. The Help by Kathryn Stockett  
Perhaps you've seen the movie, so the book moved off your radar. I was completely enthralled by this book, and it feels like an instant classic to me. It's a bit of a commitment (450 pages), but reads quickly. When I read the final pages through tears at 1am, I didn't want it to end. What Kathryn Stockett attempted in this book was gutsy: writing in the voices of one white woman and two black women. As one who lived with "colored help" and grew up in Jackson, Mississippi where the story is set, she handles the subject with honesty and grace. This was her first novel, and it was a masterpiece.
3. The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd 
Kidd's writing is as delicious as the sweet honey she describes. The story is complex, her characters well-developed, and I'd read it again and again. I felt like I was there, sitting under the sweltering South Carolina sun, watching August and Lily check on the beehives and wrestle with big life questions. The undertow of "female power" feels preachy at times, which is the only reason I don't give it five stars.
4. Carry On, Warrior by Glennon Melton 
I read this in 3 days, which is testament to her beautiful writing, but her murky theology made me sure to not read it again. She claims Christianity, but it feels much more like some thoughts of Jesus mixed with Oprah-like, self-help, zen religion that is very far from what I believe Christianity to be. I read it because of an abundance of other bloggers who loved it, but I wouldn't recommend it.
5. Love Story by Nichole Nordeman 
Considering Nichole Nordeman's music was basically the soundtrack to my middle school years, I had a feeling I'd love this. I did. Nichole's writing is witty, poignant, honest, and bold... many qualities I hope my own writing possesses. She had an incredibly daunting task before her: writing each chapter about a familiar Biblical character (Mary, Paul, Daniel, David) that is fresh and somehow relates that person to our modern lives. She handled her task beautifully. Any book that refreshes my take on Scripture is a worthy read, in my opinion. I didn't love the song lyrics posted after each chapter - they felt a little like filler - but that's a small complaint.
6. Comforts from the Cross by Elyse Fitzpatrick
This is a thirty day study that celebrates how the cross changes our lives. It affected me deeply. Elyse's books are excellently written and theologically profound, yet personal enough that the words move from your head to your heart. I plan to read this one every year.
7. The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls 
I gobbled this one up. It's a phenomenal true story that had me spellbound from the first chapter. If you haven't heard of it, it's the story of a girl who grew up "with parents whose ideals and stubborn nonconformity were both their curse and their salvation" (Amazon review). She grew up as a nomad in her family of 6, then settled in a poor mining town in West Virginia, where she and her brother and sisters basically raised themselves. To see where they are today and how they persevered is inspiring. I recommend it to anyone. It's hard to read in parts, acknowledging the truth of what they endured, but it's also incredibly redeeming.
8. Wonder by R. J. Palacio 
This book captured me from page 1. It's children's lit, recommended for elementary age kids, but I've read it twice now and can't wait to read it with Liam someday. It's impossible not to fall in love with Augy, the main character who was born with a disfigured face and a vulnerable heart. It speaks a much needed message about kindness that I'll read again and again.
9. A Million Little Ways by Emily P. Freeman 
I wanted to love this book, but to be gut-level, I just didn't. It felt fluffy to me, and I slogged through it. Perhaps "uncovering the art I was made to live" isn't really my struggle right now. Making a living with my art? Finding time for it? Those might be more pertinent. I think Emily is a wonderful writer and reminded me of Ann Voskamp in ways, but it was difficult for me to finish.
10. A Praying Life by Paul E. Miller 
This book revolutionized my prayer life. Prayer has never come naturally to me - does it to anyone? - and, honestly, an entire book on prayer isn't the first thing I'd choose off the shelf. Spending time alone in prayer often feels forced, plastic, or like I'm just talking to myself. Instead of feeling my true need for fresh, daily communion with God, it feels more like a dry task on my to-do list. Maybe this speaks to you, too. Maybe this book would be as soul-refreshing for you as it has been for me. Yes, it's a book devoted to prayer. But because prayer is simply our communication with God, it's truly about the heart of God toward his children. And there's nothing more encouraging than to grasp how much he loves us.
11. When Helping Hurts by Steve Corbett & Brian Fikkert 
I read this one alongside our Sunday school class and loved it. The tagline is "How to Alleviate Poverty without Hurting the Poor... and Yourself" and the chapter on short-term missions was especially challenging. I definitely recommend it if you're wrestling with issues on how the Bible says we should truly help our neighbors (as individuals and as church bodies) in sustainable ways.
12. When Others Shuddered by Jamie Janosz 
This is written by a professor from the Bible college I graduated from, and I love the thought behind it: snapshots of eight women who lived around the turn of the century who "refused to give up" and shaped the evangelical landscape of their time. While I did enjoy reading it, the historical fiction-style writing wasn't my favorite. I did appreciate learning about brave, believing women I had mostly never heard of.
13. Me Before You by Jojo Moyes 
You've heard of this one, right? I feel like it's all I've been hearing about from friends who read popular fiction. No one spoiled anything for me, so I won't spoil anything for you, but this book brought out just about every emotion I have. Joy, anger, deep sadness. When I discovered what the controversial topic was a few chapters in, I didn't know if I could finish it. I ended up finishing it - and I'm glad I did - but can't say I'd recommend it.
14. Eight Twenty Eight by Ian & Larissa Murphy 
I read this one in about 3 days. I couldn't put it down. Out of all the books I've read so far this year, it's near the top as far as challenging me in my faith and relationships. (If you haven't heard their story, watch the video found here.) The naysayers to their relationship run rampant online and they're easy to find. But two of the many things I think they're missing (that could be easily seen if they read the book) is that a) she wasn't guilted into marrying him, and b) this life - this unmistakably difficult life she has chosen by marrying Ian - is a calling from God and can only be endured with God. Her love for Ian points to Christ's love for us, and also really challenged me to love my own husband sacrificially.
15. A Severe Mercy by Sheldon Vanauken 
This book holds its place as one of my top 5 favorite books. It's a true story of a couple who meets C.S. Lewis at Oxford and develops a friendship with him. The book contains a series of letters between the author and C.S. Lewis that ultimately lead the author and his wife to faith in Christ. It is an exquisitely written, tragic story that will undoubtedly bring you to tears, but will also encourage your faith. I can't recommend it enough.

But take heart!

Monday, September 15, 2014

via Instagram @whitneynewby
"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." - John 16:33
From a Charles Spurgeon sermon... "I note how He bids me 'be of good cheer.' [In some translations, the imperative to "take heart" is translated "be of good cheer."] Alas! I am far too apt to be downcast. My spirit soon sinks when I am sorely tired. But I must not give way to this feeling . .  . What is the argument which He uses to encourage me? Why, it is His own victory. He says, 'I have overcome the world.' . . . See, my soul, the enemy has been once overcome. I fight with a beaten foe. O world, Jesus has already vanquished thee; and in me, by His grace, He will overcome thee again. Therefore am I of good cheer and sing unto my conquering Lord."
This is a lesson I'm learning daily, a reminder I need daily. Take heart! Be of good cheer! As a Christian, the battle against the world (or, more specifically, against the Enemy and against the deepest, darkest desires of my own sinful flesh) has already been won for me. So I have to "take heart" and rest in the finished work of Christ on the cross. I can only conquer my circumstances and my sin because He's already won the war. I rest in His righteousness alone. Or, as our pastor said yesterday in his sermon, I take my heaping platter of sin and He exchanges it for His heaping platter of righteousness. What a gift.

On another note, it was truly therapeutic to sit down and embroider this by hand. It's far from perfect as this was my first foray into hand embroidery, but I had so much fun working on it and meditating on the words as I stitched. If you're interested in teaching yourself a bit about embroidery like I did, this website full of basic tutorials was so helpful.

For Little Rascals fans.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Were you guys fans of the 1994 Little Rascals movie like I was?! My sister Kelsey and I were obsessed. And I don't say that flippantly. We probably have about 90% of the movie memorized.

Add to that the fact that we got to meet Blake Ewing, who played "Waldo Aloysius Johnston the Third" (and was a frequent guest star on Full House). The movie had just recently been released when we met him, and later, he (or probably his mom) sent us each an autographed Little Rascals poster that I'm pretty sure hung in our closets until high school.

So when Kelsey sent me this, with updated photos of all the main cast members, I was elated. Embarrassingly so.
Click on the picture for a link to more photos of the reunion. It looked pretty sweet to me.

A letter.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

A few months ago, I penned a letter to a friend. It had been years since we'd been in touch, but when I heard of a recent struggle of hers, I couldn't rest until I'd written her. It was one of the rare moments where I felt the Lord whispering words of truth and asking me to write them down for her to read. I felt more like a Penman, and less a Giver of Advice. I sat down, wrote the words through prayer, and hardly went back to edit. They just came. And reading them now, I realize they were just as much reminders for me as they ever were for my friend.

It may seem strange to share this (and I've edited a bit to maintain privacy), but for some reason, it feels appropriate. Like there might be someone who stumbles on this post someday and needs to hear these words now. They are words I've revisited myself, because leaning on my own accomplishments and resources instead of resting in the finished work of Christ is something I struggle with daily. My prayer is that these words bring hope.

Sweet friend,

I know just a little bit about your recent reality, and you've been heavy on my heart. I've been praying bold and fervent prayers for you, and I wanted to share them with you with hope that you might be encouraged in this battle. 

I know it's been a while since I've gotten to see you, but I think we have a lot in common. And I could picture that the world would look at you right now and say, "But you're {insert name}! You are beautiful, popular, incredibly talented, compassionate, and such a hard worker. You have such a bright and promising future ahead of you. You have no reason to have these feelings." And actually, they'd be right. You are beautiful in so many ways and you've accomplished so much. From what I can see, even from afar, you're an exceptional sister, daughter, and friend.

But here's the thing. In these darkest moments of your life, I don't think that's what Jesus would say. 

"Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest." 

"My grace is sufficient for you, and my power is made perfect in your weakness." 

There's a huge chasm between the advice the world gives and what God offers. The world says, "Pull yourself out of this! I believe in you. You can do this!" 

God says just the opposite: "I know how you are formed. I remember that you are dust." With the Lord, it's perfectly ok to not be perfect. He says, "I know you are little and you are needy. Come to Me to take care of you, to fight this battle for you. You are weak, but I am strong." Let Him remind you of your identity in Christ: that you are altogether more sinful and flawed than you ever dared believe, yet at the same time more loved and accepted in Christ than you ever dared hope. 

He doesn't expect you to be strong, sister. He expects just the opposite: that you realize your weakness and lean hard into His perfect strength. There's abundant freedom in what He offers! Freedom to not have to walk through these valleys alone. Freedom to not rest in your pursuit of perfection or your accomplishments. Freedom to rest in His finished work on the cross that changes everything. 

So that is my prayer for you. That you would rest in the strong, capable arms of the Savior who loves you and is transforming you into His image. That in your brokenness, He would shine. That as you heal and find victory in this dark place, your testimony would be of the unfathomable grace He has shown you and how He met you in a place where no one else could reach.

You may have seen this little book before (The Jesus Storybook Bible). It's actually a child's Bible that I read to Liam every night. But as he's babbling on and usually trying to rip the pages, the words I read are transforming my own heart, bringing me back to the simple truths of the gospel. I hope it will be an encouragement to you. 

So, dear friend, rest in Christ and His eternal comfort. Remember that you are both weak and worth everything to Him. Let Him feed your soul from the rich nourishment of His Word. Let Him clothe you in robes of His righteousness and not your own. I do believe in you. But I believe so much more in a God who pulls us out of pits, who rescues us out of deepest waters, when we couldn't have saved ourselves. And I so look forward to the day that you can testify to just that! Until then, I will continue to pray.

With much love and great hope,

Many hats.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

In the past week or two, I've worn more hats than usual:
wedding photographer
real estate photographer
registered nurse (I finally transferred my temporary license so I can practice in North Carolina!)

I don't say this to brag. Because if you're a mom, this is nothing new or impressive to you. We all wear many hats, whether we're staying home with the kids full-time, working from home, or working outside the home.

Last week, I had to bring Liam along to a real estate photography shoot. The realtor needed photos last minute, saying, "We have to have this on the market by tomorrow," and I had no childcare options at the time. I figured Liam could play a game on my phone while I photographed my way around the house. Ha! Wishful thinking.

As soon as we walked in the house, the homeowner asked if Liam was ok with dogs. "He loves dogs!" I said, just as a little white dog charged at Liam, jumped up and licked his face, traumatizing him forever. Or at least that's how he sounded. For the next 30 photos, I balanced a whimpering child in one arm while trying not to drop my heavy camera with the other. When he finally regained composure, I sent him into a spare bedroom to play with a toy truck. I finished my work quickly, went to find him, and found that he'd made his way into the office and dumped a thousand tiny paper circles from a three-hole punch all over the carpet.

I know he wasn't trying to be difficult, and it wasn't fair to bring him and expect so much. But wow. When I see these real estate photos online, all I can picture is the sweaty, crying child in my other arm. We made it through, only by the grace of God. And I'm sure someday I'll think about it and miss these days of crazy.

I got to thinking, there must be a hard working mom behind just about everything. Maybe she's spending 9 to 5 in the office, missing her kids in daycare and rushing home to cook dinner each night - or maybe she's working from home during naps. Perhaps she's got 2 or 5 or 8 little ones running around and she's raising the next senator or pastor or social justice activist. Keep going, moms. Keep up the insanely hard but incredibly rewarding work. We're in this thing together.

Two announcements.

Monday, September 1, 2014

1. Brighter Day is back! 
After a month-long hiatus, I'm so thrilled to have my new space in our new home set up and ready to sew. For blog-reading customers, take 20% off of your order today only, using the coupon code LABORDAY.

2. The Bow Clutch Sewing Tutorial is back!
You can find it here. I had to take it off the blog for several months because it was published in a magazine, but it's officially live again and won't be taken down at any point in the foreseeable future. Happy sewing!
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