Plus one.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

My Liam,

Tonight our family of three roamed the halls of our local mall while Mommy timed her contractions. Your little sister's arrival is imminent, and somehow, I'm watching your two-year-old mind begin to grasp that. You've been more tender toward me than ever and it's making the idea of adding a fourth member to our family even harder. When you pull me to the couch and ask, "sit Mommy? Cozy Mommy?" then pull the blanket up to our chins, I can't imagine anyone else being my baby. Of course I'm thrilled to meet your sister soon and I know my heart will nearly explode when I see you two together. But the change is coming fast and it's harder to wrap my mind around than I imagined it would be.

At one point tonight, as I limped stiffly through a contraction, you turned around and saw my tear-streaked face. My view of you and Daddy would soon contain another person, and it was a hard pill to swallow. You reached for me, looked into my watery eyes, gave me your best double-dimpled smile and shouted, "Siwwy mommy!"

The thing is, you're absolutely right. It was probably silly for me to cry in the hospital, moments before your birth, and grieve the end of "just Shawn and Whitney." The moment I pulled you to my chest and breathed in your warm, wet skin, I couldn't imagine our family without you. It's silly for me to be sad now, knowing full well that adding another heartbeat to our family is going to make us all better, more complete.

Still, you'll always be my first baby. Don't ever forget.

I adore you, sweet boy,

20 books in 2015.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Are you thinking of New Years' Resolutions for 2015 yet? (Do you even do that?) One of my resolutions involves reading, as it usually does, and this year I decided to map out my book choices ahead of time.

For now, I only have 13 out of 20 books chosen... and that's where you come in. I would love to hear your book suggestions for any of these categories of something I need to read! I know other readers would appreciate the input, too. So if you have a book idea, please leave it in the comments.

Here's what I've chosen so far...

Spiritual Life:
Women of the Word by Jen Wilkin
Found in Him by Elyse Fitzpatrick
Galatians for You: For Reading, for Feeding, for Leading by Timothy Keller

What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty
The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford
Lila by Marilynne Robinson

Marriage & Parenting:
Loving the Little Years: Motherhood in the Trenches by Rachel Jankovic
The Ministry of Motherhood by Sally Clarkson
You and Me Forever: Marriage in Light of Eternity by Francis & Lisa Chan
The Meaning of Marriage by Timothy & Kathy Keller

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
Lies That Make You Pay & Truths That Set You Free by Rachel Norman

DIY: Crochet Baby Hats & Bows

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Crocheting is so relaxing for me, even when I (often) don't know what I'm doing and have to pull out lots of stitches. My Grandma - who taught me how to sew - taught me the basics of crochet when I was in middle school, but it's been years since I've done much of it and I needed a refresher. Enter YouTube! With the combination of some pregnancy insomnia + intense nesting over the past few weeks, I pulled out a bag of yarn I already had and whipped up a few little hats and bows for our winter baby who's on her way. In case you're interested in making some similar hats or even learning to crochet, I hope these links are helpful. The photos are mine, but the links underneath take you to the tutorials I used to make them.

Shell Stitch Baby Hat Tutorial: Size 0-3 months (5 mm crochet hook) + Tiny Crochet Bow added on (5 mm crochet hook)

(Same) Shell Stitch Baby Hat Tutorial: Size 0-3 months (5 mm crochet hook) + Felt Bow Pattern, printed at 80% (I changed the bottom part of the bow slightly and don't have a pattern for the change, but hopefully you can see how I cut it a little differently?). I had some crochet mess-ups on this one, hence the bow placed in a strategic spot. 
 20 Minute Baby Hat (Size 3-6 months: 7 mm crochet hook) + Baby Bear Ears (starts around 7:30 in the video)

The baby bows in the top photo came from this Tiny Crochet Bow tutorial and I plan to attach them to headbands or hats in the future. They take well under 10 minutes each, even for a beginner!

Are you brand new to crochet? I found tons more crochet tutorials for basically every stitch, in case you're not able to find someone who knows how to crochet who can show you the basics.

2 more books (and a magazine).

Monday, December 15, 2014

This past month, I added two more books to my 2014 reading. (To see what else I read in 2014, visit this post.) Both books, not coincidentally, dealt with parenting and both came highly recommended by trusted friends. With a two-year-old who is not at all "terrible" but who tests most boundaries placed in front of him, I was looking for theologically rich parenting advice.
So here's my candid review of each:
1. Give Them Grace: Dazzling Your Kids with the Love of Jesus by Elyse Fitzpatrick & Jessica Thompson ☆☆
If you've read any of my book reviews in the past, you know that I love anything Elyse Fitzpatrick writes. I started out really loving this one and marking page after page of insight. By the end, though, I guess I didn't really feel "dazzled" by the love of Jesus as the subtitle purports. I know that the point of this book is not to give a set of rules or how-to's for every given disciplinary situation, but I found that by the end, I was exhausted by the authors' method of bringing Jesus into every disciplinary discussion with your kids. Reading through the different behavioral situations and the script (to be used very loosely), the lengthy gospel explanations felt as though they might really turn my kids off to drawing near to Jesus. While I absolutely believe that there is nothing "good" in me or my kids apart from Jesus, repeating that over and over to them every time they sin felt overwhelming to me. I feel sure that this is not the author's intention - but it's how I felt by the end of the book; a little beaten down, to be honest. Perhaps when my kids are a little older, I'll pick it back up.

On a positive note, the reminder that salvation is of the Lord and does not come to my kids because I'm a great (or terrible) mother was incredibly refreshing. Despite my very best attempts, their lives and hearts are in His hands. What freeing news!

2.Treasuring Christ When Your Hands Are Full: Gospel Meditations for Busy Moms by Gloria Furman  
I picked this one up just after finishing Give Them Grace and was so refreshed. There are no parenting how-to's in this one. No scripts to follow. Really no advice. Just a thorough soaking in the good news of Jesus Christ and the beautiful calling of motherhood.

"Choosing to nurture and sustain life through the giving of your body, your livelihood, and your future flies in the face of our worldly society. Whenever mothers choose to give of themselves, it is evidence of God's preserving grace in our fallen world." (p. 44)

This quote, in particular, stuck out to me because I've experienced so much in the past couple years that the world does not value mothers. Our culture can't make sense of why a woman would give up so much in order to nurture her children. But Jesus does, and this book was such a sweet reminder of how he cares for me as a mom. Highly recommend.

Lastly, I received my copy of Deeply Rooted Magazine in the mail a couple days ago and cannot wait to dive in! I feel so honored to be a contributing writer in this issue. This would make such a great Christmas gift, or even ordering digital copies of all 4 issues would be a sweet gift to yourself!

Final sale!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

First things first, thank you for supporting me and my little Brighter Day shop so well this past year! It has allowed me the enormous privilege of working from home while spending my days with my little guy, and I don't take that lightly.

That said, I wanted to offer one final sale before I close the shop for the year.

From now until Sunday night at 11:59pm EST, take 30% off using the code MERRYCHRISTMAS30.

All items are currently ready to ship and will ship out no later than this coming Tuesday, to arrive in time for Christmas (domestic orders only). There are wallets, baby headbands, canvas art prints, and earrings that are ready to go. Or purchase a discounted sewing pattern or instant download art print and make your own gifts!

PS - Because of our baby's imminent arrival, I can't guarantee if or when I'll be re-opening the shop. While working with a two-year-old has had its own challenges, I can only imagine what life will be like with a two-year-old and a newborn, so I'm not making any commitments at this point. So if you're looking to purchase from Brighter Day, now's the time!

Coconut oil as face wash + oil pulling.

Monday, December 8, 2014

As you well know, there are hundreds of uses for coconut oil. This isn't a post about 99% of them, but I wanted to tell you about two new uses for that weren't on my radar until recently. I've used coconut oil to cook for several years, but hadn't really ventured out much beyond that. I buy a big tub of extra virgin coconut oil from Costco (the same kind can be purchased here) and it typically lasts a few months.

Here are the new-to-me uses:
1. Coconut oil as face wash.
I ran out of my trusty Clean & Clear the other night right before bed, and I remembered hearing that some people wash their faces with coconut oil. My skin is naturally more oily so this never really appealed to me, but I didn't have any other good options to get my makeup off. So I gave it a go.

Here's what I did:
1. Wet your face.
2. Warm about a tablespoon of coconut oil in your hands and rub it onto your face. I focused on my eyes, hoping to get all of my mascara and eye makeup off.
3. With a very warm washrag, hold it on your face for 10 to 15 seconds. This felt so good!
4. Use the warm water and washrag to gently wipe off the coconut oil (eyes included). This will take off your makeup and your skin will feel softer than ever.

I was so skeptical at first - would it really take all of my makeup off? Would my face feel super greasy? - but I loved the results and haven't gone back. Amazingly, my skin doesn't feel greasy and it removed my mascara more gently and completely than any eye makeup remover I've tried. I even add a little bit of oil as a moisturizer at night and my skin feels amazingly smooth. Win!

2. Coconut oil for "oil pulling." 
Have you heard of oil pulling? Basically, you put a tablespoon of coconut oil in your mouth, let it melt, and swish it around for 10 to 20 minutes. (I'll be honest... the solid clump of coconut oil in my mouth took some getting used to.) Then you spit it into the garbage (don't swallow it!) and out with the oil comes toxins, bacteria, viruses, and plaque. Rinse your mouth with water and you're done. Some say it's best to do in the morning before anything else has entered your mouth, so I have been keeping a jar of coconut oil in the shower and swish while showering.

So why exactly would anyone do this? People cite lots of reasons, but mainly for oral health and detoxifying the body. In the couple of weeks that I've done this every other day, I've definitely noticed whiter, shinier teeth - and I haven't gotten sick. Who knows if the wellness part is even related, but in the thick of flu season, I'm willing to try. Here's more info on it, if you're interested.

Any favorite uses for coconut oil that I should try? I'd love to hear!

Remembering His goodness.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Maybe you remember the story. Two-and-a-half years ago, while pregnant with Liam, our 20-week ultrasound didn't go as smoothly as we'd hoped. After checking off each system as "normal," the ultrasound technician landed on Liam's legs and saw what she thought was two clubbed feet. One foot was hard to see, but she was nearly certain that his left foot was clubbed. We were scheduled for a more in-depth ultrasound two weeks later to follow up with her findings and to meet with a genetic counselor. Beyond being a fixable problem with his feet, the clubbing could have been related to a variety of other genetic conditions, and we wouldn't know for sure if everything was alright until after he was born. 

As Shawn headed back to work after our difficult ultrasound, I'll never forget sitting slumped in silence on our couch, allowing my mind to slide into dark places of "what if?". I felt so suddenly disconnected from our squirming baby, swallowed up in fear that I wouldn't be able to love him well if he had a disability. I blamed myself, just knowing I had probably done something to cause the defect. 

Our gender reveal party with a host of family and friends was later that evening, and I put on a smiling face to try to celebrate. No one really knew there was a problem beside our parents, but even as the ultrasound video played in the background, I couldn't stand to look at it. Past all of our loved ones and a cake with bright blue icing in the center, all I could see that night was our baby's turned left foot. 

But when a friend's daughter brought an unexpected gift, my heart changed. I unwrapped a tiny left foot-shaped cookie cutter with the words, "A gift from heaven above!" on a note that came with it. In that moment, the fear and self-pity that had swallowed me whole melted away. In that moment, I felt so lavishly loved and known by Jesus. Two-and-a-half years later, I still do.

Liam's feet were the first part of him I saw when his warm body was quietly delivered into my arms. They were soft and beautiful and not turned in even a bit, so our follow-up appointment with a pediatric orthopedic surgeon was immediately canceled and we reveled in our perfectly healthy boy. God had chosen to work a miracle.

Knowing the power of a mother's love like I do now, I know it wouldn't have mattered. Liam could have arrived with no feet at all and I would've loved him deeply. Had that been the case, we would've experienced God's faithfulness to us as He walked us through that trial, too. But for Liam to have flawless feet felt like an extra gift; an unexpected miracle that we opened on the day of his birth. 
Today, we did something I had dreamt of: we pulled out that foot-shaped cookie cutter that has now made three moves with us. I mixed and rolled out smooth gingerbread dough and let Liam cut lots of shapes out of it, including the shape of a left foot. As the cookies baked, I brought him over to the oven to watch them swell and brown and I told him his story. How Mommy was so scared that his feet might not be able to walk or play soccer. How she and Daddy prayed for a miracle and tried to trust God. How God showed up through a little girl's gift of a cookie cutter in the shape of a left foot, and we knew that He was with us and cared for us so much. How, when he came out of Mommy's tummy, the first thing I saw were those beautiful, perfectly formed feet of his. At this point in the story, he yelled, "Yeah Biam! Biam's feet!" as if he somehow understood a little piece of what I was trying to say. Tears welled up in my eyes as they do every time I tell this story, and he hugged me and said, "Wub you, Mommy." More tears.

So if you come by my house this week, you'll see a dozen gingerbread cookies in the shape of a foot. More than that, they're rocks of remembrance of His goodness to us. Sweet reminders of his faithfulness that I hope we never forget. 

Deeply Rooted.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Have you guys heard about Deeply Rooted Magazine? The best way I can describe it is that its aesthetic is like an Anthropologie catalogue - gorgeous photography and design - and its content is theologically rich. What a rare, needed combo. Besides articles on Christian womanhood, there are also recipes, artist interviews, and DIY projects. And though it's technically a magazine, it feels much more like a book. Not something you'd toss out easily, and there's so much great content that it takes a while to get through.

For this upcoming issue, I feel so honored to be one of the contributing writers. (!!!!) The Winter issue is available for pre-order now and will be shipped December 8. I'm already stocking up for Christmas presents and can't wait to hold one in my hands!
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