The dark and gloomy weather outside has been made infinitely better by Christmas lights, flickering candles, layers of cozy fabric, and pops of cheery red. But it’s also proved a challenge for snapping quality photos, so my iPhone captures will have to do.
I snuck in a bit more red to welcome my husband Home. He’s spent several months doing some contract work away from home in the UAE and has been dearly missed.
That candle is from Rosy Rings, and I believe it’s in its second Christmas with us. It smells like cranberry and is looking like we’ll get to enjoy it for a third. After the addition of a couple more chairs, the gifts needed to find a new home. We give gifts to our niece, nephews, a couple of other young relatives, parents, and siblings, so there is always plenty under the tree.
A little snow village and some paper whites add a bit more cheer.
This year, Momma and Daddy sold our childhood home on Branham Mill Road, so several treasures came home with me, including this wagon from our childhood. I have fond memories of packing up to head to the pool, park, or garden in this trusty radio flyer. For now, it’s the perfect way to keep packages away from a certain misbehaved beagle (I’m looking at you, Harley).I dug out the tartan pillow cases for another year of use. Fair lights were the secret to this year’s mantle. With the addition of our built-in bookshelf, last year’s outlet was hiding. 🙂 I have slowly become a more-is-more girl when it comes to garland. I layered my faux eucalyptus with fresh cedar, juniper sprigs, the fairy lights, a string of galvanized bells, and finally, our simple little nativity. This year, I flocked our tree, painted some ornaments with a bit of french blue, and used these little platforms to house a precious church and a couple of Christmas houses. The theme for the tree this year was definitely “more is more” with gold, silver, mercury glass, sparkling snowflakes, and little bits of champagne- and blush-colored ornaments. Fresh cedar on the chandelier, wreaths in the window, little candy-can-striped bows around the rosemary and lights made it feel like Christmas in the kitchen. We may not be due for a white Christmas as this is typed on Christmas Eve, but I can at least imagine it trough a snowy canister and cloche.
Can’t you hear it?
“Where the love circles around us,
Like the gifts beneath our tree.
Well I know there’s more snow
Up in Colorado
Than my roof will ever see,
But a tender Tennessee Christmas
Is the only Christmas for me.”
That little dough bowl is now filled to the brim with Christmas cards. I’ve enjoyed looking through them with my morning coffee. Speaking of beagles who eat gifts, how appropriate is this pillow for our guest room?
We are blessed beyond measure with a kind-hearted, Jesus-loving group of friends in our Life Group at Long Hollow. We’ve been friends with some of them for nearly a decade, and they’ve walked with us through college, engagement, marriage, deployments, illness, highs, and lows. They always point us to The Lord through sound doctrine and loving kindness. But, in addition to all of those things, none of us take ourselves too seriously.
These friends know how to laugh, and that adds joy to our days and refreshment to our bones. I think this “Speak Out” picture may be a better representation of us than our normal grins.
A friend for seasons of hardship, of joy, of love, and of laughter is a gift.
I’ve been having such fun this season investing in some Christmas decor for the bedrooms, hopefully to be enjoyed year after year.
I’ve been on a mission to find timeless elements I’ll still like in 10 years (with a trend or two for fun). It makes me smile to think of future guests or future children enjoying the Christmas cheer all over.
Our larger guest room, which faces the front of the house, has been CRAMMED full with the addition of our oversized arm chair and ottoman. They had to be removed from the living room to make way for the Christmas tree. Pops of red (and a sweet little skiing mouse snow globe ornament) add some vibrant color. I grabbed these velvety shams at the Pottery Barn Outlet in Georgia. The duvet was from French Laundry Home and is good and HEAVY. It’s filled with cozy comforter, too. These things are musts for our guests because we keep our home nice and cool during the winter. The standard striped shams were also from PB a few years ago, and the quilted accent pillow was handmade and purchased at the Country Living Fair. This World Market basket is the perfect place to house a tiny flocked Christmas tree. The little frame is a welcome with our WiFi log in. Having a neutral backdrop has made it easy to incorporate vibrant Christmas reds in the tiny guest room. I even like the pale-blue Magnolia against the reds.This red quilt is from target, but it’s just folded over a fluffy comforter. I added a little extra mattress pad over each bed, and I can now say these beds are truly comfy. Maybe next year I’ll add some flannel sheets to our winter bedding rotation. Wreaths from Magnolia add a little more festivity. And yet another felt mouse snow globe. He makes me grin when I pass by the rom. The Santa signs were handed down by my Mom and Dad.
And last but not least, our room got some holiday bedding. This quilt was a find on Joss & Main. The extra-wide pillow cover was purchased from the Hoosier Sisters booth at the City Farmhouse Pop Up Christmas Sale last year in The Factory at Franklin, TN. The other two fern prints that wouldn’t fit in the tiny guest room have found a home in our room. I sure hope Mr. S feels happy to be home when he walks in the door.
Thanksgiving is always such a beautiful occasion around here.
Before the hustle and bustle of the day, it was just the pups and I as I sipped coffee, tidied up, and baked a couple of pies. Husband still isn’t home, but I have high hopes he’ll make it JUST in time for Christmas (barely, but Lord willing, we’ll have that man home soon). Harley has mastered the beagle sorrowful side-eye, a topic of conversation at dinner tonight. Sweet Shari on the right the oldest child in our “chosen family” with whom we celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas. Both of our families moved to Tennessee and don’t have family in the area, so we’ve enjoyed a long-standing tradition of celebrating together. She and her husband have two beautiful girls. Momma and I stayed up WAY too late setting the table, but this is one of my favorite traditions that I cherish every year! We have such fun making a mess and being creative with the resources at hand. I’ve been hoarding Park Hill candles since before my time at Then & Again, so 4 of the 6 florals were plunked into former candle jars.My sweet momma, Robb’s Mom, and Cindy. Two of Cindy’s girls’ and their spouses/kids are out of state this Thanksgiving. We’re so thankful to have some of the family here. Beautiful Rebekah just married Brad, and we’re so thankful she’s part of the Sample family now (and therefore, ours, by extension). Candles glowing, lake views, and fresh greens from the yard mingling with store-boought flowers brings me joy. The little girls could not wait to use the binoculars to search for critters hanging around the lake. I’m not sure if they spotted the deer, geese, or turtles which frequent Momma and Daddy’s backyard, but I do know this smart girl found a nest. Cindy and Dad, who I’ve just realized have been friends for around 18 years as we met them soon after making Tennessee our home through mutual friends. Momma made Special K, an essential treat in the Nelson household every Thanksgiving and Christmas (think chocolate+Special K cereal+peanut butter). This child never stopped posing and giggling and it delighted me. I tried to force a smile and photos out of Big Sister, but let’s face it, sometimes a girl really needs to go play and really doesn’t want to smile for photos. Adorably over it, but trying to comply. DELIGHTED with the special kids’ table. She kept exclaiming, “Is this for me? It’s so beautiful!” Rebekah kindly agreed to help me with making place cards and more than one laugh was shared. Not the least of which was over the world’s longest, most ridiculous pair of scissors of all time (there is a fabulous story about these, which I hope to record here one day). The little girls’ table. My sweet friend Wendy (whose blog you can find here) found this precious vintage tablecloth and passed on it while we were shopping at the Country Living Fair in Georgia recently. She didn’t mind that I picked it up after she passed, and boy did it delight those girls. The tablecloth was found after my precious friend Patsy (blog here) exposed me to the online shop Everyday Occassions. “Ooh! Make us RAINBOW!”Overheard tonight:
“Did you know I am married to Daddy?” Pure sweetness! We may be into silliness. Like, really. OK, extremely into silliness. It’s our love language in the Nelson-Sample Conglomerate. The only picture I have of Eric. Oops! He and Dad visiting like they do. This man is the gravy master every year! A big responsibility to be sure, but he always knocks it out of the park. Fun fact: Mom is almost always the chef, but on Thanksgiving, Dad is King of the Kitchen. He makes the same recipes year after year. Here, Brother and Dad carefully carve the bird. These girls and their dresses. Love. My beautiful Momma and I. She makes every occasion a celebration.
I’ve JUST begun a wonderful, basic online photography course. I’ve learned some working definitions of Aperture, ISO, don’t know how to adjust the exposure, or what metering EVEN IS yet (talk about a long way to go), but I’m already learning so much.
So far, I’ve had very little opportunity to practice clicking away in the daylight, so grainy, indoor, night time shots will have to do for post one.
Silly and insignificant as this may seem, it was my first time adjusting the aperture to get that vase in focus and that background out of focus. I get an F for composition, and think it’s pretty overexposed with some distracting magenta, but I LEARNED during this photo. So I give it a 10 out of 10.
I am learning this skill for my job at Sumner Academy, but have been pleasantly surprised by how much I’d like to learn this purely for the sake of personal enjoyment.
The handiest subjects are our two pups when I’m confined to the house at night. I love seeing them snuggled into the pillows (yes, we let our dogs on the sofa whether the sofas are donning white or light beige slipcovers; the whole point is that you can pop them off and wash them clean).
I just love the way Lucy looks so nestled in and cozy.
Snoozing Harley was next…
…Though the sound of the shutter woke her right up.
Mr. S was kind enough to get the camera for me so I wouldn’t disturb the sleeping dog. If I’d gotten up myself, she almost certainly would have followed me. She’s my little shadow most days, most content within a 5-foot radius of my feet.
My little subject just kept wiggling; you can just make out her little raised front paw, as she’s hoping for affection and confused by lens zooming in toward that nose.
Then, of course, there’s my favorite subject of all, Mr. S. Those baby blues, that kind smile, and those laugh lines all around his eyes. I could look at that face all day.
I knew I dreamt of gardening and planting things in our own soil long before we owned a home.
But I didn’t expect to be the sort of person who dreams about getting home to the yard while on vacation. Or who runs out to the yard every day after work to inspect for new growth, leaf spot, or weeds.
But, a year and a half of home ownership and a space to cultivate and call our own has brought unspeakable pleasures.
I do think there are a hundred or more lessons to learn in the garden. This year, I have been learning several. I’m seeing the rewards of discipline (that daily upkeep yields so much more joy, while periods of laziness only leave me with hours of catch-up), and that mentality has carried over into other areas of my life. The patience and foresight of buying smaller things and waiting for them to mature and grow (like when I planted shrubs too close together for their mature size and had to dig them all up, or when I expected instant gratification but realized our budget meant that it would be many years before we enjoyed a full laurel hedge). The wisdom of seeking out expertise has also become apparent, because if nothing else, I’ve begun to see how little I actually know about gardening (not to mention lawn care; ours looks particularly pitiful).
The limelights we planted last year with (with a pick axe through the hard, summer clay) have grown many feet, perhaps three feet just in a year’s time! The two nearest the bench stand even a little taller than I am.
We laid down pine straw out back and plan to mulch with it elsewhere as well. I’ve sort of accidentally created a little, informal perennial garden that’s taken on a life of its own. I learned right away the deception of no-stake gladiolus. These things need a stake no matter what the bulb packaging promises. Phlox, echinacea, Shasta daisies, veronica, and salvia fill this space. I’d like to sow some larkspur in next year in early spring, and perhaps tucks away some dianthus in the front. The phlox and coneflowers seem to especially attract honeybees, while others are favorites of butterflies. I’ve greatly enjoyed picking all the flowers my heart desires. I fell for mini pennies right away, and I expected not to see any this year (I’ve been told hydrangeas often establish root systems the second year, and we experienced a late frost that killed off most budding leaves), but was delighted to see three flowers spring forth anyway. That spinach on the far left above, almost out of the frame, was a total failure this year. I haven’t determined why, but I’ll try again next year after more research. Our hostas and autumn ferns all returned this year, bigger than last year.I spent many hours out here digging up built-up mulch, cleaning up the edge with a spade, and ensuring the beds slope away form the house. After a recent minor operation, this was perhaps the most unwise endeavor in recent memory. These hostas, like everything near the back patio, were quite an adventure to plant due to all the gravel underground near the poured concrete sidewalk.
If only our front yard were still this tidy; beginning in June, our river birch develops spots and constantly sheds leaves. I cannot determine if the problem is fungal or insect-related, but I hope to consult with an arborist soon. What a sweet spring of learning and dreaming in the garden.
Last week, Lucy got a baby bird. I often think of Lucy as our very own precious, little pup, but she sure seemed like a giant with that tiny, fragile robin chick in her droopy, slobbery muzzle.
We know from experience that any time the beagles collide with nature’s fauna, the results aren’t pretty. From the shrill bays over passing deer, to that baby rabbit they tossed around like a stuffed toy, to the last few birds who’ve mistakenly fallen or landed in our yard, tragedy is sure to follow.
This evening, I wandered in and out, yo-yoing aimlessly as I do (I’m the queen of piddling around at home and can begin 5 chores in an hour without ever accomplishing one). A little pause to thin out the zinnias, back in to organize my bathroom drawer, back out do a little weeding, back in to google tomato cage styles, back out to admire the gladiolus, back in to do my hair for dinner with girlfriends from church.
But as I picked up my flat iron and fussed with my hair, I heard THAT bark. Dog lovers know what I mean; we’re well versed in what each bark, whimper, snort, and growl means. They’re distinct when you really know your dog.
Not the “Let me in!” bark.
Not the “A neighbor is walking!” bark.
Not the “You have a toy I want!” bark.
This was the very particular, “WE HAVE SOMETHING AMAZING!” bark. Urgent, high pitched, and panicked, this bark told me a simple, “No” wouldn’t do.
I looked out and saw it. Lucy’s mouth. And from it, a wing. And beside her, the little maple sapling that had held the most precious robin quadruplets.
Not again! The second bird this month. And yet, this time it hit me harder, like a punch to the gut. Dismay.
I loved those birds, y’all. From finding bright blue shell fragments while mulching; to seeing their bare, alien skin; to watching them cry out to their mother for food; to seeing their feathers fill in, I’ve loved every second of them living in our yard (though Mother Bird always complained loudly from a nearby fence or tree when I would take a quick peak).
I knew Lucy would rather do just about anything besides walking away from that bird. To her, my horror and dramatic yelling was just her master trying to rob her of a wonderful surprise.
I sprayed her with the hose in desperation, and that little bird dropped to the hard ground while Lucy dashed away to hide in the hydrangea bushes.
Before I knew it, I’d run to it and had scooped it up in my hands. The warmth of its tiny body radiated through the skin of my palms. Though its neck was flopping and its legs were limp, I began to search for signs of life.
Was its chest rising and falling? No.
Could I see a tiny heartbeat? No.
Could I feel a little heartbeat? No.
I found myself hoping and praying and pumping with one finger on its tiny chest, expecting it to spring back to life. Nothing.
After a moment of horrified stillness, I raised made some raucous noise.
I burst back into the house, bird in my open hand, and slammed open the door to our room, where my precious husband was sleeping soundly in preparation for his night shift.
I woke him, tripping over my words as I spat them out, “Wake up! There’s a bird! Lucy got him! Is he dead? Is he gone? Can we save him? Look! Wake up! Hurry!”
He jumped from the bed, took a good look, and tenderly touched my shoulder as he calmly said, “No, Lindsey. He’s gone. I’m so sorry.”
Friends, if you know anything about my husband, you know his job is to deal with things much darker, sadder, and harder than the backyard bird. Just this week, he told me about a couple of young people whose time had come much too soon.
I cried anyway, feeling the folly of my tears in front of a man who has solemnly and calmly told me about true human suffering many times. Yet here I stood, weeping to him over a bird.
He could have corrected me for my folly. Of course this bird was a goner.
He could have reminded me of how desperately under rested he is.
He could have shamed me for being so insensitive after the losses he’s seen lately.
But instead, he quickly dressed, suggested we take the bird to the front yard, and quietly went to find a shovel as I slumped on the porch stoop and wept.
“This was so silly, I knew it was gone.” I stammered apologetically.
“It’s OK,” he replied kindly.
He squinted in the sun as he dug a hole for the bird in our shade garden bed. I apologized again, thanking him for helping me, guilt sinking in at how ridiculous and childish it was to wake him up over a dead bird instead of calmly discarding it in my hands.
“It’s OK,” he said again, sincerely.
I thought about the fragile, hopeful, newness that is a baby bird. And how, in an instant, it was gone.
I ranted about how warm he had been, then admitted he was getting cooler in my hand as minutes passed. “I know,” he said gently.
I sat right beside him, shoulder to shoulder and asked him to pray. For a bird, y’all. Like he shared my feelings of loss. Crazy though it may sound, it felt like his little life needed to be acknowledged, and I could barely speak.
So, my strong husband prayed on my behalf tenderly, if unsure of exactly what to say at a bird funeral on the spot.
He thanked the Lord for the bird’s short life. He expressed sorrow that he never got to fly. He thanked the Lord for his wife’s tender heart.
Then, leaned back so I could gingerly place the bird in the hole, carefully arranging his legs and wings like he was in a nest, settling in for slumber.
“There, he looks nice.” I said. He nodded back. Then, he buried the bird.
We used a little stepping stone to mark his grave. And I apologized again.
“I’m sorry. I should have let you sleep. You’ve seen so much and this must be the dumbest thing.”
“No,” He said, “Always wake me up for things like this. I love your heart. It’s good not everyone is just like me.”
And, as the spouse who couldn’t even bring herself to pronounce a clearly-dead bird “dead,” I could say the same about myself.
Being married to someone so the opposite of me has been quite an adventure for us both. But, in Jesus, it’s been the sweetest journey of inching closer to the middle.
Me loving his tough. Him loving my tender.
Thank you, Lord, for a man who is strong enough to do the hard things, and kind enough to give a bird a proper funeral.
Here’s a quick photo update of our progress on our sweet little first home.
We are so grateful for it, love to fill it with people we love, and hope to stay here for a long time! After a year of planning, our layout is how we’d like it for a while! We have some pretty low-end furniture here mixed in with a few “grownup” pieces. I’m going to resist the urge to replace until I have peace about investing in more.I hope to enjoy our kitchen table for decades to come! This little sideboard was actually our Homegoods media stand until we mounted the TV above the fireplace his summer. I refinished our guest room dresser. This is the one we inherited from my parents who got it from my grandparents. Updated hardware and Mindful Gray by Sherwin Williams gave it a fresh look. We also finally found a mirror that’s better scaled for the piece. There’s so much painted furniture in here that I wanted to incorporate more natural wood. Nearly everything in this photo was in our apartment, and it’s all just found homes here. The side table served as my nightstand, but I only keep a Bible, commentary, and journal at my bedside, so this piece now houses our very-small collection of movies, remotes, leashes, and not much else. I’m determined not to overstuff our home. Little lambs that were found last Easter have returned. They remind me of several sweet scriptures. We love to light the lamp and copper lanterns at supper instead of the harsh overhead lighting. We’ll always prefer a soft glow after crazy days of work. I brought in the rug and side table form the living room into our bedroom. We’ve swapped our heavy curtains for sheer linen, too.
I searched for over a year for just the right bench for the end of our bed; it needed to be wide enough to look proportionate at the foot of our king-sized bed. I have enjoyed having a landing spot for our pillows and a place to put on my shoes in the morning. It’s the little things! I printed this free botanical art from The Graphics Fairy blog! I already had the frames on hand. The euro shams are from the Southern Living collection at Dillard’s. Harley can finally get on the bed independently. Mr. S pretends to protest, but deep down, he loves this! I found the large-scale vase at a Franklin antique store and liked that this Lowe’s lamp feels somewhat symmetrical. Someday, we’d like to replace this dresser. I’d prefer natural wood in our space, and a few bottom drawers need repair. This would be perfect for a guest room, but for daily use, it may be time to upgrade this piece to something we’ll keep for many years, Lord willing. Recently, I’ve really fallen for the online store Everyday Occassions thanks to the influence of a friend whose style I admire. I was particularly excited about these labels for cleaning supplies, since I have always had a (totally silly) dislike of busy product labels. Why not have a little more joy when doing the dishes and cleaning house? 🙂 My Rosemary topiaries are still thriving in this South-facing window. I’m so pleased!