Long Hollow Baptist Life Group Christmas

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. 24991174_10214709606359651_4752229180655399114_nBut, 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. 24993649_10214709606959666_9030649206177871034_nI 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.

Christmas in the Bedrooms 2017

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.

Guest room 1Our 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. Guest room 1_2Pops of red (and a sweet little skiing mouse snow globe ornament) add some vibrant color. Guest room 1_3I 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. Guest room 1_1This 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. Guest room 1_4Guest room 2_5Having 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.Guest room 2_6This 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. Guest room 2_7Wreaths from Magnolia add a little more festivity. Guest room 2_8And yet another felt mouse snow globe. He makes me grin when I pass by the rom. Guest room 2_9The 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.  master_1The other two fern prints that wouldn’t fit in the tiny guest room have found a home in our room. masterI sure hope Mr. S feels happy to be home when he walks in the door.

Thanksgiving 2017

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). Thanksgiving 2017Thanksgiving 2017_1Harley has mastered the beagle sorrowful side-eye, a topic of conversation at dinner tonight. Thanksgiving 2017_2Thanksgiving 2017_3Sweet 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. Thanksgiving 2017_6Momma 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.Thanksgiving 2017_22My 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. Thanksgiving 2017_21Beautiful Rebekah just married Brad, and we’re so thankful she’s part of the Sample family now (and therefore, ours, by extension). Thanksgiving 2017_4Candles glowing, lake views, and fresh greens from the yard mingling with store-boought flowers brings me joy. Thanksgiving 2017_15The 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. Thanksgiving 2017_14Thanksgiving 2017_25Cindy 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. Thanksgiving 2017_18Momma made Special K, an essential treat in the Nelson household every Thanksgiving and Christmas (think chocolate+Special K cereal+peanut butter). Thanksgiving 2017_5Thanksgiving 2017_19Thanksgiving 2017_12Thanksgiving 2017_24This child never stopped posing and giggling and it delighted me.  Thanksgiving 2017_23Thanksgiving 2017_10I 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. Thanksgiving 2017_9Adorably over it, but trying to comply. Thanksgiving 2017_17Thanksgiving 2017_13DELIGHTED with the special kids’ table. She kept exclaiming, “Is this for me? It’s so beautiful!” Thanksgiving 2017_20Thanksgiving 2017_7IMG_5302.JPGRebekah 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). Thanksgiving 2017_26The 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. Thanksgiving 2017_27IMG_5313.JPGIMG_5324“Ooh! Make us RAINBOW!”Thanksgiving 2017_34Thanksgiving 2017_33Overheard tonight:
“Did you know I am married to Daddy?” Pure sweetness! Thanksgiving 2017_8Thanksgiving 2017_11Thanksgiving 2017_31We may be into silliness. Thanksgiving 2017_32Like, really. Thanksgiving 2017_28OK, extremely into silliness. It’s our love language in the Nelson-Sample Conglomerate. IMG_5320.JPGThe 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. Thanksgiving 2017_29Fun 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. Thanksgiving 2017_30These girls and their dresses. Love. Thanksgiving 2017_35My beautiful Momma and I. She makes every occasion a celebration. Thanksgiving 2017_16

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Learning Something New

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.

20106246_10155618208553987_8688929711193053761_n.jpgSilly 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.

Lucy.JPG

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.

Harley 2.JPGSnoozing Harley was next…

Harley 2_1.JPG…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.

Harley.JPGMy 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.

Ricky.JPGThen, 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.

In the garden 

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. 

The Bird.

robin-eggs.jpg
source: http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/view-image.php?image=66107&picture=robins-eggs

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.

Updates All Over

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! 

A Few New Additions

My favorite thing to do is to have people in our home. I love to brew people coffee, make people meals, and encourage them to kick up their heels and rest!

A couple of months ago, I rearranged our living room to make room for two new chairs. 

The sofa was moved to right against the wall, and the two chairs we brought from the apartment were left in front of the patio door.The TV was hung above the fireplace. This was probably the first time I’ve truly done the opposite of what Mr. S wanted. Truthfully, neither of us are fans of this look. However, it’s a small sacrifice to make considering that this means we can welcome more people into our home.A pair of swivel gliders has arrived from Ballard Designs. The shape and function of these chairs have captured my eyes for a few years, so I was so excited to grab them while they were on sale. Our bookshelf has moved back, too. I haven’t bothered to style it.I knew I wanted everyone to have a place to set their drinks, but because of our small space, the side tables needed to be petite.

This brass side table from Urban Outfitters did the trick and on a budget. I decided to use the same table on both sides of the room to unify the mismatched pairs of chairs.This side is shaping up, and this place if finally starting to feel as homey to me as the apartment. This lovely poster from Tanmachi goods arrived this week. It brings to mind one of my favorite scriptures:

“Seek to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you”

Bright and sweet and happy. Maybe it’s not like a designer room, but it’s certainly a lot like home.