Why I Decorate Early for Christmas

Andrew and his dad were outside putting up our Christmas lights a couple of days ago as I was in the kitchen doing the dishes. Through the kitchen window, I saw a car slow down, looking at what was going on, and then drive off. A few minutes later, I walked back through the living room and again, noticed a car putting on its brakes to get a better look. I thought, "Hmm, they must be in the spirit too!" and went along with my business.

Later, I posted on Instagram a little glimpse of our Christmas tree as we were decorating it the other night, and excited comments came flooding in, so of course, I was just giddy with the holiday spirit. 

And then an acquaintance of mine felt it necessary to send me a text that said, "Your Christmas tree is gorgeous! You must hate Thanksgiving, huh? I think it's way too early for Christmas decorations, but I'm impressed with yours." Oh, the backhanded compliment strikes again. I thought, "Maybe those cars were slowing down to check their calendars too?" And then my jolly spirit was deflated. 

I asked Andrew, "Should we have waited? Are people really mocking us behind our backs about Christmas decorations?" A silly question, I know in hindsight, but to this girl, I was a little put off by the "you must hate Thanksgiving" comment. Not that it matters or is any of her business, but that couldn't be farther from the truth. 


And I'm here to tell you why I decorate early for Christmas and why you should do what's best for you (and why all the haters can keep on hating.)

I'm a huge fan of celebrating. I believe life is too short not to celebrate the big moments, and even more so, the little ones in between. I savor seasons like they're going out of style; there's not a favorite, because they're all equally thrilling to me. My decorating and readying our home for the holiday comes in waves; my creativity is ever evolving as the holidays draw nearer. I don't believe that a holiday is a date on a calendar, but rather the spirit of of love from family being together, celebrating being thankful or celebrating our Savior's birth. In my opinion, those go hand in hand, and in my mind, those two holidays do too. 

I used to be a strict no-Christmas-until-Black-Friday gal, but that only created stress. I felt like I was cramming everything into those few weeks in December and wasn't able to fully enjoy all that the holiday season brings. I put too much pressure on our decor and gift wrapping and planning parties and the likes and missed out on all the sweet, quiet moments. The moments I overlooked while I was too wrapped up in deco mesh and covered in glitter in the first week of December to notice. 

I've chosen lately to embrace the season we're in and do what's best for me and my own, not what's acceptable per society's standards. That's when true joy happens around here.

With the schedule I work, if I don't decorate early, it probably won't get done. Our holiday schedule in Labor and Delivery is as crazy as it gets. And my poor little heart can't fathom a Christmas without a home full of cozy lights and our nativity and all the traditions we treasure, so November just begs to be included, and I gladly oblige. 

This season isn't about a tree or the gifts under it or the decorations we put up, but rather the gratitude and togetherness this time of year brings. It's a season to celebrate all we have been given and all of those loved ones around us, not a day on a calendar to open presents and eat a meal. It's so much more than that.

Our home is beautiful around the holidays because it's filled with joy. Some from the decor that's placed around, most from the spirit that the holidays bring. From being together. From being a little more thankful. And if decorating our home a little earlier causes us to be a little more joyful, I think we're on the right track. And maybe the rest of the world could stand a little extra joy too, don't you think? 

Each holiday that comes around again is a gift, and I'm choosing to savor this one I have. Thanksgiving, I still love you, I promise. I'm choosing to be thankful for all the blessings the Lord has poured out on us. And I'm choosing to be thankful for a home to decorate early, even if it's not quite December yet. I'm a firm believer that my turkey is a little more delicious by the lights of a Christmas tree. 

Where do you fall on the holiday spectrum? Are you a go-getter like me who wants to celebrate for as long as possible? Or do you believe every holiday needs its own time? I'm eager to hear!

Here's to choosing what makes you happy this holiday season, whether it be decorating early to not decorating at all, because after all, life's too short to not to do what makes you happy. Xoxo

The Weekend That Changed My Attitude

I rarely post "weekend update" posts on my blog because I feel like they're a little trite. I'm one of those who scans over those posts--I hate to admit it. But then there are those weekends that happen and are glorious and just scream for a post to be written about them, so I get it. I totally get it. 

This past weekend was one of those for me. It was a weekend that changed my attitude.

I was silent over here yesterday because my weekend was still happening--I'm lucky and had 4 days off in a row, and even luckier because Andrew and I were both off together yesterday. So I savored every moment and soaked in being off work and being with him and it was perfect. 

I've somehow let half of November slip by without a mere mention of "gratefulness" or "thankfulness." What is wrong with me? Those are the posts that matter, after all. And you know what happens when we're not offering up gratefulness? We're probably griping or complaining. Life's too beautiful for all of that, friends.

This past weekend grabbed a hold of me and made me realize all that I had to be thankful for. It wasn't anything miraculous--I didn't travel far or see any wonders of the world, but I can't count the number of times that I stopped, looked around, and thought, "man, I am so blessed."

I made a promise to myself that I wasn't going to waste my 4 days off--how easy it is to sleep in, spend time watching Netflix, or getting buried in the catching up of laundry. Those things can wait a few more days, I told myself. Instead, I spent it with family. I spent it with friends I don't get to see often. I brought a new friend to church. And I celebrated. I'm refreshed and renewed and can't stop smiling and I'm so grateful for those kind of weekends.

This past weekend is the kind of weekend I've needed for quite a while--a time to slow down and recharge and remember what really matters. 




1) I spent Friday and Saturday shopping and having girl time with my mom, sister, and niece and it was just what I needed--I'm grateful that my mom and my sister are my best friends.
----
2) I got to spend plenty of time with that adorable baby who is not only the cutest thing in the world, but also the sweetest. I'm grateful to have a healthy, perfect niece.
----
3) Saturday morning consisted of Starbucks and Target shopping, and if that isn't the best Saturday morning ever, I don't know what is. I'm grateful to be able to buy Christmas gifts for loved ones.
----
4) While Andrew was gone, Nena and I had lots of quality time together, and although she drives me nuts, she is my buddy. I'm grateful that she teaches me patience and love every day.
----
5) Sunday night was our Friendsgiving with our Sunday School class and other friends in the area. You know me and you know how much I love being surrounded by loved ones. I'm grateful for this community that we're building and the support we give each other.
----
6) Monday was the day I looked most forward to on my mini vacation--Andrew was home and we spent the day in our pjs decorating for Christmas, catching up on TV shows, and just enjoying being together. I'm grateful that the Lord made my heart for Andrew's and I'm grateful that we get to celebrate our first married holiday season. Sometimes His blessings just overwhelm me.

My awesome BFF Ashten has sparked my heart to be a little more in tune with gratitude this November, and for that, I'm grateful, too. I encourage you to check out her Gratitude Friday posts and challenge yourself to not to get caught up in the busyness of the holidays but rather to be grateful for the busyness. Grateful that we have a home to clean and decorate for parties. Grateful that we CAN go grocery shopping and prepare huge meals for family members. Grateful that we have the means to buy Christmas gifts for those we love. 

If I've learned anything lately, it's that most of my complaints and gripes can be turned into praises and gratitude. Let's let that be the theme of this holiday season. Xoxo


Coffee Date Friday // Volume II

This girl right here is over the moon excited about this weekend because guess what! I have FOUR days off in a row. gasp! It's like a mini vacation and I'm not sure how to handle myself. I have a fun to-do list a mile long! And what a better way to kick off a mini-vacation weekend than a coffee date? I think it's the perfect way to say cheers to the weekend, don't you? 


Many of you mentioned that if we were on a coffee date, you'd order tea, and I'd probably make you teach me how to order it, because I love tea. But other than good ole Southern sweet tea, I'm lost. I so want to be a girl who drinks tea and reads a book in a coffee shop--so tell me how to order it next time.

Friends, I'm so happy just to be chatting with you. This week was a blur in a bad way and I'm not sure why. I'm baffled that it's Friday already, because the days all seemed to mesh together and I couldn't tell you the last time I talked to my best friends. Working nights will do that to you, for sure. I'm a girl who needs face time and connections and you being next to me, talking about everything from what you ate for lunch to the convictions God has been placing on your heart lately. I crave that time. 

If we were on a coffee (or tea) date, I'd just soak in the fact that I am off work and able to enjoy a weekend like a normal human being. I plan to cram as much good things into this weekend as possible, so be on the lookout on Instagram. It's bound to be a good time!

If we were sitting together enjoying a cup of joy, I'd hope it was in a red Starbucks cup, because by george, I'm thrilled that they're out already. I'm already using my Christmas mug at home. And no, I'm not wishing away Thanksgiving, you turkey lovers, I just enjoy the whole holiday season and want to celebrate it from now all the way to January, as big and as much as possible. Is that too much to ask? So haters gonna hate, but I'm gonna be celebrating like no body's business.

If we were on a coffee date, I'd probably show you 14 different options for Christmas cards and beg you to help me pick one because I am just that indecisive. Between Minted, Shutterfly, and Walmart.com, there are too many fantastic options for me to choose from. But it's our first Christmas as the Walkers, so Christmas cards are a must. If you want some Christmas cheer from us, leave your address! 

I'd probably tell you that I miss my husband. He's on a business trip and I've realized in the past 48 hours how much I hate being home alone and how much I take him for granted. We're both off work on Monday so it'll be Andrew and Rachel's Day of Fun and I am counting down the minutes til I get to hug that sweet man of mine!

If we were on a coffee date, I'd tell you how much God amazes me sometimes. He answers prayers in the craziest of ways and never ceases to make me realize how much He loves me. My prayer life has been lacking lately, but I'm working hard on filling up a prayer journal, just to write and get the words out. And that time with Him is so sweet and so needed.

And if we were on a coffee date, you'd probably hear some Gilmore Girls reference like "oy with the poodles already" because I just.can't.get.enough of it. Y'all, I watched it religiously in high school and have seen every episode 4738 times since, but it never gets old. Ever. Do you watch? You should.

What would you tell me if we had a little time to chit chat? How is your life? What are you looking forward to this weekend? Spill some stories, my dears. I can't wait to hear and "catch up" with you! Xoxo

I'm linking up with the precious Jenna from Dearest Love for this week's Coffee Date! 

Quirks + Marriage


The most popular question I got in the first month of marriage was, "what's it like living with a boy?" It was a change, to say the least. Marriage overall is an adjustment, so learning how to cohabit is just part of it. It's awkward and a little uncomfortable right at first, when you're trying to figure out closet space and schedules and bathroom habits. We've maneuvered through 9 months of marriage without much of a fight, but every day I learn something different about this man. He's multi-faceted, y'all. He keeps me on my toes and that's just the way I like it.

I have my quirks, so the Lord above knew He had to send me someone with the same. Andrew's quirks are some of the things I love most about him and at the same time, some of the most peculiar habits I've ever heard of. For instance, he only lets me buy a certain type of toilet paper. If it's the wrong kind, he'll return it to the store. And speaking of toilet paper, there is always an empty roll on the holder and a full roll sitting on top of it. Always. At this point, it just makes me chuckle.

Random socks can be found around our house at any given moment, much to Nena's delight, and when laundry is done, no two socks ever match. We literally have two bags full of socks with no mates (probably because Nena steals them), but he won't wear them if they don't match. He hates a flat sheet on a bed--it always ends up on the floor before the night is over, or I'm twisted in it trying for dear life to keep it and the comforter on the bed. And don't even get him started on throw pillows; his motto is the less, the better and I am the opposite. 

There is always some "project" going on in the garage or on the back porch, which always leads to random tools lying around and sawdust on any given surface. He requires bread, meat, and vegetables at any meal, and as long as those things are present, he'll eat whatever meal I put in front of him. I love that he's easy to please.

These are just a few quirks that come to mind and keep me entertained. I asked a married friend the other day if the "newness" and the peculiar habits ever become normal, and she just looked at me, laughed, and said, "Honey, some days I think I'm married to a stranger, but it keeps it fun, don't you think?"

He may consider those bad or embarrassing traits, but I love those little habits. Of course, there are things that are without a doubt positive to me--he pays attention to detail, especially detail about me. He can read my mood quicker than anyone and knows how to react, whether he should just hug me and be quiet or if it's better to ask what's wrong and make me a cup of coffee. 

He knows how I like things around the house, like I always have a candle lit or that I prefer lamps over overhead lighting. He lets me have all the throw pillows I want because he knows I love them and love the look it creates, even if it means he can't find a spot to sit. He is quick to take a grocery list off the counter and go pick it up with a smile because he knows I loathe the grocery store. 

The aforementioned "project" that's always going on, I really secretly love because it's something that makes our house better or prettier. He tries my new recipes with a smile and tells me that it's delicious, even when I make spaghetti squash twice in one week or burn the crockpot meal. He lets me watch my Scandal/Grey's/Gilmore Girls and just goes to the man cave willingly. He also understands the fact that I'm terrible at keeping our closet clean. A good man, I tell ya.

I love those little things about him. They make him him. Living with a guy is weird. And I think he tolerates those weird habits of mine. It takes adjustment, but I wouldn't have it any other way. I've got a built-in handy man and recipe-taste-tester, and he's not too bad to look at either. Quirks keep it interesting. I think I got the good end of the deal, don't you?

Andrew, 
     You rarely know when I mention you on here, but I have a feeling you'll see this one, and I promise, I love these quirks. Thank you for keeping life interesting for me. I knew when I married you that I'd never be bored, and these 9 months have proven it. I pray that our next 99 years are full of as much joy and hilarity and quirks, because that's what makes us us. And I'm kind of fond of us, after all.

Always,
Rach

Aren't relationships fun and weird sometimes? Do you and your significant other have quirks? Do they drive you crazy or do you find them endearing? I'd love to hear! Xoxo

Hospitality and the Holidays + Pumpkin Bread Recipe

I’m a born and raised Southern girl, where hospitality and entertaining runs deep. It’s something that is innate within us and something we take very important. More than anything, I long to have a home that is warm and welcoming, a place where friends and family can come whenever they need to get away. Being hospitable plays a huge role into this—we have to cultivate it in order for it to produce fruit in our daily life.



Being hospitable is so much more than just opening your door for others to come into your home, it’s creating an environment of acceptance and love. It’s a way of life, not an act of service, per se. It's one of those lessons that you learn by watching and doing, not by talking about it. It goes beyond our homes and into our lives—it’s shown by little acts of kindness that most people wouldn’t notice otherwise. It’s prayer for friends when they need it and when they don’t. It’s taking a meal to someone who needs it. It’s giving of your time when others need it more. It’s letting the people in our homes and in our communities know that they’re important to us and that they are loved.



The holidays are nearing and my mind is focused on parties and get-togethers and guests in our home. I get overwhelmed quickly with thinking of the things that need to be done, like cooking, cleaning, planning, preparing. My heart is happiest when our home is full of family, laughter, and noise, but I haven't figured out how to balance myself into the perfect hostess. My mind immediate goes to my grandmother on this topic--the epitome of a sweet, Southern hostess. I've learned a lot from her through the years, and this year, I'm eager to put some of that into action. 

I can remember as a young child always having extra people at our family Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners. My grandmother never hesitated to welcome those who needed somewhere to go--couples from church, older, widowed ladies from her Sunday school class, even people she had only met once or twice. She’d welcome anyone who needed a place to celebrate the holidays, anyone without a family to be with during Christmas, or even just someone who needed a warm meal or a bed. Even as a young child, the importance of that always resonated with me. It’s such a crucial part of the Christian faith, too—to break down the walls that separate us. To love our neighbors as ourselves. To give unto the least of these. I know the Lord gives us all talents to further His Kingdom, including hospitality.

Entertaining is messy sometimes; as much as I want my home to be perfect and put together and spotless at any given moment, it's not always that way. A messy kitchen is the norm around here--I always have some recipe I'm working on and there tends to be spots of flour or sugar here and there. I'm learning to let go of perfection--sometimes we need to embrace the messy and what comes with it. I'm happiest when my hands are busy and my home is full of people; who cares if there are some dishes in the sink or a little dust on the mantle?





As I grow up and as I create a home of my own, those little things I've learned through the years have stuck with me. Day by day, I strive to make our home open to the ones we love. Sharing our lives and breaking bread with friends and family is what life is all about, when it comes down to it. My hospitality doesn’t come as easy as I wish it would, though. It’s easy for those I’m close with, but not so easy for strangers or even acquaintances. I long to have the courage to open the doors of our home for anyone who wants or needs to be loved on. I’m learning as I go to go against what our culture teaches us—I’m learning to just be open and ready and willing to serve. And over time, I know that the Lord will fill in those blanks and help me to have a more hospitable, welcoming heart.




This recipe is a go-to for me in the holiday season, easy to make and even better to package up for loved ones to share the deliciousness. I use this recipe from Food Network, so I won't bore you with my rendition of it. It's even better if you make a little streusel topping for it, but I, of course, ran out of cinnamon, so a simple icing was the solution. Make this, friends, and get your hearts and homes ready for the wonderful, festive holiday season! Xoxo

I'm linking up and sharing my heart on hospitality with the sweet Rachel for the Bread & Wine Project.

Letting Go of Labels to Lift Others Up

There's something that's been getting under my skin lately. I've been nervous to post this simply because of the reactions it may cause, but the Lord laid it on my heart, so here I am. If you're a social media fan like myself, you've heard it left and right. People glorify it all day long and think it's hilarious to create memes and Buzzfeed articles to find out if this applies to you or not. I was entertained initially, but the more I hear it, the more it bothers me. Not because it offends me personally, but because of the stereotype it creates. I'm talking about the phrase "basic."

Being "basic" is pretty much anything that makes us a normal woman, right? Just a run of the mill, typical woman. Someone who loves fall and wearing leggings and drinks Starbucks. A woman who enjoys boots and scarves and keeps up with the latest on Kate Middleton or Katy Perry. Maybe she listens to Taylor Swift and carries a Louis Vuitton and binges on Netflix. Sure, it was funny at first. We all laughed, but the further people push the envelope and the broader that the umbrella of "basic" becomes, the bigger the stereotype becomes, too. Somehow fitting women into the stereotype of fat or skinny or gay or bulimic, etc wasn't enough; the world had to create a way to make fun of the unoriginal, "basic" girl, often accompanied by the word "bitch."

We live in a world where women struggle to find their place. It's a daily battle of accepting ourselves and all of our flaws in the midst of pressure. We have to decide that we're going to love the imperfections even when all we feel is broken. It's a hard place to be in when we realize that those expectations are completely unrealistic. I'm never going to live up to the standards that the world sets for me, but I'm okay with that. Why? Because I have a God whose mercy and grace covers me and lets me know that my shortcomings aren't only just okay, but they're fully accepted because He created me this way and I am wonderfully made.


We all have voices in our head that tell us we're not good enough...that we're not skinny enough or aren't a good enough wife or mother. Or we'll never get the raise we want; we'll never be accepted by that group of friends. It sounds harsh, but it's the truth in this day, and we can all let our guard down and admit we've felt that way sometimes. 

And that's where my problem comes in. We're all vulnerable and broken and fragile enough as it is. The last thing this world needs is a women who feels less of a person or not good enough over something as silly as this trend, as this phrase people throw around so easily.

I read this definition of "basic" somewhere the other day and it hurt my heart. 
"Neither nothing nor special, but some unnerving thing in between. Existing enough to exist, but somehow enough to disappear. Lacking characteristics that make someone interesting, extraordinary, or worth devoting attention to."  -Urban Dictionary
I don't know about you, but I know that's not the woman I strive to be nor how I want to live my life. I want to live extraordinary and out loud and be a woman that shines for the Lord, regardless of what I like to Instagram or how much I love scarves. God didn't create us to live a life "existing enough to exist," He created us to live a life more abundant, filled with His joy and all the blessings that life brings. 

Even more so than the picture that horrible definition creates, God didn't create us as women to judge each other. It happens enough already, much less with all the "basic" labeling that is going on across social media lately. It's time for us to put down that phrase , let go of the judgment it creates, and start offering up encouragement and love and acceptance. It's time to give grace like it's going out of style and put those broken pieces of the women we love back together, instead of slowly tearing them apart, one "funny" label at a time. 

There are without a doubt worse things we could be called by other people, of course. I'm sure you're thinking it too. This is more than just the "basic" trend. This is about the community we're creating for each other. I want to be known for the words of encouragement I give, not the labels I place. I want to be a part of a community that lifts up and inspires and applauds women who are themselves even down to trivial things like purses and Instagram filters, not women who put up facades to please others around them. I want to be a part of a community that speaks life into each other and offers a place for people to grow and blossom, a place to feel loved and wanted despite what music we listen to.


Today is the day for us to break free of those "basic" labels that we find funny and embrace those things about us. It may seem like no big deal to some, but there are women who take offense to this and I don't want to be a part of it. Who cares if you want to listen to Christmas music in November? Or if you love wearing infinity scarves and aren't afraid to share it with the world? Listen to Taylor Swift and be proud of it, sister. Flaunt your red Starbucks cup. If that's what makes you happy, then by all means, do it and be happy. You do you, friend. This world is too harsh and too negative not to do those things that bring you joy. 

There is one thing that I'm sure of--you can always tell the women who are selfless, are rooted deeply in the Lord, and genuinely love those around them. They're the ones you see breathing life into each other, letting go of labels, and building others up, not tearing them down. And that's the kind of woman I want to be. 

Currently // Volume II

Between being under the weather and having some Internet issues, the odds have been stacked against me when it comes to posting on my blog. But here I am, friends. I'm alive and well and here to update you with a little Currently action; after all, I need an easy way to ease back into this and break the blog silence. 



// reading Interrupted by Jen Hatmaker, and y'all, it's seriously changing my heart. I've been flabbergasted and stunned more times than I can count, and Jesus is opening my eyes to what He intended our church to be. I can't wait to share more about this with y'all. Have you read it? What do you think?

// wishlisting Basically everything from Rachel's Etsy shop, Oh Simple Joys! I am dying to get this shirt. Abide has become such a precious word to me lately--I long to abide in the Lord and not just know who He is. I've told my family just to buy everything in her shop as Christmas presents!

// loving One of my BFFs got married last weekend and this burlap pillow was part of our bridesmaid gift. I'm loving an Ole Miss themed pillow, of course, but I'm also really digging the burlap against my leopard chair! It's giving me the itch to rearrange and redecorate again.

// appreciating My sweet, kindhearted husband who has been the best nurse while I've been sick. He does housework and picks up my slack and does it all with a smile. Someone asked me the other day how hard our first year of marriage has been, and I genuinely told them that it's been the best year I could've imagined. I've fallen more in love with him as the days go by (cheesy but true!)

// creating These random pieces of pallet wood will soon be some DIY Christmas projects and I am just itching to get started on them! I've been brainstorming and I've finally created the perfect plan. How early is too early to decorate for Christmas? I'm asking for a friend.

Happy Wednesday, my dears. What are you currently up to? Share with me! I'm linking up with the lovely Jenna today.