Behind The Scenes of a Christmas Card

When you receive a beautiful and seemingly perfect Christmas card, you know there's a lot going on behind the scenes. Sometimes a lot of pain and struggle, sometimes a lot of growth and goodness. We all know one card can't tell the whole story.

But there's one thing a single card can do, and that is bring GREAT JOY to heavy hearts. I know this to be true because of the story behind my own card...this year and last.

Last year's card...beauty born out of brokenness.
{More on that story here.}

The last two Christmases have been imperfect and weighty for different reasons, yet in the midst of struggle, designing my card has brought inspiration and JOY to my heart. I love designing Christmas cards so much that I've made it my work for the last 9 years. And today, I was reminded that this work of mine brings joy not just to my heart, but joy to others.

A quick story: Early this morning, I received an email from someone who's received several of my cards from friends over the years. She poured her heart out and asked if I would consider designing her card. I'm officially closed for the season and in the thick of things with my own family, so a polite "no" would've been easy. But as I read her story, my heart was pricked. Loss of a parent, loss of a dog, two-time cancer survivor...this woman needed some JOY in her year. I prayed about it...and said yes. She's now calling me her "Christmas angel." I'm humbled and honored to do this work.

So can a Christmas card bring true joy...even if what's going on behind the scenes is messy and hard? I'm here to tell you YES. As I designed my card this year, I was fully aware of the struggle behind the scenes. I wasn't trying to fake anyone out that we're living a perfect and dreamy life on the farm. But I was also fully inspired that this is a season of joy, hope, meaning and significance...even if our circumstances at the moment don't leave us feeling all merry and bright.

With that being said, I give you my Christmas card...
a work of PURE JOY!

The front.

Hymns often inspire my designs. "O Holy Night" is one of my favorites!
{Hallie sang it here last year.}

The back.
{I never in a million years thought our Christmas card
would feature my husband and me driving tractors!}

Though I've still got pumpkins on the porch where our nativity should be, lights in the garage that never made it on the house, no presents under the tree, no stockings hung by the chimney with care and no wreath on the door, I smile every single time I look at our Christmas card. Does it tell the whole story? The story of selling a practice and saying goodbye to a lifetime in Houston? The hard days since moving? Of sadness and loneliness? Of not having deep friendships? Of my husband having to start his practice all over again?

Of course not. A card that told the whole story would be no fun to design!

Speaking of fun, my girls thought it would be hilarious to share the outtakes of our Christmas photo shoot with you. I love photography and feel like I captured them beautifully last year {great lighting helps}, but this year was a challenge. Bad lighting and no one was in the mood. But all you need is one that you can work with to create a card.

Presenting the outtakes...

And just to show you what some Photoshop skills can do...

Seriously the ONLY decent shot.
Too dark....with no light or life in their faces.

A brighter look with a softer, vintage finish.
{My clients have no idea how much work goes into enhancing their photos, but hearing
their shock and excitement when they see their cards in print alway makes me smile!}

Little gifts of joy for family, former teachers, camp counselors,
people who've known me since I was a little girl...

{Red stripe fabric tape from Paper Source.}

If I don't write again before Christmas, I hope that each of you finds JOY in at least one small thing this season. You don't have to fake the "merry and bright." Go with the imperfect and weighty if that's what feels authentic this year. But keep your eyes and heart wide open to JOY. It's there somewhere! And maybe, just maybe, a Christmas card is where you'll find it!

With love and joy,

P.S. I wish I could send each of you a printed card! You've blessed me so much with your encouragement this year as we chased a dream and faced challenges along the way. There were days when blog friends felt like the only familiar thing in my world...and I've never even met most of you in person! Thanks for showing up week after week through our transition. I'm hopeful and expectant about what's to come in the new year!


Hope For A Heavy Heart

Today was too much. Today wasn't just weighty; it was dark. How else do you explain such evil?

There's nothing on TV that can give my heart what it really needs, yet I was so tempted to tune in for the details...to be in the know, to see if I could make any sense of this. I must have tried a dozen times before I finally accepted that we had no signal. {Perks of living in the country.}

Since I couldn't listen to talking heads fumble around in the darkness, I went to my room, lit a few candles, curled up in a ball, and talked to the One who sees the larger story. His light in the darkness is my hope.

Jesus, please rescue us from the darkness...just as You did so many Christmases ago. May Your rescue come quickly...especially for the families who lost their children today.

I don't have all the right words; I just wanted to link hearts on a dark day. Here are wiser words from two well-known authors: 
And a song that feels more like a prayer:
Praying for light in the darkness,


Boots For The Barn

Well, this is a first! I'm actually posting about something to wear! Fashion isn't really my thing, but our new life in the country has inspired me to consider my farmgirl attire. With daily trips to the barn and increasingly soggy winter weather, a pair of hard working boots were high on my wish list.
I remember when the rain boot crazy hit Houston. I couldn't bring myself to spend more than Target prices. But living in the country is a whole different ball game! I'm putting boots to work every single day, and my cheap wellies weren't holding up.

So I tested four different boots from Zappos and found a clear winner. Just in case you ever find yourself in my shoes {leaving city life behind to chase a crazy country dream!}, I thought I'd share my shortlist of contenders.

I love all things French, but these were a bit too floppy for me.
Great for gardening and outdoor adventures, but with big dogs and
who knows what else in our future, I needed something sturdier. 

Classic and trendy. I even tested the fleece liner for added warmth.
More structure than Le Chameau, but more city slicker than farmgirl.

Hard working for sure, but I like a feminine touch,
so these felt a little too unisex and blocky for me.

Bingo! Heavy duty with a touch of style.
These boots are super tall, which means my jeans don't get dirty.
With their thick neoprene lining and rugged soles, these boots will work
in rain, snow, mud...and whatever mess I might run into around the farm.
{They make dreary days like today a lot more pleasant!}

I had to take a big gulp to spend this much on pair of rubber boots, but now that I've put them to use {twice a day!}, I can honestly say they are worth every penny! They'd be overkill for city life, but if you can put them to use them in a more rugged setting, go for it! 

And now a peek at our barn this time of year:

JD hung lights inside and out.
{And we have a new fence! To be painted in a few months.}

We added a touch of Texas.

All that's missing is a party!

And of course I have to show you the barn dogs!

Buddy looking like an old soul. Love this guy!

Bella melting JD with her gaze. She's a lover!

Now onto other frivolous things: I'm on the hunt for jackets. In Houston, all I ever wore was a down vest. In fact, the only real jacket I've ever owned is a North Face my parents bought me in college...when I was at Vanderbilt. I've still got it! I'm wearing it as a barn jacket for now, but I'd like something new for everyday.

Wondering about a waxed cotton Barbour jacket. It's classic and appropriate for country life, but worth the money? Not sure if it's me, but I love the lining in this one:

Like the boots, I'm looking for something that will last forever.
Feel free to send ideas my way!

Have a great week!


Winners of the Stationery Giveaway!

The winners of the stationery giveaway are...

The 5 Bickies

{Hooray! You'll also see a comment under your name
on the original post if there's any confusion about who's who!
Don't forget to email me with your mailing address!}

To all of you who took the time to leave a comment and compliment my designs, THANK YOU. It's a joy to have you as a blog friend!

To any of you who would like to order stationery, I'm accepting orders for one more day...and donating 25% to Show Hope. Free shipping for orders over $100.

Happy Friday, sweet friends!


Gifts That Really Give

Sweet friends, sometimes knowing you aren't alone brings healing to your heart. Do you feel that way? I did after reading your heartfelt thoughts following yesterday's post. {Thank you!} I really didn't want to write such a weighty post at Christmastime, but some posts almost write themselves...as if they aren't just for me, but for the hearts of people I don't even know. Humbling to say the least.

Today, I've got some fun, gift-giving inspiration for you! Not the spend a ton of money for just another material thing {that has really lost its appeal for me}, but gifts that REALLY give.

Discovered these at Philanthropy in Downtown Franklin.
{Cool store, by the way.}

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Awesome that you're really buying shoes for two.

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Just discovered this organization.
Super cool graphic design; lots of great causes.
{A new cause every 7 days.}

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Feeding people feels good.

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{Shop here.}

Caring for orphans and helping families bring them home.
This one is close to our hearts; we're annual sponsors.
{And I have Mary Beth to thank for telling us about our school!}

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Another school connection and new to me.
Founded by some amazing mamas.
{I see these shirts all over town!}

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Last year, in lieu of gifts to grown ups in the family, we sent a woman
in Rwanda to sewing school. She now sews for Noonday.
{Sweet Paige is a rep if you need help ordering.}

*   *   *

I've just decided to give 25% of what you spend to Show Hope
...so that orphans can go home to their forever families.
{Christmas stationery is only available until Friday, Dec 7.}

Somehow Christmas feels lighter already...even amidst the weightiness. {The trick is learning how to hold both feelings in your heart at once.} No pressure to browse the entire world wide web late into the night or lose my sanity at the mall. Keeping it simple and doing more to help those in need just feels right this year.

Have any ideas to add to the list? Do share! Add your own links by leaving a comment below.

Joy and peace to you,

* * * UPDATE * * *
$235 of your stationery purchases went to Show Hope
to help bring orphans home to a family!
Thank you!!!

The Weightiness of Christmas

This might be the most conflicted Christmas post you'll see all season. Pretty pictures that look like I'm all decked out and ready for Christmas...mixed with words that aren't all merry and bright. For those who want to keep it light this Christmas, enjoy the pictures. But for those who are struggling to perk up this Christmas, these words are for you. You're not alone.

For a girl who loves to create beauty in her home, you'd think I'd be all kinds of excited about our first Tennessee Christmas. Simple elegance is just my style, so a farmhouse mixed with Christmas should be right up my alley. But truth be told? Decorating didn't do much for me this year.

A lone Santa added to the mix.

At first I thought it was because I didn't know where to put things in this house compared to my old one. Then I thought it was because I was missing all the beautiful, lighted garland. {It was custom made for the Houston house, so I left it there.} Maybe if I just bought new garland and draped it all around this house, all would be merry and bright?

But I knew it wasn't about the garland...or any other pretty, decorative thing. It never was. But that didn't keep sadness from sneaking in...followed by loneliness. In some ways, I feel like Mary...far from home and unsure of what's to come. {Only I'm not divinely pregnant with the King of Kings!} Did you know that more people feel the weight of their emotions during the month of December than any other month? You are not alone, my friends.

Why so lonely? So sad? So empty? Could it be that we've gotten so caught up in the pressure to be merry and bright, the striving and decorating, the shopping and gift wrapping...that we've lost sight of our hearts and our desperate need for a rescue?

It's scary to tune into our hearts...especially when we don't know what's inside or what will come out. I certainly didn't expect homesickness to creep in while decorating the Christmas tree! Or sadness and loneliness to surface during a season of joy.

Oh, friends, it would be much easier to tune into the December buzz than to tune into my heart. I'd much rather zone out on Pinterest over all the crafts I'm not going to make than wrestle with what my heart is really feeling. I'd much rather say "Shhh!" to my heart than "Shhh!" to the distractions this world has to offer.

Our one craft for the year. Sweet time with my girls.
{Thank you, Martha!} Truly easy...and even therapeutic.

Laura Finley's wreath: boxwood and berries from our yard.

I wasn't sure I wanted to say anything about my feelings of loneliness or sadness...at least not right now. It's CHRISTMAS, for heaven's sake! And then I remembered, yes...it is Christmas. And Christmas was never meant to be all merry and bright. {Remember why Jesus came in the first place? It wasn't because we were doing great on our own!}

When you look at what motivated the original Christmas, it's a pretty weighty thing. A holy and glorious thing. By the way, have you ever heard the Hebrew word for glory? Kavod. I wish I could speak it for you. It's one of the few Hebrew words I know. Unforgettable to me, because the first time I heard that word pronounced, I felt it's weight. God's GLORY. His KAVOD.

From Lindsay Letters last season.

I don't know how you're feeling this Christmas season, but if it's heavy, maybe there's something deeper and more glorious waiting for you beneath the surface...a treasure beneath the weightiness. Don't be afraid to go there. {Preaching to myself!}

When I don't want to deal with my own heart, I tend to snap back into my perfectionistic mode. Not fully, because God is lovingly, gently changing me over time, but my family can tell you that the messes in our house are driving me especially crazy lately. My hyper sensitivity to order and cleanliness are directly related to my heart. If there are things rising up inside that I don't want to deal with or feel, I focus on a problem I can fix. I sure know how to clean up a mess!

How soon I forget that the first Christmas was motivated by our mess. {I just re-read my own post from last year, The Imperfection of Christmas, and had to give myself an AMEN!} Without my imperfection, there would be no Christmas...no God with us. When will we really believe that God loves imperfect people?

Remember this from last year? A mistake I decided to keep.

I think if we remember what Christmas is really about and let that soak in throughout the month of December, our hearts would be lighter even amidst the weightiness. We'd be a lot less driven to be something we're not. While Pinterest and blogs are overflowing with ideas, sometimes it's just too much. Trust your heart this year.

If decking your halls brings you great joy this Christmas,
go for it! If it doesn't, let it go.

Embracing my lack of mantel decor...
and my stocking hangers without the stockings!

If crafting is your thing, have a ball! 
If not, just enjoy what others have made.

One simple craft is enough for me.

If sending beautiful cards feels sincere, enjoy the process!
But if you're not feeling it this year, feel free to skip.

If you know a gift will warm someone's heart, give it.
But if excessive shopping has lost its luster, give something away instead.

We've started giving more to those in need at Christmas...
and saving big gifts to each other for birthdays.

As we go through this weighty, glorious, beautiful, busy season, perhaps the best gift we can give ourselves is to tune into our hearts. Even if what we find deep down is heavy at times, we can TAKE HEART! Surely the One who has overcome the weight of the world {John 16:33} can handle the weight of our hearts!

How's your heart this Christmas?

P.S. Something I always love about the Christmas season: designing cards and stationery. I'm giving some away on Friday! Just leave your name and favorite design HERE.

To purchase, visit my website.

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