Christmas Tour of Homes 2014 with @thenester

Last week I wrote about finding a simple balance in our newly remodeled home and our ever changing life. Our goal of simplifying extends to the Christmas season as well, the desire to store less and focus more on why we are celebrating.

Because we're now 200+ days into this home renovation project (and still not done), the only Christmas spirit being shown to the outside world is our Christmas tree through the window, and fresh pine wreaths on the front and back doors. And this year, that is enough.

After living in chaos for the past 8 months, I've realized that figuring out what is enough for you and your family from year to year is what makes your house into a home. In past years, the front of the house has been picture perfect and Christmas decor has crept into almost every corner of our home, from kitchen to bathroom to spaces that guests will never see.

This year, I'm living with tools and wood scraps, bags of insulation and cans of paint. Instead of walking in to a twinkle light wonderland by the backdoor, we have the evidence of home construction and life.


I could stage the pictures to show you what I want you to see, or I can share what our house really looks like as we turn it into a home. It's still Christmas, it's just not as neat - similar to the very first Christmas, when our Savior was born in a barn. Hardly neat or picture worthy, but part of the perfect story that God authored.

At first glance, our bedroom looks beautiful. But turn the camera to show the real truth and you will discover that it's also my home office - home to piles, boxes, and a big metal filing cabinet. It's not Pottery Barn, it's not a minimalists dream, but it's practical for the work I need to do. And during the month of December, it becomes a warm and inviting location to spend my days in front of a computer. One swivel in my chair and I am faced with a patchwork Christmas quilt on our bed - not really my style, but because it was lovingly handmade by my mother it is cherished and on display.

The hallway just outside our bedroom is waiting to be painted, and pictures lean against the wall as they wait to be hung. The guest bathroom has no toilet nor sink, the front bedroom has no trim or furniture, but we're getting there - one step at a time. In many ways, it's a parallel to my life as a Christian. I may look like I have it all together on the outside, but inside, I have piles and areas in need of repair. Like my house, I am a work in progress.

As I walk around our home, I pray for those unknown folks who will use this new space in the future, and that the house God has entrusted to our care will be a blessing to others. May the result of our labors be a warm and welcoming space, playing a role in the story that God is writing for us.

Merry Christmas! 

Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; 
Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.
For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us;
And the government will rest on His shoulders;
And His name will be called 
Wonderful Counselor, 
Mighty God,
Eternal Father, 
Prince of Peace.

{Isaiah 7:14 & 9:6}

Find more links at the Nester's Christmas Tour of Homes


Finding A Simple Balance

While sitting in our newly renovated living room this past weekend, the Hubs and I were discussing our desire to keep things simple. Removing the clutter during the home renovation has reminded us of just how much of our stuff we can live without and never miss.

As we sipped our morning coffee - using the same two Christmas mugs that we always use - the Hubs made a statement that I have been thinking about ever since."We are minimalists," he said, "but without being a part of the movement."

Confession: I'm quite sure that if there was some kind of litmus test to qualify as a minimalist, I - and my house - would not pass. The desk in my home office isn't one of those sleek, clean, magazine worthy spots. There are stacks and piles, picture frames and tissue boxes, a basket from Botswana and a Jane Austen action figure. My filing cabinet is covered in magnets from our travels... and dust. My office space is for working, not show, and it represents a side of me that is more sentimental than simplistic. 

But in many ways, the Hubs is right. Over the last six years - ever since we abandoned our traveling nomad/suitcase living life - we have greatly simplified our space. From wall art to furnishings, closets, shoes, and kitchenware - everything but the books, which I declared off limits - we've slowly turned our house into our home.

So while our tastes have gotten decidedly simpler over the years, no, we're not a part of the ever growing minimalism movement. Though I prefer clear counters and neat closets, I am not defined by the amount of stuff I have, or don't have. I don't want to be so consumed by taking care of things, or so worried about losing/breaking/ruining something that I instead lose/break/ruin the possibility to develop a relationship or foster an opportunity.

Since the completion of the living/dining space, the Hubs and I often find ourselves saying, "I can't believe this is our home. It's so beautiful!" We are beyond blessed to have it; but we also realize that just having a home that we love - or that is paid off - shouldn't be the end goal. If we don't share it and use it to bless others, then we aren't really being a good steward of the Lord's resources. 

I'm an INTJ, which means that somewhere in the midst of simplifying and minimalizing, there has to be some common sense. I've been called "minimalistic" because I am selective in what I choose to bring into our home, and picky about what I allow to stay; but that doesn't mean I mindlessly purge. Sheets that no longer fit my style gain a second life as paint cloths, furniture covers, and plant protection on frosty nights. Holey t-shirts are ripped up to become rags for the Hubs to use on an oily engine.

Keeping life simple isn't about joining the current minimalist movement, or crowing about how you lived with or without something for a set amount of time. It's about practicing stewardship - with your money, your things, your home, your time and your talents. It's understanding that you can't take it with you when you die, so there's no reason to hold tightly to it now.

The simple balance that we strive for is this: that we may steward the STUFF that God has entrusted to us, enjoying it while it's in our care, and sharing it willingly as we follow the story that He is writing. 


#HouseToHome2014: Before and After (Part 1)

Three days before Thanksgiving, the Hubs announces over breakfast, "I've made an executive decision." After I raised an eyebrow, he continued, "I'm taking tomorrow and Wednesday off so that I can get the living room and dining room done before Friday so we can go get a tree." Well now, that's an executive decision I wasn't about to argue with!

Proverbs 31 talks about a husband praising his wife at the city gates. While Carrie's Busy Nothings isn't exactly the "city gates", it's as close to a public platform as I will ever get, and I cannot sing my husband's praises high enough. He worked from morning to night, nailing trim, painting, cleaning, even assembling two new cabinets for the living/dining separation.

On Thursday night, after a day of visiting with family and friends, and stuffing ourselves with turkey and pie, we returned home to move the Ektorp back into our living room and selectively return art to the walls. You might recall the post I wrote in 2011 when I did an initial purge of our wall decor... I was more brutal this time around. #MinimalismHappens

Although we love the outcome of our project (which is only half done!), over the last week we've both confessed that it no longer felt like our home. As strange as that sounds, it's actually quite accurate. The living space looks nothing like it did for the last 14 years that we have lived in this house, so in many respects it's like we've moved to a new location and now have to figure out how to make it feel like home. I'm not complaining - just getting used to it.

If you follow my Facebook page (which is FAR. MORE. ACTIVE. than this blog!), you'll have seen the progress of this project along the way. But just in case there are some here who don't follow the #HouseToHome2014 saga on Facebook, here's the Before and After update, along with some specific details (which several of you have asked for)...

In April 2014, the living room and dining room looked like this...

In May 2014, it looked like a tornado had ripped through the house...

By June we had started rebuilding, optimistic that we'd be done by August (ish)...

When the house still looked like this in August, we knew we might have miscalculated...

Sheetrock was delivered in October... (and if you just read that as "Sherlock", you're not alone!)

Sheetrock was hung in October (not by us - we learned that lesson 10 years ago!)...

Then the finishing began (again, not by us... lesson learned!)...

Early November we found someone to sand & refinish the floors (Hubs had already repaired them)...

Once the floors were done, we covered them all with plastic and started painting...

Mid- November, Hubs started the time-consuming task of trimming doors and windows...

Oh, and trimming the walls too... (check out those original 9' ceilings!)

The day before Thanksgiving we started detail painting (which is when I came in)...

By Wednesday night, it looked like this, with outlets and cover plates...

On Friday morning it had furniture and power for the first time in 7 months...

And then the Christmas decorating started... 
but that's a post for another day!


Nitty Gritty Details:
Paint Color: Valspar Sea Salt Blue in semi-gloss (yes, we use semi-gloss on everything: walls, ceiling, trim)
Cabinets: Patterson Cabinet | Crate & Barrel
Couch: Ektorp | Ikea (3 years later & I still love it!)
Dining Chairs: Antique Black Dining Chairs | Target (we've acquired 10 over the years - love them!)
Light Fixture: Home Depot (11 years ago)
Dining Table: My grandparents (60+ years old)


#FoodForThought: Things That Caught My Attention

  • Are you worried about Ebola? Read this... a rational look at Ebola in the States, from someone who has lived through one Ebola outbreak already, and chooses to remain: ParadoxUganda
Teach them to fish...
  • She made a coat, and then she gave them jobs. She saw a need, and filled it. But best of all, she did not allow her past to dictate what she could become. 

Raising daughters...
Dancing priests...
  • This has got to be one of the most fun videos I've seen in a while. Forget the fact that they are priests... these guys can DANCE! And the singers aren't bad either. Watch the Dance-Off.
And in my own backyard...
  • Tom and Jerry decided to put on a show for me this week.


What's catching your attention in your world?


The Evolution of a #HouseToHome

Seven months after we were married, we fell in love again. This time it was with a 1500 sq. foot, 2-bedroom, 1-bath, 1940 brick bungalow. As soon as we walked in the door, it felt like we had come home. Oh sure, it needed some tender, loving care (the kitchen made no sense at all), but we both saw the potential for what it could be, and felt like it had good "bones" to work with.

Checking out the kitchen on our first walk-through in 2001

Over the last (almost) 14 years, we've torn off, ripped out, added on, and redone the entire house, leaving very few of the original "bones" intact in the process. From 2001 - 2005 we lived in chaos as we handled a home renovation and addition, doing everything ourselves except the shingles, the gutters, and some cement board siding. We went from 1500 sq. feet to 2000, added a new section of basement, created a master bedroom and bath, and modernized important things - like the plumbing and electricity.

Hard at work on the new basement wall in 2003

In 2004 we took our first longer trip overseas, and by 2005 we were committed to full-time international travel and work, which we continued until December 2008. On occasion we would pop home to check on family and get visas for our next destination. During these down times we continued to tweak the house, doing things like adding a third bathroom (which we had already plumbed for in the basement) on a $1200 budget.

Toilet, sink, shower, and fixtures - amazing what clearance shopping can do!

In 2009 we were trying to learn how to stay in one place for more than 3 months at a time, but since the bug of change seems to have bitten us pretty hard, we expressed that through more home renovations rather than constant travel. Peter crafted beautiful built-in bookshelves and a storage bench in our library that eventually put us on the cover of a magazine. We repainted the living room... twice, and started drawing out plans for our next major project - gutting the front half of the house.

Our library was the cover story for the USAA.com magazine in 2009

In late 2012, a new idea began to brew in our brains, which we ended up sitting on for over a year before taking any action. In late 2013 we started the ball rolling on some life-changing stuff that, in May of this year, motivated us to get started on our renovation plan. For the last 6 months, we've once again been living in chaos. We removed all the plaster, added insulation, and reworked the existing floor plan to make the most of the space that we have. What looked like this in late April...

The living room in April 2014
Looked like this by the end of May...

No more walls, no more heavy lath and plaster, new ceiling joists, new wiring, happy homeowner

And as of October, it looks more like this (with sheetrock scheduled to go up at some point in the next 2 weeks)...

Wood floors repaired, bathroom walls up, insulation in place (with just a touch more to come)

Over the last 14 years, we've pretty much left no part of the original house untouched. Even the outside went from this...

Summer 2001

To this...

Summer 2009

The fact of the matter is, we love our ever-evolving house. We love that we already have ideas for what to do next and how we could improve on what we already have. But we're also grateful for it. Living among those who have far less gave us a perspective that we didn't have when we first starting this never-ending project. Like anyone, we look around and think, "oh, we really would like to have... or change... or get...", but we also realize just how much we already have. This time around, every change is done with a new perspective and a new goal of sharing our home with those God brings into our life. Home renovation is fun (for us), but I'll be honest... it's more fun with a bigger purpose. 

How will you share your home this year?


Related Posts with Thumbnails