Birch Branches

Birch Branches“Every particular in nature, a leaf, a drop, a crystal, a moment of time is related to the whole, and partakes of the perfection of the whole.” Ralph Waldo EmersonDSC_0219 “Nature’s first green is gold, Her hardest hue to hold. Her early leaf’s a flower; But only so an hour. Then leaf subsides to leaf. So Eden sank to grief, So dawn goes down to day. Nothing gold can stay.” ― Robert Frost

Alabama Finds

I’m happily home again from adventures in Alabama, and ready for some big, exciting (to me) projects to tackle this summer.

I mentioned in this post that Mr. S spoiled me during our time in Birmingham and let me get some unique items for around the house. Being a lover of all things home-related, this sent me over the moon. 🙂

IMG_2489Remember when I asked you to guess which pillow I chose in this photo?

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Well, I chose the Tennessee pillow! Mr. S and I truly have a love affair with our state. Even though I’m a transplant, I can’t imagine anywhere sweeter to live. It’s where I met my husband (who says “yes ma’am” and melts my heart), my best girlfriends, and so many other women who have shaped my life. For Mr. S, it is home in every sense of the world, and when he’s away, he longs for it. Once again, I’ll share our favorite song about it. 🙂 IMG_2535

We also discovered these dried artichokes. Odd decor item? Perhaps. However, I love their natural color and texture. They’ve found a semi-permanent home on our buffet.

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I confess that we have World Market right here in town, but I couldn’t resist this chair pad that I knew would match my painted desk chair perfectly. 🙂 I also grabbed a few ceramic baking supplies while I was there.
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Some sweet Baby’s Tears for our nightstand. I have my fingers crossed that its care will be easier than my Maiden Hair ferns (though they’re still thriving).

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And, best of all, this beautiful mirror! It is currently hanging over our bed. The color is a muted grayish-green (difficult to capture on camera). IMG_2547 IMG_2549Lucy the Beagle approves!

It’s so fun to put together things slowly over time and to surround ourselves with items that bring back memories of special people and places.

Thanks for stopping by! 🙂

 

Memorial Day

My heart is too full, proud, and heavy this Memorial Day to pen words of my own.

So instead, I’ll share an excerpt of Mr. S’s favorite speech, President Ronald Reagan’s “A Time for Choosing,” in his honor today.

Though it covers several of President Reagan’s core values, I have highlighted the portions I believe hold greatest meaning to Mr. S, whose heart is mostly that of a soldier.

Now let’s set the record straight. There’s no argument over the choice between peace and war, but there’s only one guaranteed way you can have peace—and you can have it in the next second—surrender.

Admittedly, there’s a risk in any course we follow other than this, but every lesson of history tells us that the greater risk lies in appeasement, and this is the specter our well-meaning liberal friends refuse to face—that their policy of accommodation is appeasement, and it gives no choice between peace and war, only between fight or surrender. If we continue to accommodate, continue to back and retreat, eventually we have to face the final demand—the ultimatum. And what then—when Nikita Khrushchev has told his people he knows what our answer will be? He has told them that we’re retreating under the pressure of the Cold War, and someday when the time comes to deliver the final ultimatum, our surrender will be voluntary, because by that time we will have been weakened from within spiritually, morally, and economically. He believes this because from our side he’s heard voices pleading for “peace at any price” or “better Red than dead,” or as one commentator put it, he’d rather “live on his knees than die on his feet.” And therein lies the road to war, because those voices don’t speak for the rest of us. 

You and I know and do not believe that life is so dear and peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery. If nothing in life is worth dying for, when did this begin—just in the face of this enemy? Or should Moses have told the children of Israel to live in slavery under the pharaohs? Should Christ have refused the cross? Should the patriots at Concord Bridge have thrown down their guns and refused to fire the shot heard ’round the world? The martyrs of history were not fools, and our honored dead who gave their lives to stop the advance of the Nazis didn’t die in vain. Where, then, is the road to peace? Well it’s a simple answer after all. 

You and I have the courage to say to our enemies, “There is a price we will not pay.” “There is a point beyond which they must not advance.” And this—this is the meaning in the phrase of Barry Goldwater’s “peace through strength.” Winston Churchill said, “The destiny of man is not measured by material computations. When great forces are on the move in the world, we learn we’re spirits—not animals.” And he said, “There’s something going on in time and space, and beyond time and space, which, whether we like it or not, spells duty.” 

You and I have a rendezvous with destiny. 

We’ll preserve for our children this, the last best hope of man on earth, or we’ll sentence them to take the last step into a thousand years of darkness. 

We will keep in mind and remember that Barry Goldwater has faith in us. He has faith that you and I have the ability and the dignity and the right to make our own decisions and determine our own destiny.

Thank you very much.

Sweet “Home” Alabama

Mr. S has been spending lots of time lately just a few hours away from home in Alabama for work. We planned that I’d visit him this weekend to help with a work-related commitment.

This week, thinking I was still days away from seeing his handsome face, I looked up from my sanding work in Dad’s garage, and there he was! He stood there with flowers and a broad grin. What a fantastic surprise!

After a couple of much-needed days at home together, we headed to Birmingham. He told me Saturday would include a mystery activity I was sure to enjoy, and to pack clothes comfortable for doing lots of walking outside.

After a delicious breakfast (an avocado-and-egg-white sandwich and black coffee), we headed off to his surprise destination; the Birmingham Zoo!

We were greeted by the sight of many fire trucks and clearly-happy first responders taking relaxed strolls around the grounds. We soon learned that we were there for Birmingham Fire and Rescue’s annual Family Day, and knew we’d be super safe in the event of an emergency. IMG_2460Our excited faces as we reached our destination.IMG_2461The hot, humid weather seemed to fit the lush, tropical scenery. I confess that I clapped my hands and jumped a little at the sight of the lovely birds.  IMG_2464 Clearly relaxed and sure of her position at the top of the food chain. IMG_2462    Look closely and you’ll see a HUGE komodo (just compare it to the little one’s feet)!IMG_2492IMG_2465Nothing like a black bear lounging in a pool to brighten your day. IMG_2463IMG_2495These two pecked at each other and fought over the nectar. Later, one flew on my shoulder and tickled my head. No manners at all. 🙂

I couldn’t help but feel awe at the incredible variety of creatures in our lovely world. I was also happy to have the opportunity to thank a Vietnam Veteran we encountered by chance just in time on this Memorial Day weekend.

Next, we visited the Birmingham Botanical Gardens, a fabulous stop, admission free! We began with its gorgeous gift shop, and Mr. S spoiled me with a few indulgences.

It offered a mix of unique home wares, garden accessories, and potted plants.

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I went home with a gorgeous mirror, lush baby’s tears, a sweet pot for our new plant, and more.

Next, we explored the garden grounds. I don’t have to write much (these gardens speak for themselves), but I’ll say that I cried (happy tears) as I viewed one area set up for a wedding, a wooden cross with roses making an informal altar.

IMG_2486 IMG_2485 IMG_2484 IMG_2483 IMG_2482 IMG_2481IMG_2479 IMG_2478 IMG_2459If you’re a nature lover or gardener, you must  visit of you travel through the area. Though they certainly worked hard to make the gardens accessible, I wouldn’t recommend it to the very old, the very young, or those with limited mobility. Many steep hills and miles and miles of trails make the gardens a little overwhelming (in a good way).

IMG_2488Lastly, we stopped by a local boutique called Dande Lion. I may have gone home with a total splurge. I loved the shop’s sweet owner and was so happy we had the opportunity to meet her.

IMG_2489Can you guess which pillow came home with us? 🙂

 After our adventures, I met a couple of the admirable men with whom Mr. S works, made a quick Anthropologie stop, and enjoyed a delicious dinner (with chocolate cheesecake).

I’m so thankful we had the opportunity to spend a day enjoying new sights and each other’s company. Memories with my best bud. What more could I ask for?

Thanks for stopping by and sharing in these little delights with me.

Type A

This morning, I rose propelled by adrenaline. Stress and all its friends (anxiousness, worry, panic) had an icy grip on my heart. My racing mind knee-jerked and said, “Rise, tackle the list, get it done–or else!”

All of this at 3:00 a.m.

It doesn’t really matter the task, does it? A worrier’s heart will find a way to worry.

I can rationalize the problem, since some qualities of this bent are good: getting it done, doing it well, and working hard. But underneath the pretty, whitewashed exterior, there’s an ugly competition:

Pride and anxiousness battle tirelessly for first place in my heart.

On the one hand, the idea that my own works say something good about me. On the other, the “what-if,” “worst-case” scenarios of dread play out in my mind.

If you’re like me, people without this struggle don’t understand you.

You may appear to be an enigma–someone constantly propelled forward, needing little rest, little reward, and little time to accomplish much. You may be a wrecking ball of power and swift accomplishment. You might be the “how-does-she-do-it” mom, or the “look-at-his-success” man. They don’t know that your driving force is not always quiet resolve, but is sometimes stress and pride lighting a fire in your bones.

On the other hand, you may be a hop, skip, and a jump away from a full-on panic attack. You may be racing around in a tizzy, looking a like a fool to the world.
“Just stay on top of things,” they innocently suggest, as if you were ever behind.
“Bless her heart,” they say, knowing you’re drowning in an imaginary tidal wave of busyness. You may be a frazzled mess, moving with all the speed of a celestial body toward your next task. The tragically-funny piece of your race is that your to-do list has no end. And, truth be told, you wouldn’t know what to do with yourself if it did.

Praise God, there’s no hope for those ugly challengers. They don’t know that the competition is Jesus.

I’m not lost in my ways, because Christ’s continual triumph is within me, and “I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in [me] will bring it to completion.”

With gladness, I can surrender the tasks set before me to Him.

23 Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.
Colossians 3:23-24

With peace, I can surrender my anxieties to my loving Father.

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
John 14:27

Type A friend, don’t toil under the illusion that you must go it alone, or that a weight is on your shoulders. You need not carry it alone. All that’s left for you to do is to lay it all down at the feet of The Lord.

Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
Matt 11:29-30

Plenty Pretty

Dear Friend,

You are beautiful.

But you don’t always feel that way, do you?

Have you, too, been in that moment? The one when you try on item after item in your too-tight wardrobe, face heated, emotions rising, eyes brimming with tears, hating your own body?

Or the one when you catch a glimpse in the mirror at the end of a day? Your skin is either shining and oily or alligator dry, your makeup is smudged away leaving blemish scars on display, and maybe there’s a humiliating stray hair or two sprouting somewhere embarrassing. As if on cue, images of airbrushed-beautiful models come to mind, and you quickly turn from the mirror.

There have been moments when I feel, not frumpy or haggard, but downright ashamed when I look in the mirror. Have you felt it, too?

I could talk to you for hours, seated on a comfy couch and wrapped in a blanket, about my insecurities and hang ups. I could tell you the times I was mocked for the acne on my skin. I could tell you about when, as a teenager, I heard girls snickering about my “almost pretty face” just loud enough so I could hear, and how I went to the girls’ bathroom and wept. Little comments that are lies of the world.

And, sister, I know you have your share of heartaches and hurts, too! Did your mother tell you, “If you’d just lose some weight…” Did someone gasp when you walked in the room without makeup? Who or what filled your mind with lies?

We could talk about our hurts and wounds all day. But those thoughts and feelings are lies, so instead, I want to share truth with you.

Friend, I am plenty pretty enough, and so are you.

“For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,”
Psalm 139:13-14

Oh, the folly of my wandering heart that cries, “I disagree with You, Lord.”

“Listen, O daughter, consider and give ear:
Forget your people and your father’s house.
The king is enthralled by your beauty,
honor him, for he is your lord.”
Psalm 45:10-11

Did you read that with me? The Lord doesn’t think you’re OK. He’s enthralled by you. You are loved, beyond reason or logic, and pursued relentlessly by the King.

And the best part is, the things we do to make ourselves acceptable to this world we’re passing through are totally without value.

Do not let your adorning be external
   —the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry,
or the clothing you wear—
but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart
with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit,
which in God’s sight is very precious.”
1 Peter 3:3-4

Your tattered jeans, your summer frizz, and your scuffed up shoes mean nothing in the eyes of the Lord. The gentle tranquility of your heart makes you lovely.

The bump in your nose was planned and is actually adorable (I’m speaking to myself here). The stretch marks around your waist from bringing forth new life are gorgeous. Your skin was made with pores on purpose.

Look at yourself! Really.

Look, with wonderment, that when your friends and family look at your smiling face, their hearts feel joy. Do you see that wide smile? It’s contagious. Your giggle? It is infectious and makes others join in. Are there lines around your eyes? They tell every stranger you meet, “This woman has laughed and cried and lived life with others.”

Do you see the Lord’s perfect plan for your face? When we look at you, friend, we feel happiness and adoration.

Have you seen your child smile and reach up from his crib at the sight of you? Did your groom, like mine, cry as you walked down the aisle? Has your grin in a coffee shop made the stranger passing by grin, too?

To me, there’s no sweeter, more joyful name than Jesus. And guess what?

“he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
and no beauty that we should desire him.”
Isaiah 53:2b

However you stumbled upon this little musing, I pray for you, right now, that you see yourself as you really are.

“Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain,
but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.”
Proverbs 31:30

With Love