In friendship…we think we have chosen our peers. In reality a few years’ difference in the dates of our births, a few more miles between certain houses, the choice of one university instead of another…the accident of a topic being raised or not raised at a first meeting–any of these chances might have kept us apart. But, for a Christian, there are, strictly speaking no chances. A secret master of ceremonies has been at work. Christ, who said to the disciples, “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you,” can truly say to every group of Christian friends, “Ye have not chosen one another but I have chosen you for one another.” The friendship is not a reward for our discriminating and good taste in finding one another out. It is the instrument by which God reveals to each of us the beauties of others.”
–C.S. Lewis

IMG_3034Snapshots of a refreshing day with sweet friends in Cookeville, TN! One of my favorite places!

IMG_3024 My precious best friend has been tediously transforming an untended bed into a beautiful little green spot. We stopped by Johnson’s Nursery and Garden Center and drank in the gorgeous flora. IMG_3023There were  some neat items for sale indoors, too (sorry for the back-lit photo)! IMG_3035

I was blessed to spend time with a beautiful friend and her little boy at Cream City, a fun ice cream parlor near the square. Happily, they had some plain-jane, coffee-flavored ice cream with my name on it. IMG_3022Across the road is a function train station featuring some well-maintained cars that kids and tourists can climb on and explore. IMG_3036This lady is a beautiful mother to a perfect little baby boy. She wisely chose a meeting spot she knew he’d love.
IMG_3037IMG_3039See this beautiful face? She was part of our college girls’ Bible Study and caught the bouquet at our wedding! She has passed on a love of spicy food to my best friend (her roomie), and they enjoyed an intense jalepeño competition. I’ll never tell who won! 🙂

I am beyond thankful to have spent time visiting with these sweet friends.

Freshly-Tilled Heart

I could declare it “The Time of Sorrow.” Not just for us, but more importantly for many of those we love dearly.

It is with near-certainty that I declare that you, too, have probably been through a season (or twelve) like that. At every turn there seems to be, another grieving, hurting friend. Messages bearing bad news arrive by the dozen through e-mails, texts, and calls. There is always a visitation, a funeral, a mourning friend. It can feel like the world is declaring, “Here I am again; I’ve come to pull you down with me.”

Dark? Maybe.

But the Word gave me is this truth:

“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.”
1 Peter 4:12-13

We are guaranteed hardship as a result of living in a fallen world, but in God’s gracious sovereignty, all toward revelations of His glory!

Have you seen a farmer prepare a new field? He travels over the expanse of hard ground to retrieve a rather frightening machine. With twirling blades, he pierces the surface of the earth, breaks up clumps of clay, and transforms it into light, loose soil perfect for spreading his seed. He takes the unyielding ground below and transforms it so that he might grow something beautiful and nourishing where scraggly weeds once thrived.

Suffering is certain.

For some folks, when their hearts are attacked by trials, blades piercing through, thick scars commemorate the site of the wounds. With every hardship, they become a little tougher, stonier, and withdrawn.

For those of us who call Jesus “Lord,” that tilling and overturning does something different. Our stony hearts become hearts of flesh. When the world slashes our hearts open, they are transformed into yielding ground ready to be sowed with seeds of truth, watered with grace.

“In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. ”
1 Peter 6-7

Take heart in your suffering, and know that you are being grown, cared for, and refined through every painful moment. Praise God that when we’re cracked open and left raw, we’re in position to produce a harvest of good fruit beyond what would have been possible if we’d been left alone.

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
Romans 5:1-5

A Psalm for our Troops

A Psalm for our SF troops; they are always on my heart.

91 He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
2 I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.”
3 For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler
and from the deadly pestilence.
4 He will cover you with his pinions,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.
5 You will not fear the terror of the night,
nor the arrow that flies by day,
6 nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness,
nor the destruction that wastes at noonday.
7 A thousand may fall at your side,
ten thousand at your right hand,
but it will not come near you.
8 You will only look with your eyes
and see the recompense of the wicked.
9 Because you have made the Lord your dwelling place—
the Most High, who is my refuge—
10 no evil shall be allowed to befall you,
no plague come near your tent.
11 For he will command his angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways.
12 On their hands they will bear you up,
lest you strike your foot against a stone.
13 You will tread on the lion and the adder;
the young lion and the serpent you will trample underfoot.
14 “Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him;
I will protect him, because he knows my name.
15 When he calls to me, I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble;
I will rescue him and honor him.
16 With long life I will satisfy him
and show him my salvation.”


Table Completed

The day has come! Our new table is in place, and I couldn’t be more grateful! photo (4)Here’s a look back at our first table! This table served us well for nearly three years. It was a moving sale find that cost us under a hundred bucks. I did (and do) love it, but there were a few reasons it wasn’t “just right” for us.

First, it was bar height. As we increasingly have little ones over at our place and look forward to children of our own someday, we realize this isn’t the most family friendly option.

Secondly, It wasn’t ideal for company (and we L-O-V-E having people in our home). The leaf was destroyed before we owned it; the previous owners’ dog had chewed right through it! To entertain, we had to use the leaf and cover it with a table cloth, plus add additional less-than-comfy counter stools.

Thirdly, it needed some TLC. The poly topcoat was failing after some less-than-careful care. If we’d kept it, I planned to sand, touch up dinged corners with a wood stain pen, and completely re-seal the thing.

Lastly, and absolutely in dead-last where importance is concerned, it just wasn’t “me.” Certainly no reason for a major overhaul, but I do enjoy the pursuit of pretty. 🙂 

After the table found a loving new home (its new owner, by the way, style it adorably and made me realize how cute it really was), we were left with four lonely chairs I wrote about here.

They’re definitely “trendy” despite their classic shape because of the wood’s finish and upholstery in linen. I know that my tastes will drift a few years down the road, so I’m glad I got a fantastic deal on these. When the time comes, I won’t feel guilty when I swap ’em out! I can already picture some lovely Windsor chairs down the road for a distinctively American feeling (don’t tell Mr. S these chairs are quite French, or I’ll have to immediately give them the axe). 😉  IMG_2741

And here is the table my dad, brother, and I created (can you guess which one of us was the least helpful?)! I am crazy about its look, but more importantly, I love that it was made with love! It turned out better than I could have imagined. Best of all, it cost us about $200.00 in materials–the deal of the century for a solid wood piece of loveliness.

Brother and I designed it together, and enjoyed sketching out everything from leg styles (we chose a huskier size than normal to give a substantial feel, but went with a traditional look) to the Golden Ratio (we are that weird). Though we considered lots of things when designing it, our most major concern was overall size. We decided on its size because of the space we have now, and because we think our first home will probably just have a small eat-in kitchen. Anything larger may not fit! If, down the road, we also have a larger formal dining room, we’ll purchase a larger table. 🙂

The top is made of a series of boards skillfully selected, perfected, and planed by Daddy. He carefully cut away knots and imperfections that would interfere with the structure of the table while letting me keep the little dings and marks I thought were beautiful. I also learned how to align the boards with the end grain going in different directions to prevent warping over time. It is truly amazing how much wood moves over time with changes in temperature and humidity and Dad made other structural provisions with that in mind.


We chose maple ,a nice hardwood, for the top stained it in a cool tone (Dark Walnut by Minwax), and sealed it carefully with polyurethane. We wanted a surface that was durable and ready for daily use. I adore the way the stain looks with the pickled finish on the chairs. Dad carefully showed me several options for routing the edge, and I think we chose well in the end!


We chose to save money on the base by purchasing softer, more affordable poplar. I painted it with a matte shade of white (while I adore dark and gleaming antiques, I’m much too casual of a girl for all that). The boys patiently let me paint it myself, and didn’t even complain when I insisted on taking the time to apply many super thin, drip-free coats. It’s still waiting for me to slather on Annie Sloan’s Clear Wax (just what I have on hand, but any brand would do if you want to do this yourself) for extra protection.IMG_2750

See those deep, diagonal lines? We left ’em on purpose! Dad and Brother planed the surface by hand. It’s hard work, and they did it not once, but TWICE!

In a frustrating turn of events, after I carefully stained and sealed the top, our last coat of poly was a nightmare–it dried with bubbles you could see when light shined across the surface, and it appeared cloudy. After much strategy talk, we decided to bite the bullet and totally strip it down to bare wood. This meant hours of extra planing and sanding. A lesson in patience to be sure.

Though we could have made it perfectly smooth (we did the first time), this time I insisted on keeping the marks of their second round of hand planing to remember the hard work they put into the table, and because I love the homemade feel it gives the piece.
IMG_2760Momma and I enjoying a breakfast of apple-smoked sausage, fresh apples, and a strawberry-banana-mango smoothie as the first meal enjoyed at the table.







Other delights this weekend included finding an ironstone pitcher for a song while antiquing with a friend, the arrival of my new lesson planner for next school year, a glorious sunset by a loving Father, and a fun couples’ baby shower.

I look forward to sharing meals with family and friends, happily sewing, creating art, and (prayerfully) doing kids’ homework on our table in the years to come.

Hope you’ll come “sit a spell” with us, too!


I’m linking up:

  DIY Showoff: That DIY Party