2-Year Anniversary

Choosing joy today! And it’s easy to do!

Today, it’s been two years of marriage. Two years of the sweetest friendship this world has to offer.

Together or miles apart, the day is just as special. Together or apart, the covenant is just as strong. Together or apart, the goodness of the Lord’s blessing doesn’t increase or decrease.

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IMG_4597.JPGLove this lion-hearted man who’s as strong and steady as they come. His servant-minded attitude, his sense of humor, those kind blue eyes, and the way he says, “Yes ma’am,” all make my heart skip a beat.

A Loving Surprise

During my second year of teaching, I married the man of my dreams.

I confess that I may have been a little distracted as I daydreamed about the ceremony, my groom, and the thought of driving off together, beginning a new adventure. 🙂 That the Lord had blessed me, of all people, with such a steadfast, lion-hearted man was (and is) beyond comprehension.

Luckily for me, the parents and co-workers around me were more than sympathetic to my Disney-princess-esque ideas of happily ever after, and showed me great love and kindness in the weeks leading up to our wedding.

One day, I happily waltzed into the cafeteria for snack, and an entire bridal shower had been set up for me! There were my favorite flowers, snacks, and gifts galore! I was blown away by the kindness, planning, and love that went into every detail.

One of those gifts has been used time and time again. It is from a student’s mom who simply oozes creativity and thoughtfulness. Here is the message on the back:

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This perfect gift has blessed us more than words can say. It’s been a happy surprise, and a stronghold for tenderness and intentional praise.

Today, I came home after a late day at work, and discovered this sweet message, from my man of action, but of few words:

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A pile of mush? Absolutely! The best message I could imagine receiving from my husband during this season of our lives? For sure. 🙂 I am in agreement that this message will be “an amazing way to start each day” for a good while.

The sweetest part of marriage is that, as smitten as I was before the “I Do,” the love and gratitude only grows.

For us, marriage doesn’t mean togetherness, laying down beside each other at night, or talking every day. But it is a bond beyond words, and we believe the Lord himself sealed the covenant we made to each other. Thankful that neither time nor distance can touch that which is hidden away in Christ.

I pray we continue to draw close during trials as they come, and never pull away.

“So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”
Matt 19:6

Wildly Undomesticated

Mr. S. doing what he does best with our nephew and niece.
Mr. S. doing what he does best with our nephew and niece.

My husband comes alive outside.

At home, he rests, re-energizes, refreshes and washes. He loves tenderly, laughs heartily, and sleeps soundly.

I love that. I see this as my life-long ministry to him, to create a place of just that in our home. My greatest pleasure in marriage is to see my husband walk in the door, sit down for dinner, or crawl into bed and sigh a happy sigh of relief and contentment.

And lest you think I’m claiming victory over the domestic sphere (ha), let me confess that I’ve made our home a less-than-lovely place many times in my (grumpy, lazy, ugly) sin. Yet we have the luxury of living under abounding grace, and so in spite of our failings, the general pattern of our days at home is one of joy and tenderness.

And though home is good for him, he doesn’t thrive here like I do. The reason is simple. In his heart, my husband is wildly undomesticated.

Continue reading “Wildly Undomesticated”

Let’s Go on a Treasure Hunt Part 2

Hello Again! I am so glad you decided to join me once again for some more window shopping, my one and only “sport.”

If you missed Part 1 of our Asheville adventure, you can find it by clicking here.

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I have to begin with my big “splurge” of the trip. We visited Southern Highland Craft Gallery just to kill some time. It features work by local artisans who have incredible talent. Featured artists include exceptional woodworkers, jewelry makers, painters, sculptors, quilters, and more.

Truly on a whim, we decided to purchase some wooden cooking utensils. I love the idea that everyday objects can serve as beautiful, functional art. They require a little more gentle care than my steel utensils, but they’ll put a smile on my face every time I use them. Though we both agreed to purchase them, I know Mr. S just wanted to see me smile.

IMG_0999The next two items were found in a Biltmore Village antique store. Not only did I love them, I actually felt that I could replicate at home.

If I ever decide to make over our buffet, I think I’d do a painted pattern like the one on the left. Can you make out the red and white leaves and birds? Though I am a fan of light whites and soothing neutrals in our home, I love the contrast a dark focus piece like this provides.

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The chair on the right was one of a set of four. They made my jaw drop. I loved not only their classic shape but the unusual, muted, inky-blue fabric with pops of orange and red. Together with the dark wood finish, it stole the show.

The rest of the shop included many beautiful, fussy things I’m not quite sophisticated enough to appreciate. 😉

We actually even found some furniture and light fixtures equal in price to my entire salary at a nearby store. Can you just picture me holding my breath, praying not to knock anything over?! We couldn’t stop gawking like total tourists at every price tag and yet couldn’t help feeling quite relieved when we left!

We next stopped at “Screen Door,” and we are so happy we did! It is sort of a co-op including MANY dealers and a variety of vintage, re-finished, re-purposed and hand-crafted items.

Though I am picturing items that suit my personal taste below, believe me, there was something for everyone at this place, from mid-century modern, to mountain-cabin rustic.

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This huge sign caught my eye right off the bat! I would estimate that it is about 7 feet wide.

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Antique tobacco baskets with missing pieces are a common sight here in the South. What is uncommon is to see such baskets artfully repaired with another material.

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We laughed together as we agreed that this would be an excellent way to finally protect our little plants from our ruthless Lucy. If you don’t know who Lucy is, you can read about her here.

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This table is great inspiration for our soon-to-be-built table (to pair with the chairs featured in I Snagged A Deal, Y’all!)IMG_1010

I know someone is crying because this booth’s owner decided to paint over wood, but I think the result is beautiful! IMG_1014

Mr. S. was frustrated that all these teeth and gears had no function, but we both appreciated the industrial look of this “bar cart.”

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I could see this piece being utilized as storage in a foyer or play room (Although, watch out! I imagine a scratch from this baby might require a tetanus shot)! IMG_1024 IMG_1022

Pretty cool pillows for sale as either insert and cover, or just cover. IMG_1017

Another, more Santos Figure like those found in Part 1. IMG_1025

I am in love the with texture and print on these textiles! IMG_1026

Another neat textile display featuring lovely cobalt blue.IMG_1027

Beautiful frames made with scrap wood and beadboard for a cause. You can find them here.

To understand how awesome these next three finds are, you must visit Restoration Hardware’s wooden mirror collection.

Then, compare the products featured online with these in the Screen Door booth for a fraction of the price!

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I think this craftsman did an incredible job. He/she had other finishes available, too!

Let’s Go on a Treasure Hunt Part 1

Hi there, friend! Ready to come along on a treasure hunt?

IMG_0985Mr. S and I recently traveled to North Carolina to accomplish some military-related business and then sneak in a few days of rest and relaxation.

We traveled all night and morning until we reached our destination. After recovering in our hotel room for a couple of hours, we grabbed an espresso-filled pick-me-up and hit the pavement (or cobblestone in Asheville).

We investigated a few of the many specialty and antique shops of Asheville, NC (guess who was happier about that) and discovered all sorts of goodies.

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Our First stop was the Gardener’s Cottage. This lovely little store was nestled right up to Biltmore Estate (if you’re unfamiliar, it is a HUGE, lovely, over-the-top home built by the Vanderbilt family). Like most shops near the Biltmore, it’s filled with expensive antiques, but this one also offers some truly beautiful plants. We even came home with some flora of our own (now to keep it alive).

Here are a few of the gems that made my heart happy:

IMG_0992This amazing twig chandelier is delightfully whimsical.

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Everything in the shop had a natural feeling, like these unique utensils and flower-themed bowls.

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This dreamy hydrangea wreath brought my own wedding bouquet to mind.

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I brought home a couple of “Baby’s Tears” plants, along with some great advice for their care. They are pictured above on our dresser.

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The little fern in my birdcage and stone rabbit are also from The Gardener’s Cottage, and bring a little bit of the outdoors in. IMG_1182The fern, bird’s egg nest, and stone rabbit were all Asheville finds that were immediately incorporated into our little Spring-themed vignette as soon as we walked in our door.

IMG_1161Another happy find was “Tobacco Barn Antiques.

Please believe me when I say that “enormous” doesn’t even begin to describe this multiple-vendor site. This place was HUGE!

Like many antique stores, there was a wide variety of items, time periods, and prices. But with so many items from so many vendors, we were sure to find some gems. In fact, I commented many times that I could decorate our entire home with finds from the Barn.

Below are just a few of the items that truly enchanted me. Friend, if I could have brought all of them home, I might have! I hope something catches your eye, too.

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Mr. S. was amused by my love of this tiny crown. 🙂
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This awesome table is solid wood unlike a hollow version we found in a big-box store.

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I loved this collection of Santos figurinesIMG_1157

These candle molds were available in abundance. Can you picture one of them as a beautiful, primitive centerpiece? IMG_1155

I loved this complete mantel’s rich color, intricate carvings, and cheap price tag!
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If only all birds could be so lucky to have digs like this.

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I was amused that these chairs wound up here. Someone clearly saw them as outdated and frumpy, but this style, like nearly everything else in design, has come back around! IMG_1152

I loved these nesting tables in natural wood, and would also adore them painted with some chippy Milk Paint or “antiqued” Chalk Paint. IMG_1151

Some folks probably don’t understand my fascination with this basket full of old shoe forms. Do you? 🙂 IMG_1150

We wished we could take this beautiful island/occasional table with us.
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This cotton wreath would make such a soft, Southern welcome. IMG_1144

This candelabra would look fantastic hanging over a rustic table. IMG_1143

Nothing says “Sweet, Strong Stewarts” like a rusted, metal S. IMG_1147

Weathervanes in my favorite color

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There were plenty of olive baskets. I have seen these used in kitchens for apple and potato storage, and think they’d make a pretty neat container for guest room bath towels.IMG_1145

Something about the blue-and-white stripes and chippy wood made me fall for this unusual footstool.

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Can you picture this salvaged old alcove’s former glory? I envision it as a pretty nifty store display.IMG_1140

I loved this old entrance to a house of worship. IMG_1139

Who can resist golden angel wings? IMG_1130

Do you see the potential in this old junk, too, or am I just a sentimental nut? Either way, we sure had fun scrounging around!

I hope you’ll share your favorite find with me, and that you’ll join me tomorrow for Part 2.

I’m Linking Up To:

     Not Just a Housewife

     Be Different, Act Normal

     Reasons to Skip the Housework

     A Pretty Life in the Suburbs

     Happiness Is Homemade

Too Much Time On My Hands

The Humble, Lowly, Common Man

Today, my students and I were privileged to hear a beautiful piece of music performed by our capital’s talented symphony.

Photo by Weston Demonbreun (http://www.gwstudios.biz/)
Photo by Weston Demonbreun (http://www.gwstudios.biz/)

High-toned brass communicated triumph. Lower timbres gave the piece regal depth. The music swelled with such power and prestige. As I listened, I pictured mountain peaks, soaring birds, grand processions, nobility, and more. Chills spread across my skin, and my heart soared as high as the symphony hall’s gilded ceilings. It wasn’t just the music. It was the title.

Any king would be honored to be represented by the song. In fact, it has been chosen to communicate triumphant entrances by politicians, producers, professional sports teams, and the Queen of England herself. But its composer, Aaron Copeland, instead titled his piece, “Fanfare of the Common Man.”

And, friends, does the common man not deserve fanfare?

Every morning as a girl, I listened to my father’s boot-clad footsteps thud across the floor downstairs as I lay cozy under my quilt, head on my pillow, only half-awake and still half-dreaming. I would listen silently as Dad would microwave his instant coffee, head out into the cold alone, and make the drive (that he still makes today) to his factory far away. Never once did I worry if we’d eat dinner, stay warm, or sleep safe. Dad took care of those things. If he worried about the future, I never knew. Away he’d go, faithfully every morning, to care for us all as we slept in our beds, safely abiding in the home he created for us.

Sometimes, I’d sneak away for a slumber party at a friend’s house. We’d be reminded not to make too much racket as her father, dear to me still, had to work in the morning. We would ignore that request and get carried away telling secrets, writing stories, and giggling through the night. I remember well his patient reminders on a couple of occasions that we needed to stay quiet so that he could sleep. The night would continue with careless ease until we finally settled down, well after midnight. Then, before we drifted off, before the fingers of daylight had even slipped above the horizon, he’d walk through the living room, into the kitchen, heavy boots resounding, and head off to his fire hall to provide for his family and to protect and rescue strangers.

My husband and his sister were raised by their mother and her husband. Though not his father at birth, he became a dad to them in every sense of the word. He taught them, protected them, and provided for them like they were his own. He spent weeks at a time on the road, driving alone as a trucker, while they attended school, stayed home, and led the care-free lives led by well-loved children. When my husband affectionately says, “Dad,” this is the man I instinctively know he is speaking about.

My best friend’s parents separated when she was young. Not long after, while she was still a girl, her mother was in a horrifying collision that left her with several severe health issues that would forever alter her quality of life. Her father could not shake the feeling of responsibility. He has since spent nearly two decades loyally caring for her and raising their daughter virtually alone. He has not asked for praise. He hasn’t held it over anyone’s head or felt entitled to special recognition. He is a man who has dutifully put his family first in spite of intense hardship.

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Mr. S’s very own dirty boots.

I now watch my own husband show love in more ways than I could imagine. He has started my car and brewed my coffee on cold mornings. He has worked through the night in sub-zero temperatures to serve our city and provide for our family. He has traveled around the country and world to serve our country. He has run on virtually no sleep without complaint to care for his family. He dutifully gets our oil changed, takes out the trash, walks the dog, and serves me daily. He has reminded me to rest, to eat, to sleep, to relax, and more for my own good.

I propose that every one of these men deserves a fanfare of their own. Because the act of leading and protecting a family is as important and noble as anything worth writing in the pages of a history book.

Quietly, men around us toil and overcome the world day after day.

Whether a man waits tables with excellence and care, writes laws to improve our cities, prepares in singleness for a family of his own, collects the garbage while others sleep, leads a ministry through prayer and intentional seeking, or makes sales with integrity, I propose that he is worth celebrating just as he is.

Police Academy Graduation and Speech

Officer and Mrs. Stewart

Mr. S. made me the proudest wife (once again) in November of 2013 when he graduated from the Metro Nashville Police Academy.

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Mayor Karl Dean swearing in the class as they transformed from officer candidates to full-fledged Police Officers.

Though he’s been through some of the toughest training the military has to offer, the Academy was no picnic and lasted for 6 loooong months.

Stress, law studying, boot polishing, uniform pressing, lunch packing, flash-card making, early mornings, late nights, and more characterized those days. Week by week, it seemed that we barely had time to look at, much less truly talk to, each other. Our mentality was, “Just suck it up and get through this.” Thanks to the military, this is an attitude we are familiar with as a family.

Continue reading “Police Academy Graduation and Speech”