This post has been on my heart for a number of days, but I'm only now able to articulate it.  The past year has been difficult, personally, as I've lost a number of loved ones - far too many.  Most recently, I said goodbye to my precious Mom Steward.

We met almost twenty years ago, and one of my first impressions of her was her gentle kindness.  When Chad and I would visit from college, she often had a single rose, clipped from her garden, waiting for me on the table.  Before she really knew me, long before Chad and I were married, she treated me as one of her own.  I used to love the large, crumble-top blueberry muffins she baked for breakfast, and the strawberry "salad" that went with dinner, which was really dessert-before-the-dessert. ;)  Her eyes lit up when she showed me the various flowering plants inside and outside her home, explaining the varieties and how to care for them.  Everything she touched, flourished.  And when it came to serving others, I'd get mentally tired just thinking of all the people she reached out to.  She never stopped caring and doing for her family, neighbors (and their furry friends), church family and those who couldn't help themselves.  She poured herself into others.

Mom was such a special lady, it's no wonder that Dad Steward is a special guy to have won her heart so many years ago; he is one of the finest men I know.  Through our loss I've had the chance to spend quality time with both Mom and Dad Steward's families, getting a taste of their upbringing and the legacies of their own parents and grandparents.  At one moment I looked at Chad and asked "How did I get so lucky?".  While I don't really believe in luck, when I first fell for Chad, I had no idea the caliber of his family, immediate and extended.  They know how to treat others, and how to love.  And by God's grace, I met and married a man who has those same traits and outstanding character.  As Chad's cousins so succinctly stated, Mom and Dad Steward's legacy has been passed down to their families, and to mine.

I've been soaking up a Bible study by Beth Moore, and one of her statements really spoke to me this morning: "God knows how everything will turn out.  And, for every single person who belongs to Him, it turns out well."  This truth is comforting for two reasons:

1) I've learned that as long as I lean on God, He will heal even my deepest sorrow.  Mourning will again turn to joy (Isaiah 61:3).

2) Mom Steward lived her life well.  And she finished well.  As a child of God, she's received the ultimate reward of eternity with Him.

It doesn't get better than that.

Rose

Roses were Mom's favorite. This is a snapshot from Chad's and my rosebush that she gave to us when we first moved into our house. Its blooms will always remind us of her.

Sometimes introducing a new jewelry design is scary: I don't know what others will think of it.  Sometimes, others really don't think much of a particular design.  But when I hit on something special, it's a great feeling.

That's how I feel about this hammered copper rope ring.  It's made from several strands of wire that I twist together and hammer out into a rope pattern.  Since introducing it in late November, it's become my best seller, as in I've sold more of this ring than any other design since I started making jewelry.  A beautiful thing, too, is that some customers have ordered it in a set of "his" and "her" bands.  That is precious to me.

Hammered Copper Rope Ring

On my own, I probably would not have made this ring.  It was, instead, inspired by a custom order I filled for a twisted copper bracelet.  The ring seemed like a natural extension of that design, and my customers have agreed.

I love that inspiration comes not only from my own surroundings and experiences.

It also comes from...you.

And for that I say "thanks." :)

~ Christina

We're just a few short weeks away from Valentine's Day, and it occurred to me I hadn't added any new heart designs to my shop.  How rude. ;)  What resulted was a tweak to one of my previous designs, the sterling silver double-hearts pendant with granule.  This time, I created a loop bail from thick gauge wire and soldered it to the back so it hangs right over the necklace.  I like this little change.

Sterling Silver Double Hearts Necklace

Sterling Silver Double Hearts Necklace

You can find it in my Etsy shop here.

~Christina

Lately I'm fascinated with the process of creating a blue, verdigris patina on copper.  The end result is always a surprise, never to be repeated again, that requires experimentation to achieve.

Small Verdigris Copper Disc Earrings

Small Verdigris Copper Disc Earrings

I'm especially fond of the contrast between the aged, rustic finish and modern, geometric shapes.  Add sterling silver to the mix, and it's a winning combination.

Verdigris Copper and Sterling Silver Triangle Earrings

Verdigris Copper and Sterling Silver Triangle Earrings

There are various "formulas" that can be used to create a range of colors, so I'll likely experiment with those in time.

Endless possibilities.

With a beautiful weekend in the forecast and a wonderful location, I really looked forward to participating in the Chastain Park Arts Festival.  This was to be my biggest show, with sunny skies.  What you may not know, however, is that when it came close to show time, I struggled over the decision to attend.  Having lost my grandfather one week prior, work and jewelry were not high priorities; I just wanted to be with my family.  But as time progressed, I was able to say a final goodbye to Grandpa and make it back to Atlanta just in time to set up my booth for the weekend.

Those who know me well, know that I spend days, and sometimes weeks, sweating the details of events such as these.  I want to put my best foot forward, all the time.  But losing a loved one has a way of putting things in perspective: if I was going to do the show, I was as prepared as I could be.  Things would be okay if I didn't have time to make more jewelry.  If I forgot to pack something I could run to the store.  If a rain cloud appeared from the middle of nowhere, so be it.  In fact, there was no sweating involved.  I had peace.

Reflecting back, it was the right decision.  There were lots of smiling visitors, cool temps and plenty of sunshine.  I met some of the most wonderful people (and saw familiar faces!) who gave great feedback on my jewelry and display.  It's gratifying to see others happily browse through my work and even walk away with one of my handcrafted creations.

Here is a booth shot from the show.  My display continues to evolve but I'm happy with its "bones".

Booth Shot 2 small

The copper and silver flower post earrings were a big hit.  They were a new design that I hadn't shown in person, so I didn't know how they'd be received.  But as you can see, I've had to restock them. :)

Copper and Silver Flower Post Earrings

I have great memories of the Chastain Park Arts Festival and if all goes as planned, I'll be back next year.

Thank you to everyone who made it out to the show.  To this day it's still mind boggling that I get paid for work this fun and satisfying to me.

I think it's the way work is meant to be.

"By Your Grace": these are words I've uttered out loud, and in my head, too many times to count recently.  I say them when faced with circumstances I can't navigate on my own, especially when major change occurs and I don't know how to move forward and adapt to life that is forever altered.

My precious grandfather went Home to be with Jesus on October 27th.  He was 94 years old and spent that time, even to the end, loving and serving others.  As I reflect on the many hours I spent with Grandpa (and Grandma), I realize I've been strongly influenced by his character.  He was kind and gentle, always happy to see me, with a large smile on his face as he exclaimed "Hello Chrissy!".  He cared about family, and treated others as if they were family.  To quote many who have used this term in recent days, he was "fearless"...quick to reel in a thrashing bass from the water, grab a large snake by its tail or even attempt to tame an alligator back in the day.  (No alligators were harmed, but apparently Grandpa met his match. ;))  He served our country in the US Army Air Corps.  He loved God and the church, and his actions showed it.

His was truly a life worth celebrating.

I'm deeply saddened by the absence of my grandfather, but it's by God's grace I have confidence in where he is now.  He has met the Creator face to face and is finally reunited with my Grandma.  And as it was so eloquently stated at his Celebration of Life, it's guaranteed he's already found a fishing spot somewhere.

Grandpa

I love you, Grandpa.  I'll see you in Heaven.

~Chrissy

Taking a class to gain a new skill is a good way to fast-track your learning.  Watching a live person demonstrate new techniques, and being able to bounce ideas off him/her and your classmates, results in synergy you can't experience on your own.

It had been two years since my last metalsmith class.  Experimenting on my own during that time was effective, but I forgot how inspiring being in the classroom environment can be.  Three sessions into a class, and I'm filled with new ideas to incorporate into my jewelry.  It will take time to see which ones "stick", but I love the little extra spark of creativity.

One of the techniques we covered is how to achieve a weathered, blue-green, verdigris patina on copper.  I'd seen this patina many times before, but never had the ambition to try it until now.

I'm a fan.Round Verdigris Copper Earrings

Round Verdigris Copper Earrings

I've been on a roll with copper lately and also added these to my jewelry line - a pair of mixed metal copper and silver flower post earrings:

Silver and Copper Small Flower Post Earrings

And a pair of hammered copper Ginkgo leaf earrings:

Hammered Copper Ginkgo Leaf Earrings

It's amazing to think I may never run out of jewelry-making ideas; I'm so captivated by it.

How about you...what inspires you?  Are there simple steps you can take (perhaps a class) to catch momentum?

This has been a unique week for me.  To become more productive in, well, every aspect of my life, I've made some positive changes in prioritization and time management.  As a result, my mind is clear, I'm caught up on sleep (and hope to brand myself an ex-insomniac once for all), am highly aware of how I'm spending my time, and am keeping my eyes peeled for opportunities in life.  Sounds exciting, right? ;)  This is the stuff New Year's resolutions are made of.  But this time, I'm taking action instead of just wishful thinking.  And it's working.

Six months from now, I want to look back and see that real change occurred and new habits were formed, not just another week of good effort.  For those of you who are natural goal-setters this probably sounds like Life 101.  For me, with a natural tendency to do things on the whim, it goes against the grain.  But when doing things on a whim doesn't cut the cake anymore, change is required.

Let's go.

Photo taken at the Biltmore Estate several years ago at this time of year.

This weekend I watched something come to life that I've been waiting on for 2 years: an organized, efficient studio space.  Previously, I was working in my own dedicated space, but it was severely lacking in storage, a sturdy bench, and adequate lighting.  I don't know how many minutes were lost during projects when I had to leave my chair to reach for a tool in a mystery drawer behind me, or move my task lighting (yes, move) from beside one table to another just so I could see what I was doing.  It was incredibly inefficient, but I made it work out of necessity.

Finally, it was time to improve my studio for the better.  I'm married to an extremely handy guy, so Chad and his dad graciously spent some hours installing a new work bench, complete with pegboard vertical storage, and overhead lighting.  Every tool that I use on a regular basis for making jewelry is now at arm's length.  And no more picking up or tripping over a floor lamp, hurray!  If I had received new lighting only, I would have been so happy with that.  But with the extra storage and a bench I don't have to be afraid to hammer on, it feels like a brand new place.  I think my productivity will improve in a big way.  I'm really looking forward to spending my first day in it.

Aaah, finally organized.

Cutters and pliers easy to reach now.

My new favorite piece of art.

This fun sign was a great find at the Yellow Daisy Festival this year, handmade by artists from Tangerinas in Chattanooga, TN.  It's entirely made from reclaimed/recycled materials, and thanks to my sister-in-law who pointed it out to me just as we were about to leave the booth, it now has a perfect spot in my studio.

A huge Thank You goes to Chad and my father-in-law for volunteering their time and physical work to make this happen.  I love you both.

Worn

In:Faith

When I was a child sitting in church on Sunday and listening to the pastor speak, I'd notice the Bible he occasionally picked up and held in his hands.  It always looked gigantic, full of thousands of pages I could never imagine having enough time to read.  And I wasn't even sure I wanted to.  I had heard some of the stories in the Old Testament, in the King James Version mind you, like how so-and-so begat so-and-so and had no interest in reading those for fun.  But one of the things that frequently caught my eye was how worn his Bible was.  It wasn't like mine, bright and shiny with crisp, white pages.  No, his was practically falling apart, the pages a muddy gray from having been turned over and over again.  Thinking back, I probably should have expected that to be true.  After all, he was the pastor.  Even still, I admired the discipline he must have had in order to spend that much time in his Bible, and even more, his desire to keep reading it.

I never expected my Bible to look like his.  After several failed attempts in adulthood to intentionally read it from cover to cover, I resigned to the idea that I'd never be able to do so.  Given enough time, I simply lost interest.  Instead, I relied on reading whatever scripture was being discussed during Sunday services (usually up on a screen), or would occasionally open my Bible to read passages relevant to my small-group study.  Of course reading online was an option, too, but that wasn't enough to entice me.

Things have a way of changing, though.  I vividly remember when suddenly, the word of God became alive, really alive, for the first time in my life.  I attended a Glory Revealed concert with Chad and some good friends, listening to phenomenal musicians sing worship songs that were rooted in scripture.  It ended with a challenge to really dig into God's word, with the conviction that I had learned and memorized a lot of things, but the Bible wasn't one of them; the One who deserved my full attention, wasn't receiving it from me.  But even though God had every reason to give up on me, He didn't.  That's not His style.  Instead, He changed my heart.  He gave me a thirst to know Him more, a thirst that could only be satisfied by reading the words He ordained before the world even existed.

That was six years ago.

The other morning as I flipped through my Bible, I noticed the way it freely opened and conformed to my hand, with crinkled pages that meant they no longer laid completely flat.  Without realizing it, over time, my own Bible acquired that weathered appearance of a book that couldn't be mistaken for brand new.  I had something in my possession I never thought I'd have.

All I could do was thank God for the gift I held in my hands, for His words that have been preserved all these years, for changing a life like mine.  I finally understood what it was like to have that desire to just be in scripture, to let God's truths permeate my mind and soul, and simply know His...

...love.

Bible