Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Fall Touches (and Lights!)

It has been Fall for awhile,
but we got a little bit of a late start in finishing all of our seasonal
decorating around the house.  We added some new "pieces of Autumn"
to our decorations collection for this season and kept adding to
it, but now we have everything up and the warm colors of Fall are
finally all around us in our home.

It is such a wonderful feeling to now have the feeling
of the season being here be both inside and outside!
Out front, our door is decorated with my Fall colors sunflower
wreath, which is also a summer wreath and can be used for both seasons,
 which you can see how I made here, and the Fall welcome sign
I made that you can see here, and two large pumpkins on either side
of our door along with adjacent mums (which are unfortunately starting to
 die now that we are getting freezing temperatures so early in the season).
At the front of the path to our door is something we picked up at a yard
sale over the summer for next to nothing- a big scarecrow that adds so
 much color and cheer to our outdoor decorations- along with another
large pumpkin next to him.

As for inside...
If you have been following my blog for awhile, you probably know
that our main decorating inside for the seasons is devoted
to our fireplace mantel.  We love decorating the mantel and I
know I enjoy beautifying this area of our home most because it is
the heart, the warmest and coziest place with the fire going in
Winter and the window next to it letting the rain be seen or the
dreamy light shine in during the overcast days.
I think I feel like this every year, but this year's Autumn decorations
for the mantel are my favorite that we have ever had.
And the reason?


Oh the loveliness of decorating with lights.  I think they make
 everything feel so much prettier and more magical, cozier, 
and more festive :)
My parents had the idea to add red lights and intertwine them in our
garland on the mantel and then bring them down into the decorations
on the hearth.  I love how they shine through the old Oil lamp
especially and glow under the burlap that is snaking in between the
hearth decor.

Aside from the lights, my other two favorite things are the pumpkins-
I love decorating with pieces of nature!  Especially pumpkins because harvest
is what this season is all about :)
-and these glittery leaves!  It is probably silly how excited I was about
these glittery leaves.  The brown, green, and orange leaves are some we
already had from last year, but the gold and burgundy are new.  I think I 
stared at them and picked them up admiring their glittery, shiny
beauty a few too many times before putting them up.
If anyone needs these as much as I did, they're from Hobby
Lobby, haha.

These leaves were also exciting to get because having five altogether
gave me the idea to hang them from our garland, which I love.

Our fireplace brings so much joy at the sheer loveliness of what
it feels like to sit and relax and have a cup of hot chocolate while
the fire is on and the lights in the garland gleam from beneath
the leaves, and especially when it is late at night and the lights are
especially vivid and beautiful.
I love most when it is after dark and all the lights are off and all
you can see when you look at the fireplace are the string lights
and their red glimmer outlining the fireplace.

That is the way Fall looks in our home right now.
Each year our garland is the same and makes the mantel
feel similar to the way it did last Fall, but it's so much fun
to pick out or bring out new and different decorations to adorn
the rest of the fireplace and the hearth ♥

I'm so thankful for the simple joy of 
having gotten to decorate it together and to have such a homey
 place to be on these chilly nights, enjoying the rich Fall colors
that we have brought inside, especially since it has
been so wonderfully cold lately :)

How did you decorate your home for Fall?


Have a blessed day!

.          .          .

I am also linking up with "The Art of Homemaking

Friday, November 14, 2014

Faithful Friday: Heavenly Promises

A heavenly thought, a simple thought today that I wanted to share that I have been thinking on... but one with a huge impact.

Because these thoughts keep me going and can keep us all going if we place our hope in them.
Because they are true.
Because they are the very core of our hope as believers in God.

Keep the faith that these will and do prove true as you pray through even your toughest trials.

Wishing you a blessed weekend!
Sending you warm thoughts if it is as cold where you are as it is here (yay for cozy, cold weekends)!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Feelin' Wintery: Thrifty Finds and Sweet Treats

It is already almost Wednesday!?
Well, technically it is Tuesday, but it's Tuesday night so it is almost
Wednesday ;)  It feels like the week just began.

I hope your weekend, even if it was a couple of days ago,
 was a blessed one.  Ours was full, both of work and fun, and 
was lovely.  This weekend had a wonderful feel in that it
 felt like a Winter weekend... or at least a Winter-inspired weekend. 
 A few things made me feel that way...

I love a good find and the feeling of finding something that
you love, being so excited that you are the one who gets to take it home.
The resale shop in our town has so many neat finds and
we brought home a few things on Saturday that I was especially
excited about.

The few things I picked up were this mug, this penguin (which is so
fun as you'll see below!), and some beautiful Winter
greeting cards that I didn't photograph... but are they beautiful!
They are a lovely, icy blue with a design of a lake at Wintertime
and the snowy banks surrounding it with a deer and tall
trees brushed with glitter, all of which look like a scene from what
 reminds me of a hidden away place you might find in Alaska.

I knew this mug was going to come home with me the moment
I saw it.  I can't wait to drink from it, what I think may be
 the coziest mug I can imagine drinking hot chocolate
 from as I'm snuggled under a blanket by the fire come Winter.
Just looking at that little snowman, it's hard not to feel happy.
It's a really large mug, also, so it will fit looooots of hot chocolate!

And now for the find I was most excited about!
As someone who loves baking and is head over heels for
Winter baking especially and all of the sweet and homey
nostalgia that comes with it, I was pleasantly surprised to open this
 little penguin and find that he was full of none other than cute
and festively decorated measuring cups!!
I had been looking for pretty measuring cups for awhile and
was so delighted to find this. I love him and am already
imagining myself using the cups to make a pie or other desserts
during the week of Thanksgiving!
And best of all... he was only a dollar fifty.  I love 
bargain hunting.

He is now happily chillin' (no pun intended, since he IS a penguin)
next to one of my favorite gifts from last year, the
gingerbread house cookie jar ♥

...So I already felt the Winter spirit this weekend in being in the
resale shop, getting to take these fun finds home, and thinking
about all the cozy, exciting moments ahead in the coming season...
and one other thing about our weekend complemented that
very well: making and eating chocolate-peppermint pretzels.

Mmmm.  The delicious delight and refreshing flavor
of peppermint and chocolate together, and all over a pretzel.
Peppermint flavored anything always puts me in a Winter mood.
We had so much fun in the kitchen making them, also.
But probably more fun eating them... although I tried to use willpower
to not eat every one in sight since I do still try to watch my sugar.
That's a hard battle to win when these are in front of you, though.

And now that it is really starting to get cold (Yay!)
it feels so nice to light candles and take in all of their wonderful
aromas like we did this weekend... like "Warm Apple Pie" and
 "Thanksgiving".  That makes me feel like it is Winter, too, but then my
 nose reminds me that I'm smelling Fall scents and not yet
 "Christmas Cookie" or the candles we look forward to burning for 

Until then, it has been wonderful to get to soak up the perfection of this
glorious Fall season in ever-changing nature around us and in the
house through decorating and other simple joys.

.            .           .

As it is November 11th, I would like to take a moment to write
 something different that is very important.  I would just like to 
express heartfelt thankfulness to all those who, in serving, have given the
 ultimate sacrifice and those who are here still today who sacrificed
 so much and who wore bravery and courage to fight for the freedom
 of all of us, those who gave up their own freedoms for years at a time
to protect the safety and rights of you and I- Veterans.
God bless them.

.          .           .

Have a beautiful day!

Friday, November 7, 2014

Faithful Friday: As Little Children

This Fall, I have had the privilege of getting to spend time with Kindergarteners in a school in the next town.  Their sweetness and humility is such a joy to be surrounded by and I think that is what I enjoy so much about being there.  Children's qualities in character like these should be an inspiration to the world.  This is something I was thinking about because of how much I admire their innocence and their kindness and it reminded me of how children are so cherished by God... not just because they are little children, but because they possess the heavenly qualities that are a model for the type of heart God looks for in us.
In some cultures, children are set aside and not valued because they are young and people feel that they don't have anything real to contribute to conversation.  How wrong they are- children not only contribute so much to our lives and our happiness, but they are named by the Lord himself as what he is looking for to enter His Kingdom.

This verse is amazing because of this in how God tells us that in order to be in His favor, we actually need to be like children.
What about children makes them recognized this way?.... They are not only humble, but willing to forgive, show love, be kind, help others, are compassionate, innocent, pure, and they don't have a boastful attitude.  What an incredible example we find when we look at all of these admirable parts of their character.  When we start to grow up, the world has this idea that we need to give up our sweetness and our innocence and turn hard or have a "me first" attitude to fit into the world.  But why does that have to happen?  It is certainly possible to mature while keeping all of the genuine qualities God so admires in children, who also- perhaps most importantly- have soft hearts.

This verse is something I have heard about and read often growing up, but I guess only now that I am around young children so much has it sunken in more than ever.

May we have a heart and character like that of a child, the kind God so loves.

Have a wonderful weekend!!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

"Let the Rain Sing You a Lullaby"

"Let the rain kiss you.
Let the rain beat upon your head with silver liquid drops.
Let the rain sing you a lullaby."
-Langston Hughes

Oh, the indescribably wonderful feeling of having it rain nonstop for the last nearly two days.  I cannot remember a time that it has let up and it is such a blessing, adding so much joy to the days and making me hope and wish and pray that it does not subside.  I love it so very much.  Above is a scene so peaceful that has a pure quietness to it just looking at it, don't you think?  It is my idea of the most perfectly lovely day and describes how I feel as I have listened to the rain kissing our roof with each drop and seen it tap and then slide down the windows or ripple in puddles on the ground outside.

And so begins the rainy, cool, crisp, magnificent Autumn weather.  I am completely taken, my mind and soul refreshed, by both the light and heavy drops of rain that grace the land around me and all that is near me... my window pane, our porch, our flowers, and the pumpkins out front.  You may be able to tell from how many times I have written of rainy days that I am enamored of rain and any day that it rains I feel completed by the coziness in the air, what some might think dreary, but to me is purely heaven.

...And I must say that of all of the delightful words used by Hughes, I believe his last description is most accurate for me, because I do indeed feel that the rain sings a lullaby to me as I soak up its glorious sounds.

I am so thankful for this weather, what feels like the official start of the chilly weather to come. Excitement!

Rainy day blessings to you!

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Faithful Friday: You Are Perfectly Made

I can't remember exactly when it was that I read what I am about to quote, but I remember thinking about how powerful this was to me and how much it meant to me.  It communicates the message above, but in an especially amazing way...

"Imagine this: You just painted the most beautiful picture
you have ever painted.  It is exactly what you wanted.  You absolutely
love it!  The person you give it to constantly points out the flaws.
  How does that make you feel?
God is the painter and you are the person it has been
given to.  It breaks God's heart when you constantly criticize
yourself, because he made you perfect.  You are absolutely
beautiful in His eyes."

As girls and women of every age, we go through times- maybe even all the time- where we focus on what we wish was different about our appearance and we let that dominate our thinking.  We pick ourselves apart and criticize ourselves, whether it be our bodies or our faces.  Although I can't say that I don't have times like that, reading this caused me to think of myself in a different way.  What a redefined view we can have when we think of ourselves this way and think of our physical characteristics and appearance as a part of God's love in creating us.... we should think of ourselves as a masterpiece He created, a fine painting He took pride in forming.

I love to draw and paint and I know how much it would hurt if someone opened my sketchbook or my portfolio from high school and thought my work was ugly.  My feelings would be so hurt. Thinking of it this way with God as the artist makes me realize the way God must feel each time we look in the mirror and think about how ugly we feel.  It may be our nose, our eye color, a blemish or birthmark, or anything we feel would be so much more beautiful if it were changed.

.           .           .

"You are beautiful, for you are fearfully and
wonderfully made."
-Psalm 139:14

.           .          .

This is a struggle that is difficult to battle, but trusting God in the way we are made and that He made us perfectly- maybe not in our eyes, but in His- helps so much  To God, we are beautiful creations!

I'm thankful for the way God brings me back to reality when I do start to get set into thinking of disliking something about myself.  He has worked in my heart to better me in this way, bringing thoughts to mind when I start to feel that way that awaken me to the several reasons why I shouldn't be doing that.... The first reason is that is insulting to Him because each one of us is His beautiful masterpiece, and the second- which has become profound in my life as I've gotten older- is realizing how selfish it is to stare in the mirror and dwell on things I want to change when there are people suffering and going through things a million times worse than something SO trivial as what I am focusing on...
This is particularly evident to me when I read stories about people who are suffering from diseases, who are sick with an illness, who have terminal cancers, those who were born with severe disabilities... This comes to mind and quickly stirs my heart toward things that matter instead of thoughts about such menial things as physical appearance.
Over the summer, I had a moment that awakened me to this especially, a day I will never forget because I saw something that made me feel sadness and heartache like I don't think I ever had... because I'd never seen anyone in that condition before.  It was a few days before my Aunt passed away when we visited her in the hospital.   The last time I had seen her before this, before her cancer, she had looked the way I always knew her to look my whole life.  I walked into that room in the ICU that day and I saw someone I didn't recognize.  I saw someone who was suffering, someone in a coma, who couldn't breathe on her own, someone with no hair, who was in the hardest fight of her life and had been so courageous.  To see her that way made me feel weak, literally, and I'm so effected by things like this, but never had I been so much before... so much so that I had to go sit outside and just step away for a moment before I came back.  I've never been that shocked before in my life.  I remember leaving and not thinking about a whole lot after seeing what I saw, but I do remember being on the ride home and thinking of how she and millions of other countless people at that moment were fighting to just breathe, to stay alive.  It was extremely jolting to me and made me feel compelled to make a conscious effort to focus on what really matters in life, which is definitely NOT thinking about my "flaws".  I prayed that I would leave those things, like dwelling on appearance, behind as much as I had the power to.

This and other moments have increased the awareness of this inside me, but that one most of all.  God has worked in the deepest parts of my heart in this through this and other situations and I am making the greatest effort I ever have to put away my feelings about petty things like that, to not just be okay with how God made me, but to reach toward being appreciative of how He made me, being thankful for- instead of criticizing- His work that is me.

Recently, I was blessed to watch a faith-inspired video from my sweet friend, Grace, who blogs at His Daughter.  It focuses on just this and was a light for me.  She is a blessing in reminding us that we are perfectly made, because GOD DOESN'T MAKE MISTAKES.

In her video, Grace talks about comparing herself with her sister.  This is something that is easy to do, comparing ourselves with those around us most, our sisters, cousins, our friends.  Picking our physical appearance apart could come not from feeling unattractive or ugly, but just from feeling like we stick out negatively because we are different from others around us...  
I remember so many times feeling a little embarrassed about being so pale while all of my friends had tan skin.  I sometimes wished I was tan like them.  I have about twenty cousins and out of all of us, my cousin Jennie, who passed away when I was little, and I were the only ones with fair skin and blue eyes.  Almost everyone has very tan skin and dark eyes and I felt a little different.  It wasn't a big deal to me, but sometimes even small things like simple differences can make us feel more self-aware.  I eventually came to realize that having a different skin tone and different features made me unique and it had to be a good thing because that was how God decided to make me.

If you can't stop focusing on the things you don't like about your face, your body, anything- whether it is because you don't like something about your appearance or because you feel "different" from others, direct your focus instead on remembering this...

"You are a masterpiece, sewn together by the
hands of an almighty God."

You will be changed when you purpose to think this way, and so will your relationship and your walk with God.

It isn't an easy thing to overcome, but with God's help we can get closer to having a changed attitude about ourselves and our worth in Him mattering more than anything.

Pray to God and ask Him to work in your heart.  He will!  He is concerned over even the things you may feel are small because He cares for you.
I may not be perfect at this, but God working in me to make the greatest effort I can to stop criticizing His work is nothing short of a blessing.

Have a wonderful weekend♥

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Summer 2014 Road Trip: Wolves and Mountain Hike

I am excited to share the second set of photos
from the road trip I took this Summer with my family!
These photos are from our time spent riding to a wolf reserve near
the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and our incredible hike near
Salida, Colorado.

One of the first things we did on our vacation- which we did on our
 last trip to Colorado, as well- was take a ride on four-wheelers up to
the hills below the Sangre de Cristos, where a truly neat
place is nestled: Mission Wolf, a wolf sanctuary.
It is a pretty amazing place to go because of the wolves and the 
serene location. It is literally in the middle of nowhere.

Our morning began with beautiful skies, picturesque clouds hanging
over the mountains in front of us.  It was a beautiful morning
as we packed up and got ready to head out.

The road to the sanctuary leads you down and up hills and is
such a blast to ride, especially when you're going fast on a four-wheeler.
I guess it feels like the closest thing to being on a motorcycle because
your hair is flyin' in the wind and you feel so free and alive.
The trip there is also fun because of the things you see along the way.
We saw cattle all throughout the hills as we passed by.
I love cows, especially calves, and I liked being able to be so close
to them when we would stop.

It was neat to pass some ranchers riding across the land, as well.

The view of the hills and the distant range from the sanctuary...

and zoomed in, a photo taken from the road up...

It was a pretty warm the day we went, so most of the wolves were sleeping or
staying out of the heat in their dens, but we did get to see a few.

It is wonderful to see the wolves getting treated so well when we go
here.  They are well fed, have huge pens, and are extremely respected and
well-cared for by the people there.  These wolves are all there because
 they were in dangerous or unhealthy situations and were rescued
or owner-surrendered.  This sanctuary is doing something wonderful for
these wolves, as they would not be able to survive alone in the wild because
they were raised in captivity.  At least here they get to be in their natural 
habitat.  Mission Wolf is dedicated to providing them with as natural a
setting as possible and caring for them as best they can, and they are
run strictly by volunteer zoology and biology students and funded
on donations and sponsors.  I was a sponsor to one of their
wolves when I was younger, but she eventually passed away.
Her name was Jasmine :)

Along the little trail within the sanctuary there were so many
beautiful blooming flowers.
Oh, how vibrant and lovely mountain wildflowers are!

At the end of our tour I "heard" this hummingbird feeder.... I say "heard" because
there were literally so many hummingbirds flitting around that it sounded like
a bunch of little helicopters flying around together.  I have never seen
so many hummingbirds as when we visit Colorado.  They are everywhere.
I enjoyed getting to admire their shimmery beauty as they buzzed around
this feeder and landed on it.  This is all I managed to capture.
These amazing creatures are just too fast.

Standing at the entrance/exit to the sanctuary on our way out, I stared out at all
of the open land before us in all directions.  I felt so small as I gazed at the 
vastness... it is so neat to look around and feel like you can see everything
with no obstructions. 

Not to mention thinking of how those mountains 
in the mist ahead that seemed small from my view were actually 
thousands of feet tall.

More cattle on the trail on the ride back...
look at these sweet cows.

Another wonderful part of our trip was taking
a little day-trip into the town of Salida and the surrounding
areas to go hiking up on a gorgeous trail...

A glimpse of some remaining snow up in the mountains.
It's interesting how a sight like this makes you feel like you are so
close to that snow, when it's actually miles and miles away.

The start of the trail...

It's funny how when I start to get tired on a hike, especially
since the air is thin, I just can't wait until we see any sign of a stream
or a river.  Once you find it, every breath and big rock you had to
climb over was all worth it.

I couldn't get enough of this waterfall.
Sitting on the rocks right next to it and walking across the stream-bed
to take it all in was amazing... listening to the sounds of trickling and
splashing brought me to a heavenly, peaceful place that
clinched it for me that I was really back in Colorado.

These do not do it proper justice.  This scene was so much greener
and more amazing than a photo is able to show.

One of my most favorite captures of the trip and this hike...
the sunlight perfectly casting its glow on a butterfly rested on a wildflower.

A stream flowing under a footbridge at the end of the hike.
Literally water under the bridge. (smiles)

After our hike, we ventured into town to go eat.
  Always gotta throw some good food in a day-trip :)
If you're ever in Salida, CO, I recommend "The Bounty."
Being the Southern girl that I am, I, of course, had to try their macaroni.
Oh my, it had the most incredible, sharp flavor.  SO good!

We also did some shopping in the downtown area, which is
historic and kept nearly all of its original architecture- one of the 
reasons for the ornate ceilings like these that I found so beautiful.

And the woodwork! ...

On the way back "home", after a great day of exploring and fun,
it was getting late and the sun started to lower in the sky.
This made for a lovely view of the mountains as we drove back,
their peaks and valleys glowing as the sun shone across them.

Our Salida hike and the trip to Mission Wolf were
both memorable parts of our trip.
Looking back at the photos is a joy, getting to relive the
feelings of being near that waterfall, trekking up to it together,
exploring on the trail and in town, and of course experiencing that macaroni!

I look forward to sharing more from the trip as I finish sorting the
last photos :)

Wishing you a wonderful day!


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