Friday, September 27, 2013

Radiant Purity: Inspiration for the Heart from "Before You Meet Prince Charming"

I hope you are having a blessed and happy Fall day!!
I am so thankful it is the weekend, and excited about plans with my family, doing some fun projects, and spending quiet, relaxing time.  Maybe it will even rain!  That would be even more perfect :)

Today would normally be when I would write my "Faithful Friday" post.  I apologize for missing last week- last Friday got away from me and before I knew it, it was time for bed and I hadn't had a chance to write anything.  Today, I am posting something that I have been writing for awhile.  It is serving as my "Faithful Friday" post for today, because, for me, it has everything to do with faith!  This is something I've just kept adding to since I started writing it, because I had so many thoughts and things in my heart I wanted to share.  All of these things are on the subject of purity and faith, and they are inspired by one book in particular...

During this Summer, I was blessed to read a book that changed my faith and delighted my heart in ways I never imagined.
It was a joy to read from the first word to the last and, through it, my convictions were strengthened SO much!!  It made me more and more inspired in new ways to serve the Lord and renewed my heart.
Although it focuses on one subject overall, it shot through me a greater excitement than ever for living purposefully in all things.

The name of this book is Before You Meet Prince Charming. 
Before I talk more about it, I wanted to mention that this book talks so much about faith and strengthening your love and relationship with God.  However, the main theme of it is the subject of remaining pure, both physically and in heart, with the focus of young women remaining pure while we wait on the Lord to bring the one He has for us.  The subtitle of the book is actually entitled A Guide to Radiant Purity.

Before I picked up the book, I had heard so much about it already.  I knew a few girls and young ladies that had read it, and I knew of many more. I truly heard nothing but wonderful things about this book... After finishing it myself, I can see why completely.

One of the things I loved about it was the sweetness of having part of a continuing fairy-tale begin each chapter. This was the case in every chapter, following a princess who is coming of age and dreams of being married to her prince someday. It follows her journey through her trials in waiting and her prayers being answered in several ways over the course of a few years. Intermixed with this, and correlating to it, are pages and pages of wisdom on remaining pure and why we should be so excited to live in such a way. In both parts, there are several helpful discussions on thoughts and feelings that every girl or young lady comes across at some point.

As a young woman, purity is something that I think of often, as well as something that I was raised to have convictions about.  I am so thankful for that.  It is also something I think is on the minds of many girls my age and younger or older who have grown up similarly, who are unmarried and waiting for God's best.  Although it is written for this purpose, this book beautifully inspires your faith overall!  It inspires purity and goodness in daily things and living life to the fullest in the sense of purpose.  Reading Sarah Mally's wonderful book multiplied that!


One of the first things I want to share about this book is the impact of the points that Sarah Mally makes.  She writes about themes of purity that all link together, in chapters with titles such as "Guard Your Heart", "Dangers With the Dating System", "Have a Life Purpose Bigger than Marriage", "Reserved for One", and "Delighting in the Lord".
If you are not familiar with these kinds of subjects, then this book will may change your heart and your outlook and make you look at dating and your walk altogether in a whole different way.  The chapters that I felt impacted me most and strengthened my convictions in this area were the themes discussed about dangers with the dating system and guarding your heart.  Here are a few thoughts that were a powerful blessing to me in this area...

-The world's way vs. God's way.  "Pairing off and breaking up" as you choose to date casually over and over as opposed to allowing God to bring the one he has had for you all along in His plan.

-Now-oriented vs. future-oriented.  Dating is now-oriented because it focuses solely on having a good time and usually no plans for commitment.  Future oriented is just the opposite- looking for the commitment that is honorable and found in just the opposite way.  It saves your heart and your mind and every sense of your purity for the one you marry.

-To date and break up with that person and go to someone new every time something doesn't work is, first of all, setting up the pattern that allows no basis for commitment.  Think of all the heartache and emotional pain that people who go through this cycle endure.  They are "with" someone for awhile, then that person decides they don't want commitment, or decides they are just bored with the relationship and want to break up.  The other person suffers pain and is heartbroken.  Their heart is damaged every time this happens.

-Perhaps most important, an incredible point that Sarah brings out is maybe the biggest difference between the world's way in dating and God's way (presented in her book in the photo below):  The world's way of relationships begins with physical attributes in dating and soon escalates to much more in just a matter of time, starting with the physical things before there has been a sure and true established connection between the hearts of the two people in the relationship.  They start from the wrong end of the spectrum... The pure way, however, starts with the emotional side of things- two hearts being tied together and finding love and joy through spending quality time together without the distractions and impulses giving away a part of yourself that should only be given in marriage.  Focusing on your hearts alone becomes the main focus. ♥
How important this is- a marriage can never be built only on physical love.  Without connection between the hearts first and foremost, there is no foundation for everlasting love. 

-Going along with that, you guard your heart and your soul largely by abstaining from the physical side of a relationship (even what many of us may look at as small things) until those things can be righteously fulfilled... in marriage.

Sometimes, I feel things sort of hit me in a way they never have before, even if I have probably known them all along.  But sometimes we know something without feeling the true meaning of it.  That was how it was for me when I got to one specific point in the book...  We give pieces of our heart away in more than just physical senses or in choosing to date different people.  You can choose not to date and go the world's way and you can be "waiting" and single for many years, but throughout those years it is still completely possible to give pieces of your heart away.
This was an important realization for me in a way I had not thought of... by thinking too much about someone, or by talking to your friends about him, or even daydreaming about him, you give pieces of your heart away as your mind becomes increasingly fixated on that person.
Sarah talked a lot about this in her book, and I am so thankful for her words... she brought to light the fact that this has been true for so many of us at one point, a common feeling.  You are flattered by someone, then you find yourself talking to them more often, and before you know it you have feelings for them and you are already imagining what your future is like with them.  So, even though you have never even dated them, let alone talked about it with them or even a friend, your heart is still tied to them because you have cultivated these thoughts and new dreams in your heart.

This leads into another amazing point in the pages of this book:
Saving all of your "firsts"!  We can make convictions that we will guard ourselves and wait for these kinds of things until we know God has brought His best.  And how much sweeter something is the longer it is waited for!
Here are some of the ones she lists (these are found in Chapter 10, "Reserved For One"):

-First expression of interest
-First words of affection or love
-First gift given or received
-First trip together
-First dinner date
-First personal letter expressing emotions
-First "I Love You"
-First piece of your heart given
-First kiss
-First special song, place, event, or memory

Those last two really resonated with me.  How could you not want to choose the path of purity?  At least that was how I felt as I read through these... How beautiful to know that you are having your very first kiss with the one you marry!!  And that HE has saved this special kiss to be his first!
And a special song!  How can a special song- "our song"- between the two of you truly be special when you have already had that experience with someone else?
Some may think that this sounds impossible.  Is it really possible that there are young men out there who have the same convictions as you?  This is where we must have faith.  If we have the dedication to keep our standard high, we can put our faith in God bringing us the one He has for us in His timing.  If you give these pieces of your heart away to other young men, all of these things will likely not be firsts for you.  Saving them for the one God has for you is a TREASURE!

The Illustration of the Gift
This brings me back to remembering the concept of a gift that illustrates the beauty of purity.  This is different from the example Sarah gives, but similar in illustration.  I loved her illustration because it was such a beautiful way to think about this...
Imagine that your friend gives you a box.  It's beautifully wrapped and you can't wait to open it.  As you pull the paper off and start to open the flaps, however, you spot the gift inside.  It is a dress.  You can tell it would be absolutely beautiful, but as you look at it you can immediately tell it is dirty, worn, and faded.  You pick it up and take it out of the box, and then you notice that some of the seams are torn and there are buttons missing from it.  Would you want this gift or feel like the person giving it to you respected you very much in giving it to you?
It is the same idea with ourselves when we think about it.  How beautiful to save all of our firsts and save every piece of our hearts and keep ourselves clean and pure.  How would our future husbands feel if we have been used up and become impure and worn in any way... wouldn't you rather be new and pure in all ways and have your best to offer him in your heart!?  Your whole heart?
And wouldn't you want the same from your husband?  Wouldn't you want to know that you were the ONLY one he had ever told his deepest feelings to?  Wouldn't you want to know that he had saved all of his heart for you and not given even small pieces of it to others who came before you?  Wouldn't you be honored that you were His one and only love ever- that there weren't other girls out there who knew his deepest feelings and thoughts?

Although many may share different feelings about it, choosing a way that you know you want to follow to remain pure is a good way to keep your convictions.  When you have been led in the direction of finding someone to spend your life with, a wonderful and honoring way to do so is through courtship.  This establishes goals that both of you share and connecting your hearts and minds through those things rather than through physical connections.  While dating is about having fun and trying new things, courtship is getting to know each other and seeing if you connect with each other with the intention of marriage.  Both the boy and the girl have already established their similar goals, and both are, as it has been called, "dating with a purpose", not just to have fun, but to see if they are led toward marriage.  Think of how wonderful that is... while the world dates freely and one person in a relationship can have hopes to get married and the other person is just "having fun" with no strings attached, heartbreak occurs, while the pure way already has that common goal set between you!  In a courtship, there is a high level of commitment from the start because of this.

For some, deciding on purity may be a matter of worth and self-respect.  Which is great!  We all deserve this way.  For me, it is both that and waiting on the Lord instead of ourselves to bring that blessing into our lives in His timing.
"When God Says Wait" is another amazing chapter in Sarah's book.  But every chapter talks about waiting on the Lord, if not in physical or heart purity, then in other areas of our walk and faith.  I am thankful for each reminder on this throughout the pages of the book.  Another thing I loved were the hundreds of verses she includes to back up her reasoning!  Each one was a blessing and a strength to me.

Although many of us have dreams of marrying our own "Prince Charming", Sarah also brings out a beautiful point in reminding us that marriage should not be the end-all.  We can make dreams, but if it is meant to happen in the divine plan for our lives, then it will happen.  God sees our hearts and our dreams.  Have faith in that.
But never forget that we all have a calling.  Maybe we don't know what that is yet, or what it is meant to be... just never let yourself forget that though we may have such dreams for the future, our single years now can be used for so much goodness... to joyfully serve others, our families, and God!  Think of ways you can be a blessing to others.  Remember that we can spend our time in these wise ways, and that working in serving in each is also a wonderful way to be busy and productive in our lives as we wait.  Our years of being single young ladies and young women are years we should treasure!

These are my thoughts on this beautiful book and thoughts shared from it that impacted me so much. If I ever meet Sarah Mally, I will not know how to thank her for the mark her words left on me.  Her book emphasized the things I have been taught growing up, but in a new and even clearer way that has made me more and more passionate about purity for God in every sense!

I want to say that by sharing my heart on this, I only mean to do just that.  I don't mean at all to imply that those who have chosen a different way are not good people.  Something else Sarah discusses is reminding girls that even if you have compromised your purity in small or bigger ways, it is never too late to start over and make the conviction to choose the narrow path.
I know girls who I have grown up with who may be pure in that larger sense, but have decided to date and follow the accepted/popular way of doing so.  But they have lost parts of their heart and aspects of physical purity over and over again.  And this has caused them to have thoughts and heartaches that stay with them.  I am compelled to go the other way because I feel it is the best way, and my heart would also be blessed if anyone reading this is encouraged or convicted in radiant purity!

There will probably be times when we feel discouraged and feel that the uncommon, narrow way is so difficult and that we are finding it hard to be patient or to live up to our convictions.  This book helps with that amazingly!  If you have chosen radiant purity and you have any doubts, one thing you also may be encouraged by are the stories of others who have shared your convictions and your heart.
I know I have been. 

Just read these love stories- just a few examples- of those God has brought together and how they chose to save their hearts for one.  And we can find encouragement through the examples of those around us, in our family, family friends, and others.
For both those I share here and those I don't (some who I know don't have their stories shared on their blogs), I am inspired and encouraged by each of their stories and their testimonies, and I think that each one says so much about the gift that purity is and the rewards and happiness that result from choosing that way...
In them, it is so clear that God wrote their love stories!  Wonderful examples of prayer and petition and trusting and waiting.  All of these, may I add, even decided to wait until their wedding day to share their first kiss!  How special.

I know Stephanie through blogging only, and we may live
far apart, but I feel as though she is a long, lost friend. 
She is a true friend and she blesses me with the sharing of
strength  of her faith and her heartfelt and loving spirit every
 time I read her posts.  Here, on her blog, she shares the precious story
of how she and her husband met, up to when they were married. 
She wrote it so beautifully- in a way that reminds you of
the miracle and gift of love.
I am inspired by her unwavering faith, prayer, and
waiting on the Lord in her story and now the rich blessings that resulted,
of living lovingly alongside the one the Lord had for her,
and being blessed with a sweet son as well.

  Their story inspired me from the beginning,
and the way they were caringly brought together, and how
much conviction they had in remaining pure.
You can watch their engagement video below.
They also made the choice to wait until their wedding day
for their first kiss.

Newly engaged, and evidently being blessed with their hearts
 connecting.  Their courtship displays purity and conviction.
You can see the passion of love for God
and for each other that they share even through their photograph.
You can read about the start of their courtship here,
to their engagement story here.
Married for, I believe, about one and a half years with a precious new son.
I have been SO encouraged in my faith through Priscilla (Anna Duggar's sister)
in what I have seen from following their family blog.
She sees the world in a way I pray I can each day... with amazement
at each of God's little blessings, a hopeful and giving heart,
 and a beautiful spirit that just shines when she speaks.
You can read David & Priscilla's story by visiting them, here.

Priscilla also talks about keeping a pure heart and shares about
things that helped her in waiting and keeping a pure heart
 in this video below,
which has continued to encourage me since I first watched it.
I think even her voice is pure and soft and kind.

A final thought I wanted to share that I love is actually a subtitle within one of the chapters of Before You Meet Prince Charming... 
"A purity so bright the world marvels."
We can make a promise to ourselves and to God that we will wholeheartedly pursue that kind of purity... a purity so bright that it shows the world how amazing remaining pure IS and is a witness to others of the joy that comes with living God's way. 
A purity where we give our hearts to God and let Him place it in the hands of the one He knows deserves it.
A thought I hold close in regards to this is that by choosing this way, we should not feel like we are hindered or held back.  No, it is something we can be so excited about.

I highly recommend this book!  I hope that, whether you read it or have read it or even if not, that you will see the blessings and beauty of living for purity.  Those are the thoughts it strengthened and inspired in me.  By the length of this post, you may be able to tell that there were many.

Whether or not you are a girl who already has a heart led toward convictions for living purely, I know there will be so much you will be able to take away from this book.
To some who read this, these thoughts may seem old-fashioned or strange... things like saving your heart and your love for just one, when it is "normal" to do the opposite.  For those of you who share the same feelings I do and that Sarah Mally talks about, being old-fashioned is a good thing in today's world!  It just means that you have a higher standard for your life and that you value morals.  And in a sense, this is strange- but strange in the most wonderful way, because being strange in the world's eyes means being favorable, pure, and lovely in God's.

I hope you have a beautiful day!!

Blessings and hugs!  ♥

~Although this is different from normal Faithful Fridays I post, talking about this is a result of how it has been working in my heart through my faith.  So, this will be my Faithful Friday post for today.
You can join in on Faithful Fridays by visiting Joy at her blog, Doodlebug, and read her post for today as well!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Crisp Days, Crimson Leaves ... Autumn is Here!

Happy first day of the Fall season!

Don't you just love the feeling of a brand new Autumn.... it is beautiful outside, cozy inside, and the air starts getting crisp and lovely.  Leaves crunching beneath your feet, cozy, overcast days, warm apple pies, and pumpkin spice candles burning.
I feel renewed each Fall!  It is a time when there is even more to look forward to.

Even though our state doesn't display as much of the gorgeous oranges and reds across the Fall landscape that others might, the scenery of this season is one of my favorite things to see.  I could look through photos of those bright red trees and and other scenes this time of year and never get tired of it.
To celebrate the start of fall, I thought I would celebrate that scenery, what I think of as the Lord's painting for Fall, and share the beauty of it in different parts of the South!

Petit Jean State Park, Arkansas

Whitaker Point in the Ozarks in Arkansas

Mt. Cheaha State Park in Alabama

Beavers Bend State Park in Oklahoma

Cades Cove, Tennessee

Smokey Mountains in Tennessee

Fall in Tennessee
(This reminds me of Vermont!)

Blackwater State Park in West Virginia

Blue Ridge, Georgia
A little Fall color on the Frio River in Texas
Garner State Park in Texas
Lake Fausse Point, Louisiana

Beautiful Louisiana Oak Alley Plantation in Fall
And because I love the West...

Aspens in Autumn: Colorado
Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
I think the most amazing thing about Fall is the range of beauty and different colors you find in different places.  Absolutely beautiful.  I'm thankful for the pleasant, peaceful views that bless us in Fall.
Today at our house, we are commenting on how it feels cooler all the sudden.  The air is gradually losing the Southern summer humidity and moving toward cool and crisp.  I can't wait until it gets cold enough for sweaters and the crunchy leaves start to fall more and more.
This past week we have had a lot of things happen that made it feel like Autumn days are on their way... most of all, several lovely days of rain!!
I am so excited that Fall is here!... It excites me every year.  This year, I await baking apple pies, drinking warm cocoa, big sweaters, lighting the fireplace on cool, crisp days, waking up to more rainy days, family time, and helping with our decorations here at home for the season!
"Winter is an etching, Spring a watercolor, Summer an oil painting,
and Autumn a mosaic of them all"
-Stanley Horowitz
Happy Fall!!!
What are you excited about this season??
Blessings and hugs!
I hope you have a wonderful Sunday :)
{all photos shared from Pinterest}

Friday, September 13, 2013

Faithful Friday!

A recent devotional left an imprint on my mind by something it said... the main focus of it was the importance of living life with God's love and grace showing through... and not just showing through, but beaming through brightly!
The message of this was to live in such a way that you live each day with that grace in everything you do. The most important aspect of this?   Living to be an example of that through showing love and kindness to others.

It seems that lately I have come across many things that reiterate this. And it is a beautiful thought that resides in my heart!  To be kind and loving and genuinely caring toward others, so much so that in that way alone they will see Christ in you!

Another point that was made resonated so much with me as I read it: our Savior died for us so that we may have everlasting life and be cleansed and purified completely through it.  It is the least we can do to be a witness to others about how loving the Lord is!  And what better way to do that and show the evidence of that love to others than to be kind towards others.  It is a joy to think of all the ways we can be an example of God's love, letting him, in us, shine through:  show kindness to others and strangers out of love, be merciful and forgiving, patient with others, and have a heartfelt character, or simple things like complimenting others and having a sweet and loving heart and demeanor.  Truly being radiant in God!

Ephesians 4:32
"Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ
forgave you." 

Colossians 3:12
"So, as those who have been chosen by God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of
compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience."

It was a joy and a wonderful reminder to me to live in such a way.  These reminders are a blessing to all of us, and make me truly thankful for God's love and so excited at the thought that, in any way, God's love could shine through me.

This has reminded me, also, of one of- in my opinion- the most beautiful quotes ever spoken.  Mother Teresa once said, "...Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier.  Be the living expression of God's kindness; kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile, kindness in your warm greeting".

Wishing you a lovely weekend!
God Bless you♥

.          .          .

Faithful Fridays are hosted by my friend, Joy, on her blog Doodlebug!  You can read her amazing posts and enjoy her blog or link up with your own Faithful Friday thoughts, here.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Lunch Under the Oaks

Monday is here again!  It always amazes me how quickly each week rolls around.  I hope you're having a lovely start to the week!
Today was a nice Monday and a blessed one... mostly because of one thing.  Spending time in a beautiful place.  To me, that always makes for a wonderful day.  Not only do I enjoy the time I am there, but I think about how lovely it was to be there throughout the rest of my day.
It was at lunchtime, and I was so happy to spend time outside in this scenic park-like area.
Huge, hundred year old oaks and other types of trees.
A cool, wonderful breeze.
A beautiful pond.
Green, soft grass.
A couple of geese and ducks walking around... which were neat to see, until they got close to me and I was afraid they would get angry if I was in their territory! haha.
I loved sitting there and relaxing on a bench and then walking around for awhile.

The largest, oldest trees were so big around- they are the ones farthest away in this photo. 
last week, I rested under one for awhile, and it was almost overwhelming to look straight up and see just how far up it went.

I don't think there's any way I could get tired of a place like this.  Just green, lush beauty with rows of trees forever.  Being here reminds me of the way the trees lining old plantation drives make a canopy above.
Maybe not as manicured here, but definitely beautiful and like a dream to walk under and look up at their branches high above you and the sun streaming through.
One thing I thought was what a relaxing, heavenly place this would be to have a picnic!

Later on, I passed a beautiful bush with these sweet little periwinkle flowers.
And what a gift to have this amazing butterfly land right in front of me.  He fluttered around and landed on different flowers for a few minutes.  I kept trying to photograph him, but he opened and closed his wings so fast, my camera couldn't keep up.
But he was amazing to see so close, to admire his colors.
A few seconds later, a tiny lizard crawled up out of the bushes.  He was funny- he just stared at me for a while, then walked a few inches, stared again, then walked some more.
Just some sweet things from my day.
How was your day?
Have a wonderful evening!!  :)

Friday, September 6, 2013

Faithful Friday!

It is the sweetest moment when you realize that the only reason we have for true
hope is in the Lord!
What a powerful thought- without Him as our savior, there is no such thing as hope.
In every way, we have hope only in the Lord because of His love and graciousness...
and because by him, we can have hope in all areas of our lives... whether
it be hope for the future, our families, our walk and faith, or for something very specific.
What a blessing to have the blanket of hope wrapped around us by God
as we follow Him and put our trust in Him.  In Him, we can hope
and pray.  He is the source of all hope.
It is a gift to know this.
And as is true with the world, we can rest in God with
the secure feeling and faith that there is no better source of hope!
Psalm 71: 14
"But as for me, I will always have hope;
I will praise you more and more."
.         .          .
Joy from Doodlebug hosts Faithful Fridays!  You can read her wonderful post and
enjoy her blog by clicking here, as well as link up!
Hoping you have a joyful and
beautiful weekend!!

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Reasons to Smile

It has been a blessed day here, and I hope it has been where you are too!!
Since school began, I haven't had as much time as usual to write or share things, but today I thought I would delight in the things that have been pleasant about my day, or things I've seen that put a smile
 on my face, and share them.  After all, even if it is only in something seemingly small,
there is always a reason to smile...
The evening skies with the glorious sun emerging from
behind low grey clouds.
Going grocery shopping as a family.
Seeing a baby with a cowboy hat on at the
 store.  So sweet.
Getting home safely today (that's a blessing every day)!
Sweet emails from dear friends-
such a blessing!
Delicious scents coming from the oven
before dinner.
Reflecting on an amazing book I just finished.
Being directed to amazing scripture that makes me
so grateful!
The silly things that make me laugh, like putting my sunglasses on
my dog and having her just stare at me with them on. 
Passing by farms and land on a country road and seeing
all the animals.
Relaxing all evening at home... thankful for
my family close-by.
Still finding glitter from a craft project we did together
almost a week ago, a reminder of the fun we had.
The feeling of excitement that the
weekend is here... time to sew and do crafts!
Thinking happily of the rain we had last night and having
the hope it will come again.
It is hard to beat the coziness of falling asleep to the sound of
rain on the roof.
What things made your day lovely?
I had to come back to finish this post, so it is almost midnight now!
I don't often get to write so late at night, but this is reminding me that it is probably
my favorite time of all to write.
I hope you had a wonderful evening!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Olden Days in the South: Historic Washington State Park

I hope you are having a lovely weekend!!

This post is a little belated, one I have been wanting to write and share since July.  That was when we got back from our wonderful family vacation to Arkansas.  When I shared photos from that trip, I mentioned that there were more I wanted to share from a special place we had ventured to in the state.
Here they are!

This place is called Historic Washington State Park and it was absolutely beautiful and an amazing experience to visit.  It is in Southwest Arkansas.  I have never been any place quite like this.  It is a historic park where you can get an up close feel of the life, homes, land, and history of the 1800's (in my opinion, a truly neat era), and I had never been any place quite like this.  We were fascinated by it all.
It showed not only the history and life of the "olden days" here, but also the loveliness and beauty of this part of the South altogether.

This was the building where we went to pick up a map to start our tour.
We did the self-guided tour- I loved the excitement of exploring.

It was the old 1874 courthouse, and had so many historically beautiful features, just like the other buildings throughout Washington.

From the big, old, gorgeous trees to the fences and the architecture, it truly felt as
if we had stepped into the 1800's. (The other side of the courthouse/visitors center)

The first home we stopped at:  the beautiful 1853 Woodlawn Plantation House.
The truly picturesque image of an old, Civil War era Southern home.

At the house across the street, the Trimble House, we walked around to the back to find some old treasures that really made us feel like we were back in time.

 Next, we came to the old Washington Methodist church.  The congregation was established in 1818, meaning it is the oldest continuing Methodist congregation in all of Arkansas.  Amazing!

One of my parents took a photo of me in front of it and I was supposed to be
smiling, but I think they caught me laughing about something instead, haha.

The majority of the buildings in Historic Washington are original buildings from the 1800's.
This one here was one of the exceptions.  Built as a re-creation of the office of a lawyer who
once served the town, it now serves as the Restoration Foundation for Washington.
I thought it was just a simple and beautiful building with it's pioneer feel.

Standing in front of the place where the oldest post office in Arkansas stood...
and knowing that almost 200 years ago it existed.

One of the many lovely old roads in the town.
Walking along each of them made you feel as if you were in a forgotten
place, lost in a beautiful countryside.

One thing we enjoyed about our visit was definitely the trees... so many hundred plus
year old trees with knots and huge trunks that soared to amazing heights.

The 1836 Hempstead County Courthouse.
This was one of the most amazing buildings to stand in front of, to know that it
was the very first courthouse that the county ever had, the original.  It has so much
history and is just the epitome of old American style architecture.  It was hard to believe
the same building in front of us had been there since before the Civil War.
I thought it was also interesting that it served as the schoolhouse in the later 1800's, only
after it had become a place for Civil War troops to occupy in the 1860's.

All throughout the town, as was the case here, there were wooden sidewalks.
It was a sight to see, I guess just something I wasn't used to seeing, wooden sidewalks everywhere.
As we walked, I liked to imagine what it would have been like on a day there in the 1800's...
ladies and gentlemen walking along those wooden sidewalks, ladies with parasols and their
big beautiful dresses and hoop skirts, and children playing games in the street.

We came to a more secluded part on the edge of town, which was so beautiful to walk along.
This is the Royston Log House- built in 1835 and restored and brought here by the foundation.
I can imagine this home on cold winters days 150 years or so ago, smoke coming out of the chimney and a fire going inside warming everyone, snow on the rooftop, and icicles on the eaves.  A cozy cabin.

One of my favorite places we saw- the Block-Catts House.
It was built in 1832.  On the inside, it has a rustic and Victorian feel and on the
outside it was beautiful, not to mention on a gorgeous piece of land!

The day we were there, it was quite hot.  Spending a little time resting on the porch and cooling off
before we went on was really nice.  I admired the porch especially- so Southern, so 1800's, so lovely and simple.
If I had to choose a home in Washington I would like to have lived in, it would be here.  I
loved the old style, and most of all I loved the idea of how those who lived here must have felt being able to come out on their porches and relax and look out on the beautiful land and the magnolias.

Past the Block-Catts house, we walked to the end of the little road to find a cemetery.

I have to say, if you were going to choose where you would want to be buried, this is the most
beautiful, serene, peaceful cemetery I have ever been to. 
The arch reads "Pioneer Cemetery".

We didn't walk around in it, but just stayed at the entrance and looked all around us.

This line of graves, where the old town doctor and his family were laid to rest,
was just by the entrance and really struck us.
I stayed there for awhile taking it all in and reading the headstones.
It occurred to me that gravestones back then were so special and truly captured
the memory and legacy of those who had passed in a way that you don't see today, telling of their goodness and their lives.

It was emotional in a way, which I didn't expect when were heading down the road toward the cemetery.
One gravestone in particular really interested me and made me feel sadness... it was the grave of the Doctor's daughter.  She was close in age to me when she passed away, so I guess
it got to me more to stand in front of her grave than the others... she was
 18 when she married and died at 22.  Beside her grave was a smaller grave... I can't
remember what it said, but I thought it was her child.  This made us think she and her child might have died during child labor.

Her gravestone reads:
To The Memory Of
Wife Of
William W. Andrews
& Daughter Of
Doct. Isaac N. &
Elizabeth Wilson Jones.
Born Feb. 20. 1830.
Married Feb. 22. 1848.
Died Dec. 20. 1852.

She lived and died a devout Christian,
beloved by her parents, husband, brothers,
and sisters.  We thy husband and parents
inscribe this over thy Tomb, as an humble
witness that thou wert dear to us on
earth, Oh that our lives like thine may
be dedicated to God, the only true
hope of happiness.

Going to the cemetery was perhaps the most special part of our trip to Washington,
and definitely something I'll remember for the rest of my life.  It was something
so real and meaningful to be standing there in front of graves of people that lived almost or
more than 200 years ago.  Especially that of such a young woman, and children- it made me wonder things like how exactly she passed away and what she might have looked like and what she liked to do, even if she may have been anything like me.
At the end of the line of headstones was her father's headstone.  His name was
Isaac Newton Jones and he was born in the 1700's.

There is another cemetery in Washington.  It is called Old Washington Cemetery and,
showing the rich history of the Civil War era South found here, it is the burial place
of a number of Confederate soldiers.  The cemetery also has many pioneers buried within.

Going back up the hill road, we came to the Blacksmith shop.  This was one of the other 
re-creations, but a truly neat one to see.  This is notable because of the
fact that Washington was the very place that famous blacksmith James Black
made a knife for James Bowie, the Bowie knife.

The last building at the end of that road- the old schoolhouse!
Oh, how I wish schools were still small, sweet, and personal like this.
The schoolhouse served as the town school from it's establishment up to 1940.

The loveliness of this building was evident on the inside especially.
This is in the entrance to the schoolhouse- lovely from the wooden doors to
the staircase to the desk and old wood floors.  When I peeked through the front doors
and saw it, I thought it looked a little bit like the hallway in the Blind School in
Little House on the Prairie.
And as far as the neat, old-fashioned feel, we can just ignore the plastic trashcan, haha ;)

An awesome experience of our day there happened when we came upon this...
one of, or maybe THE, biggest trees I have ever seen in my life, and definitely the largest
Magnolia tree I have ever seen in my life.  It was amazing for all of us.
And it had a lot of time to get so tall and wide and absolutely beautiful- it was planted in 1839!

As individual states- Arkansas, Alabama, Georgia, Texas, etc.- we may all have
different state flowers, but many people think of the flower of the entire South as the Magnolia.
So, to see such an impressive and amazing Magnolia tree was something we loved so much.
We just stood under it and looked up and looked at the trunk, awe-inspired.

The thing that I felt made the tree so incredible was not only the trunk or the height,
but all of the branches that dipped down from where they grew out of the trunk all the way to near
the ground, all around us.

My turn to take a photo by the massive trunk of the Magnolia tree.
As I stood by it, the nostalgia/historical heart in me came out again and I thought
about how incredible it was to think of how many generations have walked by, played under,
or seen this very tree- from the time it was just a few feet tall all the way to now.

Most beautiful of all... it's lovely hundreds of Magnolia blossoms.
Perfectly made, pure and lovely and white.

 The picturesque Crouch House.
Built in 1857.

The Sanders House and Farmstead.
This is where the county clerk for Washington from 1839-1869 lived
with his family during and after he was clerk.  

Purdom House.  Built in 1850.
According to the guide, "Dr. James A.L. Purdom practiced medicine in Washington 
from 1845 until his death in 1866.  His home was restored by the
State Park in 1978 and now has exhibits on the practice of medicine in 19th
century Southwest Arkansas."

I remember this just being an old town building made into an office, but I thought it was such a nice, quaint little building.

Some of the last things we saw...

The old home site of the Doctor and his family during the 1800's.

 The horses and carriage used for tours.  The carriage was so elaborate and beautiful.
And you can see here one of the period actors... it was a slower day when we went, but we
got to see a few of them throughout the town.  It was so neat to see how they were dressed.
They were also so kind and friendly, especially a man and woman we met near the Candle Shop.
Which was another fun thing they have there- you get to dip dye an old-fashioned candle for free and take it home with you as a souvenir.

This was an amazing place and I am so happy we go to go!  I would love to go back someday.
I am fascinated by the life and history of people like the pioneers, in that sense of history, and was overwhelmed in the best way by being there. 

This was such an amazing thing to take in the town and the 1800's and pioneer and Civil War eras as a family... we made lots of memories in this beautiful place.
I loved every moment as we explored, and this was definitely one of my favorite things
we did in Arkansas.

God Bless!
I hope you're having a blessed Sunday!

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