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!

Friday, October 24, 2014

Faithful Friday: In ALL Your Ways

Happy Friday!
I began writing a post recently that I am very passionate about and am enjoying writing, but with these busy days of working on school and everything that has come with it lately, I have not had a chance to finish it. Hopefully I will get to soon!  This is also the reason that I did not get around to sharing anything last Friday.
For today, I am sharing something that has been processing in my mind this week as I've pondered it. I feel like I am forgetting about exactly what verses or thoughts I've written about before, and I'm not sure that I haven't written about this Proverb before.  I thought I may have because of how amazing this verse is and how much it has influenced me, but if so, I hope I am sharing in a somewhat new way than I did before- if I did before. That applies to all Faithful Fridays I write in the future, because I'm sure there may be some repeats of things God has been working in me about again :)

.           .           .

Something I think about more as I get older is how important it is to see verses like this not just as "things to do" or "ways we can live", but instead as vital commandments.  The words in this Proverb encourage me to think of God always being the center of my "ways", to think of Him and what He would think of me for doing any given thing or even thinking a certain way.  

Most importantly, the key word ALL is what I am focusing on.  It is easy to think that we are pleasing God if we are acknowledging His laws and doing what is right in most areas, but if we know that we are not in other areas- even small ones- we cannot rely on Him to direct our paths.  It is misguided thinking if we feel that God will bless our lives fully and direct us if we are not giving our all to obey Him.  We are not perfect, though, and God sees our efforts!  I am not perfect in this, but seeking God and trying whole-heartedly to keep His commandments in not just some, but ALL, parts of my life is something I know that He sees.  

Doing what we know is not right in any area of our lives is an easy thing to overcome and change when we think of how little pleasure or satisfaction that tendency brings in comparison to being admired by, and in accordance with, God.  It can be something even as simple as dressing immodestly, for example.  If this is something you struggle with, is it really worth it to keep wearing those tight or revealing clothes because you like them when you know God is telling you that you are worth so much more than that?  By giving up those clothes, you would be acknowledging His ways.

This motivates my heart toward God and Jesus, to acknowledge the Lord in all ways, not just skipping around to what I feel like honoring Him with and doing whatever I want in other areas. 
I want to acknowledge God not only because I pray He will direct my paths, but because I seek to please Him.... in my words and speech, my actions, my attitude in life, priority of my faith, having a servant's heart toward my family and others, and in my way of dress, and everything else.

Let us think of this stirring verse and consider... in what parts of our lives are we not "acknowledging His ways" that we can change right now?

Blessings, and I hope y'all have a wonderful weekend!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

National Southern Belle Day!

Happy National Southern Belle Day!
I think it's so fun that there is even a day dedicated to this.
Happy NSB Day to all of you Southern belles, whether you were born
and raised here, you moved here, or you have never been and you are a 
Southern Belle at heart.

It is so neat to get to celebrate and recognize
 the things that make up the lives of girls and ladies in the South
and the traditions that have lasted generations and are a part of our lives
and our heritage in present day, but I think the most wonderful part is that this
 is a way to think back on and recognize the Southern Belles before us...
 the ladies who stared out at this same beautiful land centuries ago, 
 the ladies who cooked up grits and biscuits for their families- as daughters
 and mothers-  long before we were born or even our parents were born,
 who valued tradition and morals, values, and femininity, and even
 the ladies who were the pillars of the South during 
the Civil War.

I love to imagine those women, even my own ancestors, and what they
must have sounded like as they spoke, what they looked like as they floated
by while going for a stroll in their antebellum style dresses, their hair done up,
 their parasols in hand, gazing out at the Oaks and Spanish Moss.

To me, National Southern Belle Day is more about them
and their legacy than anything.

Southern Belles like this...



As I travel to see new parts of the South, even to new places closer to home, 
I fall more and more in love with the glorious Southern land, the look of
an alley of oaks and magnolias lining or hanging over a road.
Similarly, I am enamored with the beauty of the classic charm
of Southern architecture, the giant signature white columns on the front
 of old antebellum homes, the graceful scrolls above a door, and the
woodwork of the rails on a plantation porch.

These words below about the greatest Southern film of all time 
could not be more true.  
My love of the South is most deeply rooted in my
heart's adoration for it as my home.
I think that is characteristic of Southern Belles today just as
much as it was two hundred years ago; it is about
having a soulful connection with this place we came from.


In honor of National Southern Belle Day being today, here's to some of the things I can think of that are reminiscent of being one...

~Being passionate about your roots
~Sweet tea
~Knowing that the sound of cicadas is the soundtrack to your summers
~Visiting places around you and soaking in their Southern history (like visiting your parents' home town and seeing the old hanging tree)
~Having a place you never stop going back to, like the house generations of your family have lived in
~Tasting a recipe passed down for generations
~Sippin' a coca-cola in a glass bottle on the front porch
~Sitting in a porch swing, watching the world go by
~Mason jars
~"Bless your heart"
~Getting "gussied up", especially on Sundays
~Being daddy's girls
~Growing up being taught class, charm, and most importantly: manners
~Mamas and their wisdom: "If you're gonna be anything, be gracious."
~Endin' your words in "in'", not "ing"... see what I did there? ;)
~The joy of cooking for your family
~Valuing faith and family above all else

Many Southern women feel unequivocally defined in some part by the Magnolia.  Whether you reference this to the movie, "Steel Magnolias", or the hardiness and resilience of the Magnolia itself, there is a certain strength you feel when you think of yourself as a Steel Magnolia.  As with the women in the film, a Steel Magnolia is a woman who shows grace under pressure and stress and may go through the hardest of times, yet comes out stronger than ever and makes it her ultimate goal to be a stronghold for those around her at the same time.  My heart is tied to this definition through how I have seen it in real life through the grandmothers and aunts and other women who I have been blessed to be around growing up, especially through their inspiring faith and strength despite losing children and loved ones, just like in the film.

If you have seen the film, maybe you have been inspired to be that type of woman, as I was when I first watched it.  November of this year will mark the 25th anniversary of "Steel Magnolias", 25 years since the film came out, based off of the play Robert Harling wrote as a result of the true story of his sister.  No matter where you're from, that film may hold part of your image of the South or you may relate to it.  It is to me a representation of many things that ring true about growing up here and that is why I connect to it, because it is nostalgic to me as mirroring so many of the women I have grown up having in my life, but most of all I get lost in the emotion of it.  I think it also just has some wonderful quotes, both meaningful and comical. These are some of my favorites...




and of course...

And how true this is...

...When I went to Arkansas last Summer and stood next to the largest Magnolia in Arkansas, I couldn't help but think as I stared up at it's magnificent beauty just how true that term "Steel Magnolia" must be, for that tree to have survived so much, for so long... the Civil War and who knows what else.  It was amazing to stand there and be thinking that.  How lovely to be surrounded by beautiful Magnolia blossoms that are models of the resilient strength and endurance we hope to embody.

Happy National Southern Belle day.

I hope your day was blessed!

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