Saturday, January 30, 2016

Over 17 Years Later...

Happy weekend to you!

Is it just me, or did this week pass by fast?
One of my best friends and I have this thing where we tell
each other "Happy Friday's Eve" on Thursdays as we
get excited for the coming weekend...
It seems like I was just thinking that LAST Thursday and here
it is another weekend!
I hope your weekend is off to a lovely start this beautiful Saturday.

In my first post back after being absent from my blog for
most of the Fall, I mentioned that I had some things, after being
away for sometime, to share in a future post...
Well, the main thing is something I wanted to share today...

After 17+ years of being in school and 4 intense years
and summers of college, I'm so excited to say that...


I started my blog in the spring of my first year at my university!
Oh, how time flies!  I can't believe that was back in 2012.

I am pondering that as I sit here writing this post that I've been excited
about sharing- to think that blogging was such a central part of
my past few years and my college experience,
sharing the things that motivated me, my joys and new things
I was excited to learn about, day to day life and inspirations, 
and even campus beauty that I was blessed to enjoy as I looked around.

Starting college was a major point in my life, a time when
I had more and more begun to fall in love with how much beauty there was
in my Southern roots and in this place I call home. I was realizing more
and more my affinity for the South I grew up in and the South I
have still yet to explore and dream about.
And my faith and relationship with my Savior was also growing so much.
And that all went hand-in-hand with starting writing here because
I was so excited to get to share those things that
"set my soul on fire", so to speak...
and it led to so much more☺

I feel like blogging was a part of what made my years in college
all that much more meaningful because of that.
And most of all, meeting the loveliest girls and ladies, you who
encouraged me greatly through your blogs, comments, and
godly hearts, was such an unexpected blessing that entered
my life at that time, as well.

.          .           .

I graduated in mid-December!
It was the most exciting moment of
my life so far... preparing for it, having my family there to celebrate
with me and be so supportive, walking across the stage to receive
my diploma as I had dreamed about for so long, and waking up the
next morning realizing I was finished was all so surreal. 
I think it just now has begun to feel real.  And it is an incredible feeling.

I believe the most exciting part of it for me is that, even though I LOVED
being a student and I thrive on being in school (so much so that it
feels strange to not be going to any classes this semester), after so many
long years of writing essays, doing projects, getting so little sleep,
and not having really any free time...
I am finally able to do things I haven't had time to in these past
four years, and I have time to focus more on family and faith and other
important things, and to study things that fascinate me!

Like archaeology, art, architecture,
heritage, theology, culture, marine biology, meteorology, history, and
other studies that captivate my interest.
And I am so thankful to be at this point!

Decorating my graduation cap was a beyond exciting
part of graduating because it made me start to realize I was
finally at this point that I had been waiting so long for.  I chose the
to emblazon the words, "Go confidently in the direction of your dreams."
My graduation verse was Proverbs 16:3,
which I loved having printed on my announcements, but I
had trouble fitting it on my cap... so, I wrote these stirring words,
because they are inspiring to my heart and soul as I continue
my journey and work toward my goals.
They had a lot of meaning to me and inspiration in my mindset
before graduation and now, after.

And like any Southern girl, I added pearls around the border ;)

My parents, who were just as new
to working my new camera at the time as I was, were able to take
some photos from their seat that I loved getting to see that night when I got home
after the ceremony.

The audience and the empty candidates' seats before the
commencement...  and all of those diplomas stacked and ready
to be presented to us!

Looking at some of the photos was like reading a 
"Where's Waldo" book as I looked for my face, haha.
I think I was looking up right at the camera and I noticed they caught
me not smiling... I'm pretty sure it is because I was both nervous
and overwhelmed by the moment at this point.
And the emotion of the music, the moment, everything was getting to me (smiles)
after being seated and looking around, taking it all in.

I think the thing I didn't expect to happen was that I would
feel so many emotions as I walked in with the rest of my graduating class,
as I sat down, and as I sat there and looked all around me at this
moment that was now real.
The emotions came most of all as I looked up at my parents, who were also
sitting with my great aunt and my Grandpa, and saw the pride in their
faces and their own emotion, and remembered... 
the memories all coming back to me of the moments, the days, 
the years that had led up to this.

One highlight of my graduation was that my great aunt was able to come.
It was special having her there because she has a lot of health problems.
She sacrificed her comfort to be there and to make the long walk into
the auditorium that I know was hard for her, but she wanted to be
there to see me walk the stage.
My family blesses me so much with their love.

And afterward, I was so pleasantly surprised to see she
had brought me roses!  They were SO beautiful and that meant
so much to me.  They are now dried and in my room lying atop my bookcase
along with the other roses that were already there that are tied to memories.

Moments in my life that are precious and memorable 
are a treasure, and I think one of my favorite things about them is
that left behind afterward are things like my roses, my graduation cords
and stoles, and other things that are keepsakes of the day...
like this little graduation cap decoration that was on the cake my
parents bought me that day.
And maybe years from now, my grandchildren or great-grandchildren
will come upon my keepsake box and find this and other pieces of
what graduation meant to me☺

This past semester, my last, was intense and meaningful
and taught me great discipline. 

 It was tiring and rewarding all at the same time. 
 The rewarding part came from getting
to work with some of the sweetest children who showed me
so much love and kindness, while the ones who
were more of a challenge to work with sometimes taught me that
they needed even more love and dedication from me and that
it is important to look past the surface of what you see.
I gleaned so much from working with them
and was so blessed and touched by those children.

The expectations were set high in the program I was in and I came
away with such a heightened understanding of my field.
It grew my confidence and my knowledge in ways
that surprised me.

I know that the only way I got through the rigor and the schedule
and everything that came my way during these past years in
college was by prayer and God strengthening me.
The times when it was 3 a.m. and I just wanted to go to sleep so badly and
I knew I had another hour on a project or a research paper,
God got me through.

In my second year of college when I was sick for awhile
and didn't know what was wrong, I was afraid I wouldn't be able to make
it to class and would get behind... but my faith got me through and
God made it possible because He was bigger than my problems.

I'm so thankful to have had the opportunity to learn and grow
and become the person I am now because of my college experience.
And I have most of all to thank God and to thank my
parents, who loved, supported, encouraged me, and especially invested
in my life, years before college was even a part of my life.
I'm so very grateful!

.             .            .

As I look back at the past four years, I think of all the aspects of
college that are memorable to me.
And definitely included is...

The beauty of the campus I was privileged to walk around on, the 
architecture I so enjoyed admiring like the spires of the main building,
the oldest building on campus that stands proudly at the top of
the tallest hill just as it did well over 100 years ago...

the environment overall and the glittering waters that ran through and
surrounded the area around campus, like the river running through (here are two 
photos below that I did not take, but that I think most truly
capture the awesome beauty of the river that runs right through the
middle of campus...


the cypress and other glorious trees I spent many days writing
or spending lunch breaks under by the pond, watching
the squirrels and geese and turtles in the pond...

the shadows of branches that graced the ground on sunny spring days,
the oaks so Southern and majestic to walk beneath...

the displays and cases in the science building with organisms
that I loved to admire on my walks to class, namely
the marine biology cases with abalones (and my degree
involved 9 science courses, so I was in this building a lot!)...

the excitement over finishing projects like my writing portfolio
in my writer's craft class... 

cool, rainy days working on papers and assignments in front of 
my window...

spending time on my studies and poring over my books...

having the honor of being invited and inducted into three
academic and scholars honor societies...

and the moments in between that were exciting, the simple joys,
like going shopping for formals for my formal graduation
(I couldn't help myself- vintage dresses are just too irresistible,
 so I got two!)

Whether you are in college, are going in the future, or you love
learning about the world around you or the things that fascinate you
 through books and your own studying, I think the most important
thing to remember- that I know I learned from my time spent at
the university- is that learning and soaking in as much knowledge
about a wide range of things is so integral to growing as a person
and staying in love with learning and being inspired.

No matter how you learn, it's so important to keep learning
 about what you love and what amazes you, makes you curious, 
inspires you.
And never let anything squash your desire to learn.

One of the wisest quotes about learning, in my opinion,
is by Abigail Adams, a quote that inspires me to always seek out

I look forward to this fresh, new year with excitement for learning
now on my own, continuing to be a student every day but just in a 
little bit of a different way.  And so much of a thrill resides inside me for
the year ahead with the potential that it holds for doing new things, 
traveling, and living with a freedom that is new to me... to know
that I am finished and have moved into a new journey,
a time to grow my faith, do things I have been waiting to,
and enjoy the simple things.
Just enjoying God's blessings and His plan.

What was your college experience like, or if you're going to college,
what are you most excited about?

What is your favorite field to study?

Have a wonderful weekend!!

Blessings to you!

Saturday, January 23, 2016

My Verse This Year!

I hope you are having a wonderful beginning to the weekend!

It's been a blessed day of spending time with my family,
getting to go out to eat at one of my favorite restaurants, and spend
some time journaling, dreaming, and then getting things done.
And now, I'm so happy to be sitting down to
write here (smiles)...

The photo above is one I took at the beginning of the
month to start the new year- for two reasons, I took that photo.
First of all, because the roses on the counter in a vase
from my parents' anniversary were too beautiful
to borrow one and take a photo of it with something, and because
I wanted a lovely reminder of this special verse-
my verse for 2016.

I had taken a few days to decide. I was going between two
verses that are actually only a couple of pages apart from
each other in the bible and were both about prayer!
But I ended up being most led toward this one,
Philippians 4:6-7.

I am amazed at how many times in His word the Lord
says this same message- do not care/worry about anything,
but PRAY about the things on our hearts.
This verse connected to me so deeply and coming upon it as I searched
 for my year verse was an answer to prayer.  The main part of
this verse that I wanted to set my focus on for this year
and to carry on through my entire life is to PRAY about

I LOVE how God is telling us to pray about ANYTHING
and EVERYTHING.  It doesn't just say pray about
some things, but in everything pray with thanksgiving
and let God know your heart.
He knows every part of your heart and your being,
but how beautiful it is to show Him that you
give all areas of your life to Him and share it with Him.

... Ultimately, my greatest prayer for my relationship with
God as I started this new year a few weeks ago was
to pray so much more than I do, to talk more and more to God
like He is my best friend- because He is.
And prayer had already been
so intrinsic to my life and so important to me, but then I realized
how much more I could pray- how instead of falling into the
pattern of praying only when something great happened and thanking
Him or only praying when I needed help or was hurt, 
I could pray just to say thank you for the simplest thing, to
share my heart, or simply because I need to talk to someone.
And God is always there.

.           .           .

Prayer calms and gives peace to my mind, my heart...
my life...
like nothing else does.
And I am in awe of how it brings the peace of Jesus into
even the scariest or hardest times like nothing else can.

About a week after I marked this verse in my bible
as my verse to act out in my life this year, 
God gave me something very important to start off.
My Aunt found out she had breast cancer and that she needed
immediate surgery if she did not want to have to go
through treatment.  This was a shock to everyone in our family and
so sudden, and my heart hurt for my aunt to think of how
scared she must be. 
She had her surgery this week, an entire day long surgery, and prayer
throughout our entire family and that encouragement was such
a blessing!  

That entire day, I know there was some worry but there was
a thousand times more FAITH that God had her in His hands.
And that prayer brought miracles and my Aunt is home healing
now, and we all are praying now that that surgery was the
end of it.  Prayer for her would be so appreciated☺

In that day this week and after, I realize my greatest joy even in the
 most worrisome times is to be a prayer warrior for others.

I hope y'all have a joyful weekend!

I know some of my sweet blogging friends are getting snow-
stay warm and safe!  And enjoy that white beauty all around you.
I'm going to keep dreaming of snow coming to my neck of the South ;)

Wishing you the most blessed day!

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Winter Cheer All Around the House... And the Town

Happy New Year!!!

I hope your new year is off to a wonderful beginning!

I hope that your blessed time spent with family and those you love and cherish
has been full of peace and joy and memory making.... the best time spent,
 making memories that will always be with you and 
build on the old ones ☺

I can't believe how quickly December flew by.  It was an exciting month
in our family and marked the beginning of relaxing together for awhile, 
which was a huge blessing.  And now we are in January!!  Wow!

One of the things that always makes winter time joyful (even if it isn't always
wintry feeling outside here in the South) is of course the cheer around
the house.  I recently had my dream of getting a new camera realized!
I LOVE it.
...and so I have been taking A LOT of photos of our winter
decor, doing my best with my knowledge of its
workings so far to capture the joy and magical, old-worldliness
that I feel as I look around each day. 

This burlap, primitive-feel adornment around my favorite, lovely painting
in the dining room makes me feel so cozy.  It is my favorite
area to be when the lights are dim and the twinkling of these lights
aglow shines brightest and most charming.

Our "Bird-Seed" snowman and a new addition to our decor,
a sweet cardinal adorned tin mailbox (that also needs a little touch-up).

This was another find from our little Library thrifty shop that always has
the most wonderful seasonal decor section, a charming yarn wreath.
I have loved these ever since I saw one for the first time on my
dear friend, Stephanie's post, here, over at The Enchanting Rose!

And now to share a few photos that bring me joy
because they remind me of a tradition that is dear to my heart,
going for a drive, hot cocoa in hand, gazing out the window at the 
beauty and magic of the lights that adorn the town and
neighborhoods all around.  I took these a few days after
 Christmas when we went☺
I had fun especially going to the little town square to photograph
the way they have it so prettily set up there.  I loved playing
with some of the effects on my camera that made the lights
blur or dance!

And the glorious tree.

And back to home...
Sprinklings of seasonal cheer along our mantel.
We did a sort of rustic meets classic feel with a lot of red in
our hand-lettered holly and snow adorned canvas signs we had so
much fun making! ...And then red lights settled down in rustic
burlap, with old-fashioned candle lights in between.

Probably my favorite thing to decorate with in winter (aside from vintage
style tins!) is natural elements like pinecones.  I love how it feels
to bring in things from outside.

Pretty paper packages placed perfectly by the fire.
Yay for alliteration! haha ☺

 And I think what brings us all joy when we walk in is
our small, but lovely, glowing "town" of lit up buildings
that sits on our hallway table.  It has a backdrop of green like
an evergreen forest and crocheted snowflakes laid out
around it.

 Outside is the cheer of our "let is snow" sign, which we look at
with the prayer that it really will snow someday!  It has been a long
while since we saw white during winter, but we can dream.

And the brilliant glow of vibrant purple-blue lights up
the path to our door, which lights up my spirit every evening
when we have been out and drive up to our house.

I hope y'all have had a most blessed start to the
brand new year!

Do you still have your decor up or has it been put away with
dreams of spring in your heart? ☺

Wishing you a wonderful day!

Blessings to you!!

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