nature explorations is a series about exploring nature. so philosophical, i know. nature is my love language. God's creation stirs the deep parts of my soul in ways i can't put into words, so i capture them with my camera. i feel closest to Him when i am marveling at His handmade beauty, and my prayer is that when others see my work, they will be inspired to seek Him in the humble places of their life as well.

 british accents. the smell of old books. cheering for the sooners live. candles. vintage cameras. fresh tomatoes. reminiscing with hilarious old photos. finding what i need in my small town instead of driving out of town. fits of giggles. making lists. that gorgeous golden hour light. sunrises. learning. chivalry. courteous drivers. possibilities. dark chocolate. harry potter. morning mist on untouched fields. open windows. wearing grandma gracie's jewelry. a tall glass of ice cold water. coffee and good conversation with a dear friend. catching a good nineties song on the radio. rainy mornings. hearing 'i love you'. 

- Christmas printables! yes, i realized it's three months away, but i am EXCITED. i already have a pinterest board and a winter to-do list written.
- meaningful content. one of the reasons i started fresh with a new blog was to write posts that mean something, posts that can help someone, and posts that ultimately point to Jesus. caroline said it perfectly, "if i write and it doesn't point others to Christ, it's in vain." YES. instead of throwing words together in thirty minutes and calling it good, i take at least three days to write. when i look back at posts like this and this, i'm like whoa. what is so beautiful about this process is how God works and writes through my fingers tapping away at the keyboard.

▲ listening: 
- campfire - the rend collective experiment.
- "love take me over" - steven curtis chapman. i can't sit still when this song comes on.
- bring me back to wonder EP  - gabi dipace.
- with you now EP - ellie holcomb. 
- dust to dust - civil wars. i listen to this when writing.

▲ reading:
- book five of HP.
- relevant magazine.
- studying through the book of proverbs.

▲ watching:
- revenge, season two.
- law & order: svu.
- new girl season premiere! 

▲ anticipating: 
- cooler temperatures this weekend. maybe i'll make some taco soup or bake pumpkin spice cookies.   
- IGNITE youth group! this is easily my favorite night of the week. i love interacting with the kids and developing relationships. i am in awe of how much growth my church has seen in the past year. from an average of 12-15 youth on sunday mornings and wednesday nights to a new activity center, it is blessing after blessing. a little over a year ago, i started teaching the junior high sunday school class. i knew it was what God wanted for me, but at the time i didn't know it was what i wanted for myself. fifteen months later, God has given me this immense passion for teens that i didn't know i had. 

▲ praying for:
- a humble heart that loves and serves and forgives. i pray that God will rid me of anything that hinders my relationship with Him. 
- the kids who walk through the doors at church. i pray that when they come, they leave differently than when they came. i pray for the hearts that are broken, that they will be healed by the Ultimate Healer; i pray for the lives that are falling apart, that they will be made whole by the love of Jesus. i pray for those who are lost and trying to find something, that they will seek Jesus with all they have and find in Him love, peace, joy, and grace that nothing or no one in this world can compare. i also pray for guidance and grace throughout this journey. whether i know it not, these youth listen and watch and learn from my example. Jesus, help me be a salt and light for You.

▲ making me happy:
- salted caramel mocha frappuccinos.
- blog friends.
- rainy mornings.
- learning to knit.
- the anticipation of fall.
- making lists.
- coffee. (that's a given)
- the evernote app.

i've noticed the topic of purity - more specifically, sexual purity - has been gaining momentum in blogs lately. in a society that encourages promiscuity and testing out the waters before marriage, girls are exposed to sex starting as young as twelve and thirteen. that breaks my heart so much. i love that married ladies and single gals alike are writing to girls of all ages, encouraging them to see their worth. some girls sign a card or wear rings that show their pledge to save themselves until they are married. true love waits.

but what about the girls who didn't wait? why aren't we talking to them as well?
what about the girl who sought attention from boys because she didn't have someone to tell her that she is worth so much more? what about the woman with a past that she desperately tries to hide out fear that she will be deemed dirty or shameful or a slut? what about the ladies who messed up, big time, and read about purity and saving oneself and feel less than?

are we teaching them to hide their past and their shame? i'm not saying we should glorify those who didn't save themselves for marriage, but we cannot put them in a box and isolate them from purity talk. the last time i checked, sin is sin. there isn't one sin that is worse than another.  Jesus died for all of us and all our sin.  

i wish i could take each girl or woman who has felt this pain or had these thoughts and just hug her. i'd tell her that she is not her past. she is not her mistakes. she is not her shame. and she is most definitely not less than. i would cry with her and tell her that she is forgiven and she is redeemed. i would tell her that sin was nailed to the cross with Jesus, and when He exclaimed "it is finished!", sweet sister, HE MEANT IT. isaiah 53:3-6 says, "He was despised and rejected— a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief. we turned our backs on him and looked the other way. He was despised, and we did not care. yet it was our weaknesses He carried; it was our sorrows that weighed Him down. and we thought His troubles were a punishment from God, a punishment for His own sins! but He was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed. all of us, like sheep, have strayed away. we have left God’s paths to follow our own. yet the Lord laid on Him the sins of us all."

so we could be whole.
so we could be healed.

i can't help but think about the story of rahab. homegirl was a prostitute. when israelite spies came to scout the land, rahab hid them on her roof from soldiers of the city guard. i love what she says to the spies: "no wonder our hearts have melted in fear! no one has the courage to fight after hearing such things. for the Lord your God is the supreme God of the heavens above and the earth below." this woman, a harlot, put her faith in God. the spies didn't bring up her past or move on to someone without a tarnished reputation. when the walls of jericho fell, her and her family were saved. despite her shameful choices and tainted past, the Lord saw her faith. and if you still don't believe that God can forgive you, rahab is part of the lineage of Jesus Christ and is referenced in the first gospel. her faith is mentioned in hebrews 11:31 among the likes of noah, sarah, and jacob. that is love. that is grace. that is redemption.

friend, if you are reading this and feel the shame and guilt of your past, please believe this: Jesus can make you whole, and He can heal your wounds. come to Him as you are; He will meet you wherever you are. no matter the sin, He is ready to forgive, restore, and renew.

autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower. 
[albert camus]

the changing of seasons is one of God's magnificent creations. winter is holidays, snow, hot chocolate, and a time of reflection for me. then there's spring. oh, my soul, do i love spring because it brings my favorite thing in nature: FLOWERS. they're God's little fingerprints springing up from the ground, making me smile. but don't forget about summer. warm weather, summer nights, fireworks, and strawberry lemonade.

and then comes fall. off all the seasons, fall is my favorite.

sweater weather. sooner football. scarves & boots. sunflowers. acorns. crunchy leaves. layers. pumpkin spice lattes. campfires & s'mores. salted caramel mochas. vibrant leaves created by the Creator Himself. cooler temps. hoodies. candles that smell so good i could eat them. breakfast for dinner. pumpkins. rainy days spent curled up with a book and hot tea. halloween. flannel shirts. chilly, foggy mornings. the walking dead comes back on (!!). hot soups. thanksgiving. jewel-toned nail polishes. caramel apples. fun fall trends. mums. candy corn. purple wellies. hay rides. fuzzy socks. lattes. maple donuts. cardigans. october. pumpkin patches. cozy blankets & flannel sheets. fall foilage.

i get excited when i switch out tank tops for cardigans. i love exploring nature and collecting bits of autumn to place around the house or use in a craft. there is something about autumn that gets my creative juices flowing. i want to try new foods, create, and soak in all that fall brings.

autumn to-do list:

▸ bake a pie from scratch
▸ try apple cider
▸ have coffee with a friend and talk about life
▸ make leaf art
▸ carve a pumpkin
▸ bake pumpkin spice cookies with white chocolate chips
▸ eat a lot of soup
▸ capture beautiful nature
▸ sit under the stars with pumpkin spice coffee
▸ try a fun DIY pinterest craft
▸ crochet a scarf or beanie
▸ try macarons
▸ take a mini road trip

my parents, september 5, 1985, celebrating their fourth wedding anniversary

my parents were married on this day thirty-two years ago.

i was recently telling mama how great of a childhood i had. it was only possible because i had two parents who love each other and love our Heavenly Father. i don't ever remember my parents fighting or yelling at each other, though i'm sure there were some hard times; marriage isn't easy, i know. but i see what my parents have, how they love each other, no matter how annoying or frustrating the other might be, they take care of one another, and they have the most important thing at the center of their marriage: God. this is probably where i'm supposed to say how more marriages would survive and thrive if they, too, put God first. well, call it cliche or old fashioned... call if whatever you want, but it's the TRUTH. for thirty-two years + two years of dating, God has been their center. in today's world, the wedding day garners more preparation than the marriage, divorce is an option, and God is nowhere to be found in the relationship. the movies want me to test out the waters before i take the plunge. words like "soul mates" and "the one" are forced down my throat. here's what i have learned: marriage is beautiful and rewarding and awesome if it is rooted in God and His Word. i don't buy into soul mates and all that crap. marriage is choosing to love someone every single day. it's choosing to put oneself second to the needs of their spouse. it's being a helpmate. it's everything that first corinthians thirteen talks about. it's a beautiful gift from God, and if it is in His plan for my life, i am thankful for the example set by my mama and daddy.

>>  i started reading charles spurgeon's morning and evening devotions. i highly recommend this book. his writings are thought-provoking and timeless. this has been a great addition to my walk with Jesus.

>> birthday cupcake! 'twas a splendid day.

>> i've basically lived in this transformers sweatshirt for the past few weeks. i know it's ridiculously hot outside, but my room is the coldest in our house. well... that's my excuse. the other truth is i just really, really like it. i can't wait for the fourth movie next summer!

>> i could eat a braum's peanut butter cup mix every. single. day.

>> daddy told me he marked an article for me to read. i opened it up, and there were 4 tickets for the OU game on my birthday!
>> i tried panera for the first time a couple weeks ago and ohhh myyy goodnesss. i have been missin' out for sure.

no better way to celebrate twenty-seven than to cheer for the sooners with my family and 84,000 people.
OU: 34 // ULM: 0