Wednesday, October 30, 2013


i get a lot of questions on instagram about what camera and editing software i use. when i tell them i shoot with my iphone 5, the common response is really? yes, really! all of the pictures above were shot with a cell phone, people! technology has come a long way in the last ten years. the dawn of instagram revealed a new avenue of photography i like to call iphoneography. i do have a dslr, but you do not have to buy an expensive, fancy-schmancy camera to get quality photos. in my opinion, photographing with an iphone is harder than shooting with a dslr.
in any case, it's not about what you're using, it's about what you see. perspective is one of my favorite aspects of photography.
 i am by no means an expert, but i have learned a thing or two about how to get better iphone pictures:

- light is your best friend. make sure the light is behind your subject or else it will wash out the subject and cause harsh shadows. the first and last pictures above were shot right before the sun set, which is referred as the golden hour. the light during this time is superb. 

- zooming is not your best friend. as soon as you press that little slider, kiss image quality goodbye.

- get down. not as in bust a move. (actually, get down with ya bad self, and then proceed.) but get down, literally, on the ground. it makes for an interesting perspective. fyi: it's easier to take ground-level shots by flipping the phone upside down.

- hold still. who wants to see a blurry picture? not me. stand/kneel in a position that allows you to be completely stable.

- tap the screen for better focus. this is huge in my book. whether it's a flower or a tree or my cat or the sky, i always, always tap the screen so the iphone will focus on the subject.

editing apps: i use VSCOcam for 99% of my shots. it's the best out there, hands down.
apps that add text and overlays: a beautiful mess, rhonna designs, and over are my favs.
for macro shots (the raindrop images above), i use the olliclip macro lens. it's three lenses in one.
i print my iphone/instagram photos using the postal pix app. [featured]

follow me on instagram: joyfulamber

Monday, October 28, 2013

like the morning fog.

i stumbled upon this picture on my phone and thought back to the morning i snapped it before heading to work. a dense fog covered the earth like a blanket of snow. a fog so thick, my mama would say you could cut it with a knife. visibility was limited, making it difficult to see the traffic lights. it reminded me of the fog i have invited into my heart and thoughts this past week.    

i was thisclose to deleting my blog and every social media account last week. in a moment of frustration and vulnerability, i gave a foothold to my feelings, and it almost got the best of me. i wrote a little about my instagram annoyance. since then, the same thing happened with another user, but this time, my picture with the quote they added was re-posted on a huge ig account - with NO photo credit to me.

i sat at my desk this morning and cried. not because of instagram thieves, but because i have let thoughts, hurts, disappointments, and everything in between build up for weeks, maybe even months. i have been dwelling on the pain and questions and what if's.

i'm raising the white flag. i let the fog stay and consume me far too long, and i can't do it anymore.

i don't want to devote anymore time and energy to worthless things that have no value to myself or others. i don't want to trust my feelings or fleeting circumstances when the constant Almighty meets my needs and then some. why dwell on things i cannot change? worry is nothing more than putting my trust and faith in that which i am concerned about instead of trusting in God alone. His Word says He will work everything out for my good. when i look back at my life and remember all the things i've worried myself sick over, i see that God worked it out. maybe not my way, but His way, which is infinitely better for me than anything this world has to offer.

james 4:14 says, "how do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? your life is like the morning fog - it’s here a little while, then it’s gone."

life is so short... but a breath. like the morning fog. yet i choose to spend some days concerned about situations and people i have no control over. i choose to believe the enemy's lies and let them cover me like a fog. but that fog only stays if i let it.

today... i choose to surrender. i lay my worries and concerns and disappointments and questions and hurts at the foot of the cross.
i choose to trust in my Creator, leaning on the fact that i am His and that is enough. He is enough.

Friday, October 25, 2013

erin condren life planner.

santa claus delivered an early christmas present today! and by santa clause, i mean the mailman. when he pulled into the driveway, i squealed with happiness because i knew what was in his bag of presents. i mean... mailbag. i present to you my erin condren life planner.

it took me a week to decide the color scheme and tagline. i chose grey & purple and one of my favorite scriptures.

the weekly pages are broken down by morning, day, and night. i use those squares to write to-do lists, goals, happenings, etc. 
i love the new addition of lines under the weekly layout. i plan to write what i am thankful for each day in 2014.

current 2013 planner // new 2014 planner

   i write what i love about the seasons on the monthly calendars.  

it might be easier to ask siri to remind me what i need to do or type it into a nifty iphone app, but i need to disconnect from technology more. 
it's my way to record and remember special memories, events, happenings, etc.

ps: this is not a paid endorsement. i just really like this product!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

confessions of a bookworm.

you can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.” [c.s. lewis]

mr. lewis gets me, y'all.

i love to read, 'tis true. i have loved books since i learned how to read sentences. it all started with dr. seuss' books and the little golden books with that iconic gold foil spine. (i still have them, too!) when book reports were assigned in school, i finished before the due date. reading inspires, captivates, and takes me on adventures. i feel the characters' emotions as they play out in beautiful words. i even have a pinterest board dedicated to books and goodreads profile. there are a few quirks i have when it comes to how/what i read:

⏫ there are three genres i read: Christian non-fiction, young adult, and the classics.

⏫ i prefer paperbacks to hard covers.

⏫ i have what feels like a never-ending to-read list, but i still buy at least two books a month. i have a problem, y'all.

⏫ rain + a good book + a hot cup of anything = heaven on earth.

⏫ i am a firm believer in reading the book before watching the movie. always.

⏫ there are three things i must have while reading: something to drink, a pen or pencil to write notes or underline the good stuff, and a blanket.

⏫ i loathe trashy/erotic romance novels. and yes, that means i had no desire to read fifty shades of grey.

⏫ my bookmarks are random items. i always lose the bookmark when i read in bed and spend five minutes looking for it in tangled blankets.

⏫ i get a little bummed after i finish a series. but the next day i start a new one, and it's all good again.

⏫ contrary to popular opinion, i love a book with cracked spines.

⏫ when i'm at a reeeally good part of a book, i have to cover the upcoming paragraphs and pages i haven't read because my eyes want to skim and see what's going to happen because i get so excited/anxious/scared.

⏫ sometimes i want to sell my belongings and just sit at home, drinking coffee and reading books all day. and then i snap back into reality because books and coffee cost money. and then there's target. oh, target.

⏫ there is only one book that i stopped reading halfway through. the language was foul and utterly appalling. i now google reviews profusely before buying a book.

⏫ i admit that i jumped on the e-reader train a few years ago. all aboooard! reading books on my kindle was fun... for about a month. then i realized that nothing compares to that feeling of holding an actual book one hand, coffee in the other, with that irresistible book smell swooning the senses, and marking great quotes and memorable moments.

i basically just proclaimed my love for literature, but there are some classic works that i have yet to read. e.g., the great gatsby, pride and prejudice, the catcher in the rye, gone with the wind. i knoooow, i know. don't hate. they are on my never-ending to-read list, i promise.
i also admit that i am twenty-seven years old and reading the harry potter series for the first time. (currently on book five) these books have been somewhat of a controversy in the christian community for years. after many friends suggested i read it, i decided to try the first book. well, the day after i finished it, i bought the rest of the series. you want to know why harry potter is so beloved by its readers? because jk rowling is a brilliant storyteller. listen, do i want to go out and practice magic? no. do i believe magic is real? no. do i want to be a witch? NO. this is a work of fiction, aka: not real. that is all i have to say about it, but if you want to discuss it further, send me an email.

favorite books, in no particular order:
- redeeming love - francine rivers. never has a book affected me as much as this one.
- the christian zombie killers handbook - jeff kinley. if you like sugar-coated truth, this book is not for you. it's is in my top ten, for sure.
- crazy love - francis chan. the pages of this book are highlighted and marked so much.
- love does - bob goff. i love his writing, bits of humor, and wisdom. it's highlighted a lot.
- orange jumpsuit: letters to the God of freedom - tara leigh cobble. she is honest and relatable.
- the help - kathryn stockett. the movie was just as good as the book.
- the hunger games - suzanne collins. no explanation needed.
- divergent - veronica roth. this is my second favorite trilogy. 
- collision - stefne miller. it wrecked me. like i could not function for an hour. tears, tears, and more tears. but that's why i loved that book.
- salvaged & rise - stefne miller. attie depicts my love and passion for sooner football perfectly. there's also a web series!
- matched series - ally condie. her poetic writing is beautiful.
- harry potter - jk rowling. i haven't finished the series yet, but it's already a favorite.
- the twilight series - stephenie meyer. although the movies were ughhhh, i still liked the books.

the books i am anxious to dive into are:
jesus is - judah smith // hp - book 6 & 7 // the fault in our stars // creature of the word - matt chandler // one thousand gifts - ann voscamp // kisses from katie - katie davis // the great gatsby - scott fitzgerald

Sunday, October 20, 2013

you mad, bro?

i'm not the type to get mad. yes, upset at times, but not mad. it's just not in my nature.

yesterday, an instagram account tagged me with a caption that read, "photo by @joyfulamber". it was a picture that i had shot, edited, and posted to my instagram account. but the user took a screenshot of my photo, added a quote to it, and posted that edit to their account. they did not ask permission before using my photo. this wasn't the first time though. it happened one other time, when IG featured one of my photos, and i was a little distracted to think too much of it. when i saw the tag yesterday morning, i decided to check out that user's page, and unfortunately found two other photos of mine without credit. i wasn't mad, but dang it irked me. so i left a kind, simple comment: "this is my photo" with a reply back saying "oh yeah, i forgot to tag you. are you mad or something?"

am i mad or something?

then it hit me. some people just don't get it.

if you screenshot a photo, add a cutesy quote in a whimsy font, and upload it to your instagram, that does NOT make it your photo. for years, i have read about photographers dealing with theft and copyright infringement. story after story of people who have their images stolen and used as it it were the thief's own work. yes, you read right: thief.

a thief is defined as "a person who steals something from another; a criminal who takes property belonging to someone else with the intention of keeping it or selling it."

picture this: i am taking a leisurely walk in the neighborhood when i spot your smokin' awesome z/28 camaro. the garage door is open, the keys are in it, so i take it for a joy ride around town. i show it off to all my friends, and i even let them take it for a spin. after i get back, you are standing there, obviously shocked. i throw you the keys, smile, and say "hey, thanks for the ride!" what's going through your head? yeah, you're probably not thinking, "oh, what a sweet girl. at least she brought it back." heck no! but i brought it back, so why you mad, bro?

if you have half a brain and common sense, you know how ludicrous that scenario is. the same principle goes for using a picture that is not yours. when you use someone's property without asking, whether it's a car or a photo. it doesn't matter if you brought it back or gave credit even though you didn't ask to use it in the first place, YOU STOLE IT.

photography isn't something i do; it's part of who i am. it's a gift from my Heavenly Father. i don't take pictures and post them for likes or personal gain. i want other people to see how marvelous my Creator is, so i spend a lot of time capturing His beautiful nature. when someone decides to mooch off my talent like i'm the government, i feel like it devalues that beauty. instead of sitting on your butt and trying to gain new followers with someone else's work, get up and go explore. it's okay to be inspired by someone's work, but deliberately trying to pass it off as your own is lazy and like i said before, it's stealing.

so no, i'm not mad. but i want people to see that stealing isn't just breaking into someone's home or taking a candy bar from the store.
it comes in all forms. when you take something that isn't yours, well... even the dictionary calls you a thief. 

update: i discovered that you can search to see if your photo has been posted anywhere else on the internet through google images. well... i found that an image i posted to flickr years ago is being used on a church website. and no, they didn't ask permission. my watermark is on there, too! gah... i feel there are only two solutions: add a large, obnoxious watermark to every single photo i post, whether it's on IG, my blog, twitter, fb, etc. or let it go and realize that when i post an image to the internet, there is a chance it will be stolen or used without permission. (i have a feeling it's the latter.) i wonder if this is a pride thing. i took the picture. it's mine. me, me, me. or do i have a legitimate reason to be irritated? i know this has been a problem since the dawn of social media. it's time to do some soul searching, i suppose.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

a happy list.

browsing a bookstore. excited dogs. waking up to rain. instax cameras. ordering a new erin condren life planner. saturday mornings. chai tea. she reads truth. dark chocolate. watching birds play in puddles. cozy clothes. gold glitter. fall DIY projects. purple mums. mexican food. delicious autumn. purring kitties. duck dynasty night with the fam. a kind hello from a stranger. falling asleep to the pitter-patter of raindrops. 90's movies. handwritten notes. fall smells: fresh, baked cookies, apple cinnamon candles, crisp air, pumpkin spice, and turning on the heater for the first time.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

DIY fall pumpkins.

the oklahoma weather finally got the memo, and fall has arrived! it's been scarves, boots, changing leaves, and pumpkin eeeeeeverything. 

[timeout: ((yes, i totally just pulled a zack morris there. i loved when he called timeout because the actors in that scene had to stay perfectly still, and it was always hilarious to me. 90's kids forever, y'all.)) i have a confession to make. fact: i love fall. by definition, i should be one of those people who counts down until the beloved day starbucks begins selling pumpkin spice lattes. truth: i just tried my first PSL last weekend. cue dramatic gasp. i know, i know. but the verdict is in, and hollaaaa, they are ok, time in.]

make a fun DIY from pinterest is on my autumn to-do list. i found the cutest pumpkin craft from a subtle revelry and got to craftin'.

 items used:
- 3 small pumpkins
- apple barrel's acrylic paint in purple pansy, tuscan red, ivory.
- gold brads
- white push pins
- washi tape
- foam brush

helpful tips:
- be careful not to chip the paint with fingernails when pushing pins or brads onto the pumpkin.
- i didn't like the plain white tacks, so i covered them in washi tape.
- pumpkin juice will seep out after pushing on the pins/brads. lightly dab with finger to remove.
- buy short brads. i bought the long ones and had to cut them. (not a problem, just time consuming)

Monday, October 14, 2013

tidbits of life.

- ben & jerry's red velvet cake ice cream. it's like, WHOA.

- relevant magazine. i love their online content, but i also like having a physical copy to read and highlight the good stuff. i was almost falling off my chair from extreme laughter after reading this article written by jon acuff.

- red hair. this was a big stretch for me. i usually play it safe with a pretty brunette color, but as i stood in the hair dye aisle, i decided i wanted something bold for fall. what's more bold than red? so i grabbed three boxes (yes, my hair is loooong) and didn't look back. the only time i got nervous was right before i put it on, remembering that one incident from a couple years ago. i used a color called dark brown, which really means black. i looked like i was an extra in the twilight movies. alas, the color is beautiful and compliments my skin tone very well.  

- pinecone & beautiful bokeh. everyone always asks me about my fascination with pinecones. it's not pinecones in general, but a specific tree. before my grandma gracie went to be with Jesus, she lived next door to us. she planted a pinecone tree many years ago. now it's one of the largest trees on our property and a sweet reminder of the most godly woman i have ever known.

- my saturday morning. it's my favorite morning, next to sunday, of course. i don't even sleep in because i love it so much. i wake up, get coffee, and sit at my desk for a few hours, studying my sunday school lesson, reading scripture, and journaling. (ps: how awesome is my new she reads truth mug?!)  

- instax of flowers. i am eagerly waiting for the trees to turn so i can take pretty fall polaroids.

- chai tea & mustache mug. i tried chai tea for the first time, and it was so good.

- salted caramel gelato. i also recently tried gelato for the first time. verdict: awesome.

- leaf & hunters. fall is here and my heart is happy.

Thursday, October 10, 2013


it all started at the beginning of 2011. i downloaded an app called instagram to my iphone 3g (ha!) because it was in the top free app purchases. i thought, hey, why not? i take a picture, put something called a "filter" on it, and share it for the world to see. simple enough.

i posted this picture the day i downloaded it. (in my defense, i was feeling super awesome because i had just purchased my first chanel product, which was probably my last because their bags cost more than i make in a month). at the start of that summer, i started posting more frequently and by the end of 2011, i had a full blown addiction to instagram. as you can tell by these pictures and my feed, i'm a nature girl.

over the span of two years, i have been introduced to so many incredible people through the world of instagram. the funny part is, i have never actually met these people in person. some are from across the globe; others live within hours of me in my wonderful home state. i love how God uses an iphone app to connect me to people who inspire and challenge me in my life, faith, and photography. it's so crazy to see how cell phones have evolved. i remember my pink razr flip phone and thinking how cool it was to have a camera on my cell phone, man. and now look at them! i truly think iphone photography is an art itself. i spend a ridiculous amount of my free time taking pictures and editing. some people say i am meticulous or obsessed, but it's just pure passion that drives and motivates me to create.

on the way home from church on sunday, i decided to check instagram. i noticed a ridiculous amount of likes and comments and new followers. i didn't think much of it and continued to scroll through the pictures. then my heart stopped.

OH MY GOSH. OH MY GOSH. OH MY GOSH. OH MY GOSH. that's all i could say. my parents were looking at me like i had five heads.

instagram features nine of their favorite photos each week, and to my complete surprise, they picked one of mine. OHHH. MYYY. GOSHHH. i was so humbled and thankful and could only voice three words. you guessed it: OH MY GOSH. for some people, this may not be a big deal. but for me, it's the equivalent of a songwriter winning a grammy or a football player winning MVP. photography is part of who i am. i take my phone with me everywhere, but not because i can't live without it. my passion for visual art in the form of a photograph bursts out of me like a firework. i don't take pictures for other people's approval or likes or praise. even if my work is never seen again, i will not stop exploring His creation because that is how i praise my Heavenly Father. it's not for me; it's for His glory.

after the shock wore off, i put my phone away and journaled this prayer: God, wow. just wow. this is all You, and i will not take credit. You gave me the gift of capturing Your beauty in this broken world. i am humbled and grateful. while this is so totally awesome, all the accolades in the world can't compare to Your love because that is what excites me, sustains me, and fulfills me. may others see Your beauty in my pictures, Your love in my words and actions, and Your Light in my life. thank You so much. i love You. amen.

His love is so wide and deep and overwhelming.
i often reflect on the times my faith was tested or the moments i ran from Him or when i wondered if He heard my cries for help.

He was refining my faith through the fire.
He welcomed me back with open arms.
He was there the whole time.

i have found that in all circumstances, whether the highest of highs or the lowest of lows, He is worthy to be praised. when i am basking in His light, He is good. and when i am struggling to find Him in the darkness, He is still good. every test and trial has brought me to His feet, but so has every blessing and victory. i read this line from charles spurgeon's morning and evening devotion book and it is so on point:
"there must be shadows in the picture to bring out the beauty of the light."

Monday, October 7, 2013


- a cozy, winter scarf.
- a funny single ladies post.
- a fun letter to send to my sponsor child.

▲ listening: 
- "fire" - michelle williams. girl can saaaaaang.
- "just say Jesus" - 7eventh time down
- "roar" - katy perry. because dang that song is catchy.

▲ reading:
- relevant.  
- love does
- the promises plan with she reads truth.
- morning and evening by charles spurgeon. i highly recommend this! 

▲ watching:
- duck dynasty, jack!
- last man standing. willie and uncle si made an appearance two weeks ago. it is so awesome to see prayer at the dinner table on a tv series.
- law & order: svu. i don't know why i like this show so much. i mean, the story lines aren't exactly smiles and rainbows.  

▲ anticipating: 
- fall foliage. 
- accomplishing the awesome ideas on my fall to-do list
- season four premiere of the walking dead!   
- the holiday season. after years of being all, "no celebration until after thanksgiving or i'll pluck your eyes out!", i've turned over a new leaf. it's okay to get into the spirit early. like... the day after halloween. bring on the Christmas music and peppermint everything! 

▲ praying:
- to be light and salt.  
- to be still more often.
- psalm 139:23-24.

- oklahoma sunsets. this time of year, they are stellar.
- last wednesday, six kids accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior at IGNITE. SIX KIDS. the holy spirit was in that place, and it was amazing. when i pulled into the driveway that night, i turned the ignition off, got out, and just stood there. i looked up at the starry sky and whispered, "You are awesome." when my pastor and i discussed starting a youth group earlier this summer, i wasn't quite sure what to expect, but i had complete trust and faith that God would work out the details. boy, did He ever. i know i say this a lot, but i can't believe this path i'm on. i never saw myself leading bible study and teaching sunday school to teenagers. it just goes to show that God's plans are so much better than i could ever dream. 

▲ learning:
- "in the barren places of my life, i can be assured that God is there, as He is when life is fruitful." -elisabeth elliot.
- paul is so right. he said that an unmarried woman "can be devoted to the Lord and holy in body and in spirit." for so long, i defined myself by my singleness. i looked at every unmarried, single guy and wondered if he was the one. it was exhausting! God opened my eyes to the realization that HE is the One. if i keep my focus on Him, i don't have time to dwell on things i cannot change. this allows me to serve Him and grow in His love.

▲ making me happy:
- all the love from instagram.
- free tickets to the OU game.
- finally beating that level of candy crush i've been on for over a week.
- pretty new hair color.
- good conversation and gelato with a friend.
- saturday mornings with Jesus and coffee. 
- fall weather.
- taco soup.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

what teaching sunday school has taught me.

in july of last year, i temporarily took over teaching the junior high sunday school kids. i remember at the end of class on that first sunday, i sat in the empty room, tears rolling down my cheeks and questions filling my mind. the kids didn't pay me any attention and they didn't like my ideas.

i felt defeated.

[fast forward fourteen months to present day] as class ended last week, i quietly marveled at my Creator while nine kids bustled about, completely oblivious to my big, goofy smile and overflowing heart. God has taken me on a crazy, fun, hard, fulfilling journey that has completely changed my life. His provision has guided me, and His grace has carried me on a path that is full of His fingerprints and divine intervention. it has been filled with ups and downs, and i have learned many lessons along the way. 

- kids learn by example. if i'm gonna talk the talk, i best be walkin' that walk. how can i teach them about Jesus if i don't know Him? how can i tell them to read their bible if i don't take time to do so each day? i can't lead them to Jesus if i'm not walking toward Him as well.

- learn the strengths of each kid. i have one boy who is artistically gifted. instead of making a poster, i have him do it before class. i have multiple kids who love to read out loud, so they read the scriptures for me. i love watching the kids excel and grow as they learn about Jesus.

- some kids have a home life that is less than ideal. not all kids are raised in the church. not all the kids' parents come to church with them. during prayer requests last week, a girl asked for prayer for her dad because he drinks and he's mean. my heart... it broke into a million little pieces. there are times i wish i could buy a big house and have them come live with me so i can protect them from situations and circumstances no kid should have to witness.

- pray for the kids throughout the week. some have no one praying for them. my prayer is that God will open their hearts and ears to what He has to say. i pray that as they go out into the world, He will guide and protect them from the enemy's snares. and i pray that they will see their need for His love and grace.

- preparation, preparation, preparation. i spend at least an hour each week preparing that sunday's lesson. i read the material, study scripture, and look for ways to present it on their level. (i'm a total nerd because i love preparing the lessons each week. sitting at my desk with my bible, lesson materials, pens & highlighters, and coffee is the highlight of my saturday morning.)

- pray before each lesson. this sounds like a given, but in the beginning, i was so focused on getting everything prepared before the kids got to class that i let prayer go by the wayside. i have to take a moment and give it to God and let the Holy Spirit work through me.

- share personal testimony and experiences. just because i teach sunday school doesn't mean i am perfect. i stumble and i sin just like everyone else. when i share my struggles, it opens the door for discussion and ultimately points to God's wonderful forgiveness and grace.  

- they are listening, even if it doesn't seem like it. for the longest time, i wondered about this one. but time and time again, they prove me wrong by recalling lessons and stories and scripture. this also goes beyond teaching sunday school. they are listening to the words i say to others and watching my actions outside of the classroom. even though they wildly bounce off the walls all the time, they are very observant.  

- be involved in their lives. each week, i start the lesson with two good things from the week. usually when the kids walk in, they are eager to tell me the good things that happened to them over the week. that makes me smile.

- develop relationships. this is so important to me. when i started teaching, i only knew a few of the kids' names. over the course of the last year, i have come to love and treasure each of the kids. i want them to know they have someone in their corner; someone who will give advice or be a listening ear.

- they just want to be loved and accepted. my mission is to point them to the One who is true Love and will take them as they are.

- they are teaching me, too. more than they will ever know. and i am so incredibly thankful for this opportunity to tell them about my Jesus. sunday mornings are my favorite part of the week. God brought me to this place i never saw for myself. His plans are for His glory and my good, even when i can't see the why and how.