// take courage. //

You know those posts that are just hard to write, hard to organize that whirlwind of thoughts and emotions into coherent sentences, hard to open up and share with the world– and yet, demand to be written anyway?

Yep. This is one of those posts.

(And it’s the highest form of irony that I’m scared to even post this. Ugh.)

Something I have learned in the past few years is that there are certain spiritual themes of each season of my life– lessons that God has specifically placed on my heart for that specific time, in order to grow me.

When I chose my word of the year for 2017, I was drawn towards the word “intentional”. Living each day, loving each person, and spending time with the Lord with intention.

This semester, God has also seen fit to place another word on my heart: action.

Confession: I am not exactly what people would call a take-action kind of girl. (I know this shocks you all.)

I’m rather slow to act. Cautious. Hesitant to try brave new things.

And more than that, I like my comfort zone. A lot. It’s quite comfortable, after all.

Comfort zones come in several forms for me– my places and my people. My routines. My personality. (Ohh, especially that. It’s so easy to limit myself to the confines of who I perceive and want myself to be, and that is a dangerous path to walk, friends. I use my INFJness as an excuse far too often, and this is something that I’m working on stopping.)

Going up to people and sharing the Gospel with them face-to-face? That is not in my comfort zone at all. Honestly, knowing I need to do this for my evangelism class this semester (which is an entirely different matter that I won’t comment on for now), and that I haven’t done so yet and will need to in the next week or two, is giving me more anxiety than it probably should, especially considering how long I’ve been a follower of Christ.

There are other things in my life that I’m having to step up and act upon that scare me, but right now I would say that’s close to the top of the list.

And everyone around me is encouraging me to be more bold. To step up. To be assertive.

And God is convicting me– why am I so scared to present the Gospel to others? Why am I making all sorts of excuses (I don’t know any nonbelievers well enough to do that, I share Him in other ways, I find myself encouraging believers in their walks and that should count for something right?, etc.) to justify why I don’t want to take so bold an action? Why is it so hard for me to take courage and act? To face the things I’ve never done before with confidence?

So I guess this is what I’m learning– not just to listen to the Lord, but to do what He says.

Not just to take in His words and His love, but to take that truth and actively share it with the lost.

Not to cower behind my personality, but to be so focused on Him that I don’t even consider my own inhibitions as I approach people.

Not to be comfortable in my comfort zone, but to take intentional steps out of it in bravery.

For God has not given us a spirit of fear (or timidity, dear Em), but a spirit of power, love, and self-discipline.

Intentionality is rather pointless without action.

The things that I’m facing are still new and daunting, but I will not do my usual thing and tentatively approach them with dread. God has called me to bravery and to action, to intentionally share His love with a dying world, and I cannot ignore His calling.

As C.S. Lewis wrote, “Courage, dear heart.”

Let’s do this.

~

“And even though you’re scared
You’re stronger than you know…
If you’re lost out where the lights are blinding
Caught in all, the stars are hiding
That’s when something wild calls you home, home
If you face the fear that keeps you frozen
Chase the sky into the ocean
That’s when something wild calls you home, home”

// Something Wild, from Pete’s Dragon //

~

“No one ever told me this would be easy
But I never knew that it could be this hard
Oh the worry the worry the worry
Is weighing on me
Could you help me break down
All these question marks
And make me brave

I’ll fight like a soldier
(Brave) rise like a warrior
(Brave) won’t stop till the final day
(Brave) I want to be stronger
(Brave) gonna be bolder
(Brave) look up and I see the way
You make me brave

I know I know I’m no superwoman
But impossible is possible with you
So no, no, no more running, no more hiding
Strike the fire so I’ll be fearless too
And make me brave

I’ll fight like a soldier
(Brave) rise like a warrior
(Brave) won’t stop till the final day
(Brave) I want to be stronger
(Brave) gonna be bolder
(Brave) look up and I see the way
You make me brave

None go with me
Still I’ll follow
Through the joy
And through the sorrow
Cross before me
World behind me
There’s no turning back…”

// Brave, by Moriah Peters //

// musings + unexpected waiting. //

*dusts off personal blog*

Hello, dear friends!

I’m home for Tennessee’s first snowfall of the year, and though much of it has melted away already, the rooftops are still snow-covered, the sky is still grey, and it’s that time of afternoon where the sun is golden, peeking through the clouds and shining on snow-dusted grass.

I’m sitting here at the kitchen island with a cup of dark-hot-chocolate (highly recommended, y’all), and it just seems like the perfect time to do some writing that isn’t 1.) for school 2.) for my corner of The Odyssey or 3.) a story (which is currently something of a struggle for me to set my mind to, this writing-fiction thing).

Therefore, the blog, which has been quite shamefully neglected over this break in light of the holidays and moving houses and seeing friends and Netflix and reading fiction again.

So… hello again.

Y’know, sometimes I feel that lately, I only ever write on here when I’m disgruntled about something.

Well, disgruntled may not be the right word here– unsettled, perhaps? Yes. My heart is rather unsettled.

And perhaps that’s true, that I only ever share my writings when they spring from unsettledness, but that’s because that disquiet prompts me to think deep thoughts and ask big questions that don’t come up when life is rosy or too busy for much reflection.

So here I am, drinking dark-hot-chocolate and thinking of things.

Like the way that God sometimes says wait, even when we thought we’d been given the go-ahead and the plans were progressing smoothly.

That’s perhaps the hardest kind of waiting. It’s one thing to wait when you’re on board with it and your heart is contented in that waiting (such as the purity-waiting that He has called me to), but it’s an entirely different situation when you’re dancing through life and then suddenly– you’re brought to a screeching halt that you didn’t see coming.

And it’s not even that the thing you’ve been waiting and planning for isn’t happening at all– it’s just that certain circumstances are out of your control, and suddenly you’re transported (by evil spiders, probably) from Making Progress™ to Back To Square One™.

Initially, it’s very frustrating and upsetting, to say the least.

But after tears are shed, God reminds me that His timing is better than my own.

I’m not the most patient human on the planet (I know this is very shocking news to all of you), and perhaps this is one way of Him reminding me that I am not the one who’s writing this story.

The heroine doesn’t write her own story, after all. That’s the Author’s job. Hers is to live out the life He’s writing for her.

I say that quite often.

I also have to remind myself of that quite often, notably when Important Plans™ don’t go my way.

Everything is going to be okay, even if it doesn’t feel like it initially. Even if resolution doesn’t come as quickly as I’d prefer. Even if I have unanswered questions, even if the fair and just solution isn’t what happens, even if I’ve simply got to let go and endure a bit longer.

One of my favorite verses:

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Light. Momentary. That’s all that this affliction is, really. Perspective helps, especially if it’s an eternal one.

And this affliction, this season of waiting that’s going to be longer than planned, it’s preparing me for the weight of eternal glory. If more waiting is part of God’s plan for me, then so be it.

The situation itself is by no means resolved, and at the moment I don’t know what the necessarily-revised plan is yet (which, yes, is unsettling for my Type-A-ish self), but even so… Even so, it is well with my soul.

Because God is still very much on His throne, and life is still so good, and circumstances cannot and should not determine my joy or peace.

“Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,

It is well, it is well with my soul.”

{love always, Em}

(Here’s hoping I come back to write some more before I head back to Liberty next weekend. xx)

// and all I have in You is more than enough. //

Honestly, I shouldn’t be writing this right now.

I should be sleeping, because it’s 1 am, and I have an 8:15 class that I need to be awake for.

That’s what my logical side is telling me.

But my heart refuses to budge, nudging me and whispering that the thoughts I’ve been having lately need to be processed and written and shared, and what better place to do so than the blog? (I’m long overdue for a life-update, I suppose.)

And what better time than now, when conviction is fresh and I’ve just drank a cup of Earl Grey so I’ll be awake (as in, awake but not awake enough to work on my philosophy paper) for a little while longer anyway?

So… here we go. Here’s where I’ve been lately.

Ever since I’ve arrived here at Liberty, I’ve been struggling with acne.

I know, I know. It seems so trivial compared to what others are struggling with. (I’m cringing even writing this, to be honest.)

Only it doesn’t feel so trivial when my whole face is blotchy and bumpy, and the acne is beginning to itch and hurt in a way it never has before, and makeup can no longer hide it all away, and no matter what I try nothing seems to work anymore, and insecurities that I thought I’d long-ago buried flare up every single time I happen to glance at a mirror.

And that’s the thing– I hate that I’m so insecure about this.

Because I know the truth. I have it hidden in my heart. I am a beautiful daughter of the King, I am fearfully and wonderfully made, true beauty does not come from outward adornment but from a heart after His own, and I know my worth is not defined by how I look or what I do, but in Christ alone.

I know the truth. I’ve moved beyond this, I’m more spiritually mature than this, right?

Except… I don’t like to leave my dorm room without makeup on anymore. I’ve never been like that. But then, the acne has never been this bad before.

And maybe that’s it. Maybe it’s that my belief in the truth that my beauty is in Christ hasn’t been truly tested until now, and maybe that’s why this is so hard.

Because it is hard. It’s exhausting, fighting a battle and using all the strategies available to you and yet nothing changes, nothing gets better– if anything, it’s getting worse.

My parents have been so, so wonderful in standing beside me as we face this– together, as a family. I’m not fighting alone. Even though we’re a day’s drive away from each other, they’ve always been there to encourage, to suggest wise courses of action, to help in looking into dermatologist appointments and what treatment combinations we haven’t tried yet, to remind me that I am beautiful and loved in the moments where I am overcome and 100% done with this whole mess.

I had one of those moments last night (Tuesday); I stood in the shower and cried over this, frustrated that even the dermatologist-advised course of action wasn’t working, and growing afraid that the acne was getting so terrible that it would begin to scar my face. Permanently.

I whispered angrily that I hated this, hated myself.

And I know, I know that was wrong of me, that this broke the heart of the God who made me and who knows me by name.

I calmed down and silently apologized to my Father, because I don’t hate myself, not really– but I did hate the acne, and the fact that I was still in this situation.

And that’s why campus community tonight was so convicting.

Our campus pastor David Nasser asked us if, for us, God was not only good (for of course we as Christians readily admit that), but good enough— meaning that if we lost everything else, if we were called to count everything as loss, would we still cling to Him and His goodness?

“If your physical affliction doesn’t go away, do you still say God is good? Is He enough for you?”

I’d been scanning the Scriptures used in the sermon, but with that line, I looked up in surprise as the words hit me like a punch in the gut.

“We like to say ‘I want God! …and [fill in the blank]. God… and a husband. God… and money. God… and popularity.’ But what if you had only Him? He ought to be good enough.”

Unshed tears sprang to my eyes. I’d been viewing this whole thing the wrong way.

“I want You, God! …and I want clear skin. Or at the very least, clearer skin. I want this struggle to be over with already. I don’t want to deal with it anymore.”

This was how I’d been thinking just last night. Now, a new thought came to me:

If I end up struggling with acne for the rest of my life, if it never gets better, will I still praise the Lord? Will I still trust in His goodness?

The answer is yes. But the question is a sobering one, a hard one to contemplate.

If He doesn’t remove my physical affliction? Yes, yes I will still praise Him.

I’ve been setting aside a bit of time every day to read one chapter of The Broken Way by Ann Voskamp, and though I’m only two chapters in, I’m already learning.

Namely, that He is glorified in brokenness.

Which gets me thinking– maybe it’s not that He is good in spite of our afflictions, our brokenness.

Maybe it’s that He is good in the midst of the affliction and the broken.

And maybe, I am not beautiful in spite of acne.

Maybe I am beautiful, acne included, because this acne is pushing me closer to the Lord, and I am depending more on Him in an otherwise lovely season where I would be tempted to say, “I’ve got this”. Acne is apparently part of my life’s-story, a plot twist that, though unwelcome, is growing my character.

And maybe beauty is not diminished by brokenness. God’s goodness and glory certainly isn’t.

So maybe… maybe instead of begging God to take this away from me, I can instead thank Him for the acne and ask that He be glorified through it, that He’ll show me the beauty in the brokenness, that He will continue to reshape me so that I may be content with Him alone?

My dad recently shared with me the passage that he clung to in his own struggles with cystic acne and the insecurities that accompanied it:

“Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

–2 Corinthians 12:7-10

Delight in weaknesses and hardships.

Consider it pure joy.

Not that I’m giving up– I’m still going to pursue treatment in every avenue I can.

But my heart, my attitude, is changing.

All of You is more than enough for
All of me for every thirst and every need
You satisfy me with Your love
And all I have in You
Is more than enough

“Enough” // written by Chris Tomlin and Louie Giglio, performed by BarlowGirl

This is my heart’s song now.

No matter what happens– He is more than enough to satisfy my soul.

He is good, and He is faithful, and I am forever grateful.

…and it is almost 2 am so I really, really need to use the sleep now.

Goodnight, friends. xx

{love always, Em}

// “i’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.” / fall break 2016 //

Taking a quick break from catching up on assignments and studies to stop by the blog and share some of the loveliness of the past few days, because it’s been far too long since I’ve written here; all my writings have gone towards school and The Odyssey, which is an online community that I write for weekly now.

I haven’t even had time to write stories, or to read full-length books; that’s how crazy college life has been. Crazy-beautiful, but crazy nonetheless.

This craziness has made me that much more grateful for the four days I got to spend with my family for fall break, adventuring around Virginia. Jamestown and Busch Gardens and Williamsburg are all lovely places, and being with my people made it that much more fun. (Six weeks, y’all. Six weeks without seeing my family. It was tragic, but we survived, and now we have only a two-and-a-half week interlude until family weekend, which I’m sure we can manage.)

You all know by now that I like to look for lovely in everything, and fall break definitely had some lovely to be found, so I wanted to share it with you.

**Please note: All photos are mine.

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city lights, pretty lights

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Williamsburg at night

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Williamsburg or Narnia?

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a lovely sort of Friday evening

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and the streets are filled with light

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quaint

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exploring

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colorful

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walking with my people

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dreaming of times when these streets were busy

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what a lovely hat, Miss

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hats & ribbons

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crowds watching the world turned upside down

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father & son

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Jamestown: guns and ships?

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flags for each and every state

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impressed by the fact that everything still color-matches

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where prayers and praises were lifted

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perhaps my favorite photo

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the boys found the candy shop

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in the square

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at the candy counter

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truffles

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I must get back to work.

I’m so thankful for these days of rest and adventuring and Em-things and, most of all, family.

I love you all, and shall return soon– likely during/after the next break!

{love always, Em}

// creating home. //

I actually have time to kill here in the library, between dinner and a pro-life club meeting! WHAT IS THIS MADNESS.

In all seriousness, it’s been a crazy almost-two weeks since I’ve arrived here at Liberty. Crazy– but beautiful. Busy– but productive. New– but memorable.

It hasn’t been completely sunshine-y; I miss my family. I miss my home. I miss wandering downstairs to hang out with Matt, going on walks around the neighborhood with Mom, and going on grocery runs with Dad. I miss my blue room and piano and the Hendersonville library and being able to drive places. The homesickness comes and goes. I’m proud of myself when I can make it through a phone call with Mom without either of us crying. (We’re still working on that.) It’s been getting better, but I want to be honest with where I am: there are moments when it is so hard and I long for home and family.

But there is so much beauty here. Here there are huge trees and four-story-libraries and fairy lights and new friends and almost everything within walking distance. Here there are worship songs playing through speakers as you walk to class, and here there are professors who pray before classes (I will never ever get over the awesomeness of that as a former public schooler). Here there are upperclassmen girls who pour into us and make us feel comfortable and safe. Here there are 10-pm smoothies and four-hour conversations with new friends and meals with any friends who happen to be at the dining hall at the same time as you. Here there are adventures and prayers and opportunities to grow.

Slowly but surely, I’m creating a home for myself here at Liberty.

It doesn’t feel like home yet. It may not for awhile.

But I’m beginning to know how it feels, having your heart caught between two places.

It isn’t entirely bad.

Thank you, to everyone who has prayed and encouraged and loved me, and continues to do so as I journey forth on this new adventure.

Tennessee– my family– that will forever be my heart’s home.

But this new home I’m creating is going to be just as lovely and full of joy and memories.

I’m off to my meeting now; I just wanted to pop in and give you a life update.

I love you all, always!

{love, Em}

// “it’s not goodbye, it’s au revoir” //

{a favorite childhood memory with some of my favorite people}

~

-when Dad drove me to middle school in the mornings, and we would rock out to Thousand Foot Krutch and Disciple and Skillet and all those bands, and talk about everything under the sun, and it was the perfect way to start my days.

-the year that I was homeschooled, and Mom was my third grade teacher, and the two of us going to co-op stuff and her teaching my Old Testament Geography class, and reading about all sorts of fascinating historical figures like William Penn, Louisa May Alcott, and Clara Barton, to name a few. (Mom is by far my favorite teacher I’ve ever had.) Also, around that same time: riding in the car with her and Matt and singing along to our favorite music (ranging from TobyMac to that VeggieTales rock album).

-when Matt was tiny and he and I would come up with all sorts of games to play, and he’d laugh his adorable toddler-laugh, and then we’d watch PraiseBabies or VeggieTales together and it was such a nice way to spend the afternoon.

-when I would go to Grandmommy’s house and we’d sit on her back porch swing in front of the rose trellis, making up songs and stories as we rocked back and forth, and playing dolls in the living room with her until her oven timer went off, and the one time (or maybe few times) when we walked to the grove of trees in her backyard and found her flower garden.

-sitting with PawPaw in his office, and him teaching me how to use a typewriter and some sort of cool huge calculator-ish thing that I can’t remember the name of, and my leaving little notes and doodles in his memo pad, and eating breakfast with him while he drank his coffee early on peaceful mornings, and dancing together at Uncle John and Aunt Christina’s wedding.

-playing the drums at Aunt Laine’s house, and her teaching me all the words and dance moves to Proud Mary when I was just a tiny thing, and her giving me guitar lessons, and all our “you-know-what and you-know-where” days, always.

-walking around Opryland Hotel at Christmastime with Uncle John and Aunt Christina (and him getting me to try a Monster drink, which I shall never do again), with all the fairy lights and warm conversations and laughter, and going with Aunt Christina for ice cream right before school started one year, and when they came to visit over one Thanksgiving and C.J. was content to sit in my lap at Culver’s.

-going to my cousins’ house back when we all lived in Memphis– playing Pokemon with Brianna even though I had no idea what they were, and talking with Danielle about all sorts of things and feeling very grown up, and every time I get to FaceTime them now.

~

I love you all so much. Thank you for these moments, and for so many more! I treasure them all, and always will.

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{I’m rather nostalgic today as I prepare to fly tomorrow}

~

{love always, Em}

// “all this unbridled joy has given me quite an appetite.” / Downton Abbey Week //

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Hello, dear people! The lovely Naomi at Wonderland Creek is hosting a Downton Abbey-themed week for bloggers, and I’m quite excited for it because as I’m sure you all know by now, Downton Abbey is my favorite show, and will likely carry that title forever. Since I leave for Liberty exactly one week from today (at the time of writing this– so on August 25th), and I already know that the next seven days are going to be downright crazy, I wanted to go ahead and write-and-publish my contribution to Downton Week as soon as possible.

As this is a busy time of preparation-to-fly in my life, this post won’t be anything too fancy or long-winded; it’s just a compilation of some of my favorite things about my favorite show. {I don’t own any of the screencaps or edits used.}

{Post-Compilation Edit: Okay, this is turning out to be rather long. Oops. But it’s solely the fault of the pictures. There are SO MANY because Downton is just aesthetically pleasing okay. So, give yourself a few moments to behold the loveliness.}

~

i. Favorite Characters (It’s actually rather hard to narrow it down.)

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Lady Sybil Branson, née Crawley

She is my number one favorite Downton character, always. She’s interested, she’s political, she HAS OPINIONS. And she’s also brave and kindhearted, determined and witty, confident and graceful, intuitive and generous. Mrs. Hughes once called her “the sweetest spirit under this roof”, and really, it’s such a beautiful and honorable compliment to receive, especially considering the number of people who live under Downton’s roof.

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Anna Bates, née Smith

Oh, dear sweet Anna. She goes through SO MUCH on this show and yet she’s still tenderhearted and compassionate and optimistic and quietly brave. Anna is by far one of the strongest characters of Downton and that is an indisputable fact. I’ve liked her since the very beginning, and even more now that her story’s come to a conclusion.

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The Dowager Countess of Grantham, Lady Violet Crawley

Let’s be honest here: the Dowager is everyone’s favorite character. She’s the source of three-fourths of the memorable, sassy, hilarious one-liners on this show, and it’s beautiful. What I like about her is that you never have her completely figured out; she presents herself as a staunch, opinionated traditionalist, but then she’s constantly surprising everyone by stepping up and supporting family (and a select few others, but mostly family) when they make decisions that are anything but traditional for their class. Her friendship (frenemy-ship?) with Isobel Crawley throughout the series is equal parts hilarious and sweet. I love that she low-key supports Sybil and Tom’s marriage, and then later on becomes a friend of sorts to Tom as he matures and becomes a permanent part of the family. Plus, she gives the BEST advice. She never holds back the truth, that’s for sure. You can just tell that the Dowager cares for people more deeply than she will ever admit, and is something of a wild card of epicness, and that makes her character so fascinating. Dowager Countess? More like Queen.

ii. Favorite One-Liners (Goodness, there are so many.)

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There are so many more, but I’ll leave you with these gems for now.

iii. Favorite Outfits (It had to be done.)

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iv. Favorite Quotes (The profound and the sweet.)

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v. Favorite Moments (Again, spoilers.)8dd83c3bd296be605835264c21802599

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vii. And now, just some loveliness.

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~

Thank you for hosting Downton Week, Naomi– and thank you all for stopping by and reading my little blog! I’m so glad to be given a chance to fangirl a bit over Downton before I head off to this thing called “college” and “adulting” and “real life”. 🙂

I love you all, and if you don’t hear from me in this corner of the Internet for awhile, it’s because I’m at Liberty having more adventures than I know what to do with.

God is doing a new thing, and I’m beyond excited to be a part of it!

{love always, Em}