Faith,  Family,  Lifestyle

Learning to Love the Outdoors

As an only child until almost 12, I spent a lot of my childhood playing alone. My sweet parents gave me a three story Barbie Dreamhouse – so tall I couldn’t even reach the top floor – but one of my favorite past times was hooking bits of lunchmeat on a safety pin, tying it to a fishing line, and catching crawfish out of the ditches. I wasn’t a tomboy, but I loved being outside.

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My grandpa loves to tell the story of taking me fishing on the creek when I was around 7 years old. I slipped down the slick muddy bank and fell on a group of Cypress Knees. If you’re not from Louisiana, you may have no idea what these pointy little growths are. Basically, all you need to know is that they’re a part of the tree’s root system, and I wouldn’t recommend tripping on them.

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Every time I tried to stand up, I fell back down in the mud and pointy knees. I think this experience marked the beginning of my hatred for the outdoors. The next year, my dad taught me to shoot a shot gun. I fired at a squirrel but only injured him, so the poor thing was crying when I went to go pick him up. Dad hit him in the head with the butt of the gun to put him out of his suffering and I was completely sick about it. That same year, I went fishing with my grandpa yet again, but instead of catching a fish, I caught a snapping turtle and papaw killed it for dinner. At this point, I was DONE with hunting and fishing, and decided that the only time I’d be outside was to ride four wheelers.

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A few months later, I went mud riding with my dad and other grandpa. It was great until one of the holes we went in was way over my head and I fell in. Water Moccasins scattered as soon as I hit the water. I swallowed a mouth full of what seemed like sewer and my eyes burned. At 9 years old, I decided the woods were for the birds – not me. But then we moved to Texas and all the neighborhood kids had their own ATVs, so I got a beautiful blue Yamaha Grizzly for my birthday. We spent all Summer and every evening  after school out in the pastures behind our house. Around this time, I decided to give fishing another go. Dad and I caught so many that afternoon and it’s still one of my favorite memories. But when we were loading up, the boat floated off the trailer and I had to drive it back on by myself because dad was on the bank. To this day, that’s the only time I’ve operated a boat. Not too long after that, mom and I flipped the four wheeler at a mud park, one of my best friends broke her arm while we were riding in the pastures. So I was done with that too. By the time I was a teenager, you couldn’t pay me to go hunting, fishing, or riding. I rarely even went to the lake on the ski boat.

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2011, 16 years old

But then, Cole came along. He kept asking me on dates, I kept saying no – probably because he asked me to do things like go mudding and hog hunting. He was relentless. He called me every weekend he knew I’d be home from college. Finally, I said yes – on the condition that he come to a family crawfish boil, meet a bunch of people, be subjected to a bunch of questions, and obviously be completely uncomfortable. I thought surely he’d say no and that would be the end of all his calls. But no. Not only did he come, he accompanied me to walmart to buy drinks and propane. He sat in the driveway with 5 year old little Ava playing eye-spy and sidewalk chalk. He refused the beer my dad offered him, and respectfully answered the million questions thrown his way.

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Then he got smart…He asked Ava if she wanted to go fishing in a few days. Immediately, I said no, but she begged and begged until I said yes and he shot me this smirk and wink that still makes my heart flutter every time, even over 5 years later.

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Just like that, all the bad experiences and years of hating the “great” outdoors melted away. I learned to love fishing again – especially when I catch em and he doesn’t!

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Then, after one year of dating, we got Beaux. Cole had him trained to retrieve ducks and I had more fears to conquer.

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Of course I wanted to be there watching our sweet boy work, but again I had a condition – Cole couldn’t ask me to carry a gun or shoot anything. And he couldn’t tell me to be quiet, but I’d try my best to cover my pale face and stay still.

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Those early, quiet Fall and Winter mornings we spend out on the water together, just the three of us, are some of my most cherished memories.

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We get to watch the sunrise, hear the birds call, and I don’t even have words for the peace that I feel out there – until the firing starts, or I have to pee behind a tree. But really, there’s a calmness there that you can’t appreciate until you’ve experienced it.

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In the Spring and Summer, we spend almost every free moment we have on the water – fishing off the duck boat, or just enjoying the lake on the ski boat.

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Recently, I ran a quiz over on my Insta stories. One of the questions was where do I feel my best. Most of my followers selected “At Home,” which is almost the right answer – I would much rather be at home than in public somewhere. But, the real answer was “Outside with My Boys.” There’s truly no where else I’d rather be.

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In December of 2017, we got engaged at the base of the Snoqualmie Falls outside of Seattle, and we got married right outside a charming little barn, nestled into the Piney Woods of East Texas in December 2018. Both were so perfect, so us.

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When we told people that the wedding would be outside in December, we received concern, criticism, and confusion. But for us, it made sense. It’s where we’re most comfortable.

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A few days before the ceremony, Cole was so nervous about walking down and standing up there while everyone just stared at us. I reassured him that most people would unfortunately be staring at me. And then I reminded him that it was going to be outside. He took a deep breath and said “Well at least I’ll be able to feel the breeze if I’m sweating, and have the fresh air.”

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We even honeymooned in the woods – a quaint little cabin, up on a secluded hill – across the way from beautiful horses and a pond. And our most recent vacation was to a small cabin near Broken Bow Lake.

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Before Cole, if you’d told me that I would love being outdoors, sweltering in the Texas heat during Summer, freezing for ducks in the Winter, I wouldn’t even have responded. That’s how silly and unfathomable it would be. But because of him, I don’t tolerate it – I enjoy it. I seek it out. I melt my face off at softball games, I hit the lake with the fam, I take our dogs to the park, and I kick Cole’s butt at fishing. And, I’m back in the ditches where it all began.

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p.s. Checkout Reclaimed Outdoors, the Faith-based company behind our God, Family, Outdoors gear. You can find them on Instagram, and YouTube!

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