In Christ Alone

A wise young man once said on his facebook page “the more God shows His faithfulness, the shorter my prayers get”…. or something like that. Well, that resonated in my spirit….deep down in the place where my spirit is one with His Spirit. Simplicity seems to be a theme these past few months. So I’ll let my words be few.

CHRIST IN ME
MY ONLY HOPE
JESUS
LOVE WHAT’S IN FRONT OF YOU

While on this journey of simplicity, I picked a few flowers along the path….. and boy do they smell good!

First a gardenia…. the sweetest smelling….  There’s No sweeter Name than the Name of Jesus.

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Second the rose….in our culture it represents love….Let My Life Speak the Truth of His Love

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And third, the limelight hydrangea…..Jesus said I am the light of the world….Follow me

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For so long I have followed a process, a proven system, a step by step program that would surely draw me closer to being a true disciple of Jesus Christ. For so long I defined following Jesus by doing the things I read about in the bible, or asking the question, “What would Jesus do?” The Israelites had a cloud by day and fire by night. The disciples in the New Testament had Jesus in the flesh, telling them what to do next. Why can’t it be that simple for me? Here’s where I get excited. I have the greatest, most miraculous, most radical thing of all… JESUS CHRIST LIVES IN ME!!! Instead of my mind, will, and emotions determining what my body should do, my spirit is ONE with the SPIRIT of God in me. That’s where the new definition of following comes in. My spirit united with His Spirit leads, and my body and soul (mind, will, and emotions) must follow. I am now following the spirit that is within me. There is not a process, program, or formula for this. It is simply listening for Him to speak to my spirit, and my spirit leading the rest of me to join Him. It’s like a waltz, and Jesus is standing there saying, “May I have this dance?”

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“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life.  I’ll show you how to take a real rest.  Walk with me and work with me – watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” Matthew 11:28-30

 

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A Kingdom Purchase

“If you love me, you will obey what I command. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever – the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I WILL NOT LEAVE YOU AS ORPHANS; I WILL COME TO YOU.” John 14:15-18

A promise filled with Hope!

So what does this little guy…..

 

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And this table have to do with this promise??

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The sale of this table will contribute to his homecoming!!!

His name is Ike Eskridge.  He is currently living in an orphanage in China, but not for long.  You see, his forever family is waiting on their travel date to go bring him home, and the sale of this table will help them do that.

We started a silent auction for the 6 foot Trestle Farm Table at The Chapel Market last Saturday.  The bidding started at $450 and is now up to $625.  We will continue to take bids until 4pm Saturday November 1st at The Pike Road Arts and Crafts Fair.  The table will go home with the highest bidder, and all the money will go directly to this sweet family.

Meet The Eskridges…..

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Dexter grew up with Martha Hunter in Camden, AL.  They went to school together from Kindergarten through 12th grade.  Martha Hunter also became a nurse and helped deliver 2 of our children.  We are so excited for her and her family, as we know the joy set before them!  We cannot wait to meet Ike and see the transformation God has in store for his life as his feet are planted in Acres of Hope.

My Awakening

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you have seen videos of, participated in, or heard about the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.  Some of the members of my family have taken the challenge…. except me.  The thought of pouring a bucket of iced water over my head is awful.  I don’t like to be cold. It makes my body ache.  Well, yesterday I received a challenge. No, not the ALS Challenge, but one that I am finding to be much more difficult.  I would much rather dump the ice water over my head….really I would.  So here’s where it all began.

My dear sister in Christ over at karensdilbeck.com sent me an email requesting I read her latest blog titled “I am Obscene” , and after reading it, “pray and do with it as God leads”.  I was at work when I received the request, so I just glanced over it and all the pictures, put my phone back in my pocket and went about my day.  When I got off last night, I pulled my phone out and read it.  I was without words, hard to believe it, but it’s true.  I read it again when I got home and I didn’t know what to do with all that I had learned.  You see, I have been so incredibly ignorant to everything that has been going on in Iraq.  Heard about some stuff, saw some pics on facebook, heard about some videos, but MY life has been way to busy to stop and be informed about what was really happening over there.  I had no idea what ISIS was and as awful as this is going to sound, I could have cared less. So I sat in front of the computer not really knowing what to do.  I went to bed and was going to turn on the TV, but I just couldn’t.  I went to sleep, quiet easily, which is not usually the case, and slept very soundly.  I woke up, and as soon as I sat up in bed, I felt physically sick.  Quite frankly, I was disgusted with myself.  The reality of what IS going on broke me.  The grief overwhelmed me.  There I sat, asking God, what in the world do you want me to do with this.  The Holy Spirit began to speak, and I began to write.  I was reminded that we have over 900 followers on our Facebook page that see when I post a new blog…write He said.  I haven’t blogged in months.  I was hearing the enemy say “you better not go there, they will find you, they will find your children, that Facebook page and blog are for your business, you will offend people”….FEAR began to grip me.  Then the Holy Spirit nudged me to share this with a group of parents I was going to be meeting with this morning and pray.  This is the verse He gave me,

“When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land, or send a plague among my people, if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land. Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place.” 2 Chronicles 7:13-15

In the Old Testament “this place” was referring to the temple Solomon built.  We are living under the New Covenant and “this place” is us! We are the temple. “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.” Galatians 2:20  His eyes are open and His ears are attentive to the prayers offered in me! So, I shared and we prayed.  We prayed for forgiveness for our ignorance and our lack of concern for our brothers and sisters in Christ.  We prayed for forgiveness for being so concerned about trivial things in our lives.  We cried, we pleaded with our Father, we sat quietly in His presence.

And now….I am writing to you… I am challenging you….. Get on one of your many electronic devices and google search what ISIS is, what there plan is.    They have had a plan for thousands of years.  They believe and have faith in their plan.  They have never waivered from their plan.  They are walking out their plan.  What is our plan? Are we tenacious about it? Have we forgotten it?  Do we believe in it…have faith in it?  Are we walking it out?  These brothers and sisters in Ninevah, yes I said Ninevah, are walking it out. This is happening to the great, great, great…. grandchildren of the people Jonah was sent to preach to.  They are standing, professing their belief is Jesus, knowing their children will be beheaded, the women will be raped and killed, and the men hung.  Watch some videos, as gruesome as they are. Look at the pictures.  Read the articles.  And yes, it will be hard….you will be overwhelmed…and hopefully broken.  Then, do with it as God leads.

This is the picture that I can’t get out of my head.  This little boy has an Arabic N on his shirt.  Look it up and see what it means.

I thought that writing this post and being vulnerable with those parents this morning was going to be so hard.  But as I remain in His presence, He is asking me to something much more difficult.  I am to pray for the men of ISIS.  As they lift their sword to the head of one of the least of these, I pray that the eyes of Jesus are looking back at them, that their deception is destroyed by the love of Jesus, and that the truth will set them free!

 

Chief meets Chestnut

“Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands..” 1 Thessalonians 4:11

The Master Carpenter, Dexter, at The Chapel Market

He is a quiet servant but outgoing and loves people.  He focuses on the business God has given him to tend to.  He has hardworking hands, cut up, calloused, strong, yet gentle.  This is Chief, who most of you know as Dexter.  He got the nickname “Chief Thor” at youth camp while leading a construction team consisting of teenage boys.  I guess he liked it because he wants his grand kids to call him Chief!

He is your carpenter at Acres of Hope, the creative mind and gifted hands behind all the treasures we build!  Come join us today as I walk you through the steps he takes transforming an old pile of chestnut that appears to be useless and dead and turns it into a beautiful treasure full of LIFE!

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So, we received this pile of chestnut from a couple who live here part time and in North Carolina.  They needed another table for their Montgomery home that did not take up much space.   Their idea was to have a custom table that had drop leaves which could function as a sofa table, and when they have company it could become a farm table for dining.  When I first saw the pile of wood, I have to be honest, I wasn’t sure how this was going to turn out.  There you have it, secrets out, I’m not the creative genius behind Acres of Hope 🙂

chestnut10 I learned working with salvaged wood is very time consuming, and there is an art to it.  Old nails must be removed, each board must be cut to size, and then everything must go through the planer.  This sounds pretty simple, but I gave up on removing the nails after a few short minutes because it was way too hard! I’ll stick to staining, finishing, posting pictures and talking to you!

Chief then fashions the feet and trestle legs using a variety of tools I am not qualified to touch. Let’s not forget that back in November I shot myself with the nail gun 😦     Some stretchers and braces are then added, and voila, you have a trestle base!

He then takes some wide boards and joins them together, and as far as how he made them drop like that, well that explanation is above my pay grade.

We then sealed it with some Linseed oil and let that cure for a few days.  Now our favorite part of the process, delivery day!!!!!  Our clients were very pleased with how it turned out, and it fit the space perfectly!  Chief never ceases to amaze me with his ability to build these treasures! So I guess the moral of the story is, one man’s burn pile could be another man’s treasure!

A Southern Snowfall

I have done what I am sure many new bloggers have ….. NOT BEEN CONSISTENT!  Quite frankly, I went through a spell where I really didn’t think anyone cared what I had to say. But you know, I realized that I need to blog for me and not try to write what I think you might want to hear.  So, I am jumping back in full swing.  Lots going on at Acres of Hope, so let’s start with the biggest news of these past 2 months…

Our Homestead in the Snow

It only happens about every 4-5 years in our little town and it always shuts us down.  You guessed it, snow!  The children are all excited.  No school, roads closed, no milk or bread on the shelves in the local grocer, and endless trails of mud and water through the house.  Awwwwww…. a little piece of heaven!

The last time it snowed here was 4 years ago, and we remember it well.  It was the day we brought Maggie Mae home from China!  Beyond exhaustion from the 33 hours of travel, after 4 hours of sleep, everyone bundled up and headed out for some fun.  It only lasted half the day, but the kids had a blast!  This year, we got to enjoy it for 2 1/2 days!!!  So what do southerners do in the snow……..

Well you gas up the Polaris and the 4-wheeler and head to the shed to get the boogie boards you use at the beach, the wake skate and tube you use at the lake, grab some rope, hook em up and away they go!!!! No snowmen this year because the snow was too dry, but endless hours of being whipped around in the snow/mud was all they needed.

We took peaceful walks in the woods where we met up with this guy,  Ruby and Billy  stayed warm in their house all day, brewed lots of hot cocoa and smoke was continually rising from the chimney.  A few much needed days of rest on the homefront!

Anchor of Hope

hope candleHebrews 6:8b-10 “…we who have fled to take hold of the hope offered to us may be greatly encouraged.  We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where Jesus, who went before us, has entered on our behalf.”

An anchor, something heavy attached to a vessel to keep it in place, and hope, a desire accompanied by confident expectation of its fulfillment.  These two combined are why Jesus came.  He is the heavy, mighty, strong anchor that God sent to earth so that His plan would be fulfilled, for man to be reconciled to God!  Christ lives in us, he attaches Himself to us, His vessel, and keeps us in the place where God wants us to be.  The waves crash, the wind blows and tries to steer us off the path, but our faith is convinced of what we hope for and certain of what it cannot see (Hebrews 11:1)  all because He came.

Our hope ushers us into the very presence of God where Jesus, our anchor, is waiting, watching, and interceding on our behalf.  Without Jesus there is no hope, nothing to long for or be confident in.  Without Him we are tossed by the waves, blown off course by the wind, and oppressed by the darkness of this world.  Our hope comes from a desperate place, deep in our soul, that is calling out to the light.

The words below are from the heart of our 16 year son, Parker.  This is what the Holy Spirit has revealed to him after the death of one of his best friends, Gray Godwin.

“We have hope in eternal life because of Jesus’ death and especially his resurrection. I don’t think a whole lot about the hope we have until something happens that makes me think about the future. The future is a very scary subject, in that it feels unknown and out of our control. With the death of my friend Gray this past week, I for one have definitely thought about his future and mine. Knowing that Gray loved God so much, reminds me that he is happier now than he has ever been. By his death, he has entered into the gates of heaven, and is living out what we are all hoping for, eternal life. Once I wrapped my mind around that concept, I was jealous that I was not in heaven yet. I wouldn’t say I was suicidal at all, but simply put, I was ready to get out of the corruptness of this world and be with Jesus. But that also made me think of how selfish it is to think like that. Though the world is corrupt, it doesn’t have the hope that I possess. Holding onto what I knew and not sharing the great news of Jesus Christ is not right. If keeping Jesus to myself was satisfying me, then my heart is not in the right place. My number one job as a Christian is to get closer to God, and grow in Him. So many people die, who are unlike Gray, in that they are fearful of what will happen to them before, during or after death. We need to bring those people hope so they are no longer anticipating or fearing death. The Word of Jesus Christ is that hope.”

IMG_1048Parker, Gray, Hudson, Hammond

A Sacrifice of Praise

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“We are the light of the world. We are a city on a hill. We are the light of the world, and we gotta, we gotta, we gotta let our light shine.” – Kari Jobe

And that is exactly what Gray Godwin did wherever he was…. Let the light of Jesus shine through him!  Do you notice how everything around him is black and white, but he is in FULL COLOR.  This is how he lived his life here on earth and now how he spends eternity with Jesus. He stood out in a crowd. The character of our Most High God was sealed by the Holy Spirit in Gray.  Overcoming adversity and embracing life because of his firm foundation in Jesus is his testimony!

So for us who remain here on earth, what do we do?  A sweet friend shared with me that we put our right foot in front of our left, and eventually our heart will catch up.  I’m not sure if my heart will ever catch up, but I am reminded of what Jesus said to His disciples in His darkest hour,  “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Matthew 26:41.  So, we will continue to pray.  And what about when we don’t know what to pray? The apostle Paul tells us in Romans 8:26 “…the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.”  My heart and flesh cry out with groans, and my God can interpret that?  What an amazing God!

So I will pray… I will groan… and I will worship. Your Presence is Heaven to me Lord!  It is in Your Presence that heaven and earth collide, and we can join Gray in worshiping our King.  Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty! We bring you a Sacrifice of Praise. We surrender our mind, will, and emotions to you God and say, Spirit within us RISE UP!

The Lenses of Justice and Compassion

Safe in Mommy's ArmsBack in September my best friend went on a retreat for a few days.  Upon her return, she was not only refreshed, but it was like God had breathed on her.  As she was sharing one night, we got to talking about the specific way God designed each of us uniquely.  In discovering some of her gifts and the perspective she sees life from, there was a test involved.  The more we talked, the more discouraged I got.  You see, I so wanted to walk through her experience, but I am the worst test taker.  I wanted to know my personality traits, gifts, perspective, etc., but I knew if I tried to take that test it would be disastrous.  During test taking, I get locked up and feel like I am desperately searching for the right answers.  I just want someone else to tell me all these things about myself:)

Well, that’s exactly what happened.  A few days after we talked, I sat down and asked the Lord, out loud, to begin to show me the unique gifts He has given me.  As I was going through my day, the words Justice and Compassion kept coming to my mind.  The Holy Spirit was answering my question! I went home and looked them up, of course cause I’m the word nerd, and I had understanding almost immediately.  Compassion, in my own words, is relating to the emotions of others and being moved by that.   Jesus was moved by compassion in Matthew 9:36.  Justice is basically wanting things to be “right” and “fair”, and oh boy, is that me.  Now because I believe these are gifts from the Lord, I know He has a plan to use them in His Kingdom; however, I also know there can be a downside to both of these.  You see sometimes I “take on” the emotions of others, and that puts ME in a place of trying to fix things versus allowing the HOLY SPIRIT to lead me in my response.  Also, when things aren’t right or fair, especially with my children, mama bear can definitely come out, and this robs my joy.  Micah sums up how the Lord intends me to walk these out, “…And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:8  So God is calling me to be an agent of justice and compassion,  but this requires deep, prayerful humility.

So in my discovery of this, and as I am receiving the breath of God in my own life, I understand now why I am passionate about orphans, the overlooked, missions etc.  These are the areas where I feel one with the heart of my Father in heaven.  When we were on our way to the airport to greet our best friends coming home with their daughter from Guatemala, I remember specifically asking the Lord, “what is this feeling welling up in me?”  His response, as I gazed at the stars from the car window, was “you feel My heart”.  It’s the most incredible feeling to be One with the Father.  As you see in the picture above, the Lord has graciously given us a child through adoption, and this picture was taken when I was experiencing that oneness once again.

Today, my heart continues to be drawn to the fatherless.  And yes, I am humbly praying about it every day.  Just because we have already adopted one child, doesn’t change the perspective I view life from.  However, what I am learning is, there are many ways for me to minister to orphans.  I don’t know God’s plan for more children in our home, but I do know that God designed me to see life through the Lenses of Justice and Compassion.  As I yield my heart to Him, He will make us One!

A Return to Family Dinners Part 2

So I left off last week with your menu planned, shopping done, and prep work done.  The table we were building was in the final stages, just awaiting staining and sealing.


As you begin your “plan”, I also said that the being flexible was key.  You see so many times we can get caught up in the plan and miss the journey.  For us in our business, if we get too busy we don’t enjoy the project or take the time to pray for the family who is receiving the treasure.  You don’t want family dinner time to be life threatening if your plan fails:) No “We will sit down together if it kills us” attitudes. I think for me, my desire is to connect with my family in as many ways as possible during the day.  Most of the time that is with individuals at various times throughout the day. So, dinner time is the time we can all be together.  Also dinner time can be a time when we work together.  Our kids have jobs at dinner time so mom is not exhausted by the time we all sit down.  Sometimes they even like to play “restaurant” and take orders and serve each other.  You’ve seen some pictures of our youngest daughter Maggie Mae “helping” daddy build stuff.  Well, when we finally delivered the 14ft Farm Table, he hired on 2 new helpers!

Delivery time was sweet! With much anticipation, we finally arrived Saturday evening at the Godwin’s new home to set up the table.  Due to its size, we had some assembling to do, and like I said, Dexter had some amazing help from those 2 princesses pictured above!  Dexter made the necessary adjustments and …….

14ft Farm Table

Here it is!!!! We are so excited and a bit in awe that the Lord enabled us to do this.  A large table like this will allow at least 16-18 people to gather around and fellowship.  It’s the only piece of furniture you will purchase that encourages spending quality time together focusing on each other and not the things of this world.  You see, without the Godwin family gathering around eating, playing games, making projects with the kids, etc., it is just wood fashioned together into a very large rectangle.  Their time spent at the table is what makes it special.  Someone commented on Facebook after seeing the table and said, “Would love to hear this table talk in 10 years.”  I would too!  So I guess I will leave you with this thought, what would your table say if it could talk?

A Return to Family Dinners Part 1

As Dexter and I were down in the shop building the other night, he shared with me some of his thoughts about building tables.  We got into a discussion about Family Dinners or the lack of families sitting down together eating dinner.  Has life gotten so busy and complicated that we can’t seem to find time to sit, be still, and fellowship with one another around the table?  The dinner table is the one place where our family has our most treasured conversations.  We get to find out about each others’ day, share what we feel the Lord is teaching us, talk about what’s coming up on our calendar, and quite frankly, just look at one another and give each other our full attention.  Now this is not always a “Hallmark” experience.  There are those times when some don’t want to talk, or want to talk about things that shouldn’t be discussed at the table.  And yes, with 5 kids, we ALWAYS end up with some kind of “potty talk”, as we call it.  It used to bother me when our conversations would digress, but now, I just have to laugh because they just can’t help it:) Somehow, some way they end up there!

So can you see why Dexter is motivated to want to handcraft tables for families. It’s the memories! As he is building them, he truly is thinking about all the food that will be eaten, the conversations that will be had, the games that will be played, and the projects that will be completed on them.  He thinks about how many generations will enjoy the table.  Most importantly, how many lives will be blessed around the table.  The 14ft. table we are building now makes us think about all the children, both biological and adopted, that will gather around it, and the Mom and Dad who are faithfully following the Lord as they raise them.

If you are yearning for this experience in your home, let’s look at some ways you can get started!  I’ll correlate it with what we did when we received an order for a 14ft table that we didn’t know how we were going to build! First you make a plan.  Look at your calendar for the week and plan your meals according to your schedule and how much prep time you have.  If you are not a planner, I promise, if you will just try this, you will save time and money and family dinners will be a legacy in your home! Then you make your shopping list, or for building the table, Dexter makes a cut list.

When you come home from the store, put together what you can for the meals ahead.  For instance, put marinade and chicken in a bag before you put it in the freezer, so all you have to do is thaw it!  You can also wash and cut up vegetables before you put them in the refrigerator to cut down on prep time when you need them.  When we have more than one table order, Dexter likes to cut and assemble all the legs at one time….

Now that your meals are planned, the shopping is done, and everything is put away, you can begin to enjoy it one meal at a time.  The key words are BE FLEXIBLE because….

blessed are the flexibleThis sits in my kitchen as a constant reminder that LIFE HAPPENS! It’s much easier to be flexible and move with the changes than swim upstream and fight the current!  Remember, the whole point is to have a time during the day when your family can get together!  More to come in a few days. I will share how you can add some special touches to the table and your dining environment! Also, the big reveal of the 14ft Farm Table!