The Joyful Table

The clink and clunk of hammering ricocheted around the Bonsack Methodist Church gymnasium. Approximately fifty women gathered in November for The Joyful Table’s monthly craft party hosted by Jennifer Houf.  Jennifer is momtrepreneur (mom + entrepreneur) of a craft business called The Joyful Table. Jennifer and her husband Jeremy use their creativity and profits of The Joyful Table to foster children into their home.

As soon as Jennifer and Jeremy Houf tied the knot, seven-years ago, they wanted to adopt from Russia. “However, eight-days before our marriage, Russia closed the door to outside adoptions, and have remained closed since,” remarked Jennifer. God’s plan for a family took the traditional path and shortly after the wedding, Jennifer became pregnant.

Birth of The Joyful Table

Jennifer desired a side job that allowed her to work from home and contribute to the student loan payoff. Inspired by an idea from a home décor magazine, Jennifer created her own version of a huge wall growth chart.  “I sold over 300 growth charts in my first year. I worked as much as I could with babies at home and had a full-time employee and we could never stay ahead of orders.” Back then, Jennifer and Jeremy lived in Texas. Looking back on the early years of their marriage Jennifer reflects, “I know God had us in Houston, in the greatest grossing zip code in Texas, so we could be blessed to make enough to pay off our $35,000 debt in one year.”

 

Foster Parenting

Two years into their marriage, the burden to adopt never left their hearts. “We felt led to foster as it would cost less than straight adopting, so we opened our home to children almost five years ago,” reminisced Jennifer.

Since then, Jennifer and her husband moved to Virginia for a full-time position and we could turn the focus of The Joyful Table income onto our foster children. “We have spent thousands of dollars on beds, mattresses, and home decor as our rooms for kids have changed and changed over the years with each placement. We purchased a 12-passenger van that we needed in order to transport our large crew. We have taken our foster children on big trips including three trips to the beach, trips on planes, and trips to NFL and NBA games in different states. The income that I make allows us to continue fostering without the added stress of finances that having extra kids in the house can bring.”

The Houf’s have a large crew including, five biological children and have welcomed 13 children into their home over the course of the last five years. “We have had up to ten children at a time and currently have eight (five biological and three foster children).

As if being a mom of five, and a foster of three, and a business owner isn’t enough, Jennifer and Jeremy flip the homes they live in.  Jennifer says, “Our kids have enjoyed the chaos of knocking down walls, removing kitchens, and putting them back together. I try to allow these new experiences to challenge our kids and give them confidence that they can do anything. All of our older children know how to do vinyl work, how to build signs, and how to use most hand tools.”

     

    Craft Parties

    Jennifer hosts The Joyful Table craft parties every month. Over the past five years, she has hosted over 120 parties in Virginia and Texas. Jennifer loves combining her love for teaching, crafting, and spending a night out among other women.

    “All of our kids fight over who “gets to work” when I have a party. They all love crafting with me, seeing all the ladies, and getting messy with the paint. The older kids really love getting to help make the actual signs and assist with the classes. So many of our older foster children have never earned and saved their very own money, so it is very rewarding allowing them to work by my side.”

    The next party will be December 10, 6 pm-9 pm at Bonsack Methodist Church. The feature project will be a 42-inch wooden sled. Don’t worry, it does not require craft skills at these classes. Jennifer offers step-by-step instruction with a plethora of supplies and assistants to lend a hand or advice.

     

    Foster Kids Need Families

    “These kids need families,” says Houf.  “They may need a family for one month or for two years, but nothing happening to them is their fault. They are just kids, and kids need families to keep them safe until they can return home. I pray the church will rise up and do what we are called to do; to love on these kids in their distress.”

    “I hope our story shows people there is no such thing as ‘the perfect time to start fostering.’ I have been pregnant, given birth to kids, moved, redone houses, and so much more, all while fostering these kids. We have five young kids of our own and a very small home, but our hearts and our table are never full. We are so humbled and grateful to be a small part of the story for all the children we have had the pleasure of fostering.”

    November is National Foster Care Month. Please consider your role in supporting area foster children or foster families.

    You can follow The Joyful Table on Facebook or shop online at The Joyful Table’s Etsy site. 

    ~April Dawn White

    © 2019 April Dawn White| Images courtesy of The Joyful Table

    Avoiding the Comparison Trap

    I’m learning to avoid the comparison trap.

     

    I am still adjusting to this stay-at-home-mom gig. This wasn’t part of my plan. Nor was the unexpected illness that put me here. It’s been thirty-four months and eleven days since I was medically forced to walk away from my career as a pharmacist. One would think by now, I would be adjusted to my new role, but I still struggle.

    Finding contentment in this new realm is my struggle.

    This summer, my neighbor had her backyard excavated to make way for an in-ground pool. Meanwhile, God excavated my heart to make room for contentment.

    Per instructions by Priscilla Shirer in her book, The Resolution for Women, I scribed these words on an index card and attached it to the front of my fridge.

    In my desire to find contentment, I began with a simple prayer: “Lord whatever my hands find to do today, may you look upon your servant and find me faithful. Amen.” 

    Later, I simplified this to a four-sentence prayer: “Lord, find me faithful.”

    This prayer is based on these verses in the Old and New Testament:

    For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.” (2 Chronicles 16:9, NIV)

    “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” (Colossians 3:23-24, ESV)

    When I pray, “Lord find me faithful,” it helps me put on spiritual blinders. Keeping the simple prayer on the forefront of my mind repels my desire for comparison to others. It allows me to remain faithful in my role, where I am, and with what God has provided for me.

    The death of contentment is comparison.

    Steven Furtick

    Pastor , Elevation Church

    During God’s summer excavation of my heart, He showed me two passages in the Bible where the main characters felt unequipped and unqualified in their role because they were comparing themselves to those around them.

    Gideon the weakest in his clan hid from the enemy. God finds him, calls him a “valiant warrior” and tells him to fight the enemy. “Go in the strength that you have.” (Judges 6:12, 14). Reluctantly obedient, Gideon and his motley crew of a few defeat the enemy in an unexpected way.

    In 2 Kings 4:1-7, we meet an unnamed woman who is a recent widow. Left with debts she cannot repay, the debt collectors threatened to take away her two sons. Desperate, she pleads to the prophet Elisha for help. Instead of helping, he asks, “What’s in your house?” She confesses to having only a little oil. Elisha instructs her to gather as many jars as she can from the neighbors. (Can you imagine the humility of having to ask the neighbors for help?) Elisha blessed what little oil she had and the oil miraculously continued to pour until all the jars were full. She was able to pay off all her debt and keep her sons.

    What’s in your house?

    How can you go in the strength you have to bless others?

    In my realm of a stay-at-home-mom, I have the margin of time and rest in my day. This week, God found me faithful packing lunches for my friend and me. In my house, I already had all the fixings for Meg’s favorite snacks and lunch. Going in the strength I had, God found me faithful as I drove my friend to her chemotherapy infusion. We enjoyed our day together as we laughed, cupped mugs of piping hot Starbucks, and shared stories of God’s faithfulness.

    Reflecting on the stories of Gideon and the widow woman, ask yourself:

    How can you use what you already have to bless others?

    What is God calling you to do?

    ~April Dawn White ©2018

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    How to Expose Shadowed JOY

    Shadowed JOYIn less time than it took to prepare the morning coffee, the sun’s light traveled 92.96 million miles in eight minutes and twenty seconds. When I returned to my red chair, my favorite spot of reading and conversation with God, I noticed the early morning sunrays cast long shadows through the window.

    Darkness and long shadows obscured the hand embroidered JOY on the mini quilt. I cupped my mug of liquid mercy and watched as shadows surrounded the word JOY.  I peered with strange fascination as light and shadows danced across the 16×16-wall quilt. The sun stretched higher and the waltz changed patterns. Will the JOY be completely overshadowed by darkness? I pondered. However, what I truly wondered was if my JOY be completely overshadowed by darkness.

    Will my JOY be completely overshadowed by darkness?

    This mini wall quilt is one of my favorite quilting projects. Utilizing scraps from left over previous sewing projects, I pieced together this simple mini quilt and hand embroidered JOY in red to accent my favorite color.

    My heart has been exceedingly heavy this week.  When the Realtor plunged the FOR SALE sign into the dry earth, I felt the sign puncture my already broken heart. I’d been expecting and preparing for this day for over six months, but nothing could prepare me for the surge of emotions.  I thanked the Realtor, walked into the house, threw myself on my son’s bed and wailed.

     

    JOY. Sometimes darkness casts long shadows in an attempt to hide our joy, but God’s light and our praise helps to expose JOY! - April White Click To Tweet

    “Worship like the things you’ve been believing God for are on the other side of your praise.”- Pastor John Gray.

     

    JOYMy heart is still heavy, but it is saturated in praise.  God is slowly pushing back the grief and darkness and exposing the JOY.

    Dear friends, is something shadowing your joy? I pray for Christ to give you the strength to hold on and praise Him, while He pushes back the darkness to expose your joy.

    Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”(Nehemiah 8:10)

    Blessings to you,

    ~April Dawn White

    *All Scripture is NIV from Bible Gateway.  *Images courtesy of author.

    © 2016 April Dawn White, All rights reserved

    Personal Declarations and Self-Encouragement

    alarm-clock-pixabayDoes your morning routine include encouraging yourself? We each have a morning routine and today I will share with you a glimpse into mine. Before my feet hit the floor, I recite this personal declaration and prayer:

     

    Lord, I love you.

    Lord, I trust you.

    Lord, I trust your plan.

    Lord, I trust your provision.

    Lord, I trust your unfailing Sovereign timing.

    Amen.

     

    When my heart is  heavy with discouragement I encourage myself by reciting these truths aloud:

    Lord, you are a good, good Father.

    Lord, I am loved by you.

    You are faithful and able to complete to good work you started in me.

    You have chosen me and will not reject me.

    You call me by name.

    You are jealous for me.

    I am yours Lord, now do as you promised.

    Amen.

    God does not have grandchildren. Some things you need to learn for yourself. Click To Tweet

    Going Deeper

    My personal declarations and self-encouragement truths are directly from Scripture. I encourage you today to dig a little deeper and read these passages:

    Proverbs 3:5-6Do as you Promised Verse

    Psalm 143:8

    Genesis 22 (emphasis on verses 13-14)

    Jeremiah 29:11

    Lamentations 3:25-26

    Philippians 1:6

    Isaiah 41:9-10

    Isaiah 43:1

    Exodus 34:14

    1 Chronicles 17:23

    Years ago, I was thrilled to watch my favorite woman of God, Priscilla Shirer speak at Thomas Road Baptist Church. From the third row, I clearly recall her saying, “God does not have grandchildren, only children. Some things you need to learn for yourself.”

    TRUST with bench 2016I challenge you seek God’s Word for yourself and create your own personal declarations. We all have bad days which is why it’s crucial to encourage one another daily. But, sometimes we need to encourage our self in the Lord.

    ~April Dawn White

    *All Scripture is NIV from Bible Gateway.

    *Images courtesy of author and Pixabay.

    © 2016 April Dawn White, All rights reserved

    Eat Cake: Remembering & Celebrating Answered Prayers

    Celebrate “I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.” (Psalm 77:11)

    Cheerful sunflowers in decorated Mason jars serve as the centerpiece for today’s anniversary dinner.  A chocolate cake with homemade peanut butter frosting begs my attention.  I scrape the side of the baking dish, and savor the flavor.

    Four years ago, I prayed a big audacious impossible prayer. Four year ago today, God answered that prayer.  Today is my day to celebrate this monumental occasion with my God, a special day just between him and me.

    I am anxiously awaiting my family to return home from school and soccer practice so we can dive into dinner and this cake!

     “This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.” (Psalm 118:24, KJV)Celebrate Eat Cake

    As Christ followers, we celebrate the obvious holidays such as Christmas and Easter. Do we remember to celebrate the personal days of answered prayers? August 23rd is my own personal day of celebration. Today is a day to celebrate! Today is a day to eat cake!

    How do you celebrate the anniversaries of answered prayers? Do you have a special date that you celebrate? If so please share.

    ~April Dawn White

    * All Scripture is NIV from Bible Gateway unless otherwise noted. *Images courtesy of author.

    © 2016 April Dawn White, All rights reserved

     

    Buoyant Joy

    Bass boat Smith Mountain Lake“Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.” (Hebrews 10:23)

    Bass boats skim across the lake, a rooster tail of water rockets into the air. Spring yawns as petioles stretch open uncurling their true purpose. The leaves are on full display today narrowing my view of the main channel. In the center of my view, a “No Wake” buoy bobs as the bass boats disturb its quiet resting place.

    This buoyant channel maker captivates my attention. It never sinks. Waves toss the buoy to and fro kissing the water, always returning to its upright position.sunset water buoy Pixabay

    “Joy is not mere happiness. Nor does joy spring from a life of ease, comfort, or peaceful circumstances. Joy is the soul’s buoyant response to a God of promise, presence, and power.”–Susan Lenzkes

    Buoy: noun/  a floating object anchored in water to mark something (as a channel)

    Buoy: verb/ to mark by a buoy, to keep afloat, to raise the spirits of

    Buoyancy: noun/ the power of a fluid to exert an upward force on a body placed in it, resilience of spirit.

    Buoyant joy is a by-product of resilient faith. Click To Tweet

    It does not guarantee the absence of a storm; rather it guarantees the ability to bounce back.

    A buoy is anchored in water with the purpose of marking the main channel. Our faith and joy are anchored to His living water.  We serve as channel markers, guiding those in the midst of the storm to stay on course, encouraging others as we bob along.

    Even though thick fog impedes my future, I know the One to whom I’m anchored. Knowing I will bounce back because He is the God over the storm assufog dock Pixabayres me “It is well with my soul.”

    ~April Dawn White

    *All Scripture is NIV from Bible Gateway. *Images courtesy of author or Pixabay.

    © 2016 April Dawn White, All rights reserved

    My Christmas Gift to You!

    My Christmas Gift to You!

     

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