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

    15 Awesome Friendship Quotes

     

    August is a month of friendships. Students return to school forming new friendships and renewing others.  Today, August 15, 2019, is my friend Nicki’s fortieth birthday. Our friendship spans over a decade of hills and valleys, all of which God has shown Himself faithful. In honor of our friendship, here is a list of my fifteen favorite quotes on friendship.

     

    15 Quotes on Friendship

    A friend is someone who knows all about you & still loves you.

    Elbert Hubbard

    True friends are families which you select.

    Audrey Hepburn

    A sweet friendship refreshes the soul. 

    Proverbs 27:9

    Be true to your work, your word, and your friend.

    Henry David Thoreau

    Many people will walk in and out of your life, but only true friends will leave footprints on your heart.

    Eleanor Roosevelt

    I have learned that the friends who hold your hand through tough times and watch your soul twirl during the best, are the ones you should spend your lifetime dancing with. 

    Stacie Martin

    Friendship is one of the sweetest joys of life. Many might have failed beneath the bitterness of their trial had they not found a friend.

    Charles Spurgeon

    Life is partly what we make it, and partly what it is made by the friends we choose.

    Tennessee Williams

    A friend is like a good bra; hard to find, supportive, comfortable, always lifts you up, makes you look better, and close to your heart.

    Unknown

    A friend knows the song in my heart and sings it to me when my memory fails.

    Donna Roberts

    Wishing to be friends is quick work, but friendship is a slow ripening fruit. 

    Aristotle

     It takes a long time to grow an old friend.

    John Leonard

    ~April Dawn White

    © 2019 Red Chair Moments |

     

    Photo by Alexis Chloe on Unsplash 

    Photo by Dan Bøțan on Unsplash 

    Photo by Vincent Chin on Unsplash 

    We Never Walk Alone

    This year, I told my kids if they missed the bus they would walk to school. Situated on the outskirts of our neighborhood the middle and high school buildings are a twenty-minute walk from our home.

    Today, Rachel missed the bus. Because it is picture day, I offered to drive her to school.  Visibly relieved, she sighed and her shoulders relaxed.  As I pulled out of the driveway, Rachel chattered about being caught up in the bus traffic, late to school, and possibly sent to the principle’s office.

    I sipped the dark brew of liquid mercy and smiled to myself. She did not know I was taking her on a different route. Dropping her off at the front of the school would require me sitting in traffic and the carpool line for over thirty minutes.  Instead, I pulled over at the walking trail that meanders behind the school.

    Rachel turned in her seat, “Hey, there’s Marcus.”

    “Oh good, you know him?”

    “Yeah.”

    Turning back to Rachel, I offered my confident parental grin. “Good. Now you don’t have to walk alone.”

    “What? You’re not driving me to school?” She questioned.

    “This is the trail behind the school. Go ahead and get out and walk with Marcus.”

    She was stunned.  I drove her to school as promised, but I didn’t drop her off at the front door. I dropped her off behind the school. She would have to walk between the softball and soccer fields and around to the side of the building. But, she would not walk alone.

    We never walk alone.

    Sometimes God will interrupt your progress in order to get your attention. Sometimes he does that as an act of grace because he sees you expending effort in the wrong direction.  What you are calling progress is actually paralysis from heaven’s perspective.

    Steven Furtick

    Pastor , Elevation Church

    In the course of life, we all find ourselves walking an unexpected path. Yet, we never walk alone.

    When the path we planned shuts down, God provides another way. We set goals to move from point A to point B, with a straight and logical plan of action. But God prefers the scenic route.

    When I think back over my unexpected journey of illness, job loss, move, and betrayal of friends, I can point to precise moments along the path when God provided a friend when I needed one the most. Sometimes the companions who linked arms with me were cherished old friends. Other times, they were new friends who understood the isolation and struggle of suffering.

    However, in the dark moments, when my brokenness overwhelms me, I cry alone. These are the days when my social media activity and text messages are silent.  I cry for myself and I cry out for God to help. God is the lifter of my head. (Psalm 3:3). His Word reminds me He will never leave us nor forsake me. (Deuteronomy 31:6).

    Friend, have you found yourself on an unexpected path? If so, you can rest assured, you will never walk alone. 

    ~April White

    P.S. In the seven-plus years, I’ve been writing Red Chair Moments, this is the first time there has been over a month between posts.  While I’ve been absent on-screen, I’ve been present before the Lord. God is cultivating in me a renewed mind and spirit of contentment. He is teaching me accepting my circumstances is not the same as contentment. As the band, Rascal Flats sings, God is teaching me He blesses and walks with me on the broken road. Dear friend, I’ve broken my on-screen silence to remind myself and all of us, we never walk alone. Hugs & Hope ~April

    ©2018 April White| Images courtesy of Pixabay

     

    Summer Goals

    The campfire curled and crackled sending dancing warm gusts around the teens and leaders encircled around the fire.  This was the final Wednesday night youth gathering before everyone separated for the summer.  A buzz of excitement and anticipation rippled through the crowd as several seniors were preparing to graduate and move on to college. The youth pastor asked, “What summer goals do you have this year?” 

    A stray voice behind me hollered, “Help with vacation Bible school. Another teen evoked roars of laughter when he grumbled, “My parents are making me get a job.”

    I pondered the youth pastor’s question. Like the students, some of us will have ten weeks with a lighter, less rigid schedule this summer. Ten weeks without the burden of packing school lunches, chauffeuring kids to music lessons, and sporting events.  If we’re not careful, our summer will erode away with nothing to show for it but a sunburn.  Author and motivational speaker Zig Ziglar coined the phrase, “If you aim at nothing you hit it every time.”

    Why is having a goal important?

    Goals keep an endpoint in mind, allowing us to determine our progress toward the goal. Goals provide direction and purpose and prevent aimless wandering.

    How can I apply a summer goal?

    Unlike the tedious chore of saving decades for retirement, a summer goal is possible to accomplish in a short season.  What summer goals do you desire?  Do you want to shed those stubborn five pounds? Is there a concert you’d like to see, or a new area in your city you’d like to explore? If so, make it a goal, grab a friend, and go!

    Is there a book you desire to read or a new skill you’re eager to learn? Check out your local library. Many area offer classes for adults who want to learn to quilt, sew, or throw pottery.  Maybe your goal is to spray paint the patio furniture or power wash the house. Whatever you’ve wanted to do, but never make the time, do it this summer!

    Here are a few of my summer goals:

    • Reconnect with an old friend once a week either by phone or face to face.
    • Drop off the items I’ve stored for months to rescue mission donation center.
    • Finish the three partially read books I’m reading.
    • Drop (for good) five pounds.

    What goals do you have in mind? List a few reasonable goals in a place that you will view daily, such as the bathroom mirror or kitchen, and get started.

    I’d love to hear from you. What goals do you have this summer?

    ~April 

    Finding Peace When All is Lost: Guest Writer Angie Nolen

    Finding Peace When All is LostAs part of Advent, our church invited my dear friend, Angie Nolan to share on peace. Angie writes on Finding Peace When All Is Lost.  She knows full well the supernatural peace extended to her during pain and loss. Like the Apostle Paul, who also wrote from prison, Angie’s voice carries the tune of praise and peace in dark circumstances. 

    Last week, my friend Sara and I visited Angie in prison, I asked her permission to use this powerful message as a guest writer for Red Chair Moments. Today, Sara and I will read Angie’s message to our church congregation during the Christmas Eve service.

    Pour a cup on liquid mercy and settle in for a blessing. ~ April

    Finding Peace When All Is Lost by Angie Nolen

    My mental image of peace usually involves water—walking beside a tranquil stream, sitting on the dock at the lake, or soaking up the sun by the ocean while wiggling my toes in the sand. It’s easy for me to find peace in those beautiful places…when things are going well and life is good.

    How do you find peace when life is the worst it has ever been? How do you find peace in the middle of the storms?How do you find peace when you’ve lost everything—your home, your career, your father, and your freedom? How do you find peace when you can’t be with your child; unable to protect her and guide her as she grows up without you? How do you find peace when people have failed you and you even feel like God has abandoned you?

    The answer is you don’t.

    But true peace has nothing to do with your circumstances, your environment, or your feelings. Peace is a gift of the Holy Spirit. Click To Tweet

    The reality is there is nothing you can do to find peace. You have to go to the water—the living water. Jesus told the woman at the well “If you only knew the gift that God has for you…you would ask me and I would give you living water” (John 4:10).

    Did you hear that? “I would give.” Jesus gives the water. He IS the living water.  In the 23rd Psalm, David says, “He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul.” That sounds like peace to me. He leads. He restores. Christ says in John 14:27, “My peace I give to you.”

     There is nothing I can do to find peace. God gives it.

    It makes no sense that I am able to put aside my sadness, worry, and fear to sleep through the night on a metal bed in this terrible place but I can. Paul, who also understood prison life, wrote Philippians 4:6-7:

    “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

     The keywords from Paul’s script are “prayer” and “peace of God.” Every night when I lie down, I pray and recite scriptures until I fall asleep. When I am too overwhelmed by emotions and I can’t seem to pray, I know that my brothers and sisters in Christ are praying for me and that Jesus himself is interceding for me, and rest eventually comes. “In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, O Lord, will keep me safe” (Psalm 4:8).

    The world defines peace as a state of tranquility, quiet, and harmony, freedom from disquieting or oppressive thoughts or emotions. The prison in which I am forced to live for now is not a place of peace. It is a place of self-centeredness, anger, resentment, noise, conflict, disrespect, foul language, and nasty attitudes. It is very hard to feel peaceful here; it is hard to settle your mind and find rest.

    But true peace has nothing to do with your circumstances, your environment, or your feelings. Peace is a gift of the Holy Spirit.

    It’s the quiet assurance in your soul that God is in control; He’s got you in the palm of His hand, from your first breath to your last—your past, your present, your future, and your eternal home.

    So, if you are looking for peace—stop and ask. Finding Peace When All is Lost

    The Holy Spirit freely gives us His peace, and we must shoe our feet with that peace so that we can stand firm against the attacks of the enemy and walk forward in faith.

    ~Angie Nolen

    The Hospitality Hibiscus

    The hardy hibiscus plant is a true showstopper with its dinner plate size blossoms. Unlike its tropical cousin, Hibiscus rosa-sinensis, the hardy hibiscus is a perennial plant, which brings a tropical flare to a non-tropical flower garden.

    As a child, my family spent many summer vacations at Myrtle Beach. It was there in coastal South Carolina, that my Mother fell in love with the hibiscus plant.

    Tropical hibiscus plants are not native to the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. However, after returning home from South Carolina, Dad surprised Mom with the hardy hibiscus variety. Forty-four years later, crimson, champagne pink and white blooms with a distinct red eye, add a South Carolina tropical flare to my parent’s back yard.

    One day I surveyed the streets surrounding my parent’s house. I was amazed at all the hibiscus plants I observed.

    “Mom, I see beautiful flowering hibiscus plants in many of the yards here. Did you have anything to do with that?”

    Mom’s laugh lines deepened, her grin served as her response.

    “Seriously mom, even several streets away from your house, I see hibiscus plants.”

    With a glint in her eye, mom replied, “Your Dad and I share our hibiscus plants with new neighbors, old neighbors, when someone is sick, or anyone who walks by. One day, your Dad saw Miss Helen out walking and asked her is she wanted a hibiscus. Miss Helen said, “Do I want a hot biscuit?” Laughing Dad repeated,  “Do you want a hibiscus plant?”

    Miss Helen received a few hibiscus plants and she and Dad still joke about having a hot biscuit.

    I counted over twenty yards with the beautiful hardy hibiscus plants, gifted by my parents. Some yards have all three varieties of color.

    The Bible describes the use of hospitality in three easy ways: Show, Offer, and Practice.

    Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it! Hebrews 13:2, NLT

    Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. 1 Peter 4:9-10

    Practice hospitality.  Romans 12:13

    Showing, offering, and practicing hospitality are my parent’s love languages—their gifts. Mom and Dad serve as extra grandparents to the neighboring kids. Dad repairs bikes and scooters and helps to build pine wood derby cars. Meanwhile, Mom is in the kitchen, cooking a meal, restocking the cookie jar or restocking the freezer with popsicles—sharing whatever they have with others.

    Show, Offer, & Practice Hospitality. Click To Tweet

    Just as the tropical hibiscus plants are not native to the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. Kindness, hospitality, generosity, sympathy, and compassion are also no longer native to our of our culture. By replanting these diminishing character traits we can begin to replenish our communities.

    My parents have lived in the same home for forty-four years. They have planted hospitality for decades and have the unique advantage to see how their hospitality has blossomed over the years. 

    Sometimes we plants seeds of hospitality, seeds of kindness, seeds of compassion and we don’t remain in the area long enough to see it come to fruition. But whether we stay planted in one neighborhood for a lifetime or move frequently we can practice hospitality right where we’re planted.

    How can we show, offer, and practice hospitality with those around us?

    ~April Dawn White  © 2017 All Rights Reserved

    Red Chair Moments, on location at my parents’ house.

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