Our Cheaha Family Adventure

When we moved to Jacksonville 12 years ago we were thrilled to find out that we were just a short drive away from Cheaha State Park. It’s the highest point in Alabama at 2407 feet above sea level and the coolest spot to be in the middle of July in the south. This park has a lot to offer: great camp sites, large swimming pool and lake, hiking trails, a restaurant, store, and cabins, chalets, and hotel if camping’s not your thing.

In 2003, we kicked off our homeschooling adventure with a day trip to Cheaha. Here we are at the head of the Silent Trail at the Lake Chinnabee Recreation Area.Fall Hike at Chinnabee 2003 edit

This weekend we hiked the same trail to Devil’s Den Falls. They’ve grown up a bit.DSC_0105

The trail to the falls is steep and busy this time of year but it’s well worth the hike.DSC_0082DSC_0063

We had some jumpers.DSC_0090DSC_0084

Some spectators.DSC_0093

And a snake killer. (Sorry for the blurry photo. He kept waving that snake around and I couldn’t focus.)DSC_0069

We spent some time at the pool.DSC_0006

Here’s the view from the pool.DSC_0011 DSC_0010

We hiked to Pulpit Rock.DSC_0049 DSC_0046 DSC_0039

It’s also the best only place to get phone service.DSC_0056

We watched the Super Moon.DSC_0029

And we spent lots of time just hanging out.DSC_0036DSC_0035DSC_0023DSC_0020DSC_0018DSC_0002

A good time was had by all.Cheaha 2014 group

 

Little Things: {The Blessing and Beauty of Books}

1. I love the smell of books, libraries, and old bookstores.bookstore

2. I think old books, their tattered bindings, and yellowed pages are beautiful.tattered

3. I often underline, highlight, and make notes in the book I’m reading. Sometimes I even dog-ear (gasp) the pages. (I never underline, highlight, or dog-ear library books!)dog eared

 

 

 

 

 

4. I buy most of my books at yard sales and thrift stores.more books

5. I have a Kindle app on my phone but I almost always have a book in my purse.kindles

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6. I’m never reading just one book. I usually have several books that I’m reading scattered throughout my house.a room without books

 

 

 

 

7. I almost always read non-fiction.flood of knowledge

8. I’ll never outgrow my love of books and reading.a pile of things

9. My favorite book is the one I’m reading right now.favorite book

Three Good Men

If a job’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right.

There’s no telling how many times I heard that growing up. For most of my life I understood “doing it right” as “doing it perfectly”. I’m beginning to understand it a little differently these days.

Paul said in I Corinthians 10:31, “Therefore, whatever you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for God’s glory.” This resolve is not a call to perfectionism. Rather, it is a call to “whatever you do”, bring the very best of yourself, your divinely given set of qualities, to accomplish those tasks sufficiently and in a way that brings Him glory.

My dad lives this kind of wholehearted devotion. No task is ever too regular, mundane, or ritualistic. He never saves the best of himself for some later “more important” job. He never does anything halfway. If he agrees to help you out, you can be sure you’ll get everything J.C. has to give. He doesn’t sit around waiting for someone else.  He’s not striving for perfection. He’s not even striving to out-do someone else. He just always shows up with his A game and trusts that God will help him do what needs to be done.

Happy Father’s Day, daddy.

fathers day

I’m blessed to have three good men in my life. Besides my daddy, I’m married to good man who is also a great father, and I have a wonderful father-in-law.

I love this recent photo below of all of us together. Such good memories.

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Frugal Friday {Crockpot} Recipe

Sometimes I get to the end of my grocery budget before I get to the end of the month. While it wouldn’t hurt any of us to miss a few meals I’m not sure that would be popular around my house. So as the grocery line item begins to dwindle I pull out my recipes that are budget friendly and really delicious. Here’s one of my favorites:

Black Bean Soup

  • 1 pound dry black beans
  • 3 tablespoons oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 4 to 6 carrots, sliced (optional)
  • 4 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 6 chicken bouillon cubes
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

The black beans can be cooked according to the soak and boil method (instructions are on the package) but I like the easier way—the crockpot. After washing the beans I add them to the crockpot with plenty of water (8 cups to start) and a tablespoon of salt. You can let them cook most of the day on low or just a few hours on high. You may need to add water as they cook and stir occasionally. Once the beans are tender add the other ingredients, stir, and cook until the vegetables are tender. My family really likes it when I splurge and add diced ham.

I usually double this recipe—well, because…DSC_0119

…my people really like to eat and I really enjoy feeding them good food. But even after doubling the recipe this soup costs less than $5.00 and we have plenty of leftovers for at least another meal. I usually make cornbread (or homemade artisan bread if I have time). So that means I feed 7-8 hungry people a good hearty meal with plenty of leftovers for around $6.00 total. That makes me and my budget smile.

Do you have a favorite budget friendly recipe? Leave a comment. I’d love to hear about it!

Cautious and Skeptical

AmberI’d like you to meet my friend, Amber. Amber and I “met” about a year ago through the Hello Mornings Challenge. Although there are many miles between us our friendship has grown and I was so blessed to meet her in person recently as she passed through my town. Amber is an amazing Bible study/book study leader and I am so blessed by everything she shares with our group. With her permission I am sharing her latest FB post to our group.

Here are Amber’s words:

 

I am guilty of “asking cautiously skeptical questions,” to God. I’ve been asking them for a few weeks. He’s given me some opportunities these next few months, and I question if I am the girl for the job. This born again extrovert, is really fighting that raging fearful introvert within. I desire to be Big and Bold for Him, but inside sometimes I feel so inept, doubtful, unworthy and unqualified. Yes, I still have some self image issues. What I tend to forget, is that these opportunities, are opportunities to serve Him. He chose me for these positions because He wants to use me as a vessel to accomplish what He has in mind. It might just be a little faith testing, too. I want to Do Life BIG for Him. His word is steadfast and proven true time and time again to me, so as I continue to seek Him, he gives me opportunities to grow and serve. Just like He does you! Letting go of fear and doubt is hard, but the more we read, and come to understand God’s character, we can give it up, and trust and believe further.

As I was in the middle of a mini meltdown yesterday morning, I was led to Romans 4, where it talks about how promises are realized through faith. Last night, I read the message version and this is what it said. It was just too good not to share.

“We call Abraham “father” not because he got God’s attention by living like a saint, but because God made something out of Abraham when he was a nobody. Isn’t that what we’ve always read in Scripture, God saying to Abraham, “I set you up as father of many peoples”? Abraham was first named “father” and then became a father because he dared to trust God to do what only God could do: raise the dead to life, with a word make something out of nothing. When everything was hopeless, Abraham believed anyway, deciding to live not on the basis of what he saw he couldn’t do but on what God said he would do. And so he was made father of a multitude of peoples. God himself said to him, “You’re going to have a big family, Abraham!” Abraham didn’t focus on his own impotence and say, “It’s hopeless. This hundred-year-old body could never father a child.” Nor did he survey Sarah’s decades of infertility and give up. He didn’t tiptoe around God’s promise asking cautiously skeptical questions. He plunged into the promise and came up strong, ready for God, sure that God would make good on what he had said. That’s why it is said, “Abraham was declared fit before God by trusting God to set him right.” But it’s not just Abraham; it’s also us! The same thing gets said about us when we embrace and believe the One who brought Jesus to life when the conditions were equally hopeless. The sacrificed Jesus made us fit for God, set us right with God. (Romans 4:17-25 MSG)

Do you find yourself still “asking cautiously skeptical questions” of God sometimes?  Abraham trusted God to set him right….and this should ring true for us, too!

Don’t you love that? It’s easy to see why I love this friend, isn’t it? So how might you be praying “cautiously skeptical”? What do you need to let go of in order to trust God fully?

How Our Suffering Can Be A Blessing

I am privileged to have extended family who have welcomed children into their home through adoption. We have all been blessed by their love and obedience. Just this week Kristie and Trent, as well as their three children Mary Ashtyn, Reese, and Lily, flew to China to add sweet Ava to their family. ava

During their transition time in China, Ava (green shirt) became grief stricken during her first night away from the orphanage. Here are some of Kristie’s words about that experience:

Ava got out of her chair and started searching in the bag of things her orphanage gave her. Tears rolling down that sweet face, she pulls out a thin little notepad. Inside, a picture of her little friends at the SWI (orphanage). She stares at the picture and rubs each face. She’s wailing and I’m sobbing. This was her family, the ones she laughed with, talked to, grew up with…loved. The loss and fear that she is experiencing is beyond heartbreaking.

She goes on in another post to write about the last goodbye for Ava and their family at the orphanage:

I looked at Mary Ashtyn’s face and knew that she was barely holding it together. Lily was so quiet, her memories probably too much to handle. Reece is just like his Daddy, hanging out with each child and making them feel special. Love my kids everyday, but I am so proud of the way they handle themselves when life really matters. Today, they lived in the moment and were His hands and feet.

Suffering qualifies us to comfort.

Mary Ashtyn, Reese, and Lily were also adopted. They understand what it feels like to be an orphan and to find a forever family and it is these experiences which make them so very qualified to comfort this grieving child.

“Praise be to the God and Father our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).

Receiving comfort from The One who suffered empowers us to bestow comfort.

We have all experienced some sort of suffering–something that causes us pain of some kind. It may not always be in the form of grief and loss. But God used the story of these children “who comforted with the comfort they had received from God” to remind and convict me about how and who and when I choose to comfort.

Bestowing comfort releases us from the weight of our suffering.

Notice, too, that the verse says All our troubles–The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ apparently does not distinguish between my big troubles and my small troubles. He apparently does not compare my troubles to yours. He loves me. He comforts me in all my troubles. All my troubles. All my troubles. I have never, ever, not even once prayed about what might be considered a “small trouble” and heard God say, “Stacy, I don’t really want to hear about all your small troubles.” Oh how I feel his compassion for every little thing that troubles me. And oh how that compassion and comfort releases me to see Him and my life from His perspective.

Being released from the weight of our suffering equips us with compassion.

In my own humanness I have expressed great sorrow and received great comfort. And in my humanness I have expressed my pain and frustration over something that may seem very small at the moment (to you and perhaps even me at a later time).
Can we not simply offer comfort and compassion in each case? Can we cease from judging whether the trouble of another is worthy of our comfort? Can we cease the need to tell our story that’s worse than the one we just heard and simply allow our experience of suffering to qualify us and empower us and release us and equip us to comfort another?

We are in great need—not to have less suffering—but to see our suffering as a reality which qualifies and empowers and releases us to show tenderness and compassion and understanding. Jesus said, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).This is an invitation to us to build and bless where the Enemy is working to divide and conquer.

May we be quick to offer comfort and compassion for whatever it is that one calls trouble today.cross in the sky2

I’m linking up with christianmommyblogger for Fellowship Fridays today. You’ll find lots of encouragement there.

You can read more of Kristie’s story and her family’s adoption journey at bamfam5.

I want to know…

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group copy

(This poem is an excerpt from the book, “The Invitation (1999)”, by Oriah Mountain Dreamer.)

The Resolution

This morning I awoke too early to thoughts of failure in the execution of my life—guilt and regret robbing me of peaceful sleep. I prayed a simple prayer, “Oh Lord, help me”, before I rolled out of bed to face the day. My stomach churned as I thought of my list. I sighed at the still-undone-deadline-looming tasks that seemed to remind me of my inadequacy.the resolution

I paused and picked up a book, “The Resolution for Women” by Priscilla Shirer, turned to the bookmarked page, and began reading her words about Moses.

In spite of all kinds of spills and sputters in the execution, Moses held fast to the calling the Lord had placed on his life. “He was faithful to the one who had appointed him” (Hebrews 3: 2). Even in the noisy wind tunnel of guilt and regret, even with loud music inviting him to dance with the decadent, he could still catch the faint whisper of heaven compelling him to forsake temporary feelings and pursuits for the sake of God’s will. And herein lies what separated him and his people from all others. He was not perfect. He was purposeful. He wasn’t without mistake, but he was marked by God’s presence. He marched to a higher standard, an overriding and compelling force that drew him to desire what mattered to God more than what mattered to other people. An overarching view of his life reveals a man not swayed by the whims and fleeting passions that sought to redirect his focus from heaven’s call. He was headed to Canaan. His goal was milk and honey. And even when it meant picking himself up off the deck of defeat and discouragement, he did not stop until God himself allowed him to go no farther. He was called by heaven—an appointment that ordered his priorities, pursuits, and passions. Not perfectly, but persistently. Faithfully.

As I finished those few sentences He spoke to my heart and said, “This is you, too, Stacy. I have appointed you. You are marked by my presence.”  That’s all I needed to hear.

I encourage you, man or woman reading these words, to go back and read them again. Read them as if they are written about you—because they are. Put your name in the place of Moses’ and change he/his to she/her when appropriate. May these words bless you today.

 

Rise and Shine

Did you sleep well last night?

These days I’m too hot, too cold, gotta go to the bathroom, gotta get a drink of water, gotta go to the bathroom again, to sleep well. But the truth is I’ve never really been a fall-asleep-when-my-head-hits-the-pillow-and-not-wake-up-till-morning kind of girl. DSC_0079
But there have been many times in my life when not only did I not sleep well, I was too troubled to sleep at all. Things were happening around me and to me that caused me to lay wide awake, tossing and turning, until finally I’d just give up on sleep and get out of bed. I’d often do a load of laundry, eat, turn on the TV, clean up the kitchen, eat, read, or eat. Anything I could do {quietly} to ease my mind without waking those in blissful slumber. photo[2]
I read something recently that speaks to those restless, sleepless early morning hours. I wonder if it might speak to you to?

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. John 20:1.

Early…

Early is an adjective defined as happening or done before the usual or expected time.I suspect Mary was not much different from the rest of us. She woke up early, still troubled by the events on Friday, a Saturday without Jesus, and the tasks of the day ahead. Maybe she hadn’t slept at all that night. But early—before the usual or expected time, she started her day.

Early on the first day of the week…

It was Sunday but it was her Monday—the day after the Sabbath. No doubt she had her week’s list of things to do and places to go. Life around her did not stop—would not stop—in the wake of a Passover week and a cruel cross and her Savior dying.

Early on the first day of the week while it was still dark…

Most likely it was sometime between the hours of 3:00 and 6:00 AM as she slipped quietly out the door. I can see her as she walked carefully through the quiet, empty streets. The dark, early morning heavy kind of hopelessness and helplessness weighing down on her. She had questions without answers and a pounding heart marking time until the light of day.

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene…

She was one of six different Mary’s mentioned in the New Testament. This is the seven-demon Mary mentioned in Luke. The reference to seven demons most likely signifies the severe suffering she experienced when afflicted by their presence. She was perhaps wild-eyed and disheveled and loud or maybe sullen and withdrawn when possessed and oppressed. But when Jesus saw her he only saw the person she could be and would be once she was set free by His healing touch. And set free she was. No one superseded Mary Magdalene in her utter devotion to the Savior-Healer. She was one of the last followers at the cross and at his burial.

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb…

She was the first at the tomb. She went because she couldn’t live a day without being with Jesus. And this was the last place she saw him—she had watched as Joseph of Arimathea had prepared his body and placed it in the tomb on Friday evening.
She had started out early, in the dark that Sunday morning; but, by the time she reached the tomb the sun had risen.

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and she saw…

She saw that the Son had risen. She saw the empty tomb. She saw the Savior-Healer. What a great honor to be the first to witness the most important event in world history and the pivotal truth of Christianity, namely the Resurrection of Jesus Christ! She was given the privilege of announcing the greatest good news ever proclaimed: “Tell them that their Lord who had died is alive forevermore.”

Here’s what I learned:
1. Get up early
Whatever the week’s events or tasks I face my days are better when I get up early. By early, I simply mean a few minutes before everyone else. I know this is easier at different times and seasons of life but if it is within your power, get up early, before everyone else. There is no solace in 15 minutes of sleep compared to what awaits you. Get up.
2. Go to Jesus
Go directly to Jesus. Bring your wild-eyed, disheveled heart to him. Bring your world-weary withdrawn spirit and let him heal you. Again. Because you can’t live a day without being with Jesus.
Oh, friend, you may breathe and work and think and plan 24-7. But you can-not live—really Live—a single day without being with Jesus.
So get up early and go to the tomb. Cast you cares there. Bury them dead.
Cling to the Savior Alive.
3. Give Him your everything
Give him you day. There are a thousand possibilities for how you live it. Allow him to show you the best ones.
Give him your life. You may know exactly how you want it to look or you may not have a clue what to do with it. Invite Him to show you a better life than you could ever imagine.
Give him you. It’s what He wants and He’s what you need more than anything.
Get up early. Go to Jesus. Give him your everything.
What He’ll give you in return is much better than a little extra sleep.

One of the ways we start our day together in the Word:
wiw

Ladies, here’s something that helps me meet Him early:2014-Dates-and-Study-Plan.005

 

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