Joy’s Stepping Stones

 

 

“You recieved the word….with the joy of the Holy Spirit.”

~1 Thessalonians 1:6~

 

“Joy is a fruit of the Spirit, the effect of His ministry in our hearts.  Paul wrote, “Ay the God of all hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13, NIV).  It’s by the power of the Holy Spirit that we experience the joy of salvation and are enabled to rejoice even in the midst of trials.

The Spirit uses His Word to create joy in our hearts.  Romans 15:4 speaks of the endurance and encouragement that come from the scriptures; the next verse says that God gives endurance and encouragement.  God is the source; the Scriptures are the means.  The same truth applies to joy.  Verse 13 speaks of God filling us with joy and peace as we trust Him.  How would we expect God to do this?  The reasonable answer is by means of the Scriptures.

When I’ve experiencedthe Lord’s discipline, Hebrews 12:6 has been a means of restoring my joy: “The Lord disciplines the one He loves.” When I was once experiencing a severe trial, Psalm 50:15 became a source of comfort: “Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me” (NIV).  On another occasion when I thought my future looked bleak, I was enabled to rejoice in the Lord through the assurance of Jeremiah 29:11, “I know the plans I have for you, declairs the Lord, plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to gove you hope and a future” (NIV).

The Spirit will use these words to promote our joy if they’re in our hearts through regular exposure to and meditation upon them.”

 

~Jerry Bridges “Holiness Day By Day” Devotional, Week 11/Friday, pg.71, taken from “The Fruitful Life”~

 

A Change In Direction

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Spring is just around the corner, and with it are coming some changes on the homestead!

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To begin, this year was our third lambing season, and let me tell you that it was the HARDEST one yet!

We breed our Katahdin sheep so they lamb between January and February, and for us it has worked really well even if it is during the coldest part of the month for us (bacteria and infection rates are much lower during this season).

This breed (known as a hair sheep) is very low maintenance, as they shed their fur on their own without sheering, unlike how a regular wool sheep is.  It is a breed preferably raised for meat which is what our family does, and greatly enjoy the flavor and diversity of this great meat.

You can learn more about this fascinating breed HERE.

…But back to my story….

The first year for this newbie raising sheep involved only 7 ewes and 1 ram, and involved assisting in a birth of twins which was pretty scary at first, but thank the good Lord for books and videos that prepared me beforehand so I knew what I was doing, and God knew I would need to prepare for that!  Getting the real-life experience of assisting was absolutely fascinating and dreadfully scary at the same time, knowing the life of the mother and babies are in your hands (and the Lords), but it went well, and were thankful all were happy and healthy! We had 12 lambs born that year!

With that under my belt, I was ready for the next round, which went smoothly with no assistance needed, having more sheep than the year before (about 12 ewes).  We had many sweet little healthy lambs romping around our fields with one or two bottle fed babies in the bunch (rejected by their mothers) who did really well, and gave me a lot of experience to learn in how and what to feed them and the care involved to get them on their feet.  We did have to rescue 2 littles who were almost half frozen at birth, but after a night by the nice warm fire, and a lot of TLC through the night, they were fully recovered and happy to be back with their mother outdoors. We had 15 lambs born that year.

This year…..Words just cannot express the sorrow and heartache this season brought that left me on my knees before the Lord and leaving all my unanswered questions and wondering, and “What if’s” at His feet, knowing He has a purpose in all He does….even if it is painful and overwhelming.

This year’s lambing season was just plain awful.  I have learned so much more about myself, and my wooly friends this year than the other two lambing seasons combined, and as much as I am thankful for the lesson, it was almost too much to bear.

We lost a lot of little lambs…and I mean a LOT…almost half!!!

This year we had 11 ewes lamb on the homestead (not including 2 who decided to surprise us with littles in the summer, and lamb AGAIN in the winter with all the other ewes!), two ewes with triplets, and only one lamb from one set survived.  We had a total of 21 lambs born this year (including the summer babies), and lost 7 out of the 18 born this winter.

A lot of questions are still unanswered as to really why this season was so hard on the sheep, but sometimes the Lord uses these moments to cause one to reevaluate things, and test your trust in Him when mystery hangs in the air, and we are not to fully know why, other than running through mineral and vitamin deficiencies, and just leaving all the other unexplained causes in His hands, knowing you did everything you possibly could for those dear sheep….

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Now that the hump is over with the last little one born this past Lord’s Day so very healthy and happy and full of life, it left this horrible nightmare on a good note, and hopeful for the future of our farming endeavors, though my family and I have decided to make some changes to the direction of our homestead.

I am quite sad to say this, but we will be selling our sheep…..ALL our sheep this year, so we can take a break for a while, and try new things, and be able to focus on other outlets the Lord is bringing about for our homestead, without feeling overwhelmed with too much as we are feeling right now (due mainly to changes in family direction/circumstances individually), with too many sheep, and less time for other things we would like to do on the homestead and abroad.

Prioritizing and downsizing can be difficult at times and cause great sacrifice to change, but is worth it in the end, just to keep things simple and less overwhelming…After all farming should be a great and joyful endeavor and not just a loooong list of  “to-do’s”, but a passion and love for the land and animals….Keeping things small and manageable is VERY important!

We do hope to raise sheep again later on, and keep it at a much smaller scale, and have things more organized next time as well, but for now, we know this season it is time to say goodbye to our wooly friends, and find them a farm they will be just as happy on as they have been on ours.

That being said, If any of you fellow Kentucky readers are farmers, or know of anyone who may be interested in raising sheep, or wanting to add to your flock, please feel free to send me an email by using the “Contact Me” page, and I will send you for more info., but please only contact me if you are serious about buying.

“Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee. My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever.”

Psalm 73:25-26

“I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.  My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth.

Psalm 121:1-2

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(My bottle fed babies Java (above) and Latte (below). )

 

We will be sad to see them go, but it is time for a break, and a fresh start on the homestead this year, and look forward to many more adventures on the farm to share with y’all.

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My Portion!

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‘You are my portion, O Lord!’

Psalm 119:57

“Many people are proud of their possessions, and boast of their wealth; yet their possessions are very limited, and their wealth has wings and may flee away at any time!

A Christian may not be proud –  but he has great reason to be thankful. He can look over the whole earth, and say, ‘My wealth exceeds all this!’

He can look up and gaze on the starry heavens and say, ‘My property exceeds this vast expanse!’

He may try to conceive of the greatness and glory of the created universe, and then say, ‘I claim more than all this!’

Looking up to the Author, Owner, and Disposer of all worlds – he can say, ‘You are my portion, O Lord!’

What a privilege! A portion – and such a portion. God Himself in all His greatness, and in all His goodness. God with all He is, and all He has – is my portion!

What kind of a portion is this? It is immense, for it comprehends all. All the attributes of the Divine nature, are for us. All the perfections of God’s character, are on our side. All the productions of the divine power, are for our good.

Therefore the apostle says, ‘All things are yours!’ Nothing good is withheld from us!

What the father of the prodigal said to his eldest son – our heavenly Father says to every one of His children, ‘Son, you are ever with Me – and all that I have is yours!’

We may adopt similar language in speaking to our heavenly Father, to that used by the angel to Abraham, ‘By this I know that You love me, because You have not withheld Your Son, Your only Son from me!’

And from this fact, we may draw the same conclusion as Paul did, ‘He who spared not His own Son – but delivered Him up for us all, how shall he not with Him also, freely give us all things!’

O beloved, God in all the glory of His nature and perfections, God with all His unsearchable riches – is our portion!

What kind of a portion is this? It is immutable. It remains forever. Others may lose their property, or it may become deteriorated and comparatively valueless – but our portion is forever the same!

Speaking of the finest, noblest, and most durable works of creation, the Psalmist says, ‘In the beginning You laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of Your hands. They will perish, but You remain the same; they will all wear out like a garment. Like clothing You will change them, and they will be discarded. But You remain the same, and Your years will never end!’ Psalm 102:25-27

Our portion can never be forfeited, or alienated, or reduced in value – because it is the unchangeable God Himself!

Blessed is the man that can say with Jeremiah, The Lord is my portion, therefore will I hope in Him!’ Or with David, ‘The Lord is the portion of my inheritance!’ ‘My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever!’ Psalm 73:26

James Smith, ‘Gleams of Grace’ 1860, via Grace Gems

 

All Because of Grace

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As I was contemplating what my first post would be under my new blog name, with all the huge plans of writing more regularly about farm life, what the Lord has been teaching me, and running through a bazillion ideas in my mind, God  decided to slow me down a bit, to “smell the roses”, and soak in the curve-balls He has seen fit to throw my way the past few weeks that have kept me from writing sooner (His ways our never like our own, right? 😉  ), which have caused me to pull back, and focus on Him and the life lessons He is challenging me with this season on the farm…..which has been a LOT, and full of much sanctification….. some very trying and hard lessons in the valley which have left me relying only on my Savior’s sovereign grace and realizing more of my utter dependence on Him in all seasons.

I know what you are thinking: “of course we need to depend on Christ in everything”, but you see, when He brings us to the breaking point in our lives that try us so deep that we feel like we are drowning, we understand and feel our need of Him even more so than just hearing it.  Believing it and seeing it lived out in our lives makes it become real and true to everyday living!

We NEED those real everyday reminders in life; more than just reading, the application of it is crucial to any growing believer’s walk with our Great Comforter, and to know He has been where we are to a greater extent when He sacrificed Himself for us on the Cross to save us from our sin, and the fact He is with us even now to hold us together even when we feel miles apart at times.  He uses all circumstances for our Good and for His glory!

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

~Romans 8:28~

A couple of things that really challenged me and encouraged me were these two excerpts which I pray would be a blessing to y’all as well.  They preach to me as much as anyone else in these dealings and dwellings in the valley to keep my mind and heart focused on Christ, and may they encourage you the same in your walk with Him :

No Cross, No Gospel

“Through Him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand.”   

~Romans 5:2~

“When you set yourself to seriously pursue holiness, you’ll begin realizing what an awful sinner you are.  If you aren’t firmly rooted in the gospel and haven’t learned to preach to yourself every day, you’ll soon become discouraged and will slack off.  In the pursuit of holiness, nothing’s more important than learning to preach the gospel to yourself every day.

In doing so, we must be careful not to preach a gospel without a cross.  All the wonderful promises of forgiveness in Scripture are based upon Christ’s atoning death.  Through it He has satisfied God’s justice and averted from us God’s wrath.  We must be careful not to rely on the so-called unconditional love of God without realizing His love can flow to us only as a result of Christ’s atoning death.

This is the gospel by which we were saved, and the gospel by which we must live every day of our Christian lives.

In Romans 3:24, Paul said we are justified by grace, referring to what we might call our point-in-time salvation, the day we trusted in Christ.  In Romans 5:2, however, Paul spoke of this grace in which we now stand.  Here he refers to our day-to-day standing before God as being on the same basis as our justification – the basis of grace.  But this grace – unmerited favor to those who deserve wrath – comes to us through the Lord Jesus Christ.

God is the “God of all grace” (1 Peter 5:10) and is disposed to deal with us by grace, but not  at the expense of His justice. But with justice satisfied, God can now deal with us in grace, both in our salvation and in our day-to-day relationship with Him.”

~Jerry Bridges “Holiness Day By Day” week 6, Weekend pg. 42 (taken from his book: “The Discipline of Grace”)~

Continual Repentance

“O God of Grace,

Thou hast imputed my sin to my Substitute, and hast imputed His righteousness to my soul,  clothing me with a bridegroom’s robe, decking me with jewels of holiness.  But in my Christian walk I am still in rags; my best prayers are stained with sin; my penitential tears are so much impurity; my confessions of wrong are so many aggravations of sin; my receiving the Spirit is tinctured with selfishness.

I need to repent of my repentance; I need my tears to be washed; I have no robe to bring to cover my sins, no loom to weave my own righteousness; I am always standing clothed in filthy garments, and by grace an always receiving change of raiment, for Thou dost always justify the ungodly; I am always going into the far country, and always returning home as a prodigal, always saying, Father forgive me, and Thou art always bringing forth the best robe.

Every morning let me wear it, every evening return in it, go out to the day’s work in it, be married in it, be wound in death in it, stand before the great white throne in it, enter heaven in it shining as the sun.

Grant me never to lose sight of the exceeding sinfulness of sin, the exceeding righteousness of salvation, the exceeding glory of Christ, the exceeding beauty of holiness, the exceeding wonder of grace.”

~”The Valley of Vision”, Leather bound, pg.136-137~

 

 

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Some of you have been following my updates on this year’s lambing season journey via Instagram (HERE) which has been very hard losing so many little lambs this year, dealing with some health issues related to feeling so overwhelmed with everything that has been going on as of late. Through it all, it has left me more in awe of the God I serve who has given me the strength to press on even when I did not feel like I could, and give me the strength to take each day is it comes, knowing He will supply my needs and has faithfully done so through it all and will not just stop there, but continue till He takes me home to glory!  God is so very good, and I praise Him for the work He is doing in my life and the life of my sweet family and farm. Thank you so much for your sweet words of encouragement and prayers….they mean more than you will ever know!

Thanking the Lord for these hard lessons that draw me closer to Him, and for all of you dear readers and fellow prayer warriors.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Miss Antoinette

 

Changes Are Afoot!

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Howdy dear readers!

A lot has been going on as of late, and am sooooo happy to announce some BIG changes coming to this web-site which I am looking forward to, and cannot wait to see how the Lord uses this new chapter of this blog.

My hope and prayer is that it will continue to be a source of encouragement and inspiration to y’all, even in these new changes and yes, even a new look to the site will soon follow.

The Lord has really been placing on my heart to start blogging again. Through much prayer and encouragement from some of you dear readers,  I am going in a different direction than just photography… After a long season of illness and reflecting on what others needs are (not just my own), I feel like the Lord is changing directions for this blog, in sharing more of my thoughts on farm life and what the Lord has been teaching me in His Word during these seasons of sickness, loneliness, singleness, and all the blessed lessons they have been teaching me, along with the happening farm adventures and joyful abundant living in the country!  Photos will still be shared to be sure, but it will supplement the post, and not always be the main focal point of my posts.

So what will the new name of this blog be?   “Hillbilly Blossom” seemed VERY appropriate, as the Lord has grown me in so many ways since moving to the backwoods of Kentucky, I feel like I am “blooming” where God has planted me here as a faithful daughter of the King…a city gal gone hillbilly, living the dream my family and I have prayed about for so long and have been greatly blessed since beginning this venture over 4 years ago!

So be keeping an eye out for new changes that are afoot in my little piece of the blogosphere world. 🙂

“So we Thy people and sheep of Thy pasture will give Thee thanks for ever: we will shew forth Thy praise to all generations.

~Psalm 79:13~

Blessings in Christ,

Miss Antoinette

***PS. Note to subscribers of my blog: You will not have to do anything as far as re-subscribing goes during the transition, because all I am doing is changing the name and URL/domain name to this website, and you should continue to receive your post update emails to my blog as usual, they will just have the new blog name “Hillbilly Blossom” and no longer “Antoinette Joy Photography”.***

To any newcomers: please feel free to follow this blog via email by visiting my “About” page to sign up!  🙂

 

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A Little Retreat To Cumberland Falls (Part 2)

Howdy Y’all!

Day 2 of our adventures were just as spectacular as the days before with more gorgeous views, and sweet fellowship all around.

This day was exploring the other side of the falls, and getting not only a closer look of Cumberland Falls, but a stunning view of a full rainbow glowing in the mist right next to it!

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Then it was onward to our next spot on the trail…

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Took a few moments to get some nice shots of our little group. 🙂

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(a BIG thank you to Mrs. Cassetty for this one. 🙂  )

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Instead of climbing up a tree, I got to comb into one!!! You could have fit two of me in there rather snugly! …And yes, I felt like  little kid again, even if it was not climbing up to the tippy-top of this tree, it was pretty cool to “hid” in one.  haha 😉

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Then it was back to walking the trails and enjoying another gorgeous view of the falls!

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Here is a panorama shot of the falls HERE.

Once we said our farewells to the falls, we headed back on the road just a little ways to visit a little country gift shop that was just adorable!

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…And then just a little further, our last stop before hitting town for a little shopping, was the beautiful Natural Arch!

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Another panorama shot, this time of the Arch, HERE.

The weather was just perfect on this second day of traveling!

God was so good to us in keeping us safe, and giving us such stunning views.

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It was such a very special trip, and know this will probably become an annual thing we do every year, and Lord willing our little group will grow into a bigger crowd next time too!

We were all sad to leave so soon, but ere thankful for the time well spent with sweet friends, and look forward to our next visit at Cumberland Falls Lord willing very soon!

“O Lord, how manifold are Thy works! In wisdom hast Thou made them all: the earth is full of Thy riches.

~Psalm 104:24~

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Blessings in Christ,

Miss Antoinette Joy

A Little Retreat To Cumberland Falls (Part 1)

Greetings in the Lord fellow readers!

With all that has transpired since I last wrote, my dear mother and I were in great need of a nice little getaway with some dear friends, and God graciously did just that recently, and we will never forget that special time of wonder in God’s creation and the sweet fellowship as well for those two whole lovely days!

On this little retreat, we finally got to explore one place on our list of places to see in our home state, and that was the beautiful Cumberland Falls State Park!

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It was so much more beautiful than I could have ever imagined it to be, and took many photos which I would like to share with y’all of this gorgeous place!

This is a *MUST STOP* for any of you visiting the South Eastern side of KY near the TN boarder.

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On the first day of exploration, the four of us hiked the beautiful, and rigorous 3 mile, Eagle Falls Trail!

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Part way, you could see a stunning view of Cumberland Falls below!

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Here is a panorama shot of this lovely view HERE .

Eagle Falls!

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Nothin’ like getting your feet wet at the falls too, to cool off from the heat of the afternoon! 🙂

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We had a beautiful view for our evening meal at the lodge, and enjoyed the wildlife out the window…

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As we retired for the night, our cozy cottage was full of fun conversation and games!

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And thus ended a wonderful day, with such excitement and anticipation for the start of our second day of adventures!

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(Last photo courtesy of a nice random person on the trail)

We were quite exausted from our hike that day, and I think all four of us had not done that much extensive of a “workout” in a long while, but God was so gracious to all of us that day and we will never forget the sweet memories of that precious first day of our little retreat.

“Be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart, all ye that hope in the Lord.”

~Psalm 31:24~

Keep an eye out for part 2 (aka Day 2) of our Cumberland Falls adventures soon!

Soli Deo Gloria,

Miss Antoinette

PS. Due to health issues, I could not take my camera with me on this trip, so all photos were taken on my Samsung Galaxy S6 phone.

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