2.21.2018

Rest and Prepare!


Two weeks ago a group of five women from our Orphan Care ministry gathered on my couch for a time of fellowship, encouragement, and prayer. Some of the women are well-seasoned foster care moms while others are experiencing their first placement. Regardless of the stage, each one had praises to report and requests for prayer and we enjoyed a rich time of mutually encouraging one another in this season of life.

After each woman shared her story, one of them looked at me and said, "You haven't shared your story, Michelle! How can we pray for you?" It took me a second to collect my thoughts because I was so focused on the foster-care/birth parent/social worker pieces of the conversation that I didn't think I had anything to offer. After a brief pause, I responded, "Honestly? I am enjoying the season of calm the Lord has us in right now. After an incredibly difficult season last school year, and a trying summer, it feels quite nice to be living in a time of peace on all fronts. However, we never get to stay in the eye of the storm long - for growth happens in the whirlwinds. My prayer is, 'Lord, prepare us for what is to come!'"

And I can see Him doing so already.
Spiritually - He has given me an intense desire, and need, to read and study Scripture.
Emotionally - He has me surrounded by godly people who encourage me and speak truth.
Intellectually - He has me devouring biographies of giants of the faith and I am learning much.
Physically - He convicted me to focus on nutrition and exercise, and I am growing stronger daily.

I find it interesting that He is equally pushing me in all four areas rather than one or two, and while I would never hope for trials, I am trusting that He is indeed preparing me for what is to come whether small or large or a combination thereof.

I love this image of a storm, with the eye so clearly visible smack dab in the center. The winds swirl and rage, but there is one small spot that is free from all of the chaos. A small space in which to rest, revive, and take deep breaths before heading back into the whirling winds. For as we know - we must always go back inside the storm because it is in the tumbling and tumult that we are stretched and refined the most.

Times of peace allow us to strengthen ourselves through the Word, prayer, fellowship, and worship. Like an athlete preparing for a race, we can focus on the training. The race has not started, so we plan and prepare and sharpen our skills so when the starting gun pops - we are READY!

The dictionary defines an "eye of the storm" this way:
1. (Lit.) the area of calm in the center of a tornado, hurricane, or cyclone.
2. (Fig.) a temporary peaceful time amidst more trouble and strife yet to come.

I love this! It shows that though time in the eye is peaceful, it is also temporary.
While we should thoroughly enjoy a Divine respite, we cannot grow stagnant, proud, or comfortable. We must use the quiet for equal rest and preparation so we are fully equipped to handle the coming storm.

As I thought about this, I was reminded of these verses:

She dresses herself with strength and makes her arms strong.
Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she smiles at the future. Proverbs 31:17, 25


He is not afraid of bad news; his heart is firm, trusting in the Lord. Psalm 112:7

If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small. Proverbs 24:10


O, Lord, I want to be a woman who praises You as loudly IN the storms as she does when the storms have ceased. I can only see what is right in front of me, but You see from the beginning of time into all eternity. You know my weaknesses, my failings, and my fears. Refine each one so I can become a woman of strength. A woman who is fully aware of and fully surrendered to the strength that holds me up, pushes me forward, and keeps me from falling. On my own, I can do nothing, but if I abide in You I can do anything. Thank You, Father, for being a gracious, loving, and powerful God who always keeps His arms open so His children can run into them - and feel safe.

May integrity and uprightness preserve me, for I wait for You. Psalm 25:21

2.17.2018

A Titus 2 Night - for our son!


Last night, a group of older, godly men came together to offer words of wisdom and encouragement to our oldest son, Micah, as he begins his pilgrimage into the adult world.
There were over 800 years of life represented by these men! 800 years of experience, maturity, growth, mistakes, successes, sorrows and joy - and they poured all of them into our son.
What a privilege it is to be a part of the body of Christ!
Discipleship is a beautiful part of the Christian life, and last night our son was able to witness it first hand as each man shared something purposeful and poignant about his own walk with the Lord with the hope of encouraging Micah to seek hard after God all the days of his life.
It is a blessing to walk through life with godly men who willingly and consistently invest in our sons. Dennis and I know full well that we are not enough for our boys. Though the Lord purposefully chose us as their parents, He also surrounded them with godly men and women who have much to offer and who faithfully affirm the truths of Scripture. It is truly humbling. ♥And we are grateful.♥

Dennis chose to take notes in order to document the wisdom spoken by the men so Micah would be able to look back and remember this incredible night. He also received several letters from family members and friends who were not able to attend, and their words were equally uplifting and thought-provoking. I hope you find these thoughts encouraging, just as the men did!

➢Make a great use of time because the days are evil. Life is a vapor that goes by quickly. Redeem every moment. O Lord, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am! Behold, you have made my days a few handbreadths, and my lifetime is as nothing before you. Psalm 39:4, 5

➢Remember the words of Paul in Colossians 4:5, "Walk in wisdom towards outsiders making the best use of your time for the glory of God."

➢Do not rely on your own strength. Your attitude should always be: As the LORD wills.
Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit” - yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” James 4:13-15

➢Often in life, we are concerned about who we are pleasing. We are worried about our friends, spouse, family… The great aim should be to live a glorious life in a way that pleases the Lord.
Ask often, “Lord what pleases You?”
So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please Him. II Corinthians 5:6-9

➢Remind yourself daily, “It is not about me.”

➢Be a man of Respect. Respect for the Lord, respect for your family, respect for others.
Respect is earned through righteous living. Be that man.
Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us. Titus 2:7, 8

➢Who will you serve? 
Teach me to do your will, for you are my God! Let your good Spirit lead me on level ground!
Psalm 143:10 

➢You must be teachable. Be willing to be led by the Spirit of the Lord.
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
II Timothy 3:16, 17

➢Surround yourself with good friends who will build you up in the Lord, not just provide a good time.
Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another. Proverbs 17:17

➢Always be known as a hard worker. 
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

➢Have integrity.
Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but he who makes his ways crooked will be found out. Proverbs 10:9

➢Be honest.
Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, but those who act faithfully are his delight. Proverbs 12:22

➢Watch what you say - your words matter.
Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. Ephesians 4:29

➢Be humble - the man who fears the Lord walks humbly.
For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
Luke 14:11

➢The center of all things is Jesus Christ. He must be your focus.
For from Him and through Him and for Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever! Amen. Romans 11:36

➢Be consistent.
Be excellent in the little things.
Be courageous. Be ready to stand when no one else is willing to stand.
Be Christ-centered (Romans 12). Your life is not your own.

➢You cannot impress people with Christ when you are trying to impress them with yourself.

➢To get to the heartbeat of Christ you must listen to His words. Read your Bible.
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. Psalm 119:105

➢Seek wise counsel. Seek wisdom. Seek the Lord. Live your life in such a way that you do not have to apologize.
But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. James 3:17

➢Never become afraid to ask questions. Be vulnerable to godly men. Do not let pride prevent you from seeking the Lord and asking questions about what you do not know.
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. James 1:5

➢Personal responsibility is yours.
You are responsible for how you respond to choices and how you prepare for opportunities.
For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But each one must examine his own work, and then he will have reason for boasting in regard to himself alone, and not in regard to another. For each one will bear his own load. Galatians 6:3-5

➢Walk in the way you have been raised in the Lord.
I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go; I will counsel you with My eye upon you. Psalm 32:8

➢Two words: “Be Thankful.”
Going through trials and tribulations (big or small) will produce opportunities to learn and grow.
Praise the Lord! Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!
Psalm 106:1



Dennis gave our son a personal charge and presented him with his own sword to one day put in his own home to remind him that he is a Soldier for Christ.
Protect the Innocent.
Defend the Weak.
Fight the enemy.
Stand Firm in the Faith.

Micah's name means "Who is like the Lord," so Dennis ended the night praying that Micah would be a man who thinks, speaks, and acts - like Jesus.
May it be so, Lord. Please, may it be so!

2.16.2018

This and That.

Happy Friday!
Another week is complete.
And it was a good week.
My COMMITTED girls came together Monday night to study Scripture, pray, and encourage one another in our personal struggles and joys. How much they refresh me!
Wednesday night Dennis and I had the privilege of participating in a Newlywed Game for the youth group - and we had a blast! Our youth leader wanted to do something fun in honor of Valentine's Day, so he had three couples on stage to try and answer random questions about each other. We said "yes" when he asked us to be one of the couples and then looked at each other and laughed. We both said, "Well, Michelle could not care less about trivial things and Dennis is not attentive, so our chances of winning are pretty small." HA! We ended up in a tie, but the other couple won the tie-breaker. Though I have spent my life avoiding looking stupid, I actually enjoyed playing and laughed almost the entire time. I LOVE being with people who can make me laugh!
Thursday I enjoyed three full hours of peace at the hair salon and had my hair chopped off. I left feeling rested and about three pounds lighter. (I have a lot of hair!)
Tonight our house will be filled with 20 men who willingly chose to celebrate Micah's 18th birthday. We invited older, godly men to share words of wisdom and encouragement with Micah and trust the Lord will use the time for His glory and Micah's good. (How I wish I could be a fly on the wall to hear them share their hearts!)

Our family friend Caleb is spending the weekend with us!
He made the trek from Arizona so he could participate in Micah's 18th Night of Encouragement, and we are thankful!
Everyone Eastman enjoys him and we are better because we know him!
He arrived late last night, so Josiah, Isaiah, and Ellie were eagerly waiting for him to wake up this morning. As soon as he opened his eyes they asked, "Can we do a workout with you?!?"
And because he is Caleb, he said YES!

When Micah works the later shift at Chick-fil-A, Luke and Caleb always hop in the car when Dennis goes to retrieve him.
Other than wanting to spend time with their dad, I could not for the life of me figure out why they made it such a priority. They NEVER miss going unless they are not home.
And then one night, all four of us went together - and the mystery was solved.
When CFA closes the store, they have to wash every single piece of equipment so they are clean and ready for preparing freshly made products the next morning.
Since the contents of those pieces of equipment contain items such as sweet tea and soft-serve ice cream, the managers have two choices - throw out the leftovers or offer them to the handful of guests still in the restaurant at 9:59 p.m.
And guess who is sitting in a booth waiting for the offer? MY GUYS.
Well played, gentlemen. Well played!

~~~ Tomorrow afternoon/evening we have our Orphan Care Family Connection. The families come together, bringing their own picnic dinner, and we play outdoor games, talk, and enjoy a few hours of casual conversation and connection.
We started this activity last fall, and so far it has been a big hit!
It is easy to get moms and kids together, but difficult to get all of the men in the same place. This proved to be a perfect solution! Bonding through healthy competition and food - what could be better for guys? <grin>
I have been grateful for being trusted as the Orphan Care Coordinator since the day our family pastor allowed be the position. As time goes by, however, I am humbled more and more as these families, specifically the women, allow me into their lives and their hearts.
They have changed me forever - and I LOVE it!

It has been such a blessing to care for baby Josiah these past six weeks.
All the Eastman children find joy in him, and he is never without arms around him for more than a few minutes at a time.
I snapped this photo when Luke wasn't looking because it made me smile.
One of my main goals as a mother is to prepare my sons to be great husbands and great fathers. I want my daughter-in-laws to thank me, not despise me.
We have trained our guys to clean an entire house, cook, do laundry, take care of babies and children, do physical labor, work while going to school, and serve others in any way they need help.
They will have much more learning to pursue once they become husbands and fathers, but they will not go in completely unprepared or lacking all skills - and for that I am grateful.
An image like this makes all the years of training totally worth it!

I am just about finished with this fantastic biography. Wow - what a life!
When you read about the ugly truth of his early days as a boy, teen, and young man before he surrendered his life to the Lord it makes the impact of the much-loved hymn "Amazing Grace" all the sweeter.
“Whoever is truly humbled will not be easily angry, nor harsh or critical of others. He will be compassionate and tender to the infirmities of his fellow-sinners, knowing that if there is a difference, it is grace alone which has made it! He knows that he has the seeds of every evil in his own heart. And under all trials and afflictions, he will look to the hand of the Lord, and lay his mouth in the dust, acknowledging that he suffers much less than his iniquities have deserved.” - John Newton
“Although my memory's fading, I remember two things very clearly: I am a great sinner and Christ is a great Savior.”  - John Newton


~~~ May your weekend be filled with unexpected delights and multiple opportunities to encourage others and serve in unique ways!

2.14.2018

My FAVORITES!


I loved spending "love day" with these people!


We started a new tradition this year.
I found this idea on the internet and thought, "That is brilliant!"
Paper hearts filled with words of encouragement and kindness taped to the bedroom door so when the kids wake up they are greeted with LOVE.

I wasn't sure our children would share my enthusiasm, but they did!
Josiah, Isaiah, and Ellie were laughing and running back and forth to read each other's notes, and the teens approached me with big smiles and gave me a hug when they discovered their hearts. 

Thank you to whoever shared this idea! It was a HIT. And we will be doing it again!

2.12.2018

Happy 18th Birthday, Micah!


 18 years.
We have been blessed to call you our son every day you have been alive, Micah Steven.

You are a thoughtful
hard-working
tender-hearted
funny
affectionate
musical
and intelligent young man. 

You make others feel valued and welcome.
You think deeply and love with loyalty.
You are an excellent friend and a kind brother.
You are willing to serve even when you don't feel like serving.
You willingly observe the moods and emotions of others and are quick to offer a hug or word of encouragement when needed.
You are faithful to those you love and quick to support and defend when they are attacked.

Micah Steven Eastman - you are an amazing young man with many gifts and many strengths.
I know you do not always see them, or think they matter, but they do.
Regardless of what you accomplish or how successful you are in the eyes of man, you were lovingly and purposefully created in the image of the God of the universe.
And that, my dear firstborn son - is ENOUGH.
You were fearfully and wonderfully made.
God called you to Himself - and you responded, "Yes, Lord!"

And now, you have the rest of your life to follow where He leads, trust Him in all things, cry out to Him when you feel weak and alone, lean on Him when your own strength is gone, and rejoice every day because He has a purpose for YOU in each one He has made.

I love you, son.
I fell in love with you the moment I knew you existed, and I fell in love with you all over again the moments I saw your face and held your tiny body.
You are my son. My firstborn. And I adore you.

Happy Birthday, Micah.
I love you.♥ 
Mom

2.09.2018

A night of friendship and fun!


I got to spend a whole evening with this sister - and it was wonderful!
Instead of meeting at a restaurant, we chose to WALK & TALK so we could exercise and enjoy the fresh night air while catching up on life.
We covered four miles in three hours without one pause in our conversation.
She makes me laugh, she makes me think,
and we purposely choose to encourage one another in the faith.
I always walk away from Beth feeling encouraged and refreshed.
She is a JOY and I am thankful that she calls me friend.
Love you, sister! 💗

2.08.2018

A hearty AMEN to this quote!

The true Christian hates sin,
flees from it,
fights against it,
considers it his greatest plague,
resents the burden of its presence,
mourns when he falls under its influence,
and longs to be completely delivered from it.
- J. C. Ryle


If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins
and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
I John 1:8-9

Thank You, Lord, that you are a God who forgives, a God who heals, and a God who restores.
May we pray like the Psalmist when he was utterly overwhelmed and repentant of his own sin ... "Have mercy on me, O God, according to Your steadfast love; according to Your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me."
For You are a God who extends mercy and grace to Your children. Even when we deserve neither.

2.06.2018

Learning through SERVING!


We have been caring for baby Josiah for one month.
He spends 20 hours with us each week, and my children adore him!

Micah and Luke learned how to care for babies and toddlers because they had four younger siblings.
They fed them, bathed them, changed diapers, played with them, read to them, and pushed them around the neighborhood in a stroller. There were countless opportunities to learn the skills needed to take care of children in our home, and Micah and Luke stepped up to the plate willingly and often.

When Josiah, Isaiah, and Ellie started to grow up, I realized they would not have the same opportunity to serve younger siblings or learn the important skills of childcare on a daily basis.
Something had to be done!
I was seriously considering asking friends if we could borrow their babies/toddlers once a week. The parents would get a needed reprieve, and my children would gain hands-on experience. It seemed a perfect match! And yet, how many mothers want to surrender their precious bundles into the hands of five, six, and eight-year-old children? Not as many as you might think.

Just as I was about to give up, the Lord intervened.
He sent me to the beach to meet a friend. A friend who was fostering three small children and needed someone to step up and help bear the heavy load they were carrying at the time. The Lord had already worked in our family to surrender ourselves to orphan care, so when my friend sat on the sand with giant tears rolling down her cheeks, I knew without a doubt that her orphans were the first ones we would serve. And it was one of the BEST things we have ever done for our children. They have sacrificed their time, energy, and personal desires for two years - and they are better because of it. 
From the outside looking in it may appear that we are serving them, but the truth is, the benefits we receive because the Guskes trust us with their children are of equal and great value.

And now, here we are, with an opportunity to serve a new family in a unique way.
I knew Josiah, Isaiah, and Ellie would love having a baby in the house, but I was not prepared for their eagerness to serve a baby.
They actually fight over who will feed him, hold him, push the stroller, get him after his nap, sit by him in the van, and get this - change his diaper! As much as the arguing drives me batty, I gleefully give them a string of 10's for ENTHUSIASM! And pray it will not fade.

Once again, I find myself incredibly grateful that a woman trusts our family to look after her precious baby boy. We provide a warm, loving, safe place for her son - and she provides my children with a fantastic opportunity to sacrifice, surrender, and serve. 

Thank You, Lord, for faithfully bringing our family together with other families, at just the right time, for just the right purpose, and with equal trust. May we be a family who is quick to serve with willing, passionate, and grateful hearts whenever You bring a need before us.
And may our motivation always be fueled by love.

2.05.2018

Joy IS possible!

Sunday proved to be a lovely day of worship and fellowship!
I was privileged to enjoy a short but purposeful conversation with a cherished young couple whom we love.
Worship was sweet.
I saw one of our former COMMITTED members who happened to be visiting in California and was able to rejoice in her recent engagement. (Congratulations, Kaylan!)
The class I attend the second hour was lively and relevant.
And the sermon preached by our faithful Shepherd? WONderful!

I am sharing my notes here because the truths of this message are applicable to everyone, whether three or 93. I pray you will be encouraged to find JOY in every day, even the most trying ones.
Happy Monday!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! Philippians 4:4

JOY should be the distinguishing mark of a Christian.

➤ The COMMAND
Rejoice in the Lord!

- Joy is a choice. A decision.
- We CHOOSE joy - or - we choose apathy, despair, worry, despondency, and complaining.

✦Joy is the result of a forced focus on Christ.✦

This is the day the Lord has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it. Psalm 118:24
Good or bad, trying or easy, difficult or sublime, the Lord God created this day and sovereignly allows all that happens within it. Though we may not "like" what the day brings forth, we can still praise Him and rejoice in the DAY even if we cannot rejoice in the circumstances.

- We can will ourselves to rejoice. (We often need to do so!)
- Joy is a habit of the heart.
- Joy is a defiant "nevertheless."
It requires us to take our eyes OFF of our circumstances and focus them solely on Christ.
"I have been diagnosed with a disease, nevertheless, I have a loving husband to walk through it with me."
"My children live far away so I cannot see them often, nevertheless, we call each other and have video chats every week so we can stay connected."
- Joy is not a child of emotion. Joy is an ATTITUDE.

Example: George Müller
“The first great and primary business to which I ought to attend every day is to have my soul happy in the Lord."
REJOICE in the Lord always!

The CONNECTION
"Rejoice IN THE LORD always ..."

- The Lord is the only one we can rejoice in all.the.time - for He never changes!
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Hebrews 13:8

➛You might not be able to rejoice in your LOSS
but you can rejoice in the LORD.
➛You might not be able to rejoice in the SITUATION
but you can rejoice in your SAVIOR.
➛You might not be able to rejoice in your HEALTH 
but you can rejoice in your HIGH PRIEST.
➛You might not be able to rejoice in your RELATIONSHIPS
but you can rejoice in your REDEEMER.
➛You might not be able to rejoice in your SUFFERING
but you can rejoice in your SHEPHERD.

Joy is the result of abiding in Jesus Christ.
Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 
I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, it is he that bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. 
As the Father has loved Me, so have I loved you. Abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in His love.
These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.
John 15: 4-6, 9-11

The CONSTANCY
"Rejoice in the Lord ALWAYS."

Always = at all times, on all occasions

- There is no loophole in this command. We are to rejoice ALWAYS. Every day and all day.
- Rejoicing is an attitude of praise!

IMPORTANT! (Especially for those with discouraged, despondent, and depressed hearts/minds.)
- Joy is easy to express when the sun is shining on your face and the wind is at your back.
- Joy is difficult to find when thunderclouds roll overhead and the rain pelts your flesh.
And yet, JOY IS POSSIBLE because it is not found in our circumstances - but in our SAVIOR!

Lord, thank You for this wonderful message from Your Word! Make us a people who choose to praise You and rejoice in Your goodness even on the most difficult of days. Joy is a choice, and when we choose to rejoice instead of whine, You are glorified. People are always watching Christians. They watch our reactions to tragedy. They witness our attitudes in the small frustrations of life. They judge You by the way we live. Make us faithful stewards of Your Word, Your truth, and Your commands so we can be a refreshing and lovely fragrance of contentment and JOY when You give - and - when You take away. You are always faithful - always merciful - and always willing to forgive and restore those who fall before You in humility. Because You never change, we CAN rejoice in You ALWAYS and FOREVER, for You are - always GOOD!

1.29.2018

Trading enemies for treasure.


“Whatever keeps me from my Bible is an enemy, however harmless it appears to be.” 
- A. W. Tozer

The older I get the more this statement rings true.
I wish I had always seen every 'reason' for not reading my Bible as an enemy.

Classes.
Homework.
Chores.
Errands.
Holidays.
Vacations.
Social events.
Time with family and friends.
Fatigue.
Work.
Trials.
Stress.

Though none of these are sinful or wrong, they cannot be used as excuses for neglecting God's Word.

This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth,
but you shall meditate on it day and night,
so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. 
For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success.
Joshua 1:8

Even at the age of 46, I have to fight the laziness and apathy of the flesh when it wants to keep me from the Scriptures. I could give reason after reason for not reading. Children's needs, lesson plans, serving Dennis, running a home, ministry, and the list goes on. But the truth is, even with all of the demands on my time on any given day, I always make time for the things I want to do.

I am given the same 24 hours that were used by Spurgeon, Müller, Elliot, Carmichael, Moody, and Taylor. They were not gifted one extra hour in the day, yet they accomplished more for the Lord in one decade than most accomplish in a lifetime.
And they did so after faithfully, consistently, purposely seeking the Lord - first - each day.

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on His law he meditates day and night.
He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.
Psalm 1:1-3

“Whatever keeps me from my Bible is an enemy, however harmless it appears to be.” 

Lord, make me a woman who sees every reason, every excuse to keep me from making time to read Your Word and pray - as an enemy. And may I always be prepared to fight those enemies with the very treasure I most want to possess - the Sword of Truth.

1.28.2018

Yes!

Legacy is not about what people will say about you when you are gone.
Legacy is about what they did differently because they met you.
- Jack Easterly

1.26.2018

Kicking off the weekend - at the beach!

Even on a cold and windy day, sometimes you just need to be - at the BEACH!
The older boys had plans, so Dennis, Josiah, Isaiah, Ellie and I piled into the Thunder Bus and spent the evening walking several miles while enjoying the view, taking in a lovely sunset, talking and laughing, and sharing a snack at Ruby's Diner.
It was a wonderful way to begin the weekend!☀️💨🌴





Repentance matters - and restoration brings JOY!

Have mercy on me, O God, according to Your steadfast love;
according to Your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin!
For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.
Against You, You only, have I sinned and done what is evil in Your sight,
so that You may be justified in Your words and blameless in Your judgment.
Behold, You delight in truth in the inward being, and You teach me wisdom in the secret heart.
Hide Your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities.
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from Your presence, and take not Your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.

Psalm 51:1-4, 6, 9-12

Sunday morning was WONderful!
Every Eastman was healthy, so all eight of us were able to go to church - together.
I was most excited as I had missed three weeks of worship while staying home to care for our children.
One of my favorite parts of Sunday is sitting quietly in the sanctuary reading my Bible before the service begins. Reading God's Word is always a sweet and sacred time, but there is something precious about reading it in the house of the Lord and in the presence of the saints. I cherish those minutes and am always refreshed when I close the Bible and join in corporate worship. 
Sunday is my day to soak in the Psalms. I feel like the quiet solitude of the sanctuary is a perfect setting in which to read the encouraging and soothing words found within the book.

Psalm 51 was the chapter for the day. A familiar passage that is used to comfort sinners when they have chosen to disregard God's commands and find themselves overwhelmed and burdened by their sin, just as David did two thousand years ago. Though a Psalm of repentance, where the author's agony over his sin is evident, the language is beautiful and draws our thoughts toward God.
Have mercy on me, O God, according to Your steadfast love.
according to Your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions.
Even as David confesses his sin, He acknowledges God's attributes and offers up PRAISE.

There were two verses the Lord kept forcing my eyes to read again. Verses three and six.
For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.
Behold, You delight in truth in the inward being, and You teach me wisdom in the secret heart.
They fit together so well, for it is important that we identify and acknowledge our sin - by name - so we can confess it and repent of it. We cannot confess what we do not know.
A blanket statement, "forgive me of my sins," does not create knowledge of our transgressions.
We must ask the Lord to bring all of our unconfessed sins to mind - "my sin is ever before me" - so we can have "truth in the inward being."
Lord, I gossiped about a family member. Forgive me and guard my tongue.
Father, I did not speak truth when confronted. Forgive me for lying.
Dear God, I had no self-control yesterday, eating like a glutton, and I was lazy, refusing to move my body. Forgive me for not taking care of myself.
Lord, I am so quick to anger. I let the sun go down without surrendering it to You, and I am in sin when I let that happen. Please, forgive me, remove all bitterness, anger, malice, and wrath, and replace them with Your peace.
After detailed confession and repentance, I have spoken truth to the Lord, and to myself.
He is delighted. And I am forgiven.

Once forgiveness happens, there is restoration and joy!
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from Your presence, and take not Your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.


Thank You, Lord, for such mercy and grace! We do not deserve it, yet You give it in abundance, day after day after day.

1.25.2018

An excellent and most encouraging letter!

This, one of many letters written by John Newton which were compiled into a book, was waiting for me in my inbox a few days ago. And I LOVED it!
Oh, to be able to write like this!
It is no wonder that he remains an honored, cherished, and beloved brother in the Lord almost two centuries after his birth. Truth. He speaks wonderful, encouraging, biblical TRUTH. And for this, I am thankful.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

My Dear Madam,
I perceive that your heavenly Father has again put you into the furnace, and I trust that He will divinely impress upon your heart, that there is a needs be for it - and that the outcome of your present trial shall surely end in good to your soul.

His Word tells us that trials are absolutely necessary, and why they are so - as He would not afflict those whom He loves, but for their real profit. So He chooses those afflictions for us, and appoints them for us at such seasons, and attended with such circumstances - as He sees will be (all things considered) most for our spiritual advantage. The afflictions and trials of His people are always sent, either to cure - or to prevent something still worse.

Satan is compared to a fowler, and we sometimes are as little upon our guard as a thoughtless bird -the danger is close to us, but we are not aware of it. But, as a sudden noise affrights the bird, and makes it take wing and escape the snare - so the Lord often disappoints the devices of the enemy, by sending a seasonable trial to His dear children, which arouses them, and makes them flee to Him for safety.

He is a good master to serve - I have found Him to be so for thirty years.

Cheer up, dear Madam, the Lord does all things well! Do not be afraid of storms - for you have an infallible Pilot who will guide you with His eye, uphold you with His arm, and is every minute bringing you nearer to the harbor of eternal rest and peace!

What changes of weather have we passed through, since the seeds of grace were first sown in our hearts! How often have we been ready to murmur at the appointments of the Heavenly Gardener! How hardly could we be persuaded that the afflictions, temptations, and trials which we have been exercised with - have, in their places, been no less subservient to our growth, than the more pleasing sunshine we have been sometimes favored with?

Yet, I trust, we are still growing and getting forward. Neither frost or floods have been able to destroy us; and Oh, Madam, (may our hearts rejoice at the thought!) the harvest is approaching! When He sees that we are fully ripe - when all that He has designed to do for us, in us, and by us, is completed - then He will separate us from these clods of earth, and remove us into His dwelling place, where we shall be done with fears and trials forever!

We shall not then live this poor dying life - neither shall we have to complain of an evil heart of unbelief. We shall not complain of a cold and careless heart - because we shall be at the fountain-head of all our best wishes and desires! We shall be enjoying, through eternal ages, that ineffable bliss which is prepared for all who love God, and who have been called by divine grace, out of the service of sin, Satan, and the world - to love and serve Him who is the Rock of eternal ages. Yes, my dear Madam, we shall, with unspeakable delight - see Jesus as He is, and be completely like Him! Let us, then, not be weary in well doing; for, in due season, we shall reap, if we fail not.

I am, my dear Madam,
Your obliged and affectionate Servant,
John Newton

(Letters of John Newton)

1.22.2018

A Marvelous Monday!

We found a wonderful way to begin a Monday.
Spending it in a Redwood Forest!
It was the perfect day for it, too.
A shining sun.
A blue sky.
A temperature of 70 degrees.
Exactly what we needed to enjoy a day of walking, catching a football, playing with sticks, and exploring.
This Redwood oasis is tucked into a local park, and we will most definitely return to enjoy more days like this one!
It truly was - a marvelous Monday!









(This photo makes me laugh! Clearly, Luke and I did not get the "make a ridiculous face memo.")

1.20.2018

50 Days of Dennis is complete - and will always be remembered!

When I first presented the "50 Days of Dennis" to my husband, he wasn't quite sure what to do with it. He felt like there was a spotlight shining on him and he did not want people thinking he was seeking attention for two months straight. To those who know him well this may sound odd since he is a gifted speaker, an excellent teacher, and is virtually uninhibited in front of a crowd. The difference, however, is that those moments are not about him, but about his message.
Within the first week, however, he was thoroughly enjoying the incredibly thoughtful and kind words, letters, gifts, and dates with friends and family who wanted to share in the celebration of his 50 years of life. He was overwhelmed by their generosity and affection and is still shaking his head in awe that so many people chose to be a part of sharing in the joy of the years God has given him on earth.

My original goal was to capture a photo of Dennis with everyone who participated in the 50 Days, but it was not a realistic one. Since I collected most of the items ahead of time, very few people actually presented their letters/gifts in person. I was able to document a few of them, however, for which I am thankful!

It was a joy to watch him open or do something every day. Witnessing the effect of the daily affirmations was an excellent reminder of how important, encouraging, and even life-changing a few words of kindness can be in a person's life. Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body. Proverbs 16:24

Final result? "50 Days of Dennis" was a SUCCESS!


Mom and Dad Eastman 


Dennis and Denise - a beautiful brother and sister duo!
Denise has the privilege of saying she actually stunned Dennis into SILENCE when she presented him the gift of an all-expense paid trip to ISRAEL!
I love that they will get to experience this - together.


Dennis' birth family - Mom (Sue), sister Amy, brother Joel, and sister Natalie 


Mom and Bill


Doug and Stephanie


The Bracey trio!


Our mentors and friends - Tim and Ginger Geftakys


The Mañalacs - Dennis and Sara taught and coached together at Lutheran High.
She and her boys baked one of the three sweets that Dennis allows in his mouth - 
homemade chocolate chip cookies. And they were delicious!


Most creative gift! 
50 cans of one of D's favorite drinks - Kerns Guava Nectar - from our Guskes!
Including all of D's life mantras written out on cards tucked in between the layers.


Modeling the (now favorite sweatshirt) gift from my brother, CC, and our nieces and nephews 
incuding a classy Cross pen.


Funniest gift! (from the Dusters)
A gift card to Sidecar Donuts attached to a printed image of one of D's lesser-known mantras 
(unless you were one of his football players, athletes in the weight room, or workout partners):
"I never put low octane fuel in the Ferrari!"
HA! HA!


John and Denise Lopez


50 years looks good on you, D! I love you!

1.19.2018

Attitude is a choice.

Amy Carmichael's name has a permanent place on my Top 20 list of godly men and women I most admire. Her passion and absolute refusal to care about what people thought when she was obeying God's calling in a unique and nontraditional manner are astounding. Her energy, hard work, and ability to accomplish more in a day than most accomplish in a month would make the strongest man groan. And her unwavering trust in the Lord is inspiring. I have read her biography three times now, and am confident I will turn the pages again in my lifetime.

I am currently reading the children's version of her story to Josiah, Isaiah, and Ellie (we are focusing on missionaries this year), and came across this excerpt. It gives a wonderful glimpse into the heart, mind, and character of Amy Carmichael. She had an unyielding opinion that Christian men and women have no business whining, complaining, being lazy, or quarreling among themselves because each one keeps the unsaved from seeing the beauty of the Gospel - and the Savior. And she led by example.

"Finally, Amy boarded the SS ____ bound for Shanghai. Unlike the other ship, this one was a nightmare, with rats, and cockroaches infesting the vessel. For Amy, it brought back memories of living in the slums of Ancoats. But instead of complaining about the conditions of the ship, Amy found a large piece of cardboard, on which she wrote the words, "In Everything Give Thanks." She placed the cardboard by her bunk where she could read it before she went to sleep every night."
The result:
"Amy lived out what she had written because she made a big impact on the captain during the voyage. He told her he had never seen a passenger who had such a positive attitude amid the poor conditions on his ship. During the trip, he questioned Amy over and over about her faith until he finally announced he wanted to become a Christian just like her. Of course, Amy was delighted, and more so when he asked her to write out some Bible verses on cardboard so he could stick them on the walls of his cabin. It was his way of announcing to the whole crew he was now a Christian."

I keep thinking about this.
There is nothing wrong with stating reality.
"Rats and cockroaches infest the ship."
"My body aches."
"Our budget is tight and there is no extra."
"My job requires long hours."
"I am still single."
"My children and grandchildren live far away."
These are facts. Truths.

But it is wrong to complain about reality. Thus saith the Lord.

Do all things without grumbling or disputing; so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world... Philippians 2:14, 15

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. I Thessalonians 5:18

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Philippians 4:4

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. I Thessalonians 5:16-18

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. Psalm 23:1


"But instead of complaining ... Amy found a large piece of cardboard, on which she wrote the words,
"In Everything Give Thanks."
May we all emulate the obedience of Amy Carmichael. 
For our attitude truly is - a choice.

1.17.2018

A friend and a flame. My heart's desire.

I don't think it is a coincidence that my New Year's desire has been supported by continual quotes, readings, and sermons about the importance and beauty of Scripture that have been presented to me since the first of January. The Lord is trying to drive the point home with complete clarity. I feel like He is whispering in my ear ... "I want you to KNOW My Word, Michelle. The theme, the stories, the characters, the commands, the cautions, and the promises. Read it, memorize it, meditate on it, FEAST on it, and hide it in your heart. Everything you need for life lies between the pages. Dig for the truths. Search for wisdom. Seek ME. I reveal Myself in My Word. If you seek Me there - you will find Me."
And that is exactly what I want. To KNOW God. Fully, completely, intimately.

But it does not just happen.
Knowing God requires an active, intentional, and purposeful pursuit.
Seek the Lord and His strength; seek His presence continually! I Chronicles 16:11
He reveals Himself in the pages of Scripture, and we have full access to Him through prayer because of the death of His Son. 
Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us, therefore, come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:14-16

Scripture.
Prayer.
Everything we need is tucked securely within them.
Praise God for such wonderful gifts!

I am currently reading the biography of John Huss (Jan Hus), a man who lived in the 14th century. In the first several chapters, the author describes the times in which he lived, and the men who influenced his unshakable devotion to His Savior. Matthias of Janow was one of these men, and I love the author's portrayal of him.
"Janow compared his own religious awakening to a religious fire which had entered his heart, and whose flames burned brighter as he lifted up his soul in prayer to God and to Jesus Christ, the crucified. The Bible had been his friend and bride from his youth up. It was to him the mother of love and knowledge. 'I have used in my writings,' he says, 'the Bible above all else ... because the Scriptures occur to me quickly and copiously and because the most divine truths are there set forth most lucidly and self-evidently ... I have always found in and through them satisfactory explanations for every question and consolation for my soul in all my persecutions, troubles, and sadness. I always flee for refuge to the Bible, which is my dearest friend.'"

This too is my prayer. That my Bible will be my dearest friend and closest companion throughout life, and that my heart will be aflame with a love for God that cannot be quenched.
May it be so, Lord, may it be so!

1.14.2018

AMEN!

A calm hour with God is worth a whole lifetime with man.
- Robert Murray M'Cheyne

*
*
*

You are my hiding place and my shield; I hope in Your word. Psalm 119:114

1.13.2018

This and that.

It's SATURDAY!
Dennis and the teens are up in Big Bear with the youth group, and my brother and sis-in-law are down visiting for the weekend. Woohoo!
This was the first week that every Eastman was healthy, so it was a GREAT week, and we are praising God for protecting and healing our family.
The sun is out, the sky is blue, my children are playing outside as they wait to celebrate their cousin's third birthday, worship music is playing, and tonight I will get to enjoy several hours with my sisters. This is a splendid Saturday! Thank You, Father, for such a gift!

When you don't have cable television, this is how you participate in Sunday/Monday/Thursday/Saturday night football - playing Madden Football on your iPad!
Micah, Luke, and Caleb loved this game when they were young (and still do), so they introduced it to their siblings. It took all of an hour for Josiah, Isaiah, and Ellie to join in the fun of choosing teams, players, making plays, and cheering or booing when they win or lose.
I am so glad they enjoy simple things!

I am thrilled that I was f i n a l l y able to get my children interested in puzzles.
I have tried and tried over the years, but not one of them had the patience to engage in the long hours of putting one together. Until now!
They work on it on their own, they work together, they ask me and Dennis to help, and they celebrate EVERY time they fit a new piece into the puzzle.
I think my favorite part, however, is that it provides a quiet and relaxed time for conversation that would not happen otherwise. We have conquered 500 pieces, time to move up to 1,000!

The Lord has blessed us with the privilege of caring for a sweet six-month-old baby for the next three months.
Meet Baby Josiah!
This little guy may never learn to crawl or walk, however, because he is always being held by an Eastman.
There is no shortage of love, arms, or attention for him in this house!
Not only do I love that we are able to serve his mom in this way, it is also a delight to watch Josiah, Isaiah, and Ellie be attentive, thoughtful, and serve him the entire time he is with us.
Servanthood begins when children are young ... the sooner they learn to serve others, getting outside of their own wants and needs, the better! And I am incredibly thankful the Lord has provided this opportunity for them to do so.
It is also encouraging to see their enthusiasm for babies and small children because it reminds me how the Lord has prepared all eight Eastmans for foster care. I can't wait for the day the Lord gives us a green light to enter the foster care system so we can welcome baby after baby into our home - our lives - and our hearts. ♥

We studied the life of Samson this week. He is such a mess of sin and surrender, isn't he?
After talking about this prophet of God and reading about him in Scripture, we needed an activity to make it "stick."
So, we pulled in our giant Jenga blocks and built pillars for the kids to knock down just as he did in his last moments of life on earth.
They had a great time!
They had to rebuild the pillars every time it was knocked down, of course, but they had fun doing so!
(Their eyes are closed to represent the fact that Samson was blind after having his eyes gouged out by the Philistines.)
Josiah won the prize for Most Realistic for his scream and facial expressions. HA!

~~~ I hope you have a wonderful weekend waiting for you, and will stop to praise God for His goodness and thank Him for such joys!
And if you are surrounded by trials and struggles, I pray you will seek the Lord diligently, for He is the only One who can provide the comfort, mercy, and grace you need. You are not alone. Call out to Him ... and He will answer you. He hears the cries of those who love Him!

1.12.2018

WHOA! This quote.

No Christian, if he is right with God, should ever need to hide anything in his life.
A. W. Tozer


Something to think about ... 
for the rest of my life.

Praise the Lord for Scriptures such as these to encourage me!

How can a young man keep his way pure?
By guarding it according to Your word.
With my whole heart I seek You;
let me not wander from Your commandments!
I have stored up Your word in my heart,
that I might not sin against You.
Blessed are You, O Lord;
teach me Your statutes!
With my lips I declare
all the rules of Your mouth.
In the way of Your testimonies I delight
as much as in all riches.
I will meditate on Your precepts
and fix my eyes on Your ways.
I will delight in Your statutes;
I will not forget Your word. Psalm 119:9-16

Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the Lord! Psalm 119:1

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, 
O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. Psalm 19:14

1.09.2018

Pluviophiles - REJOICE!


It's RAINING!
Thus - we must document it with our annual photo to prove that water actually falls from the sky in southern California.
Happy Tuesday, everyone!

1.08.2018

How will I be remembered?

When an author is able to make you weep as he describes the life and death of a man you never knew, he is a gifted writer.

I have long known the name, Charles Spurgeon.
I have heard stories about his ministry from more than one pulpit.
Read and repeated countless quotes that fell from his lips.
Read sermons and books penned by his own hand.
But never have I read about him.
His beginnings. His family life. His salvation story. His call to preach. His courtship and marriage. His struggles, his joys, his successes, and his sorrows.
This man accomplished more in one year than I have accomplished in my lifetime, and he did so with passion.
He preached with passion.
He prayed with passion.
He counseled and taught and served and wrote - with passion.

One of the best lines in this book is discovered after the author describes Spurgeon's death, his funeral, and the testimonies of the men who spoke in honor of their beloved friend and brother in the Lord.
"He had walked with God and lived in prayer."
Nine words.
Nine words that convey the reality of this man's extraordinary life.

One of the things I love about biographies of people who lived pre 20th-century is that most of the material comes from their own personal writings. Hundreds and thousands of letters were written and received in a lifetime because there were no other means of communication. Diaries and journals were kept. Not only of private thoughts but of everyday life, interactions with others, records of answered prayer, and God's dealings with His people. Their writings allow us to see multiple views of their character. Their personalities, strengths, weaknesses, successes, mistakes, likes, dislikes, and so on. Writing is a lost art. And one that will be sorely missed for generations to come.

But the Lord, in His providence, preserved the writings, sermons, and letters of this amazing servant. Accounts written by others about Spurgeon offer an even broader perspective that allows us to see him as he was. As I read Dallimore's account of this Prince of Preachers, I felt like I was walking beside Spurgeon as he grew up, when he accepted Christ, when he answered his first call as a pastor at the age of 17, when he married Susannah, had children, was beloved by his people, began dozens of ministries that served the poor and neglected people of London, was criticized harshly, felt like he was drowning in depression, suffered in physical agony through decades of illness, and preached every sermon with a passion to bring glory to God and lost souls to the Savior.

I never met Charles Spurgeon, but after reading about his life, after reading his own words recorded on paper, I feel like he was one of my closest friends.
And genuine tears of sorrow rolled down my cheeks when I read that "on the evening of Sunday, January 31, 1892, his earthly journey came to its close, and he 'departed to be with Christ.'"

It will take some time for me to work through the thoughts and emotions rolling within me after reading about this godly man who preached as though the choice of heaven or hell would be decided by the time he uttered his last word and prayed as though he was shaking the very gates of heaven until he received a response from God. My desire for godliness, for holiness, does not even cast a shadow on the reality of Spurgeon's daily hunger and thirst for God. His passion, his discipline, his immovable stance on the validity and inerrancy of Scripture, and his unquenchable desire to serve "the least of these" makes me take pause and consider ...
What am I doing for the Kingdom?
Am I about my Father's business?
Do I redeem the time given to me? Daily? Weekly? Year by year?
Am I faithful in the smallest of tasks as well as the important?
Do I know my calling? And if so, am I living it - in faithful obedience?
Do I know my God? Intimately ... wholly ... personally ... because I seek Him more than anything or anyone else?
Can others see Christ in me? Even if they do not know me well, can they see Him?

Scripture says, It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, because that is the end of every man, and the living takes it to heart. Ecclesiastes 7:2
That is the effect this biography, the life of this man, had on me.
Spurgeon's life was a life well-lived. And while he was admired as a spectacular orator, a gifted leader, a superb writer, and a man of great intellect, he was respected and beloved because -
"He had walked with God and lived in prayer."

And it makes me wonder ...
how will I be remembered?
Because how I live now is the legacy I will leave behind when the Lord calls me home - to glory.

Lord, You promise that You who began a good work in us on the day of salvation will never stop working until we join You in eternity. Thank You, for this promise, Father, because there is so much left to work in and through and out of me! I praise You that I am not the same woman I was five, ten, twenty years ago, and I implore You, please do not let me remain as I am now. Grow me. Mature me. Search me, O God, know my heart, see if there is any hurtful way in me - and remove it - so I might look less like me and more like You. I read of men like Spurgeon, Müller, Taylor, Edwards, and fall into the enemy's game of "compare and despair" because my life looks nothing like theirs. But You have not called me to be a Jonathan Edwards, a Hudson Taylor, or a George Müller, Lord. You have called me to be Michelle Renee Eastman, with all of my foibles, and You expect me to follow where You lead, obediently and with joy, doing the work You give me, day by day, year by year until I have accomplished Your will for my life. Fix my eyes on You, continually turning my face back to Yours when I choose to look away - because I want my own way. Smooth my rough edges, prune my dead branches, and fill me with a passion for Your word and prayer so that the fruit of Your Spirit spills over and affects everything I do, everything I say, and how I live. A holy life lived by a man like Spurgeon can inspire, challenge, convict, and encourage me, but it cannot be my own. You made him for one purpose, You made me for another. Use me as You will, Lord, for as long as You will, and may I walk obediently, fearing no man, and praising You day after day for all You have done. As Scripture says of Mary when she anointed Your feet with oil, may it be said of me, "She has done what she could ..." And she did it faithfully.