Because of them I run faster and farther!

These past few days the Lord has been pushing me to be acutely aware of - and grateful for - the blessing of faithful, transparent, godly sisters in Christ.
It is easy to be with a group of women and talk about many things, yet speak of nothing that matters for eternity. It is easy to share the trials and hardships of life, yet fail to challenge each other to respond biblically. It is easy to talk about weaknesses and sin, yet refuse to be held accountable to turn from those sins and walk in holiness.
In short, it is easy to hide.
We hide behind words. We hide behind theology. We hide behind the chaos and distraction of conversation. We share just enough to let people know about us without letting them see the real us.

He did not create us for isolation. He created us for relationship. First, with Himself. And then, with others.
And because He created us for relationship, He designed the body of Christ and gave us - each other!

The Lord has carried me through beautiful seasons of abundance and difficult seasons of drought in terms of intimate friendships, but whether in plenty or in want, He has always been faithful to use sisters in Christ to encourage, challenge, and stir me up to love and good deeds. Some were used in one brief exchange, never to be seen again. Others were authors of books, writers of hymns, or leaders of a study. Some were older women who willingly invested in the life of a young mom. Some were acquaintances who always had a smile and a kind word when we crossed paths. And for each one - I am thankful.

But it is the faithful few, the ones who seek to know all of me, not just what is seen, the ones who rejoice with me in times of joy and weep with me in times of sorrow, the ones who see me as I really am in all my sin and still say, "You are enough", the ones who speak truth to me in love because they care about my holiness more than my happiness, and the ones who purposely pursue me for no other reason than to enjoy one another ... it is for these women I am most grateful, for they are the ones the Lord uses to refine me in ways that are unique and precious.

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.
The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. James 5:16

Faithful are the wounds of a friend, ... Proverbs 27:6

This text exchange is an example of the kind of women the Lord has chosen to bless me with at this stage of my life. We (four women) are rarely together in person, we gather but a couple of times a year as a group, but we take full advantage of communicating with one another in ways that edify and exhort, for we know how much we need it - and how much we need each other.

Sister 1: Praying the Lord would continue to teach each of us how to run well!! I know the Lord is faithfully showing me where I have been blinded and where habitual sins have been hidden in my heart and they are being uprooted! I am thankful and desire to be continually transformed!! Love you all!

Sister 2: The fact that the four of us are willing to REJOICE when the Lord reveals our sin to us is absolutely amazing, beautiful, and as it should be! Maturity in Christ is a wonderful, wonderful thing.
Not always easy but wonderful nonetheless!

Sister 3: Amen!!! Praying He keeps showing me my weights and sins!
“Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:1-2

Sister 4: Love what everyone said!!! AMEN!!!! I take the word “IF” out of the Bible verse "see if there is any offensive way in me," when I pray that because I know there IS offense in me!

How much they challenge me to run after Christ instead of plotting my own way!

The day after this exchange, I opened my Inbox to find the following quote waiting for me. I smiled as I read it, thinking of my sisters, because they are three women who continually model the beauty of confession, repentance, and a desire to look less like themselves and more like Christ.
And because they do, I want to follow their example.

"Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.
 See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way!" Psalm 139:23, 24
What a contrast there is between a man of this world - and a child of God! 
The one wishes to avoid the scrutiny of God - and the other desires and prays for it. 
The one loves sin, and cherishes it - the other abhors sin and desires to be delivered from it. 
The one walks hand in hand with iniquity - the other grieves that he bears with him a body of sin and death.
It is the earnest desire of all who are born of God, and made partakers of the Divine nature - to be delivered from the power of sin that dwells in them. They would have no lust spared - and no corruption unmortified. 
Chosen by the Father in eternity past, redeemed by the precious blood of Christ and justified freely by His grace - they would also be sanctified by His Spirit.
- "Every Day!" Author unknown, 1872


A Scientific SURPRISE!

Best Science Supplement EVER!

We are studying ornithology this year, and during an internet search, I found a fantastic resource through the National Audubon Society.
The chapter in our area just happened to have an Owl Kit, so I reserved it right away.

I was expecting a shoebox of items and maybe a few books, so when we opened the cabinet to discover the many treasures we were entrusted to use, I was THRILLED!
Even better?
A two-week loan.
For FREE! πŸ™ŒπŸΌπŸ™ŒπŸΌ

One of the items trumped all the others, however. A stuffed barn owl whom we have affectionately named Bradley.πŸ¦‰πŸ’™

If you are studying any flying, walking, hopping, swimming, or slithering creature for science - I HIGHLY recommend contacting your local Audobon chapter. 
Who knows what they might have waiting for you!


He keeps His promises.

"Man is born to trouble as surely as sparks fly upward!" Job 5:7 

"How frail is humanity! How short is life, how full of trouble!" Job 14:1 

"Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows." John 16:33

"Many are the afflictions of the righteous" Psalm 34:19 

Do not reckon that God will give you a life without difficulty! Tell me, if you can, of any child of His who ever had such a portion? He had one Son without sin - but no son without sorrow. No, that Son who had no sin, was the Man of Sorrows and acquainted with grief. So you must expect the Lord to deal with you as He does with the rest of His household.

- Charles Spurgeon

I needed this quote today.
These past weeks have proven difficult.
Perspective says, "Be thankful! It could be worse."
And yet, the trials and sorrows of life still feel heavy and wearisome.
Come to me, all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 
For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30
How grateful I am for a Father who makes - and keeps - such promises!


This and that.

It is RAINING! Real, steady, a-jacket-is-needed-to-go-outside kind of rain. And I am loving every single minute of it. We have been blessed with a damp and chilly season this year and it is both welcome and wanted in the Eastman home!

Our parents have kept a terrific tradition going with our children.
They gift them a new ornament each Christmas so when they move out they will have a whole collection of ornaments to decorate their own tree!
Some of the ornaments represent what the child was interested in the year they received it, and some are just for fun.
My grandparents started this tradition and I look forward to the time when Dennis and I can carry it on to the next generation.
Our kids always enjoy hanging their new ornaments on the tree!

Because of my goal to take 12,500 steps each day, we take walks. A LOT of walks.
I am finally up to six miles a day and Josiah, Isaiah, and Ellie walk for four of those miles because wherever I go - they go!
One of our favorite routes is walking to town, and it is lovely right now because of the lights and decorations.
The BEST part? We live in a city that is not afraid or ashamed to place a nativity scene right in the center of town! "For unto you is born this day ... a SAVIOR who is Christ the Lord!"

If you are looking for a way to introduce your children to missionaries, this collection is fantastic!
I read them with the older boys, and now I am reading them with the littles. The vote is unanimous:
We ALL love these books!
Our routine is to read one chapter a day after Bible reading and prayer.
Though I know each of these saints has entered Paradise, I still cry every time we read of their deaths. Even in these abridged compilations, you are drawn in and fall in love with the missionaries. And they leave you wanting to know more.

After having studied so many wonderful saints, we were thrilled to be able to visit the graveside of one of our favorites. Corrie ten Boom.
If you have not treated yourself to The Hiding Place, please do! You will not regret it.
She is Dutch but moved to California toward the end of her life when the Lord began using the medium of television to share her story and the Gospel.
Her gravestone reads: Jesus is Victor.
And yes, I cried the second my eyes saw her name etched in stone, for she feels like a friend. I was introduced to her story as a teen, and have spent my life reading about her, listening to her interviews, quoting her, and praying I will be as faithful and bold as she should the need ever arise.
These are just a few of my favorite quotes by Corrie:
- Don’t bother to give God instructions, just report for duty.
- You can never learn that Christ is all you need, until Christ is all you have.

- God takes our sins – the past, present, and future, and dumps them in the sea and puts up a sign that says NO FISHING ALLOWED.
- Hold everything in your hands lightly, otherwise it hurts when God pries your fingers open.
- Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart.
- Is prayer your steering wheel or your spare tire?

~~ Happy Wednesday, everyone!
I pray you are already finding JOY in the beauty of this Christmas season.
And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom He is pleased!” Luke 2


My favorite Eastman tradition!

This year, our Thanksgiving Eve of Thankfulness took place twelve days late,
but it was one of our best yet, so it was totally worth the wait! 

Each year we gather as a family, light candles, spend time writing down what we appreciate/enjoy/love about each other, and then read all of the comments out loud
so everyone can enjoy them. My favorite part is that all of this happens amidst much laughter!

I think one of the reasons I enjoy this tradition so much is because it levels the playing field
between the varying ages, stages, abilities, and personalities of our family.
Age two or ninety-two, words of praise are desirable and appreciated, and observing our children interact with the purpose of encouraging and building each other up is beautiful and satisfying.

Each year the entries become more thoughtful as our children grow and mature, yet fully maintain the character of each writer. We joke and jest while writing, while reading, and while listening, and all of us walk away feeling connected and content with our position in the family. ♥I LOVE it!♥

I pray the Lord will bless us with dozens more Thanksgiving Eve's of Thankfulness in the years to come, and even more, I pray the bonds that hold us together will strengthen as each year passes.


I love my family, and I will spend the rest of my days praising God for choosing us for each other.

Praise the Lord!
Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, 
for His steadfast love endures forever!
Psalm 106:1


Cling to the Rock that never moves!

This morning found me fighting between Self and the Spirit as I nestled deeper into my warm bed, fighting the temptation to stay IN it rather than rousing myself to prepare for worship with the brethren. The combined busyness of daily life and caring for Dennis post-surgery these past ten days finally caught up with me, and my body literally ached to remain asleep and still. But my mind was fully alert and kept shouting, "Let's GO, sister! You can sleep when you're dead. This is the day the Lord has made, and today is a day for WORSHIP! Get moving!"
The Spirit won.
And what the Lord had waiting for me at church (through the faithful preaching of two godly men) was not only what I needed to hear, but what I wanted.
Praise God for leaving the Holy Spirit with us to guide us into all truth, for He knows far better than we what we need.

The message this morning was a perfect followup to Pastor Philip's Suffering message last week.

The title: God's Unchanging Faithfulness
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Hebrews 13:8
The text: Lamentations 3:19-26
Remember my affliction and my wanderings, the wormwood and the gall!
My soul continually remembers it and is bowed down within me.
But this I call to mindand therefore I have hope:
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
His mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in Him.”
The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks Him.
It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.

- The Reality of Sorrow
- The Remembering of God
- The Response of the Believer

➛ Genuine sorrow in a believer must be tied to disciplined and biblical expressions of that sorrow.
Remember my affliction and my wanderings, the wormwood and the gall! My soul continually remembers it and is bowed down within me.
BUT this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.
Lamentations 3:19-23

Life is hard - loss of loved ones are real - trials exist - bodies and minds are broken.
Sorrow is REAL. Even so, we can be "sorrowful, yet always rejoicing;" as the Scriptures model.
(II Corinthians 6:10)

➛ As believers, we must make a conscious, willful, intentional decision to turn our minds from our circumstances and focus our thoughts on the TRUTH of God's Word.
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in Him." Lamentations 3:22-24

➛ Despair is the result of an undisciplined mind.
But this I call to mindand therefore I have hope: Lamentations 3:21
Jeremiah teaches us that we must be intentional and purposeful to REMEMBER who our God is, what He has done, and what He promises He will do.
Because your steadfast love is better than life,
my lips will praise You. Psalm 63:3

As a father shows compassion to His children,
so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear Him. Psalm 103:3

➛ WAITING is the least favorite discipline of the Christian life, but it is a discipline, that if obeyed, yields blessings!
The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him. Lamentations 3:25
... but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. Isaiah 40:31

➛ A quiet heart is a trusting heart.
A trusting heart is a strong heart.
Waiting on the Lord can be difficult, but it is always worth it!
The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks Him.
It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord. Lamentations 3:25, 26

WAIT on the Lord!
Do not write your own story.
Be still and wait until He tells you what is next and leads you where you need to go.
Wait for the Lord;
be strong, and let your heart take courage;
wait for the Lord!
Psalm 27:4

God is our ROCK.
The Rock of all ages.
He is the same yesterday, today, and forever!
So while you must wait, cling to the Rock with all your might.
For there - you are SAFE.

The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe. Proverbs 18:10


The weaker we are - the stronger we can become!

Last week Dennis and I were unable to join our church body for worship because we needed to stay home while he recovered from shoulder surgery. We enjoyed a nice, quiet morning together, but soon learned we had missed out on a most excellent sermon. I was finally able to sit uninterrupted to listen to it in its entirety this afternoon, and my goodness was I blessed by doing so!

Whether you read my notes below or listen to the actual sermon, I pray you will be equally encouraged, challenged, and convicted to stop focusing on the thorn that causes your particular suffering, but instead focus on the One who allowed it to pierce you in the first place.

Suffering Grace
The strength of weakness

Our text: II Corinthians 12:1-10
It is doubtless not profitable for me to boast. I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord: I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago—whether in the body I do not know, or whether out of the body I do not know, God knows—such a one was caught up to the third heaven. And I know such a man—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows— how he was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter. Of such a one I will boast; yet of myself I will not boast, except in my infirmities. For though I might desire to boast, I will not be a fool; for I will speak the truth. But I refrain, lest anyone should think of me above what he sees me to be or hears from me.
And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Our human nature wants the thorns of life removed.
But what if there is a beauty, and a purpose, in KEEPING them?

Our thorns make us weak.
Our weakness makes us needy.
Our need points us to God.
God makes us strong through His grace.

Suffering handled correctly will see an increase of grace in our lives!


●The Picture of the thorn 
(ambiguous because the Scriptures do not name it)
- painful and hurtful, Greek word means "a stake"
- possibly a physical ailment/sickness
- possibly a reoccurring temptation
- possibly the constant opposition to his leadership
- possibly oppression by the enemy

●The Purpose of the thorn
(not at all ambiguous)
- to buffet Paul (buffet = to hold someone down and beat them)
- to keep Paul from being conceited with spiritual pride
- to give Paul a supernatural strength through grace

If dependence on Christ is the goal then weakness is an advantage!

God uses discipline to correct past sins
to prevent future sins.

●The Providence of the thorn
- While satan is the one who attacked Paul, God permitted the attack. (Job 1, 2)
- God, in His sovereignty, will use satan's harassment to strengthen and humble His people

Paul's difficulty had Divine design written all over it.
There IS a purpose in our pain for God is WORKING in our pain.

There is a GOOD "bad."
"Satan is a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. Apparently, he roars to frighten us, he stalks and plots against us, but like the lion at the zoo, he is only free within the parameters of his cage. He roams only where God permits." - Erwin Lutzer

➤The PRAYER v. 8
- Paul naturally and rightly prayed for relief from his thorn
- He prayed repeatedly for relief
- Finally, Paul concluded that God was not going to answer the way he wanted God to answer, and the thorn was going to remain

If dependence on Christ is the goal then weakness is an ally!

The thorn is a weapon in the hand of satan - and a tool in the hand of God.

●God does not always heal.
Our health and our happiness are not Gods main concern.
God is concerned with our HOLINESS.

The outer man is dying
the inner man can be renewed day by day!

God healed Paul from the need to be healed.

●God does not always answer prayers in the fashion we prayed them.
He answers: "Yes", "No", "Wait", and sometimes, "Yes, but not the way you imagine it."
God did not remove the thorn from Paul but gave Paul the ability to BEAR the thorn through His grace.
Are you willing to trust God with His answer? Even if it looks nothing like your own will?

➤The PROMISE v. 9
- the thorn will remain but God promises to help Paul ENDURE the pain through the gift of His abundant grace and His sufficient strength
- His grace is CONSTANT
For from His fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. John 1:16
- His grace is sufficient to fill us up WITH that grace so we are able to face the trials of life day after day no matter how difficult or how long they may last
- His grace flows freely, pouring over us again and again as long as we need it
- As it flows over us, we will GROW in grace!

- Thorns have a value!
They are tools in the hand of God. So put down the hedge clippers!
- We may not want the thorn or like it, but we must appreciate it and trust that the Lord leaves it where it is for a reason
- Our weakness shows His strength because we know we could not do it on our own. We need Him!
- Paul's physical weakness guarded him against spiritual weakness (pride)

Stop focusing on the THORN and focus on the One who allowed it to pierce you.
For the harder we lean on Christ - the stronger we become.

LISTEN to the sermon here ...


Ministry is a JOY!

Planning meetings for ministry events are wonderfully invigorating!
EsPECially when you are good friends with your counterpart.
(I love working with you @decourcyb!)
Beth and I spent the evening planning an event to bring awareness to both our passions - special needs and orphan care - and we cannot wait to see it become a reality! 
Not only is it a privilege to be a part of the body of Christ, it is a JOY to serve with those in it.


A fun fall day!

Thanks to the kindness of a friend who came over to spend time with our post-surgery patient, the rest of us were able to get outside and enjoy a couple of hours downtown! (Thanks, Mike!)

Leaf boat racing and coin diving in the town's fountain.

Obligatory photos with gigantic Christmas decor.

Pizza lunch at Blaze Pizza.
An impromptu dance party groovin' to the loud music in the restaurant! 

πŸ‚πŸ‚ It was a fun and festive way to spend a crisp, gorgeous fall Saturday! πŸ‚πŸ


Happy Day of THANKS!

Because the Lord chose to give me these seven people to walk through life with every day. 
I do not deserve them, but I NEED them.
And God is always faithful to supply our needs. 🧑🧑🧑🧑

Extended Family is another blessing!


A successful surgery.

Surgery day!
Repairing a torn rotator cuff in D’s right shoulder.
The surgery was successful and not as intensive as originally planned, which means recovery will be faster and easier. πŸ™ŒπŸΌ πŸ™ŒπŸΌ πŸ™ŒπŸΌ
This is a BIG deal because trying to keep Dennis Lee Eastman DOWN and STILL is next to impossible.
In pre-op, the Doc considered my request for pain meds laced with sleeping narcotics for just a few seconds before laughing out loud and denying me. πŸ™„πŸ˜œπŸ˜‚
Hey. You have not because you ask not, right? <grin>

Now ...
-The patient is resting
-Dinner has been made
-Children are showered
-Movies are playing
... and pajamas and a cozy blanket are in my immediate future.
(In between managing hourly ice packs and pain meds of course!)


Female Family Member FUN!

A whole weekend of mothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, and nieces!
First stop - Dennis' birth mom, Sue, sisters Amy and Natalie, and niece Gillian.
We were blessed to find D's birth family 14 years ago - and we are grateful!
They have always welcomed and accepted us and this weekend was no exception.
We met for lunch at a fun restaurant, talked, laughed, took photos, and then spent time meandering through the shops downtown. It was a wonderful afternoon!

Sue took me to see my other sister-in-law, Kara, and we happened to arrive just when her husband's
newly remodeled truck had been delivered. Great photo op! 

Look at these pumpkins!
The biggest ones I have ever seen - on someone's porch! 
We stopped by Amy's house, which is always festive and adorable for every season,
and I could not pass up the opportunity to pose with the gigantic gourds.

Second stop - Mom Eastman and Denise!
Mom just finished round four of six chemo treatments, but you would never know it.
She has not been sick one day. Tired, yes. Sick, no. By the wonderful grace of God!
We enjoyed the afternoon and dinner together at Denise's house and Mom made us laugh by playing with her hat to make herself look like Mr. Magoo and talking about her bald head.
She has a fantastic attitude and intends to walk through her cancer trial with humor and grace.
Well done, Mom! You have already accomplished your goal!

My niece, Carly.
She is 17 and it was a Friday night so we took a selfie right away before she bolted. HAHA!
Love this girl, pray for her, and wish I could be with her more.

Poor Denise was sick while I was there (though she still maintained her excellent hosting skills) so she did not want to be captured on film. I, however, wanted to have proof we were together, so I came up with this idea. Our goodbye hug caught on film with her face hiding in my shoulder. Perfect!

Last stop - CC!
This was the first time in 12 years of knowing each other that we were ALONE!
We are always surrounded by children, husbands, or extended family, so we thoroughly enjoyed uninterrupted conversation and doing things we wouldn't/couldn't do with children clinging to us.
Our first activity - Color Me Mine! She - is crafty, creative and skilled. I - am not.
But I let her pull me far out of my comfort zone, and we spent two hours painting coffee mugs for each other. She kept assuring me that she would LOVE whatever I made, but we will see if she means it when we get the final product in a few weeks. "A cup only a sister could love." HA!
We followed our creativity session with a delicious lunch and reflexology massages.
(THAT is another story for another time!)

A lot happened in two days!
And I am thankful the Lord allowed me the time and resources to enjoy a weekend with these ladies.
Thank you Sue, Natalie, Amy, Gillian, Kara, Mom Eastman, Denise, Carly, and CC!
I look forward to our next visit. ❤



The only reason I am kissing my wallet is because I cannot kiss the person who FOUND IT!
•in a shopping cart
•in the cart return cage
•in the middle of a parking lot
•at Costco
•on a Saturday
•where half of America decided to go shopping

Not only did this fantastic human find my wallet, but he/she also turned it in to the store manager - with every single item still inside

Grateful does not begin to describe my emotions.
Thank you - thank you - THANK YOU whoever you are! I may not know your name, but I will always remember your kindness!


A good and faithful servant!

The man, the myth, the legend!
Today I had the honor of meeting Dr. Nabil Costa (the man who opened the doors to the Middle East and beckoned Dennis to walk through them) and he was everything I thought he would be.
Gentle, sincere, compassionate, and filled with an unquenchable passion to serve students with special needs and learning needs.
I attended a luncheon on Dennis' behalf (while he serves in Cambodia) to celebrate the publication of a book written specifically for teachers in the Middle East.
Professors from Biola University, Cal State Fullerton, and Cal Poly Pomona who authored/co-authored a chapter of the book were in attendance, and the energy and excitement in the room was unmistakable.

Everyone was so warm and personable that it did not occur to me until halfway through the luncheon that I was surrounded by experts in the field of Special Education. Not only experts - but advocates. And as a mother of children who have to fight hard to succeed in school, I was moved to gentle tears as I listened to these experts share their specific areas of focus and why they do what they do.
'Grateful' is too weak a word to describe my feelings for their efforts, and their hearts.

Dr. Costa was asked to share some thoughts with our small group prior to his public lecture that was to follow. He spoke only five minutes, but when he was done he could have given an altar call to a room of a thousand people and half of them would have followed him to the mission field, an orphanage, a Special Education school, or to sell popsicles in the Arctic! He speaks straight from the heart, and that heart has clearly been shaped and softened by the God who has fearfully and wonderfully made us. I was not prepared for his challenge, and yet when he finished speaking I wanted to jump out of my seat and shout, "Amen, brother! AAAAAA-men!"

As soon as I returned home I sent a text to Dennis describing the event and expressed my awe/enthusiasm/conviction/gratefulness for what Dr. Costa shared with us, and this was his response: Nabil is a mover. He has the ability to mobilize with words and passion. He knows the target and goes straight for the center. 
Dennis considers Dr. Costa a spiritual and professional mentor, and now I know why. I had the privilege to witness his mind and heart in action this afternoon and I left wanting much, much more! Thank you, Nabil!

Because I didn't have pen and paper available to capture all of Dr. Costa's words, this summary will not be perfect, but I think I caught enough to accurately communicate his point.

He began with this parable from Scripture:
Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them.
And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here, I have made five talents more.’
And he who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here, I have made two talents more.’
He who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here, you have what is yours.’ Matthew 25:14-19

-The guy who did the least is the one who talked the most.
(the first two men said 14 words, the last one said 42)
-The lazy person lists every reason why he did not do something - instead of using that energy to actually complete the task.
-Instead of DOING, the lazy man TALKS.

-Jesus kept His apostles busy.
He trained them to work. To minister. To serve.
He did not train them to be lazy, apathetic, or selfish.
He is the model. The apostles were His protΓ©gΓ©s.
As Christians, we must follow Christ's example and do the work of the Father.
No excuses.

-When God calls us, we must answer the call and get to work!
He has gifted each of us in unique ways and we must use those gifts to serve and bless others.

And for Dr. Costa and the dozens of men and women who serve in Lebanon and Jordan and other pockets of the Middle East, the work God has called them to do is to Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy. Proverbs 31:8, 9
Because they do it well, I am confident they will hear the Master say, "Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!" Matthew 5:23

This is the book they collaboratively wrote and published!
Strategies for Inclusive Education for Children
For Better Community
Smart but Different (words next to the yellow bulb)


Happy 80th Birthday, Bill!

80 years of LIFE!
We just celebrated 80 YEARS graciously granted by the Lord to my step-dad, Bill. 
We actually pulled off a SURPRISE party and were able to bless him with an evening of his favorite foods and desserts, games about his life, devotions from two close friends, and tributes from his children and first grandchild while surrounded by family and friends who love him.
As Dennis quoted that night, “Legacy is not what others will say about you when you are gone. Legacy is about people who will do things differently because they knew you.”
You have loved and served your family well, Bill.
It was an honor to celebrate your 80th year with you! ♥


A Night of BEAUTY - and - COMMUNITY.

1: the quality in a person or thing that gives pleasure to the senses or pleasurably exalts the mind or spirit: loveliness
2: a beautiful person or thing 
3: a particularly graceful, ornamental, or excellent quality

attractiveness, beauteousness, beautifulness, comeliness, cuteness, fairness, gorgeousness, handsomeness, looks, loveliness, prettiness, sightliness

He has made everything beautiful in its time.
Ecclesiastes 3:11

And last night, the Lord drew seven women together and used them to remind each other of the beauty of motherhood, the beauty of special/learning needs, and the beauty of the body of Christ.

I used to plan a detailed agenda for nights like these, wanting everything to be "perfect" and leaving no stone unturned to ensure that each woman would feel blessed and encouraged by the time the evening came to a close. I wanted every need met and every sorrow turned into joy. And then, with my perfect plans placed before me I would pray, "Lord, BLESS IT!" And because He is a faithful God, He did. Even though I was asking for my agenda to be blessed. Not His.
Now, after many hard lessons from His hand, I simply pray, "Lord, do whatever You want!"
And He does.
And every single time, it looks nothing like I imagined it would.

Last night was no exception.
Dennis bought me the yellow tulips the night before he left for Cambodia. I love tulips, and the vivid yellow color of this bunch is particularly stunning. I chose to use them as the focal point of the treat tray for our Mom's Night, and when I looked at them again after closing the door behind the last mom to leave, it struck me that the flowers captured the theme of our night together as women. 
the beauty of humility
the beauty of truth
the beauty of transparency
the beauty of empathy
the beauty of compassion
the beauty of sharing
the beauty of listening
the beauty of affection
the beauty of prayer

Because each woman was willing to display these characteristics so freely, we connected with each other in a way that was both needed and desired. And a community was born. It is not a closed community, for all are welcome, and all will be received. We need each other. We have a responsibility toward one another. And with God's grace, we will faithfully and successfully live out the beautiful charge in Scripture:
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. Hebrews 10:24, 25

Father, thank You for an incredibly uplifting night of mutual understanding and edification. You knew the need of every woman before she walked through the door, and it was You who gave each one the courage to share the realities of her days and the hurts of her heart. It was, truly, a night of beauty, and one that will not be forgotten. Thank You, Lord, for Your abundant love for Your children.
How we need You!


DEPRESSION. An excellent and encouraging sermon!

Sunday morning I sat down in our church sanctuary expecting to hear my pastor's voice resound from the pulpit, but instead, the Lord used another godly man to break down a wonderful Psalm to encourage the hearts of those who battle with depression. And, it was, by far, the BEST sermon I have ever heard preached on this particular passage. His exegesis of the chapter was biblical and on point, but what impressed me more was the gentleness and sincerity that rang out clearly in each word he spoke. His compassion for those who fight against depression was palpable, and his hope that our God can help and heal is apparent.

I could barely keep up with him as I scrawled notes across the pages of my notebook. There is so much truth tucked within these eleven verses! I included the passage here, along with my favorite quotes, but this is a sermon that should be heard and studied in full. Therefore, I included a link so everyone who desires to watch it (and be blessed) may do so!

As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?
My tears have been my food day and night, while they say to me all the day long, “Where is your God?”
These things I remember, as I pour out my soul:
how I would go with the throng and lead them in procession to the house of God
with glad shouts and songs of praise, a multitude keeping festival.
Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise Him, my salvation and my God.
My soul is cast down within me; therefore I remember You
from the land of Jordan and of Hermon, from Mount Mizar.
Deep calls to deep at the roar of Your waterfalls;
all Your breakers and Your waves have gone over me.
By day the Lord commands His steadfast love, and at night His song is with me,
a prayer to the God of my life.
I say to God, my rock: “Why have you forgotten me? Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?”
As with a deadly wound in my bones, my adversaries taunt me,
while they say to me all the day long, “Where is your God?”
Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise Him, my salvation and my God. Psalm 42

➤ Depression has always troubled God's people, therefore, it needs to be addressed and responded to biblically.
“I am the subject of depressions of spirit so fearful that I hope none of you ever gets to such extremes of wretchedness as I go to.” - C.H. Spurgeon, preaching to his congregation

➤ The Psalmist paints a vivid picture of what the spiritual battle of depression looks and feels like by sharing his personal reasons for his depression and then declaring the remedy for his depression.
He is not content to remain in his depressed state.
He stops listening to his own voice and starts speaking to himself about the truth of who God is.
Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise Him, my salvation and my God. Psalm 42:11

➤ Depression is a real battle, and a battle in which the believer must not surrender - but FIGHT!
Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise Him, my salvation and my God.
My soul is cast down within me; therefore I remember You
from the land of Jordan and of Hermon, from Mount Mizar. Psalm 42:5

➤ When you feel defeated, dry, despondent, depressed ... do you long for and seek after God more than anything else?
As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for You, O God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God? Psalm 42:1,2

➤ The cure to depression is not always immediate.
There will be seasons of living between hope and despair.
By day the Lord commands His steadfast love, and at night His song is with me,
a prayer to the God of my life. (v. 8)
I say to God, my rock: “Why have you forgotten me? Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?” (v. 9)

➤ When in the depths of great sorrow, we as believers can recognize God's sovereign hand while also recognizing His faithful kindness toward us.
Deep calls to deep at the roar of Your waterfalls; all Your breakers and Your waves have gone over me.
By day the Lord commands His steadfast love, and at night His song is with me, a prayer to the God of my life. Psalm 42:7,8

Listen to this fantastic sermon in full here.


This and that.

Last weekend was all about family because we celebrated Bill's 80th birthday.
We are only (all) together about four times each year, so it makes our time together even more special.
CC and I kicked off Friday with a Beach Day because it was a GORGEOUS day and our kids needed to get fresh air in their lungs and move their limbs.
A three-mile walk, french fries and milkshakes at Ruby's, and a good hour of playing in the ocean was the perfect way to kick off the weekend!
Thanks for playing with us, Millers!

I LOVE this shot of Micah!
Luke is the family photographer, so when Micah had a singing gig at a coffee house a few weeks ago, Luke offered to do a photo shoot for his promotional posts.
He captured half a dozen terrific shots, but this one is my favorite.
It fills me with delight to see my guys working together and serving each other. I can only imagine how they will serve each other in the future!
They are not just brothers - but friends.

These two.
Peas in the proverbial pod.
Ellie is 10% me and 90% Dennis.
While she needs me for specific reasons and is soothed by me in her moments of trauma, Dennis is the one who speaks her language.
They understand each other.
They think like each other.
They share similar weaknesses and struggles.
And they share many strengths.
Which is why they understand each other! And it is beautiful to watch.
Dennis never imagined he would have a daughter, and he certainly didn't imagine she would be a female version of himself, but I know he is thrilled with the affectionate connection they share with one another. And I pray Ellie will always know and appreciate his love for her!

This photo makes me laugh every time I look at it.
If I was going to caption it I would write, "The not-always-exciting lifestyle of younger siblings who are forced to spend countless hours on fields/courts because their older siblings play a sport."
Since there is no sense in driving back and forth, we also use the time to add to our 12,000 steps/six-mile daily goal, explore interesting stores nearby, or simply enjoy the beauty and peace of the day.
Now we will have to find creative ways to stay busy in the dark now that daylight savings time has ended!

THIS! My new reading stack!
These books have been sitting patiently in my Wish List for almost a year and were finally released with birthday funds.
<insert image of a Happy Dance here!>
I am an avid reader, but I have to work extremely hard to discipline myself to read Scripture first lest I get lost in an excellent book and forsake the best book.
I will choose a biography of a godly saint over any other book, for I learn much from the lives of those who have gone before me, and crave the depth and devotion they have for Christ.
Let the encouragement BEGIN!

Happy Monday, everyone!
I pray the weekend prepared you for what lies before you this week, and if not, remember - the Lord PROMISES never to leave us or forsake us, and He will equip us for what He calls us to do. We don't need to be ready before it happens. We need to be ready WHEN it happens. And He is always faithful!
As John MacArthur says, "God always provides for what He demands."
Such a beautiful truth!
For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him. Matthew 6:8
“Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. Matthew 8:31-34

Old friends are precious!

These are two of my oldest friends in the world ... Kathy and Chrissy.
I met them when I was four years old, and here we are, 43 years later,
still connected in a way that is precious and unique.
Karen (their mom) made their home my second home, and I truly felt like part of their family.
It was a delight connecting with them yesterday!
And even better, my brother was in town so he got to see them too!