While Dennis is away ... we play!

When Dennis travels, I plan enough activities to keep us busy, but not so much that we are exhausted.
Thus far it has proved successful!
And this time was no exception.
We still have eight days until our fearless leader returns, but we are doing well and enjoying our days.
Luke works full time and Caleb has his own teen activities, so most of our events consist of me, Josiah, Isaiah, and Ellie.
Things like ...
- taking an early morning or evening walk (have to get in those 10,000 steps!)
- beach days with friends
- serving
- Josiah, Isaiah, and Ellie were whisked away for a playdate by a sweet friend (and I enjoyed 45       glorious minutes getting a pedicure)
- audio listening (we are currently enjoying At Home in Mitford - a favorite!)
- movie nights
- hanging out with grandparents
- swimming
- roller skating
FUN! FUN! For everyone!

We combined our daily walk with breakfast at Bruxie's!
We have lived one mile from this place for five years, and this was our first time enjoying it.
A fun and delicious way to end our two weeks "alone."

We've had the privilege of caring for our G3 once a week this summer! (during the school year we can only have them twice a month) Last week, Grace was having a particularly rough day, so I challenged Ellie to be her source of comfort and safety. Grace needed some quiet time away from all of the boys, so we set up a movie in Ellie's room for "girl time."
And this is how I found them when I opened the door to deliver a snack.
I love every.single.thing about this image!

When you live in the city, you must be intentional about finding NATURE.
And this park satisfied the need for huge trees, grass, and bodies of water! We arrived early in the morning to beat the heat of the day, walked three miles, and took 7,000 steps. Woohoo!
After such a delightful morning, we decided that we are going to take at least one daily walk at a regional park so we can enjoy nature every week. While walking the neighborhood on concrete is beneficial, walking in the shade of trees and taking in the sights, sounds, and smells of nature feeds the soul!

One of the highlights was an overnight trip to visit my dear aunt in Fallbrook.
It was a hot day, so we loaded up the car and joined the other 1,000 people basking in the sun and feeling the splash of cold ocean water on their feet in Oceanside. It was LOVELY!
My aunt has always been a gracious, thoughtful, and warm hostess, and this visit was no exception. ♥

The littles boys and I had a beach date with a friend (Ellie was on her own playdate), so we arrived at the beach two hours early to eat breakfast and take our daily walk. It is so nice to be at the beach in the early morning! It is cool, quiet, and empty. And we had a great time - together.

My sister has graciously allowed us to use her pool this summer, any time we ask, and it has been a fun little retreat on the hottest of days for Josiah, Isaiah, and Ellie. Today, I decided to join them, and we also coaxed my sister into the cool, refreshing water. What a great time we had together!
The water slide is always a hit, and I felt like a little girl sailing down the slick rock, laughing all the way.
(Yes, I am plugging my nose. I only do it when I jump in because I hate the feeling of having hose water sprayed up my nostrils. Call me a wimp if you will. My children (and sister) do!)

Our children have always crept into our bed early in the morning. Sometimes they are wide awake, sometimes they go right back to sleep. Regardless, our bed has never been empty in the morning hours.
When Dennis is gone, however, it's as though someone placed a homing beacon inside of our mattress which calls to our littles in the middle of the night, for they ALWAYS make themselves right at home in the wee hours of the morning. I never know when they arrive, but am fully aware of their arrival by the time the sun peeks through the windows because I wake up just as I am about to fall to the floor from being shoved to the edge of the mattress. And it makes me smile every time!


A most excellent study with my girls!

We just started a fantastic study on the Proverbs 31 woman.
Our pastor chose this chapter as his text for Mother's Day, and it was one of the BEST sermons I have ever heard preached on this icon of virtue. Often, when women hear the phrase "Proverbs 31 Woman" they groan. Audibly. Why? Because she is held up as the standard for all women, and not just any standard, a perfect, unrealistic, and unattainable standard. So we walk away feeling discouraged and disheartened after comparing ourselves to her because, in the comparison, we are found wanting.
But not this time!
Our pastor did a superb job communicating that a) she was not a real woman, but an ideal created by a mother for her beloved son, b) the character qualities we see in her are qualities every Christian should possess whether married, single, male, or female, and c) her attributes should be seen as virtues to strive for, emulate, and rejoice over - not used to compare and despair.

When the girls and I met together in June, we discussed the sermon at length, including our convictions and desire for making purposeful, tangible efforts to grow and mature in the areas for which this woman is praised. After a lively discussion, we decided to pull the sermon apart and study each main point. Instead of listening to the sermon one time, calling it terrific, and moving on with life, we are going to dissect it, point by point, verse by verse until we know this woman so well we feel like she is one of our best friends!

The next seven months will be well spent studying this passage in depth as we ask the Lord to reveal to us where we need to grow and encourage us where fruit is already evident. And the best part is - we will do it TOGETHER! ❤

The monthly assignment:
- listen to the entire sermon
- listen (again) to the specific point we are studying
- record the areas in which you already see success
- record the areas in which you need to grow and mature

The first study - VIRTUE.

She is strong in character in all facets of her life
She dresses herself with strength and makes her arms strong. v. 17
She is a woman of commitment - honor - strong opinions
Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come. v. 25
Virtuous is translated "able or capable" - powerful, strong, admirable, competent
Her commitment to character is directed to her husband and family, and their lives are enriched because of her
She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life. v. 12
Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her ... v. 28
She adds reassurance and riches to her husband
The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. v. 11
She adds to his reputation
Her husband is known in the gates when he sits among the elders of the land. v. 23
 This husband excels because he has an exceedingly good wife
 She is strong - she is spiritual - she is a substantial woman
 She is her husband's cheerleader, advisor, lover, helper
Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” Now out of the ground the Lord God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him. So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Genesis 2
✽ She is his helper
✽ She is his equal
She is discerning - she is wise
A virtuous wife uses her strength and excellence to benefit her husband and her children
Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: “Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.” v. 28, 29

An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels.
The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain.
She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life.
She seeks wool and flax, and works with willing hands.
She is like the ships of the merchant; she brings her food from afar.
She rises while it is yet night and provides food for her household and portions for her maidens.
She considers a field and buys it; with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard.
She dresses herself with strength and makes her arms strong.
She perceives that her merchandise is profitable. Her lamp does not go out at night.
She puts her hands to the distaff, and her hands hold the spindle.
She opens her hand to the poor and reaches out her hands to the needy.
She is not afraid of snow for her household, for all her household are clothed in scarlet.
She makes bed coverings for herself; her clothing is fine linen and purple.
Her husband is known in the gates when he sits among the elders of the land.
She makes linen garments and sells them; she delivers sashes to the merchant.
Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come.
She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.
She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.
Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her:
“Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.”
Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates.
Proverbs 31: 10-31


Dennis interacts with Jordan!

Today, the Inclusion Forum in Amman, Jordan hosted by Alliance Academy Jordan came to a close.
And Dennis could not be more thrilled with the outcome!
All of the passion and planning he invested into his portion of the conference were well-rewarded by an enthusiastic and thoughtful group of leaders and educators who share the same goal of including, serving, and encouraging students with special needs and learning needs in the classrooms of Jordan.

Because he can articulate the details much better than I, please enjoy a synopsis of the event written by his own hand.

Day One
The day was a lot of fun.
The AAJ staff is so very passionate about serving all students well and they went the extra mile to put their best foot forward at this event.
The audience participation was excellent.
The country is ready to see this initiative gain traction and the Inclusion Forum served as a wonderful catalyst for providing executive-level decision makers, and, more importantly, teachers, the opportunity to hear from professors, a speech therapist, an occupational therapist, and parents about the important role that teachers can play in the lives of children with learning needs.
The speeches were wonderful, given by AAJ Director Nathan Greenfield and honored guests, including HRH Prince Mired Ra’ad ZZaid Al-Hussein and the Minister of Education.
I gave the keynote speech and highlighted my gross ignorance of learning needs and accommodations in my early years of teaching, and then shared that my very own children served as significant change agents in my perspective regarding those with learning needs. Caleb was the hero of the story and I always choke up with I retell the day he shined like a star at Camp Eastman on behalf of a child who had some physical and cognitive needs.
I then presented three workshops during the course of the day that featured learning need awareness and universal design principles for the general education classroom.
The teachers in the room were quite responsive and incredibly kind and thoughtful about how to best serve students. Overall, it was a stellar start and we are looking forward to more of the same tomorrow!

Day Two
The day was eventful to be sure!
Great attitude in the room and a genuine desire to learn more about serving students well.
The intent of a conference such as this one is to bring awareness and invite a catalyst for attempt- starting with the people who interact daily with the students.
When I was a young classroom teacher I really believed I was reaching all learners. My class was interactive and the students appeared engaged. Those unfortunate few who had trouble were in need of greater effort. They needed to change their practice. This glaring professional blindspot clearly revealed I did not understand the difficulties and daily burdens that each student was compelled to bear. It was also plain that my classroom practice would have to change. Simply put, a change of heart to change my daily practice.
Unfortunately, "simply stated" and "simply accomplished" are not the same.
Former president Dwight Eisenhower once said, “There are no victories at bargain prices.” This is very true when working with students. Change is sometimes painful but necessary.

The conference was more than an invitation to consider inclusion, it was about changing hearts and minds to do something about inclusion for all students in all classrooms.
This will no doubt cause disequilibrium for teachers who have employed a “one size fits all” form of a learning experience, but it is pale in comparison to the effort being made by the student who has to learn in spite of what the teacher is doing.
Jordan is a great country with big-hearted people who are generous and hospitable. It is my hope that the teachers at the conference were deeply encouraged and will use the momentum of the conference to make significant traction toward helping students with the greatest needs.
Personally, I am grateful for the opportunity to hopefully influence teachers to employ an attitude of attempt toward all learners every day.

(Dennis') Presentations at the conference:
-Keynote Address: Inclusion begins with your attitude
-1: Help me understand: Walking a mile in the shoes of a student with learning and emotional needs
-2: Creating an environment of motivation in the classroom
-3: Creating an environment of attempt in the classroom
-4: Universal design for learning: Differentiation for all learners
-Wrap Up: Atmosphere of attempt or agony: Teacher attittude in the classroom

Dennis and Micah with the Academy Alliance Jordan leadership and staff.
A tremendously gracious, welcoming, and passionate group of people!

Their hosts surprised Dennis after the conference with a quick field trip to an ancient ruin
 of a church dating back to 4,000 B.C. To quote Elsa from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade:
He was as giddy as a schoolboy!
This man never loses his enthusiasm for antiquities!

Thank you, THANK YOU, to everyone who prayed, encouraged, supported, and showed interest in this trip. As always, the Lord used his time in another country to challenge and shape and grow my husband in unique and beautiful ways. We love who he is when he leaves, and we love the new pieces the Lord adds to him while he is gone. Those he ministers to benefit from his expertise and sincere enthusiasm for what they are doing on behalf of students, and we benefit from the way those interactions mature and refine him as an educator, a husband, a father, a man, and most importantly, a child of God.

And thank you, to the entire leadership team and staff at Alliance Academy Jordan, for trusting Dennis to speak to the hearts and minds of the leaders and educators in Jordan. He was honored to be asked, he was honored to serve, and you made him feel welcome and wanted from the moment he stepped off the plane. You are a blessing - and we are grateful for you!


Micah shares his story with Jordan.

Dennis writes:
Today Micah and I had the opportunity to speak about the topic of inclusion of all students at the Inclusion Forum in Amman, Jordan hosted by Alliance Academy Jordan (Carol Jadoun). HRH Prince Mired Ra'ad Zaid Al-Hussein was in attendance. Micah was animated and articulate during his speech. It's not about us. This was a Proverbs 31:8-9 opportunity. Super proud moment today!

I was not there to hear him, but the tears flowed freely as I read his speech, remembering, and praising God for how far He has brought our son. So far, in fact, that today, Micah stood in front of influential government officials and royalty - and shared his story. Not in shame, but with honesty and joy. He can rejoice because as difficult as school was for him, he DID IT. He didn't have gold tassels hanging around his neck on graduation day, but he had confidence and peace in the knowledge that he persevered and pushed through tremendous obstacles to earn his high school diploma.
I echo Dennis, "Super proud moment today!"
Well done, Micah! I am proud of you, but my love for you far outweighs my pride. ❤ Mom


Dyslexia Speech - Jordan 2018
Micah Eastman

Good morning!
My name is Micah Eastman, and when I was nine years old I was diagnosed with dyslexia and mild
In the days of my youth, it took an hour to read the simplest of books and the aggravation that math produced was cruel and unusual punishment. Writing offered similar challenges for the duration of my elementary years. I dreaded the very idea of picking up a pencil. A one-page writing assignment would take me twice as long to complete as other students. It was not uncommon for a session of tears to commence at the beginning of each paper.
Interestingly, though I was struggling with school, my loquaciousness led many to believe I was a decent student. So much so, my mother was convinced I was being lazy in my studies when really, I was trying my best.
I became aware of how academically incapable I was when around the age of eight when I spent a week with some friends from another school. Since we were in the same grade, I joined his class for the duration of my stay.
I consider the time spent in that class one of the more humiliating experiences of my life. The teacher was discussing things that I had not yet learned and even though the concepts were repeatedly explained to me, I could not comprehend them. What the teacher was asking of me seemed impossible. It wasn’t a matter of effort, I simply couldn’t do it.
As I blankly stared at the pages, tears of frustration welled in my eyes. I came to accept the fact that I could not do the work. I now sat completely defeated, bouncing my knees to the ticking of the clock in hope that the day would soon come to an end.
Unfortunately, my self-confidence was dealt another blow when I was handed a video game and told to sit off to the side as my participation was not needed. However, the video game was not a reward by any means, this action by the teacher only cemented my frustration more firmly into place. All I could think was, “What am I missing?” “Why is this making sense to everyone but me?”
For the majority of my elementary and high school years, nearly all subjects caused frustration, anxiety, and tension. Embarrassment and low self-confidence plagued me throughout my high school career, specifically, during my junior and senior years of high school where each day felt like a constant reminder that I was neither smart nor able to make a meaningful contribution in my classes.
After all, it did not help that I was a senior attending classes designated for freshman and sophomore students.
In many subjects my grades did not mirror the effort I was giving. This constant mental punishment in and out of the classroom led me into significant depression. I am convinced that it is only by God’s
grace that I am standing before you today. Though I have some painful experiences, it is my hope that they will be useful to assist others who have struggled like I have.
It was my parents and a small collection of teachers that changed everything by offering compassion and understanding regarding my areas of educational and emotional needs. This group of patient educators chose to encourage my strengths rather than emphasize my weaknesses, especially in the area of music.
For as long as I can remember, my favorite outlet has been music. My dad owned an extensive collection of music and quite frankly I could not get enough of it. As a young boy, I recall lying on the floor eating sliced apples and humming along to classic rock and roll. My love and passion for music steadily grew as my dad educated me in music history and trivia. Learning how to play guitar and drums allowed me to thrive creatively. Finally, I had found something I was naturally good at. Music is a safe place for me and I realized I could be really good at something that I really enjoyed. For the first time in my life, I discovered something in which I excelled and was not afraid to share with others. Personally, I believe everybody has an area in which they can excel but it often goes unnoticed.
Many children believe that they have nothing to offer because no one came alongside them to capitalize on their strengths and help them navigate their weaknesses. If there is anything I’d tell my younger self I would say, “Your contribution matters, don’t let the book break your brain. Just because you learn differently does not make you lazy or dumb.” 
This reminds of something my dad frequently says, “The question asked of students should not be, ‘How smart are you?’ but ‘How are you smart?'"
The Lord has used the gift of dyslexia for good in my life even when I thought it was a curse. 
I am grateful for the opportunity to share my story with you today and hope it will inspire you.
Thank you.

Micah's hero and model - Dennis.
From the time he was a boy he said, "I want to be just like Dad."
And now, they are serving and ministering TOGETHER.
The Lord took what was frustrating, difficult, and disheartening, and turned it into something AMAZING. And Dennis and I will always be grateful for the gift of our son - and - the gift of dyslexia.

Micah - HRH Prince Mired Ra'ad Zaid Al-Hussein - Dennis
The Prince possesses a passion for serving students with special needs and learning needs, so his presence at the conference was a tremendous encouragement to the educators in Jordan.
(And he was quite gracious to take a photo with the Eastman men!)

Dennis - Carol Jadoun (Alliance Academy Jordan) - Micah
Carol is the one who started all of this! And we are so thankful she did. ♥


Dennis and Micah explore Jordan! (Pt. II)

Here they are - overlooking the land that was promised to Moses by God! The PROMISED land!

"A piece of a Roman column that would make a perfect end table!"
(If Dennis could fill his office and our house with ancient artifacts - he would!)

Tapestries in the Church on Mt. Nebo that are some of the best mosaics in Jordan, dating from around 530 A.D. This masterpiece is a hunting and herding scene.

The site where Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist.
(the water is in front of them)

Micah at the Jordan River.
(People were being baptized on the steps behind them.)

And now - the week of teacher training and the conference has begun!
All the months of preparation and prayer have brought them to this place - and they are eager and ready to go! Dennis sent me a text this morning asking me to pray for the hearts of the people to be open, but the truth is, the Lord has already gone before them and prepared the way! As He always does.
The Alliance Academy Jordan team, Dennis, Dr. Costa, and all of those involved in the conference have worked hard to prepare, and they have bathed every detail in prayer. It will be thrilling to discover how the Lord uses these next few days to educate and encourage those in positions to create lasting and life-altering change in education for students with learning needs and special needs.
 Ignorance is bliss, but once we are aware - we are accountable.
Praise God for bringing these educators and leaders together "for such a time as this."
It is an EXCITING time!


Exactly what I want to do.

A jealous God will not be content with a divided heart; He must be loved first and best.
- C. H. Spurgeon

... know therefore today, and lay it to your heart, that the Lord is God in heaven above and on the earth beneath; there is no other. Deuteronomy 4:39
And there is no other god besides Me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is none besides Me. Isaiah 45:21

This quote. These verses. On their own, they are enough. 
Enough to convict.
Enough to encourage.
Enough to remind us that nothing must come before the Lord.

This song.
It makes the quote and verses come to life in a tangible and powerful way.
The first time I heard it, I was speechless. Overwhelmed. Broken. For music breaks me - every time.
The song is on my favorite playlist, for it is one I need to hear and sing often because no matter how many times I crush my idols, there is always another one taking shape to replace them. And sometimes, I am part of the design team. And I hate it. So - I sing. I sing as loud and as intensely as I can so I am able to hear myself preaching to myself. 
A jealous God will not be content with a divided heart; He must be loved first and best.
I can only love my God first and best if everything and everyone else is pushed out of the way.
Including myself.
And loving Him first and best is exactly what I want to do!

"Clear The Stage" - Jimmy Needham
(I encourage you to listen to this song here ... and pray while you do!)

Clear the stage and set the sound and lights ablaze
If that's the measure you must take to crush the idols
Jerk the pews and all the decorations, too
Until the congregation's few, then have revival
Tell your friends that this is where the party ends
Until you're broken for your sins, you can't be social
Then seek the Lord and wait for what He has in store
And know that great is your reward so just be hopeful

'Cause you can sing all you want to
Yes, you can sing all you want to
You can sing all you want to
And still get it wrong; worship is more than a song

Take a break from all the plans that you have made
And sit at home alone and wait for God to whisper
Beg Him please to open up His mouth and speak
And pray for real upon your knees until they blister
Shine the light on every corner of your life
Until the pride and lust and lies are in the open
Then read the word and put to test the things you've heard
Until your heart and soul are stirred and rocked and broken

'Cause you can sing all you want to
Yes, you can sing all you want to
You can sing all you want to
And still get it wrong; worship is more than a song

We must not worship something that's not even worth it
Clear the stage, make some space for the one who deserves it

Anything I put before my God is an idol
Anything I want with all my heart is an idol
Anything I can't stop thinking of is an idol
Anything that I give all my love is an idol

'Cause I can sing all I want to
Yes, I can sing all I want to

And we can sing all we want to
And we can sing all we want to
We can sing all we want to
And still get it wrong
Worship is more than a song

Clear the stage and set the sound and lights ablaze
If that's the measure you must take to crush the idols


Dennis and Micah explore the beauty and history of Jordan!

From Dennis:
We are in Amman, Jordan in all of the photos.
It is one of the oldest capital cities in the world dating back to 13th century BC!
We are in the Amman Citadel, a Roman stronghold that housed temples, stables, an aqueduct, and more.
We ran around some ruins in the old city of Jordan this morning. We took photos at the temple of Hercules, a Byzantine church, a cave that was made into a house 2000 years before Christ was born, and climb the steps of an amazing outdoor amphitheater that was made in the first century.
It was amazing and wonderful, and Micah and I both had a great time!

It just wouldn't be a true Eastman photo shoot with poses!
And these two? Two identical peas in a pod.

"Won’t fit in our carry-on or checked bag!"
Dennis finds great pleasure in collecting dirt and rocks from around the world. It makes him feel like he "owns the world!" I, on the other hand, just see dirt.
Sometimes, his zeal is harmless, while other times he has come close to creating an international incident.
(Ask him about The Great Wall of China story!)
So, of course, he thought it would be funny to send me this photo. <insert eyeroll>

Theater circa 161A.D.

A cave made into a house during the Bronze Age 2250B.C.

Dennis also favors national pride. He loved this Jordan flagpole which measures 200x100 feet, stands 415 feet high, and can be seen for 12 miles.

Their hosts have welcomed them in and treated them like royalty!
They get to explore more today, and attend church and spend time with Jordanian believers tomorrow. What a privilege to worship with brothers and sisters in another country, and mutually encourage one another in the faith.
For, though the global church looks, speaks, eats, and lives differently - we are ONE in Christ!
Praise God for such diversity and beauty in His church!


Dennis and Micah - in Jordan.

Dennis and Micah are safe and settled in Jordan!
And this is the view from their room - JERUSALEM!
“As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds His people,
from this time forth and forevermore.” Psalm 125:2
This is so exciting!
All of their hard work and preparation are about to be used to bring awareness and understanding to educators and leaders in Jordan who have the passion and the power to affect CHANGE and make a significant and lasting difference in the lives of students with learning needs and special needs.
Praise the Lord for stirring up the hearts of educators and government officials in Jordan to “speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves” and serve students and their families in unique and helpful ways.
They are changing lives, one by one, day by day. 
And it is BEAUTIFUL!


An ocean of PRAISE!

Sometimes we need to be in a place that reminds us just how small we are ...
and how very BIG our God is.

Yesterday, I was able to do just that.
Five hours of sunshine on my back, sand over my feet, and the sweet sound of waves crashing against the shore. As I sat in my chair gazing at the vast blue sky and immense ocean, the Lord reminded me that there is nothing too large for Him to handle, and there is nothing so small for which He does not care.
How fortunate we are to belong to such a God!
So praise Him we MUST!


"The LORD does whatever pleases Him - 
in the heavens and on the earth, in the seas and all their depths!" Psalm 135:6

Praise the Lord from the earth, you great sea creatures and all deeps,
fire and hail, snow and mist, stormy wind fulfilling his word! Psalm 148:7, 8

Who builds His upper chambers in the heavens and founds His vault upon the earth; who calls for the waters of the sea and pours them out upon the surface of the earth— the Lord is His name. Amos 9:6

Here is the sea, great and wide, which teems with creatures innumerable,
living things both small and great. Psalm 104:25

Do you not fear me? declares the Lord. Do you not tremble before me?
I placed the sand as the boundary for the sea, a perpetual barrier that it cannot pass;
though the waves toss, they cannot prevail; though they roar, they cannot pass over it. Jeremiah 5:22

Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.
Praise the Lord. Psalm 150:6


Family Day!

As per tradition, we enjoyed a Family Day before Dennis and Micah leave us to go serve others.
And as we generally do - we chose the BEACH as our setting.
It was a GORgeous day!
Surf, sand, swimming, snacks, Steal the Bacon, and snoozing.
A perfect way to spend our final day together as a family.

A new packing challenge!

 Packing a husband for a three-week overseas trip is a challenge!
And I LOVE a good packing challenge!
• two countries
• different weather
• different dress codes
• professional wear
• casual wear
And it all has to fit in ONE suitcase (50lbs) and ONE carry-on. (15lbs)
Did I mention that his carry-on must contain a sportcoat, slacks, dress shirts, pants, shorts, ties, T-shirts, boxers, socks, and dress shoes - BECAUSE - 50% chance of lost/late luggage? 🙄🤦🏻‍♀️
But - we DID IT! (Thankfully, this was not our first time!)
-4 ties
-9 dress shirts
-4 dress pants
-8 casual pants
-Dress shoes
-2 belts
-7 golf shirts
-3 shorts
-7 T-shirts
-3 exercise shorts
-3 exercise shirts
-12 undershirts
-12 undergarments
-16 pairs socks
-Sleep pillow
-Water bottle
And a partridge in a pear tree!
✈️🇵🇸 🇰🇭✈️
Now - I’m off to pack for MICAH!


The contents

The suitcase

The carry-on




How do you learn things best?

How do you REMEMBER the information you learned?
Repeating it verbally?

We all learn, process, and interact with information differently. We all take the information in. The question is, what do with it once it gets there? This question matters because it affects how we spit the information back out, and how we implement it in our daily lives. Especially when it comes to Scripture.

James tells us, But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. (James 1)

So how do we transition from HEARING to DOING?
"Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful." Joshua 1:8
It is a prescriptive verse.
Do not let Scripture leave you

Meditate on it day and night

So that you will do everything written in it

Then you will find success

The key phrase in this verse is to meditate on God's Word - all day long - from the moment we rise until the moment we rest our heads on our pillows. It is a lovely thought. A beautiful image.
So what does it mean to meditate?
The dictionary defines it this way:
med·i·tate: to engage in contemplation or reflection
: to engage in mental exercise for the purpose of reaching a heightened level of spiritual awareness
: to focus one's thoughts on : reflect on or ponder over
: to plan or project in the mind : intend, purpose
synonyms: chew over,  consider, contemplate, mull (over), ponder, ruminate, study, think (about or over), 

And then there are these fanTAStic quotes to consider!

"Meditation will keep your hearts and souls from sinful thoughts. When the vessel is full, you can put in no more. If the heart is full of sinful thoughts--then there is no room for holy and heavenly thoughts. If the heart is full of holy and heavenly thoughts by meditation--then there is no room for evil and sinful thoughts." - William Bridge

"It often astonishes me that I did not see the importance of meditation upon Scripture earlier in my Christian life. We must consider what we read, ponder over it, and apply it to our hearts. The most important thing I do, is to read the Word of God and to meditate on it. Thus my heart might is comforted, encouraged, warned, reproved and instructed." - George Mueller

"The reason we come away so cold from reading the Word, is because we do not warm ourselves at the fire of meditation. Without meditation, the truths which we know will never affect our hearts. As a hammer drives a nail to the head, so mediation drives a truth to the heart. Read before you meditate. Reading furnishes with matter--it is the oil which feeds the lamp of meditation. Be sure your mediations are founded upon Scripture. Reading without meditation is barren and unfruitful; meditation without reading is dangerous." - Thomas Watson

"Some people like to read so many chapters every day. I would not dissuade them from the practice, but I would rather let my soul soak in half a dozen verses all day, than rinse my hand in several chapters. Oh, to be bathed in a text of Scripture, and to let it be sucked up into your very soul, till it saturates your heart! Set your heart upon God's Word! Let your whole nature be plunged into it as a cloth into a dye!" - Charles Spurgeon

It seems fitting now to ask again ...
How do you remember information? And more specifically, how do you remember the things you read in Scripture, the sermons you hear, the quotes you read about holy things?
Verbally repeating them?

If we will take time to assess our learning styles to articulate how we learn best in school, figure out how we process and analyze data effectively to increase productivity at work, and understand the different love languages in order to better love our spouse and children, wouldn't it be wise to apply all of these same efforts to our time spent in the Word of God and in prayer? Of course!

Wouldn't it be an absolute joy to find our BEST way to mediatate on the truths of God's Word - and then make it a daily practice?
Meditating while writing out the truths of Scripture.
Meditating on the insights of a sermon while on a run.
Meditating on the beauty of a verse while painting by the natural light of God's creation.
Meditating through words while sharing what you learned with someone else.
Meditating on the promises of God while turning them into lyrics on a page.

Imagine the countless, creative ways in which we can think, ponder, consider, and contemplate the beauty of God's Word. The opportunities are endless!

But it must begin by getting the Word of God IN our minds. We cannot meditate on something which does not exist. Read Scripture. Listen to Scripture read out loud. Listen to sermons. Add worship music written directly from the pages of Scripture. And then - let the meditating begin! Don't settle for mediocrity. Fill your mind with the things of God and then think about those things ALL DAY - in the way you think best - and enjoy the blessings and joy that come from obeying God's command!
"Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful." Joshua 1:8

"But his delight is in the Law of the LORD, and on His law he meditates day and night." Psalm 1:2

"I meditate on Your precepts, and consider Your ways." Psalm 119:15

"Oh, how I love Your law! I meditate on it all day long." Psalm 119:97

"My eyes stay open through the watches of the night, that I may meditate on Your promises."
Psalm 119:148


"Please! Let's go HOME!"

When I was in North Carolina with my college roommate during the spring, we had a discussion that sounded exactly like the conversations we engaged in while sharing a dorm room 25 years ago. The topic? Faithfulness and consistency in reading the Bible. And we asked the same questions we asked decades ago. Why, when we know how beneficial, wonderful, encouraging, and life-changing it is to be in the Word every day, do we neglect it? Why is it so easy to neglect it? Why can't we be more disciplined? <deep sighs>

Thankfully, we are no longer silly 18-year-old college girls who will justify anything and make ridiculous excuses for disobedience. We are middle-aged women who know there are no excuses for disobedience other than sin. Every day our Bibles sit on the shelf unopened is because we choose not to read them. Every day we rely on our own ways and our own understanding instead of trusting in and waiting on God is because we choose not to pray. Every day that goes by without a deeper understanding and knowledge of Scripture is because we choose not to meditate on the truths of the words written within.

So we should not wonder why we are frustrated, exhausted, feeling helpless, confused, or without direction. We choose to be! The moment we drop the anchor that holds us fast to the Rock of all ages, we are going to drift, bob, and roll as we are tossed about in the sea of selfishness and sin. And the only remedy is to fix our eyes on the Rock and swim toward it with every ounce of energy we possess until we reach it, and then, we must cling to it until our fingers go numb. For the Rock never moves. It is never buried beneath the waves. It is always visible, always stable, always secure. Always available. Our God never leaves us or forsakes us.

But we forsake Him. Instead of keeping our gaze fixed on Him, we break eye contact. We look around instead. We compare and despair. We walk away. Sometimes we run. We try things "our way" for a change because our way seems best. But we hear Him calling. We know He is there, for He is always there. But we know if we look back we will not be able to resist His gaze. We will not be able to resist His outstretched arms or His tender expression of love. So we steel our will and continue to look the other way. We keep moving, in the wrong direction. We pretend it's all fine. We pretend we are happy. We have control now, don't we? And it feels good. For a time. Until we fail. Small failings, large failings, somewhere in between. We can't fix it. We are tired. We are embarassed. We want to go home. Where He is waiting. But our pride screams, "No! Get cleaned up first. You can't let Him see you like this!" So we stay in the darkness longer, thinking we can hide our filth and our scars, not realizing that His eyes pierce through the blackest of nights, and He sees every detail. He wants to see every detail. He knows us. He knows our ugliness, our weaknesses, our foulest of sins. He knows. Yet He calls out, "Come." Because He loves us. He doesn't want us to wait until we are clean and presentable, He just wants us to come HOME.

Will we?
Will we drop everything, including our pride, to run into the waiting arms of the Father?
The Father who knows everything we have ever done. Everything we have ever said. Everything we have ever thought.
And loves us despite it all.
Will we come?
Will we, like the prodigal son, confess our sin and seek forgiveness from the only One who can offer complete redemption and restoration?
Will we let Him rejoice over us with dancing because we were lost, but now, we are found?
But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.
“The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’
“But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate. Luke 15

Will we choose the Savior over selfishness and pride so we no longer need to stumble lonely and blind in the wilderness?
For no matter how far we have strayed, He is always waiting for us - to come HOME.

Come out of sadness from wherever you've been
Come broken-hearted, let rescue begin
Come find your mercy, oh sinner come near
Earth has no sorrow that heaven can't heal
Earth has no sorrow that heaven can't heal

Lay down your burdens, lay down your shame
All who are broken, lift up your face
Oh wanderer come home, you're not too far
So lay down your hurt, lay down your heart
Come as you are

There's hope for the hopeless and all those who've strayed
Come sit at the table, come taste the grace
There's rest for the weary, rest that endures
Earth has no sorrow that heaven can't cure

So lay down your burdens, lay down your shame
All who are broken, lift up your face
Oh wanderer come home, you're not too far
So lay down your hurt, lay down your heart
Come as you are
Come as you are
Fall in His arms
Come as you are

There's joy for the morning, oh sinner be still
Earth has no sorrow, that heaven can't heal
Earth has no sorrow, that heaven can't heal

So lay down your burdens, lay down your shame
All who are broken, lift up your face
Oh wanderer come home, you're not too far
So lay down your hurt, lay down your heart
Come as you are

Come as you are
Come as you are
Come as you are


I never want to let go!

This quote.
And difficult.
The desire to forgive is easy. Offering forgiveness, however, requires an act of humility and grace. And, more often than not, forgiveness demands that we die to self.
Yet dying to self is not what we want to do when we are hurt, offended, or wounded by another.
We want to cry, scream, respond, react, pass judgment, and nurse our wounds.
Forgive? Let them off the hook without any consequence? Overlook the offense? "No WAY!"
"Vengeance is MINE," we growl.
Until we feel a light tap on our shoulder and look up to see the face of the Father, a loving, gentle yet resolved face, and hear Him say, "I know you are hurting, daughter. I know this is hard. It may seem like forgiveness means freedom for the offender, but really, it is freedom - for you. You are not responsible for their actions or their response. I ask you to forgive because I want no opportunity for bitterness to plant itself in your heart or your mind, for it will take root and choke out joy and patience and longsuffering. I ask you to forgive, even when the one who offended you never acknowledges, confesses, or seeks forgiveness for sinning against you. And, remember, I am not asking you to do anything I did not ask of My Son. When He stood before His accusers, innocent and without sin, He did not respond. He simply stood in silence. And trusted Me. So now, My daughter, I am asking you to do the same. Dump all of your frustrations and your grievances and your pain on Me, for I can handle the weight of your burdens, and I will give you rest. And once you have rested, when you are refreshed and ready to face a new day, I will place My light-weight yoke upon you and teach you My way. Because My way - is best."

How thankful I am that the Lord does not deal with me the way I deal with others, or myself.
He is a tender, forgiving, gracious, patient Heavenly Father who accepts me as I am, but does not let me stay that way.
He wants the best for me. Not my best. Not the world's best. HIS best.
And the only way I can obtain His best is to SEEK it. PURSUE it. And CLING to it.
But in order to cling to Him, I must let go of whatever I clutch in my grasp.
Desires for vengeance.
Once I do, my hands will be open, empty, and able to hold on for dear life, clinging to the One who knows me best and loves me most ... my Savior and Lord.
And I pray I will never, ever let go.

"Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you." Colossians 3:13

I wish, brothers and sisters, that we could all imitate the pearl oyster. A hurtful particle intrudes itself into its shell, and this vexes and grieves it. The oyster cannot reject the evil - but it 'covers' it with a precious substance extracted out of its own life, by which it turns the intruder into a pearl!

Oh, that we could do so with the provocations we receive from our fellow Christians - so that pearls of patience, gentleness, and forgiveness might be bred within us, by that which otherwise would have harmed us!

"Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins." 1 Peter 4:8

- Charles Spurgeon, "Love's Labors"

Summer FUN with friends!

Image may contain: 4 people, people smiling, people standing, shorts and outdoor

Summer Sprinkler FUN with FRIENDS!
This shot is all natural.
I simply said, “Get together for a photo!” - and this was the result.
100% THEM!

Everything about it makes me smile. ♥️


Happy Birthday, Ellie!

Eight years!
The Lord has blessed you with eight years of life, Ellie Ruth.
And what a ride it's been!

You (literally) entered the world with your fists up and your tongue sticking out of your mouth.
Yet you buried your head into my chest with intense delight the moment I held you in my arms.
You, dear daughter, are an enigma.
You are tenacious, yet tender.
Defiant, yet delightful.
Stubborn, yet sweet.
You fight ferociously, but love with intense loyalty.
You refuse to yield, but sacrifice self to defend and protect the innocent.

Dad and I marvel at your strengths and weaknesses, and every time, we end the thought or conversation with, "The Lord HAS to have a purpose for such a personality!"
There is no way the Lord created you with such strength of character, such strength of conviction and such passion without having a plan to use it for His glory - and your good.
My prayer is that He is making you into a modern-day Amy Carmichael.
A little girl who will grow into a woman who will fight for and serve others, ignoring criticism,  naysayers, and overwhelming odds to move forward in zealous obedience to speak up for those who cannot speak from themselves and stand firm for TRUTH and RIGHTEOUSNESS, no matter the cost.
May you, like Jim Elliot, surrender your life to what the Lord wants, instead of seeking to satisfy self.
"He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose."

Your struggle will always be to deny self. You know this now, at eight years old.
You want to obey, you want to do what's right, but you want what you want when you want it - more.
The beautiful thing is, your sin is not done in secret. You sin boldly, and because you do, it is easily recognized, addressed, and when you are humble, immediately confessed and forgiven.
This is a wonderful thing, Ellie! 
Secret sins grow deep roots that choke the voice of the Holy Spirit, but public sin that is acknowledged and repented of has its roots ripped out before it can burrow into the soil of your heart, and multiply. So keep your gloves and tools at the ready, daughter, and become a master gardener, maintaining a beautiful, colorful, fruitful garden with nary a weed in sight!
And remember - you never have to identify or kill the weeds alone because ... 
No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation He will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. I Corinthians 10:13

The Lord created you strong, Ellie. But He did not do so for you to depend on yourself.
No matter how many strengths you possess, no matter how valuable or admired they may be, you will never be enough on your own. You NEED the Lord. Every day. In every way.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge Himand He will make straight your paths. Proverbs 3:5, 6

I pray He will teach you how to love Him more than you love yourself. It is not easy, but it is best.
And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ Mark 12:30

You are a wonderful enigma, my daughter.
A riddle wrapped in a rhyme.
But the Lord has you all figured out, for it is He who made you, exactly as you are. If you yield yourself to Him, willingly, completely, and joyfully, He will do amazing and wonderful things with you - and for you - because He is a God who blesses obedience and gives good things to those who love Him.

We have been blessed with eight years of delightful craziness with you, Ellie Ruth, and we cannot wait to see what the Lord has planned for your life.
We know it is going to be BEAUTIFUL because YOU are beautiful.
❤ And we love you, very, very much. ❤

Happy 8th Birthday!

Seek the Lord and His strength; seek His presence continually! I Chronicles 16:11


SERVING is better than SULKING!

Today the Lord reminded me of something important as I sat in a hospital room with a friend whose child was sound asleep in a hospital crib.
Serving others can be the perfect anecdote for a restless, struggling, and even sinful heart.

It is far too easy to focus on Self on a normal day, let alone when you feel wronged, cheated, offended, or wounded by another. 
Our thoughts then become completely self-focused as we rehearse what was said, what was done, why we are victims, and how the other person should be held accountable for their actions. 
All knowledge of our own sin and past mistakes flee from our thoughts as we nurse our wounds and dole out judgment on the one who wronged us. It's like looking in a mirror that reveals the image of our offender, rather than ourselves. We hide behind their deeds, their errors, and their sins - all the while forgetting that our own errors and sins are lurking within us.

Eeyore "poor me" moments. 
Call them what we will, but we must call them sin.
For what is sulking other than selfishness? I was wronged. I am upset. I am offended. I am hurt. I I I I I! 
Yes, sometimes we are 100% innocent. We played no part in the drama. Our hands are clean. Someone hurt us, attacked us, and sinned against us. It must be addressed, and hopefully, repentance takes place and the relationship is restored.
There is, however, nothing in Scripture that supports the believer dwelling on SELF. We are commanded to love our enemies and forgive those who persecute us. Even when we are innocent.

But often, we swim and sulk in the pools of self-pity because we aren't getting what we want or what we feel we deserve. Instead of "assuming the best" or "giving the benefit of the doubt" we let selfishness entertain us - and consume our thoughts.
Assumptions. Jealousy. Envy. Pettiness. Pride. Failure to acknowledge there are consequences to our sin.
We make lists of every perceived wrong and then swim lap after lap in the wake of our incorrect and unbiblical thinking. And with every stroke, we deepen our resentment and grieve the heart of God.

The dictionary defines sulking as:
1. be silent, morose, and bad-tempered out of annoyance or disappointment.
synonyms: mope, brood, be sullen, be in a bad mood, be in a huff, be grumpy, be moody;
1. a period of gloomy and bad-tempered silence stemming from annoyance and resentment.
synonyms: (bad) mood, fit of ill humor, fit of pique, pet, huff, (bad) temper;

I searched for a verse to support sulking/moping/sullenness in Scripture but came up empty-handed.
I did, however, find these:

Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Philippians 2:3,4

Everyone who is arrogant in heart is an abomination to the Lord; be assured, he will not go unpunished. Proverbs 16:5

For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. Galatians 6:3

Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain! Psalm 119:36

For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.
James 3:16

For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you
not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think,
but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.
Romans 12:3

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
I Corinthians 13:4, 5

I had planned on staying home alone this afternoon/evening to spend time thinking and writing and working through some difficult issues in relationships and in my own heart. I was looking forward to the silence, the uninterrupted time to think, and not having any obligations. I truly thought my motives were pure. I cannot repent from sin if I cannot identify my sin and I cannot identify my sin if I don't think about it. But the Lord knew my true motives because my heart is continually laid bare before Him. He misses nothing. And He had no intention of letting me sit alone in an empty house to nurse my wounds and dwell on what I cannot control. So how did He divert my plans? He called me to SERVE.

A friend sent me a text sharing that her daughter was admitted to the hospital and she, the mom, was barely hanging in there. It was an instant decision. I had to go to her. She was alone, she was exhausted, and she needed someone. Normally, I would not be able to leave my children and drive to the hospital, but today I was free with no obligations. Not only did the Lord know she needed me, He knew I needed HER. For three hours I did not have one thought about myself. Frustrations, hurts, disappointments - all of them disappeared. And it was wonderful.

I still need to sit before the Lord and work through all that is tumbling inside of me.
I need to confess and repent of sin.
I need to decipher which part of the tumbling is about me and which parts are about others.
I need quiet, solitude, and time to focus on what He wants me to see.
But today was not about me. He made sure of that!

I am grateful He knows me better than I know myself because if left to my own devices, I would still be doing laps in the self-pity pool, completely unaware of my sister sitting in the deck chair, lonely and sad. But the Lord blew the whistle, pulled me out of the pool, pointed at my sister, and like a coach disciplining his lazy athletes, yelled, "EASTMAN! Get to work!"

And I returned from the hospital light-hearted and refreshed because instead of letting me sulk, my Father had me SERVE.

For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word:
“You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Galatians 5:13, 14

Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. Romans 12:13

Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. I John 3:18

Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.
Hebrews 13:16

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.
Galatians 6:9

Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2