4.24.2018

Happy Birthday, Isaiah!


Nine years.
Nine years have been gifted to you by a God who created you with purpose and delight.
And we will never stop praising Him for choosing to put you in our family!

You are probably the easiest Eastman.
You march to the beat of your own drum and will disappear for hours engaged in private play.
One of your favorite activities is playing football - with yourself! Offense and Defense, complete with a detailed play-by-play as well as booing and cheers. You dive, roll, jump, spin, and tackle. It is hysterical to watch, and all seven Eastmans find great amusement in doing so!

You are thoughtful, affectionate, a deep thinker, and quick to laugh.
You are a good friend, quick to praise and celebrate the strengths and successes of others.

Listening to you pray is a joy and an encouragement, for you pray God's promises and character back to Him as though you have lived a full life of experiencing His promises.
I pray He will use your love for His Word to strengthen you and make you a godly man. And, use it to give you a strong voice to speak His truth and deliver the Good News of the Gospel to a world that desperately needs to hear it.
You are fearless and bold, Isaiah, and while those qualities can be used for selfish gain and sin, they can also be used to do great things for the Kingdom and for God's people.

You were named after prophets. 
Isaiah Daniel
"Salvation of the Lord" "God is my judge"

Your father and I pray the Lord will use you just as He used those phenomenal men ... to read, study, understand, and preach God's Word with passion and confidence, walking in faithful obedience, regardless of the response of men.

I love your introspective, thoughtful nature, and, your light-hearted spirit that always enjoys a good time. You have a balanced personality, and I pray the Lord will use that strength to help you master the skill of challenging people with truth while cheering them on to maturity and success in the Christian faith. 
Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. 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 10:23-25

I love you, Isaiah Daniel!
And I am incredibly thankful that of all the mothers in the world, God chose me to be yours.

Happy Birthday!

4.22.2018

Dennis + Lebanon + Special Needs Celebration!

National Day in Lebanon was a success!

Dennis sent us a note asking us to pray that "the Lord would prepare the hearts of those attending the banquet," and that his words would be used to "bring God glory and encourage the people of Lebanon to continue their efforts to serve and minister to students with special needs."

After the event, he reported it was a wonderful evening with great responses from those in attendance. Praise the Lord! For it is He who moved the hearts of the Lebanese government to stand in the gap for children with special needs who deserve the same rights and privileges in education as everyone else. Lebanon is living out Scripture in a real and much-needed way.
Open your mouth for the mute, For the rights of all who are unfortunate and defenseless; Open your mouth, judge righteously, And administer justice for the afflicted and needy. Proverbs 31:8, 9
I asked Dennis to send his notes for his speech because I want to add my voice to the many who are already crying out on behalf of these students.
If one student, one parent, one teacher reads this and is encouraged to understand better, care more, or do more, then another child will be given HOPE through the kindness and grace of the one who seeks to understand what it is like to live in their world, and then, do something to make that world BETTER.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“They could not. I would not.” - Dr. Dennis Eastman

It is an honor for me to share this important and distinct day with all of you. To have been at the very first National Day and now see how it continues to gain momentum is truly exciting.

My remarks come to you by way of several perspectives:
My own as that of a parent and teacher
My students
My children

During my first year as a teacher, I had a student in my history class with a physical need. Though he could see large font, David was legally blind. His mother requested notes and lesson materials in advance so she could enlarge them on a copier. Believing this request to be inconvenient, I resolved I would not give the materials before the lesson.

A few years later I had Michael in my class. He had dyslexia. The learning center at the school asked that Michael be given extra time to complete tests. If the test was lengthy, the learning lab also requested I provide a copy of the test so Michael could complete it at lunch or after school. I considered this an unfair advantage other students did not have. I would not drop off a copy of the exam.

Ben could not sit still or stop talking. Every three minutes he would blurt out whatever came to mind in the middle of the lesson. His impulsiveness was becoming a distraction to me and to others. The learning center said he needed consistent routines and a predictable schedule. I was the teacher in this class. I would not be compelled to change my routines and schedule for his needs.

John could tell a story that was descriptive and engaging. However, when given a one-page writing assignment, the same story took him two hours and many tears to write. He asked for another way to complete his work. I considered his request unreasonable and labeled him as lazy, unmotivated, and defiant. I would not accept an alternative assignment.

The common denominator in each of these cases was that the students had a need which prevented their learning, and I made excuses that prevented their SUCCESS in learning.

They could not learn in the manner I was teaching.
I would not accommodate their learning needs.

It was my attitude that had the disability. I offered no assistance but gave labels and judgments.
It was me who was placing burdens on the backs of struggling students without lifting a hand to help.

They had no choice.
I made my choice.

Only after I had children of my own would I realize that by refusing to accommodate for the learning needs of my students, I was committing a form of discrimination and communicating to them that their needs were not worthy of my effort, and not as important as my convenience.

Some learning needs are physically invisible and emotionally private, but the effects of those needs are often quite public in nearly every arena of a child’s life. I have learned this first hand. My wife and I have been blessed with six children who have wonderful strengths and abilities. However, five of those six children have mild to moderate learning needs that affect their lives in a very real way nearly every day.

I have learned through many thoughtful and emotionally painful conversations with my children that students with learning needs do not desire our sympathy, but our empathy.
Sympathy offers a condolence or a message of, “I feel sorry for you.”
However, empathy leads to action.
Empathy does not judge how the person bears the burden, but asks, "How can I help with your burden?"
Empathy does not ask, “How smart are you?” but urges “How are you smart?” and comes alongside to aid in that discovery.

My son Caleb, who has dyslexia, has been an incredible example of empathy in the lives of children with physical and learning needs. To raise a few dollars for missions one summer, our children ran Camp Eastman. Parents dropped off their children and our kids played games and did activities with the campers. On one occasion, a wonderful boy who has a degenerative disease that has impaired his eyesight was one of our campers. Upon his arrival, Caleb ran down the driveway to meet Kyle. He then took him by the hand and began advertising the great things in store for him that afternoon. “Kyle, we have toys, cars, trains, we can build puzzles, and we are going to play games. If you need anything let me know because I will be right here to help you.” And then, during the relay races, he put Kyle on his back and ran with him so he could feel like he was part of the games.

The acts of kindness, compassion, and empathy, demonstrated by my son did more to help a child with a need in one afternoon than I had done in half my career as a classroom teacher. As this scene unfolded before me, I confess, I was convicted. His example greatly inspired me and has done much to help change my perspective and my practice of advocacy for students with needs of all kinds. Beginning with my children.

While learning invites a change in perspective, it also invites a change in practice. There are an estimated 1,172,038 school-aged children in Lebanon. If just 5% of the school-aged population had some form of learning need, that 5% would represent over 58,000 students.

When a country, and specifically, the universities, are committed to educating teachers to serve all students, including those with differences, teachers become ambassadors for change and opportunity in the life of a child. And when that effort is replicated across the country, those 58,000 children with learning needs experience learning in a whole new light. All of this begins - with a change in attitude.

I asked two of my sons, Micah and Caleb, both of whom have dyslexia, “If you could tell the people of Lebanon one thing they need to know about students with learning needs, what would it be?” Here is what they said:

Micah (age 18): “I would want them to know that I do want to learn. Actually, I really want to learn, but it doesn’t look the way it does for everyone else. I may not able to articulate it like my peers through papers and tests, but I can verbally tell them what I am taking in and understanding. Though there is very rarely an opportunity to do so verbally. The bottom line is, I really do want to learn and so do many other kids. We just need to find a different way to do it.”

Caleb (age 14): “I would enjoy school and give better effort if I could actually do the work. But since some things seem absolutely impossible, like math and writing, I don’t even know where to start. And it seems like I always fail, which is why I would rather do things I enjoy and things that come easy. It is not because I am lazy, but because everything in school is so very hard.”

An awareness of student learning needs offers a solid start toward change. However, a change of mind without a change of practice only ensures good intentions.

Consistent and broad interventions are required to make a real impact for providing support on behalf of all students. This undertaking is a worthy task to be considered by all. Education in this country, above all things, should be about equipping the next generation of the citizens of Lebanon. Education is about nation-building.

When all students are equipped with a quality education and taught to think deeply about solving problems, they will be more prepared to accept greater challenges and bear more significant responsibilities in the future. Including the responsibilities of contributing to their families, their workplace, and ultimately the nation.

Your willingness to set aside a day to come together as a country and celebrate students with learning differences provides a message of possibility, opportunity, and hope in the life of a child and for their parents as well.

Congratulations to you and your valued partners for your continued commitment toward taking active steps to come alongside students with needs as you seek to strengthen your amazing country one child at a time.

Thank you.

4.21.2018

This and that.

Happy, happy SATURDAY!
It is a gorgeous day! A bright, sunny, blue sky envelops us, and we have nothing we "must" do. A lovely way to spend the day!

Dennis and his colleagues arrived safely in Lebanon and hit the ground running as soon as the plane landed.
The team was invited to train teachers and administrators how to care for students with special needs as well as present seminars to help educators and parents understand the struggles their students face each day.
It is thrilling because Lebanon is one of the first countries in the middle east to recognize students with special needs. And they are giving it all they've got!
Dennis was honored to be asked to speak at the National Celebration of Special Needs Education on Sunday. How exciting it is to witness a nation not only embrace these students - but celebrate them!

Ministering to teachers, students, and families is a highlight for Dennis because he is able to combine his love of education and teaching with the Gospel. He returns to us invigorated, spiritually refreshed, and blessed after spending time with amazing saints who tirelessly serve the neglected and forgotten.
How thankful we are that he has a heart for this ministry! We miss him when he’s gone, but would never ask him to stay. And hopefully, one day we will be able to join him in his work!

Yesterday, Caleb, Josiah, Isaiah, and Ellie and I were able to spend the morning at a science center in L.A.
The main purpose was to view the King Tut exhibit since we are studying the ancients in history. It was well done, but I fear we must travel to Egypt to get the full experience! <grin>
We are also studying astronomy, so it was a delightful surprise to be privately escorted into the Endeavor Space Shuttle hangar by a lovely docent who took pity on my children who did not possess tickets to enter.
And - WOW! The sheer size is enough to stun you, as are the details of this mammoth spacecraft. A space engineer gave us a private lecture and he was fantastic. I was thankful for such a privilege!

~~~ While we do not make huge and exciting plans when Dennis travels, we do have some simple and fun traditions when he is gone.
●The teens and I always have a Mom/Son date night, usually a movie marathon, complete with their favorite snacks. (i.e., junk food)
●Josiah, Isaiah, and Ellie have a sleepover on the couch or in my bedroom. (Why is that sleeping somewhere different is SO exciting to children?!)
●I schedule extra nights of counseling/discipleship and have at least one friend over to enjoy a whole evening of conversation. This time it was my sister, who even spent the night! Such fun!

Two weeks ago we spent our final day caring for baby Josiah. So, of course, we had to do a photo shoot!
Because his mom trusted us with her precious firstborn, our children learned wonderful lessons during our three months with him. Diaper changing, making bottles, and feeding solid foods were the practical skills gained. Serving, sacrificing, putting the needs of someone else before their own, being attentive, and learning how to care for, love and protect an innocent child ... these lessons were invaluable.
We were blessed to have been trusted to serve in this way, and hope and pray we will be trusted again in the months and years to come. #bringonthebabies #prayingfostercareisinourfuture

Our curriculum for the 2018-2019 school year has ARRIVED - thanks to a small, yet helpful tax return - and I am EXCITED!
With the addition of the Bible, missionary biographies, online art lessons, +/- 200 books from our local library, and a few field trips, our 2018-2019 school year planning is complete! WooHoo!
Every spring I am driven to map out the plan for the following school year. Planning, research, assessment, and dreaming of what “will be” makes me happy, and I fully enjoy the process.
But dreaming cannot last forever, so I put away the books and turn my attention back to THIS year and kick into high gear so we can finish strong. And - with enthusiasm!
I LOVE LOVE LOVE homeschooling, and will never cease to give praise for the gift and freedom of being able to do so! #13yearsandcounting #prayingforcontinuedfreedom

Between the covers of this book, I met some wonderful new friends.
I thought I would know at least thirty of the men and women highlighted since the pillars of the Christian faith are well known and spoken of often.
Friends! I was wrong. I was familiar with less than ten!
But now? Not only do I know new names, I have been introduced to men and women who loved God fiercely. So fiercely, in fact, that their lives and witness for Christ were chosen to be listed as people who should be known. By every believer.
As I read the handful of pages which captured the essence of each life, I could not help but feel convicted and challenged. When I have breathed my last, will anyone be able to look at my life, my character, my walk with God ... and say, "You should know Michelle Renee Eastman!"?
"Live so as to be missed." That was the life mantra of Robert Murray M'Cheyne. And after reading this book, I believe he had it right.

~~~ Lord, may this weekend be used to refresh and revive us physically and mentally so we are able to dive into a new week with energy, enthusiasm, and strength. And, please Lord, revive our HEARTS, creating within us an insatiable desire to read Your Word and talk to You, every day, all day. For there is no one and nothing else that satisfies like You satisfy! We love You, Lord. Teach us to love You MORE.

4.18.2018

Camp Eastman is BACK! With a purpose.

We are excited to announce Camp Eastman 2018!

Micah, Luke, and Caleb have chosen to serve on mission teams this summer.
Micah and Luke will be going to Tepic, Mexico to run VBS for children, participate in evangelical skits in the city squares, compete in soccer games with local teens and young adults, presenting the Gospel after each game, and engaging in one-on-one evangelism.
Caleb will be part of our local mission team, serving in Los Angeles in a myriad of ways.

Of course, serving on a mission trip means they need to raise monetary support to GO. (The boys still need to raise approximately $1,000, combined.) And since we Eastmans do not possess skills that can be turned into tangible items to sell, we have to use what we do have - bodies that can work, hands that can serve, and hearts that like children.
Hence, Camp Eastman 2018!
Three hours of nonstop fun for children while their parents enjoy an evening out - alone or with friends.
A win-win for everyone!


Camp Counselors - Caleb, Micah, Luke
These counselors are in charge of children (ages 5-12) and answer to the director, Dr. E.
Their strengths: Relay races, games, sporting events, piggyback rides, and FUN!
Warning! They will absolutely exhaust your children with their activities. 


Camp Counselors in Training - Ellie, Isaiah, Josiah
These Counselors are in charge of babies and toddlers (1:1 ratio) 
and are supervised by the Camp Coordinator - Mrs. E.
Their strengths: Holding, feeding, playing, stroller-pushing, singing, dancing and being silly
Warning! Your baby/toddler may be returned to you spoiled!

➙The Details 

Dates
Friday, May 11, 5-8 pm
Friday, June 8, 5-8 pm
Saturday, June 16, 5-8 pm
Saturday, July 14, 5-8 pm
Drop Off: 4:45pm

20 Spaces Available for each camp
(5 spaces reserved for babies/toddlers aged 2 and under)
First Come - First Served!

B.Y.O.D. (Bring your own dinner)
We provide water bottles and dessert.

COST
Whatever you think three hours of freedom is worth!
All monies go directly to the missions fund.

Odds and Ends 
- Have your children wear tennis shoes! 
They will be walking, running, and moving the entire night.
- Bring sweater/sweatshirt in case it gets cool.
They will be outside the entire time.
- Bring strollers for the babies/toddlers so we can take them for a walk!

We hope you are able to join us for Camp Eastman 2018 to support our son's efforts to earn money to serve on missions teams this summer! And we thank you, in advance, for trusting us with your precious children.

Let the FUN and GAMES Begin!

4.13.2018

It's a choice.

Though directed at a group of pastors by a godly man who gave everything he had to the study of Scripture so he could faithfully feed his own sheep, this quote is a fitting challenge for each of us. Especially as it applies to the priority of reading Scripture and praying.

"We have plenty of time for all our work did we husband our time and hoard it up aright," he told them. "We cannot look seriously in one another's faces and say it is want of time.
It is want of intention.
It is want of determination.
It is want of method.
It is want of motive.
It is want of conscience.
It is want of heart.
It is want of anything and everything but time." - Alexander Whyte

An excellent and convicting quote, because the truth is, how we spend our time - is a choice.

Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.
Ephesians 5:15-17

O Lord, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am! Behold, You have made my days a few handbreadths, and my lifetime is as nothing before You.
Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath! Psalm 39:4, 5

4.11.2018

Let's ask better questions!

"Young man, you had better get to work for the Lord!" - D. L. Moody

Moody directed this statement to Reuben Archer Torrey when he was a student at Yale Divinity School in 1878, and the young man took it to heart. So much so that he caught the same passion for soul-winning that possessed Moody, later becoming the superintendent of the (current day) Moody Bible Institute and one of the founders of Biola University, as well as a respected author and passionate evangelist.

Fast forward 140 years.
In our culture, we focus heavily on college and career. "Where are you going to college?"
Athleticism and musicianship. "How many points do you average per game?"
Physical appearance and academic success. "How many scholarships did you receive?"
Even in the church.

But what would happen if we changed our focus to one that reflects Moody's heart? How much more encouraging would we be, how much more fruitful, if we asked young men and women questions that could alter the course of their futures - because the questions alter the direction of their focus?
"What are you doing for the Lord?"
"How are you using your gifts to serve the church and reach the lost?"
"How do you plan to serve the Lord while you are in college?"
"How will you use your profession to benefit the church and increase the Kingdom?"
"What kind of ministry do you want to engage in with your spouse once you are married?"

Nothing in Scripture instructs us to serve the Lord or the church when we are old.
No verse declares, "Live for yourself when you are young, and then when you are old, get to Kingdom work."
As soon as we are saved - we are to serve. Whether eight or ninety-eight, our spiritual gifts, our strengths, and our skills are to be used for the Lord. The who/what/when/where/how may change, but we best be about our Father's business!

Only fear the Lord and serve Him faithfully with all your heart.
For consider what great things He has done for you. I Samuel 12:24
Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.
Colossians 3:23-24
As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace...
I Peter 4:10
Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Romans 12:11

"Young man, you had better get to work for the Lord!"

One sentence. One simple yet stimulating sentence that forever changed the course of a young man's life. R. A. Torrey intended to be a lawyer, caught up in worldly living while at school until the Lord grabbed a hold of his heart and created within it a passion for Himself, and for the lost. And lives were changed. For eternity.

Warren Wiersbe boasts of Torrey, "He stood like a giant at the time when winds of doctrine were blowing against the church and causing people to stumble and fall. In Reuben Archer Torrey, God proved once again that education and evangelism, depth and soul-winning, need not destroy one another. If a man submits to the Word and is filled with the Spirit, he can have an enlightened mind and a burning heart - and he can reach people for Christ." AMEN!

Torrey himself exclaimed, "I would rather win souls than be the greatest king or emperor on earth; I would rather win souls than be the greatest general that ever commanded an army... My one ambition in life is to win as many as possible. Oh, it is the only thing worth doing, to save souls; and men and women, we can all do it."

May we, like Moody, inspire the young men and women of this generation to do great things for God because we ask questions that will challenge their thinking and push their thoughts toward Christ. For, as Henry Varley said, "The world has yet to see what God can do with and for and through and in a man who is fully and wholly consecrated to Him."

4.09.2018

I, too, feel like I cannot speak.

During a delightful evening spent together as families, a sweet friend and I snuck some private minutes together to talk about things unique to us as women while our husbands were deep in discussion in another room and our children moved all over the house. How refreshing it was to exchange thoughts, concerns, prayer needs, and the way the Lord is currently holding His holy mirror to our faces to reveal our sin and help us lose our own images - and replace them with His.

I cannot remember how Amy Carmichael was welcomed into our conversation, but as soon as my friend heard her name she asked, "Have you read her book if?" I had never heard of it, so she explained the premise of the book adding, "EVERY time I read it I am so convicted I feel like I cannot speak for days." With an endorsement such as that, my only thought was to add it to my never-ending-and-always-growing book wishlist! I barely had time to look it up, however, when it arrived at my door.
(Thank you, C!♥)

It is a tiny book, just four inches by six inches, with barely 50 pages. But it is a POWERFUL book. After reading just a few of the "if, then" statements, I understood why my friend felt she could not speak after absorbing words of such deep conviction.

Though it would be easy to quote the entire book, I will let Amy's own words introduce it, and then write out some of the "ifs" that struck me like a blow. If you are familiar with Amy, you will be neither surprised nor offended by her blunt and intense manner. If she is new to you, take heart. Her intense, focused, passionate nature is exactly who God made her to be - so she could do the work He called her to do.

How if came to be written. "One evening a fellow worker brought me a problem about a younger one who was missing the way of Love. This led to a wakeful night, for the word at such times is always, "Lord, is it I? Have I failed her anywhere? What do I know of Calvary love?" And then sentence by sentence the "Ifs" came, almost as if spoken aloud in the inward ear."

if I can easily discuss the shortcomings and the sins of any; if I can speak in a casual way even of a child's misdoings, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

if I can enjoy a joke at the expense of another; if I can in any way slight another in conversation, or even in thought, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

if I can write an unkind letter, speak an unkind word, think an unkind thought without grief and shame, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

if I cast up a confessed, repented, and forsaken sin against another, and allow my remembrance of that sin to color my thinking and feed my suspicions, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

if I can hurt another by speaking faithfully without much preparation of spirit, and without hurting myself far more than I hurt that other, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

if I am afraid to speak the truth, lest I lose affection, or lest the one concerned should say, "You do not understand," or because I fear to lose my reputation for kindness; if I put my own good name before the other's highest good, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

if I am soft to myself and slide comfortably into the vice of self-pity and self-sympathy; if I do not by the grace of God practice fortitude, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

if I myself dominate myself, if my thoughts revolve around myself, if I am so occupied with myself I rarely have "a heart at leisure from itself," then I know nothing of Calvary love.

if I do not give a friend "the benefit of the doubt," but put the worst construction instead of the best on what is said or done, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

if interruptions annoy me, and private cares make me impatient; if I shadow the souls about me because I myself am overshadowed, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

if the praise of men elates me and his blame depresses me; if I cannot rest under misunderstanding without defending myself; if I love to be loved more than to love, to be served more than to serve, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

if in the fellowship of service I seek to attach a friend to myself, so that others are caused to feel unwanted; if my friendships do not draw others deeper in, but are ungenerous (i.e., to myself, for myself), then I know nothing of Calvary love.

if I wonder why something trying is allowed, and press for prayer that it may be removed; if I cannot be trusted with any disappointment, and cannot go on in peace under any mystery, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

if I covet any place on earth but the dust at the foot of the cross, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

How the book closes ...
"Let us end on a very simple note: Let us listen to simple words; our Lord speaks simply: "Trust Me, my child," He says. "Trust Me with a humbler heart and a fuller abandon to My will than ever thou didst before. Trust Me to pour my love through thee, as minute succeeds minute. And if thou shouldst be conscious of anything hindering the flow, do not hurt My love by going away from Me in discouragement, for nothing can hurt love so much as that. Draw all the closer to Me; come, flee unto Me to hide thee, even from thyself. Tell Me about the trouble. Trust Me to turn My hand upon thee and thoroughly to remove the boulder that has choked thy riverbed, and take away all the sand that has silted up the channel. I will not leave thee until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of. I will perfect that which concerneth thee. Fear thou not, O child of My love; fear not.""

Thank You, Lord, for the life and ministry of Amy Carmichael. Oh, how much I wish I had been her friend! Thank You for moving her head, heart, and hand to chronicle the lessons You so faithfully and lovingly taught her as she walked in obedience day by day, because as I read about her life and her astounding ability to depend on You and trust You for all things - it feels like she IS my friend. And I am thrilled that she is - my sister!

4.06.2018

Learning Needs and Special Needs are GIFTS!

It has been one month since I returned from my vacation. Many wonderful memories fill my mind from those exciting eleven days, but there is one thought that continues to bounce back and forth in my brain. I was 2,000+ miles away from home. Alone.

The trip was everything I wanted, but even more, What I Needed. Each time that truth fluttered through my mind I felt like the Lord was saying, "I know you appreciate how far I have brought you and your children, daughter, but I want you to look back - and REMEMBER. Not just the big picture, but the details." And He was right. Just as He convicts me to remember the details of losing our son to maintain fresh empathy and compassion for other women grieving over their babies, I must do the same with the details of raising children with dyslexia and ADD/ADHD. Parents of kids with learning/special needs often feel isolated and rejected, because the truth is, like anything else, unless we live it, we don't understand it. And sadly, we often make judgments based on our ignorance.
Spurgeon said it well: We should feel more for the prisoner if we knew more about the prison. 

As a mother, I studied the prison of dyslexia and learning needs immediately after discovering our children were living in it. What I didn't know how to do at the time, however, was bridge the gap between knowledge - and understanding. I read and researched and attend conferences to gain the knowledge needed to help my children. And I found it. I can spout off the characteristics of dyslexia and ADD without effort. But, who cares? We can find information anywhere. What parents need, what the children need - is empathy.

When I am looking into the eyes of a woman who is drowning in the seemingly endless assault of the crashing waves of special needs, she doesn't want to hear the science, the statistics, or the scholastic pieces of why her kids struggle. She wants the personal. She wants to hear me say, "I understand." She wants to hear my story because as she listens to the very real truth about my daily life, the ugly, as well as the beautiful, light shines into the darkness of her prison cell and she sees, maybe for the first time, that she is not alone.

So, what is my story? What would I say to a mother who has just discovered her child is dyslexic? What would I say to the woman in tears because no one understands her hyperactive child and constantly judges her? What would I say to the father whose son hates school, cries over lessons, and has been pushed into depression because he cannot succeed like other students and feels like he is worthless? Exactly what other men and women told me. The truth.

My children ...
do not talk - they yell
do not walk - they run
do not play - they wrestle
do not look - they touch
do not use items - they destroy them
do not sit still - they rock, roll, and twist
do not discuss - they argue
do not play games - they compete
do not focus - they dream
do not ask - they obsess
do not lie still and sleep - they roll around, talk, play, sing, and have conversations with themselves

-My children often don't respond to commands because they are hyperfocused on their current activity and cannot hear me. And it feels like they are ignoring me.
-When my children do hear me, they don't listen (even when they asked a question) because their minds are distracted by their next thought, a cricket chirping, or the memory of the delicious brownie they had for dessert last night. And they appear rude.
-I cannot give my children a list of commands because, by the time they complete the first item, all the other items on the list have been forgotten. It seems like they are disobeying.
-My children cannot see messes or plan ahead. They do not think about mildew collecting on towels shoved in a closet after a shower or Lego creations being kicked apart because they were left in the middle of the hallway because they live in the moment, totally focused on "now." But they seem lazy.
-When I make a change - any change - without informing my children, it causes tremendous stress and often, a meltdown that makes heads turn. And they appear inflexible.
-It takes my children three times longer than their peers to complete an assignment and almost always results in frustration and fatigue. While they did their best, they are labeled lazy and unmotivated because the scores do not reflect the effort.

At this point, I am met with enlarged eyes, head nods, and outcries of, "Yes! Exactly!"
(The same way I responded when others graciously pulled back the curtain on their family and home lives when I had just walked into the world of learning needs, desperately craving someone who understood my completely overwhelmed heart and mind.) It is a wonderful moment because it means she feels connected, no longer alone. It also means it is time to offer HOPE.

While all of the things listed above can be incredibly frustrating for the parent, they are even more frustrating for the child. And usually, not malicious. Most children do not wake up planning to break something, defy authority, or annoy people with their inability to read social cues. They just DO. Their minds work differently. Not wrong. Just different. And these differences are a GIFT! Because these kids cannot think/do/learn/behave like everyone else, they must find new ways to think/do/learn/behave. And inventors, scientists, architects, and entrepreneurs are born!
The destroyer may become an engineer.
The arguer may become a lawyer.
The dreamer may become an author.
The obsessive may become a modern-day Amy Carmichael who is fired up by injustice and completely undaunted when told, "You can't do that," while pushing her way into brothels to rescue children.

As parents, our job is to teach our children how to exist in a world that will not take time to understand their prison, or care. They must learn to manage their impulses, both verbal and physical. They must learn to see others, not just themselves, for life is not about them. We must teach them to desire and pursue character traits that are attractive, not repellants. We must teach them compassion and grace for others since they themselves require much of both. And without a doubt, we must help them discover their natural gifts and strengths so they can channel all of their energy and effort into things that will bring them success. Not only for themselves -but for the glory of God.

I could fill many more pages with examples of difficult days, out-of-control moments (both mine and theirs), tear-filled struggles, hard conversations, mistakes, and moments of complete brokenness. And I probably should fill those pages, because behind every example is an amazing, compassionate, grace-filled, sovereign God who chose this for our children, for me and Dennis, and for our family. He could have designed their minds and bodies and strengths a hundred other ways, but He made them just as they are, with purpose. For His glory, and their good. And I am thankful.

The road of dyslexia and ADD/ADHD has been a long one for our family. Learning needs and special 
needs are not isolated to a classroom or a school - but to LIFE. The Lord has been faithful to remind us how far we have come, but there is still more road to travel, and one day, our children will no longer be walking behind us, following where we lead. They will be grown adults, personally and wholly accountable for their thoughts, choices, and actions. Dennis and I will be seen cheering and encouraging them as we run on the sidelines until we breathe our final breath, but no matter how often our children look to us for help, we will point them to the One who created them, loves them, and died for them, and cry, "Follow HIM!" And then, passionately pray that our children will recognize the sovereign hand of God in their lives and say on their own accord, "Thank You, Lord! I praise You for I AM fearfully and wonderfully made. Just as I am."

4.05.2018

Reputation is the result of CHARACTER.

“If I take care of my character, my reputation will take care of itself.” 
- Dwight L. Moody

This is an excellent quote on its own merit, but after reading the biography of Moody's life, knowing how often and harshly he was criticized by people, especially believers, this statement is quite profound. He was not impervious to the sting of slander, as he had a heart that felt deeply like any human, yet he did not buckle under the onslaught of arrows aimed at his back. He was a living example of Proverbs 26:2. Like a fluttering sparrow or a darting swallow, an undeserved curse does not come to rest.
People may not have liked his manner or his methods, but he was not living for the praises of men. Moody had one goal: To save sinners from the grip of hell. Always, with tears.
And he did so faithfully, day after day until the Lord called him HOME.

“If I take care of my character, my reputation will take care of itself.” 
An excellent perspective that begs the question - How do we take care of our character?
As always, there is only one place to find the answer. Scripture.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, 
if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Philippians 4:8

For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.
II Peter 1:5-7

Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Colossians 3:12-15

I appeal to you, therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:1-2

If we are faithful to obey these commands, we can build solid characters of godliness, and thereby possess reputations respected by others, and more importantly, reputations that please God. 
Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, ... Philippians 1:27

Notice, the verse calls us to lives worthy of the Gospel, not lives worthy of self, or the approval of man. As Moody's life shows, no matter how faithfully and passionately we pursue God, everyone will not like us, approve of us, or want us. We cannot control what others think of us or how they perceive our words and actions. The only thing we can control is how often we meet the Lord in prayer and the study of His Word, and let Him take care of the details.

Criticism can cut you, shake you, and knock you off balance, 
but no criticism ever gets the final word over your life.
God gets the final word in Christ. 
- John Piper

4.04.2018

He sees and knows ALL.

"Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of Him to whom we must give account!" Hebrews 4:13

Ever since you rose from your bed this morning - there has been an eye watching you! Wherever you have been and whatever you have been doing - that eye has seen you. It has gone with you to your work. It has seen you with your companions. It has been on you when you were alone.

It has seen not merely all that you have done, but why you did it. Your thoughts, your feelings, your motives, which even your nearest friend has not fully known - have all been open to that eye of which I speak. For it is an all-seeing eye - the eye of God!

"His eyes are on the ways of men, He sees their every step!" Job 34:21

"He knows the secrets of the heart!" Psalm 44:21

"You have set our iniquities before You, our secret sins in the light of Your presence!" Psalm 90:8

Have you thought of Him whose eye has been upon you today?
Have you given so much as one thought to Him since the day began?

You have need to pray, great need - for you are dependent upon God for everything. You are entirely in His hand!

If you went to your work this morning strong and well - it was only because God made you so and kept you so.

If you have had enough to eat today, if you are clothed comfortably and have a home to live in - it is only because God supplies your needs. You would have nothing - if God did not supply you. You live - only because He gives you life. He could take all your comforts from you - if it pleased Him. He could lay you on a bed of sickness this very day - He could in a moment, strike you dead!

Have you even spoken to Him today? Have you prayed to Him today?

"I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear Him!" Luke 12:5

(Francis Bourdillon, "The Odd Five Minutes" 1873)

4.02.2018

Don't run away! Get strong - and STAND FIRM.

While looking through past sermon notes, I came across this gem!

I remember this season of life. I had walked into church barely in control of my emotions. The Lord had me in a place of needing to depend solely on Him, and I was trying to be obedient. I was searching the Scriptures and praying continually, but also looking for someone to help make it all clear - so I could find peace. There is such a fine balance of completely relying on the Lord while obeying Scriptures that prompt us to seek wise counsel from godly men and women. God uses His Word, the church, and His people to speak to us ... and we must be alert and ready to listen when He does!
So, imagine my surprise when our pastor revealed the sermon topic: 
Tempted to run - Strengthened to stand.

It was one of those Sundays when I felt like I was the only person in the sanctuary. Each word penetrated my heart and every verse seared my mind. I could not take notes fast enough. I thought, "Really, Lord? Could it be this easy? Are You going to answer all of my questions in one sermon, and quiet my heart too? Thank You!"

Of course, I did not walk out of the church with a magical new life, free from sorrows and trials, but I did leave with a new resolve: I am not going to run, I am going to get stronger! 
The right kind of strength, a godly strength, so I am able to stand firm in times of conflict and trial.

Below are the notes and thoughts from the sermon that impacted me greatly. Every word spoken by my beloved pastor echoed what my heart and mind were screaming that Sunday.
Trust the Lord!
Seek Him!
Rely on His strength!
Do not lean on your own understanding!
Just - TRUST.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
                                    
Give ear to my prayer, O God, and do not hide Yourself from my supplication.
Attend to me, and hear me; I am restless in my complaint, and moan noisily.

My heart is severely pained within me, and the terrors of death have fallen upon me.
Fearfulness and trembling have come upon me, and horror has overwhelmed me.
So I said, “Oh, that I had wings like a dove! I would fly away and be at rest.
Indeed, I would wander far off, and remain in the wilderness.
I would hasten my escape from the windy storm and tempest." Psalm 55

➤ David wants to run because it is easier than facing hard times.
He is in agony, trying circumstances, an emotional wreck, dealing with difficult people, criticism, attacks - and he has lost focus. 
"I am restless in my complaint, and moan noisily. My heart is severely pained within me, and the terrors of death have fallen upon me. Fearfulness and trembling have come upon me, and horror has overwhelmed me.  I would hasten my escape from the windy storm and tempest." (vv. 4-5)

➤ Running is not an option
A temporary escape/retreat is okay for a time to refocus, refresh and rest.
And then we must REENGAGE with life!
As for me, I will call upon God, and the Lord shall save me.
Evening and morning and at noon I will pray, and cry aloud, and He shall hear my voice.
He has redeemed my soul in peace from the battle that was against me,
For there were many against me. (vv. 16-18)

➤ Prayer is the correct response in trying times - lifting our thoughts back toward God so they are not focused on our circumstances.

There.is.no.panic.in.heaven.  God is not surprised by trials.  We can trust Him to do His work.

Do not be anxious - PRAY! 
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.  Philippians 4:6,7

When no one else is listening,
when no one is defending you,
you have the Lord!

➤ David was in constant prayer - three times a day DEDICATED to prayer!  A discipline of prayer.
Cast your burden on the Lord, and He shall sustain you;

He shall never permit the righteous to be moved. (v. 22)

➤ Believe in God's sufficiency.
He SHALL sustain you. 
(sustain = strengthen and uphold)

Notice  God does not promise to REMOVE our burdens - but to carry them for us.
He replaces our weakness with His strength.
                                     
Lord, You know I am a recovered runner. But there are times I feel like David did, and wish I could run again. Make me stronger, Lord. Show me the benefit, the beauty, and the joy of standing firm, secure, and strengthened - in YOU. Though I often need help attaining it, it is - what I want.

3.31.2018

Easter Weekend FUN - with FAMILY!


Easter Weekend - in Fresno!
We wanted to do something different for Easter this year, 
so we asked Steven & CC if we could spend it with them - and they said YES!
Nonstop action, conversation, and noise have taken place since we arrived - and it is WONDERFUL!
Today we enjoyed an Easter Brunch complete with a traditional Egg Hunt, Games, Face Painting, and a Petting Zoo. It was a festive and fun way to spend the morning!



I discovered a new job opportunity!
A Holiday Ambassador! “Bridging the gap of fear between children and holiday icons.” 
{Easter bunny, Santa Claus etc.}
After watching child after child scream in fear when placed in the lap of the giant bunny by smiling parents at the Easter event, I decided to try an experiment.
I asked the woman inside the bunny if she would hug me and let me hug her so the kids could see that despite her gigantic head and incisors, she is sweet and lovable. 🐇💗
It worked for my niece, so hopefully, it helped other children smile (not scream) when they were forced to take the obligatory Easter Bunny photo.


Roman, Lorenzo, Josiah, Ellie, and Isaiah enjoying their spoils after the Egg Hunt.


We did it!
We actually managed to get a photo of the siblings - all at the same time!
And - I LIKE US! ❤


What would a holiday event be without a few selfies?
And who better to take them with than Dennis and my teens?
I love my men!


Dennis, Steven, the teens, and the kids - not one of them wanted to take advantage of the various photo ops available. So - CC and I decided to have photo fun on our own!
We also planned to get our faces painted with Olivia and Sofia, but children kept cutting in front of us. While frustrated, we chose to be gracious and give up rather than elbowing our way through a crowd of toddlers and little girls to get our way.
(I will admit however, I was disappointed that we didn't get to see the looks on the faces of the painters when we requested "the ascension of Jesus" as our facial art. <grin>)



My brother, Steven, is one of the most faithful, stable, and supportive people in my life.
No matter what - we always have each other. And for this, I am incredibly thankful.


All together!
Just the way I LOVE it! ♥

3.29.2018

The best place to be.

As long as thou and thy sins are at peace, God and thy soul must be at war. - Spurgeon

The Christian who has stopped repenting has stopped growing. - A. W. Pink

Praise God that He did not leave us to fight the battle of sin alone!
Though we are fully justified by the blood of Jesus Christ - 
forgiven for every sin the day we are saved and sealed by the Holy Spirit -
the process of sanctification is a lifelong process.

A daily choice to choose the Savior over sin.
A daily choice to surrender everything, including ourselves, to the Lord.
A daily choice to walk in obedience rather than rebellion.

The best part?
We never have to do so alone!

But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, 
He will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.
John 14:26

When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all the truth, ...
 John 16:13

And then - He did even more!
He gave us each other.

Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, 
leading you to fall away from the living God. 
But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” 
that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin
For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end.
As it is said, “Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.”
Hebrews 3:12-15

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!
Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone?
And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—
a threefold cord is not quickly broken.
Ecclesiastes 3:9-12

Thank You, Lord, for the gift of Your Word, the gift of the Holy Spirit, the gift of prayer, and the gift of the body of Christ. Each one is valuable, necessary, and profitable as we pursue holiness, seeking to look less like ourselves and more like You every day. Make us at war with our sin so we can be at peace with You ... for there is no better place to be.

3.28.2018

A wonderful Easter event!


What a wonderful way to spend Palm Sunday!
Brilliant works of art,
Glorious music,
And Scripture. 

I took Micah, Luke, and Caleb when they were young, and now Josiah, Isaiah, and Ellie have experienced “living art.” And they were captivated!

Though I knew what to expect, I was still moved to tears, and let them fall freely during the last tableau - The Ascension of Christ - while the choir sang the Hallelujah Chorus with passion.

It is a joy to watch others use the gifts God has given them to bring attention and glory to His name!

3.27.2018

The Ministry of PRESENCE is a beautiful thing!

The philosophy behind the "ministry of presence" is something I continually praise God for when I am called upon to minister to the brokenhearted. Every time I sit across from a brother or sister suffering in sorrow, the more I understand a very simple yet fundamental truth: I have very little to offer - except myself.
I cannot change the past. I cannot solve every problem. I cannot make promises. I cannot predict when their pain will cease. But - there is something I can do. I can be PRESENT, so they do not have to be alone.

Holding a hand, weeping with the one who weeps, praying, listening, offering a hug, or just sitting together in silence can be incredibly encouraging - and effective.
And often, that is all they want. They know we cannot make everything better, change anything, or make the pain go away. They want to know they are not alone. That someone hears them. And loves them. As they are. In that moment.

Believing someone loves us and hurts for us because they love us, 
far exceeds their ability to understand the details of our pain.

It is impossible to know, comprehend, and identify with every personal trial of those we love unless we have walked through that same darkness. And even if we have, the details and responses look different for each person. What soothes and comforts one sister can be offensive to another. Only the Lord knows what each broken heart needs, so we must bathe ourselves in prayer before looking into the eyes of the sufferer so we can speak the words the Father gives us, at just the right time.

We do not need to understand everything.
We do not need to know what to say.
We do not need to be comfortable, for it is not about us.
We just need to be THERE.
And let the Lord sort out the details.

It took me a long time to learn this. Too long.
I always thought I needed to have the perfect words, the perfect Bible verse to quote, brilliant spiritual thoughts, and all the answers in order to be an effective friend in time of need.
But now I know ...
if I say nothing
do nothing
solve nothing ...
my presence is enough.
Not because I have anything to offer, but because my God has EVERYthing to offer.

When a brother or sister is grieving and in the depths of despair, the pit is cold, dark, lonely and deep.
They need someone to shine LIGHT into the darkness.
Jesus is the light of the world!
He lives in us.
When we climb into the pit of suffering to comfort a brother or sister, we shine God's light into the darkness, and HOPE is born.

On our own, we cannot bring healing and joy to the broken heart of another.
But we can take her to the feet of the One who created her, died for her, and loves her.
And then, sit back and watch Him take those broken pieces, and make her whole once again.

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18
I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in His word I hope; Psalm 130:5